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Home -> P.G. Wodehouse -> Mike and Psmith -> Chapter 23

Mike and Psmith - Chapter 23

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 most massive minds are apt to forget things at times. The most
adroit plotters make their little mistakes. Psmith was no exception to
the rule. He made the mistake of not telling Mike of the afternoon's

It was not altogether forgetfulness. Psmith was one of those people who
like to carry through their operations entirely by themselves. Where
there is only one in a secret, the secret is more liable to remain
unrevealed. There was nothing, he thought, to be gained from telling
Mike. He forgot what the consequences might be if he did not.

So Psmith kept his own counsel, with the result that Mike went over to
school on the Monday morning in gym shoes.

Edmund, summoned from the hinterland of the house to give his opinion
why only one of Mike's shoes was to be found, had no views on the
subject. He seemed to look on it as one of these things which no fellow
can understand.

"'Ere's one of 'em, Mr. Jackson," he said, as if he hoped that Mike
might be satisfied with a compromise.

"One? What's the good of that, Edmund, you chump? I can't go over to
school in one shoe."

Edmund turned this over in his mind, and then said, "No, sir," as much
as to say, "I may have lost a shoe, but, thank goodness, I can still
understand sound reasoning."

"Well, what am I to do? Where _is_ the other shoe?"

"Don't know, Mr. Jackson," replied Edmund to both questions.

"Well, I mean ... Oh, dash it, there's the bell." And Mike sprinted off
in the gym shoes he stood in.

It is only a deviation from those ordinary rules of school life, which
one observes naturally and without thinking, that enables one to realize
how strong public-school prejudices really are. At a school, for
instance, where the regulations say that coats only of black or dark
blue are to be worn, a boy who appears one day in even the most
respectable and unostentatious brown finds himself looked on with a
mixture of awe and repulsion, which would be excessive if he had
sandbagged the headmaster. So in the case of shoes. School rules decree
that a boy shall go to his form room in shoes. There is no real reason
why, if the day is fine, he should not wear gym shoes, should he prefer
them. But, if he does, the thing creates a perfect sensation. Boys say,
"Great Scott, what _have_ you got on?" Masters say, "Jones, _what_ are
you wearing on your feet?" In the few minutes which elapse between the
assembling of the form for call-over and the arrival of the form master,
some wag is sure either to stamp on the gym shoes, accompanying the act
with some satirical remark, or else to pull one of them off, and
inaugurate an impromptu game of football with it. There was once a boy
who went to school one morning in elastic-sided boots.

Mike had always been coldly distant in his relations to the rest of his
form, looking on them, with a few exceptions, as worms; and the form,
since his innings against Downing's on the Friday, had regarded Mike
with respect. So that he escaped the ragging he would have had to
undergo at Wrykyn in similar circumstance. It was only Mr. Downing who
gave trouble.

There is a sort of instinct which enables some masters to tell when a
boy in their form is wearing gym shoes instead of the more formal kind,
just as people who dislike cats always know when one is in a room with
them. They cannot see it but they feel it in their bones.

Mr. Downing was perhaps the most bigoted anti-gym-shoeist in the whole
list of English schoolmasters. He waged war remorselessly against gym
shoes. Satire, abuse, lines, detention--every weapon was employed by him
in dealing with their wearers. It had been the late Dunster's practice
always to go over to school in gym shoes when, as he usually did, he
felt shaky in the morning's lesson. Mr. Downing always detected him in
the first five minutes, and that meant a lecture of anything from ten
minutes to a quarter of an hour on Untidy Habits and Boys Who Looked
Like Loafers--which broke the back of the morning's work nicely. On one
occasion, when a particularly tricky bit of Livy was on the bill of
fare, Dunster had entered the form room in heelless Turkish bath
slippers, of a vivid crimson; and the subsequent proceedings, including
his journey over to the house to change the heelless atrocities, had
seen him through very nearly to the quarter-to-eleven interval.

Mike, accordingly, had not been in his place for three minutes when Mr.
Downing, stiffening like a pointer, called his name.

"Yes, sir?" said Mike.

"_What_ are you wearing on your feet, Jackson?"

"Gym shoes, sir."

"You are wearing gym shoes? Are you not aware that gym shoes are not the
proper things to come to school in? Why are you wearing gym shoes?"

The form, leaning back against the next row of desks, settled itself
comfortably for the address from the throne.

"I have lost one of my shoes, sir."

A kind of gulp escaped from Mr. Downing's lips. He stared at Mike for a
moment in silence. Then, turning to Stone, he told him to start

Stone, who had been expecting at least ten minutes' respite, was taken
unawares. When he found the place in his book and began to construe, he
floundered hopelessly. But, to his growing surprise and satisfaction,
the form master appeared to notice nothing wrong. He said "Yes, yes,"
mechanically, and finally, "That will do," whereupon Stone resumed his
seat with the feeling that the age of miracles had returned.

Mr. Downing's mind was in a whirl. His case was complete. Mike's
appearance in gym shoes, with the explanation that he had lost a shoe,
completed the chain. As Columbus must have felt when his ship ran into
harbor, and the first American interviewer, jumping on board, said,
"Wal, sir, and what are your impressions of our glorious country?" so
did Mr. Downing feel at that moment.

When the bell rang at a quarter to eleven, he gathered up his gown and
sped to the headmaster.

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