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Home -> P.G. Wodehouse -> Mike and Psmith -> Chapter 3

Mike and Psmith - Chapter 3

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



"Jackson," said Mike.

"Are you the Bully, the Pride of the School, or the Boy who is Led
Astray and takes to Drink in Chapter Sixteen?"

"The last, for choice," said Mike, "but I've only just arrived, so I
don't know."

"The boy--what will he become? Are you new here, too, then?"

"Yes! Why, are you new?"

"Do I look as if I belonged here? I'm the latest import. Sit down on
yonder settee, and I will tell you the painful story of my life. By the
way, before I start, there's just one thing. If you ever have occasion
to write to me, would you mind sticking a P at the beginning of my name?
P-s-m-i-t-h. See? There are too many Smiths, and I don't care for
Smythe. My father's content to worry along in the old-fashioned way, but
I've decided to strike out a fresh line. I shall found a new dynasty.
The resolve came to me unexpectedly this morning. I jotted it down on
the back of an envelope. In conversation you may address me as Rupert
(though I hope you won't), or simply Smith, the _P_ not being sounded.
Compare the name Zbysco, in which the Z is given a similar
miss-in-balk. See?"

Mike said he saw. Psmith thanked him with a certain stately old world

"Let us start at the beginning," he resumed. "My infancy. When I was but
a babe, my eldest sister was bribed with a shilling an hour by my nurse
to keep an eye on me, and see that I did not raise Cain. At the end of
the first day she struck for one-and-six, and got it. We now pass to my
boyhood. At an early age, I was sent to Eton, everybody predicting a
bright career for me. But," said Psmith solemnly, fixing an owl-like
gaze on Mike through the eyeglass, "it was not to be."

"No?" said Mike.

"No. I was superannuated last term."

"Bad luck."

"For Eton, yes. But what Eton loses, Sedleigh gains."

"But why Sedleigh, of all places?"

"This is the most painful part of my narrative. It seems that a certain
scug in the next village to ours happened last year to collar a

"Not Barlitt!" exclaimed Mike.

"That was the man. The son of the vicar. The vicar told the curate, who
told our curate, who told our vicar, who told my father, who sent me off
here to get a Balliol too. Do _you_ know Barlitt?"

"His father's vicar of our village. It was because his son got a Balliol
that I was sent here."

"Do you come from Crofton?"


"I've lived at Lower Benford all my life. We are practically long-lost
brothers. Cheer a little, will you?"

Mike felt as Robinson Crusoe felt when he met Friday. Here was a fellow
human being in this desert place. He could almost have embraced Psmith.
The very sound of the name Lower Benford was heartening. His dislike for
his new school was not diminished, but now he felt that life there might
at least be tolerable.

"Where were you before you came here?" asked Psmith. "You have heard my
painful story. Now tell me yours."

"Wrykyn. My father took me away because I got such a lot of bad

"My reports from Eton were simply scurrilous. There's a libel action in
every sentence. How do you like this place, from what you've seen
of it?"


"I am with you, Comrade Jackson. You won't mind my calling you Comrade,
will you? I've just become a socialist. It's a great scheme. You ought
to be one. You work for the equal distribution of property, and start by
collaring all you can and sitting on it. We must stick together. We are
companions in misfortune. Lost lambs. Sheep that have gone astray.
Divided, we fall, together we may worry through. Have you seen Professor
Radium yet? I should say Mr. Outwood. What do you think of him?"

"He doesn't seem a bad sort of chap. Bit off his nut. Jawed about apses
and things."

"And thereby," said Psmith, "hangs a tale. I've been making inquiries of
a stout sportsman in a sort of Salvation Army uniform, whom I met in the
grounds--he's the school sergeant or something, quite a solid man--and I
hear that Comrade Outwood's an archaeological cove. Goes about the
country beating up old ruins and fossils and things. There's an
Archaeological Society in the school, run by him. It goes out on
half-holidays, prowling about, and is allowed to break bounds and
generally steep itself to the eyebrows in reckless devilry. And, mark
you, laddie, if you belong to the Archaeological Society you get off
cricket. To get off cricket," said Psmith, dusting his right trouser
leg, "was the dream of my youth and the aspiration of my riper years. A
noble game, but a bit too thick for me. At Eton I used to have to field
out at the nets till the soles of my boots wore through. I suppose you
are a blood at the game? Play for the school against Loamshire, and
so on."

"I'm not going to play here, at any rate," said Mike.

He had made up his mind on this point in the train. There is a certain
fascination about making the very worst of a bad job. Achilles knew his
business when he sat in his tent. The determination not to play cricket
for Sedleigh as he could not play for Wrykyn gave Mike a sort of
pleasure. To stand by with folded arms and a somber frown, as it were,
was one way of treating the situation, and one not without its meed
of comfort.

Psmith approved the resolve.

"Stout fellow," he said. "'Tis well. You and I, hand in hand, will
search the countryside for ruined abbeys. We will snare the elusive
fossil together. Above all, we will go out of bounds. We shall thus
improve our minds, and have a jolly good time as well. I shouldn't
wonder if one mightn't borrow a gun from some friendly native, and do a
bit of rabbit shooting here and there. From what I saw of Comrade
Outwood during our brief interview, I shouldn't think he was one of the
lynx-eyed contingent. With tact we ought to be able to slip away from
the merry throng of fossil chasers, and do a bit on our own account."

"Good idea," said Mike. "We will. A chap at Wrykyn, called Wyatt, used
to break out at night and shoot at cats with an air pistol."

"It would take a lot to make me do that. I am all against anything that
interferes with my sleep. But rabbits in the daytime is a scheme. We'll
nose about for a gun at the earliest opp. Meanwhile we'd better go up to
Comrade Outwood, and get our names shoved down for the Society."

"I vote we get some tea first somewhere."

"Then let's beat up a study. I suppose they have studies here. Let's go
and look."

They went upstairs. On the first floor there was a passage with doors on
either side. Psmith opened the first of these.

"This'll do us well," he said.

It was a biggish room, looking out over the school grounds. There were a
couple of deal tables, two empty bookcases, and a looking glass, hung
on a nail.

"Might have been made for us," said Psmith approvingly.

"I suppose it belongs to some rotter."

"Not now."

"You aren't going to collar it!"

"That," said Psmith, looking at himself earnestly in the mirror, and
straightening his tie, "is the exact program. We must stake out our
claims. This is practical socialism."

"But the real owner's bound to turn up some time or other."

"His misfortune, not ours. You can't expect two masterminds like us to
pig it in that room downstairs. There are moments when one wants to be
alone. It is imperative that we have a place to retire to after a
fatiguing day. And now, if you want to be really useful, come and help
me fetch up my box from downstairs. It's got a gas ring and various
things in it."

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