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Home -> P.G. Wodehouse -> Mike and Psmith -> Chapter 13

Mike and Psmith - Chapter 13

1. Preface

2. Chapter 1

3. Chapter 2

4. Chapter 3

5. Chapter 4

6. Chapter 5

7. Chapter 6

8. Chapter 7

9. Chapter 8

10. Chapter 9

11. Chapter 10

12. Chapter 11

13. Chapter 12

14. Chapter 13

15. Chapter 14

16. Chapter 15

17. Chapter 16

18. Chapter 17

19. Chapter 18

20. Chapter 19

21. Chapter 20

22. Chapter 21

23. Chapter 22

24. Chapter 23

25. Chapter 24

26. Chapter 25

27. Chapter 26

28. Chapter 27

29. Chapter 28

30. Chapter 29

31. Chapter 30



Mike woke next morning with a confused memory of having listened to a
great deal of incoherent conversation from Jellicoe, and a painfully
vivid recollection of handing over the bulk of his worldly wealth to
him. The thought depressed him, though it seemed to please Jellicoe, for
the latter caroled in a gay undertone as he dressed, till Psmith, who
had a sensitive ear, asked as a favor that these farmyard imitations
might cease until he was out of the room.

There were other things to make Mike low-spirited that morning. To begin
with, he was in detention, which in itself is enough to spoil a day. It
was a particularly fine day, which made the matter worse. In addition to
this, he had never felt stiffer in his life. It seemed to him that the
creaking of his joints as he walked must be audible to everyone within a
radius of several yards. Finally, there was the interview with Mr.
Downing to come. That would probably be unpleasant. As Psmith had said,
Mr. Downing was the sort of master who would be likely to make trouble.
The great match had not been an ordinary match. Mr. Downing was a
curious man in many ways, but he did not make a fuss on ordinary
occasions when his bowling proved expensive. Yesterday's performance,
however, stood in a class by itself. It stood forth without disguise as
a deliberate rag. One side does not keep another in the field the whole
day in a one-day match except as a grisly kind of practical joke. And
Mr. Downing and his house realized this. The house's way of signifying
its comprehension of the fact was to be cold and distant as far as the
seniors were concerned, and abusive and pugnacious as regards the
juniors. Young blood had been shed overnight, and more flowed during the
eleven-o'-clock interval that morning to avenge the insult.

Mr. Downing's methods of retaliation would have to be, of necessity,
more elusive; but Mike did not doubt that in some way or other his form
master would endeavor to get a bit of his own back.

As events turned out, he was perfectly right. When a master has got his
knife into a boy, especially a master who allows himself to be
influenced by his likes and dislikes, he is inclined to single him out
in times of stress, and savage him as if he were the official
representative of the evildoers. Just as, at sea, the skipper when he
has trouble with the crew, works it off on the boy.

Mr. Downing was in a sarcastic mood when he met Mike. That is to say, he
began in a sarcastic strain. But this sort of thing is difficult to keep
up. By the time he had reached his peroration, the rapier had given
place to the bludgeon. For sarcasm to be effective, the user of it must
be met halfway. His hearer must appear to be conscious of the sarcasm
and moved by it. Mike, when masters waxed sarcastic toward him, always
assumed an air of stolid stupidity, which was as a suit of mail
against satire.

So Mr. Downing came down from the heights with a run, and began to
express himself with a simple strength which it did his form good to
listen to. Veterans who had been in the form for terms said afterward
that there had been nothing to touch it, in their experience of the
orator, since the glorious day when Dunster, that prince of raggers, who
had left at Christmas to go to a crammer's, had introduced three lively
grass snakes into the room during a Latin lesson.

"You are surrounded," concluded Mr. Downing, snapping his pencil in two
in his emotion, "by an impenetrable mass of conceit and vanity and
selfishness. It does not occur to you to admit your capabilities as a
cricketer in an open, straightforward way and place them at the disposal
of the school. No, that would not be dramatic enough for you. It would
be too commonplace altogether. Far too commonplace!" Mr. Downing laughed
bitterly. "No, you must conceal your capabilities. You must act a lie.
You must--who is that shuffling his feet? I will not have it, I _will_
have silence--you must hang back in order to make a more effective
entrance, like some wretched actor who--I will _not_ have this
shuffling. I have spoken of this before. Macpherson, are you shuffling
your feet?"

"Sir, no, sir."

"Please, sir."

"Well, Parsons?"

"I think it's the noise of the draft under the door, sir."

Instant departure of Parsons for the outer regions. And, in the
excitement of this side issue, the speaker lost his inspiration, and
abruptly concluded his remarks by putting Mike on to translate in
Cicero. Which Mike, who happened to have prepared the first half-page,
did with much success.

The Old Boys' match was timed to begin shortly after eleven o'clock.
During the interval most of the school walked across the field to look
at the pitch. One or two of the Old Boys had already changed and were
practicing in front of the pavilion.

It was through one of these batsmen that an accident occurred which had
a good deal of influence on Mike's affairs.

Mike had strolled out by himself. Halfway across the field Jellicoe
joined him. Jellicoe was cheerful, and rather embarrassingly grateful.
He was just in the middle of his harangue when the accident happened.

To their left, as they crossed the field, a long youth, with the faint
beginnings of a moustache and a blazer that lit up the surrounding
landscape like a glowing beacon, was lashing out recklessly at a
friend's bowling. Already he had gone within an ace of slaying a small
boy. As Mike and Jellicoe proceeded on their way, there was a shout
of "Heads!"

The almost universal habit of batsmen of shouting "Heads!" at whatever
height from the ground the ball may be, is not a little confusing. The
average person, on hearing the shout, puts his hands over his skull,
crouches down and trusts to luck. This is an excellent plan if the ball
is falling, but is not much protection against a skimming drive along
the ground.

When "Heads!" was called on the present occasion, Mike and Jellicoe
instantly assumed the crouching attitude.

Jellicoe was the first to abandon it. He uttered a yell and sprang into
the air. After which he sat down and began to nurse his ankle.

The bright-blazered youth walked up.

"Awfully sorry, you know. Hurt?"

Jellicoe was pressing the injured spot tenderly with his fingertips,
uttering sharp howls whenever, zeal outrunning discretion, he prodded
himself too energetically.

"Silly ass, Dunster," he groaned, "slamming about like that."

"Awfully sorry. But I did yell."

"It's swelling up rather," said Mike. "You'd better get over to the
house and have it looked at. Can you walk?"

Jellicoe tried, but sat down again with a loud "Ow!" At that moment the
bell rang.

"I shall have to be going in," said Mike, "or I'd have helped you over."

"I'll give you a hand," said Dunster.

He helped the sufferer to his feet and they staggered off together,
Jellicoe hopping, Dunster advancing with a sort of polka step. Mike
watched them start and then turned to go in.

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