Graham's Last Practical Joke

by Unknown

Graham was a very good sort of chap, and everybody liked him except when he was playing practical jokes. It is all very well to score off another fellow occasionally, but when it comes to making him howl in school, and get sent up for a private interview with the Doctor, it is going a bit too far.

Three times in one week the master of the Lower Fourth had had to send some one up, and each time it was Graham's fault. The third time the Doctor himself happened to be in the room, and I noticed that, though he actually caned me, it was Graham that he looked at most.

Some of us say that the Doctor has eyes in the back of his head, because he sees so many things that he is not expected to see, and I was sure that day that he had an eye on Graham.

After the third caning, we had a committee meeting in my study, and decided that something must be done. Wilson wanted to drop Graham into the pond, and Rupertson suggested that two chaps should hold him down while the three who had been caned through his jokes gave him a good thrashing; but Shepherd, the smallest boy in the Fourth, hit on the best idea, and that was to pay him back in his own coin.

Shepherd had heard him planning with another boy in his dormitory to dress up as a ghost that very night, and come into ours, and scare us into fits, and we determined that the most scared chap should be Graham himself.

We had all been in bed about a quarter of an hour when there was a rustling sound at the door, and in glided a figure that might have made us creep if we had not been prepared for it. It had a great head, with glaring, fiery eyes, which made one feel a little uncomfortable, even though we knew it was only a turnip. Its body did not show, but only great shining bones, which Graham had painted on his pyjamas with phosphorus, just as Shepherd had told us he meant to do.

We kept dead silence till he got to the middle of the room, and then Shepherd gave the most horrible groan I ever heard. He imitated a real one splendidly; it finished with a kind of choke.

That was our signal, and we all sprang up and crowded round his bed.

'You have done it now!' cried Rupertson in a terrified voice.

'He's not bad!' gasped the 'ghost.'

'Yes, he is,' replied Rupertson. 'See how white he looks!'

'Who is it?' groaned Graham.

'Sergeant,' said Rupertson.

'No, it is Wilson,' said another voice.

'No, it is not, it is Cranbourne,' said a third; but all the time we never allowed Graham to get anywhere near the bed, so as to look close.

'He can't be hurt,' repeated Graham. He had thrown down the turnip, and though we could not see his face, we guessed from his voice that he was as badly scared as we had meant him to be.

'Perhaps he could be brought round by artificial respiration,' suggested Shepherd. 'One of you fellows fetch up Smith quickly. He understands that sort of thing.'

Graham did not wait for the suggestion to be made twice. He ran, and, as we heard afterwards, he burst into the study where Smith, the Captain of the House, and, it so happened, the Doctor himself, were having a talk.

'He is dying!' screamed Graham. 'Come quickly and try and save him.'

'Who is dying?' cried the Doctor in amazement.

'Wilson, or Sergeant, or Cranbourne,' gasped Graham.

So they both followed Graham upstairs as fast as they could go—only to find our dormitory perfectly still and quiet, and every one in it apparently fast asleep.

'Wilson! Sergeant! Cranbourne! where are you?' called out the Doctor.

'Here, sir,' answered each boy sleepily, sitting up in bed as if suddenly awakened.

'Is anything the matter with you?' inquired the Doctor.

'Nothing, sir,' they each replied in a surprised voice.

'What is the meaning of this, Graham?' asked the Doctor, sternly.

'I—I don't know sir!' stammered Graham.

'You bring us up here,' continued the Doctor, 'by declaring that three of your schoolfellows are dying, and I find them all perfectly well and sound asleep.'

Graham said nothing, but wriggled wretchedly from one leg to another, hoping that the Doctor would not notice the painted stripes on his pyjamas or the turnip-head, which was peeping out from under one of the beds.

'Perhaps you will also explain what brings you into this dormitory at all?'

But Graham did not attempt any further explanations, and the Doctor went on: 'I have known for some time, Graham, that you were a little too fond of playing practical jokes, but if you are going to try them on the masters, you will soon find that you are carrying things too far. Smith, is there a cane handy you could lend me?'

We all felt rather sorry for Graham during the next few minutes. It is not pleasant to interview the Doctor when he is feeling very angry. Not that I think he really suspected Graham of playing a practical joke on him, for he must have seen how thoroughly scared he was when he burst into the study. But the fact was that he had been looking out for an opportunity of teaching Graham a lesson for some time, and when it came, he made use of it without asking too many questions.

Anyhow, that was the last practical joke Graham ever played.