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The mystery of the marching feet

Mr. Ahmed Baig breezed into the classroom of with his gown billowing behind him. He placed his books on his desk and faced the form. Then, “What on earth...?” he demanded.
For a moment he surveyed his pupils. Then he asked sarcastically: “Perhaps you have been enjoying an illicit midnight feast in the dormitory. You could not, surely, have been worrying about your abominable ignorance of history. Perhaps you got up early to indulge in bird watching?”
His surprise was reasonable. Every boy in the form was tired and haggard as though he had spent a sleepless night.
“I hope you have a good explanation,” went on Mr. Ahmed ominously. “You know our class is meeting the boys from the Haider Wing in the finals of the spring race in two day’s time and you should be getting all the rest you can.”
An indignant hubbub broke out. Mr. Ahmed rapped firmly with a pointer on his desk, then he aimed it at Bilal, and said, “You tell me, Bilal.”
“we couldn’t sleep, sir,” began Bilal. “All night there were feet, marching up and down.”
“Silence,” roared Mr. Ahmed. “Who was marching up and down and why?”
“I don’t know, sir,” said Bilal, stifling a yawn. “It seemed as though it was right in the dormitory, sir. We thought it must be the soldiers from the camp nearby, but we looked out and couldn’t see anyone.”
Mr. Ahmed looked at the class suspiciously for a moment and then said that he would speak to the headmaster about the issue.
The headmaster sighed as Mr. Ahmed swept into his room. He had only just succeeded in getting rid of Mr. Azhar who had been complaining bitterly that he had been robbed of his deaf aid.
He stopped pouring out his troubles to Professor Irfan Sheikh and listened.
“Marching feet, Ahmed,” he snapped. “Nonsense. I didn’t hear a thing. Did you, Irfan?”
“I sleep very, very sound, headmaster,” said Professor Irfan.
The headmaster called the Commanding Officer of the nearby barracks. “It was most unreasonable and inconsiderate of you to drill your men outside my school last night,” he began.
“What men?” demanded the colonel. “I had no men out last night.”
“No men?” the headmaster queried. “But my boys heard marching feet all night.”
“Then you shouldn’t give them cheese for supper,” the colonel snapped.
“Mr. Ahmed,” said the headmaster, “You’d better sleep in the dormitory tonight.”
So Mr. Ahmed moved his bed into the class ninth dormitory. “Now let’s have no stories about marching feet tonight,” he said. “Goodnight.”
For about 20 minutes there was silence. And then, with eerie suddenness, came the noise. The noise of feet on the march.
They seemed to stumble and then pick up a firmer step. Tramp, tramp, tramp. An army on the move. Mr. Ahmed shot out of bed and switched on the light. The noise went on. It seemed to be right in the room.
Mr. Ahmed blinked around.
“You see, sir,” said Bilal. “Just like last night marching feet.” He came close to the window and threw it up. He peered out. There was no one there and the feet went on marching.
Mr. Ahmed’s nerve cracked. He rushed out of the dormitory and called the headmaster.
“Perhaps the dormitory is haunted, sir,” said Bilal cheerfully. The headmaster blanched. “Get Professor Irfan,” he said.
Professor Irfan arrived and listened to the noise. “Very curious indeed,” he said.
“I think we’ll not solve it tonight. I suggest the boys move their beds into the hall for the night and we’ll carry out proper investigations in the morning.”
The boys did so. Next morning Professor Irfan went over the whole room. “I’m thinking,” Professor Irfan told the headmaster, “that someone is playing a practical joke. I’m thinking there’s a record hidden in the walls.” But no space was found where a record could be hidden.
That night Professor Irfan moved into the dormitory in place of Mr. Ahmed. “We know you’ll solve the mystery, sir,” said Bilal.
The light went out. All was quiet. Then the noise came again. Tramp…tramp…tramp. For a few minutes Professor Irfan listened. Now he realised it could not be a record. The pattern of sound was continually changing. A record must repeat itself sooner or later.
He put on his dressing gown and crept down the corridor outside. He walked on into the Haider Wing dormitory, listening closely. Outside a dormitory there he detected the sound of muffled laughter.
The professor threw open the door and walked in. Boys dived for their beds. One boy stood caught in the centre of the dormitory. The Professor Irfan walked over solemnly and looked at the small box at his feet.
“Alright,” said Professor Irfan. “You’re caught out. The headmaster will see you in the morning.” Then he went back to his room where he asked the boys of the Iqbal Wing: “You can go to sleep now. There will be no more marching feet.”
Next morning Professor Irfan stood by the headmaster as the runners set off. Then the headmaster turned to him. “I’d better deal with that scallywag,” he said.
They went to the headmaster’s office. There waited the boy the Prof had caught.
“Now perhaps you’ll explain, professor,” said the headmaster.
“Well, the marching feet were the feet of flies,” began Professor Irfan.
“Flies!” gasped the headmaster.
“Ay,” Professor Irfan began to explain. “The noise they made was magnified by an amplifier. The boy used the transistors from a deaf-aid. It is very simple. There was a microphone amplifier no larger than a packet of 10 cigarettes. One compartment about the size of a penny with a casing of parchment on which the insects walked. Four wee pea-sized valves and a high-tension battery completed the outfit. The amplifier in the dormitory was not bigger than a packet of 20 cigarettes, very easy to conceal.”
“Why did you do it?” the head asked the culprit.
I’m sorry, sir,” said the boy. “I thought it would be rather a lark to keep the boys of the Iqbal Wing awake so that they would lose in the race. I realise now it was a low trick.”
“Well,” said the headmaster, “I’ll deal with you later. Let’s go and see the end of the race.”
“The participants from the Iqbal Wing will win,” said the Prof as they made their way back to the playing field.
“How do you know?” asked the headmaster.
“A scientific deduction,” said the Professor Irfan. “They will win.” And they did.
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