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Home -> P.G. Wodehouse -> Mike and Psmith -> Chapter 15

Mike and Psmith - Chapter 15

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







15

... AND FULFILLS IT


Mike started on his ride to Lower Borlock with mixed feelings. It is
pleasant to be out on a fine night in summer, but the pleasure is to a
certain extent modified when one feels that to be detected will mean
expulsion.

Mike did not want to be expelled, for many reasons. Now that he had
grown used to the place he was enjoying himself at Sedleigh to a certain
extent. He still harbored a feeling of resentment against the school in
general and Adair in particular, but it was pleasant in Outwood's now
that he had got to know some of the members of the house, and he liked
playing cricket for Lower Borlock; also, he was fairly certain that his
father would not let him go to Cambridge if he were expelled from
Sedleigh. Mr. Jackson was easygoing with his family, but occasionally
his foot came down like a steam hammer, as witness the Wrykyn
school-report affair.

So Mike pedaled along rapidly, being wishful to get the job done without
delay.

Psmith had yielded up the key, but his inquiries as to why it was needed
had been embarrassing. Mike's statement that he wanted to get up early
and have a ride had been received by Psmith, with whom early rising was
not a hobby, with honest amazement and a flood of advice and warning on
the subject.

"One of the Georges," said Psmith, "I forget which, once said that a
certain number of hours' sleep a day--I cannot recall for the moment how
many--made a man something, which for the time being has slipped my
memory. However, there you are. I've given you the main idea of the
thing; and a German doctor says that early rising causes insanity.
Still, if you're bent on it...." After which he had handed over the key.

Mike wished he could have taken Psmith into his confidence. Probably he
would have volunteered to come, too; Mike would have been glad of a
companion.

It did not take him long to reach Lower Borlock. The White Boar stood at
the far end of the village, by the cricket field. He rode past the
church--standing out black and mysterious against the light sky--and the
rows of silent cottages, until he came to the inn.

The place was shut, of course, and all the lights were out--it was
sometime past eleven.

The advantage an inn has over a private house, from the point of view of
the person who wants to get into it when it has been locked up, is that
a nocturnal visit is not so unexpected in the case of the former.
Preparations have been made to meet such an emergency. Where with a
private house you would probably have to wander around heaving rocks and
end by climbing up a waterspout, when you want to get into an inn you
simply ring the night bell, which, communicating with the boots' room,
has that hard-worked menial up and doing in no time.

After Mike had waited for a few minutes there was a rattling of chains
and a shooting of bolts and the door opened.

"Yes, sir?" said the boots, appearing in his shirt sleeves. "Why, 'ello!
Mr. Jackson, sir!"

Mike was well known to all dwellers in Lower Borlock, his scores being
the chief topic of conversation when the day's labors were over.

"I want to see Mr. Barley, Jack."

"He's bin' in bed this half hour back, Mr. Jackson."

"I must see him. Can you get him down?"

The boots looked doubtful. "Roust the guv'nor outer bed?" he said.

Mike quite admitted the gravity of the task. The landlord of the White
Boar was one of those men who need a beauty sleep.

"I wish you would--it's a thing that can't wait. I've got some money to
give to him."

"Oh, if it's _that_ ..." said the boots.

Five minutes later mine host appeared in person, looking more than
usually portly in a check dressing gown and red bedroom slippers.

"You can pop off, Jack."

Exit boots to his slumbers once more.

"Well, Mr. Jackson, what's it all about?"

"Jellicoe asked me to come and bring you the money."

"The money? What money?"

"What he owes you; the five pounds, of course."

"The five--" Mr. Barley stared openmouthed at Mike for a moment; then he
broke into a roar of laughter which shook the sporting prints on the
wall and drew barks from dogs in some distant part of the house. He
staggered about laughing and coughing till Mike began to expect a fit of
some kind. Then he collapsed into a chair, which creaked under him, and
wiped his eyes.

"Oh dear!" he said, "Oh dear! The five pounds!"

Mike was not always abreast of the rustic idea of humor, and now he felt
particularly fogged. For the life of him he could not see what there was
to amuse anyone so much in the fact that a person who owed five pounds
was ready to pay it back. It was an occasion for rejoicing, perhaps, but
rather for a solemn, thankful, eyes-raised-to-heaven kind of rejoicing.

"What's up?" he asked.

"Five pounds!"

"You might tell us the joke."

Mr. Barley opened the letter, read it, and had another attack; when this
was finished he handed the letter to Mike, who was waiting patiently by,
hoping for light, and requested him to read it.

"Dear, dear!" chuckled Mr. Barley, "five pounds! They may teach you
young gentlemen to talk Latin and Greek and what-not at your school, but
it 'ud do a lot more good if they'd teach you how many beans make five;
it 'ud do a lot more good if they'd teach you to come in when it rained;
it 'ud do ..."

Mike was reading the letter.

"Dear Mr. Barley," it ran.

"I send the 5, which I could not get before. I hope it is in time,
because I don't want you to write to the headmaster. I am sorry Jane and
John ate your wife's hat and the chicken and broke the vase."

There was some more to the same effect; it was signed "T.G. Jellicoe."

"What on earth's it all about?" said Mike, finishing this curious
document.

Mr. Barley slapped his leg. "Why, Mr. Jellicoe keeps two dogs here; I
keep 'em for him till the young gentlemen go home for their holidays.
Aberdeen terriers, they are, and as sharp as mustard. Mischief! I
believe you, but, love us! they don't do no harm! Bite up an old shoe
sometimes and such sort of things. The other day, last Wednesday it
were, about 'ar parse five, Jane--she's the worst of the two, always up
to it, she is--she got hold of my old hat and had it in bits before you
could say knife. John upset a china vase in one of the bedrooms chasing
a mouse, and they got on the coffee-room table and ate half a cold
chicken what had been left there. So I says to myself, 'I'll have a game
with Mr. Jellicoe over this,' and I sits down and writes off saying the
little dogs have eaten a valuable hat and a chicken and what not, and
the damage'll be five pounds, and will he kindly remit same by Saturday
night at the latest or I write to his headmaster. Love us!" Mr. Barley
slapped his thigh, "he took it all in, every word--and here's the five
pounds in cash in this envelope here! I haven't had such a laugh since
we got old Tom Raxley out of bed at twelve of a winter's night by
telling him his house was afire."

It is not always easy to appreciate a joke of the practical order if one
has been made even merely part victim of it. Mike, as he reflected that
he had been dragged out of his house in the middle of the night, in
contravention of all school rules and discipline, simply in order to
satisfy Mr. Barley's sense of humor, was more inclined to be abusive
than mirthful. Running risks is all very well when they are necessary,
or if one chooses to run them for one's own amusement, but to be placed
in a dangerous position, a position imperiling one's chance of going to
the 'Varsity, is another matter altogether.

But it is impossible to abuse the Barley type of man. Barley's enjoyment
of the whole thing was so honest and childlike. Probably it had given
him the happiest quarter of an hour he had known for years, since, in
fact, the affair of old Tom Raxley. It would have been cruel to damp
the man.

So Mike laughed perfunctorily, took back the envelope with the five
pounds, accepted a ginger beer and a plateful of biscuits, and rode off
on his return journey.

* * * * *

Mention has been made above of the difference which exists between
getting into an inn after lockup and into a private house. Mike was to
find this out for himself.

His first act on arriving at Sedleigh was to replace his bicycle in the
shed. This he accomplished with success. It was pitch-dark in the shed,
and as he wheeled his machine in, his foot touched something on the
floor. Without waiting to discover what this might be, he leaned his
bicycle against the wall, went out, and locked the door, after which he
ran across to Outwood's.

Fortune had favored his undertaking by decreeing that a stout drainpipe
should pass up the wall within a few inches of his and Psmith's study.
On the first day of term, it may be remembered he had wrenched away the
wooden bar which bisected the window frame, thus rendering exit and
entrance almost as simple as they had been for Wyatt during Mike's first
term at Wrykyn.

He proceeded to scale this water pipe.

He had got about halfway up when a voice from somewhere below cried,
"Who's that?"




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