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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesMike - Chapter XXX - MR. JACKSON MAKES UP HIS MIND
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Mike - Chapter XXX - MR. JACKSON MAKES UP HIS MIND Post by :Deck_Warrior Category :Long Stories Author :P G Wodehouse Date :June 2011 Read :1733

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Mike - Chapter XXX - MR. JACKSON MAKES UP HIS MIND

CHAPTER XXX - MR. JACKSON MAKES UP HIS MIND


Two years have elapsed and Mike is home again for the Easter holidays.

If Mike had been in time for breakfast that morning he might have
gathered from the expression on his father's face, as Mr. Jackson
opened the envelope containing his school report and read the
contents, that the document in question was not exactly a paean of
praise from beginning to end. But he was late, as usual. Mike always
was late for breakfast in the holidays.

When he came down on this particular morning, the meal was nearly
over. Mr. Jackson had disappeared, taking his correspondence with him;
Mrs. Jackson had gone into the kitchen, and when Mike appeared the
thing had resolved itself into a mere vulgar brawl between Phyllis and
Ella for the jam, while Marjory, who had put her hair up a fortnight
before, looked on in a detached sort of way, as if these juvenile
gambols distressed her.

"Hullo, Mike," she said, jumping up as he entered; "here you are--I've
been keeping everything hot for you."

"Have you? Thanks awfully. I say--" his eye wandered in mild surprise
round the table. "I'm a bit late."

Marjory was bustling about, fetching and carrying for Mike, as she
always did. She had adopted him at an early age, and did the thing
thoroughly. She was fond of her other brothers, especially when they
made centuries in first-class cricket, but Mike was her favourite. She
would field out in the deep as a natural thing when Mike was batting
at the net in the paddock, though for the others, even for Joe, who
had played in all five Test Matches in the previous summer, she would
do it only as a favour.

Phyllis and Ella finished their dispute and went out. Marjory sat on
the table and watched Mike eat.

"Your report came this morning, Mike," she said.

The kidneys failed to retain Mike's undivided attention. He looked up
interested. "What did it say?"

"I didn't see--I only caught sight of the Wrykyn crest on the
envelope. Father didn't say anything."

Mike seemed concerned. "I say, that looks rather rotten! I wonder if
it was awfully bad. It's the first I've had from Appleby."

"It can't be any worse than the horrid ones Mr. Blake used to write
when you were in his form."

"No, that's a comfort," said Mike philosophically. "Think there's any
more tea in that pot?"

"I call it a shame," said Marjory; "they ought to be jolly glad to
have you at Wrykyn just for cricket, instead of writing beastly
reports that make father angry and don't do any good to anybody."

"Last summer he said he'd take me away if I got another one."

"He didn't mean it really, I _know he didn't! He couldn't!
You're the best bat Wrykyn's ever had."

"What ho!" interpolated Mike.

"You _are_. Everybody says you are. Why, you got your first the
very first term you were there--even Joe didn't do anything nearly so
good as that. Saunders says you're simply bound to play for England in
another year or two."

"Saunders is a jolly good chap. He bowled me a half-volley on the off
the first ball I had in a school match. By the way, I wonder if he's
out at the net now. Let's go and see."

Saunders was setting up the net when they arrived. Mike put on his
pads and went to the wickets, while Marjory and the dogs retired as
usual to the far hedge to retrieve.

She was kept busy. Saunders was a good sound bowler of the M.C.C.
minor match type, and there had been a time when he had worried Mike
considerably, but Mike had been in the Wrykyn team for three seasons
now, and each season he had advanced tremendously in his batting. He
had filled out in three years. He had always had the style, and now he
had the strength as well. Saunders's bowling on a true wicket seemed
simple to him. It was early in the Easter holidays, but already he was
beginning to find his form. Saunders, who looked on Mike as his own
special invention, was delighted.

"If you don't be worried by being too anxious now that you're captain,
Master Mike," he said, "you'll make a century every match next term."

"I wish I wasn't; it's a beastly responsibility."

Henfrey, the Wrykyn cricket captain of the previous season, was not
returning next term, and Mike was to reign in his stead. He liked the
prospect, but it certainly carried with it a rather awe-inspiring
responsibility. At night sometimes he would lie awake, appalled by the
fear of losing his form, or making a hash of things by choosing the
wrong men to play for the school and leaving the right men out. It is
no light thing to captain a public school at cricket.

As he was walking towards the house, Phyllis met him. "Oh, I've been
hunting for you, Mike; father wants you."

"What for?"

"I don't know."

"Where?"

"He's in the study. He seems--" added Phyllis, throwing in the
information by way of a make-weight, "in a beastly wax."

Mike's jaw fell slightly. "I hope the dickens it's nothing to do with
that bally report," was his muttered exclamation.

Mike's dealings with his father were as a rule of a most pleasant
nature. Mr. Jackson was an understanding sort of man, who treated his
sons as companions. From time to time, however, breezes were apt to
ruffle the placid sea of good-fellowship. Mike's end-of-term report
was an unfailing wind-raiser; indeed, on the arrival of Mr. Blake's
sarcastic _résumé of Mike's short-comings at the end of the
previous term, there had been something not unlike a typhoon. It was
on this occasion that Mr. Jackson had solemnly declared his intention
of removing Mike from Wrykyn unless the critics became more
flattering; and Mr. Jackson was a man of his word.

It was with a certain amount of apprehension, therefore, that Jackson
entered the study.

"Come in, Mike," said his father, kicking the waste-paper basket; "I
want to speak to you."

Mike, skilled in omens, scented a row in the offing. Only in moments
of emotion was Mr. Jackson in the habit of booting the basket.

There followed an awkward silence, which Mike broke by remarking that
he had carted a half-volley from Saunders over the on-side hedge that
morning.

"It was just a bit short and off the leg stump, so I stepped out--may
I bag the paper-knife for a jiffy? I'll just show----"

"Never mind about cricket now," said Mr. Jackson; "I want you to
listen to this report."

"Oh, is that my report, father?" said Mike, with a sort of sickly
interest, much as a dog about to be washed might evince in his tub.

"It is," replied Mr. Jackson in measured tones, "your report; what is
more, it is without exception the worst report you have ever had."

"Oh, I say!" groaned the record-breaker.

"'His conduct,'" quoted Mr. Jackson, "'has been unsatisfactory in the
extreme, both in and out of school.'"

"It wasn't anything really. I only happened----"

Remembering suddenly that what he had happened to do was to drop a
cannon-ball (the school weight) on the form-room floor, not once, but
on several occasions, he paused.

"'French bad; conduct disgraceful----'"

"Everybody rags in French."

"'Mathematics bad. Inattentive and idle.'"

"Nobody does much work in Math."

"'Latin poor. Greek, very poor.'"

"We were doing Thucydides, Book Two, last term--all speeches and
doubtful readings, and cruxes and things--beastly hard! Everybody says
so."

"Here are Mr. Appleby's remarks: 'The boy has genuine ability, which
he declines to use in the smallest degree.'"

Mike moaned a moan of righteous indignation.

"'An abnormal proficiency at games has apparently destroyed all desire
in him to realise the more serious issues of life.' There is more to
the same effect."

Mr. Appleby was a master with very definite ideas as to what
constituted a public-school master's duties. As a man he was
distinctly pro-Mike. He understood cricket, and some of Mike's shots
on the off gave him thrills of pure aesthetic joy; but as a master he
always made it his habit to regard the manners and customs of the boys
in his form with an unbiased eye, and to an unbiased eye Mike in a
form-room was about as near the extreme edge as a boy could be, and
Mr. Appleby said as much in a clear firm hand.

"You remember what I said to you about your report at Christmas,
Mike?" said Mr. Jackson, folding the lethal document and replacing it
in its envelope.

Mike said nothing; there was a sinking feeling in his interior.

"I shall abide by what I said."

Mike's heart thumped.

"You will not go back to Wrykyn next term."

Somewhere in the world the sun was shining, birds were twittering;
somewhere in the world lambkins frisked and peasants sang blithely at
their toil (flat, perhaps, but still blithely), but to Mike at that
moment the sky was black, and an icy wind blew over the face of the
earth.

The tragedy had happened, and there was an end of it. He made no
attempt to appeal against the sentence. He knew it would be useless,
his father, when he made up his mind, having all the unbending
tenacity of the normally easy-going man.

Mr. Jackson was sorry for Mike. He understood him, and for that reason
he said very little now.

"I am sending you to Sedleigh," was his next remark.

Sedleigh! Mike sat up with a jerk. He knew Sedleigh by name--one of
those schools with about a hundred fellows which you never hear of
except when they send up their gymnasium pair to Aldershot, or their
Eight to Bisley. Mike's outlook on life was that of a cricketer, pure
and simple. What had Sedleigh ever done? What were they ever likely to
do? Whom did they play? What Old Sedleighan had ever done anything at
cricket? Perhaps they didn't even _play cricket!

"But it's an awful hole," he said blankly.

Mr. Jackson could read Mike's mind like a book. Mike's point of view
was plain to him. He did not approve of it, but he knew that in Mike's
place and at Mike's age he would have felt the same. He spoke drily to
hide his sympathy.

"It is not a large school," he said, "and I don't suppose it could
play Wrykyn at cricket, but it has one merit--boys work there. Young
Barlitt won a Balliol scholarship from Sedleigh last year." Barlitt
was the vicar's son, a silent, spectacled youth who did not enter
very largely into Mike's world. They had met occasionally at
tennis-parties, but not much conversation had ensued. Barlitt's
mind was massive, but his topics of conversation were not Mike's.

"Mr. Barlitt speaks very highly of Sedleigh," added Mr. Jackson.

Mike said nothing, which was a good deal better than saying what he
would have liked to have said.

Content of CHAPTER XXX - MR. JACKSON MAKES UP HIS MIND (P G Wodehouse's novel: Mike)

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