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Home -> P.G. Wodehouse -> Mike and Psmith -> Chapter 1

Mike and Psmith - Chapter 1

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



If Mike had been in time for breakfast that fatal Easter morning he
might have gathered from the expression on his father's face, as Mr.
Jackson opened the envelope containing his school report and read the
contents, that the document in question was not exactly a paean of
praise from beginning to end. But he was late, as usual. Mike always was
late for breakfast in the holidays.

When he came down on this particular morning, the meal was nearly over.
Mr. Jackson had disappeared, taking his correspondence with him; Mrs.
Jackson had gone into the kitchen, and when Mike appeared the thing had
resolved itself into a mere vulgar brawl between Phyllis and Ella for
the jam, while Marjory, recently affecting a grown-up air, looked on in
a detached sort of way, as if these juvenile gambols distressed her.

"Hello, Mike," she said, jumping up as he entered, "here you are--I've
been keeping everything hot for you."

"Have you? Thanks awfully. I say ..." His eye wandered in mild surprise
round the table. "I'm a bit late."

Marjory was bustling about, fetching and carrying for Mike, as she
always did. She had adopted him at an early age, and did the thing
thoroughly. She was fond of her other brothers, especially when they
made centuries in first-class cricket, but Mike was her favorite. She
would field out in the deep as a natural thing when Mike was batting at
the net in the paddock, though for the others, even for Joe, who had
played in all five Test Matches in the previous summer, she would do it
only as a favor.

Phyllis and Ella finished their dispute and went out. Marjory sat on the
table and watched Mike eat.

"Your report came this morning, Mike," she said.

The kidneys failed to retain Mike's undivided attention. He looked up
interested. "What did it say?"

"I didn't see--I only caught sight of the Wrykyn crest on the envelope.
Father didn't say anything."

Mike seemed concerned. "I say, that looks rather rotten! I wonder if it
was awfully bad. It's the first I've had from Appleby."

"It can't be any worse than the horrid ones Mr. Blake used to write when
you were in his form."

"No, that's a comfort," said Mike philosophically. "Think there's any
more tea in that pot?"

"I call it a shame," said Marjory; "they ought to be jolly glad to have
you at Wrykyn just for cricket, instead of writing beastly reports that
make father angry and don't do any good to anybody."

"Last Christmas he said he'd take me away if I got another one."

"He didn't mean it really, I _know_ he didn't! He couldn't! You're the
best bat Wrykyn's ever had."

"What ho!" interpolated Mike.

"You _are_. Everybody says you are. Why, you got your first the very
first term you were there--even Joe didn't do anything nearly so good as
that. Saunders says you're simply bound to play for England in another
year or two."

"Saunders is a jolly good chap. He bowled me a half volley on the off
the first ball I had in a school match. By the way, I wonder if he's out
at the net now. Let's go and see."

Saunders the professional was setting up the net when they arrived. Mike
put on his pads and went to the wicket, while Marjory and the dogs
retired as usual to the far hedge to retrieve.

She was kept busy. Saunders was a good sound bowler of the M.C.C. minor
match type, and there had been a time when he had worried Mike
considerably, but Mike had been in the Wrykyn team for three seasons
now, and each season he had advanced tremendously in his batting. He had
filled out in three years. He had always had the style, and now he had
the strength as well, Saunder's bowling on a true wicket seemed simple
to him. It was early in the Easter holidays, but already he was
beginning to find his form. Saunders, who looked on Mike as his own
special invention, was delighted.

"If you don't be worried by being too anxious now that you're captain,
Master Mike," he said, "you'll make a century every match next term."

"I wish I wasn't; it's a beastly responsibility."

Henfrey, the Wrykyn cricket captain of the previous season, was not
returning next term, and Mike was to reign in his stead. He liked the
prospect, but it certainly carried with it a rather awe-inspiring
responsibility. At night sometimes he would lie awake, appalled by the
fear of losing his form, or making a hash of things by choosing the
wrong men to play for the school and leaving the right men out. It is no
light thing to captain a public school at cricket.

As he was walking toward the house, Phyllis met him. "Oh, I've been
hunting for you, Mike; Father wants you."

"What for?"

"I don't know."


"He's in the study. He seems ..." added Phyllis, throwing in the
information by a way of a makeweight, "in a beastly temper."

Mike's jaw fell slightly. "I hope the dickens it's nothing to do with
that bally report," was his muttered exclamation.

Mike's dealings with his father were as a rule of a most pleasant
nature. Mr. Jackson was an understanding sort of man, who treated his
sons as companions. From time to time, however, breezes were apt to
ruffle the placid sea of good fellowship. Mike's end-of-term report was
an unfailing wind raiser; indeed, on the arrival of Mr. Blake's
sarcastic resume of Mike's shortcomings at the end of the previous term,
there had been something not unlike a typhoon. It was on this occasion
that Mr. Jackson had solemnly declared his intention of removing Mike
from Wrykyn unless the critics became more flattering; and Mr. Jackson
was a man of his word.

It was with a certain amount of apprehension, therefore, that Jackson
entered the study.

"Come in, Mike," said his father, kicking the waste-paper basket; "I
want to speak to you."

Mike, skilled in omens, scented a row in the offing. Only in moments of
emotion was Mr. Jackson in the habit of booting the basket.

There followed an awkward silence, which Mike broke by remarking that he
had carted a half volley from Saunders over the on-side hedge
that morning.

"It was just a bit short and off the leg stump, so I stepped out--may I
bag the paper knife for a jiffy? I'll just show--"

"Never mind about cricket now," said Mr. Jackson; "I want you to listen
to this report."

"Oh, is that my report, Father?" said Mike, with a sort of sickly
interest, much as a dog about to be washed might evince in his tub.

"It is," replied Mr. Jackson in measured tones, "your report; what is
more, it is without exception the worst report you have ever had."

"Oh, I say!" groaned the record-breaker.

"'His conduct,'" quoted Mr. Jackson, "'has been unsatisfactory in the
extreme, both in and out of school.'"

"It wasn't anything really. I only happened--"

Remembering suddenly that what he had happened to do was to drop a
cannonball (the school weight) on the form-room floor, not once, but on
several occasions, he paused.

"'French bad; conduct disgraceful--'"

"Everybody rags in French."

"'Mathematics bad. Inattentive and idle.'"

"Nobody does much work in Math."

"'Latin poor. Greek, very poor.'"

"We were doing Thucydides, Book Two, last term--all speeches and
doubtful readings, and cruxes and things--beastly hard! Everybody
says so."

"Here are Mr. Appleby's remarks: 'The boy has genuine ability, which he
declines to use in the smallest degree.'"

Mike moaned a moan of righteous indignation.

"'An abnormal proficiency at games has apparently destroyed all desire
in him to realize the more serious issues of life.' There is more to the
same effect."

Mr. Appleby was a master with very definite ideas as to what constituted
a public-school master's duties. As a man he was distinctly pro-Mike. He
understood cricket, and some of Mike's strokes on the off gave him
thrills of pure aesthetic joy; but as a master he always made it his
habit to regard the manners and customs of the boys in his form with an
unbiased eye, and to an unbiased eye Mike in a form room was about as
near the extreme edge as a boy could be, and Mr. Appleby said as much in
a clear firm hand.

"You remember what I said to you about your report at Christmas, Mike?"
said Mr. Jackson, folding the lethal document and replacing it in
its envelope.

Mike said nothing; there was a sinking feeling in his interior.

"I shall abide by what I said."

Mike's heart thumped.

"You will not go back to Wrykyn next term."

Somewhere in the world the sun was shining, birds were twittering;
somewhere in the world lambkins frisked and peasants sang blithely at
their toil (flat, perhaps, but still blithely), but to Mike at that
moment the sky was black, and an icy wind blew over the face of
the earth.

The tragedy had happened, and there was an end of it. He made no attempt
to appeal against the sentence. He knew it would be useless, his father,
when he made up his mind, having all the unbending tenacity of the
normally easygoing man.

Mr. Jackson was sorry for Mike. He understood him, and for that reason
he said very little now.

"I am sending you to Sedleigh," was his next remark.

Sedleigh! Mike sat up with a jerk. He knew Sedleigh by name--one of
those schools with about a hundred boys which you never hear of except
when they send up their gym team to Aldershot, or their Eight to Bisley.
Mike's outlook on life was that of a cricketer, pure and simple. What
had Sedleigh ever done? What were they ever likely to do? Whom did they
play? What Old Sedleighan had ever done anything at cricket? Perhaps
they didn't even _play_ cricket!

"But it's an awful hole," he said blankly.

Mr. Jackson could read Mike's mind like a book. Mike's point of view was
plain to him. He did not approve of it, but he knew that in Mike's place
and at Mike's age he would have felt the same. He spoke dryly to hide
his sympathy.

"It is not a large school," he said, "and I don't suppose it could play
Wrykyn at cricket, but it has one merit--boys work there. Young Barlitt
won a Balliol scholarship from Sedleigh last year." Barlitt was the
vicar's son, a silent, spectacled youth who did not enter very largely
into Mike's world. They had met occasionally at tennis parties, but not
much conversation had ensued. Barlitt's mind was massive, but his topics
of conversation were not Mike's.

"Mr. Barlitt speaks very highly of Sedleigh," added Mr. Jackson.

Mike said nothing, which was a good deal better than saying what he
would have liked to have said.

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