Summer Term 1968
The two sheets of paper handed to him by Mr Barnes dashed any thoughts Pip had of enjoying the coming Summer Term. Reluctantly he examined the long list of books he was supposed to read, chapters to revise and formulae he was supposed to know by heart. Mr Barnes had eyed Pip's downcast look. He knew Pip was one to fret.
"Don't worry, Pip, you can spend an extra half an hour during your reading break each lunchtime to make sure you are on top of the reading list and say another half an hour in the evening. That is the best way, little and often. You will be getting weekly tests to see if you have any gaps, but I don't think we expect to find many."
His things hurriedly unpacked and placed in his locker, Pip lay on his top bunk and looked at the two-page list of revisions. A sense of panic began to well up, so much so, he hardly noticed when other boys started to drift in and out of the dormitory, his initial thoughts of finding Sacha temporarily forgotten until Peter arrived. Peter dumped his bags down and slowly unpacked, tired after landing from Hong Kong very early that morning. The others, including Pip, said their usual greetings, but Peter kept to himself and tried to ignore the hubbub around him. Once finished he picked up his sponge bag to take to their dormitory bathroom, a shower to wake himself up. As Peter passed the end of his bunk, Pip asked the question he most wanted to have answered.
"So where is your half-wit brother then?" Quite why Pip described Sacha as a 'half-wit' he did not know. However, it satisfied Peter.
"He's not here yet."
"Oh, why is that?" Pip felt a sense of concern all of a sudden. "He is coming, isn't he?"
"Oh, I am sure he is, it's just… Well, it's just he was a bit reluctant to come back today, homesick and all that. He's with Samantha in Bristol tonight. He will be here tomorrow. Sam's not going to put up with him forever."
Peter looked around the dormitory. The twins were still silently studying the magazine they were reading. Otherwise the dormitory was empty. Without warning Peter sat down on Pip's trunk opposite. He fidgeted briefly before he looked up to Pip on the top bunk.
"You had a bit of an adventure coming back from Skye, didn't you?" What was Peter going to say? What had Sacha said to him?
"Sacha told you?"
"We missed our plane as a result of it. Had to hang around ages for another one."
"We nearly crashed in Mr Wallace's car. We came off the road and missed the ferry."
"Sacha was a bit confused about what happened. He just remembers leaving Staffin Lodge and then not much more until the next morning or not much that makes sense." Peter flicked his towel. There was an awkward pause. Pip tried to fill the gap.
"Sacha hit his head. He was really dopey afterwards."
"Yes, he had a big cut above his eye when we finally met up. They were worried about him flying. We had to see a doctor before they let him on the plane."
"Is he okay now?"
"Oh fine, although he was seen by our doctor a couple times, headaches, dizzy spells. He's got a bit of a scar above his eye though, not much of one, but he will probably have it for ever now." Peter stood up. "Shower time."
So if Sacha had not said anything to Peter, perhaps he did not remember? But Pip knew he had another day to wait.
As if needing to confirm with his own eyes what Peter had told him, Pip went down to 5W's dormitory to check on Sacha's absence. As Pip peered quietly around the door into the dormitory he could see Jonathan's trunk already unpacked judging by the pile of clothes thrown on the upper bunk. The lower bunk was unoccupied. Jonathan was with the other boys in the dormitory, his summer aertex shirt already untucked from his too small shorts, swapping stories. The Fifth Formers did not notice Pip standing at the door until finally Jonathan looked around.
"Oh, we are all going swimming later. First dip of the year. Fancy joining us?"
"It will be jolly cold though."
"The first dip always is. That's half the fun! But it is sunny today, has been since last week. So should be above freezing."
"Only just, so I am not so sure about the fun bit, but yes. Is everyone going?"
"Mr Wallace said he would supervise. So yes I imagine so. After tea."
"After tea then."
Tea over and with no prep, the boys changed and made their way down to Chapel Cove, towels in hand. As it was still April the water was indeed painfully cold despite the sun warming the water, but most boys made it in. Pip soon found himself enjoying the swim with the other boys. So long as you kept moving you could keep warm.
The next day Sacha arrived mid-morning, escorted by his sister Sam. As soon as Sacha arrived, Mrs Porter came out and took charge of him.
"Sacha wasn't really up to it yesterday, were you, Sacha?"
Sacha looked darkly at his sister.
"I expect it's the jetlag and it's a bit of a wrench coming half way round the world to school isn't it? But you are okay now, aren't you?"
"Yes, Miss, fine."
Mrs Porter was not so convinced. She spoke to Sam. "Don't worry about your brother. I am going to be keeping an eye on him for the next couple of days." Mrs Porter smiled at Sacha. "I see you've got a bit of a scar there. Now take your kitbag up to your dorm. You'll need a hand with the trunk. We can deal with that after lunch."
As Sacha went inside, Mrs Porter turned to Sam.
"Has Sacha been okay this holiday? I hear he had suspected concussion."
"He was given a check up by our doctor in Hong Kong before leaving and given the all clear. I think his main problem is that he is homesick. Going back to Hong Kong unsettled him."
"Well, he is not the only homesick boy we have. They normally settle down once they meet up with their friends and classmates."
A car horn honked.
"Well, I had better be going. The taxi driver is signalling. I have a train to catch."
"Don't worry. He'll be perfectly all right. Give me a call if you want to check on him, and Peter of course. Big term for him as well."
It was not until evening that Pip managed to meet up with Sacha. After supper the boys traipsed down to the Cove mostly by dormitory, already changed into their uniform swimming trunks. Most, including Pip, wore their white tee shirts as, if any cloud came over, the air quickly chilled. At the top of the cove, the boys obediently stood around Mr Wallace. Pip stood towards the back of the group. Mr Wallace was keen on diving, Pip was not. Sacha had found himself in front along side the ever-hardy Jonathan, his tee shirt slightly too long for him. Predictably Jonathan was not wearing his tee shirt. Sacha instinctively stuck with Jonathan, as he would not let something happen to Sacha whilst he was around. Sacha turned briefly and finally spotted Pip and smiled, a slightly anxious smile, a white scar visible above his right eye.
All of the boys appeared to be listening eagerly as Mr Wallace lectured them on the School's most boasted of facility, its own private beach at Chapel Cove. Mr Wallace had chosen this location above the beach itself, as it was an old quarry, which now formed a natural auditorium enclosed by a semi-circle of low cliffs. In front of them was a flat rock ledge that stood above the water at a point where it was deep with a sandy bottom, a safe spot for diving from. Every so often a boy would peer nervously over the edge as Mr Wallace explained how they would enter the water.
"From here it is nine foot down to the water. Just run out and jump keeping your hands to your side and your legs straight. The water is quite deep, but don't worry. Mr Durrant is out there in the boat with the life belt for any of you who decide to sink." The boys laughed, some with bravado, some with a degree of fear. "And whilst we are all here and I have your attention, that includes you Johnson by the way…" Startled, Kit stopped playing with the cord on his trunks and affected to hang on every word from Mr Wallace. "… I will make my standard announcement. This is the only place where you will jump into the water. You must not jump farther along at Parson's Leap. The cliff there is much too high there and there are rocks hidden just below the water." Everyone's attention turned back to the rock on which they were now gathered. It was the standard way into the water for the boys. Mr Wallace stood by the jumping point, whistle in hand as if launching a team of crack parachutists into action with one blast from his whistle. Every thirty seconds or so Mr Wallace gave a short blast and another boy entered the water. Mr Wallace offered encouragement as he went.
"Come on, Owen. Take any longer and the rock will have eroded away."
The whistle blew and Owen launched himself surprisingly far out, forming a human ball that thunder clapped into the water, satisfyingly dumping a load of water onto Mr Durrant.
"Owen, you wretched boy."
Despite being at the back, Pip found himself going next, eager to get this particular ordeal out of the way. The whistle blew in his ear and Pip made a proficient if unspectacular regulation jump into the water. As he surfaced he gasped with cold and swam away from the diving zone to escape Peter Morgan's neat dive and to bring warmth to his rapidly chilling body in the warmer shallow water. As their numbers grew, Pip milled around with the other boys to keep warm taking his hand at capturing the large beach ball that bobbed in the air each time it was punched. Sacha was last after another surprisingly neat dive from Jonathan. Seeing it was Sacha, Pip suddenly lost interest in the game and swam to the edge of the diving zone as Sacha stood at the top. The whistle blew. Sacha did not move.
"Come on, Morgan, get a move on. The sooner you do it the easier it is."
The whistle blew again. Sacha tensed, but did not jump. He pulled at the bottom of his swimming trunks and turned to Mr Wallace, a pleading look on his face.
"Please, sir, do I have to?"
Suddenly everyone was watching. There was a silence as the other boys looked up at the spectacle. Some had sympathy for Sacha; others did not. Mr Wallace was sympathetic; he knew this was something Sacha had not done before.
"Come on, boy, it is not that bad. Even Owen managed it this year. Just run out and keep your arms to your sides. On the count of three and no stopping this time. One, two and three." The whistle blew sharply. Sacha ran up paused and then finally jumped. It was not a neat jump; he flailed the air as he went, making a massive splash as he hit the water in a jumble of arms and legs. Immediately the boy went under the seething water. There was a brief silence as everyone watched. After a moment's notice Peter swam rapidly to the spot where Sacha entered just as his brother surfaced to a chorus of coughing and spluttering, clearly floundering. In a couple of powerful strokes Peter was alongside his brother.
"It's okay, just relax." Peter closed in on his brother, still blowing salt bubbles from his nose. "Just lie back in the water, you'll float." Sacha ignored his brother's advice and continued to splash about, coughing and spluttering as the other boys watched his humiliation. Peter finally reached out to Sacha with his right hand as he trod water and handed him a lifebelt given to him by Mr Durrant.
"Come on, Sacha, you're in the water now. It's not that bad."
Sacha eagerly grabbed the lifebelt and held on to it mutely until he regained his composure and his breathing returned to normal. Peter trod water about two yards way from Sacha making sure that his brother could always see him, until he was sure that Sacha was recovered.
"All right now? Then give Mr Durrant the lifebelt back."
Sacha nodded. "I'm okay now, thanks."
Reassured, Peter swam back to the other boys using his easy, slick crawl, embarrassed by his brother's display. Once he had recovered his composure, Sacha swam over to the waiting boat where Mr Durrant took back the lifebelt. Pip hung around at a distance until Sacha swam away from the boat. There was no escape. Sacha had to swim around the boat to the beach to get out of the water, as Mr Durrant was not going to take a passenger in the boat unless he absolutely had to. Pip saw his chance. Peter had rejoined the game with the other boys throwing a giant beach ball to and fro.
"Come on, Sacha, let's go along under the cliff. You come out at Wicca Cove. We can go back that way. It's faster."
Sacha concentrated on his swimming. He was a boy who did not like water in his face, his swimming studied rather than relaxed. The two boys swam away from the remaining boys after telling Mr Durrant.
"We're going out of the water by Wicca Cove, sir."
"All right then, just stick together. I can see you most of the way."
As they swam together, Pip paused at the bottom of the tallest point of the cliff.
"Legend has it that this is where the parson leapt after he discovered that his second wife had been having an affair with the stable boy. The parson was never found. Can't see why. There are no rocks or anything here in the water.
"Perhaps he didn't drown. Perhaps he ran away?"
Sacha thought it through. "He probably took off and found another woman. It happens like that in Hong Kong. They disappear and then years later turn up in Bangkok or somewhere like that."
"I suppose that's possible, but there were no further sightings of him, nor the wife and stable boy. The wife and the stable boy went off to Newfoundland, so they say."
Sacha absorbed this information quietly as the boys paused, treading water and looked around. Pip, ever the scientific minded one and deep into his stock of Sherlock Holmes short stories, examined the area more closely.
"Look, you can see the rocks at the bottom, here and here. Over there though, it is just sand and pretty deep even now. You can see the high tide marks above us on the rocks. You can judge how deep it is. See the mackerel below us? If you stick this side, you will be fine if you were to dive here." Sacha listened to this in silence, thinking "He might have been swept away by the current though. At low tide it whips round here."
Sacha was more concerned about reaching the Cove that he still could not see as yet.
"How far is it? I am getting tired."
Pip moved to reassure Sacha. "We're nearly there. It's just past those rocks."
The boys started to swim again. Eventually they reached the Cove and ran ashore.
"Not really. Do we do that every day?"
"Sure when the weather is okay and the sea not too rough. Means we get a good tan."
"I am not sure I need any more tan just now thank you very much."
That much was true. Sacha was already well tanned from an Easter holiday in Thailand. They ran up the path over to Chapel Cove to pick up their towels before walking back up to school, drying in the still hot sun as they went. Sacha had a question, a request. "Can we go out to St Ives or Penzance this weekend?" It was an option that had been on Pip's mind; he was overjoyed that Sacha had mentioned it first.
"Sure, although now the weather is good, we tend to hang around school more as we have the best beach for miles unless we go to Sennen."
"Sennen? Yes, I'd like that."
"Okay, this Sunday, weather permitting?"
"Great, let's do it."
"It might be my last chance to go there."
"Oh yes, this is the last term here for you."
"Yes it is." Pip's voice was bleak.
"I'll still be here though. You can come and visit I expect."
"Of course I can."
The weather remained benevolent all week. It was the end of the daily afternoon swim later a couple of days later. Peter climbed out of the water with the Johnson twins. They moved along the cliff edge until they were higher up and dived in. As they started swimming back to repeat the exercise, other boys joined in the diving practice. Seeing Sacha was still in the water with Pip, Peter issued a personal invitation.
"Hey, Sacha, come up here and join the rest of us."
"No thanks. I'm staying in the water."
"I said come up here or are you afraid to?"
Sacha looked daggers at his brother, especially when the Johnson twins, taking their cue from Peter, joined in.
"Yes, come on, Morgan. What's wrong with you?"
"What's the big fuss?"
Sacha looked reluctantly around him. He was not keen, but decided it was better to humour his older brother.
"Okay, I'm coming."
Pip followed to provide support. Attracted by all the shouting, Mr Durrant took an interest.
"What are you doing, Morgan?"
"We are jumping in from this point, sir."
Mr Durrant looked down in the clear water. He could not see any rocks, just sand.
"Have you checked what is under the water?"
"I have, sir. No rocks or anything and from here it is only about twelve foot into the water."
Mr Durrant looked over to Mr Wallace who was taking the remedial swimming class. Mr Wallace nodded. He had dived from there the other day.
"Okay then, but let me get a bit closer to where you plan to go in."
Mr Durrant took his oars and manoeuvred the boat out towards the point on the cliff where the boys were diving. One by one the senior boys began to jump or dive in. Pip being realistic about his diving abilities, jumped in, careful to keep his arms to his side to avoid the water stinging his armpits on contact. Sacha waited to last.
"Come on, Sacha."
Mr Durrant, supervising from the water, held his finger to his lips and glared at Peter.
"That won't help, will it?"
Embarrassed, Peter kept quiet as Sacha hesitated twice before the shouts of derision from the twins made him hurtle off the cliff into the water in an uncoordinated manner. The boy landed with a large splash. Even though he had done the jump no worse than many of the others, Peter still teased.
"Even a girl could do better than that."
As soon as he had recovered his breath, Sacha swam out a long way to escape the taunts from his brother and the twins and made his way to the beach. Once out of the water the boy grabbed his tee shirt and walked up by himself leaving everyone else behind, still diving or watching. Seeing Sacha leave, Pip left the water. Sacha waited at the top for Pip to catch him up. Pip was breathless by the time he had run up to the top.
"Don't worry. The jump looked no worse than many of the others."
"I want to practise my dives. I am not very good at this sort of thing."
"But not here. Do you know anywhere, where we could practise diving, somewhere where we are unlikely to see other boys from school?"
Pip thought about the request. "Mousehole, they dive off the quay there when the tide is in and the water is really warm. We could go there on Sunday."
"Okay, could we do that? I've not been there yet."
"Sunday then." It was a plan agreeable to both boys.
That Sunday the boys hitched a lift with Mr Wallace, as he was taking Owen to the train station. A warm weekend ensured that crowds of visitors were bustling around the town as they drove through Penzance. As Owen left for his train, Mr Wallace turned to Pip and Sacha.
"Make sure you are back in time, no later than 6 o'clock. I am on duty this evening."
Pip took responsibility for them both. "Yes, sir we will."
"Bye, sir. Thanks for the lift."
Ten minutes by bus and they were in Mousehole. The tide was still out, but on the turn as they arrived. The two boys walked to the end of the stone quay, crammed with cars, the fishermen's lobster pots and tackle. Sacha looked over the end. The water was currently about four foot deep and clear. Fish could be seen swimming beneath the water.
"It's not deep enough."
"Oh give it an hour or so and it will be fine. I dived here last year with Jonathan."
"Always with Jonathan, I mean last year you did everything with him, why not now?"
Pip lied. "Oh, no reason really. We are still friends. Just in different dormitories this year and so on."
"So am I. I mean a different dormitory and different year."
Pip changed the subject. "Let's go and get a pasty. The baker here does a good one."
The boys picked up their pasties and sat on the quay, legs hanging over the incoming tide. As they ate, they protected their food from the ever-hungry seagulls with their hands. All around day-trippers came into the picturesque harbour and walked around or made for the small sheltered beach within the harbour walls. Appetite satisfied, Pip walked to the end of the quay. The water was coming into the harbour mouth and was now some six feet deep. Some of the village boys were already jumping in from the opposite quay. Pip spotted a less daunting opportunity on the nearer quay.
"Let's go over there. We can use those steps. You can start three steps up, move up a step or so each time and in no time you will be diving twelve foot or more."
Sacha followed Pip's eyes. "That looks more like it." The boys walked down to the harbour beach and removed their shorts and tee shirts, leaving them on a convenient rock. They swam out over to the steps, no more than twenty yards away. At the steps Pip climbed out first, running his hands through his hair. Sacha followed. "Do you want to go first or shall I?"
"You go first. I prefer you to be in there waiting."
"Okay. Just choose a step you are comfortable with and dive in. Just push out with your legs as you go and aim down otherwise you will belly flop and that hurts."
Pip started at about three feet up. He concentrated on a clean dive in and surfaced just in time to see Sacha take his first dive from the same step. Sacha surfaced, a smile on his face, his freckles glowing in the hot sun.
"That was fine. Again?"
The boys climbed out of the water and went up the steps. This time Pip dived from two steps further up. Sacha followed him. As time went on Sacha's diving increased in confidence, his dives increasingly neat as he pushed off with more force each time. Sacha was glad that not too many people were paying any attention as the village boys were diving from the end of the quay, which was more than fifteen foot in height above the water.
Over the next hour the two boys dived in half a dozen times or more and were now at a height of eight foot above the water, two thirds of the way up the steps. When they climbed out after their latest dive, Pip thought it was now time to see whether Sacha was ready.
"Do you think you are on for the big one? The end of the quay? We can't go any further here. The fishing boats are moored under the steps higher up."
Sacha would have preferred to stay at the steps, but even he could see that the fishing boats were too close for safety. "Okay, let's take a look."
The two boys walked dripping along the quay to the end where a small knot of local boys were gathered. Sacha looked down. It was considerably higher up than their previous dives, but you could see the bottom, some small rocks visible a long way down. As they watched, one of the local boys dived in. He got nowhere near the bottom. It looked safe with no obvious obstacles, just the occasional fish swimming by, darting away at the first sign of human activity in the water. Pip himself was also well aware that the height of the dive was considerably more than they had been diving so far that afternoon, but probably no more than the dives off the rocks at Chapel Cove.
"I'll go first. Will you be okay?"
Sacha's teeth were chattering. Whether from cold or nerves, Pip could not tell.
"Only one way to find out isn't there?"
With that Sacha stepped up to the edge and once the boy below had made his way to the iron ladder, swung his arms out so that there was no going back. Using his legs Sacha launched himself off the quay and made a clean dive into the water. His head emerged from the water, which he threw back and yelled at Pip.
"Nothing to it, easy, it's great."
Pip stepped forward and looked down. The height scared him more than he cared to admit to himself. If it was not for Sacha, he might have backed out, but with Sacha present he quickly stood on the edge of the quay and sprung forward, bringing his hands in front of him as he followed Sacha into the water. Together they dived several times more before a glance at the clock on the harbour's edge told them that it was coming up for four o'clock. Time to think about leaving.
"Come on, we had start back. Otherwise we'll be late."
Sacha was enjoying himself, but obediently he swam over to the other side of the harbour with Pip to where their things were. Hurriedly the boys dried themselves and just made the next bus into Penzance. At Penzance they caught their bus back to The Rocks. As always they sat at the back of the bus with Sacha wedged in the corner. Sacha allowed Pip to place his arm around his back. Sacha did not object.
"That was a great day out, thanks."
"Glad you enjoyed it."
Sacha sat silently for a while. After a few minutes he turned to Pip. "I want to ask you to do something."
"I want to make you a double dare."
Dares were still the rage that term. Despite his experience of nearly been caught with Pip last year, it had been a craze restarted by Jonathan, him of the fearless and crazy schemes that sometimes ended up with him in very hot water. Pip contemplated doing a double dare. He had only ever done it with Jonathan and that had been in return for a bribe. A double dare, it was not something he would expect from the normally cautious Sacha, as he would have to take one in turn.
"A double dare, what sort of double dare is that?"
"I want to jump into the water from the cliff again."
"Well, we can do that. You know you can dive now."
"It's not as simple as that. I want to make it a special dive, but first we have to prove it can be done away from the other boys. Just me and you, you know, just in case."
"But I'm not the best swimmer. Perhaps we ought to bring Jonathan along? He's a good swimmer."
"No, just you, for now."
Pip looked at his companion. To give himself time to think he bent down to tie his shoelace. As Pip did so, he stared intently into Sacha's deep-set eyes. Sacha was not one for pulling people's legs. There was seriousness about him, a sense of purpose about the boy.
"Okay, we will have to ask for permission and do it on Saturday. We often go swimming then if it's a warm day."
"I want to do it at Parson's Leap."
"Sacha! Come on, you know we won't get permission for that."
"That is why I want to do it secretly, without permission. I want to show Peter I can."
Now Pip began to understand Sacha. Proving himself to Peter was very important to him. Pip looked again at the now very earnest younger boy.
"You're kidding. We can't do that. You know it's against school rules. It must be at least twice as high as the Chapel Cove jump and the ones we have just been doing in Mousehole."
Sacha looked Pip sharply in the eyes. His cheeks glowed. His blood was raised.
"That's why it is a double dare. Come on, yes we can, when no one else is there."
"Won't that defeat the object? I mean if no one else is there?"
"Once we have done it, we can invite some of the other boys down and do it again."
"Oh, a challenge you mean? And just when exactly?"
"That's it. A secret challenge, perhaps once a year. An initiation if you like."
Pip wanted to raise more objections. If anyone found out, he knew it would result in mass punishment, but the intense earnestness on Sacha's face made him keep his own thoughts on the matter quiet to avoid the risk of alienating his friend.
"Well, I suppose so. What's the idea then?"
Pip was very reluctant. He was scared to do the jump, even though he and Sacha had already worked out where to do it to avoid the rocks.
"Good, so you will do it, will you? I want to prove I can do it and then do it in front of the others later. You'll help me, won't you? I need you there to be the witness and to dive with me."
Pip realised that Sacha was deadly serious and had worked out a plan. A private practice first and then put on a public display of bravado, in front of everyone so no one would question his bravery again.
"I will have to think about it."
Sacha reached out and put his arm on Pip's. "Come on, it will be fun. Afterwards I am sure we could get a few boys together and get them to do the challenge as well when no teachers are about."
Pip thought about it and quickly abandoned any misgivings he might have in order to prove his loyalty to Sacha. "Well, I suppose so, but when were you thinking of this trial?"
"Tomorrow night. It's a full moon and there will be a high tide. That way we could do it when no one else is around. Tomorrow afternoon we can swim back round via Wicca Cove, double check where the rocks are, leave our towels there behind some bushes and put some marker stones on top of the cliff as a sort of guide if you like."
Now Pip began to understand the enormity of Sacha's plans. A night time dive from Parson's Leap.
"At night? It's dangerous enough during the day, but at night, all sorts could go wrong."
"No, it will be okay. It's full moon, remember, and we can double check in the afternoon," Sacha pleaded. "I only asked you because I thought you would help me. Please."
The earnestness in the boy's voice told Pip just how important this whole caper was to Sacha.
"No wait, if you are going to break the school rules, I suppose you might as well break all of them all at one go. You know you won't be sitting comfortably if we ever get found out?"
"Oh I know that." Pip felt the situation slipping out of his control. "I know. They can only kill you once. Besides, I bet you have broken quite a few school rules before, haven't you?"
"Not recently. Not getting caught that is. That's why it is a double dare if you like."
"Okay, you've got me. I will join in your madcap plan. Few would."
Sacha smiled. "I knew I could count on you, thanks."
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