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Конкурс переводов - Тур 70 (март 2008 г.)
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Отрывок

THE WHITE FEATHER

It was not until he had reached his study that Sheen thoroughly realised what he had done. All the way home he had been defending himself eloquently against an imaginary accuser; and he had built up a very sound, thoughtful, and logical series of arguments to show that he was not only not to blame for what he had done, but had acted in highly statesmanlike and praiseworthy manner. After all, he was in the sixth. Not a prefect, it was true, but, still, practically a prefect. The headmaster disliked unpleasantness between school and town, much more so between the sixth form of the school and the town. Therefore, he had done his duty in refusing to be drawn into a fight with Albert and friends. Besides, why should he be expected to join in whenever he saw a couple of fellows fighting? It wasn't reasonable. It was no business of his. Why, it was absurd. He had no quarrel with those fellows. It wasn't cowardice. It was simply that he had kept his head better than Drummond, and seen further into the matter. Besides....

But when he sat down in his chair, this mood changed. There is a vast difference between the view one takes of things when one is walking briskly, and that which comes when one thinks the thing over coldly. As he sat there, the wall of defence which he had built up slipped away brick by brick, and there was the fact staring at him, without covering or disguise.

It was no good arguing against himself. No amount of argument could wipe away the truth. He had been afraid, and had shown it. And he had shown it when, in a sense, he was representing the school, when Wrykyn looked to him to help it keep its end up against the town.

The more he reflected, the more he saw how far-reaching were the consequences of that failure in the hour of need. He had disgraced himself. He had disgraced Seymour's. He had disgraced the school. He was an outcast.

This mood, the natural reaction from his first glow of almost jaunty self-righteousness, lasted till the lock-up bell rang, when it was succeeded by another. This time he took a more reasonable view of the affair. It occurred to him that there was a chance that his defection had passed unnoticed. Nothing could make his case seem better in his own eyes, but it might be that the thing would end there. The house might not have lost credit.

An overwhelming curiosity seized him to find out how it had all ended. The ten minutes of grace which followed the ringing of the lock-up bell had passed. Drummond and the rest must be back by now.

He went down the passage to Drummond's study. Somebody was inside. He could hear him.

He knocked at the door.

Drummond was sitting at the table reading. He looked up, and there was a silence. Sheen's mouth felt dry. He could not think how to begin. He noticed that Drummond's face was unmarked. Looking down, he saw that one of the knuckles of the hand that held the book was swollen and cut.

"Drummond, I--"

Drummond lowered the book.

"Get out," he said. He spoke without heat, calmly, as if he were making some conventional remark by way of starting a conversation.

"I only came to ask--"

"Get out," said Drummond again.

There was another pause. Drummond raised his book and went on reading.

Sheen left the room.

Outside he ran into Linton. Unlike Drummond, Linton bore marks of the encounter. As in the case of the hero of Calverley's poem, one of his speaking eyes was sable. The swelling of his lip was increased. There was a deep red bruise on his forehead. In spite of these injuries, however, he was cheerful. He was whistling when Sheen collided with him.

"Sorry," said Linton, and went on into the study.

"Well," he said, "how are you feeling, Drummond? Lucky beggar, you haven't got a mark. I wish I could duck like you. Well, we have fought the good fight. Exit Albert--sweep him up. You gave him enough to last him for the rest of the term. I couldn't tackle the brute. He's as strong as a horse. My word, it was lucky you happened to come up. Albert was making hay of us. Still, all's well that ends well. We have smitten the Philistines this day. By the way--"

"What's up now?"

"Who was that chap with you when you came up?"

"Which chap?"

"I thought I saw some one."

"You shouldn't eat so much tea. You saw double."

"There wasn't anybody?"

"No," said Drummond.

"Not Sheen?"

"No," said Drummond, irritably. "How many more times do you want me to say it?"

"All right," said Linton, "I only asked. I met him outside."

"Who?"

"Sheen."

"Oh!"

"You might be sociable."

"I know I might. But I want to read."

"Lucky man. Wish I could. I can hardly see. Well, good bye, then. I'm off."

"Good," grunted Drummond. "You know your way out, don't you?"

Linton went back to his own study.

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