The Noble Course

Dickon had assumed that the voices were of boys late getting changed but then he realised they belonged to adults. He thought it best to let it be known he was there so he forced a cough before leaving the storeroom. When he saw the headmaster and the young man that had watched the match earlier he straightened his back and arms and wished them a good afternoon.

‘Ah, Dickon, someone said this is where you’d be.  I want you to introduce yourself to Mr Blundell,’ said the headmaster.

Dickon walked to Christian and held his hand out. ‘How do you do sir? My name is Dickon Ash, sir.’

‘I’m very well thank you. Jolly good show from you today. That you walked on 49 was sportsmanship of the highest order.’

‘Thank you sir but I have to be honest and say that I did think twice.’

‘But the point is you decided on the noble course and that’s really all that counts, Dickon.’

Dickon smiled and said thank you, ‘People call me Dash for short sir. I don’t mind it.’

‘And a well-deserved nickname it is given the way you get along the wicket,’ Dickon said thanks again, ‘Mr Hastings said you were quick and by Jove he’s right. How’s your bowling?’

‘Not as good as my batting sir but I didn’t have to bowl today after Johnson took the last wicket.’

‘Well perhaps that’s an area that Mr Blundell can help you with, Dickon,’ said the headmaster, ‘he was also captain of the 1st 11 during his time here. His record for most wickets still stands.’

‘Were you a fast bowler or a spinner sir?’ asked Dickon.

‘I’m not quite over-the-hill yet, I do still play a little,’ Christian smiled to show that he wasn’t in the slightest put out by the boy’s presumption, ‘but for the record I’m a spin bowler, Dickon.’

‘That’s what I prefer to play sir even though I’m a fast runner,’ the boy’s tone suggested a little more enthusiasm for bowling.

‘Mr Blundell is going to be with us for at least the last half and much longer if I have my way,’ the two men smiled at each other, ‘he’ll be teaching you RE, Latin and perhaps some Classics and he will be taking over as master in charge of cricket so we might make a bowler of you yet.

‘Now that you’ve been introduced we’ll leave you in peace.  Mr Blundell and I have much to discuss. Oh by the way, what were you doing in the storeroom?’

‘I was putting the cricket equipment away but it took longer because I wanted to sand and oil the bats, sir.’

‘Ah, I see. Don’t be late for dinner my boy.’

‘No sir, of course not, they’re all finished now. Thank you sir and thank you too, Mr Blundell.’

‘It’s a pleasure to have met you Dickon. Goodbye for now at least.’

Dickon watched as the two men left the changing room. After a couple of seconds of solitude he walked through the actions of a spin bowl delivery.

*

Apart from the lower and upper-sixth pupils who roomed in pairs the rest of the boys at St Barnabus shared dormitories. For those already used to boarding at their prep schools it seemed completely normal but for some experiencing life as a border for the first time it could be an uncomfortable experience.

The dormitories were housed in a redbrick building that had been built as an infirmary and convalescent home for wounded officers during the Great War. Dickon’s dormitory was the largest. It contained two rows of fifteen beds that faced each other across a gap just wide enough for two boys to pass without pausing. Each boy had a bedside cupboard for personal belongings.

Dickon found the dormitory empty except for two boys washing at the line of basins at the far end. He took his shirt off, got his wash bag and towel and went to join them. Neither of them played cricket but word of Dickon’s near half century and fair play had got out and they congratulated him.

Dickon filled one of the basins and found a sliver of soap in his bag, one of the boys told him there was no hot water left. Dickon laughed and said that there’d probably never been any in the first place.

‘You’re right, Dash. I don’t mind it so much in summer but the winter’s a different matter.  The second half of Michaelmas was bloody miserable.’

Dickon laughed again, ‘They said it was Hampshire’s coldest ever, Tom. I suppose it would be unusual for it to happen twice in a row so this winter might not be as bad.’ Dickon finished washing and then brushed his teeth. The three of them went to get changed into fresh clothes and the dormitory started to fill with noisy boys.

Dickon checked the time, there was nearly 2 hours before they needed to be in the dining hall so he, Tom and the other boy decided to go for a walk.

Whilst St Barnabus House School couldn’t boast the prestige of any of the Clarendon nine it nevertheless enjoyed a reputation for academic and sporting excellence. It drew pupils from all over of the south of England, their well-off parents suitably impressed by the Pugin designed 19-century Gothic renaissance architecture.

The estate in which the school sat comprised of rolling parkland and several acres of ancient New Forest woodland. The Lymington, a renowned Hampshire chalk stream cut through the grounds and offered 3 miles of double bank fly-fishing. The school had its own angling society but apart from that the fishing was private.  Several of the best trout beats in Hampshire ensured the school enjoyed an additional lucrative income. It was to the Lymington that Dickon and the two other boys now made their way.

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