Recently I have been amusing myself with eBooks from Project Gutenberg by the extraordinarily prolific Lt.-Col. Frederick Sadlier Brereton.
Lt.-Col. Frederick Sadleir Brereton was born on 5 August 1872… He died on 12 August 1957 at age 85.
He was educated at Cranleigh School, Cranleigh, Surrey, England. He was educated at Guy’s Hospital Medical School, London, England. He fought in the Boer War. He graduated with a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.). He fought in the First World War. He gained the rank of Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel in the service of the Royal Army Medical Corps, formerly Army Medical Service, and attached to the 2nd Battalion, Scots Guards. He held the office of Justice of the Peace (J.P.) for Hertfordshire in 1918.1 He was decorated with the award of the Commander, Order of the Crown of Italy. He was invested as a Commander, Order of the British Empire (C.B.E.) in 1919. He was decorated with the award of the Commander, Order of Avis of Portugal. He was registered as a Licentiate, Royal College of Physicians, London (L.R.C.P.). He was registered as a Member, Royal College of Surgeons (M.R.C.S.). He was author of many stories of military campaigns.
Prolific he certainly was.
The first I read was his one and only school story, quite obviously owing a lot to Cranleigh School. The school in the novel is Ranleigh. Incidentally there is an Australian connection with Cranleigh, as Arthur Upfield, creator of the once very popular “Boney” series of detective stories, attended the school around 1900.
“Shut up!” growled Susanne promptly. “Well, Trendall?” he said encouragingly. “We don’t think it.”
“Then I do. I’ve acted like a pig and a bounder, and I’m sorry. I’ve been an ungrateful brute all along and want to apologise. It’s late in the day, of course, but then, there it is, I’m sorry.”
He held out a hand, lamely again, as if fearful that it would pass unnoticed. But Susanne seized it instantly. It was like Susanne, the warm-hearted Frenchman.
“Good! Very good!” he said. “We’re to be friends from now, eh? I’m glad.”
“So am I; it’s no use being enemies,” declared Bert, taking the proffered hand too.
“Rotten!” reflected Clive. “It’ll be something nice to look forward to after the hols.”
“Ripping!” cried Masters warmly.
“Where do you come from? Who’s your father?” demanded Rawlings roughly, as if to gain time in which to decide how to act.
Feofé was not to be hurried. He had never been to a school of any sort before, save the local one he attended in France. But he had met boys and youths in plenty. And always this quiet, shambling boy, with his broad shoulders and appearance of hidden power, had won respect without recourse to violence. He took another puff at his cigarette, a habit, by the way, rather more indulged in by boys in France, and regarded the resulting smoke with something approaching affection. His eyes twinkled. He shrugged his massive shoulders.
“Monsieur is somewhat curious,” he said, using excellent English. “I am from Lyons. My father, he is a banker. My mother, ah, she is his wife, you understand. Then there is a sister. Susanne, Monsieur, younger by a year than I am. That is the sum of the family, but I will tell you all. There is a dog—yes, two—and a cat, and——”
Rawlings was purple. Beads of perspiration were breaking out on his forehead. Catching a sight of Clive’s grinning face he ground his teeth with anger.
“Hang your family!” he shouted at Feofé. “Who wants to hear about Susan?”
Feofé shrugged his shoulders. “You were so very curious,” he said. “But I will proceed. We live at Lyons, but sometimes we go to Paris. There I have an aunt and two uncles, Monsieur. Ah! Yes, I must tell you all. The aunt is Susanne also. A pretty name, Monsieur.”
Rawlings was on the point of exploding. His dignity had long since gone to the winds. If he dared he would have seized this Feofé by the neck and shaken him. But the young fellow’s broad shoulders and smiling, easy assurance warned him that that might be dangerous. But he must assert himself. He must show this Frenchman that he was a superior, and that that must be the light in which he must view him.
“Look here,” he said at length, smothering his anger, “no more of your confounded cheek. Susanne’s good enough for you, so just remember. You’re going to Ranleigh, and it’s just as well to tell you that I shall be a prefect. Know what that means?”
Even now he hoped to impress Feofé with his magnificence. But the lad merely raised his brows enquiringly, and shrugged his shoulders still lower against the upholstery of the carriage.
“A prefect. Someone in authority. Well?”
“And to be obeyed. Just chuck that smoking.”
“But,” began Susanne mildly—we call him Susanne at once, seeing that that name stuck to him forthwith—”but, by the way, what’s your name?”
Imagine the impertinence of such a request! A new boy actually having the temerity to coolly ask the name of one who had been three years at the school. Rawlings gasped; he mopped his damp forehead.
“Rawlings,” he growled.
“Then, Rawlings, you’re a prefect, yes?”
“Not yet,” came the somewhat confused answer. “But I shall be this term. It’d be a confounded shame if they passed me over.”
“Quite so. A confounded shame. You would be a loss to the other prefects.”
Susanne took another appreciative suck at the weed, while Rawlings went hot and cold. Satire went to the depths of his being. This Feofé was covering him with derision…
And next I read…
Now if you can accept that one 17-years-old English lad, aided by two English chaps and a friendly native, can subdue God knows how many Somalis… Wonderful what a Public School education and lots of plunges into cold water and of course Cricket can do…
Keeping their revolvers in their hands, in case of treachery, they crossed the deck to the fallen native, and turned him upon his back, Jim in vain attempting to disguise the horror with which the sight filled him.
“Dead!” he said in a whisper. “It’s terrible to think that I killed him.”
“I dare say it is, old boy,” Tom answered calmly. “But then, you see, it would have been far more terrible if he had run you through with this murderous-looking sword, and had then thrown you into the sea. It’s not nice, I admit, to feel that that ugly-looking wound is due to your bullet, but then, you know, he fully deserved it, for he had every intention of killing you, and, as you saw, did his best to rid the world of my presence. So, cheer up, Jim. It was a splendid shot, and I’m still marvelling at your pluck and coolness. If it hadn’t been for you, I really believe that our bodies would have been floating a mile or more astern by now, a prey to the sharks, for I was completely unhinged by my struggle with them. You behaved grandly, I tell you, and you saved both my life and your own.”
“I don’t think so,” replied Jim modestly. “You see, I couldn’t very well have behaved in any other way. Your shout awakened me with a start to find you fighting with those two ruffians. Naturally, I went to your help, and as an Englishman’s first weapons are his fists, I used mine with a result that fairly astonished me. After that, everything was, of course, plain sailing.”
“There’s no plain sailing at all about it, Jim, my boy,” said Tom sharply, “and I’m not going to allow you to run down the share you took in the matter. You behaved splendidly, and with the greatest pluck, while I made a fool of myself. First of all, I fell asleep when I should have been keeping careful watch, and then I was so thoroughly upset by the attack made upon me that I was practically useless. But there, I can see you don’t like the subject, so I’ll say no more. Shake hands! That’s right. I feel better now.”…
… Then, satisfied that everything was in readiness, Jim sat down upon a boulder at the entrance of the gorge, and waited there with what patience he could command. It was exciting work sitting there in the darkness surrounded by precipitous walls, and without a sound to break the silence save the occasional jar of a rifle as it was struck against a piece of stone. All sorts of thoughts and fancies passed through his mind during the hours of waiting. He wondered whether his school-friends were thinking of him, what time it was in old England at that moment, and whether the boys were even then engaged in battling with the same tasks which he had so lately forsaken. Yes, it was strange to reflect that barely a month ago he was a mere boy, acting a boy’s part, and with scarcely a thought for the future. And now he was the recognized leader of a real expedition, about to invade the country of the Mullah, as fierce a fanatic as had ever sprung to power to be a scourge to his neighbours. It was strange indeed. It was almost beyond belief that it was he, Jim Hubbard, sitting there upon that rock, listening to the beating of his own heart, and straining his ears for the sounds which seemed as though they would never come. Supposing this tribe did not attack after all. Supposing Ali had made a huge blunder, and was the victim of too vivid imagination. Supposing——Hark! What was that? A stone falling from the cliff away above his head, or a footfall upon the road which led through the gorge?…