P.G. Wodehouse.

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was a long way better than Neville-Smith, and Wyatt, and Milton, and the
others who had taken wickets for Wrykyn.

The batting was not so good, but there were some quite capable men.
Barnes, the head of Outwood's, he who preferred not to interfere with
Stone and Robinson, was a mild, rather timid-looking youth - not unlike
what Mr. Outwood must have been as a boy - but he knew how to keep balls
out of his wicket. He was a good bat of the old plodding type.

Stone and Robinson themselves, that swashbuckling pair, who now treated
Mike and Psmith with cold but consistent politeness, were both fair
batsmen, and Stone was a good slow bowler.

There were other exponents of the game, mostly in Downing's house.

Altogether, quite worthy colleagues even for a man who had been a star
at Wrykyn.

* * * * *

One solitary overture Mike made during that first fortnight. He did not
repeat the experiment.

It was on a Thursday afternoon, after school. The day was warm, but
freshened by an almost imperceptible breeze. The air was full of the
scent of the cut grass which lay in little heaps behind the nets. This
is the real cricket scent, which calls to one like the very voice of
the game.

Mike, as he sat there watching, could stand it no longer.

He went up to Adair.

"May I have an innings at this net?" he asked. He was embarrassed and
nervous, and was trying not to show it. The natural result was that his
manner was offensively abrupt.

Adair was taking off his pads after his innings. He looked up. "This
net," it may be observed, was the first eleven net.

"What?" he said.

Mike repeated his request. More abruptly this time, from increased
embarrassment.

"This is the first eleven net," said Adair coldly. "Go in after Lodge
over there."

"Over there" was the end net, where frenzied novices were bowling on a
corrugated pitch to a red-haired youth with enormous feet, who looked as
if he were taking his first lesson at the game.

Mike walked away without a word.

* * * * *

The Archaeological Society expeditions, even though they carried with
them the privilege of listening to Psmith's views of life, proved but a
poor substitute for cricket. Psmith, who had no counterattraction
shouting to him that he ought to be elsewhere, seemed to enjoy them
hugely, but Mike almost cried sometimes from boredom. It was not always
possible to slip away from the throng, for Mr. Outwood evidently looked
upon them as among the very faithful, and kept them by his side.

Mike on these occasions was silent and jumpy, his brow "sicklied o'er
with the pale cast of care." But Psmith followed his leader with the
pleased and indulgent air of a father whose infant son is showing him
round the garden. Psmith's attitude toward archaeological research
struck a new note in the history of that neglected science. He was
amiable, but patronizing. He patronized fossils, and he patronized
ruins. If he had been confronted with the Great Pyramid, he would have
patronized that.

He seemed to be consumed by a thirst for knowledge.

That this was not altogether a genuine thirst was proved in the third
expedition. Mr. Outwood and his band were pecking away at the site of an
old Roman camp. Psmith approached Mike.

"Having inspired confidence," he said, "by the docility of our demeanor,
let us slip away, and brood apart for awhile. Roman camps, to be
absolutely accurate, give me the pip. And I never want to see another
putrid fossil in my life. Let us find some shady nook where a man may
lie on his back for a bit."

Mike, over whom the proceedings connected with the Roman camp had long
since begun to shed a blue depression, offered no opposition, and they
strolled away down the hill.

Looking back, they saw that the archaeologists were still hard at it.
Their departure had passed unnoticed.

"A fatiguing pursuit, this grubbing for mementos of the past," said
Psmith. "And, above all, dashed bad for the knees of the trousers. Mine
are like some furrowed field. It's a great grief to a man of refinement,
I can tell you, Comrade Jackson. Ah, this looks a likely spot."

They had passed through a gate into the field beyond. At the farther end
there was a brook, shaded by trees and running with a pleasant sound
over pebbles.

"Thus far," said Psmith, hitching up the knees of his trousers, and
sitting down, "and no farther. We will rest here awhile, and listen to
the music of the brook. In fact, unless you have anything important to
say, I rather think I'll go to sleep. In this busy life of ours these
naps by the wayside are invaluable. Call me in about an hour." And
Psmith, heaving the comfortable sigh of the worker who by toil has
earned rest, lay down, with his head against a mossy tree stump, and
closed his eyes.

Mike sat on for a few minutes, listening to the water and making
centuries in his mind, and then, finding this a little dull, he got up,
jumped the brook, and began to explore the wood on the other side.

He had not gone many yards when a dog emerged suddenly from the
undergrowth, and began to bark vigorously at him.

Mike liked dogs, and, on acquaintance, they always liked him. But when
you meet a dog in someone else's wood, it is as well not to stop in
order that you may get to understand each other. Mike began to thread
his way back through the trees.

He was too late.

"Stop! What the dickens are you doing here?" shouted a voice behind him.

In the same situation a few years before, Mike would have carried on,
and trusted to speed to save him. But now there seemed a lack of dignity
in the action. He came back to where the man was standing.

"I'm sorry if I'm trespassing," he said. "I was just having a look
round."

"The dickens you - Why, you're Jackson!"

Mike looked at him. He was a short, broad young man with a fair
moustache. Mike knew that he had seen him before somewhere, but he could
not place him.

"I played against you, for the Free Foresters last summer. In passing
you seem to be a bit of a free forester yourself, dancing in among my
nesting pheasants."

"I'm frightfully sorry."

"That's all right. Where do you spring from?"

"Of course - I remember you now. You're Prendergast. You made fifty-eight
not out."

"Thanks. I was afraid the only thing you would remember about me was
that you took a century mostly off my bowling."

"You ought to have had me second ball, only cover dropped it."

"Don't rake up forgotten tragedies. How is it you're not at Wrykyn? What
are you doing down here?"

"I've left Wrykyn."

Prendergast suddenly changed the conversation. When a fellow tells you
that he has left school unexpectedly, it is not always tactful to
inquire the reason. He began to talk about himself.

"I hang out down here. I do a little farming and a good deal of
puttering about."

"Get any cricket?" asked Mike, turning to the subject next his heart.

"Only village. Very keen, but no great shakes. By the way, how are you
off for cricket now? Have you ever got a spare afternoon?"

Mike's heart leaped.

"Any Wednesday or Saturday. Look here, I'll tell you how it is."

And he told how matters stood with him.

"So, you see," he concluded, "I'm supposed to be hunting for ruins and
things" - Mike's ideas on the subject of archaeology were vague - "but I
could always slip away. We all start out together, but I could nip back,
get onto my bike - I've got it down here - and meet you anywhere you
liked. By Jove, I'm simply dying for a game. I can hardly keep my hands
off a bat."

"I'll give you all you want. What you'd better do is to ride straight to
Lower Borlock - that's the name of the place - and I'll meet you on the
ground. Anyone will tell you where Lower Borlock is. It's just off the
London road. There's a signpost where you turn off. Can you come next
Saturday?"

"Rather. I suppose you can fix me up with a bat and pads? I don't want
to bring mine."

"I'll lend you everything. I say, you know, we can't give you a Wrykyn
wicket. The Lower Borlock pitch isn't a shirt front."

"I'll play on a rockery, if you want me to," said Mike.

* * * * *

"You're going to what?" asked Psmith, sleepily, on being awakened and
told the news.

"I'm going to play cricket, for a village near here. I say, don't tell a
soul, will you? I don't want it to get about, or I may get lugged in to
play for the school."

"My lips are sealed. I think I'll come and watch you. Cricket I dislike,
but watching cricket is one of the finest of Britain's manly sports.
I'll borrow Jellicoe's bicycle."

* * * * *

That Saturday, Lower Borlock smote the men of Chidford hip and thigh.
Their victory was due to a hurricane innings of seventy-five by a
newcomer to the team, M. Jackson.



9

THE FIRE BRIGADE MEETING


Cricket is the great safety valve. If you like the game, and are in a
position to play it at least twice a week, life can never be entirely
gray. As time went on, and his average for Lower Borlock reached the
fifties and stayed there, Mike began, though he would not have admitted
it, to enjoy himself. It was not Wrykyn, but it was a very decent
substitute.

The only really considerable element making for discomfort now was Mr.
Downing. By bad luck it was in his form that Mike had been placed on
arrival; and Mr. Downing, never an easy form master to get on with,
proved more than usually difficult in his dealings with Mike.

They had taken a dislike to each other at their first meeting; and it
grew with further acquaintance. To Mike, Mr. Downing was all that a
master ought not to be, fussy, pompous, and openly influenced in his
official dealings with his form by his own private likes and dislikes.
To Mr. Downing, Mike was simply an unamiable loafer, who did nothing for
the school and apparently had none of the healthy instincts which should
be implanted in the healthy boy. Mr. Downing was rather strong on the
healthy boy.

The two lived in a state of simmering hostility, punctuated at intervals
by crises, which usually resulted in Lower Borlock having to play some
unskilled laborer in place of their star batsman, employed doing
"overtime."

One of the most acute of these crises, and the most important, in that
it was the direct cause of Mike's appearance in Sedleigh cricket, had to
do with the third weekly meeting of the School Fire Brigade.

It may be remembered that this well-supported institution was under Mr.
Downing's special care. It was, indeed, his pet hobby and the apple
of his eye.

Just as you had to join the Archaeological Society to secure the esteem
of Mr. Outwood, so to become a member of the Fire Brigade was a safe
passport to the regard of Mr. Downing. To show a keenness for cricket
was good, but to join the Fire Brigade was best of all.

The Brigade was carefully organized. At its head was Mr. Downing, a sort
of high priest; under him was a captain, and under the captain a
vice-captain. These two officials were those sportive allies, Stone and
Robinson, of Outwood's house, who, having perceived at a very early date
the gorgeous opportunities for ragging which the Brigade offered to its
members, had joined young and worked their way up.

Under them were the rank and file, about thirty in all, of whom perhaps
seven were earnest workers, who looked on the Brigade in the right, or
Downing, spirit. The rest were entirely frivolous.

The weekly meetings were always full of life and excitement.

At this point it is as well to introduce Sammy to the reader.

Sammy, short for Sampson, was a young bull terrier belonging to Mr.
Downing. If it is possible for a man to have two apples of his eye,
Sammy was the other. He was a large, lighthearted dog with a white coat,
an engaging expression, the tongue of an anteater, and a manner which
was a happy blend of hurricane and circular saw. He had long legs, a
tenor voice, and was apparently made of India rubber.

Sammy was a great favorite in the school, and a particular friend of
Mike's, the Wrykynian being always a firm ally of every dog he met after
two minutes' acquaintance.

In passing, Jellicoe owned a clockwork rat, much in request during
French lessons.

We will now proceed to the painful details.

* * * * *

The meetings of the Fire Brigade were held after school in Mr. Downing's
form room. The proceedings always began in the same way, by the reading
of the minutes of the last meeting. After that the entertainment varied
according to whether the members happened to be fertile or not in ideas
for the disturbing of the peace.

Today they were in very fair form.

As soon as Mr. Downing had closed the minute book, Wilson, of the School
House, held up his hand.

"Well, Wilson?"

"Please, sir, couldn't we have a uniform for the Brigade?"

"A uniform?" Mr. Downing pondered.

"Red, with green stripes, sir."

Red, with a thin green stripe, was the Sedleigh color.

"Shall I put it to the vote, sir?" asked Stone.

"One moment, Stone."

"Those in favor of the motion move to the left, those against it to the
right."

A scuffling of feet, a slamming of desk lids and an upset blackboard,
and the meeting had divided.

Mr. Downing rapped irritably on his desk.

"Sit down!" he said. "Sit down! I won't have this noise and disturbance.
Stone, sit down - Wilson, get back to your place."

"Please, sir, the motion is carried by twenty-five votes to six."

"Please, sir, may I go and get measured this evening?"

"Please, sir - "

"Si-_lence!_ The idea of a uniform is, of course, out of the question."

"Oo-oo-oo-oo, sir-r-r!"

"Be _quiet!_ Entirely out of the question. We cannot plunge into
needless expense. Stone, listen to me. I cannot have this noise and
disturbance! Another time when a point arises it must be settled by a
show of hands. Well, Wilson?"

"Please, sir, may we have helmets?"

"Very useful as a protection against falling timbers, sir," said
Robinson.

"I don't think my people would be pleased, sir, if they knew I was going
out to fires without a helmet," said Stone.

The whole strength of the company: "Please, sir, may we have helmets?"

"Those in favor ..." began Stone.

Mr. Downing banged on his desk. "Silence! Silence!! Silence!!! Helmets
are, of course, perfectly preposterous."

"Oo-oo-oo-oo, sir-r-r!"

"But, sir, the danger!"

"Please, sir, the falling timbers!"

The Fire Brigade had been in action once and once only in the memory of
man, and that time it was a haystack which had burned itself out just as
the rescuers had succeeded in fastening the hose to the hydrant.

"Silence!"

"Then, please, sir, couldn't we have an honor cap? It wouldn't be
expensive, and it would be just as good as a helmet for all the timbers
that are likely to fall on our heads."

Mr. Downing smiled a wry smile.

"Our Wilson is facetious," he remarked frostily.

"Sir, no, sir! I wasn't facetious! Or couldn't we have tasseled caps
like the first fifteen have? They - "

"Wilson, leave the room!"

"Sir, _please_, sir!"

"This moment, Wilson. And," as he reached the door, "do me one hundred
lines."

A pained "OO-oo-oo, sir-r-r," was cut off by the closing door.

Mr. Downing proceeded to improve the occasion. "I deplore this growing
spirit of flippancy," he said. "I tell you I deplore it! It is not
right! If this Fire Brigade is to be of solid use, there must be less of
this flippancy. We must have keenness. I want you boys above all to be
keen. I...? What is that noise?"

From the other side of the door proceeded a sound like water gurgling
from a bottle, mingled with cries half suppressed, as if somebody were
being prevented from uttering them by a hand laid over his mouth. The
sufferer appeared to have a high voice.

There was a tap at the door and Mike walked in. He was not alone. Those
near enough to see, saw that he was accompanied by Jellicoe's clockwork
rat, which moved rapidly over the floor in the direction of the
opposite wall.

"May I fetch a book from my desk, sir?" asked Mike.

"Very well - be quick, Jackson; we are busy."

Being interrupted in one of his addresses to the Brigade irritated Mr.
Downing.

The muffled cries grew more distinct.

"What ... is ... that ... noise?" shrilled Mr. Downing.

"Noise, sir?" asked Mike, puzzled.

"I think it's something outside the window, sir," said Stone helpfully.

"A bird, I think, sir," said Robinson.

"Don't be absurd!" snapped Mr. Downing. "It's outside the door. Wilson!"

"Yes, sir?" said a voice "off."

"Are you making that whining noise?"

"Whining noise, sir? No, sir, I'm not making a whining noise."

"What _sort_ of noise, sir?" inquired Mike, as many Wrykynians had asked
before him. It was a question invented by Wrykyn for use in just such a
case as this.

"I do not propose," said Mr. Downing acidly, "to imitate the noise; you
can all hear it perfectly plainly. It is a curious whining noise."

"They are mowing the cricket field, sir," said the invisible Wilson.
"Perhaps that's it."

"It may be one of the desks squeaking, sir," put in Stone. "They do
sometimes."

"Or somebody's shoes, sir," added Robinson.

"Silence! Wilson?"

"Yes, sir?" bellowed the unseen one.

"Don't shout at me from the corridor like that. Come in."

"Yes, sir!"

As he spoke the muffled whining changed suddenly to a series of tenor
shrieks, and the India-rubber form of Sammy bounded into the room like
an excited kangaroo.

Willing hands had by this time deflected the clockwork rat from the wall
to which it had been steering, and pointed it up the alleyway between
the two rows of desks. Mr. Downing, rising from his place, was just in
time to see Sammy with a last leap spring on his prey and begin
worrying it.

Chaos reigned.

"A rat!" shouted Robinson.

The twenty-three members of the Brigade who were not earnest instantly
dealt with the situation, each in the manner that seemed proper to him.
Some leaped onto forms, others flung books, all shouted. It was a
stirring, bustling scene.

Sammy had by this time disposed of the clockwork rat, and was now
standing, like Marius, among the ruins barking triumphantly.

The banging on Mr. Downing's desk resembled thunder. It rose above all
the other noises till in time they gave up the competition and
died away.

Mr. Downing shot out orders, threats, and penalties with the rapidity of
a Bren gun.

"Stone, sit down! Donovan, if you do not sit down you will be severely
punished. Henderson, one hundred lines for gross disorder! Windham, the
same! Go to your seat, Vincent. What are you doing, Broughton-Knight? I
will not have this disgraceful noise and disorder! The meeting is at an
end; go quietly from the room, all of you. Jackson and Wilson, remain.
_Quietly_, I said, Durand! Don't shuffle your feet in that
abominable way."

Crash!

"Wolferstan, I distinctly saw you upset that blackboard with a movement
of your hand - one hundred lines. Go quietly from the room, everybody."

The meeting dispersed.

"Jackson and Wilson, come here. What's the meaning of this disgraceful
conduct? Put that dog out of the room, Jackson."

Mike removed the yelling Sammy and shut the door on him.

"Well, Wilson?"

"Please, sir, I was playing with a clockwork rat - "

"What business have you to be playing with clockwork rats?"

"Then I remembered," said Mike, "that I had left my Horace in my desk,
so I came in - "

"And by a fluke, sir," said Wilson, as one who tells of strange things,
"the rat happened to be pointing in the same direction, so he came
in, too."

"I met Sammy on the gravel outside and he followed me."

"I tried to collar him, but when you told me to come in, sir, I had to
let him go, and he came in after the rat."

It was plain to Mr. Downing that the burden of sin was shared equally by
both culprits. Wilson had supplied the rat, Mike the dog; but Mr.
Downing liked Wilson and disliked Mike. Wilson was in the Fire Brigade,
frivolous at times, it was true, but nevertheless a member. Also he kept
wicket for the school. Mike was a member of the Archaeological Society,
and had refused to play cricket.

Mr. Downing allowed these facts to influence him in passing sentence.

"One hundred lines, Wilson," he said. "You may go."

Wilson departed with the air of a man who has had a great deal of fun,
and paid very little for it.

Mr. Downing turned to Mike. "You will stay in on Saturday afternoon,
Jackson; it will interfere with your Archaeological studies, I fear, but
it may teach you that we have no room at Sedleigh for boys who spend
their time loafing about and making themselves a nuisance. We are a keen
school; this is no place for boys who do nothing but waste their time.
That will do, Jackson."

And Mr. Downing walked out of the room. In affairs of this kind a master
has a habit of getting the last word.



10

ACHILLES LEAVES HIS TENT


They say misfortunes never come singly. As Mike sat brooding over his
wrongs in his study, after the Sammy incident, Jellicoe came into the
room, and, without preamble, asked for the loan of a pound.

When one has been in the habit of confining one's lendings and
borrowings to sixpences and shillings, a request for a pound comes as
something of a blow.

"What on earth for?" asked Mike.

"I say, do you mind if I don't tell you? I don't want to tell anybody.
The fact is, I'm in a beastly hole."

"Oh, sorry," said Mike. "As a matter of fact, I do happen to have a
quid. You can freeze on to it, if you like. But it's about all I have
got, so don't be shy about paying it back."

Jellicoe was profuse in his thanks, and disappeared in a cloud of
gratitude.

Mike felt that Fate was treating him badly. Being kept in on Saturday
meant that he would be unable to turn out for Little Borlock against
Claythorpe, the return match. In the previous game he had scored
ninety-eight, and there was a lob bowler in the Claythorpe ranks whom he
was particularly anxious to meet again. Having to yield a sovereign to
Jellicoe - why on earth did the man want all that? - meant that, unless a
carefully worded letter to his brother Bob at Oxford had the desired
effect, he would be practically penniless for weeks.

In a gloomy frame of mind he sat down to write to Bob, who was playing
regularly for the Varsity this season, and only the previous week had
made a century against Sussex, so might be expected to be in a
sufficiently softened mood to advance the needful. (Which, it may be
stated at once, he did, by return of post.)

Mike was struggling with the opening sentences of this letter - he was
never a very ready writer - when Stone and Robinson burst into the room.

Mike put down his pen, and got up. He was in warlike mood, and welcomed
the intrusion. If Stone and Robinson wanted battle, they should have it.

But the motives of the expedition were obviously friendly. Stone beamed.
Robinson was laughing.

"You're a sportsman," said Robinson.

"What did he give you?" asked Stone.

They sat down, Robinson on the table, Stone in Psmith's deck chair.
Mike's heart warmed to them. The little disturbance in the dormitory was
a thing of the past, done with, forgotten, contemporary with Julius
Caesar. He felt that he, Stone and Robinson must learn to know and
appreciate one another.

There was, as a matter of fact, nothing much wrong with Stone and
Robinson. They were just ordinary raggers of the type found at every
public school, small and large. They were absolutely free from brain.
They had a certain amount of muscle, and a vast store of animal spirits.
They looked on school life purely as a vehicle for ragging. The Stones
and Robinsons are the swashbucklers of the school world. They go about,
loud and boisterous, with a wholehearted and cheerful indifference to
other people's feelings, treading on the toes of their neighbor and
shoving him off the pavement, and always with an eye wide open for any
adventure. As to the kind of adventure, they are not particular so long
as it promises excitement. Sometimes they go through their whole school
career without accident. More often they run up against a snag in the
shape of some serious-minded and muscular person, who objects to having
his toes trodden on and being shoved off the pavement, and then they
usually sober down, to the mutual advantage of themselves and the rest
of the community.

One's opinion of this type of youth varies according to one's point of
view. Small boys whom they had occasion to kick, either from pure high


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