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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesMike - Chapter LIII - THE KETTLE METHOD
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Mike - Chapter LIII - THE KETTLE METHOD Post by :Patrickwc Category :Long Stories Author :P G Wodehouse Date :June 2011 Read :2533

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Mike - Chapter LIII - THE KETTLE METHOD

CHAPTER LIII - THE KETTLE METHOD


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 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 of life, had shirked early-morning fielding-practice
in his first term at Wrykyn. And Stone and Robinson had but a luke-warm
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 equalled 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 game
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 to-day'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."

"Yes."

At this moment Adair came into the shop.

"Fielding-practice again to-morrow," he said briskly, "at six."

"Before breakfast?" said Robinson.

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

Stone was the first to recover.

"I'm hanged if I turn out to-morrow," he said, as they left the shop.
"He can do what be 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 round, 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 wrapped 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. To-day, however, though the house-prefects
expressed varying degrees of excitement at the news that Tyldesley 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 this 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 non-starters 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 backwards against the captain.

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

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

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

"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."

"Oh?"

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

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?"

"No."

"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 to-morrow morning."

"What!"

"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 to-morrow?" said
Adair.

"All right," said Stone.

"Thanks. How about you, Robinson?"

Robinson had been a petrified spectator of the Captain-Kettle-like
manoeuvres 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."

Content of CHAPTER LIII - THE KETTLE METHOD (P G Wodehouse's novel: Mike)

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