Smith, Gordon, and Hart minor, three little boys aged about eleven, were in the third division of the school. They were not in the eleven, nor had they any hopes of ever attaining that glory, which conferred the privilege of wearing white flannel instead of grey flannel trousers, and a white flannel cap with a red Maltese cross on it. To tell the truth, the spectacle of this seemingly endless game, in which they did not have even the satisfaction of seeing their own side victorious, began to weigh on their spirits.
They climbed up on to the wooden scaffolding and organised a game of their own, an utterly childish game, which consisted of one boy throwing some dried horse chestnuts from the top of the scaffolding into the mouth of the boy at the bottom. They soon became engrossed in their occupation, and were thoroughly enjoying themselves, when one of the masters, Mr. Whitehead by name, came towards them with a face like thunder, biting his knuckles, a thing which he did when he was very angry.
"Go indoors at once," he said. "Go up to the third division school- room and do two hours' work. You can copy out the Greek irregular verbs."
The boys, taken completely by surprise, but accepting this decree as they accepted everything else, because it never occurred to them it could be otherwise, trotted off, not very disconsolate, to the school- room. It was very hot out of doors; it was cool in the third division school-room.
They got out their steel pens, their double-lined copy books, and began mechanically copying out the Greek irregular verbs, with which they were so superficially familiar, and from which they were so fundamentally divorced.
"Whitey," said Gordon, "was in an awful wax!"
"I don't care," said Smith. "I'd just as soon sit here as look on at that beastly match."
"But why," said Hart, "have we got to do two hours' work?"