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Apollo's Soldiers
by Margo Fallis
Chapter 10

     Sunday morning dress consisted of slacks, shirt and tie of the boy’s choosing. The pathway to the church was busy; boys chatted as they made their way to the building on the grounds. The architecture was Norman style; the stones having been brought over to the island long ago from some ancient ruins on Fetlar, one of the Shetland Islands north of Scotland.

All but the choir settled in their pews. Before the sermon began, Headmaster McDiarmad stood at the pulpit and welcomed everyone, as he did every Sunday service. He pulled a newspaper from his pocket, shook it and read it out loud to the students. “It would seem that a large group of goblins have been wreaking havoc in Dunstan, a village located not far from the school. The local villagers are rather upset, and rightly so. If any students know anything about these troublesome creatures, where they came from, or how they managed to arrive here, please contact me after the services.” With that, the Headmaster sat on the front pew with the other professors. Leith nearly choked and glanced at Fraser.

The choir marched in dressed in royal blue robes. They performed several songs and to Leith’s surprise, sounded quite nice. The students were dismissed after the Minister’s sermon and told to head to the cafeteria for the Sunday feast.

Leith, Fraser, Sandy and the two younger boys lagged behind. “Before we go,” Sandy said, “we should have a quick look about for the tunnel entrance. It would be handy to know where it is in case we need to get away. Mum’s the word about the goblins too. We know nothing. Agreed?” The others nodded. “I thought I was going to choke when he mentioned them. Those sneaky goblins did follow us.”

After the minister had disappeared into the back room, the boys searched behind every wall, door and box. “Here it is,” Duncan whispered. “At least I think this is it. It’s a tunnel.”

“We’ll have to come back another time and see where it leads,” Leith said. “I’m hungry and looking forward to this special feast.”

“Do you think we’ll have birthday cake?” Murray was all grins.

“I hope so,” Fraser said.

When they entered the dining hall Leith stopped. “Oh great! Look over there. It’s my father. What’s he doing here?”

“The whole Board is here. It must be to help celebrate Headmaster’s birthday. I think those are his daughters, their husbands and children, and his son too. Everyone is here!” Sandy sat at a table. “Let’s sit at our table. See you later, Duncan and Murray. You’ve got to sit with your own hall.”

“Will they serve us?” Leith looked around. Usually they stood in line and were given trays.

“Of course. This is a special day. Nothing is the same,” Sandy said. “Are you going to say hello to your father?”

Leith tucked his napkin under his chin. “No. I hope he stays where he is and ignores me too.”

The polished Sheffield silver glistened. The plates, with tartan design around the edge, were enormous, much to the boy’s delight. “These plates will hold more food,” Fraser said.

The first course was served on small plates, identical to the larger ones. “What are these?” Leith stabbed one with his fork and turned it over. “It looks like a fried orange.”

Sandy burst out laughing. “It is, you twit. I’ve had them before. They are quite good. Try it.”

Leith took a bite. His face scrunched up like he had eaten something quite sour. “I don’t like this. Do any of you want mine? I only took a wee bite.”

“I’ll have it,” Fraser said. He had already eaten his.

The Headmaster and all the professors sat at a table in the front part of the room. The members of the Board sat at the table next to them. Headmaster’s family sat with the janitor, Rufus Stuart, the caretaker, Mungo Williams, Mr. Arbuckle, the Detention master, and Mr. Green, Headmaster’s secretary. “That’s a lot of cheek. Headmaster should have his family next to him and put the other faculty members and professors together. If I was his son I would get up and walk away,” Leith said, scowling. “It’s all a bunch of rubbish. Nobody puts family first.”

Servers placed bowls and soup spoons in front of each student and then ladled the second course, partan bree, into them. “Oh no! I hate partan bree,” Sandy said. “Crab soup? I would rather eat snails.”

“I’ll take it if you don’t want it,” Fraser said.

Sandy pushed the bowl over to him. “It’s all yours.”

           “You don’t like your father, do you, Leith,” Sandy said. “If my dad came, I would be happy to see him. You haven’t even spoken to yours.”

“That’s right. I don’t like him. He doesn’t care anything about me. All he cares about is his title and his friends and how much people admire him. He has never cared for me. He came without my mum. She is an embarrassment to him. He only drags her along when he is forced to. I love my mum and I feel sorry that she has to put up with him.”

“I guess that answers that,” Sandy said.

The third course consisted of tea sandwiches. “Can you imagine serving these girly sandwiches to students at a boy’s school?” Fraser complained and then shoveled them into his mouth. “That one was cucumber. I like the cream cheese ones too.”

Sandy put a few on his plate. “This one is watercress and this is smoked salmon. They aren’t that bad.” He bit into one. “Quite tasty.”

Leith didn’t eat any sandwiches, but when the fourth course arrived, he devoured the caramelized onion and ham tart with a side of Arran potato salad. From where he sat he had a perfect view of his father laughing and joking with the other men. “He is probably boasting about being the CEO of the oil company, or how many houses we own.”

“How many houses do you own, Leith?” Sandy spoke with his mouth full of food.

“We have one in Edinburgh; one in Cornwall; one in Brittany, France; one in Venice, Italy, and…”

“That’s enough. My goodness, you must be a lot richer than I thought. We only have one house and it’s in Newhaven, an old part of Edinburgh. My parents renovated an old fisherman’s home. It looks great and we are right at the sea.” Fraser smiled with memories of his room. “Sometimes I wish I could spend more time there. My great great grandparents lived there, in that house. I love going for walks to Princes Street Gardens. It’s funny how our parents ship us off here and we only go home for a month in the summer.”

“It isn’t funny at all. I’ll never do this to my children,” Leith said, anger in his voice. When the fifth course was set on the table, the others devoured their Cornish pasties filled with lamb, onion and potato, but Leith only poked at his.

“If you aren’t going to eat that, Leith,” Fraser said.

Leith pushed it over to him. “Are you a bottomless pit, Fraser? No wonder you are pudgy. You eat like a cow.”

“Hey! I’m a growing boy. My mum said I should eat whenever and whatever I want.”

“I think he has tapeworm.” Sandy taunted.

“I don’t. I’m just hungry. We have had a few busy days.” Fraser polished his pasty off and Leith’s too.

The sixth course, stuffed mushrooms and clapshot, (potatoes mixed with turnips and chives) looked tasty to Leith, so he ate. The seventh course, roasted grouse with black pudding and grilled veggies smelled delicious and didn’t stay long on any of their plates. Scotch eggs came next, then crumpets with lemon curd and orange marmalade.  The last course, dessert, was brought in on trays. The boys had their choice of sticky toffee pudding, treacle toffee, or rhubarb oatmeal crumble with vanilla ice cream. Never had Ewan McDiarmad’s School for Boys had such a feast. Before they dismissed, the chef brought in a ten-tiered cake with candles ablaze. Headmaster blew them out and then slices of the marzipan-coated fruitcake were passed out to all who wished to partake.

“That was some meal.” Leith patted his stomach. “I haven’t eaten like that in years, if ever.” The five boys sat in the main hall on the couches.

“Hey, little rich boy. Did I see your rich daddy? I’m surprised you’re here and not asking him for some money, or for favors. He’s probably already arranged for you to go Cambridge University when you’re done here. You’re pathetic, Leith Wallace.” Rory and two of his friends moved closer to the group of boys.

“Go away, Rory. You aren’t anything but a pest,” Sandy said.

“What’s the matter, little rich boy? You have to have your friends speak on your behalf?” Rory kicked the bottom of Leith’s shoe.

Without a moment’s wait, Leith sprung from the chair and grabbed Rory by his tie. “If you say one more word to me, I’ll punch your face in.”

“I would like to see you try, little rich boy.” Rory stood defiant before Leith.

Leith wadded up his fist and brought it up into Rory’s gut. Rory doubled over. One of his friends ran into the dining hall to get the Headmaster. A few minutes later he, the professors, and members of the Board gathered around the two boys, who were now punching each other out.

“That’s enough!” Professor Morrison took Leith by the arm.

Headmaster grabbed Rory from behind. “To my office, now!” The two boys snarled and then obeyed. The door shut behind them. In the room sat Headmaster, Professor Morrison and Leith’s father. “Would you care to explain, Master Wallace?”

“He won’t leave me alone. Every time he sees me he insults me and my family. I’m tired of it,” Leith said.

“He hit me first.” Rory held his tummy as if in pain.

“You’re such a drama queen. You know your stomach doesn’t hurt. You’re trying to get sympathy.” Leith raised his fist.

“Leith!” His father grabbed the boy’s arm. “Enough of this. You are a disgrace to the Wallace name and you’re embarrassing me in front of Headmaster McDiarmad.”

“Calm down, Mr. Wallace. Master Wallace, would you please sit over there and Master Knox, you sit in the other chair please. We will discuss this like gentlemen.” Headmaster noticed Mr. Wallace taking a seat. “This is Ewan McDiarmad’s School for Boys. You should take pride in that and act accordingly. There are rules at this school and one of them is no physical roughness or fights. You are both to spend your after school hours in detention for the next week. You are both to apologize to each other and write a letter of apology to the students of this school, to the Board members and to all the professors and pin them on the bulletin board. This is your only warning. The next time either of you are caught fighting you’ll both be dismissed and forced to seek attendance at another private school. Do you understand?”

Rory nodded. “Yes, Headmaster. I understand. I apologize, Leith. I’ll make an effort not to say anything else to you.”

Silence filled the air. Headmaster coughed. “Master Wallace? It’s your turn.”

Leith didn’t say a word. He folded his arms across his chest. “Apologize you fool. Do it now!” His father reached up and slapped Leith across the back of his head. “You are a disgrace.”

Rory gulped and actually felt sorry for Leith. The Headmaster intervened. “Mr. Wallace, how can I teach the students not to use physical force and violence when you are doing the very thing? Lads, you are dismissed and are to go to your hall for the rest of the day. I think you should use this time to write those letters of apology. Good day.”

Leith and Rory turned to leave. Mr. Wallace darted out of the room after them. He yanked Leith to the side. Rory stood by and watched. “If you cause so much as one more bit of trouble for me, I’ll send you to a private school in outer Mongolia where you can’t embarrass me, or tarnish our family name. I hope I never get called out here again, because if I am, you’ll be sorry. I hope your mother won’t cry too much once I tell her of your actions.” Without letting Leith answer, Mr. Wallace pushed the front door to the school open and marched down the road. Leith collapsed into a chair and stared at the floor.

Rory walked over to him. “I’m sorry, Leith. Your father was a bit rough on you. I didn’t know how hard it was for you. I’m sorry.” With bowed head Rory walked away.

Sandy, Fraser, Duncan and Murray rushed over to Leith. “What happened? Did the Headmaster suspend you? Are you in big trouble?” Murray didn’t notice the tears dripping from Leith’s cheeks.

Sandy did. “We should leave Leith alone for a while. He’ll come and tell us when he’s ready. We’ll see you later, Leith.”

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