HOW PILLINGSHOT SCORED
Pillingshot was annoyed. He was disgusted, mortified; no other word for it. He had no objection, of course, to Mr Mellish saying that his work during the term, and especially his Livy, had been disgraceful. A master has the right to say that sort of thing if he likes. It is one of the perquisites of the position. But when he went on to observe, without a touch of shame, that there would be an examination in the Livy as far as they had gone in it on the following Saturday, Pillingshot felt that he exceeded. It was not playing the game. There were the examinations at the end of term. Those were fair enough. You knew exactly when they were coming, and could make your arrangements accordingly. But to spring an examination on you in the middle of the term out of a blue sky, as it were, was underhand and unsportsmanlike, and would not do at all. Pillingshot wished that he could put his foot down. He would have liked to have stalked up to Mr Mellish's desk, fixed him with a blazing eye, and remarked, 'Sir, withdraw that remark. Cancel that statement instantly, or—!' or words to that effect.
What he did say was: 'Oo, si-i-r!!'
'Yes,' said Mr Mellish, not troubling to conceal his triumph at Pillingshot's reception of the news, 'there will be a Livy examination next Saturday. And—' (he almost intoned this last observation)—'anybody who does not get fifty per cent, Pillingshot, fifty per cent, will be severely punished. Very severely punished, Pillingshot.'
After which the lesson had proceeded on its course.
'Yes, it is rather low, isn't it?' said Pillingshot's friend, Parker, as Pillingshot came to the end of a stirring excursus on the rights of the citizen, with special reference to mid-term Livy examinations. 'That's the worst of Mellish. He always has you somehow.'
'But what am I to do?' raved Pillingshot.
'I should advise you to swot it up before Saturday,' said Parker.
'Oh, don't be an ass,' said Pillingshot, irritably.
What was the good of friends if they could only make idiotic suggestions like that?
He retired, brooding, to his house.
The day was Wednesday. There were only two more days, therefore, in which to prepare a quarter of a book of Livy. It couldn't be done. The thing was not possible.
In the house he met Smythe.
'What are you going to do about it?' he inquired. Smythe was top of the form, and if he didn't know how to grapple with a crisis of this sort, who could know?
'If you'll kindly explain,' said Smythe, 'what the dickens you are talking about, I might be able to tell you.'
Pillingshot explained, with unwonted politeness, that 'it' meant theLivy examination.
'Oh,' said Smythe, airily, 'that! I'm just going to skim through it in case I've forgotten any of it. Then I shall read up the notes carefully. And then, if I have time, I shall have a look at the history of the period. I should advise you to do that, too.'
'Oh, don't be a goat,' said Pillingshot.
And he retired, brooding, as before.
That afternoon he spent industriously, copying out the fourth book of The Aeneid....