The White Rat – Chapter Ten

Well, David’s in a good mood right now: everything seems to be working out perfectly for him. Unfortunately he can’t see into the future, or he’d be heading for Outer Mongolia or somewhere by now. Let’s see what happens during the Easter holidays…


The morning after the meal dawned bright and sunny, and David felt on top of the world. In fact, unlike most of the boys at school, he was actually not looking forward to the Easter holidays: he had nothing planned and thought it would be a boring couple of weeks, compared to the wonderful time he was having at school at the moment, persecuting wrongdoers and making sure that boys he didn’t like went through hell for his entertainment. But today was the last day of term, so he would have to take a break from his fun for a couple of weeks.

The day followed the usual course, though virtually none of the teachers actually tried to teach anything too serious today, knowing that most of the pupils would already be thinking about the holidays. At break David found that Garrett’s office was empty, though that wasn’t completely unusual, so he didn’t worry about it, and indeed at lunchtime Garrett was back, looking thoroughly happy with life.

Noddy called me in at break,” he told David. “He said he wanted to thank me for an excellent term: apparently he can’t remember a term when he had so few miscreants in front of him. Apparently I’m the most efficient head boy since he took the job. And I suppose a lot of it is down to you and your sneaky suggestions for punishments, because hardly anyone came back for more after one of those – so well done, V-G, you and young Fielding both. I hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as I think you have, because you’ve done an excellent job this term.”

I certainly enjoyed it,” said David. “It’s brilliant, watching people squirm. I’m just sorry we have to stop for the holidays – I think the next two weeks are going to be really boring.”

Not for me – I’m going to have a week off, and then I’m going to have to do some serious revision if I don’t want to ruin Noddy’s good opinion of me by buggering up my A levels… Anyway, thanks again. And say thank you to Fielding for me, too.”

David went and found Jordan, who was talking to Baker – who, David was surprised to see, was wearing long trousers. He wasted no time in barging into the conversation to demand why.

Garrett said we could wear longs again,” Baker told him. “He said that we deserved a reward for the way we took what was done to us last night. To be honest, I suppose it could have been worse: I mean, at least nobody tried to… well, you know,” (he lowered his voice) “actually fuck me, the way they did with Larkin and Pattison. I think they were going to, but Wallis – he was the senior prefect on my table – said I was too small and it might cause me serious damage, and it wasn’t worth the risk. So they made me suck instead, which was nasty, but not as bad as… well, the other thing would have been. And afterwards Garrett said our punishment was over and we could wear long trousers again.”

Oh,” said David, not entirely happy about this: he thought the punishment for the two queers at least should have gone on until they left school. But he could hardly overrule Garrett, so it looked as if they were getting away with it…

Except afterwards I told Larkin it didn’t apply to him,” said Jordan, happily. “I mean, he’s a total baby, and I like having someone to run errands for us at break. So I said he doesn’t have to wear his bra and knickers any more, but he has to stay in shorts, at least for today, and he can’t take his pink ribbon off, either. I’ve arranged to go and see him in the holidays, and I said that if he behaves then I might think about letting him go back into longs. And he’s too scared of having me and all my form-mates stripping him naked in the middle of the yard – which we could do easily – to disobey. So he’s still being punished, whatever Garrett says.”

Good,” said David, approvingly – he’d already seen that Larkin was still in shorts at the start of the day, of course. He was just sorry that by now most of the other boys in the form had got so used to it that they didn’t tease him any more – though not many of them spoke to him, either: they mostly seemed to share David’s views on queers. “But I really don’t think you should let him off next term, either.”

I probably won’t,” said Jordan. “I mean, I’m okay about Baker, because he took his punishment well without snivelling and whining all the time like Larkin did – and Baker’s younger, and really it’s the older boy who should get the blame for this sort of thing.”

Okay. Oh, by the way, Garrett says well done to you and me – apparently Noddy congratulated him on an excellent disciplinary record for the term, and Garrett reckons we had a lot to do with it. So well done.”

It was you, mostly,” said Jordan. “You organised things, you arranged the punishments… I just helped to catch one or two people, that’s all.”

Well… maybe. But Garrett says thanks anyway.”

And David wandered off, thinking that it was nice to be appreciated. Maybe in three years’ time he might even be Head Boy himself… he smiled to himself, imagining how he would run the school. He’d make sure there weren’t any niggers in it, for a start… he wondered how Dhif’s bottom felt this morning. That was a happy thought…

In fact Dhif wasn’t feeling too bad, physically, though mentally he was still all over the place. When he had walked into the form room that morning Southgate had smiled at him, and immediately Dhif’s stomach had sort of clenched and twisted at the thought of what had happened the previous evening. He’d blushed and looked away without returning the smile. And when Southgate had sat next to him for the third lesson of the morning and asked if he was okay, Dhif had just said that he didn’t want to talk about it. And Southgate had nodded, said “I understand,” and then briefly squeezed his hand, and even two hours later Dhif could still feel the touch of the other boy’s hand on his, making him feel warm and sick at the same time. At least this was the last day at school for a while, he told himself: maybe once I’ve had a couple of weeks off I’ll feel okay again.

David’s own happy reflection on the subject was suddenly interrupted when he saw Osterley: the third form boy was leaning on a wall at the side of the yard talking to a smaller boy. And Osterley was wearing long trousers. Angrily David marched across the yard to confront him.

Where are your shorts?” he demanded. “I didn’t say you could go back to long trousers.”

Fuck off, Rat,” replied Osterley, and David’s jaw dropped. He gaped at the other boy: nobody spoke to him like that!

How dare you talk to me like that?” he yelped. “Don’t you know what’ll happen to you? I’ll fix it so that you wear nothing but girls’ clothes all next term – and without any knickers! You’ll spend every break grovelling in front of the first years! You’ll…”

Shut up, you stupid bastard,” interrupted Osterley. “You’re nothing! You’re lucky I don’t just smash your face in right now.”

David was so livid he could barely speak. Finally he got himself under control enough to say, “I suppose you think it’s the last day of term and I’ll have forgotten about you by the start of the summer term. You couldn’t be more wrong: I’ll make next term hell on earth for you, you insolent peasant!”

You won’t be able to touch me next term,” Osterley told him.

But… oh, now I get it: you’re leaving, I suppose. Running away to some grotty state school, are you? How pathetic! Well, good riddance.”

I’m not going anywhere,” said Osterley. “I’ll still be here after Easter. Now just piss off before I do smack you one.” He took a step forward, and David flinched back a step, thinking that maybe what he had gone through the previous evening had driven Osterley insane. After all, what other explanation could there be? And it isn’t safe to hang around with a madman…

He turned and walked away. “You wait,” he said, over his shoulder. “You have no idea how much trouble you’re going to be in next term!”

He looked at his watch, wondering if he had time to go and talk to Garrett about Osterley before the bell went, but saw that there wasn’t enough time. Oh well, he thought, it’ll have to be next term, then. And if Osterley thinks I’m going to have forgotten about this by then, he really must be insane!

So school ended, and David went home, wondering how to spend the next two weeks. He didn’t have any friends to visit, though he was happier that way: he didn’t think too many of the other boys in his form were the same social class as him anyway, and you just can’t mix with oiks. The one exception was Fielding, who David was starting to consider as almost a friend, even though Fielding hadn’t been to a prep school and so was really one of the lower orders. He liked Fielding’s enthusiasm for punishing wrongdoers, and it was clear that the younger boy liked him, too. David thought that maybe he might even invite Fielding round at some point during the summer holidays, because by then he would know him a bit better, and another term of working together should help Fielding to rise above his origins.

The first week of the holiday drifted by. David finished off the homework he had been set in the first couple of days, and then amused himself by going for rides on his new bike (his mother had come through on her promise to buy him one). His mother went to London for a couple of days at the start of the week – she said something about a job interview at Conservative Central Office, though David wasn’t really listening – but otherwise each day was much like the one before. Mrs Devlin came every day to get the meals ready and keep the house clean, so Mrs Villiers-Gore’s absence was scarcely noticeable.

Mrs Devlin’s two younger children came with her some days, but they kept to the kitchen or the far end of the garden, so David had no reason to complain about them, though he scowled at them once or twice on general principle, and managed to shout at the boy once for riding his bike across the back lawn.

I’m not doing any harm,” Joe Devlin replied, putting his tongue out at David.

That was true: it hadn’t rained for a few days, and the ground was hard, so the bike tyres left no trace. But that was hardly the point as far as David was concerned.

Just get your stupid heap of a bike off my grass!” he shouted. “Go and play in the compost heap where you belong!”

The boy just put his tongue out again, but at least he rode off to the far end of the garden, where David didn’t have to look at him. David felt a bit better after that – after all, keeping the peasants in their place was part of his job as the man of the house.

His mother came back from London on the Tuesday night, and things went on as before. Mrs Devlin cooked them an excellent Easter Sunday meal, for which she received no thanks at all from David, of course, and the second week rolled by much as the first one had done… until Thursday, when his mother received a letter which, to judge from her face when she opened it at the breakfast table, made her very happy indeed.

They’ve given me the job!” she announced. “In fact, they liked me so much that they want me to start next week... of course, I told them I was available to start any time. Now maybe I can get somewhere at last. Now look, darling, it’s going to mean a lot of changes, because I’ll be working in London, and it’s obviously far too far to travel every day, and it’ll be long hours, including working at weekends, too, so really I’ll have to stay there all the time. They say they can find me a flat, though, so it won’t be a big problem.”

What about me?” asked David, cutting straight to the heart of the situation, for him, anyway.

Well, I don’t want you to have to change schools, especially when you’ve got your O levels next year. Unless you’d prefer to move to a different school?”

No, thanks,” said David straight away. “I really like it at King Edward. I don’t want to have to start all over again somewhere else.”

That’s what I thought. Besides, I’ll be too busy to do much for you in London, and help there would be really expensive. So it would be best if you stayed here. Do you think you can manage on your own?”

Of course I can. I keep telling you, mother, I’m fourteen, I’m not a little kid. Besides, Devlin will still come in to do the work, won’t she?”

Of course. I wouldn’t leave you here on your own otherwise. But you keep telling me how grown up you are, and now you’ll have a chance to prove it.”

You don’t need to worry about me, mother. I’ll be fine on my own.”

Good. It’ll make things much easier for me, darling, if I can just get on with my work without having to worry about you all the time. That’s settled, then. And if you need anything, or if anything worries you at school, I’m sure Mrs Devlin will be able to help you.”

Oh, I’m sure I won’t need to talk to her about anything,” said David, who wouldn’t have dreamed of asking a mere servant for anything unless he was on his deathbed.

Wow, he thought, afterwards, this is going to be brilliant: I’ll be able to do whatever I want: if I decide I want to stay in bed all day on Sundays, I can; if I want to sit up watching television until midnight, nobody can tell me not to… I can choose what I want to eat: I can drink cider if I want, or even beer…I’m going to really, really enjoy this!

Mrs Villiers-Gore spent most of Friday packing, and on Saturday morning the taxi arrived to take her and her mountain of luggage to the station. David hoped that the flat the Party was finding for her in London was a big one, otherwise there’d be nowhere to store her forty-seven hats…

Now I’m going to be very busy, especially at first, so I won’t have time to worry about you,” she told him as they stood in the hall while the driver finished loading all the suitcases into his car. “Are you sure you’re going to be all right?”

Mother, I’ll be fine. You don’t need to worry about me.”

Good. Mind you work hard at school – this year and next are important, you know: you’ll need good O levels if you’re going to go to university.”

I’ll do my best,” David promised her.

The taxi driver put his head around the door to say that the luggage was all loaded. Mrs Villiers-Gore gave David a quick kiss on the cheek and picked up her handbag.

Right,” she said. “Wish me luck, darling. Now, I’ve told Mrs Devlin she’s in charge, so do your best to help her, all right? Bye!”

She went out and got into the cab before the meaning of that last sentence found its way into David’s brain, and then he made a dive for the door, shouting for his mother to wait, that he must have misunderstood – surely she didn’t actually mean…? But the taxi simply drove away, and his mother did nothing more than to wave at him as it carried her away.

He turned and went slowly back into the house. But then he perked up a little: obviously his mother had only meant ‘in charge’ insofar as it related to the household finances, he realised, and that was fair enough, because he didn’t want to have to muck about doing the shopping or paying the bills and so forth. After all, he was still the master of the house, wasn’t he?

Nothing happened for the remainder of that day to change his thinking: Mrs Devlin served him his lunch and supper as usual, and he failed to say thank you as usual, and by the time he went to bed – much later than usual – he felt completely relaxed again. So the following morning came as a really nasty shock.

He woke up at about nine o’clock, thought about getting up and decided against it. A distant voice calling to him from the bottom of the stairs a little later didn’t make him change his mind, either.

A couple of minutes later he rolled over again and saw, to his outrage, that Mrs Devlin’s daughter was standing just inside his room. Before he could say anything the girl said, “Mummy says it’s time to get up now. Your breakfast is ready.”

I’ll get up when I feel like it,” retorted David. “Tell your mother she can bring my breakfast up on a tray. Now get out of my room!”

The girl turned and left, and David rolled over again, feeling that he had successfully stamped his authority on the situation. But a couple of minutes later the girl came back. She wasn’t carrying a tray, either: instead she had her two brothers with her.

My mum says you have to get up,” said the older boy. “It’s half-past nine, and she wants to get the breakfast stuff cleared away so that she can start on lunch.”

I couldn’t care less what she wants,” said David, angrily. “This is my house, and I’m in charge, okay? Tell her I’ll come down when I’m good and ready. Now get out of my room, you bloody peasant!”

That was just about the last time David ever acted as Lord and Master. Five seconds later the two Devlin boys had grabbed the bedclothes and pulled them off the bed, leaving David in his pyjamas with no blankets. The older boy grabbed his arm, dragged him from the bed and deposited him on the carpet.

There’s going to be a few changes round here,” he said. “My mum’s in charge now – your mum made that absolutely clear before she left, and she put it in writing, too. And she says she’s not going to put up with any of your rude, snobby behaviour, either: you’re going to be polite and helpful, and you’re going to do what you’re told. So when she says it’s time to get up, you get up, okay?”

But… this is my house, you bastard! I live here!”

So do we, now. Oh, you didn’t know about that yet, did you? Well, now you do: my mum’s going to have to be here a lot if she’s going to keep this place running on her own, and she says she can’t keep dashing back and forward to our house in Cheltenham all the time to look after us. I mean, we could manage on our own, but I’m only twelve, so she won’t let us. So she asked your mum if she could move in while you’re on your own, and your mum said yes, of course – so we’re using the spare rooms. Anyway, that’s not important: right now you have to go and get washed and then get your arse downstairs, okay?”

But… look, this is rubbish! I’m in charge here! How dare you just barge in here and…”

Oh, shut up! If you’re not in the bathroom in ten seconds we’ll strip you off, chuck you under the shower and get Molly to supervise you, okay? Ten, nine, eight…”

David simply couldn’t believe this was happening. How could his mother have put that oik Devlin in charge – not to mention letting her brats actually live here! It was ludicrous – it was…

“…six, five…”

The girl, Molly, was smirking at him. Surely they wouldn’t actually let her watch over him in the bathroom? Of course not, he decided: they were just winding him up. Slowly he stood up.

Okay,” he said, “I’ll go and have a wash. Tell your mother I’ll come down in…”

“…two, one, zero,” said Tim Devlin. “Oh, dear, you’re still here. Okay, Joe, get his pyjamas off – you should be able to manage on your own.”

I could do it with one hand,” said the nine-year-old, grinning.

No, wait, I’m going,” said David, as the young boy advanced on him, clenching his fists.

Too late,” said Joe, and he threw himself at David, knocked him onto the bed, undid the three buttons of his pyjama jacket, flipped him over and pulled the jacket off, despite David’s ineffectual attempts to stop him. Next Joe just grabbed the legs of David’s pyjama trousers and heaved downwards, and they slipped down easily. David squealed and tried to grab them, but Joe punched him on his biceps and David yelped and let go smartly.

Stop!” he cried. “Leave me alone, you little bastard! You’ve got no right…”

I’ve got every right,” said Joe, pulling the trousers right off and throwing them on top of the pile of bedding on the floor. “You didn’t do what mum told you to, so now you’re getting punished. And you were rude to my sister again… I think that deserves a spanking. I warned you before, didn’t I?”

He forced David’s arms behind his back, gripped both skinny wrists in his left hand and smacked David’s bum with his right hand as hard as he could. David squealed and convulsed, almost throwing the smaller boy off him, but Tim came and grabbed his legs.

Carry on, Joe,” said Tim. “Give him the other five.”

Enthusiastically Joe carried on, smacking David’s bum as hard as he could. David bucked and shrieked and struggled uselessly: he couldn’t believe how much it hurt. He’d never ever been spanked before, of course, so this was his first chance to find out what it felt like to be on the receiving end… except he knew that he didn’t deserve this. This was his house, and these horrible brats had no right whatsoever to treat him like this!

Joe carried on until he had delivered six, by which time David was howling like a baby.

Shut up, or I’ll start again,” said Joe, and David managed to rein it in a little.

Keeping his grip on David’s wrists, Joe put his other arm around David’s chest and pulled him upright, intending to march him to the bathroom. But of course as soon as he was on his feet his tiny genitals were on view, and both Tim and Molly took one look and started howling with laughter. Joe didn’t realise why straight away, but after a couple of seconds he stuck his head round in front of David and saw what the joke was.

Bloody hell,” he gasped, “that’s so small! I reckon my pet gerbil’s got a bigger one!”

That set his brother and sister off again, and the laughter was so infectious that Joe had to let go of David so that he could double up holding his stomach. David just huddled up on the floor, sobbing from the pain in his buttocks and the humiliation of his exposure.

After a minute or so Tim mastered himself, stood up, grabbed David’s arm and pulled him to his feet.

Come on, gerbil boy,” he said. “The bathroom’s waiting.”

He marched David to the bathroom, turned on the shower and pushed David under the flow, which hadn’t warmed up yet. David squealed and tried to get out, but Tim shoved him back in again.

Wash yourself,” ordered Tim. “Molly will make sure you wash properly. Joe, you’d better stay here – if milord gives Molly any lip, drag him out and spank him again, okay? When he’s clean get him dressed and bring him down for breakfast. I’ll go and tell mum you’re on the way.”

David turned his back on them and started to wash, still sniffling, but after a couple of minutes Molly ordered him to turn round so that she could make sure he was washing his “little winkle” properly, and when he hesitated Joe gave a growl, which was enough to make him comply. So he was forced to soap his genitals under her critical eye.

Okay, now you’d better wash your bottom,” she said. “Make sure you get right into the crack – we don’t want you to smell.”

He did that too, blushing. Finally she was satisfied and let him get out and dry himself, but when he tried to wrap the towel around his waist she pulled it away again.

You have to hang the towel on the rail so it can dry properly,” she told him.

Cowed by the glint in Joe’s eye he obeyed, and was then forced to brush his teeth stark naked in front of the two giggling children. He wanted to go to the toilet, but he certainly wasn’t going to mention that in front of these two, so he decided that he just had to keep it in until he was on his own.

Finally they took him back to his room, but they wouldn’t let him put any clothes on until he had remade the bed to their satisfaction. And then at last he was allowed to get dressed.

Once he was clothed again he began to feel better, and by the time he got downstairs he was almost back to his old self – and so of course he decided he had to exercise his authority.

Look,” he said to Mrs Devlin, “this is my house and you’re just a servant. You can’t let your awful children into my part of the house – and if any of them ever touches me again I’ll call the police, okay?”

Your mother put me in charge,” she replied. “She said I was free to run the house the way I want. And that means I won’t put up with your nasty, rude, ill-tempered behaviour. You’ve been spoiled rotten until now, but that’s going to change, do you understand? It’s high time you learned to act like a normal, well-behaved, polite little boy. I won’t tolerate rudeness from my own children, and I won’t tolerate it from you, either. Now sit down and eat your breakfast.”

David gaped at her and was about to argue, but then he thought it might be better to eat his breakfast first: he thought she might decide not to give him any if he kept talking. So he sat down next to Tim and kept his mouth shut.

That’s better,” she said. “Now, would you prefer tea or milk to drink?”

Milk,” he replied. Tim elbowed him in the ribs, hard, and David turned to him angrily, saw the expression on his face and bit back what he had been about to say. Instead he just added, “Please,” in a sulky voice.

When he had finished eating he stood up to go back to his room, but Mrs Devlin told him to wait.

There’s the washing up to do first,” she told him. “You can wash, Joe can dry.”

What! I’m not a bloody servant! Do your own damned washing up!”

In my family we all share the work,” she told him. “And from now on you’re part of the family, even though God knows I wouldn’t choose it that way. So you’ll do your share like the other children.”

I bloody well won’t!”

Then you won’t eat,” she told him. “I’m not cooking for an idle brat who isn’t prepared to do his share of the work.”

David absolutely lost it. He shouted, he swore, he threatened, he stamped his foot like a five-year-old in a tantrum, he waved his fists about… and then to his utter shock Mrs Devlin slapped his face. He stood stock still, his rant drying up instantly, and stared at her.

You hit me!” he said, incredulously.

And I’ll do it again if you act like that again. Get it into your head, David, things have changed around here. If you don’t change your behaviour you’re going to be in big trouble.”

Right,” he said, “I’m calling my mother. Give me her number.”

There isn’t one. You know she’s staying in a hotel to start with, and she doesn’t know where the new flat is yet. She said she’ll send me her address and phone number once she’s settled in, but that might not be for several days yet.”

David couldn’t think of anything else to say, but he was damned if he was going to wash up like a scullery-maid. He turned and marched back to his room and spent the rest of the morning reading a book.

Around one o’clock he could smell hot food, but nobody came to tell him that lunch was served, and eventually he went downstairs to find out how long it would be. He found Mrs Devlin and the three children already sitting at the dining table and eating.

Why didn’t you call me?” he asked.

Because you’re not getting any,” Mrs Devlin told him. “And unless you do the washing up after we’ve finished, you won’t get any supper, either. You can make a start on the saucepans now if you want.”

David knew he was trapped: if he wanted to eat he would obviously have to play their little game, at least for today, though he had by now worked out how to turn things around tomorrow. So, reluctantly, he went to the sink in the kitchen and started work on the pots and pans. Fifteen minutes later Molly came through and started drying them, though she peered critically at each one first, handing one small saucepan back and pointing out a bit of food that David had missed. Gritting his teeth he washed it again.

He hid in his room all afternoon, and at supper time Joe came into his room – without even knocking, which David added to his list of grievances – and said, “Supper’s ready, Gerbil,” before giving him a cheeky grin and disappearing again. David decided that he was going to find a way to punish the little brat for that insult, however long it took.

But after supper he wasn’t made to wash up: Mrs Devlin said it was Tim’s turn to wash and Joe’s turn to dry, and that David was free to do whatever he wanted. So he went to the sitting room and watched television. He’d only been watching for ten minutes when Tim came through and plonked himself on the sofa next to him.

You’re not allowed in here,” David told him. “This is my part of the house. Servants stay at the back.”

God, you really are slow, aren’t you? This is our house now – all of it – and we’ll go where we please. And if you call us ‘servants’ again I’m going to break your teeth. Got it? Anyway, you’ve got a telly in your bedroom, so if you don’t want company you can go and watch there.”

David’s own TV was a small fourteen inch model, and nothing like as good as the big one in the sitting room, so he bit his tongue and stayed where he was. Enjoy it, peasant, he thought. Tomorrow you’ll get put in your place again.

Next day was the start of the summer term, and David was really looking forward to it: at least at school he had some authority, and he could use it to keep the lower orders in their place… unlike what was happening at home…

He put that out of his mind and went to find Garrett, but the head boy’s office was locked. Probably gone to see Noddy to get orders for the new term, he thought, heading back to his form room.

The form teacher took the register and escorted the boys to the Main Hall for Assembly. David let his mind wander during the hymn and prayer, but he came back to earth with a bang when Noddy started giving the notices.

This term many of you will be taking some highly important exams,” he said. “The O and A levels will shape your future, so we want you to do the best you can. Those of you not taking exams this term, please keep quiet when moving between lessons, especially if you are anywhere near the hall, where the exams will be taking place.

Most of you will be aware that once they have picked up their exam timetables this morning the fifth year and upper sixth will not be attending school except on days when they have an exam to sit. The rest of the time they are free to revise at home. This means that, as happens at this time every year, we now say thank you to our existing prefects for all the work they have done, and especially to Marcus Garrett, who has been an exemplary head boy…”

He paused while the other teachers led a round of applause that was distinctly muted in some quarters.

The current prefects will retain their position until the end of term, of course, but as they won’t be here very often we have now, as we do at this time every year, selected a new group of prefects, drawn from the current lower sixth. Strictly they are acting prefects this term, but unless they slip up – which I am sure they will not – they will be confirmed as full prefects from the start of the autumn term. Here are the names…”

He began reading a list of names. David knew nothing about any of them, though he recognised a couple of names, including the Chinese boy Sun. For a moment he felt really worried: he hadn’t realised that Garrett would be off school preparing for his exams this term, and he was annoyed that Garrett hadn’t mentioned it… still, if it’s what happens every year, maybe Garrett had thought he knew about it. With Garrett gone his position might be very insecure…

But then he thought that whoever the new head boy was, he would be sure to appreciate the sort of help that David could give him – after all, it had done wonders for Garrett’s standing in the eyes of the headmaster. He could see no reason why he shouldn’t be able to carry on as he had hitherto, whoever the new head boy was. He wouldn’t like the idea of Sun as head boy much, but he reckoned he could work with the Chinese boy if he had to.

And the new acting head boy this year,” Noddy concluded, “will be Colin Blackman. And we very much hope that we can confirm him as permanent head boy in September. Congratulations to all our new prefects.”

There was another round of applause. David didn’t know anything about Blackman, who stepped forward at that point to shake Noddy’s hand. The new head boy’s uniform looked immaculate, and there was a small silver cross on his lapel.

Do you know anything about Blackman?” he asked the boy next to him.

Not really. He plays cricket for the Second XI and he’s head of the Christian Union, that’s about it…. Scared he might not need a Rat?” added the boy, grinning.

Shut up,” said David, and that was the end of the conversation.

He thought that the new head boy would be too busy getting himself and his prefects organised at break, so he decided to wait until lunch time to introduce himself. So instead at break he went looking for Jordan.

He found Jordan in 1C’s form room, issuing a shopping list to Larkin, who was still wearing his shorts: obviously the change of regime hadn’t made any difference there, David was pleased to see. He waited until Larkin had been despatched to the tuck shop and then drew Jordan outside the form room.

I see Larkin’s still being useful,” he commented.

Oh, we have a private arrangement,’ Jordan told him. “That won’t change, whoever the head boy is. And that’s just as well, because there’s a boy in my form with a brother in the Lower Sixth, and he says Blackman is nothing like Garrett.”

Oh? In what way?”

Well, apparently Blackman’s a mad-keen Christian, so I don’t think he’ll want to do all the sex stuff like Garrett did.”

Oh, well, that doesn’t bother me too much. I think that sort of thing is disgusting, anyway. And if he’s a Christian he’ll probably be keen on punishing bad boys, so we’ll probably be fine. I’ll go and see him at lunchtime and make sure he’s happy for us to go on being useful.”

So at lunchtime David went and knocked on the head boy’s door and then went on in without waiting to be asked.

Hello,” he said, taking in the way the room was now spotlessly tidy, and the fact that there was a plain wooden cross on the wall behind Blackman’s chair. “My name’s Villiers-Gore, and…”

I know who you are,” interrupted Blackman. “And I know all about the way you used to crawl round Garrett, getting boys into trouble and then doing disgusting things to them.”

Well, I…”

Shut up! Look at what I found in the bottom drawer of the desk this morning!”

He threw some Polaroid photos onto the desk, and David recognised them: they were the ones he had taken of Osterley before his blackboard-cleaning punishment, in girls clothes without any knickers on.

I’ve already spoken to the boy in these photographs, and he told me…”

Oh, shit, thought David. “But he’s a liar!” he interrupted, desperately. “You can’t trust anything a boy like that tells you, Blackman!”

I certainly didn’t want to believe it,” the new head boy agreed. “So I went and talked to the two first years Osterley was supposed to have bullied, and guess what they told me? They said Osterley hadn’t been near them, but that you had forced them to testify against him, saying they would be the ones punished if they didn’t. Is that true?”

No!” cried David. “It wasn’t me – it was Garrett! It was all his idea!”

God knows a liar,” said Blackman, glaring at him. “And so do I. I spoke to all three boys separately, and they all told me exactly the same story: Garrett didn’t know anything about it, and only agreed to punish Osterley because the first-years spoke against him. It was all your doing. I’d heard rumours about you, but now it seems as if they were true. So now I’m going to go right through the punishment book for the last couple of terms and I’m going to speak to every boy in it, because I’m certain that Osterley isn’t the only one you’ve had punished for something he didn’t do. I’m also going to ask everyone else in the school if there’s anything I ought to know about your activities. And when I’ve spoken to everyone I’ll want to see you again. Now get out!”

David swallowed and retreated. At least Osterley was the only one in the book who had been genuinely innocent, he thought. Thank God Garrett didn’t put Dhif’s name in the book. Maybe I can ride this out after all – and maybe once Blackman finds out Osterley’s the only one he might realise he can use me after all… maybe I can still come out of this on top…


I think David’s fooling himself here – the writing’s pretty clearly on the wall by now. Still, he thinks he’s got a way to restore the status quo at home and regain his position as Lord and Master, and in due course we’ll be finding out what the plan is and whether it works. But first we’ll be winding the clock back a little to see what Master Fielding got up to during the holidays…

You'll have noticed that I wasn't away for quite as long as I had expected, so you didn't have to wait two weeks for this chapter after all. And I'll be trying to get the next chapter posted around the middle of next week as usual. And if you want to let me know how you're finding the story so far, you can still reach me at the usual address –

Copyright 2009 – all rights reserved. Please do not reprint, repost or otherwise reproduce this or any part of it anywhere without my written permission.

David Clarke