The Spike or Victoria University College Review June 1926
[The futility of Nesfield]
Yesterday, as I was taking my morning exercises, there came a small tap at the door. Pausing with clubs in mid-air, I cried "Come in," and waited. The Astonishing Event entered, and, closing the door after it, crept up to me. It comprised a puny, intelligent-looking worm of a fellow, with dark, studious rings described about his eyes.
"Sir," lie commenced, then suddenly clapping his hands to his unkempt head, staggered weakly, and sank on the floor. "You have been partaking in the Capping Procession? "I sternly suggested. He shook his head in a fashion that reminded me of the reserve champion in a dog fight I once saw.
"What—I lack—is—spirit!" he jerked out between his gasps. I clapped a thermos flask to his lips. He seemed revived. His eyes brightened considerably, and he sat up.
"What is it?" he languidly enquired.
"Cold tea," I replied. He immediately grew worse. I went out to ring for an undertaker and a policeman, but it was too late. His flickering life had petered out as completely as a gasoline engine on a cold morning, and the pitiable morsel of humanity lay dead on my bedroom floor. On going through his pockets, I discovered a letter which I have transcribed word for word.
"Nesfield! Nesfield! Nesfield! How that word rings through my study-sodden brain! When a mere schoolboy, I looked with delight toward the time when I should attend University and learn from inspired lips the glorious history of our mother tongue. That time came at length, and I bade my loving parents goodbye and sped southward by express, to take my virgin place among the honourable undergraduates of this far-famed College.
"But whether it was the nature of the book, or the method of instruction, or my own too-sensitive mind; whether it was the sum of these, or any two without the third, or only one minus the other two, I soon became hopelessly lost in the barren wilderness of this—I will not say book'—this Nesfield's Historical English. Each succeeding night of study saw me less ill than the one after, and at length I became so thin that it was only with the help of a carpet-sweeper that I could find my own shadow. And now, for two whole weeks, I have tasted no drop of food and drunk no morsel of drink. By day I sit feverishly turning the pages of Nesfield, by night, green wriggly snakes (the kind with long eyelashes) whisper ceaselessly around my pillow and wink significantly at one another.
"I can bear it no longer. I shall go this morning to the only man who can do anything for me, and if I fail, I shall take my life; I shall fold my tents like the Arabs and, as silently, steal away."page 20
This was very pathetic, the more so because I and many others are of the same mind as this poor scapegoat. Why should faces so innocent and young fade from our midst before their chins are, as Shakespeare says, "enriched with one appearing hair"?
Once more, then, I have gripped my pen in the cause of freedom and self-expression. I have sworn, with both feet on the footwarmer, that these things shall not be. I therefore dedicate these lines "to whom they may concern," and have some idea of forming a Society for the Alleviation of Undue Cruelty in English, S.A.U.C.E. for short. (The initial letters will look rather well on a badge).