Teen, YA or Older Reader Unicorn Book Feature – The Lonely Unicorn By Alec Waugh
It began, I suppose, on a certain September afternoon, when Roland Whately travelled back to school by the three-thirty train from Waterloo. There were two afternoon trains to Fernhurst: one left London at three-thirty and arrived at a quarter to six; the other left at four-eighteen, stopped at every station between Basingstoke and Salisbury, waited twenty-five minutes at Templecombe for a connection, and finally reached Fernhurst at eight-twenty-three. It is needless to state that by far the greater part of the school travelled down by the four-eighteen—who for the sake of a fast train and a comfortable journey would surrender forty-eight minutes of his holidays?—and usually, of course, Roland accompanied the many.
This term, however, the advantages of the fast train were considerable. He was particularly anxious to have the corner bed in his dormitory. There was a bracket above it where he could place a candle, by the light of which he would be able to learn his rep. after “lights out.” If he were not there first someone else would be sure to collar it. And then there was the new study at the end of the passage; he wanted to get fresh curtains and probably a gas mantle: when once the school was back it was impossible, for at least a week, to persuade Charlie, the school custos, to attend to an odd job like that. And so he travelled back by a train that contained, of the three hundred boys who were on the Fernhurst roll, only a dozen fags and three timid Sixth-Formers who had distrusted the animal spirits of certain powerful and irreverent Fifth-Formers. On the first day, as on the last, privilege counts for little, and it is unpleasant to pass four hours under the seat of a dusty railway carriage.
It was the first time that Roland had been able to spend the first evening of a term in complete leisure. He walked quietly up to the house, went down to the matron’s room and consulted the study and dormitory lists. He found that he was on the Sixth-Form table, had been given the study for which he had applied, and was in the right dormitory. He bagged the bed he wanted, and took his health certificate round to the Chief’s study.
“Ah, Whately, this is very early. Had a good holiday?”
“Yes, thank you, sir.”
“Feeling ready for football? They tell me you’ve an excellent chance of getting into the XV.?”
“I hope so, sir.”
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