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Mike - Chapter XXXVI - ADAIR Post by :signal4 Category :Long Stories Author :P G Wodehouse Date :June 2011 Read :1288

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Mike - Chapter XXXVI - ADAIR

CHAPTER XXXVI - ADAIR


On the same morning Mike met Adair for the first time.

He was going across to school with Psmith and Jellicoe, when a group
of three came out of the gate of the house next door.

"That's Adair," said Jellicoe, "in the middle."

His voice had assumed a tone almost of awe.

"Who's Adair?" asked Mike.

"Captain of cricket, and lots of other things."

Mike could only see the celebrity's back. He had broad shoulders and
wiry, light hair, almost white. He walked well, as if he were used to
running. Altogether a fit-looking sort of man. Even Mike's jaundiced
eye saw that.

As a matter of fact, Adair deserved more than a casual glance. He was
that rare type, the natural leader. Many boys and men, if accident, or
the passage of time, places them in a position where they are expected
to lead, can handle the job without disaster; but that is a very
different thing from being a born leader. Adair was of the sort that
comes to the top by sheer force of character and determination. He
was not naturally clever at work, but he had gone at it with a dogged
resolution which had carried him up the school, and landed him high in
the Sixth. As a cricketer he was almost entirely self-taught. Nature
had given him a good eye, and left the thing at that. Adair's
doggedness had triumphed over her failure to do her work thoroughly.
At the cost of more trouble than most people give to their life-work
he had made himself into a bowler. He read the authorities, and
watched first-class players, and thought the thing out on his own
account, and he divided the art of bowling into three sections. First,
and most important--pitch. Second on the list--break. Third--pace. He
set himself to acquire pitch. He acquired it. Bowling at his own pace
and without any attempt at break, he could now drop the ball on an
envelope seven times out of ten.

Break was a more uncertain quantity. Sometimes he could get it at the
expense of pitch, sometimes at the expense of pace. Some days he could
get all three, and then he was an uncommonly bad man to face on
anything but a plumb wicket.

Running he had acquired in a similar manner. He had nothing
approaching style, but he had twice won the mile and half-mile at the
Sports off elegant runners, who knew all about stride and the correct
timing of the sprints and all the rest of it.

Briefly, he was a worker. He had heart.

A boy of Adair's type is always a force in a school. In a big public
school of six or seven hundred, his influence is felt less; but in a
small school like Sedleigh he is like a tidal wave, sweeping all
before him. There were two hundred boys at Sedleigh, and there was not
one of them in all probability who had not, directly or indirectly,
been influenced by Adair. As a small boy his sphere was not large, but
the effects of his work began to be apparent even then. It is human
nature to want to get something which somebody else obviously values
very much; and when it was observed by members of his form that Adair
was going to great trouble and inconvenience to secure a place in the
form eleven or fifteen, they naturally began to think, too, that it
was worth being in those teams. The consequence was that his form
always played hard. This made other forms play hard. And the net
result was that, when Adair succeeded to the captaincy of football
and cricket in the same year, Sedleigh, as Mr. Downing, Adair's
house-master and the nearest approach to a cricket-master that
Sedleigh possessed, had a fondness for saying, was a keen school.
As a whole, it both worked and played with energy.

All it wanted now was opportunity.

This Adair was determined to give it. He had that passionate fondness
for his school which every boy is popularly supposed to have, but
which really is implanted in about one in every thousand. The average
public-school boy _likes his school. He hopes it will lick
Bedford at footer and Malvern at cricket, but he rather bets it won't.
He is sorry to leave, and he likes going back at the end of the
holidays, but as for any passionate, deep-seated love of the place, he
would think it rather bad form than otherwise. If anybody came up to
him, slapped him on the back, and cried, "Come along, Jenkins, my boy!
Play up for the old school, Jenkins! The dear old school! The old
place you love so!" he would feel seriously ill.

Adair was the exception.

To Adair, Sedleigh was almost a religion. Both his parents were dead;
his guardian, with whom he spent the holidays, was a man with
neuralgia at one end of him and gout at the other; and the only really
pleasant times Adair had had, as far back as he could remember, he
owed to Sedleigh. The place had grown on him, absorbed him. Where
Mike, violently transplanted from Wrykyn, saw only a wretched little
hole not to be mentioned in the same breath with Wrykyn, Adair,
dreaming of the future, saw a colossal establishment, a public school
among public schools, a lump of human radium, shooting out Blues and
Balliol Scholars year after year without ceasing.

It would not be so till long after he was gone and forgotten, but he
did not mind that. His devotion to Sedleigh was purely unselfish. He
did not want fame. All he worked for was that the school should grow
and grow, keener and better at games and more prosperous year by year,
till it should take its rank among _the schools, and to be an
Old Sedleighan should be a badge passing its owner everywhere.

"He's captain of cricket and footer," said Jellicoe impressively.
"He's in the shooting eight. He's won the mile and half two years
running. He would have boxed at Aldershot last term, only he sprained
his wrist. And he plays fives jolly well!"

"Sort of little tin god," said Mike, taking a violent dislike to Adair
from that moment.

Mike's actual acquaintance with this all-round man dated from the
dinner-hour that day. Mike was walking to the house with Psmith.
Psmith was a little ruffled on account of a slight passage-of-arms he
had had with his form-master during morning school.

"'There's a P before the Smith,' I said to him. 'Ah, P. Smith, I see,'
replied the goat. 'Not Peasmith,' I replied, exercising wonderful
self-restraint, 'just Psmith.' It took me ten minutes to drive the
thing into the man's head; and when I _had driven it in, he sent
me out of the room for looking at him through my eye-glass. Comrade
Jackson, I fear me we have fallen among bad men. I suspect that we are
going to be much persecuted by scoundrels."

"Both you chaps play cricket, I suppose?"

They turned. It was Adair. Seeing him face to face, Mike was aware of
a pair of very bright blue eyes and a square jaw. In any other place
and mood he would have liked Adair at sight. His prejudice, however,
against all things Sedleighan was too much for him. "I don't," he said
shortly.

"Haven't you _ever played?"

"My little sister and I sometimes play with a soft ball at home."

Adair looked sharply at him. A temper was evidently one of his
numerous qualities.

"Oh," he said. "Well, perhaps you wouldn't mind turning out this
afternoon and seeing what you can do with a hard ball--if you can
manage without your little sister."

"I should think the form at this place would be about on a level with
hers. But I don't happen to be playing cricket, as I think I told
you."

Adair's jaw grew squarer than ever. Mike was wearing a gloomy scowl.

Psmith joined suavely in the dialogue.

"My dear old comrades," he said, "don't let us brawl over this matter.
This is a time for the honeyed word, the kindly eye, and the pleasant
smile. Let me explain to Comrade Adair. Speaking for Comrade Jackson
and myself, we should both be delighted to join in the mimic warfare
of our National Game, as you suggest, only the fact is, we happen to
be the Young Archaeologists. We gave in our names last night. When you
are being carried back to the pavilion after your century against
Loamshire--do you play Loamshire?--we shall be grubbing in the hard
ground for ruined abbeys. The old choice between Pleasure and Duty,
Comrade Adair. A Boy's Cross-Roads."

"Then you won't play?"

"No," said Mike.

"Archaeology," said Psmith, with a deprecatory wave of the hand, "will
brook no divided allegiance from her devotees."

Adair turned, and walked on.

Scarcely had he gone, when another voice hailed them with precisely
the same question.

"Both you fellows are going to play cricket, eh?"

It was a master. A short, wiry little man with a sharp nose and a
general resemblance, both in manner and appearance, to an excitable
bullfinch.

"I saw Adair speaking to you. I suppose you will both play. I like
every new boy to begin at once. The more new blood we have, the
better. We want keenness here. We are, above all, a keen school. I
want every boy to be keen."

"We are, sir," said Psmith, with fervour.

"Excellent."

"On archaeology."

Mr. Downing--for it was no less a celebrity--started, as one who
perceives a loathly caterpillar in his salad.

"Archaeology!"

"We gave in our names to Mr. Outwood last night, sir. Archaeology is a
passion with us, sir. When we heard that there was a society here, we
went singing about the house."

"I call it an unnatural pursuit for boys," said Mr. Downing
vehemently. "I don't like it. I tell you I don't like it. It is not
for me to interfere with one of my colleagues on the staff, but I tell
you frankly that in my opinion it is an abominable waste of time for a
boy. It gets him into idle, loafing habits."

"I never loaf, sir," said Psmith.

"I was not alluding to you in particular. I was referring to the
principle of the thing. A boy ought to be playing cricket with other
boys, not wandering at large about the country, probably smoking and
going into low public-houses."

"A very wild lot, sir, I fear, the Archaeological Society here,"
sighed Psmith, shaking his head.

"If you choose to waste your time, I suppose I can't hinder you. But
in my opinion it is foolery, nothing else."

He stumped off.

"Now _he's cross," said Psmith, looking after him. "I'm afraid
we're getting ourselves disliked here."

"Good job, too."

"At any rate, Comrade Outwood loves us. Let's go on and see what sort
of a lunch that large-hearted fossil-fancier is going to give us."

Content of CHAPTER XXXVI - ADAIR (P G Wodehouse's novel: Mike)

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