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Home -> P.G. Wodehouse -> Mike and Psmith -> Chapter 20

Mike and Psmith - Chapter 20

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



The only two members of the house not out in the grounds when he arrived
were Mike and Psmith. They were standing on the gravel drive in front of
the boys' entrance. Mike had a deck chair in one hand and a book in the
other. Psmith--for even the greatest minds will sometimes unbend--was
wrestling with a Yo-Yo. That is to say, he was trying without success to
keep the spool spinning. He smoothed a crease out of his waistcoat and
tried again. He had just succeeded in getting the thing to spin when Mr.
Downing arrived. The sound of his footsteps disturbed Psmith and brought
the effort to nothing.

"Enough of this spoolery," said he, flinging the spool through the open
window of the senior day room. "I was an ass ever to try it. The
philosophical mind needs complete repose in its hours of
leisure. Hello!"

He stared after the sleuth-hound, who had just entered the house.

"What the dickens," said Mike, "does he mean by barging in as if he'd
bought the place?"

"Comrade Downing looks pleased with himself. What brings him around in
this direction, I wonder! Still, no matter. The few articles which he
may sneak from our study are of inconsiderable value. He is welcome to
them. Do you feel inclined to wait awhile till I have fetched a chair
and book?"

"I'll be going on. I shall be under the trees at the far end of the

"'Tis well. I will be with you in about two ticks."

Mike walked on toward the field, and Psmith, strolling upstairs to fetch
his novel, found Mr. Downing standing in the passage with the air of one
who has lost his bearings.

"A warm afternoon, sir," murmured Psmith courteously, as he passed.



"I--er--wish to go round the dormitories."

It was Psmith's guiding rule in life never to be surprised at anything,
so he merely inclined his head gracefully, and said nothing.

"I should be glad if you would fetch the keys and show me where the
rooms are."

"With acute pleasure, sir," said Psmith. "Or shall I fetch Mr. Outwood,

"Do as I tell you Smith," snapped Mr. Downing.

Psmith said no more, but went down to the matron's room. The matron
being out, he abstracted the bunch of keys from her table and rejoined
the master.

"Shall I lead the way, sir?" he asked.

Mr. Downing nodded.

"Here, sir," said Psmith, opening the door, "we have Barnes's dormitory.
An airy room, constructed on the soundest hygienic principles. Each boy,
I understand, has quite a considerable number of cubic feet of air all
to himself. It is Mr. Outwood's boast that no boy has ever asked for a
cubic foot of air in vain. He argues justly--"

He broke off abruptly and began to watch the other's maneuvers in
silence. Mr. Downing was peering rapidly beneath each bed in turn.

"Are you looking for Barnes, sir?" inquired Psmith politely. "I think
he's out in the field."

Mr. Downing rose, having examined the last bed, crimson in the face with
the exercise.

"Show me the next dormitory, Smith," he said, panting slightly.

"This," said Psmith, opening the next door and sinking his voice to an
awed whisper, "is where _I_ sleep!"

Mr. Downing glanced swiftly beneath the three beds.

"Excuse me, sir," said Psmith, "but are we chasing anything?"

"Be good enough, Smith," said Mr. Downing with asperity, "to keep your
remarks to yourself."

"I was only wondering sir. Shall I show you the next in order?"


They moved on up the passage.

Drawing blank at the last dormitory, Mr. Downing paused, baffled. Psmith
waited patiently by. An idea struck the master.

"The studies, Smith," he cried.

"Aha!" said Psmith. "I beg your pardon, sir. The observation escaped me
unawares. The frenzy of the chase is beginning to enter into my blood.
Here we have--"

Mr. Downing stopped short.

"Is this impertinence studied, Smith?"

"Ferguson's study, sir? No, sir. That's farther down the passage. This
is Barnes's."

Mr. Downing looked at him closely. Psmith's face was wooden in its
gravity. The master snorted suspiciously, then moved on.

"Whose is this?" he asked, rapping a door.

"This, sir, is mine and Jackson's."

"What! Have you a study? You are low down in the school for it."

"I think, sir, that Mr. Outwood gave it us rather as a testimonial to
our general worth than to our proficiency in schoolwork."

Mr. Downing raked the room with a keen eye. The absence of bars from the
window attracted his attention.

"Have you no bars to your windows here, such as there are in my house?"

"There appears to be no bar, sir," said Psmith, putting up his eyeglass.

Mr. Downing was leaning out of the window.

"A lovely view, is it not, sir?" said Psmith. "The trees, the field, the
distant hills ..."

Mr. Downing suddenly started. His eye had been caught by the water pipe
at the side of the window. The boy whom Sergeant Collard had seen
climbing the pipe must have been making for this study.

He spun around and met Psmith's blandly inquiring gaze. He looked at
Psmith carefully for a moment. No. The boy he had chased last night had
not been Psmith. That exquisite's figure and general appearance were
unmistakable, even in the dusk.

"Whom did you say you shared this study with, Smith?"

"Jackson, sir. The cricketer."

"Never mind about his cricket, Smith," said Mr. Downing with irritation.

"No, sir."

"He is the only other occupant of the room?"

"Yes, sir."

"Nobody else comes into it?"

"If they do, they go out extremely quickly, sir."

"Ah! Thank you, Smith."

"Not at all, sir."

Mr. Downing pondered. Jackson! The boy bore him a grudge. The boy was
precisely the sort of boy to revenge himself by painting the dog Sammy.
And, gadzooks! The boy whom he had pursued last night had been just
about Jackson's size and build!

Mr. Downing was as firmly convinced at that moment that Mike's had been
the hand to wield the paintbrush as he had ever been of anything in
his life.

"Smith!" he said excitedly.

"On the spot, sir," said Psmith affably.

"Where are Jackson's shoes?"

There are moments when the giddy excitement of being right on the trail
causes the amateur (or Watsonian) detective to be incautious. Such a
moment came to Mr. Downing then. If he had been wise, he would have
achieved his object, the getting a glimpse of Mike's shoes, by a devious
and snaky route. As it was, he rushed straight on.

"His shoes, sir? He has them on. I noticed them as he went out just

"Where is the pair he wore yesterday?"

"Where are the shoes of yesteryear?" murmured Psmith to himself. "I
should say at a venture, sir, that they would be in the basket,
downstairs. Edmund, our genial knife-and-boot boy, collects them, I
believe, at early dawn."

"Would they have been cleaned yet?"

"If I know Edmund, sir--no."

"Smith," said Mr. Downing, trembling with excitement, "go and bring that
basket to me here."

Psmith's brain was working rapidly as he went downstairs. What exactly
was at the back of the sleuth's mind, prompting these maneuvers, he did
not know. But that there was something, and that that something was
directed in a hostile manner against Mike, probably in connection with
last night's wild happenings, he was certain. Psmith had noticed, on
leaving his bed at the sound of the alarm bell, that he and Jellicoe
were alone in the room. That might mean that Mike had gone out through
the door when the bell sounded, or it might mean that he had been out
all the time. It began to look as if the latter solution were the
correct one.

He staggered back with the basket, painfully conscious all the while
that it was creasing his waistcoat, and dumped it down on the study
floor. Mr. Downing stooped eagerly over it. Psmith leaned against the
wall, and straightened out the damaged garment.

"We have here, sir," he said, "a fair selection of our various

Mr. Downing looked up.

"You dropped none of the shoes on your way up, Smith?"

"Not one, sir. It was a fine performance."

Mr. Downing uttered a grunt of satisfaction, and bent once more to his
task. Shoes flew about the room. Mr. Downing knelt on the floor beside
the basket, and dug like a terrier at a rathole.

At last he made a dive, and, with an exclamation of triumph, rose to his
feet. In his hand he held a shoe.

"Put those back again, Smith," he said.

The ex-Etonian, wearing an expression such as a martyr might have worn
on being told off for the stake, began to pick up the scattered
footgear, whistling softly the tune of "I do all the dirty work," as
he did so.

"That's the lot, sir," he said, rising.

"Ah. Now come across with me to the headmaster's house. Leave the basket
here. You can carry it back when you return."

"Shall I put back that shoe, sir?"

"Certainly not. I shall take this with me, of course."

"Shall I carry it, sir?"

Mr. Downing reflected.

"Yes, Smith," he said. "I think it would be best."

It occurred to him that the spectacle of a house master wandering abroad
on the public highway, carrying a dirty shoe, might be a trifle
undignified. You never knew whom you might meet on Sunday afternoon.

Psmith took the shoe, and doing so, understood what before had puzzled

Across the toe of the shoe was a broad splash of red paint.

He knew nothing, of course, of the upset tin in the bicycle shed; but
when a housemaster's dog has been painted red in the night, and when, on
the following day, the housemaster goes about in search of a paint
splashed shoe, one puts two and two together. Psmith looked at the name
inside the shoe. It was "Brown bootmaker, Bridgnorth." Bridgnorth was
only a few miles from his own home and Mike's. Undoubtedly it was
Mike's shoe.

"Can you tell me whose shoe that is?" asked Mr. Downing.

Psmith looked at it again.

"No, sir. I can't say the little chap's familiar to me."

"Come with me, then."

Mr. Downing left the room. After a moment Psmith followed him.

The headmaster was in his garden. Thither Mr. Downing made his way, the
shoe-bearing Psmith in close attendance.

The Head listened to the amateur detective's statement with interest.

"Indeed?" he said, when Mr. Downing had finished, "Indeed? Dear me! It
certainly seems ... It is a curiously well-connected thread of evidence.
You are certain that there was red paint on this shoe you discovered in
Mr. Outwood's house?"

"I have it with me. I brought it on purpose to show to you. Smith!"


"You have the shoe?"

"Ah," said the headmaster, putting on a pair of pince-nez, "now let me
look at--This, you say, is the--? Just so. Just so. Just ... But, er,
Mr. Downing, it may be that I have not examined this shoe with
sufficient care, but--Can _you_ point out to me exactly where this paint
is that you speak of?"

Mr. Downing stood staring at the shoe with a wild, fixed stare. Of any
suspicion of paint, red or otherwise, it was absolutely and
entirely innocent.

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