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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesMike - Chapter XXXI - SEDLEIGH
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Mike - Chapter XXXI - SEDLEIGH Post by :schnapf Category :Long Stories Author :P G Wodehouse Date :June 2011 Read :1190

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Mike - Chapter XXXI - SEDLEIGH

CHAPTER XXXI - SEDLEIGH


The train, which had been stopping everywhere for the last half-hour,
pulled up again, and Mike, seeing the name of the station, got up,
opened the door, and hurled a Gladstone bag out on to the platform in
an emphatic and vindictive manner. Then he got out himself and looked
about him.

"For the school, sir?" inquired the solitary porter, bustling up, as
if he hoped by sheer energy to deceive the traveller into thinking
that Sedleigh station was staffed by a great army of porters.

Mike nodded. A sombre nod. The nod Napoleon might have given if
somebody had met him in 1812, and said, "So you're back from Moscow,
eh?" Mike was feeling thoroughly jaundiced. The future seemed wholly
gloomy. And, so far from attempting to make the best of things, he had
set himself deliberately to look on the dark side. He thought, for
instance, that he had never seen a more repulsive porter, or one more
obviously incompetent than the man who had attached himself with a
firm grasp to the handle of the bag as he strode off in the direction
of the luggage-van. He disliked his voice, his appearance, and the
colour of his hair. Also the boots he wore. He hated the station, and
the man who took his ticket.

"Young gents at the school, sir," said the porter, perceiving from
Mike's _distrait air that the boy was a stranger to the place,
"goes up in the 'bus mostly. It's waiting here, sir. Hi, George!"

"I'll walk, thanks," said Mike frigidly.

"It's a goodish step, sir."

"Here you are."

"Thank you, sir. I'll send up your luggage by the 'bus, sir. Which
'ouse was it you was going to?"

"Outwood's."

"Right, sir. It's straight on up this road to the school. You can't
miss it, sir."

"Worse luck," said Mike.

He walked off up the road, sorrier for himself than ever. It was such
absolutely rotten luck. About now, instead of being on his way to a
place where they probably ran a diabolo team instead of a cricket
eleven, and played hunt-the-slipper in winter, he would be on the
point of arriving at Wrykyn. And as captain of cricket, at that. Which
was the bitter part of it. He had never been in command. For the last
two seasons he had been the star man, going in first, and heading the
averages easily at the end of the season; and the three captains under
whom he had played during his career as a Wrykynian, Burgess, Enderby,
and Henfrey had always been sportsmen to him. But it was not the same
thing. He had meant to do such a lot for Wrykyn cricket this term. He
had had an entirely new system of coaching in his mind. Now it might
never be used. He had handed it on in a letter to Strachan, who would
be captain in his place; but probably Strachan would have some scheme
of his own. There is nobody who could not edit a paper in the ideal
way; and there is nobody who has not a theory of his own about
cricket-coaching at school.

Wrykyn, too, would be weak this year, now that he was no longer there.
Strachan was a good, free bat on his day, and, if he survived a few
overs, might make a century in an hour, but he was not to be depended
upon. There was no doubt that Mike's sudden withdrawal meant that
Wrykyn would have a bad time that season. And it had been such a
wretched athletic year for the school. The football fifteen had been
hopeless, and had lost both the Ripton matches, the return by over
sixty points. Sheen's victory in the light-weights at Aldershot had
been their one success. And now, on top of all this, the captain of
cricket was removed during the Easter holidays. Mike's heart bled for
Wrykyn, and he found himself loathing Sedleigh and all its works with
a great loathing.

The only thing he could find in its favour was the fact that it was
set in a very pretty country. Of a different type from the Wrykyn
country, but almost as good. For three miles Mike made his way through
woods and past fields. Once he crossed a river. It was soon after this
that he caught sight, from the top of a hill, of a group of buildings
that wore an unmistakably school-like look.

This must be Sedleigh.

Ten minutes' walk brought him to the school gates, and a baker's boy
directed him to Mr. Outwood's.

There were three houses in a row, separated from the school buildings
by a cricket-field. Outwood's was the middle one of these.

Mike went to the front door, and knocked. At Wrykyn he had always
charged in at the beginning of term at the boys' entrance, but this
formal reporting of himself at Sedleigh suited his mood.

He inquired for Mr. Outwood, and was shown into a room lined with
books. Presently the door opened, and the house-master appeared.

There was something pleasant and homely about Mr. Outwood. In
appearance he reminded Mike of Smee in "Peter Pan." He had the same
eyebrows and pince-nez and the same motherly look.

"Jackson?" he said mildly.

"Yes, sir."

"I am very glad to see you, very glad indeed. Perhaps you would like a
cup of tea after your journey. I think you might like a cup of tea.
You come from Crofton, in Shropshire, I understand, Jackson, near
Brindleford? It is a part of the country which I have always wished to
visit. I daresay you have frequently seen the Cluniac Priory of St.
Ambrose at Brindleford?"

Mike, who would not have recognised a Cluniac Priory if you had handed
him one on a tray, said he had not.

"Dear me! You have missed an opportunity which I should have been glad
to have. I am preparing a book on Ruined Abbeys and Priories of
England, and it has always been my wish to see the Cluniac Priory of
St. Ambrose. A deeply interesting relic of the sixteenth century.
Bishop Geoffrey, 1133-40----"

"Shall I go across to the boys' part, sir?"

"What? Yes. Oh, yes. Quite so. And perhaps you would like a cup of tea
after your journey? No? Quite so. Quite so. You should make a point of
visiting the remains of the Cluniac Priory in the summer holidays,
Jackson. You will find the matron in her room. In many respects it is
unique. The northern altar is in a state of really wonderful
preservation. It consists of a solid block of masonry five feet long
and two and a half wide, with chamfered plinth, standing quite free
from the apse wall. It will well repay a visit. Good-bye for the
present, Jackson, good-bye."

Mike wandered across to the other side of the house, his gloom visibly
deepened. All alone in a strange school, where they probably played
hopscotch, with a house-master who offered one cups of tea after one's
journey and talked about chamfered plinths and apses. It was a little
hard.

He strayed about, finding his bearings, and finally came to a room
which he took to be the equivalent of the senior day-room at a Wrykyn
house. Everywhere else he had found nothing but emptiness. Evidently
he had come by an earlier train than was usual. But this room was
occupied.

A very long, thin youth, with a solemn face and immaculate clothes,
was leaning against the mantelpiece. As Mike entered, he fumbled in
his top left waistcoat pocket, produced an eyeglass attached to a
cord, and fixed it in his right eye. With the help of this aid to
vision he inspected Mike in silence for a while, then, having flicked
an invisible speck of dust from the left sleeve of his coat, he spoke.

"Hullo," he said.

He spoke in a tired voice.

"Hullo," said Mike.

"Take a seat," said the immaculate one. "If you don't mind dirtying
your bags, that's to say. Personally, I don't see any prospect of ever
sitting down in this place. It looks to me as if they meant to use
these chairs as mustard-and-cress beds. A Nursery Garden in the Home.
That sort of idea. My name," he added pensively, "is Smith. What's
yours?"

Content of CHAPTER XXXI - SEDLEIGH (P G Wodehouse's novel: Mike)

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