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The Offensive Fresher I


tALL RIGHTS RESERVED.] The Offensive Fresher BY INGLIS ALLEN, Author of "A 'Varsity Man," A Grauuate in Love, Highways and Byways," 6cc. One of the best features about St. Valen- tine's was the fact that everyonc, in the col- lege knew everyone else. This was the more pleasing in that few Oxford colleges can boast of a similar absence of cliqueyness." In St. Valentine's, with its less than a hun- dred members, the athletic men and the read- ing men-where they were not actually identical-were for the most part on terms of cordial intimacy. For instance, Clinton, the Captain of the Boats, and Danvers, the Bugger Blue, lived in the same digs in King Edward-street with Bettley and Crewe, both scholars, and the latter the President of the Tudor Literary Society. It is uncertain how far the Greats work of the two latter was affected by the fact that it had during this aummer term become almost a matter of rou- tine with Clinton and Danvers to roll on the door after dinner for an hour and a half be- fore beginning their Army work. Crewe, at any rate, borrowed enough philosophy from his studies to console their interruption with I the admission that it was such manly sports as these that had made England what she was; the Waterloo of the future, he said, had been won on the floor in King Edward- street. Anyhow, the two scholars showed no disinclination to dissolve partnership with their sportive lodgers." Moreover, Dan- j vers was not merely a Rugger Blue, but a tolerably well-read man, and was always ready, when Clinton had retired to bed—into which, being in training for the eights, he tumbled at 10.15 precisely every night—to discuss topics of literature with Crewe and Bettley, or settle the destinies of Europe with "Dizzy," who often strolled in from his digs in Merton-street. If it had not been for Dizzy" there would have been no unpleasantness with the Pemford men, and Clinton would li-i ve had his full eight hours' sleep on hat Friday night in May, 1900. Nor wOld,) Danvers have had to drink wine with the in-n lie had helped to blackball for the GrHiio1!. But as all these things happened otlieri-, let us not waste time in conjectures &-> to what might have been—conjectures !>oO; unprofit- able, and, if we are to believe Rj scientists, absurd. "Dizzy," or Pincroft-Brown, n; he figured in the 'Varsity books, was an i tbite per- son, who, as Crewe put it, "wot: 311111ptuouS raiment* and defied logic at Union." Crewe and Danvers' had been at srhool with him at Cliffborough, and through long ac- quaintance had been able to p. ctrate the man'f- superficial atfectation, and discover not p I a few decent qualities lurking sh aw fully be- neath i f. "His efforts to be a I, said Crewe, "are heroic." "Dizzy" a¡" never quite at his ease in Crewe's society. He knew that the keen-eyed scholar suspec^d him of being a good chap. Dizzy shared digs in Merton-srreet with an inoffensive St. Valentine's scholar' of the tisune of, Hunt, and it was H Dia,y" arid Hunt who first. encountered t]> ■ Pemford freshman, whose ill fame soon went abroad through all St. Valentine's. The Offensive Fresher, as he soon came to be termed, had come up to Pemford in the summer term of 1900. Pemford had had a very full list of newcomers in the previous October, and consequently, there being no room in college, the Offensive -.JPrc-Vher had been o:;<üL into digs for his first year. By dome evil chance he had engaged r"on>'« n Mertos street, directly above those occupied by "Dizzy," and Hunt, and almost fr-oxi the very first there had been war. The Offensive Fresher came from Cliffboroligh, it was thus, the duty of "Diz.iy," as a t'rr-l year jUan, to call on him. "Dizzy" and Hunt were workitse for the I.C.S., and -what this and the Union, and the Palmerstou, and the St. Vdt cntine's Debating Society, Hol to men- tion tL" purchasing of cushions for his punt, the: Joseph Chamberlain, "Dizzy" had for the firct fortnight of term been too busy Lo find time for this point of etiqieiii-e. More- over, having known somewhat of thr Offen- sive Fl" alter at school, Dizzy was not in a very: great hurry to renew his acquaintance. However that might have been, "Dizzy very soon renounced any intentions be may have had of doing his duty. The behaviour of the Offensive Fresher had already more than; earned: him his title. He started by borrowing from Dizzy's room without leave. Men are pretty casual ab-ut these things at Oxford, but coming as it did from a freshman to a fourth year man of another college, "Dizzy" considered the ac- tion to be a gross breach of form, and an in- ault to his senior dignity. He conveyed his views on the subject to the Offensive Fresher in a frigid note of a most elaborate sarcasm. The re!)'.ike elicited no written reply. The Offensive Fresher sent back the borrowed ar- ticles by the landlord, and made loucl re- marks to his friends whenever he passed "Dizzy's" rooms in their company. Then he began > give* suppers almost every night to large parties of convivial Pemford men— certain lewd fellows of the baser sort as they were described by. Crewe, who was at "Dizzy's" window one night on their arrival --cheap bloods," who did nothing" either by flood, field, or lecture room, but well known to Dyke the bookmaker and to th? fairer mummers of touring musical come- dies. After more than a week of this, even the mild. and spectacled Hunt agreed with "Dizzy" that some sort of a remonstrance was necessary. It was hardly a help, he pathetically admitted, to a proper mastery of the philosophy of Kant to have twelve, yel- ling men at the window above him throwing empty champagne bottles at the wall of Mer- ton-gardens. Moreover, the repeated mutual assurances of the boon-companions that they were jolly good fellows were varied by an original version of a song from the" Mcs- senger Bey," a version in which the name of Pincroft-Brown figured with an equal di ^re- gard for both delicacy and metre. Before "Dizzy" had quite decided to des {jatch a second protest, the Offensive Fresher lad been guilty of a worse outrage. It was after lunch one day that Dizzy," who lmd arranged to play Crewe round the Hinksey links, discovered his bicycle gone from its place in the hall of his digs. On examina- tion'the landlord revealed the fact that Mr. Searle, of Pemford, had started out the pre- vious aHernoon on a bicycle which looked like Mr. Pincroft-Brown's, and had returned on foot just before; midnight "hung with Vir ginia creeper. No, Mr. Searle had-said no thing about the bicycle; he had mentioned several times before going to bed that he was at a Harvest Festival, but nothing more. He was not up yet. Scorning to interview the Fresher t In v&zson, the enraged "Dizzy" strode M- sfcairs to his own room and indited a note in comparison- with which his former communi- cation '«»g affectionate and genial. Even an lie stack it down the landlord the r<vre with the news that the bicycle had just boo-o brought back by a policeman who had found it lying' near the" inn at Jtadley. "Dizzy" considered the amusement of Crewe, who had dropped in in the course of these ex- planations, misplaced. The matter afforded subject for conversa- tion at the third and fourth year table in hall that night. The Offensive Fresher was by now a byword in St. Valentine's. By Jove," said Danvers, as the voluble Dizzy" concluded his narrative, I think -we shall have to break up this fresher of yours." "We might go and do it to-night, old cock," exclaimed Clinton, brightening. Better wait a bit," advised Danvers, he may have some kind of an explanation. Per haps it was a mistake." Oh, we may as well break him up, any- how," observed Clinton; you say he was a stinker at Cliffborough, so anyhow I vote we m Mm." However, "Dizzv" himself considered that j it would be better form to allow the Offensive Fresher time to clear himself, if that were possible. Then," Dizzy added, it will be as well to show him Pemford is not St. j Valentine's. These second-rate colleges must • ha kepfõm their place." Danvers agreed materially with "Dizzy," and the Captain of the Boats was over-ruled, though not* con- > vinced. A bit of a scrap, he held, couldn't d-, much harm whether the chap apologised i or not. j The storm burst sooner than was expected. It was five minutes past eleven. Peace had spread her wings over 33. King Edw?r^. street. The post-prandial gambols of the two at were over. The- Captain of the Boats wae in his little cot; the music of his snores had long since been wafted to the sit- ting-room. "He sleeps," Crewe had re- marked, "'tis half past ten and slumber seals his eyes. At seven he will run round the long meadow. Who says that England is decadent?" Bettley, with a lamp balanced in the window-seat, was trying to rediue chaotic lecture notes to an orderly tabula- tion of the external sanctions of morality. Danvers, bodily divided between Craven Mix- ture and Cider Cup, was concentrating his mimi on Cre-e, who was citing Aristotle's Poetics to prove that Shakespeare was not a dramatist. There was a loud ring at the bell. Bettley pressed his eyeglasses to the window. "Can't see," he remarked, and again surrendered himself to Moral Philosophy. Crewe and Danvers did not pause in their argument. .The latter abandoned both straw and pipe- stem in a heroic attempt to compare Hamlet and the Second Mrs. Tanqueray. There was a clatter of feet on the stairs, the door burst open, and "Dizzy" appeared without cap or breath. "Quick, buck np!" he gasped. U Our fresher again—they've pulled Hunt's bed to Bits." The Bugger Blue bounded from his chair and seized a cap. Crewo followed suit. Bett- ley removed his eyeglasses and took a pull at Danvers* Cider Cup. "On& minute!" cried Danvers, and rush- ing through into Clinton's bedroom seized the sleeper by the leg. Warrist," observed the Captain of the Beats. "Buck up, you ass!" yelled Danvers, pull- ing him off the bed on to the floor. Clinton, awake by now, sprang at Danvers' throat and they fell together to the ground. "Don't be a fool, yon idiot!" shrieked Dizzy," seizing Clinton by the night-shirt —"it's our Fresher. Get some clothes on, qxmfcZ" Cliutou relaxed his hold and leapt to his feet. The mention of the Fresher had brought him to his senses instantly. Silly ass, dinners," remarked Danvers, rubbing the back of his head, "pretty sick you'd have been if I hadn't woke you. Thought it was a rag," said Clinton, pul- ling on a pair of rowing shorts. "What's happened?" They've got a supper on," explained "Dizzy" hurriedly, about ten of them- pretty tight, of course—they've smashed up Hunt's bed. Oh, buck up, buck up!" Oh, wait for me, you chaps, don't go with- out me," pleaded Clinton in piteous tones, his head in a sweater. "Come on, that'll do," cried Danvers- those slippers, there you are—put that gown round your neck," and in a few moments the whole party were in the street with the landlord agape on the threshold. Yon look a pretty good bruiser, old man," grinned Danvers, with a glance at Clinton, as they made off down the street. "Ill kill you, young 'Dizzy,' if there's no rag after all this," observed Clinton, taking in the buckle of his shorts as he ran—" Oh, I say, 4c don't want any more!" "Dizzy" had raised a shout of Ross!" at the corner of St. Valentine-street. > The Hammer Blue appeared at his win- dow. 11 Dizzy Offensive Fresher," shouted U Dizzy — "smashed Hunt's bed. Come on!" Boss's figure at once left the window. "We don't want the whole college for a few Pemford stinkers," panted Clinton. A final spurt brought the party to "'Dizzy's" house. "Dizzy" had left the door open, and they charged up the stairs, Clin- ton in front. They were met on the first landinsr by Hunt. "It? all right," he said, hastily, addressing Clinton, "they've made my bed again. They haven't hurt iLt, only one of the casters off." Clinton stopped. Apologised?" he asked gloomily. weii, they said they're sorry they made a mistake. The chap who did it thought the bed was 'Dizzy's. t "Cool that's offensive enough! cried Clin- ton, joyfully. "Top moor, isn't it?" and ha ran up, followed more slowly by the others. Without waiting for an answer to his slap on the panels of the Fresher's door, Clinton burst in.. The Offensive Fresher and his party were seated about the room amid a profusion of champagne bottles. They looked up uneasily at Clinton in his formidable deshabille and at the other St. Valentine's men behind him. Now that the two parties were face to face there was an uncomfortable silence. No one seemed to know exactly what to say. Eventu- ally the Offensive Fresher rose to his feet. Hnlto, Danvers," he remarked, awk- wardly. 1 The Kugfgcr Blue nodded. His appear- ance seemed to have made an unpleasant im- ) pre&sion on the Fresher's guests, who tried to look absorbed in their cigars. Nor dlfl Danvers himself look much at his ease H& began to feel foolish at being brought to overawd a few Pemford freshers. He noticed j a dilapidated Cricket-Blue—Chard of St. Luke's—among those present. Chard wa stol, a very bright light, and had failed to get on the Club. At present he was very drunk. He rose to his feet unsteadily. "What cheer, Danvers," he observed, you're not bringing tlio whole of St. Valen- tine's round, are you?" "Oh," put in Clinton, genially, "there's Ross and a few others coming up behind. We were told there was a scrap on." The Offensive Fresher laughed nervously, and there was a weak smile from the rest of the company. But the Cricket-Blue was well in the middle of his second bottle. Be so good as not to address me," he said to Clinton; I don't know you. I know all the best people in St. Valentine's, and I don't—know you." That's pretty offensive, anyhow!" ex- claimed Clinton, brightening. He turned to the rest of his party. "That's offensive enough, eh, Dan?" Oh, come on, old man," said Danvers, they've apologised a1 (tut Hunt's bed, let's clear." The Offensive Fresher by the door was de bating the matter of the lost bicycle before a jury of Crewe, Bettley, and some of his own guests. The whole thing had been a mistake, and he had had every intention of apologia ivg, but the tone of Pincroft-Brown's letter bad made that impossible. As for the bed, Chard had slipped out of the room and done that without anyone else knowing anything atout it. As Chard's host he had apologise^ Don't think saying you thought the bed was Pincroft-Brown's much of an apology," broke in Clinton, turning towards the group. "Look here," said Chard, pushing his way among the disputants, who wants to apolo- fise? I broke up the bed—I thought it was 'incor-Brown's, and £ m d d sorry it wasn't. Man who cuts people from his old school, living in the same house, wants kick- ing." 1. Oh, shut up, Chard, old man," inter- posed the Fresher apprehensively, taking the Cricket-Blue by the arm. I Oh, that's offensive enough," said Clin- ton, shaking off Danvers. I say Pincor-Brown wants kicking," cried Chard, and so do you in your sweater. I know all the best people in St. Valen- tine's, he added, somewhat inconsequenti- ally, "arid I don't know you." Pretty good thing for him," observed Danvers. Come on, old man." I don't want to know you, you great drunken swine," said Clinton (the Captain of the Boats particularly fancied his powers of repartee), "but if you think I want kick- ing, just fire away." At that moment there was a terrific bang at the door, and Ross, the Hammer Blue, burst into the room. The Fresher and his guests smiled biliously. There was a sound of cheering from the other end of Merton- street. "Have you heard?" yelled Ross, seizing Clinton by the shoulder. Mafeking's re- lieved!" The unexpected news fell like a thunder- bolt-a welcome thunderbolt. A deus ex Mafeking, as Crewe said. There was a shout from every man in the room. Official!" screamed Ross. In a second Clinton had seized Danvers by the waist, and was waltzing round the room with him. "Hooray!" yelled everybody. "Have a drink, sir, will you?" asked the Offensive Fresher, approaching Ross. "Will I? Rather," replied the Hammer Blue, tossing off the proffered champagne. Hooray Hooray!" screamed the whole party, some on chairs, others on the table, Clinton and Danvers still waltzing destruction to the furniture. Hullo, Chard," shouted Ross, clapping the unpopular Cricket-Blue on the back, "why aren't you drinking?" 1119 The heinousness of the charge seemed te pain the Cricket-Blue. "I was waiting," he explained, "to have a drink with the gen'leman. in the sweater; he's a good chap. But I'll have one with you first." Here, dinners, you're wanted to take drinking exercise," cried Ross, capturing the dancers. Right oh, old, cock," exclaimed Clinton, mopping his brow, "I'll drink with any- body—training be hanged; Mafeking isn't relieved every day." Which, by the way, may be considered pro- vidential. You're a good chap," observed Chard, effusively shaking Clinton by the hand, I don't know you, 1:1 but you're a good chap. So're you, Danvers. So's Pincor Brown. Brirrens never shall be slaves." In another corner of the room the Offen- sive Fresher was filling glasses for Bettley, Hunt, and Dizzy." Crewe, surrounded by a group of Pemford men, was banging Rule Britannia" on the piano. Half an hour later, as the whole party were standing in the street, previous to dis- persing, the Offensive Fresher drifted to- wards" Dizzy." Clinton and Danvers were hauling Dizzy's" bath through the door- way; Ross, helmeted in a lamp-shade, wielded the Fresher's fir 's liovel. I say, I'm sorry about your bike," said the Offensive Fresher. "That's all right," answered" Dizzy," "I'm sorry I didn't call on you. I'm in- clined to believe I shall never see my batb again." ( Or I my fire-shovel," said the Offensive Fresher. Boom! Boom! Boom! The St. Valentine's and the Pemford men started off up Merton-street. Cliard was be- ¡ ing escorted to his digs in the other direc- tion. Hooray yelled Hunt, Dizzy," and the Offensive Fresher. Offensive Fresher. Hooray yelled the bath-band. "Hooray!" yelled Chard, turning back and waving his hat. "Good chap Clinton, and so's old Pincor-Brown! And so," he added, as a generous after- thought., stamping on his hat, is Ba.deu. Powell!" "Think I shall turn in," remarked "Dizzy"—"good-night, Searle." Good-night," said the Offensive Fresher,