home | authors | books | about

Home -> P.G. Wodehouse -> Mike and Psmith -> Chapter 28

Mike and Psmith - Chapter 28

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 rain continued without a break all the morning. The two teams, after
hanging about dismally, and whiling the time away with stump-cricket in
the changing rooms, lunched in the pavilion at one o'clock. After which
the M.C.C. captain, approaching Adair, moved that this merry meeting be
considered off and he and his men permitted to catch the next train back
to town. To which Adair, seeing that it was out of the question that
there should be any cricket that afternoon, regretfully agreed, and the
first Sedleigh _v_. M.C.C. match was accordingly scratched.

Mike and Psmith, wandering back to the house, were met by a damp junior
from Downing's, with a message that Mr. Downing wished to see Mike as
soon as he was changed.

"What's he want me for?" inquired Mike.

The messenger did not know. Mr. Downing, it seemed, had not confided in
him. All he knew was that the housemaster was in the house, and would be
glad if Mike would step across.

"A nuisance," said Psmith, "this incessant demand for you. That's the
worst of being popular. If he wants you to stop to tea, edge away. A
meal on rather a sumptuous scale will be prepared in the study against
your return."

Mike changed quickly, and went off, leaving Psmith, who was fond of
simple pleasures in his spare time, earnestly occupied with a puzzle
which had been scattered through the land by a weekly paper. The prize
for a solution was one thousand pounds, and Psmith had already informed
Mike with some minuteness of his plans for the disposition of this sum.
Meanwhile, he worked at it both in and out of school, generally with
abusive comments on its inventor.

He was still fiddling away at it when Mike returned.

Mike, though Psmith was at first too absorbed to notice it, was

"I don't wish to be in any way harsh," said Psmith, without looking up,
"but the man who invented this thing was a blighter of the worst type.
You come and have a shot. For the moment I am baffled. The whisper flies
round the clubs, 'Psmith is baffled.'"

"The man's an absolute driveling ass," said Mike warmly.

"Me, do you mean?"

"What on earth would be the point of my doing it?"

"You'd gather in a thousand of the best. Give you a nice start in life."

"I'm not talking about your rotten puzzle."

"What _are_ you talking about?"

"That ass Downing. I believe he's off his nut."

"Then your chat with Comrade Downing was not of the
old-College-chums-meeting-unexpectedly-after-years'-separation type?
What has he been doing to you?"

"He's off his nut."

"I know. But what did he do? How did the brainstorm burst? Did he jump
at you from behind a door and bite a piece out of your leg, or did he
say he was a teapot?"

Mike sat down.

"You remember that painting-Sammy business?"

"As if it were yesterday," said Psmith. "Which it was, pretty nearly."

"He thinks I did it."

"Why? Have you ever shown any talent in the painting line?"

"The silly ass wanted me to confess that I'd done it. He as good as
asked me to. Jawed a lot of rot about my finding it to my advantage
later on if I behaved sensibly."

"Then what are you worrying about? Don't you know that when a master
wants you to do the confessing act, it simply means that he hasn't
enough evidence to start in on you with? You're all right. The thing's a

"Evidence!" said Mike. "My dear man, he's got enough evidence to sink a
ship. He's absolutely sweating evidence at every pore. As far as I can
see, he's been crawling about, doing the Sherlock Holmes business for
all he's worth ever since the thing happened, and now he's dead certain
that I painted Sammy."

"_Did_ you, by the way?" said Psmith.

"No," said Mike shortly, "I didn't. But after listening to Downing I
almost began to wonder if I hadn't. The man's got stacks of evidence to
prove that I did."

"Such as what?"

"It's mostly about my shoes. But, dash it, you know all about that. Why,
you were with him when he came and looked for them."

"It is true," said Psmith, "that Comrade Downing and I spent a very
pleasant half hour together inspecting shoes, but how does he drag
you into it?"

"He swears one of the shoes was splashed with paint."

"Yes. He babbled to some extent on that point when I was entertaining
him. But what makes him think that the shoe, if any, was yours?"

"He's certain that somebody in this house got one of his shoes splashed,
and is hiding it somewhere. And I'm the only chap in the house who
hasn't got a pair of shoes to show, so he thinks it's me. I don't know
where the dickens my other shoe has gone. Of course I've got two pairs,
but one's being soled. So I had to go over to school yesterday in gym
shoes. That's how he spotted me."

Psmith sighed.

"Comrade Jackson," he said mournfully, "all this very sad affair shows
the folly of acting from the best motives. In my simple zeal, meaning to
save you unpleasantness, I have landed you, with a dull, sickening thud,
right in the cart. Are you particular about dirtying your hands? If you
aren't, just reach up that chimney a bit!"

Mike stared.

"What the dickens are you talking about?"

"Go on. Get it over. Be a man, and reach up the chimney."

"I don't know what the game is," said Mike, kneeling beside the fender
and groping, "but--_Hello_!"

"Ah ha!" said Psmith moodily.

Mike dropped the soot-covered object in the fender, and glared at it.

"It's my shoe!" he said at last.

"It _is_," said Psmith, "your shoe. And what is that red stain across
the toe? Is it blood? No, 'tis not blood. It is red paint."

Mike seemed unable to remove his eyes from the shoe.

"How on earth did--By Jove! I remember now. I kicked up against
something in the dark when I was putting my bicycle back that night. It
must have been the paint pot."

"Then you were out that night?"

"Rather. That's what makes it so jolly awkward. It's too long to tell
you now--"

"Your stories are never too long for me," said Psmith. "Say on!"

"Well, it was like this." And Mike related the events which had led up
to his midnight excursion. Psmith listened attentively.

"This," he said, when Mike had finished, "confirms my frequently stated
opinion that Comrade Jellicoe is one of Nature's blitherers. So that's
why he touched us for our hard-earned, was it?"

"Yes. Of course there was no need for him to have the money at all."

"And the result is that you are in something of a tight place. You're
_absolutely_ certain you didn't paint that dog? Didn't do it, by any
chance, in a moment of absent-mindedness, and forgot all about it? No?
No, I suppose not. I wonder who did!"

"It's beastly awkward. You see, Downing chased me that night. That was
why I rang the alarm bell. So, you see, he's certain to think that the
chap he chased, which was me, and the chap who painted Sammy, are the
same. I shall get landed both ways."

Psmith pondered.

"It _is_ a tightish place," he admitted.

"I wonder if we could get this shoe clean," said Mike, inspecting it
with disfavor.

"Not for a pretty considerable time."

"I suppose not. I say, I _am_ in the cart. If I can't produce this shoe,
they're bound to guess why."

"What exactly," asked Psmith, "was the position of affairs between you
and Comrade Downing when you left him? Had you definitely parted brass
rags? Or did you simply sort of drift apart with mutual courtesies?"

"Oh, he said I was ill advised to continue that attitude, or some rot,
and I said I didn't care, I hadn't painted his bally dog, and he said
very well, then, he must take steps, and--well, that was about all."

"Sufficient, too," said Psmith, "quite sufficient, I take it, then, that
he is now on the warpath, collecting a gang, so to speak."

"I suppose he's gone to the Old Man about it."

"Probably. A very worrying time our headmaster is having, taking it all
round, in connection with this painful affair. What do you think his
move will be?"

"I suppose he'll send for me, and try to get something out of me."

"_He'll_ want you to confess, too. Masters are all whales on confession.
The worst of it is, you can't prove an alibi, because at about the time
the foul act was perpetrated, you were playing Round-and-round-the-
mulberry-bush with Comrade Downing. This needs thought. You had
better put the case in my hands, and go out and watch the dandelions
growing. I will think over the matter."

"Well, I hope you'll be able to think of something. I can't."

"Possibly. You never know."

There was a tap at the door.

"See how we have trained them," said Psmith. "They now knock before
entering. There was a time when they would have tried to smash in a
panel. Come in."

A small boy, carrying a straw hat adorned with the School House ribbon,
answered the invitation.

"Oh, I say, Jackson," he said, "the headmaster sent me over to tell you
he wants to see you."

"I told you so," said Mike to Psmith.

"Don't go," suggested Psmith. "Tell him to write."

Mike got up.

"All this is very trying," said Psmith. "I'm seeing nothing of you
today." He turned to the small boy. "Tell Willie," he added, "that Mr.
Jackson will be with him in a moment."

The emissary departed.

"_You're_ all right," said Psmith encouragingly. "Just you keep on
saying you're all right. Stout denial is the thing. Don't go in for any
airy explanations. Simply stick to stout denial. You can't beat it."

With which expert advice, he allowed Mike to go on his way.

He had not been gone two minutes, when Psmith, who had leaned back in
his chair, rapt in thought, heaved himself up again. He stood for a
moment straightening his tie at the looking glass; then he picked up his
hat and moved slowly out of the door and down the passage. Thence, at
the same dignified rate of progress, out of the house and in at
Downing's front gate.

The postman was at the door when he got there, apparently absorbed in
conversation with the parlor maid. Psmith stood by politely till the
postman, who had just been told it was like his impudence, caught sight
of him, and, having handed over the letters in an ultraformal and
professional manner, passed away.

"Is Mr. Downing at home?" inquired Psmith.

He was, it seemed. Psmith was shown into the dining room on the left of
the hall, and requested to wait. He was examining a portrait of Mr.
Downing which hung on the wall when the housemaster came in.

"An excellent likeness, sir," said Psmith, with a gesture of the hand
toward the painting.

"Well, Smith," said Mr. Downing shortly, "what do you wish to see me

"It was in connection with the regrettable painting of your dog, sir."

"Ha!" said Mr. Downing.

"I did it, sir," said Psmith, stopping and flicking a piece of fluff off
his knee.

© Art Branch Inc. | English Dictionary