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by Ian John Copeland

Chapter 14

Summer Term 1968

Later that evening Mrs Porter updated her husband, Captain Porter, about the missing cake.

"That missing tin, minus the cake of course, turned up after the barbecue. Cook saw the boy who brought it in. Sacha Morgan."

"Morgan? I am at surprised at that. Let's see if anyone else can throw some light on this sordid little affair."

Captain Porter made some enquiries of Mr Wallace.

"So you took the Senior Game this afternoon?"

"Yes, Captain Porter."

"Were all the Fifth Form boys present?"

"Yes, all of them, most were playing cricket, but I let Pierce and Morgan Junior go off and play tennis. I checked up on them, mind. They were playing all afternoon."

"Thank you, Mr Wallace. I am investigating the little matter of the cake. It seems that Pierce and Morgan are the prime suspects. You could not have been watching them all the time."

"No, Headmaster, and they are of an age when they should be trusted, but I am sure no harm was meant by it."

"As you say, I would like to think we can trust our Fifth Formers, but alas it looks like this is not the case in this instance. This whole thing has upset Cook and it could potentially have ruined an important day for the school. You have to nip this sort of behaviour in the bud, Mr Wallace."

"Yes, Headmaster, I agree. Those two need to learn a lesson."

The following morning Captain Porter made an announcement at the end of morning assembly.

"Morgan Junior, report to my study immediately."

The hushed silence that followed was immediate and profound. The boys all looked at each other. They knew Sacha was in big trouble for something; perhaps it was yesterday's dive into the water? But who had told and if so why wasn't Jonathan called up as well?

As Sacha left in silence, Peter wanted answers. He went straight to Jonathan as they walked out of assembly.

"Why has Sacha been called to see Captain Porter? It must be something serious and he was with you most of yesterday, wasn't he?"

Jonathan knew better than to try and fool Peter. "Sure, he was with me all of the afternoon. We were playing tennis together, remember? I am not absolutely sure, but perhaps someone sneaked on us doing that jump yesterday? But then why wasn't I called out as well?"

"True. Anything else then?"

"Well, we took a cake from the kitchen yesterday afternoon whilst you were in your final exam. We had a midnight feast with it."


"I fetched it. It was on the table, but Sacha was there. He kept watch for me."

"You mean you and he stole a cake?"

"Yes, if that is how you want to put it."

"Well, that is how Captain Porter would put it. You know that well enough. So how does he know it was you two then?"

"We were the only two not in the senior game. We played tennis instead. A bit obvious. I didn't think of that and then Sacha forgot about it being a secret and returned the tin after the barbecue."

"That was more than a bit dumb, wasn't it?"

"Well, Sacha didn't think about it. Cook saw him put the tin back perhaps? Pip had some cake too."

"Him too?"

"Well. yes."

"You little rat, Pierce. You've just dropped my brother right in it. If anything happens to him, you and Cox are going to get it, understood? You are a lot smarter than Sacha when it comes to things like this. You should have looked after him."

"Sorry, Morgan."

"You will be."

Sacha walked to the study fearful as to what might happen. No one spoke to him. Was it the forbidden jump or was it something else? He was racked with guilt. When he got to the study door, it was shut. Taking a deep breath he knocked.

"Enter," came the reply and Sacha opened the door.

He had only been in the study once when he first visited the school last summer. Unlike the rest of the building it was lavishly furnished with two sofas and an imposing desk. However, most boys in trouble at The Rocks tended to focus on the simple low backed chair inconspicuously placed in the corner when they entered. Sacha had heard of it, but not seen it before.

"Shut the door and come over here."

Sacha did as he was told and stood on the spot indicated in front of the desk where Captain Porter was sat.

"Cook tells me you returned her missing cake tin yesterday evening. Is that so?"

"Missing, sir?"

"Missing since we had celebratory cakes on the lawn when one cake went missing, stolen in fact. Did you take the cake from the kitchen?"

Sacha had expected to be questioned about the jump from Parson's Leap yesterday. He had long forgotten about the cake. He wasn't sure how to answer, even though he knew the truth. There was also Jonathan to consider. How to answer?

"Well? Out with it boy. You are only making it more difficult for yourself."

Sacha took a deep breath. He knew he was better off telling the truth, unvarnished.

"Not exactly, sir. I was there, but really it was Jon…" Sacha stopped himself. Never betray another boy; that was the golden rule. Never be a sneak. Take the blame yourself, but he had already blurted out the name.

"No need for me to guess. Jonathan Pierce, am I right?"

Sacha was trapped. His heart sank. "I suppose so, sir."

"Come on, boy. You know exactly who it was, yourself and Jonathan Pierce, anyone else?"

"Just Pip, Cox, I mean. He had a slice as well."

Sacha had been caught unaware, unprepared. He had no invented story to tell so he just told it as he first remembered it, not thinking what it might sound like he was saying.

"Do you know how upset Cook was over this? She carefully prepared just enough cake for everyone and then you go and steal a cake just for yourselves, meaning that all the teaching staff had to miss out. Cook thought she had miscounted until she realised her favourite tin was missing."

"No, sir, sorry sir. I am very sorry."

Sacha was miserable. He had never really been in trouble at school before, at least not at The Rocks.

"Well, I had better speak to Pierce and Cox and hear their side of the story. Go and fetch Pierce and then go back to your lessons. I want to see you in this study at break time, understood?"

"Yes, sir."

Sacha went back to his classroom and told Mr Wallace that Jonathan was to see the Headmaster. Jonathan knocked on the study door and entered when invited to do so. This was by no means his first visit.

"Well, what was your role in the saga of the missing cake?"

Jonathan decided to take the blame. "It was my idea to take the cake, sir. Morgan just kept look-out."

"So he was involved?"

"Sort of, I mean I don't think he knew what I was doing. I didn't tell him."

"But he saw you come out with the cake and then he ate some of it?"

"Yes, sir."

"And Cox?"


What had Sacha said? Jonathan hesitated. Pip had not known the cake was stolen. Sacha had dropped him in it, but Jonathan could see no reason why Pip should shoulder the blame for something he knew nothing about.

"We just met Cox on the cricket pitch. He didn't know where the cake had come from. He wasn't involved in going into the kitchen at all. That happened when he was still in his final exam."

"All right, I'll speak to Cox later. I will deal with you first."

Captain Porter wasted little time with Jonathan. He came around from his side of the desk and placed the small chair in front of the boy before going to the cupboard.

"You know the drill well enough, Pierce."

"Yes, sir."

A few moments later Jonathan emerged from the study, his face noticeably flushed. As soon as he thought he was far enough away from Captain Porter Jonathan risked a smile of bravado in case anyone was watching. Jonathan liked other boys to believe a visit to Captain Porter's study was nothing terrible.

Peter, upstairs in the Sixth Form, guessed what was happening. He had seen Jonathan walk back to his classroom from the study. In between lessons he went up to Pip, his voice cold with fury.

"I'll kill you both for this, getting Sacha into trouble," he hissed.

"But I don't know what it's about, honest."

"The cake stupid, the cake you stole with Pierce. You two have just got Sacha into almighty trouble between you."

"That slice of cake? You mean this is what this is all about? Jonathan and Sacha were together with the cake tin and Jonathan gave me a piece. I didn't know where it came from."

"Well, Jonathan's just had it from the Head and I am sure Sacha's next and if he is, you and Jonathan are to blame, got it?"

"I promise you, I didn't know anything about the cake until I was given a piece. Listen, if I am called in, I will do what I can. I am not going to blame Sacha. I wasn't even there."

"Well, hang around with some one your own age in future. Sacha's only a Fifth Former. Why hang around with him? Why keep sneaking off all the time alone with my brother?"

Pip wanted to answer, but decided it was best not to. He kept quiet, but hoped that this current fuss was going to blow over quickly, but he was worried sick about how Sacha would react to all of this.

Sacha had watched Jonathan return to the lesson. He gave no direct clues other than a secret smile, but Sacha noticed how carefully he sat down and how he shifted in his seat constantly.

On the brink of tears Sacha returned to the study at break time as ordered. Captain Porter told Sacha to sit down on the small chair. The boy needed a bit of advice he decided.

"I've called you back to tell you that Pierce has told me that he takes the blame for stealing the cake and for that he has been punished, but you are far from blameless in this. You should have told him to put it back once you realised what he had done, shouldn't you?"

"Yes, sir, I am sorry, sir. Once he had done it, I didn't know what I should do. I am sorry, sir. It won't happen again."

"I did think of punishing you as well, but since it is the first time and you confessed and told the truth immediately, I am going to let you off this time, but don't disappoint me and make me regret that decision or it will be the worse for you. Understood?"

Sacha was relieved beyond words, but not for long.

"But apart from this incident I want you to think very carefully about what you get up to whilst you are here. You've started well, but it is very easy for a boy your age to get into mischief and earn himself the wrong sort of reputation. Get it wrong and you could ruin your chances in the future. Look, boy, you are scholarship material and I want you to get that scholarship. This school needs more boys like you. I can't afford to have you making a mess of things with incidents like this, understood? I am going to be keeping a close eye on you in future. Mark my words."

"Yes, sir." Sacha was reduced to a whisper.

"Look, Pierce is not a bad sort at all. It's just that he is a little immature sometimes and does not think. If you are with him, you may need to do that extra bit of thinking for him. Be here on another occasion like today and I will deal with you very firmly, understood?"

"Yes, sir."

But there was something else Captain Porter wanted to discuss with Sacha, something that was sitting at the back of Captain Porter's mind. The boy was new to the school and obviously quite innocent when he arrived, but he did not appear to be so now. Captain Porter wanted to find out more. He started obliquely.

"Now, who else have you been with this since you have been here? Your brother, naturally, but who else?"

Sacha paused a fraction too long in answering. "No one in particular. You know, other boys in my form."


Sacha averted his eyes; he was no good at lying. "Really, sir, I'm still making friends."

"Hmm, well, that is a good idea. Don't rely on just the one or two. Keep with a crowd. Better that way. Anyone in the Sixth Form for instance?"

Sacha felt he was cornered. "My brother of course and Cox and Clancy for instance."

Captain Porter ran through the Sixth Form names in his head. Following the incident in the showers last term it seemed unlikely that Sacha would be friendly with the Johnson twins. They seemed the most antagonistic towards Sacha if anything. Clancy was not surprising; he was the brains trust of the school. Everyone was friendly with him. The name of Cox worried him though. Cox's name had come up at the beginning of the school year over a suspected incident with Pierce. Warned off from spending too much time with Pierce, perhaps Cox had turned his attentions to Sacha?

"You know you really should hang around with boys your own age more. Hanging around with older boys all the time sometimes is not healthy, particularly for a boy your age."

Sacha did not know what Captain Porter meant, but he was beginning to guess. Fortunately, the bell for the end of break sounded just at that point. Captain Porter did not have enough to go on yet, but he knew he would investigate more. The bell was a convenient point to bring this conversation to a close.

"Anyway, it sounds like the next lesson is starting. You had better be on your way, but I will be watching."

Ashen faced Sacha emerged and walked slowly across the quad. Obviously aware that other boys were watching he kept his eyes averted. It had not been a pleasant experience for him. Whilst Jonathan could put on a display of studied indifference at any visit he made to the study, it was clear that Sacha would not have any war stories to tell later on that day.

Captain Porter sat and considered Sacha's answers. The boy clearly had other close friends. He had not seen him hanging around by himself. A quick check of the exeat permissions register that recorded all the boys leaving school at the weekend did not show Sacha leaving with Jonathan more than a handful of times, but the other Fifth Form names had no pattern. Captain Porter looked at the permissions book more closely and then decided to speak to the senior masters to see what they knew.

He saw Mr Barnes first. "Mr Barnes, I am just following up on Morgan Junior."

"Oh, you mean the cake incident? I don't see too much harm to be honest, Headmaster. Boys will be boys and all that. I am sure Jonathan Pierce took the lead. It is very much his modus operandi ."

"Oh, the 'cake incident' as you call it. Don't worry. It is exactly what you say. Pierce has yet again managed to let his natural exuberance overpower his common sense and as a result he has paid his usual penalty. No, I am more interested in who Morgan mixes with. I mean, I have not seen him hanging around on his own, but when I asked him who his friends were, he clammed up very quickly."

"Well, I always assumed Peter, his brother, of course, but they do have a bit of an on off relationship to put it mildly. Are you aware of that?"

"Oh, now that is news to me. So who does he mix with?"

"Oh, the other Fifth Formers. He is quite a popular boy, I think. Other boys he does games with in the Second Game and because he is bright Cox, I think, and Clancy as well."

Mr Barnes had no suspicions, Captain Porter decided.

"Well, thank you for your help, Mr Barnes. I won't detain you."

Mr Durrant was next. "You wanted to see me, Headmaster?"

"Who do you think Morgan Junior is friendly with? When I had a word with him earlier, he wouldn't say. I am just checking up. I want to make sure we are nurturing him with the better element."

"Well, he is bunk-mates with Pierce, of course. So it is no wonder they are friends. I think Pierce brings out his adventurous side, away from his brother who does try to overshadow him on occasions."

"Yes, I have already heard that as brothers there is something of a love hate relationship there."

"Oh, I wouldn't say that. I think they are close. Just Morgan Senior wants to make sure his younger brother knows who the boss is when they are at school together."

"And otherwise?"

"I think young Morgan has quite a wide range of acquaintances. He mixes easily with the other boys. He is never the wallflower that I have seen, popular with both his year and the Sixth I would say."

Captain Porter leapt on the last remark. "Who in the Sixth?"

"Well, apart from his brother naturally, Cox, oh, and Clancy of course. He spent a lot of time with Cox on the Skye trip. But perhaps Mr Wallace knows more?"

Mr Wallace largely confirmed the reports given by Mr Barnes and Mr Durrant.

"And on the way back from Skye, you had Morgan, Owen, the twins and Cox for two days. Who was Morgan mixing with in that group?"

"There wasn't much time for mixing. Morgan had that nasty knock when I skidded off the road, if you recall. After that he really wasn't socialising much for the rest of the journey, but the night we had to stay in the Ardvasar Inn there was very limited room and the boys had to share beds, split between two rooms."

"So who chose who to sleep with?"

"Well, it was largely a matter of common sense. The twins I assigned to a double bed, as they were the most obvious sharers. Owen, well he is somewhat large, so I decided he was for the single bed. Morgan I decided should be in the smaller bedroom and that left Cox and myself. There was an offer of a put-you-up bed in the living room with me, but well… but the innkeeper's wife decided that Morgan should have someone with him that night in case he needed anything. There was no room for the put-you-up and so it was Morgan who suggested Cox shared with him, but I would not read anything into it, Headmaster. It was the luck of the draw. They did not exactly volunteer to share, although it is true that Cox did not refuse either."

"But did they seem friendly, I mean, close friends?"

"Oh yes, Morgan shared the front seat with Cox when we drove to the ferry. In fact he sat on Cox's lap and fell asleep. I think that was why he was the one who got hurt the most. And during the trip, well, they seemed to hang around a lot together, the way some boys do. They have been hanging around together since last term. I gave the pair of them a lift into Penzance the weekend before this half term, just the two of them. So yes, I would say they were pretty close."

Mr Wallace, sensing the way this discussion might be going, backtracked slightly.

"Not that I have seen anything untoward between the two of them. When I gave them a lift, they were off to Mousehole to dive off the quay there."

"Oh, I see. Thank you, Mr Wallace. I think I begin to get the picture."

Captain Porter prided himself on being something of a detective. He knew how to look for patterns of behaviour. The easiest way to check was to look at the Sunday exeat permissions register. His pen in hand, Captain Porter circled all the occasions of Sacha leaving the school. Nothing untoward there, always with other boys, mostly Fifth Formers. On just a few occasions his older brother. Then he looked at the return register on the opposite page. He returned with his brother on the same few occasions. No surprises there. He also returned with other Fifth Formers twice, but on other occasions, he returned alone, not with the boys he left school with. There were no signs that Sacha and Pip had left school together except on the first weekend of last term.

The returns register was always a bit more rushed as the boys tended to return just before the curfew time and so often queued up and in the ensuing jam. Names could get mixed up or boys could separate. Captain Porter made a mental note to change the system so that the boys had to be recorded in the same groups they went out from next term.

Sacha's name circled from the beginning of Lent term in red ink, Captain Porter then went and circled Pip's name in green ink. Mostly Pip left with the likes of Clancy and Owen, but sometimes by himself. He normally left within a few minutes of Sacha, never more than ten minutes apart, but that in itself did not mean much. The boys tended to leave at the beginning of their free time. On return, however, Pip always came back in just a couple of minutes later and always alone apart from once or twice and on two occasions, the same two occasions as Sacha, he returned early, both boys alone. Not enough evidence for a conviction, but certainly enough evidence to raise deep suspicions.

Time to talk to Cox. Pip was summoned after lunch. Peter came up to the dormitory with the message. Pip worried as he went to the study. Jonathan and Sacha both said he was in the clear. So why the summons? Pip knocked on the door and entered when called in, closing the study door quietly, making sure it clicked shut. He must have winced as he walked across to stand in front of the desk. Captain Porter took pity. The boy was still recovering from his operation.

"Pull up that chair and sit down."

In front of the Captain was a folder. It had all Pip's reports in it, from the very first when he was just seven years old. It also had an extra piece of pink paper, the one that recorded any significant misdeeds. There was only one from the incident with Jonathan the preceding Michaelmas term. A second pink piece of paper would be a deep disappointment to Captain Porter as these reports were limited to just those incidents that suggested a criminal or deviant mind at work.

Pip started. He wanted it all over as quickly as possible. "About the cake, sir, I had a slice."

"And did you take part in its acquisition?"

"Sir?" Pip was puzzled; 'acquisition' wasn't a word he was entirely sure of.

"Did you go to the kitchen with Pierce and Morgan and help them get the cake?"

"No, sir, I was in my exam. I met them outside where they were sitting under one of the trees."

"So they just gave you a piece of cake then?"

"Yes, sir, that's all. Pierce gave me a piece of cake, sir, not Morgan."

Captain Porter sighed and put down the piece of paper he was holding. "Don't worry. That is what they both said. You didn't know where it had come from then?"

Pip was being offered a way out. He was relieved. "No sir, I didn't. I just assumed Cook had given them some cake."

"I agree that was an understandable assumption to make in the circumstances."

Captain Porter shut the punishment book. Only Jonathan had an entry in it after this incident.

"Well, I think we can close the page on this incident fortunately. Pierce has owned up along with Morgan. Fifth Form high jinx as far as I am concerned. I have dealt with Pierce and given Morgan a last warning over this incident."

Pip felt a wave of relief pass over him, but Captain Porter was not smiling. He sighed. He didn't like talking to boys about these sorts of issues. He took a deep breath. Time to get on with it.

"There is something else I want to talk to you about."

Pip felt alarm rising. This discussion was going to be about something else, something bad he sensed. Captain Porter turned to Exeat permissions register in front of him. "Almost every weekend, the exeat log shows that you and Morgan going off with a group of other boys within ten minutes of each and yet you both return alone on most occasions, again within a few minutes of each. Just the two of you alone, always."

As if to emphasise the point, the large loose-leaf folder used for signing out the older boys was placed in front of him. Captain Porter had gone through it for all of last term and the first weeks of this term.

"Well, I suggest we have a look at the signing out register."

Most weekends it was the same. Pip's name circled in green and then either shortly before or after Sacha's name circled in red. The same pattern on the signing-in register showed on the opposite page.

"Do you deny there is a pattern here? Apparently going out separately, but in reality, always at roughly the same time and then coming back also at roughly the same time?"

Pip took a deep intake of breath. There was no point in making this more difficult than it already was. Time to confess the truth. "No sir, we were together on most of those occasions."

"Most of those occasions? Surely almost every Sunday?" Captain Porter looked hard at Pip. Surely the boy was not going to deny what was happening? Pip guessed it would be easier if he was as precise as he could be in his answer.

"As far as I can recall, all the Sundays bar two, sir. When I think Morgan was with his brother."

"Well, it is not so difficult with the records. We keep them for your safety. So why the deception? Why the separate exits and returns? Just what were you up to with Morgan Junior?"

Pip was trapped. He looked down at his lap, his face blushing hot red. "Please, sir, nothing, sir, nothing at all. He was lonely to start with, a new boy. I went out with him the first Sunday and after that? Well, then it just became a habit. The two of us would go out together." Pip looked up. "Please, sir, you have to believe me. We didn't do anything wrong."

"Wrong, Cox? What do you mean by wrong?"

Pip felt the ground give under his feet. "I mean we didn't do anything. We just went for walks, chatted and stuff. I think Morgan was lonely, sir. I became his friend. His brother wasn't being very nice to him at the time."

"I am curious, Cox. Boys in this school do not generally socialise with boys from other years. I will ask you again. What were you up to, other than walking and talking as you put it?"

"Nothing, sir. Really, we did nothing other than what I've just said."

"Is this a repeat of what occurred between you and Pierce at the beginning of this year? I sincerely hope not."


Captain Porter leaned forward on his desk and lowered his voice as if to avoid what he was saying being overheard by others. "Your relationship with Pierce, boy. It was becoming a little too close. I did give you a friendly warning, did I not?"

"Oh," was all Pip could bring himself to say.

"That is why I had you moved into a different dormitory, to separate you from Pierce." Captain Porter played with his pen. "Cox, I had hoped you had come to your senses after I suggested you kept more distance from younger boys like Pierce, but the evidence of these last two terms suggests you have not. You have been spending a great deal of time with young Morgan, too much time, more than is healthy for you and certainly more than is healthy for young Morgan. You've excluded your old friends, Owen and Clancy, for instance. What price their loyalty?"

In the eyes of Captain Porter an unfortunate pattern was emerging with Pip. Pip seemed to be having 'unsuitable' relationships with other boys. Nothing so definite as being caught in flagrante , which could of only led to one course of action, but enough evidence of a pattern of behaviour to worry the Captain.

"Can you tell me what it is about? I mean first with Pierce and now with Morgan Junior?"

The Captain was a fair man. He wanted to give Pip the opportunity to walk out of this if he could come out with a convincing explanation, but Pip's flushed expression and refusal to look the Captain in the eyes suggested that Pip was unsuccessfully trying to hide his feelings of guilt.

"I don't know, sir. Honest I don't."

There was a silence. The school would not survive a scandal. Captain Porter knew he had to eliminate any such behaviour and, if necessary, remove any boys with such tendencies.

"Don't know? I doubt it very much. I suspect you know very well what we are talking about here. I suspect you wanted to take advantage of a younger less mature boy. Morgan would be an easy one to dominate, as he was new to the school and to the country. Pierce, I think, can stand up for himself, but Morgan, he's vulnerable, immature for his age in many ways. I have to protect him. His parents are half way around the world. I have to say that I think you are having an unsuitable relationship with Morgan Junior, one that is not healthy for either of you."

Captain Porter would liked to have been more definite on the subject, but he just did not have the evidence to support a more substantial charge other than that of an 'unhealthy interest.' Unless Pip was prepared to confess, his hands were tied.

"It is the sort of business that can tear a school such as ours apart. If word got out that I tolerated such relationships at The Rocks I know some parents would remove their sons leading to the possible closure of the school. I am compelled to act regardless of what you say or deny. Do you understand me? The merest hint of this could escalate into a scandal and finish off this school, do you understand?"

"Two terms ago I had concerns about your behaviour with Pierce, the time the two of you spent together hiding with no one around, but I see that was just the tip of the iceberg when I look at the records in this book. It looks as though you have not mended your ways. Morgan is still very much an innocent, something his mother had emphasised when I persuaded her to enrol him at the school."

Pip sank lower into the chair. He did not fully understand what Captain Porter was implying, but he knew that his relationship with Sacha was now deemed unsuitable, more so than his relationship with Jonathan. Pip in his heart knew that was why he had taken a lot of steps to hide his relationship with Sacha these last two terms.

"Is this similar to your goings on with Pierce for example?"

"No, sir, not with Pierce, it wasn't like that. Nothing happened with either, sir, nothing."

Captain Porter asked the question twice more in different ways and twice more Pip denied anything happened, twice. Pip clammed up. He could not answer for things that had not happened. In the end the Captain decided that it was probably best not to press further. He did not wish to hear any possibly sordid details emerge, as he knew, if he did hear some things, it would not just be Pip it could involve. It would involve Sacha, Jonathan and possibly others. Like most Headmasters at a school like The Rocks, Captain Porter knew it was best not to know what some of his older pupils got up to. Captain Porter wished he had paid more attention to his wife's observation on meeting Sacha for the first time.

"Taking Alexei Morgan on this late is a bit of a risk. He's never been to boarding school and I think he is going to be rather impressionable. I don't imagine Peter will spend much time looking after him. Look how young he appears."

But Captain Porter knew the school needed the fees from having an extra boy badly and so he put his reservations to one side and accepted Sacha as a Fifth Form pupil. Captain Porter shut the signing out register and turned to the now cowed Pip, pale faced and close to tears.

"This can't continue, Cox, this 'special friendship'. You know that, don't you?"

"Yes, sir." Pip quaked as he realised what he was saying.

"This friendship has to be over, understood? No more secret meetings, no more secret fraternising with Morgan, understood? Keep clear of him. This is absolutely the last warning I give you. There will be no next time. I will ask your parents to remove you for the rest of the term if necessary." Captain Porter paused before delivering the final possible sanction. "And if that happens, I will have a duty to inform your new school as well. They may not take you as a result. You do realise that, don't you?

"Well, in order to avoid any further misunderstandings, this is how things are going to be for the remaining three weeks of this term. You are to have no further contact with Morgan Junior. You must try to avoid him. Indeed you are to avoid any situation where you are alone with any other boy in this school and you are to tell the master on duty where you are when you are off school premises and who you are with. I suggest you stick to Owen and Clancy. They are your friends after all."

"Yes, sir."


Pip heard himself say the words he dreaded. "Yes sir, I promise to not have any contact with Morgan for the rest of term."

"Well, that is the end of our discussion. I really do not want to have to talk on this subject further. I suggest you go back to your dormitory. I think you need time to reflect on what I have said to you."

Pip felt his every move was as if through thick treacle, his hearing tuned to nothing. Slowly he left the study, mouth dry and, like an automaton, headed to the dormitory. He didn't want to see the other boys, none of them. In the dormitory Pip lay on his bed in silence trying to settle the maelstrom of thoughts running through his head. When the other boys came in before games Pip pretended to be reading a book, his mind in turmoil. Sensing something was seriously wrong, they decided to leave Pip well alone.

Eventually Pip decided he had to get away from all the other boys. He went to Matron complaining of a headache and was given some aspirin and the desired order to rest in the dormitory for the rest of the day, skipping supper and the visit to Chapel Cove that evening. Slowly Pip's thoughts crystallised to only one thing. He had to speak to Sacha just the once, just to explain. It might possibly the last time they could speak properly. That very thought left Pip in the deepest gloom.

Sacha too had been in deep thought. The look he received from Mr Durrant that afternoon told him he was in disgrace, an uncomfortable feeling. Although he had exchanged glances with Jonathan in class, he had not found out what was being said, but he knew that he must have been one of the topics of discussion. Of Pip there was no sign.

A chance for a chat with Jonathan had to wait until the end of the day at shower time. Sacha always took his time going into the shower. The communal aspect of it was something he was still not comfortable with. Once most of the boys had returned, hair and bodies still damp, Sacha went to the showers, towel in hand followed by Jonathan. The two boys sat on the bench to the side of the shower room door in just their underwear, towels in hand, waiting for the two previous boys to leave.

"I guess that was your first visit to the study then, Sacha?"

"It was at this place and hopefully the last too."

"Probably not the last for me. I am never that lucky."

Jonathan removed his underwear and Sacha did likewise as the other boys emerged, shaking water off and towelling their bodies, one shy, and one not so shy. Sacha went in first, Jonathan second. The boys busied themselves washing in the warm jets of water. The doors to the shower room always open so the master on duty could check on progress. Sacha concentrated on washing his hair, the soap running down in thick trails down his back, deep in thought. He did not have to ask Jonathan what had happened. The marks were obvious. Sacha felt embarrassed he had not shared the same fate as he had done the same thing. Jonathan had noticed too.

"It looks like he let you off this time."

"He said next time, if something similar happened, I would be punished. I guess that's what he meant at least."

"Oh, yes, next time you'll join me in the punishment book. Don't worry."

"So I am in disgrace? Mr Durrant seemed to think so."

"Oh, don't mind Durrant. He is always a bit anti mischief makers."


Jonathan filled Sacha in. "I told Captain Porter it was all my fault. No point dropping you in it as well. Not that Durrant accepts that sort of thing. In his eyes you are now officially a member of the naughty club. He will be keeping a close eye on you from now on."

When the Sixth Form boys went up to their dormitories, there obviously had been some talking amongst them. Already there was a distance opening between Pip and most of the other boys. Just Owen and Clancy even acknowledged him. At bedtime Pip said a muted goodnight to his dormitory companions and tried to sleep. The other boys didn't press him.

Whilst he lay awake that night, Pip composed a short note in his head, apologising to Sacha for causing him so much trouble.


I am sorry for all the trouble I have caused you. I just want to explain things to you. Can we meet? We will have to keep it very secret, perhaps at night? You can give an answer to Owen. He will get it to me.


Pip wrote the note during break the next morning and gave it to Owen to deliver. Directly handing it to Sacha was out of the question.

"Please, do me a favour. Put this under Sacha's pillow for me."

Owen looked Pip in the eyes. He was still Pip's friend despite Pip's recent behaviour and disloyalty. "Okay, I will, but be very careful. You are being watched by all the teachers and by Peter as well."

Owen guessed what the note might contain. However, he knew Pip trusted him not to read it. So he did not look. Instead, in a quiet moment after lunch, he sneaked into Sacha's dorm and slipped the note under Sacha's pillow. Pip waited anxiously for a response. Agonisingly there was none. Peter took Sacha to one side that afternoon and forced him into the 5W bathroom, holding Sacha by his arm so tightly that the younger boy winced in pain. Sacha was forcibly sat down on a footlocker as his brother pressed him.

"What did Captain Porter say to you? Come on tell me. He did more than just give you a lecture about the cake, didn't he? You were in there for ages. Did he punish you?"

"No, he didn't. I thought he would, but he didn't. Captain Porter just gave me a long lecture. He told me to be more careful and watch Jonathan and Pip he told me to stay clear of."

"Jonathan I can understand, but really he's okay, but Cox? Why was he more concerned about Cox? What have you been up to with him? Go on. Tell me. What have you been doing with him?"

Peter tightened his grip on Sacha's arm. It was always the way he got information out of Sacha if he was not forthcoming.

"Ow! You're hurting me."

"Well, go on then. Tell me and then you can go. What have you been up to with Pip?"

Sacha, fearful of his brother's anger, began to talk reluctantly. "We've been out a few times together, you know, Sundays, especially last term."

"Funny. I never knew that. You always went off with other Fifth Formers. At least that's what I saw."

Sacha realised he had told his brother something that he did not know. "Well it was only a couple of times. We went to St Ives and to Sennen for instance."

"Sennen, gosh, that's a long way, sort of hiding like. Why? Why the secrecy?"

"I don't know why. It seemed sort of fun, no one knowing."

Peter suspected there was more to it than just 'fun'.

"So what did you do? Alone in St Ives or Sennen?"

Peter went for one final push, based on what Jonathan had told him. "And when you went up Trendrine with him during cricket?"

"We just talked and stuff. Nothing more."

"But alone, never with anyone else? Even on Trendrine?"

Sacha paled at the mention of Trendrine. "Yes, alone."

Peter was less than satisfied. Like Captain Porter, he suspected more might be taking place than just 'talking'. "Well take my advice. Stay clear of Pip. Do you understand? No contact. Ignore him, understood?"

"Oh Peter! It's not like that, really, nothing, nothing at all."

Sacha was miserable beyond words. He struggled to free his arm. "You're really hurting me."

Tears were forming in his eyes. Why was Peter being so cruel to him? Peter tightened his grasp. "Come on, tell me what you did. I want to know."

Sacha pleaded, tears in his voice. "All right! Pip, Pip kissed me. He kissed me just the once, honest."

Sacha didn't know how or what to say. He just wanted the intense pain his brother was putting him through to stop. He came out with just one thing, but it was enough. Peter had started this conversation without any idea what Sacha was up to with Pip. Now he wished he had not asked.

"Jesus! Did you tell Captain Porter that?"

The look on Sacha's tear-stained face, crumpled, defeated, hurt Peter almost as much. Peter had shown that he had no trust in his own brother. Peter had failed also in his duty to look after Sacha.

"No, I didn't tell Captain Porter. Peter, I am sorry, but Captain Porter said the same as you. He's told me to keep away from Pip."

Sacha knew he had let Peter down. He had let his whole family down.

"Listen, not a word to anyone about this, anyone, Sam even. It's best that no one else knows. Listen you've got to be more careful." Peter made his ultimate threat. "Stick with Pip and you'll become a queer like him. You could go to jail for what you two did. No one likes queers, especially at public school. Understand? Captain Porter's absolutely right to tell you to keep clear."

"But Pip's my friend."

"And what a friend he has turned out to be. Look what he did to you. He could make you queer. You don't want that and I certainly don't want a queer as my brother, understood?"

"I know, I know. I won't. I promise."

Peter let go of Sacha's arm. He was embarrassed to see a white patch where he had held it so tightly. Sacha rubbed it, tears flowing, eyes pleading. Sacha was now full of fear of any further contact with Pip. Not only had the lecture from Captain Porter frightened him. So had the much blunter warning from his brother. So when Sacha got into his bed that evening and found the note under his pillow with Pip's writing on it he took one glance at the writing, crumpled it up, and threw it in the bin. Sacha did not want anything more to do with Pip, especially now.

Come morning, Sacha discreetly retrieved the message and disposed of it. He did not want anyone else to see it, no matter what the content.

Next morning, without telling Pip, Owen asked Jonathan if Sacha had received a message from Pip.

"He got a note, I think. I mean who else would give Sacha a note just now? He took one look at the writing and tore it up. I don't think he read it at all. It wasn't in the bin in the morning."

Owen gently broke the news to Pip. "I asked Jonathan. Sacha didn't read it. He threw it away as soon as he saw it."

Pip was beyond downcast. "Oh."

"Sorry, Pip."

Pip was hurt and humiliated. He felt the whole school was watching him. He wrote another note, but tore it up before even trying to persuade Owen to play messenger boy again. Suppose Captain Porter had found out about it? He knew what would happen. Sick, Pip gave up.

Sacha had his own questions. One he could not ask his brother and so he turned to Clancy who everyone trusted. Sacha used the opportunity of a school cricket match as he waited to bat and Clancy acted as scorer.

"Clancy, what does 'queer' mean?"

Clancy pondered this. He knew the answer, but was not entirely sure how he should pitch his answer to Sacha. In the end he decided not to go into too much detail.

"Well if a man fancies a woman or indeed a boy fancies a girl that is being heterosexual; that is what most people are. That's how babies come about."

"Yes, I know that bit. I have been told all about the birds and bees."

"Well if a man like a man or a woman likes a woman, then that is homosexuality. Enjoying the same sex in a sexual way."

Clancy did not want to go further. He knew what homosexual activity entailed from his reading of a history of ancient Greece, but for those who did not know, it might be a bit too graphic.

"And that's true if a girl likes a girl or a boy likes a boy?"

"That's right. A boy who likes another boy might be called many things, but one vulgar description is to call that boy 'queer'. There are many other insults of a similar nature. You can see those written on any public toilet wall, I am sure."

Sacha's face clouded over. Did this mean things were not right? Now he was beginning to understand or at least he thought he did. "You mean 'not right' like a disease or something? Is that true?"

"It is a topic of much debate. In history it has been common in some societies, the ancient Greeks for example, but in most societies it is seen as deviant behaviour and a just cause of persecution. However, some countries, including ours, now at least tolerate it between consenting adults in private, but it was only made legal between adults here since last year, but you have to be twenty-one."

"Oh, thanks."

Twenty-one? Sacha was only twelve and besides, he did not think it was true he was queer. Even with Pip Sacha had thought of a girl, a friend of Sam's. Sacha, deep in thought, left Clancy to read his book. Clancy did not say any more and kept the conversation between himself and Sacha strictly private. He had heard the rumours from others, but would not be party to spreading them further.

Pip and Sacha went their separate ways, as much as it was possible in a small boarding school like The Rocks. Sacha unhappily settled down to swimming and playing cricket with the other Fifth Formers in his spare time in an effort to keep himself out of trouble, Jonathan his constant, but now cautious companion. Pip stayed at the margins. Owen and Clancy remained, but the other Sixth Formers kept their distance. Peter had not said anything to the others about his conversation with Sacha, but from then on he made clear that Pip was not in favour. So the other boys largely avoided him. Clancy provided the sole opportunity to escape. With Owen tagging along Clancy took Pip out of school whenever he could, walks and trips to St Ives, anywhere but school, which had now become a living hell for Pip. Captain Porter had one other task to perform with the Sixth Formers before the end of term. He took them into the art room and lectured them on the mechanics of sex. Pip sat at the front of the lecture, next to Clancy. He knew Clancy would be the only boy with enough confidence to ask one or two questions. Pip kept his eyes straight ahead. Somehow he felt the whole Sixth Form were looking at him. A shared knowledge of his 'beastliness' was in the air, unspoken, but there.

At first Captain Porter mentioned the story of the parson's wife and her young lover.

"The stable boy was about your age, but still more than capable of making the parson's wife pregnant. It happened then. It can happen now."

Then, as always, Captain Porter got onto the real topic of his lecture, warning boys against 'mucking around' with other boys.

"Whilst I may be able to help you in most situations, the one I cannot help you with is if you commit immoral acts with another boy. At public school that is always an offence that will result in instant expulsion."

Lecture over, the Sixth Form went their separate ways. Pip walked off alone down to the coast path. He used a stray branch to blaze a path through the vegetation as he tried to work off some of his anger at how things had turned out. As he walked he struck this way and that at the tall leaves of the wild rhubarb that dared cross his path. Nothing was ever going to be the same again he realised.

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