In March another of those unpleasant rows took place which have from time to time made their appearance in the chronicle. Several articles had been missing in this house (Grant’s) from October last, when about the time of the Athletic Sports a boy named Lefroy had lost a little mechanical engine under circumstances which left no doubt that it had been stolen. All available means were tried to discover the culprit but without any result, and several other depredations were committed between that time and the play. Of course, as is always the case in these matters, suspicion attached to one boy but the event has proved that such ideas were entirely unfounded, and it needs very little if a boy be unpopular, as was to a slight extent the case with this fellow, to point the finger of suspicion at him. Well, as Jones had made a row about these losses at Christmas it was confidently expected that we had seen the last of them for nobody thought the thief would be so audacious as to persist in such a course when the probability of detection was so much greater. However soon after we returned for the present half, a pair of skates very mysteriously disappeared from Kitchin’s drawers, & were mysteriously put back when a noise had been made about their abstraction during a few days after the occurrence. In this matter also we were quite powerless, but a few days after one of the smaller boys had 10L stolen from one of his drawers where he had foolishly left it exposed to the gaze of any who from curiosity or other motive might be prowling about. As all the servants were above suspicion, the only feasible plan for detecting the culprit was tried viz:- to compel every boy return an account of his money affairs and to compare such account with any other means of ascertaining their correctness. The only account which presented any occasion for further inquiry was that of a boy named D*, a general favourite in the house, and as he was unable to explain satisfactorily the discrepancies in his return further inquiries were instituted. He was then found to have taken other boys’ books & sold them to the four booksellers in Hollywell Street, and on this being proved his friends were requested to remove him from the school, which was accordingly done. A fortnight afterwards a little fellow who had only just come to the house came forward and confessed to the theft of the money, which of course complicated matters to a much greater extent, as it seemed doubtful whether D* ought not to have his sentence mitigated when he was shown to be innocent of the charge which though indirectly had nevertheless brought about his expulsion. However Scott, & I must say I think his opinion was correct, declined to readmit him to the house and school on the ground that, taking the books was quite an equivalent offence to stealing the money, and as he was 15 years of age he was quite capable of distinguishing between right and wrong to this extent. K* who had taken the money was flogged but owing to the exceptional circumstances in his case, his youth, a severe family bereavement that had lately bereaved him, his penitence & that his confession alone could have convicted him of the guilt, he was not required to leave. The issue of this sad matter was much complicated by the interference of the Seniors who while the matter was ‘sub judice’ came to the determination to tan the little wretch and they accordingly sent for him without asking my leave, but when this reached the ears of one of the masters he put an immediate stop to the proceeding and K* got off untanned, but of course this unwarrantable interference with T.B. business caused a little ill-feeling though I rejoice to say it has soon subsided. Thus ended one of the most vexatious and distressing rows that has occurred for a long time at Westminster.
Two days after the above had happened Bandinel a VIth T.B. told me his gold watch was gone from his cupboard in Chiswick. We consulted together & determined to examine everyone’s drawers, which we did on the following morning, but found nothing. The same day I was informed that a fellow named Bray had lost 2/6 from his drawers. Suspicion again pointed to T– who had been seen by one of the maids with a gold watch, which evidently was not his own. Worsley too (a shell T.B.) had his suspicions about him stealing the half crown. He gave his reasons, which are too lengthy for insertion. I sent for T– & heard the whole case & at length after telling innumerable lies he said he wished to speak to Marshall. We of course thought he was going to confess his crime, & so were very glad, thinking our business in the matter would end here – but not so. Instead of confessing he seems to have told Marshall that we were unjustly making him answer to charges of which he was innocent. Marshall sent for me & I gave him the true account, reading off the evidence which I had taken down on paper. The consequence was that he had T– in with him for a couple of hours, at the end of which he had confessed to both stealing the money & the watch. After progress we were surprised to hear that Marshall had sent for T–‘s hat and that he had gone down to the cloisters. Of course we thought he had gone to the Dean but it turned out the next morning that he had hidden the watch in a hole in Fighting “Green”. He was expelled, or rather taken away privately, & now I think we may be quite sure we have no more prigs. So much for T–. But we had not finished the matter. Marshall called the first four of us into his room the next day & instead of thanking us for doing out best to clear up this mystery, began by telling us that looking into the fellows by telling us that looking into the fellows drawer was illegal, & that we ought to have brought the case to him sooner. Now we thought this very hard for without us the thief would never have been found out, & as for its being illegal to search the drawers, it was done with the consent of everyone, as a means to clear them of all suspicion. I hope to God such a case may never happen again in the house, but if it does, I strongly advise the head of the house to have nothing to do with any investigations whatsoever, but leave Marshall to find out for himself.
Hardly a week had elapsed after the last row when Scott asked me to inquire among the fellows, about a thermometer of his which he had lost from its place by his desk up school. Now it happened that a boy named T had been seen with a thermometer the night before the loss of Scott’s was perceived. I of course turned to him first, & asked where his thermometer was. He said that he had broken the bulb to get the mercury. I told him to bring me the wooden part, which he declared he had lost, but afterwards produced. There was only one other in the house, so I took them both up school & tried them in the place where Schott’s had been. One only fitted. That was T–‘s. I then asked him where he had got it from. He said that he had brought it from home, that his father had bought it 2.day!! & given him one. This was a palpable lie, so I took the thermometer to Scott, who immediately identified it. T– was sent for & after telling several lies at last confessed to have taken it down to look & to have been afraid of putting it back, for fear any should see him. Scott flogged him in the library, merely for telling lies, judging, & I think fairly, that he intended to put it back, only had not the moral courage. This is another instance of the gentlemanly spirit which exists at Westminster at the present day.
For more than a year past, fellows in this house have from time to time been losing money, from their drawers, purses, etc. Just this time last year there was one of these rows shown up to Marshall. Everything was done to find out the culprit, but in vain. Of course, someone was suspected and when he went into college we congratulated ourselves on having got rid of the thief. We were however mistaken & ever since then money has been going in a most serious way, so much so that I became almost certain that is was none of our fellows in this house, but either some of the next house, who could have got in at the windows, or some of the servants. At length, about three weeks ago, one of the fellows losing continually small pieces of money from his purse determined to mark it. This he did. The bait was taken. On it being missed, I sent for everyone’s keys to fit his drawer, none however fitted, so I sent for everyone into Chiswick & made them produce all their money. At length* William’s fag, B. was called in & to our surprise produced the marked sixpence, evidently without the least suspicion. This I did not take as proof positive, but cross-examined him severely. The course of which he declared, upon his honour, that Sutcliffe had given it him in change & carefully enunciated what he had spent, & on what. I had spoken to “Mother Crowther” about the maids, and my suspicion of the maids, and about one in particular. She (Mrs. C) told this maid, who, naturally, came to me saying that I had calumniated her, & was very much mistaken. I of course begged her pardon, & was in fact very sorry for suspecting her, but was driven to circumstances that I could not help myself. I then went in to Marshall, & told him all I knew of the case. He sent for B, who confessed to him to have taken money from William’s drawer 4 separate times & twice from another fellow’s. Marshall of course went to Scott, who pronounced the sentence to be expulsion. Now the thief’s brother was very much liked in the house, & his father and his mother were both ill. We therefore thought the sentence rather severe. We racked our brains to think of something that would punish as effectively without hurting the feelings of his parents & friends. We accordingly (I think at the wish of the whole house) went to Scott to beg him to reconsider the sentence & proposed to him a medium to flog him, & then only rusticate him for a year. But to our surprise Scott turned to the other extreme & after flogging him only rusticated him to the second of the half (3 weeks). So we shall have the young blackguard back here next half & we half repent ever having gone up to Scott about him. So ended this particular row & again we congratulated ourselves that we were free from this horrible mystery which had thrown a gloom over the house so long.
*Mr Williams it was who had lost the money. I call the thief B. not wishing to mention names
A servant at Grant’s (by name Henry Gillingham) having secreted a Racquet from L.A. Cramer G.S. then a senior for a considerable time (nearly 2 months) he one day offered it to me, & afterwards to another T.B. in his own name for sale; saying it was his own & naming 5 Shillings as the specified price. It was clear that the Racquet was one of Mc Pherson’s manufacture, & therefore it was quite certain that he could not come by it honestly.
It was not at this time known, to whom it properly belonged for the name (S Swabey) was carefully eradicated. This affair soon got wind and within 6 hours after the Racquet was forcibly restored to the persons who identified it as belonging to L.A. Cramer and finally to himself; and by way of making him careful of again appropriating another persons property he duly underwent the cold water cure at the Deans Yard Pump, as a memorable example to all his successors.
In consequence of a fellow of the name of H.H. Davis head boy of the T.B. but a Home-boarder, have mal-appropriated if not the whole, certainly a part of both the Cricket and Football Money, neglecting to pay both Bentley and Foote and this bringing obloquy on the TB, it was deemed expedient by the whole Sixth Form that in future no Home-boarder should be allowed to gather either the one of the other, or in fact any subscription whatever —-