The Falcon & the Viper

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Chapter 5

Later that night, the Great Clock struck two in the morning as Johnny tried to sleep. He had stayed awake, thinking of Anthony’s act of tripping him up in the race. Johnny knew Anthony had a first class brain, but did not have the sense to go about things straightforwardly, which would make it unnecessary for him to cheat. His friend was beating himself to death trying to keep up with Johnny, both physically and mentally. Matters were taking an unhealthy turn for the worse, as Johnny felt sure that Anthony was seeing his whole life in terms of competition with Johnny.

As sleep came to Johnny, a short distance away in King’s College the sound of a creaking floorboard broke the silence on the landing of the students’ rooms. McIlroy, the head porter paused and cursed under his breath at making the noise, then began walking more carefully towards the door of the room at the far end of the landing. Earlier in the evening while making rounds, McIlroy’s suspicions stirred when he eavesdropped from the gallery overlooking the squash courts on an unsavoury conversation between two of the students.

Reaching the door, he turned the brass knob and to his delight found it unlocked. McIlroy flung the door wide open as Anthony Barker looked up in horror from the bed inside the room and rolled off a naked Digby, the athletics club secretary.

‘I’ve got you now, your lordship!’ mocked McIlroy. ‘I knew I would put you before the dean before long.’

Both students sat on the edge of the bed, their heads lowered in embarrassment and cheeks flushed red with shame.

The following morning, Johnny walked into the dining hall of Trinity for breakfast amidst rousing cheers from fellow students acknowledging his success in winning the dash. Sitting down on a bench at one of the long dining tables, he sliced the top off a boiled egg, smothered it in salt and buttered a slice of toast. A student sitting opposite struck up a conversation.

‘I say old chap that was a jolly good show you put up for the college yesterday.’

‘Thanks.’ acknowledged Johnny, taking a bite from his toast.

’That chap from King’s is rather a bounder, what?

‘Oh he’s not such a bad sort, he’s a friend of mine.’

‘Well with friends like that, who need’s enemies! By the way, I’m Tom Beckett.’

‘Hello Tom, Johnny Faulkner.’ replied Johnny.

‘Yes, I’ve already heard about you, you’re quite the all-rounder. I’ve seen no one run that fast before!’

‘Thanks.’

‘How are you finding things here?’ enquired Tom.

‘Not too bad, once you get into the routine.’

‘Yes, I’m finding it tickety-boo, although college life has its limitations. Did you know that the rulebook states that all university halls have a curfew of 10 o’clock, ladies are not allowed in a gentlemen’s room, and they could expel a fellow for breaking any of them!’

Johnny laughed, ‘Well, you will have the opportunity of meeting some girls at one of the forthcoming dances during the term and there’s always the theatre.’

‘The theatre, now you’re talking Johnny. We could ask out two of the chorus girls! Tickety-boo. Have you seen that duck perched up in the rafters?’

‘No. Where?’ answered Johnny.

‘Up there.’

Johnny looked in the direction Tom was pointing.

‘He’s an artificial duck known as The Mallard. It’s a quaint tradition of the college, as he gets moved when one of our chap’s has the bad luck of getting bowled out for a duck in the varsity matches with those blighters from Oxford.’

‘I’ve heard some strange tales too. Legend has it that the ghost of a lord walks around here at night rattling a bunch of keys, although I haven’t heard him yet. There’s one about the head porter who was doing the rounds of the new college intake after the war. He was perplexed to find that one student had a serviceable Lewis machine gun with ammunition in his room. The story goes that when asked the blighter said he wanted it for decorative purposes.’

Tom laughed. ‘Hilarious, old chap. I must get along, as I want to check the notice board before the morning lecture for any musicals in town this weekend.’ he said with a wink.

‘Good luck with that! I’ll come with you as I’m expecting a letter from father.’ They both got up and went out of the hall towards the porters’ office.

A short distance away, Anthony Barker, wearing the black gown required of an undergraduate when put before the dean, knocked on the oak studded door of an office in King’s College.

‘Come!’ beckoned a deep voice.

Anthony opened the door and entered the room.

‘Ah, Barker.’ acknowledged Doctor Farleigh, the dean, sitting behind his desk.

’I understand from Mr McIlroy that you have committed a very serious breach of the rules of this college.

‘Yes sir, but I can explain.’

‘Be quiet! You will not speak unless I tell you. McIlroy told me he caught you red handed in a despicable act, unless you are calling him a liar?’

‘No, sir.’

‘It is my responsibility for the good order and discipline of this college. The disgusting act you committed last night with Digby would have brought the good name of the college into disrepute. I have spoken with the master this morning who told me it is only because your father, Lord Barker is a close acquaintance, that you will not be expelled. By all intents and purposes you would be on your way home in disgrace!’

Anthony Barker held his head down in shame.

‘You will listen to me, young man, and listen well. There will be no more shenanigans of this nature or breaches of the rules during your remaining time here. I have already warned Digby and told him not to say a word about this scandal. You will both be closely watched to ensure that you behave yourselves. I have had the devil of a job earlier this morning convincing the head porter of the correctness of the master’s decision and you will now treat him with the upmost respect. Now get out of here.’

Anthony walked out closing the door behind him and the dean leant back in his chair, contemplating whether the young lord would now behave himself. The dean well knew that homosexuality was a crime and the easy choice of any blackmailer to convert threat into cash and if the victim did not pay, the subsequent disclosure would cause disgrace. Should any future act by the son be exposed, not only would it cause his father, Lord Barker, embarrassment but also could jeopardise and endanger the hard work his father and the members had done in forming the secret society. Of which he, Farleigh, was a founder member.

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