The Unbearable Bassington HTML version

Chapter II
Lancelot Chetrof stood at the end of a long bare passage, restlessly consulting his watch
and fervently wishing himself half an hour older with a certain painful experience already
registered in the past; unfortunately it still belonged to the future, and what was still more
horrible, to the immediate future. Like many boys new to a school he had cultivated an
unhealthy passion for obeying rules and requirements, and his zeal in this direction had
proved his undoing. In his hurry to be doing two or three estimable things at once he had
omitted to study the notice-board in more than a perfunctory fashion and had thereby
missed a football practice specially ordained for newly-joined boys. His fellow juniors of
a term’s longer standing had graphically enlightened him as to the inevitable
consequences of his lapse; the dread which attaches to the unknown was, at any rate,
deleted from his approaching doom, though at the moment he felt scarcely grateful for
the knowledge placed at his disposal with such lavish solicitude.
“You’ll get six of the very best, over the back of a chair,” said one.
“They’ll draw a chalk line across you, of course you know,” said another.
“A chalk line?”
“Rather. So that every cut can be aimed exactly at the same spot. It hurts much more
that way.”
Lancelot tried to nourish a wan hope that there might be an element of exaggeration in
this uncomfortably realistic description.
Meanwhile in the prefects’ room at the other end of the passage, Comus Bassington and a
fellow prefect sat also waiting on time, but in a mood of far more pleasurable
expectancy. Comus was one of the most junior of the prefect caste, but by no means the
least well-known, and outside the masters’ common-room he enjoyed a certain fitful
popularity, or at any rate admiration. At football he was too erratic to be a really brilliant
player, but he tackled as if the act of bringing his man headlong to the ground was in
itself a sensuous pleasure, and his weird swear-words whenever he got hurt were eagerly
treasured by those who were fortunate enough to hear them. At athletics in general he
was a showy performer, and although new to the functions of a prefect he had already
established a reputation as an effective and artistic caner. In appearance he exactly fitted
his fanciful Pagan name. His large green-grey eyes seemed for ever asparkle with goblin
mischief and the joy of revelry, and the curved lips might have been those of some
wickedly-laughing faun; one almost expected to see embryo horns fretting the
smoothness of his sleek dark hair. The chin was firm, but one looked in vain for a
redeeming touch of ill-temper in the handsome, half-mocking, half-petulant face. With a
strain of sourness in him Comus might have been leavened into something creative and
masterful; fate had fashioned him with a certain whimsical charm, and left him all
unequipped for the greater purposes of life. Perhaps no one would have called him a