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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesMike - Chapter XXXVII - MIKE FINDS OCCUPATION
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Mike - Chapter XXXVII - MIKE FINDS OCCUPATION Post by :Byron Category :Long Stories Author :P G Wodehouse Date :June 2011 Read :2872

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Mike - Chapter XXXVII - MIKE FINDS OCCUPATION

CHAPTER XXXVII - MIKE FINDS OCCUPATION


There was more than one moment during the first fortnight of term when
Mike found himself regretting the attitude he had imposed upon himself
with regard to Sedleighan cricket. He began to realise the eternal
truth of the proverb about half a loaf and no bread. In the first
flush of his resentment against his new surroundings he had refused to
play cricket. And now he positively ached for a game. Any sort of a
game. An innings for a Kindergarten _v. the Second Eleven of a
Home of Rest for Centenarians would have soothed him. There were
times, when the sun shone, and he caught sight of white flannels on a
green ground, and heard the "plonk" of bat striking ball, when he felt
like rushing to Adair and shouting, "I _will be good. I was in
the Wrykyn team three years, and had an average of over fifty the last
two seasons. Lead me to the nearest net, and let me feel a bat in my
hands again."

But every time he shrank from such a climb down. It couldn't be done.

What made it worse was that he saw, after watching behind the nets
once or twice, that Sedleigh cricket was not the childish burlesque of
the game which he had been rash enough to assume that it must be.
Numbers do not make good cricket. They only make the presence of good
cricketers more likely, by the law of averages.

Mike soon saw that cricket was by no means an unknown art at Sedleigh.
Adair, to begin with, was a very good bowler indeed. He was not a
Burgess, but Burgess was the only Wrykyn bowler whom, in his three
years' experience of the school, Mike would have placed above him. He
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 swash-buckling 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 on life, proved but
a poor substitute for cricket. Psmith, who had no counter-attraction
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 aide.

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 towards archaeological research
struck a new note in the history of that neglected science. He was
amiable, but patronising. He patronised fossils, and he patronised
ruins. If he had been confronted with the Great Pyramid, he would have
patronised that.

He seemed to be consumed by a thirst for knowledge.

That this was not altogether a genuine thirst was proved on 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
demeanour, 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 mementoes 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 further
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 some one 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
pottering 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 on to 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. Any one will tell you where Lower Borlock is. It's just
off the London road. There's a sign-post 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
new-comer to the team, M. Jackson.

Content of CHAPTER XXXVII - MIKE FINDS OCCUPATION (P G Wodehouse's novel: Mike)

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