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Home -> P.G. Wodehouse -> Mike and Psmith -> Chapter 24

Mike and Psmith - Chapter 24

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



It was during the interval that day that Stone and Robinson, discussing
the subject of cricket over a bun and ginger beer at the school shop,
came to a momentous decision, to wit, that they were fed up with the
Adair administration and meant to strike. The immediate cause of revolt
was early-morning fielding practice, that searching test of cricket
keenness. Mike himself, to whom cricket was the great and serious
interest in life, had shirked early-morning fielding practice in his
first term at Wrykyn. And Stone and Robinson had but a lukewarm
attachment to the game, compared with Mike's.

As a rule, Adair had contented himself with practice in the afternoon
after school, which nobody objects to; and no strain, consequently, had
been put upon Stone's and Robinson's allegiance. In view of the M.C.C.
match on the Wednesday, however, he had now added to this an extra dose
to be taken before breakfast. Stone and Robinson had left their
comfortable beds that day at six o'clock, yawning and heavy-eyed, and
had caught catches and fielded drives which, in the cool morning air,
had stung like adders and bitten like serpents. Until the sun has really
got to work, it is no joke taking a high catch. Stone's dislike of the
experiment was only equaled by Robinson's. They were neither of them of
the type which likes to undergo hardships for the common good. They
played well enough when on the field, but neither cared greatly whether
the school had a good season or not. They played the games entirely for
their own sakes.

The result was that they went back to the house for breakfast with a
never-again feeling, and at the earliest possible moment met to debate
as to what was to be done about it. At all costs another experience like
today's must be avoided.

"It's all rot," said Stone. "What on earth's the good of sweating about
before breakfast? It only makes you tired."

"I shouldn't wonder," said Robinson, "if it wasn't bad for the heart.
Rushing about on an empty stomach, I mean, and all that sort of thing."

"Personally," said Stone, gnawing his bun, "I don't intend to stick it."

"Nor do I."

"I mean, it's such absolute rot. If we aren't good enough to play for
the team without having to get up overnight to catch catches, he'd
better find somebody else."


At this moment Adair came into the shop.

"Fielding practice again tomorrow," he said briskly, "at six."

"Before breakfast?" said Robinson.

"Rather. You two must buck up, you know. You were rotten today." And he
passed on, leaving the two malcontents speechless.

Stone was the first to recover.

"I'm hanged if I turn out tomorrow," he said, as they left the shop. "He
can do what he likes about it. Besides, what can he do, after all? Only
kick us out of the team. And I don't mind that."

"Nor do I."

"I don't think he will kick us out, either. He can't play the M.C.C.
with a scratch team. If he does, we'll go and play for that village
Jackson plays for. We'll get Jackson to shove us into the team."

"All right," said Robinson. "Let's."

Their position was a strong one. A cricket captain may seem to be an
autocrat of tremendous power, but in reality he has only one weapon, the
keenness of those under him. With the majority, of course, the fear of
being excluded or ejected from a team is a spur that drives. The
majority, consequently, are easily handled. But when a cricket captain
runs up against a boy who does not much care whether he plays for the
team or not, then he finds himself in a difficult position, and, unless
he is a man of action, practically helpless.

Stone and Robinson felt secure. Taking it all around, they felt that
they would just as soon play for Lower Borlock as for the school. The
bowling of the opposition would be weaker in the former case, and the
chance of making runs greater. To a certain type of cricketer runs are
runs, wherever and however made.

The result of all this was that Adair, turning out with the team next
morning for fielding practice, found himself two short. Barnes was among
those present, but of the other two representatives of Outwood's house
there were no signs.

Barnes, questioned on the subject, had no information to give, beyond
the fact that he had not seen them about anywhere. Which was not a great
help. Adair proceeded with the fielding practice without further delay.

At breakfast that morning he was silent and apparently rapt in thought.
Mr. Downing, who sat at the top of the table with Adair on his right,
was accustomed at the morning meal to blend nourishment of the body with
that of the mind. As a rule he had ten minutes with the daily paper
before the bell rang, and it was his practice to hand on the results of
his reading to Adair and the other house prefects, who, not having seen
the paper, usually formed an interested and appreciative audience.
Today, however, though the house prefects expressed varying degrees of
excitement at the news that Sheppard had made a century against
Gloucestershire, and that a butter famine was expected in the United
States, these world-shaking news items seemed to leave Adair cold. He
champed his bread and marmalade with an abstracted air.

He was wondering what to do in the matter of Stone and Robinson.

Many captains might have passed the thing over. To take it for granted
that the missing pair had overslept themselves would have been a safe
and convenient way out of the difficulty. But Adair was not the sort of
person who seeks for safe and convenient ways out of difficulties. He
never shirked anything, physical or moral.

He resolved to interview the absentees.

It was not until after school that an opportunity offered itself. He
went across to Outwood's and found the two nonstarters in the senior day
room, engaged in the intellectual pursuit of kicking the wall and
marking the height of each kick with chalk. Adair's entrance coincided
with a record effort by Stone, which caused the kicker to overbalance
and stagger backward against the captain.

"Sorry," said Stone. "Hello, Adair!"

"Don't mention it. Why weren't you two at fielding practice this

Robinson, who left the lead to Stone in all matters, said nothing. Stone

"We didn't turn up," he said.

"I know you didn't. Why not?"

Stone had rehearsed this scene in his mind, and he spoke with the
coolness which comes from rehearsal.

"We decided not to."


"Yes. We came to the conclusion that we hadn't any use for early-morning

Adair's manner became ominously calm.

"You were rather fed up, I suppose?"

"That's just the word."

"Sorry it bored you."

"It didn't. We didn't give it the chance to."

Robinson laughed appreciatively.

"What's the joke, Robinson?" asked Adair.

"There's no joke," said Robinson, with some haste. "I was only thinking
of something."

"I'll give you something else to think about soon."

Stone intervened.

"It's no good making a row about it, Adair. You must see that you can't
do anything. Of course, you can kick us out of the team, if you like,
but we don't care if you do. Jackson will get us a game any Wednesday or
Saturday for the village he plays for. So we're all right. And the
school team aren't such a lot of flyers that you can afford to go
chucking people out of it whenever you want to. See what I mean?"

"You and Jackson seem to have fixed it all up between you."

"What are you going to do? Kick us out?"


"Good. I thought you'd see it was no good making a beastly row. We'll
play for the school all right. There's no earthly need for us to turn
out for fielding practice before breakfast."

"You don't think there is? You may be right. All the same, you're going
to tomorrow morning."


"Six sharp. Don't be late."

"Don't be an ass, Adair. We've told you we aren't going to."

"That's only your opinion. I think you are. I'll give you till five past
six, as you seem to like lying in bed."

"You can turn out if you feel like it. You won't find me there."

"That'll be a disappointment. Nor Robinson?"

"No," said the junior partner in the firm; but he said it without any
deep conviction. The atmosphere was growing a great deal too tense for
his comfort.

"You've quite made up your minds?"

"Yes," said Stone.

"Right," said Adair quietly, and knocked him down.

He was up again in a moment. Adair had pushed the table back, and was
standing in the middle of the open space.

"You cad," said Stone. "I wasn't ready."

"Well, you are now. Shall we go on?"

Stone dashed in without a word, and for a few moments the two might have
seemed evenly matched to a not too intelligent spectator. But science
tells, even in a confined space. Adair was smaller and lighter than
Stone, but he was cooler and quicker, and he knew more about the game.
His blow was always home a fraction of a second sooner than his
opponent's. At the end of a minute Stone was on the floor again.

He got up slowly and stood leaning with one hand on the table.

"Suppose we say ten past six!" said Adair. "I'm not particular to a
minute or two."

Stone made no reply.

"Will ten past six suit you for fielding practice tomorrow?" said Adair.

"All right," said Stone.

"Thanks. How about you, Robinson?"

Robinson had been a petrified spectator of the Captain-Kettle-like
maneuvers of the cricket captain, and it did not take him long to make
up his mind. He was not altogether a coward. In different circumstances
he might have put up a respectable show. But it takes a more than
ordinarily courageous person to embark on a fight which he knows must
end in his destruction. Robinson knew that he was nothing like a match
even for Stone, and Adair had disposed of Stone in a little over one
minute. It seemed to Robinson that neither pleasure nor profit was
likely to come from an encounter with Adair.

"All right," he said hastily, "I'll turn up."

"Good," said Adair. "I wonder if either of you chaps could tell me which
is Jackson's study."

Stone was dabbing at his mouth with a handkerchief, a task which
precluded anything in the shape of conversation; so Robinson replied
that Mike's study was the first you came to on the right of the corridor
at the top of the stairs.

"Thanks," said Adair. "You don't happen to know if he's in, I suppose?"

"He went up with Smith a quarter of an hour ago. I don't know if he's
still there."

"I'll go and see," said Adair. "I should like a word with him if he
isn't busy."

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