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Years of Plenty   By:

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" The wealth of youth, we spent it well And decently, as very few can. And is it lost? I cannot tell: And what is more I doubt if you can. " HILAIRE BELLOC.







First Published 1915







Life seemed to Martin Leigh, as he gazed at the wooden walls of his cubicle, very overwhelming: there were so many things to remember. He had lived through his first day as a boarder at a public school and at length he had the great joy of knowing that for nine hours there would be nothing to find out. He seemed to have been finding things out ever since seven o'clock that morning: finding out his form and his form master, his desk at school and his desk in the house, his place in chapel and his place at meals, his hours of work and his field for play. He had moved in a world of mystery, a world of doors which had to be opened and of locks which had to be picked. It had been terrifying work, this probing of places.

All day Martin had been shown things by formidable people in a hustling, inadequate way: he had been far too awed by the majesty of his conductors to ask any questions and he realised now that he had forgotten nearly all that he had been told. He knew that he was in the Lower Fifth, Classical, and that his form master was a renowned terror: he knew also that he was supposed to play football with the other small boys of his house in a muddy looking field some distance away. But his place in chapel ... that had vanished entirely from his mind. And to morrow morning he would either have to pluck up his scanty courage and make a fool of himself by asking one of the formidable people, or else trust to luck and probably make an even greater fool of himself by wandering disconsolate in the aisle. He was vague also as to the locality of the Lower Fifth classroom: there was, indeed, one other member of that form in the house, but he was a gigantic, moustachioed person, a man of weight in the football world: to approach him would be impossible. Martin came to the conclusion that not only would chapel make him notorious for life, but that he would also get lost in school and reach his classroom late: then he would come in blushing, amidst the smiles of the superior. And the Terror would not rage and swear like a gentleman: he would smile, as he had smiled that morning, and make a little joke.

Life was undoubtedly overwhelming. And there were other no less cruel facts to face. His collars were all wrong. All the other new boys, he had noticed, wore Eton collars: these, apparently, should be retained for a few terms, until the owner considered himself sufficiently dignified for 'stick ups.' Martin, who was fourteen and tall for his age, had been sent to school with 'stick ups' and no Eton collars. He saw at once the horrid nature of his offence: it was side of the first degree, involuntary side, but who would know that, much less conjecture it? The new boys, as timid as himself, had of course said nothing, but he had observed the smiles and queer looks of the people about a year older, who had themselves only just assumed the emblem of position. It was a very awkward and bothering occurrence, and he had already written home for others to be sent as soon as possible. In reality Martin was more worried about this than about all the information he had forgotten. What made him dread the morrow with a fear he had never known before was not so much the possibility of his wandering about school and chapel like a lost sheep, but the certainty that he would be dressed in open defiance of all the sartorial traditions of Elfrey School.

Martin tried to console himself with the reflection that nothing could now deprive him of nine hours' peace... Continue reading book >>

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