Part 1 out of 8
Produced by Suzanne L. Shell, Jim Tinsley, Charles Franks
and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.
With thanks to Amherst College Library.
A PUBLIC SCHOOL STORY
P. G. WODEHOUSE
CONTAINING TWELVE FULL-PAGE ILLUSTRATIONS
BY T. M. R. WHITWELL
[Illustration (Frontispiece): "ARE YOU THE M. JACKSON THEN WHO HAD AN
AVERAGE OF FIFTY ONE POINT NOUGHT THREE LAST YEAR?"]
II. THE JOURNEY DOWN
III. MIKE FINDS A FRIENDLY NATIVE
IV. AT THE NETS
V. REVELRY BY NIGHT
VI. IN WHICH A TIGHT CORNER IS EVADED
VII. IN WHICH MIKE IS DISCUSSED
VIII. A ROW WITH THE TOWN
IX. BEFORE THE STORM
X. THE GREAT PICNIC
XI. THE CONCLUSION OF THE PICNIC
XII. MIKE GETS HIS CHANCE
XIII. THE M.C.C. MATCH
XIV. A SLIGHT IMBROGLIO
XV. MIKE CREATES A VACANCY
XVI. AN EXPERT EXAMINATION
XVII. ANOTHER VACANCY
XVIII. BOB HAS NEWS TO IMPART
XIX. MIKE GOES TO SLEEP AGAIN
XX. THE TEAM IS FILLED UP
XXI. MARJORY THE FRANK
XXII. WYATT IS REMINDED OF AN ENGAGEMENT
XXIII. A SURPRISE FOR MR. APPLEBY
XXV. MARCHING ORDERS
XXVI. THE AFTERMATH
XXVII. THE RIPTON MATCH
XXVIII. MIKE WINS HOME
XXIX. WYATT AGAIN
XXX. MR. JACKSON MAKES UP HIS MIND
XXXIII. STAKING OUT A CLAIM
XXXIV. GUERILLA WARFARE
XXXV. UNPLEASANTNESS IN THE SMALL HOURS
XXXVII. MIKE FINDS OCCUPATION
XXXVIII. THE FIRE BRIGADE MEETING
XXXIX. ACHILLES LEAVES HIS TENT
XL. THE MATCH WITH DOWNING'S
XLI. THE SINGULAR BEHAVIOUR OF JELLICOE
XLII. JELLICOE GOES ON THE SICK-LIST
XLIII. MIKE RECEIVES A COMMISSION
XLIV. AND FULFILS IT
XLVI. THE DECORATION OF SAMMY
XLVII. MR. DOWNING ON THE SCENT
XLVIII. THE SLEUTH-HOUND
XLIX. A CHECK
L. THE DESTROYER OF EVIDENCE
LI. MAINLY ABOUT BOOTS
LII. ON THE TRAIL AGAIN
LIII. THE KETTLE METHOD
LIV. ADAIR HAS A WORD WITH MIKE
LV. CLEARING THE AIR
LVI. IN WHICH PEACE IS DECLARED
LVII. MR. DOWNING MOVES
LVIII. THE ARTIST CLAIMS HIS WORK
LIX. SEDLEIGH _v._ WRYKYN
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
BY T. M. R. WHITWELL
"ARE YOU THE M. JACKSON, THEN, WHO HAD AN AVERAGE OF FIFTY-ONE POINT
NOUGHT THREE LAST YEAR?"
THE DARK WATERS WERE LASHED INTO A MAELSTROM
"DON'T _LAUGH_, YOU GRINNING APE"
"DO--YOU--SEE, YOU FRIGHTFUL KID?"
"WHAT'S ALL THIS ABOUT JIMMY WYATT?"
MIKE AND THE BALL ARRIVED ALMOST SIMULTANEOUSLY
"WHAT THE DICKENS ARE YOU DOING HERE?"
PSMITH SEIZED AND EMPTIED JELLICOE'S JUG OVER SPILLER
"WHY DID YOU SAY YOU DIDN'T PLAY CRICKET?" HE ASKED
"WHO--" HE SHOUTED, "WHO HAS DONE THIS?"
MIKE DROPPED THE SOOT-COVERED OBJECT IN THE FENDER
It was a morning in the middle of April, and the Jackson family were
consequently breakfasting in comparative silence. The cricket season
had not begun, and except during the cricket season they were in the
habit of devoting their powerful minds at breakfast almost exclusively
to the task of victualling against the labours of the day. In May,
June, July, and August the silence was broken. The three grown-up
Jacksons played regularly in first-class cricket, and there was always
keen competition among their brothers and sisters for the copy of the
_Sportsman_ which was to be found on the hall table with the
letters. Whoever got it usually gloated over it in silence till urged
wrathfully by the multitude to let them know what had happened; when
it would appear that Joe had notched his seventh century, or that
Reggie had been run out when he was just getting set, or, as sometimes
occurred, that that ass Frank had dropped Fry or Hayward in the slips
before he had scored, with the result that the spared expert had made
a couple of hundred and was still going strong.
In such a case the criticisms of the family circle, particularly of
the smaller Jackson sisters, were so breezy and unrestrained that Mrs.
Jackson generally felt it necessary to apply the closure. Indeed,
Marjory Jackson, aged fourteen, had on three several occasions been
fined pudding at lunch for her caustic comments on the batting of her
brother Reggie in important fixtures. Cricket was a tradition in the
family, and the ladies, unable to their sorrow to play the game
themselves, were resolved that it should not be their fault if the
standard was not kept up.
On this particular morning silence reigned. A deep gasp from some
small Jackson, wrestling with bread-and-milk, and an occasional remark
from Mr. Jackson on the letters he was reading, alone broke it.
"Mike's late again," said Mrs. Jackson plaintively, at last.
"He's getting up," said Marjory. "I went in to see what he was doing,
and he was asleep. So," she added with a satanic chuckle, "I squeezed
a sponge over him. He swallowed an awful lot, and then he woke up, and
tried to catch me, so he's certain to be down soon."
"Well, he was on his back with his mouth wide open. I had to. He was
snoring like anything."
"You might have choked him."
"I did," said Marjory with satisfaction. "Jam, please, Phyllis, you
Mr. Jackson looked up.
"Mike will have to be more punctual when he goes to Wrykyn," he said.
"Oh, father, is Mike going to Wrykyn?" asked Marjory. "When?"
"Next term," said Mr. Jackson. "I've just heard from Mr. Wain," he
added across the table to Mrs. Jackson. "The house is full, but he is
turning a small room into an extra dormitory, so he can take Mike
The first comment on this momentous piece of news came from Bob
Jackson. Bob was eighteen. The following term would be his last at
Wrykyn, and, having won through so far without the infliction of a
small brother, he disliked the prospect of not being allowed to finish
as he had begun.
"I say!" he said. "What?"
"He ought to have gone before," said Mr. Jackson. "He's fifteen. Much
too old for that private school. He has had it all his own way there,
and it isn't good for him."
"He's got cheek enough for ten," agreed Bob.
"Wrykyn will do him a world of good."
"We aren't in the same house. That's one comfort."
Bob was in Donaldson's. It softened the blow to a certain extent that
Mike should be going to Wain's. He had the same feeling for Mike that
most boys of eighteen have for their fifteen-year-old brothers. He was
fond of him in the abstract, but preferred him at a distance.
Marjory gave tongue again. She had rescued the jam from Phyllis, who
had shown signs of finishing it, and was now at liberty to turn her
mind to less pressing matters. Mike was her special ally, and anything
that affected his fortunes affected her.
"Hooray! Mike's going to Wrykyn. I bet he gets into the first eleven
his first term."
"Considering there are eight old colours left," said Bob loftily,
"besides heaps of last year's seconds, it's hardly likely that a kid
like Mike'll get a look in. He might get his third, if he sweats."
The aspersion stung Marjory.
"I bet he gets in before you, anyway," she said.
Bob disdained to reply. He was among those heaps of last year's
seconds to whom he had referred. He was a sound bat, though lacking
the brilliance of his elder brothers, and he fancied that his cap was
a certainty this season. Last year he had been tried once or twice.
This year it should be all right.
Mrs. Jackson intervened.
"Go on with your breakfast, Marjory," she said. "You mustn't say 'I
bet' so much."
Marjory bit off a section of her slice of bread-and-jam.
"Anyhow, I bet he does," she muttered truculently through it.
There was a sound of footsteps in the passage outside. The door
opened, and the missing member of the family appeared. Mike Jackson
was tall for his age. His figure was thin and wiry. His arms and legs
looked a shade too long for his body. He was evidently going to be
very tall some day. In face, he was curiously like his brother Joe,
whose appearance is familiar to every one who takes an interest in
first-class cricket. The resemblance was even more marked on the
cricket field. Mike had Joe's batting style to the last detail. He was
a pocket edition of his century-making brother. "Hullo," he said,
"sorry I'm late."
This was mere stereo. He had made the same remark nearly every morning
since the beginning of the holidays.
"All right, Marjory, you little beast," was his reference to the
His third remark was of a practical nature.
"I say, what's under that dish?"
"Mike," began Mr. Jackson--this again was stereo--"you really must
learn to be more punctual----"
He was interrupted by a chorus.
"Mike, you're going to Wrykyn next term," shouted Marjory.
"Mike, father's just had a letter to say you're going to Wrykyn next
term." From Phyllis.
"Mike, you're going to Wrykyn." From Ella.
Gladys Maud Evangeline, aged three, obliged with a solo of her own
composition, in six-eight time, as follows: "Mike Wryky. Mike Wryky.
Mike Wryke Wryke Wryke Mike Wryke Wryke Mike Wryke Mike Wryke."
"Oh, put a green baize cloth over that kid, somebody," groaned Bob.
Whereat Gladys Maud, having fixed him with a chilly stare for some
seconds, suddenly drew a long breath, and squealed deafeningly for
Mike looked round the table. It was a great moment. He rose to it with
the utmost dignity.
"Good," he said. "I say, what's under that dish?"
* * * * *
After breakfast, Mike and Marjory went off together to the meadow at
the end of the garden. Saunders, the professional, assisted by the
gardener's boy, was engaged in putting up the net. Mr. Jackson
believed in private coaching; and every spring since Joe, the eldest
of the family, had been able to use a bat a man had come down from the
Oval to teach him the best way to do so. Each of the boys in turn had
passed from spectators to active participants in the net practice in
the meadow. For several years now Saunders had been the chosen man,
and his attitude towards the Jacksons was that of the Faithful Old
Retainer in melodrama. Mike was his special favourite. He felt that in
him he had material of the finest order to work upon. There was
nothing the matter with Bob. In Bob he would turn out a good, sound
article. Bob would be a Blue in his third or fourth year, and probably
a creditable performer among the rank and file of a county team later
on. But he was not a cricket genius, like Mike. Saunders would lie
awake at night sometimes thinking of the possibilities that were in
Mike. The strength could only come with years, but the style was there
already. Joe's style, with improvements.
Mike put on his pads; and Marjory walked with the professional to the
"Mike's going to Wrykyn next term, Saunders," she said. "All the boys
were there, you know. So was father, ages ago."
"Is he, miss? I was thinking he would be soon."
"Do you think he'll get into the school team?"
"School team, miss! Master Mike get into a school team! He'll be
playing for England in another eight years. That's what he'll be
"Yes, but I meant next term. It would be a record if he did. Even Joe
only got in after he'd been at school two years. Don't you think he
might, Saunders? He's awfully good, isn't he? He's better than Bob,
isn't he? And Bob's almost certain to get in this term."
Saunders looked a little doubtful.
"Next term!" he said. "Well, you see, miss, it's this way. It's all
there, in a manner of speaking, with Master Mike. He's got as much
style as Mr. Joe's got, every bit. The whole thing is, you see, miss,
you get these young gentlemen of eighteen, and nineteen perhaps, and
it stands to reason they're stronger. There's a young gentleman,
perhaps, doesn't know as much about what I call real playing as Master
Mike's forgotten; but then he can hit 'em harder when he does hit 'em,
and that's where the runs come in. They aren't going to play Master
Mike because he'll be in the England team when he leaves school.
They'll give the cap to somebody that can make a few then and there."
"But Mike's jolly strong."
"Ah, I'm not saying it mightn't be, miss. I was only saying don't
count on it, so you won't be disappointed if it doesn't happen. It's
quite likely that it will, only all I say is don't count on it. I only
hope that they won't knock all the style out of him before they're
done with him. You know these school professionals, miss."
"No, I don't, Saunders. What are they like?"
"Well, there's too much of the come-right-out-at-everything about 'em
for my taste. Seem to think playing forward the alpha and omugger of
batting. They'll make him pat balls back to the bowler which he'd cut
for twos and threes if he was left to himself. Still, we'll hope for
the best, miss. Ready, Master Mike? Play."
As Saunders had said, it was all there. Of Mike's style there could be
no doubt. To-day, too, he was playing more strongly than usual.
Marjory had to run to the end of the meadow to fetch one straight
drive. "He hit that hard enough, didn't he, Saunders?" she asked, as
she returned the ball.
"If he could keep on doing ones like that, miss," said the
professional, "they'd have him in the team before you could say
Marjory sat down again beside the net, and watched more hopefully.
THE JOURNEY DOWN
The seeing off of Mike on the last day of the holidays was an imposing
spectacle, a sort of pageant. Going to a public school, especially at
the beginning of the summer term, is no great hardship, more
particularly when the departing hero has a brother on the verge of the
school eleven and three other brothers playing for counties; and Mike
seemed in no way disturbed by the prospect. Mothers, however, to the
end of time will foster a secret fear that their sons will be bullied
at a big school, and Mrs. Jackson's anxious look lent a fine solemnity
to the proceedings.
And as Marjory, Phyllis, and Ella invariably broke down when the time
of separation arrived, and made no exception to their rule on the
present occasion, a suitable gloom was the keynote of the gathering.
Mr. Jackson seemed to bear the parting with fortitude, as did Mike's
Uncle John (providentially roped in at the eleventh hour on his way
to Scotland, in time to come down with a handsome tip). To their
coarse-fibred minds there was nothing pathetic or tragic about the
affair at all. (At the very moment when the train began to glide out
of the station Uncle John was heard to remark that, in his opinion,
these Bocks weren't a patch on the old shaped Larranaga.) Among others
present might have been noticed Saunders, practising late cuts rather
coyly with a walking-stick in the background; the village idiot, who
had rolled up on the chance of a dole; Gladys Maud Evangeline's nurse,
smiling vaguely; and Gladys Maud Evangeline herself, frankly bored
with the whole business.
The train gathered speed. The air was full of last messages. Uncle
John said on second thoughts he wasn't sure these Bocks weren't half a
bad smoke after all. Gladys Maud cried, because she had taken a sudden
dislike to the village idiot; and Mike settled himself in the corner
and opened a magazine.
He was alone in the carriage. Bob, who had been spending the last week
of the holidays with an aunt further down the line, was to board the
train at East Wobsley, and the brothers were to make a state entry
into Wrykyn together. Meanwhile, Mike was left to his milk chocolate,
his magazines, and his reflections.
The latter were not numerous, nor profound. He was excited. He had
been petitioning the home authorities for the past year to be allowed
to leave his private school and go to Wrykyn, and now the thing had
come about. He wondered what sort of a house Wain's was, and whether
they had any chance of the cricket cup. According to Bob they had no
earthly; but then Bob only recognised one house, Donaldson's. He
wondered if Bob would get his first eleven cap this year, and if he
himself were likely to do anything at cricket. Marjory had faithfully
reported every word Saunders had said on the subject, but Bob had been
so careful to point out his insignificance when compared with the
humblest Wrykynian that the professional's glowing prophecies had not
had much effect. It might be true that some day he would play for
England, but just at present he felt he would exchange his place in
the team for one in the Wrykyn third eleven. A sort of mist enveloped
everything Wrykynian. It seemed almost hopeless to try and compete
with these unknown experts. On the other hand, there was Bob. Bob, by
all accounts, was on the verge of the first eleven, and he was nothing
While he was engaged on these reflections, the train drew up at a
small station. Opposite the door of Mike's compartment was standing a
boy of about Mike's size, though evidently some years older. He had a
sharp face, with rather a prominent nose; and a pair of pince-nez gave
him a supercilious look. He wore a bowler hat, and carried a small
He opened the door, and took the seat opposite to Mike, whom he
scrutinised for a moment rather after the fashion of a naturalist
examining some new and unpleasant variety of beetle. He seemed about
to make some remark, but, instead, got up and looked through the open
"Where's that porter?" Mike heard him say.
The porter came skimming down the platform at that moment.
"Are those frightful boxes of mine in all right?"
"Because, you know, there'll be a frightful row if any of them get
"No chance of that, sir."
"Here you are, then."
"Thank you, sir."
The youth drew his head and shoulders in, stared at Mike again, and
finally sat down. Mike noticed that he had nothing to read, and
wondered if he wanted anything; but he did not feel equal to offering
him one of his magazines. He did not like the looks of him
particularly. Judging by appearances, he seemed to carry enough side
for three. If he wanted a magazine, thought Mike, let him ask for it.
The other made no overtures, and at the next stop got out. That
explained his magazineless condition. He was only travelling a short
"Good business," said Mike to himself. He had all the Englishman's
love of a carriage to himself.
The train was just moving out of the station when his eye was suddenly
caught by the stranger's bag, lying snugly in the rack.
And here, I regret to say, Mike acted from the best motives, which is
He realised in an instant what had happened. The fellow had forgotten
Mike had not been greatly fascinated by the stranger's looks; but,
after all, the most supercilious person on earth has a right to his
own property. Besides, he might have been quite a nice fellow when you
got to know him. Anyhow, the bag had better be returned at once. The
trainwas already moving quite fast, and Mike's compartment was nearing
the end of the platform.
He snatched the bag from the rack and hurled it out of the window.
(Porter Robinson, who happened to be in the line of fire, escaped with
a flesh wound.) Then he sat down again with the inward glow of
satisfaction which comes to one when one has risen successfully to a
* * * * *
The glow lasted till the next stoppage, which did not occur for a good
many miles. Then it ceased abruptly, for the train had scarcely come
to a standstill when the opening above the door was darkened by a head
and shoulders. The head was surmounted by a bowler, and a pair of
pince-nez gleamed from the shadow.
"Hullo, I say," said the stranger. "Have you changed carriages, or
"No," said Mike.
"Then, dash it, where's my frightful bag?"
Life teems with embarrassing situations. This was one of them.
"The fact is," said Mike, "I chucked it out."
"Chucked it out! what do you mean? When?"
"At the last station."
The guard blew his whistle, and the other jumped into the carriage.
"I thought you'd got out there for good," explained Mike. "I'm awfully
"Where _is_ the bag?"
"On the platform at the last station. It hit a porter."
Against his will, for he wished to treat the matter with fitting
solemnity, Mike grinned at the recollection. The look on Porter
Robinson's face as the bag took him in the small of the back had been
funny, though not intentionally so.
The bereaved owner disapproved of this levity; and said as much.
"Don't _grin_, you little beast," he shouted. "There's nothing to
laugh at. You go chucking bags that don't belong to you out of the
window, and then you have the frightful cheek to grin about it."
"It wasn't that," said Mike hurriedly. "Only the porter looked awfully
funny when it hit him."
"Dash the porter! What's going to happen about my bag? I can't get out
for half a second to buy a magazine without your flinging my things
about the platform. What you want is a frightful kicking."
The situation was becoming difficult. But fortunately at this moment
the train stopped once again; and, looking out of the window, Mike saw
a board with East Wobsley upon it in large letters. A moment later
Bob's head appeared in the doorway.
"Hullo, there you are," said Bob.
His eye fell upon Mike's companion.
"Hullo, Gazeka!" he exclaimed. "Where did you spring from? Do you know
my brother? He's coming to Wrykyn this term. By the way, rather lucky
you've met. He's in your house. Firby-Smith's head of Wain's, Mike."
Mike gathered that Gazeka and Firby-Smith were one and the same
person. He grinned again. Firby-Smith continued to look ruffled,
though not aggressive.
"Oh, are you in Wain's?" he said.
"I say, Bob," said Mike, "I've made rather an ass of myself."
"I mean, what happened was this. I chucked Firby-Smith's portmanteau
out of the window, thinking he'd got out, only he hadn't really, and
it's at a station miles back."
"You're a bit of a rotter, aren't you? Had it got your name and
address on it, Gazeka?"
"Oh, then it's certain to be all right. It's bound to turn up some
time. They'll send it on by the next train, and you'll get it either
to-night or to-morrow."
"Frightful nuisance, all the same. Lots of things in it I wanted."
"Oh, never mind, it's all right. I say, what have you been doing in
the holidays? I didn't know you lived on this line at all."
From this point onwards Mike was out of the conversation altogether.
Bob and Firby-Smith talked of Wrykyn, discussing events of the
previous term of which Mike had never heard. Names came into their
conversation which were entirely new to him. He realised that school
politics were being talked, and that contributions from him to the
dialogue were not required. He took up his magazine again, listening
the while. They were discussing Wain's now. The name Wyatt cropped up
with some frequency. Wyatt was apparently something of a character.
Mention was made of rows in which he had played a part in the past.
"It must be pretty rotten for him," said Bob. "He and Wain never get
on very well, and yet they have to be together, holidays as well as
term. Pretty bad having a step-father at all--I shouldn't care to--and
when your house-master and your step-father are the same man, it's a
"Frightful," agreed Firby-Smith.
"I swear, if I were in Wyatt's place, I should rot about like
anything. It isn't as if he'd anything to look forward to when he
leaves. He told me last term that Wain had got a nomination for him in
some beastly bank, and that he was going into it directly after the
end of this term. Rather rough on a chap like Wyatt. Good cricketer
and footballer, I mean, and all that sort of thing. It's just the sort
of life he'll hate most. Hullo, here we are."
Mike looked out of the window. It was Wrykyn at last.
MIKE FINDS A FRIENDLY NATIVE
Mike was surprised to find, on alighting, that the platform was
entirely free from Wrykynians. In all the stories he had read the
whole school came back by the same train, and, having smashed in one
another's hats and chaffed the porters, made their way to the school
buildings in a solid column. But here they were alone.
A remark of Bob's to Firby-Smith explained this. "Can't make out why
none of the fellows came back by this train," he said. "Heaps of them
must come by this line, and it's the only Christian train they run,"
"Don't want to get here before the last minute they can possibly
manage. Silly idea. I suppose they think there'd be nothing to do."
"What shall _we_ do?" said Bob. "Come and have some tea at
Bob looked at Mike. There was no disguising the fact that he would be
in the way; but how convey this fact delicately to him?
"Look here, Mike," he said, with a happy inspiration, "Firby-Smith and
I are just going to get some tea. I think you'd better nip up to the
school. Probably Wain will want to see you, and tell you all about
things, which is your dorm. and so on. See you later," he concluded
airily. "Any one'll tell you the way to the school. Go straight on.
They'll send your luggage on later. So long." And his sole prop in
this world of strangers departed, leaving him to find his way for
There is no subject on which opinions differ so widely as this matter
of finding the way to a place. To the man who knows, it is simplicity
itself. Probably he really does imagine that he goes straight on,
ignoring the fact that for him the choice of three roads, all more or
less straight, has no perplexities. The man who does not know feels as
if he were in a maze.
Mike started out boldly, and lost his way. Go in which direction he
would, he always seemed to arrive at a square with a fountain and an
equestrian statue in its centre. On the fourth repetition of this feat
he stopped in a disheartened way, and looked about him. He was
beginning to feel bitter towards Bob. The man might at least have
shown him where to get some tea.
At this moment a ray of hope shone through the gloom. Crossing the
square was a short, thick-set figure clad in grey flannel trousers, a
blue blazer, and a straw hat with a coloured band. Plainly a
Wrykynian. Mike made for him.
"Can you tell me the way to the school, please," he said.
"Oh, you're going to the school," said the other. He had a pleasant,
square-jawed face, reminiscent of a good-tempered bull-dog, and a pair
of very deep-set grey eyes which somehow put Mike at his ease. There
was something singularly cool and genial about them. He felt that they
saw the humour in things, and that their owner was a person who liked
most people and whom most people liked.
"You look rather lost," said the stranger. "Been hunting for it long?"
"Yes," said Mike.
"Which house do you want?"
"Wain's? Then you've come to the right man this time. What I don't
know about Wain's isn't worth knowing."
"Are you there, too?"
"Am I not! Term _and_ holidays. There's no close season for me."
"Oh, are you Wyatt, then?" asked Mike.
"Hullo, this is fame. How did you know my name, as the ass in the
detective story always says to the detective, who's seen it in the
lining of his hat? Who's been talking about me?"
"I heard my brother saying something about you in the train."
"Who's your brother?"
"Jackson. He's in Donaldson's."
"I know. A stout fellow. So you're the newest make of Jackson, latest
model, with all the modern improvements? Are there any more of you?"
"Not brothers," said Mike.
"Pity. You can't quite raise a team, then? Are you a sort of young
"I played a bit at my last school. Only a private school, you know,"
added Mike modestly.
"Make any runs? What was your best score?"
"Hundred and twenty-three," said Mike awkwardly. "It was only against
kids, you know." He was in terror lest he should seem to be bragging.
"That's pretty useful. Any more centuries?"
"Yes," said Mike, shuffling.
"Seven altogether. You know, it was really awfully rotten bowling. And
I was a good bit bigger than most of the chaps there. And my pater
always has a pro. down in the Easter holidays, which gave me a bit of
"All the same, seven centuries isn't so dusty against any bowling. We
shall want some batting in the house this term. Look here, I was just
going to have some tea. You come along, too."
"Oh, thanks awfully," said Mike. "My brother and Firby-Smith have gone
to a place called Cook's."
"The old Gazeka? I didn't know he lived in your part of the world.
He's head of Wain's."
"Yes, I know," said Mike. "Why is he called Gazeka?" he asked after a
"Don't you think he looks like one? What did you think of him?"
"I didn't speak to him much," said Mike cautiously. It is always
delicate work answering a question like this unless one has some sort
of an inkling as to the views of the questioner.
"He's all right," said Wyatt, answering for himself. "He's got a habit
of talking to one as if he were a prince of the blood dropping a
gracious word to one of the three Small-Heads at the Hippodrome, but
that's his misfortune. We all have our troubles. That's his. Let's go
in here. It's too far to sweat to Cook's."
It was about a mile from the tea-shop to the school. Mike's first
impression on arriving at the school grounds was of his smallness and
insignificance. Everything looked so big--the buildings, the grounds,
everything. He felt out of the picture. He was glad that he had met
Wyatt. To make his entrance into this strange land alone would have
been more of an ordeal than he would have cared to face.
"That's Wain's," said Wyatt, pointing to one of half a dozen large
houses which lined the road on the south side of the cricket field.
Mike followed his finger, and took in the size of his new home.
"I say, it's jolly big," he said. "How many fellows are there in it?"
"Thirty-one this term, I believe."
"That's more than there were at King-Hall's."
"The private school I was at. At Emsworth."
Emsworth seemed very remote and unreal to him as he spoke.
They skirted the cricket field, walking along the path that divided
the two terraces. The Wrykyn playing-fields were formed of a series of
huge steps, cut out of the hill. At the top of the hill came the
school. On the first terrace was a sort of informal practice ground,
where, though no games were played on it, there was a good deal of
punting and drop-kicking in the winter and fielding-practice in the
summer. The next terrace was the biggest of all, and formed the first
eleven cricket ground, a beautiful piece of turf, a shade too narrow
for its length, bounded on the terrace side by a sharply sloping bank,
some fifteen feet deep, and on the other by the precipice leading to
the next terrace. At the far end of the ground stood the pavilion, and
beside it a little ivy-covered rabbit-hutch for the scorers. Old
Wrykynians always claimed that it was the prettiest school ground in
England. It certainly had the finest view. From the verandah of the
pavilion you could look over three counties.
Wain's house wore an empty and desolate appearance. There were signs
of activity, however, inside; and a smell of soap and warm water told
of preparations recently completed.
Wyatt took Mike into the matron's room, a small room opening out of
the main passage.
"This is Jackson," he said. "Which dormitory is he in, Miss Payne?"
The matron consulted a paper.
"He's in yours, Wyatt."
"Good business. Who's in the other bed? There are going to be three of
us, aren't there?"
"Fereira was to have slept there, but we have just heard that he is
not coming back this term. He has had to go on a sea-voyage for his
"Seems queer any one actually taking the trouble to keep Fereira in
the world," said Wyatt. "I've often thought of giving him Rough On
Rats myself. Come along, Jackson, and I'll show you the room."
They went along the passage, and up a flight of stairs.
"Here you are," said Wyatt.
It was a fair-sized room. The window, heavily barred, looked out over
a large garden.
"I used to sleep here alone last term," said Wyatt, "but the house is
so full now they've turned it into a dormitory."
"I say, I wish these bars weren't here. It would be rather a rag to
get out of the window on to that wall at night, and hop down into the
garden and explore," said Mike.
Wyatt looked at him curiously, and moved to the window.
"I'm not going to let you do it, of course," he said, "because you'd
go getting caught, and dropped on, which isn't good for one in one's
first term; but just to amuse you----"
He jerked at the middle bar, and the next moment he was standing with
it in his hand, and the way to the garden was clear.
"By Jove!" said Mike.
"That's simply an object-lesson, you know," said Wyatt, replacing the
bar, and pushing the screws back into their putty. "I get out at night
myself because I think my health needs it. Besides, it's my last term,
anyhow, so it doesn't matter what I do. But if I find you trying to
cut out in the small hours, there'll be trouble. See?"
"All right," said Mike, reluctantly. "But I wish you'd let me."
"Not if I know it. Promise you won't try it on."
"All right. But, I say, what do you do out there?"
"I shoot at cats with an air-pistol, the beauty of which is that even
if you hit them it doesn't hurt--simply keeps them bright and
interested in life; and if you miss you've had all the fun anyhow.
Have you ever shot at a rocketing cat? Finest mark you can have.
Society's latest craze. Buy a pistol and see life."
"I wish you'd let me come."
"I daresay you do. Not much, however. Now, if you like, I'll take you
over the rest of the school. You'll have to see it sooner or later, so
you may as well get it over at once."
AT THE NETS
There are few better things in life than a public school summer term.
The winter term is good, especially towards the end, and there are
points, though not many, about the Easter term: but it is in the
summer that one really appreciates public school life. The freedom of
it, after the restrictions of even the most easy-going private school,
is intoxicating. The change is almost as great as that from public
school to 'Varsity.
For Mike the path was made particularly easy. The only drawback to
going to a big school for the first time is the fact that one is made
to feel so very small and inconspicuous. New boys who have been
leading lights at their private schools feel it acutely for the first
week. At one time it was the custom, if we may believe writers of a
generation or so back, for boys to take quite an embarrassing interest
in the newcomer. He was asked a rain of questions, and was, generally,
in the very centre of the stage. Nowadays an absolute lack of interest
is the fashion. A new boy arrives, and there he is, one of a crowd.
Mike was saved this salutary treatment to a large extent, at first by
virtue of the greatness of his family, and, later, by his own
performances on the cricket field. His three elder brothers were
objects of veneration to most Wrykynians, and Mike got a certain
amount of reflected glory from them. The brother of first-class
cricketers has a dignity of his own. Then Bob was a help. He was on
the verge of the cricket team and had been the school full-back for
two seasons. Mike found that people came up and spoke to him, anxious
to know if he were Jackson's brother; and became friendly when he
replied in the affirmative. Influential relations are a help in every
stage of life.
It was Wyatt who gave him his first chance at cricket. There were nets
on the first afternoon of term for all old colours of the three teams
and a dozen or so of those most likely to fill the vacant places.
Wyatt was there, of course. He had got his first eleven cap in the
previous season as a mighty hitter and a fair slow bowler. Mike met
him crossing the field with his cricket bag.
"Hullo, where are you off to?" asked Wyatt. "Coming to watch the
Mike had no particular programme for the afternoon. Junior cricket had
not begun, and it was a little difficult to know how to fill in the
"I tell you what," said Wyatt, "nip into the house and shove on some
things, and I'll try and get Burgess to let you have a knock later
This suited Mike admirably. A quarter of an hour later he was sitting
at the back of the first eleven net, watching the practice.
Burgess, the captain of the Wrykyn team, made no pretence of being a
bat. He was the school fast bowler and concentrated his energies on
that department of the game. He sometimes took ten minutes at the
wicket after everybody else had had an innings, but it was to bowl
that he came to the nets.
He was bowling now to one of the old colours whose name Mike did not
know. Wyatt and one of the professionals were the other two bowlers.
Two nets away Firby-Smith, who had changed his pince-nez for a pair of
huge spectacles, was performing rather ineffectively against some very
bad bowling. Mike fixed his attention on the first eleven man.
He was evidently a good bat. There was style and power in his batting.
He had a way of gliding Burgess's fastest to leg which Mike admired
greatly. He was succeeded at the end of a quarter of an hour by
another eleven man, and then Bob appeared.
It was soon made evident that this was not Bob's day. Nobody is at his
best on the first day of term; but Bob was worse than he had any right
to be. He scratched forward at nearly everything, and when Burgess,
who had been resting, took up the ball again, he had each stump
uprooted in a regular series in seven balls. Once he skied one of
Wyatt's slows over the net behind the wicket; and Mike, jumping up,
caught him neatly.
"Thanks," said Bob austerely, as Mike returned the ball to him. He
Towards the end of the afternoon, Wyatt went up to Burgess.
"Burgess," he said, "see that kid sitting behind the net?"
"With the naked eye," said Burgess. "Why?"
"He's just come to Wain's. He's Bob Jackson's brother, and I've a sort
of idea that he's a bit of a bat. I told him I'd ask you if he could
have a knock. Why not send him in at the end net? There's nobody there
Burgess's amiability off the field equalled his ruthlessness when
"All right," he said. "Only if you think that I'm going to sweat to
bowl to him, you're making a fatal error."
"You needn't do a thing. Just sit and watch. I rather fancy this kid's
* * * * *
Mike put on Wyatt's pads and gloves, borrowed his bat, and walked
round into the net.
"Not in a funk, are you?" asked Wyatt, as he passed.
Mike grinned. The fact was that he had far too good an opinion of
himself to be nervous. An entirely modest person seldom makes a good
batsman. Batting is one of those things which demand first and
foremost a thorough belief in oneself. It need not be aggressive, but
it must be there.
Wyatt and the professional were the bowlers. Mike had seen enough of
Wyatt's bowling to know that it was merely ordinary "slow tosh," and
the professional did not look as difficult as Saunders. The first
half-dozen balls he played carefully. He was on trial, and he meant to
take no risks. Then the professional over-pitched one slightly on the
off. Mike jumped out, and got the full face of the bat on to it. The
ball hit one of the ropes of the net, and nearly broke it.
"How's that?" said Wyatt, with the smile of an impresario on the first
night of a successful piece.
"Not bad," admitted Burgess.
A few moments later he was still more complimentary. He got up and
took a ball himself.
Mike braced himself up as Burgess began his run. This time he was more
than a trifle nervous. The bowling he had had so far had been tame.
This would be the real ordeal.
As the ball left Burgess's hand he began instinctively to shape for a
forward stroke. Then suddenly he realised that the thing was going to
be a yorker, and banged his bat down in the block just as the ball
arrived. An unpleasant sensation as of having been struck by a
thunderbolt was succeeded by a feeling of relief that he had kept the
ball out of his wicket. There are easier things in the world than
stopping a fast yorker.
"Well played," said Burgess.
Mike felt like a successful general receiving the thanks of the
The fact that Burgess's next ball knocked middle and off stumps out of
the ground saddened him somewhat; but this was the last tragedy that
occurred. He could not do much with the bowling beyond stopping it and
feeling repetitions of the thunderbolt experience, but he kept up his
end; and a short conversation which he had with Burgess at the end of
his innings was full of encouragement to one skilled in reading
between the lines.
"Thanks awfully," said Mike, referring to the square manner in which
the captain had behaved in letting him bat.
"What school were you at before you came here?" asked Burgess.
"A private school in Hampshire," said Mike. "King-Hall's. At a place
"Get much cricket there?"
"Yes, a good lot. One of the masters, a chap called Westbrook, was an
awfully good slow bowler."
"You don't run away, which is something," he said.
Mike turned purple with pleasure at this stately compliment. Then,
having waited for further remarks, but gathering from the captain's
silence that the audience was at an end, he proceeded to unbuckle his
pads. Wyatt overtook him on his way to the house.
"Well played," he said. "I'd no idea you were such hot stuff. You're a
"I say," said Mike gratefully, "it was most awfully decent of you
getting Burgess to let me go in. It was simply ripping of you."
"Oh, that's all right. If you don't get pushed a bit here you stay for
ages in the hundredth game with the cripples and the kids. Now you've
shown them what you can do you ought to get into the Under Sixteen
team straight away. Probably into the third, too."
"By Jove, that would be all right."
"I asked Burgess afterwards what he thought of your batting, and he
said, 'Not bad.' But he says that about everything. It's his highest
form of praise. He says it when he wants to let himself go and simply
butter up a thing. If you took him to see N. A. Knox bowl, he'd say he
wasn't bad. What he meant was that he was jolly struck with your
batting, and is going to play you for the Under Sixteen."
"I hope so," said Mike.
The prophecy was fulfilled. On the following Wednesday there was a
match between the Under Sixteen and a scratch side. Mike's name was
among the Under Sixteen. And on the Saturday he was playing for the
third eleven in a trial game.
"This place is ripping," he said to himself, as he saw his name on the
list. "Thought I should like it."
And that night he wrote a letter to his father, notifying him of the
REVELRY BY NIGHT
A succession of events combined to upset Mike during his first
fortnight at school. He was far more successful than he had any right
to be at his age. There is nothing more heady than success, and if it
comes before we are prepared for it, it is apt to throw us off our
balance. As a rule, at school, years of wholesome obscurity make us
ready for any small triumphs we may achieve at the end of our time
there. Mike had skipped these years. He was older than the average new
boy, and his batting was undeniable. He knew quite well that he was
regarded as a find by the cricket authorities; and the knowledge was
not particularly good for him. It did not make him conceited, for his
was not a nature at all addicted to conceit. The effect it had on him
was to make him excessively pleased with life. And when Mike was
pleased with life he always found a difficulty in obeying Authority
and its rules. His state of mind was not improved by an interview with
Some evil genius put it into Bob's mind that it was his duty to be, if
only for one performance, the Heavy Elder Brother to Mike; to give him
good advice. It is never the smallest use for an elder brother to
attempt to do anything for the good of a younger brother at school,
for the latter rebels automatically against such interference in his
concerns; but Bob did not know this. He only knew that he had received
a letter from home, in which his mother had assumed without evidence
that he was leading Mike by the hand round the pitfalls of life at
Wrykyn; and his conscience smote him. Beyond asking him occasionally,
when they met, how he was getting on (a question to which Mike
invariably replied, "Oh, all right"), he was not aware of having done
anything brotherly towards the youngster. So he asked Mike to tea in
his study one afternoon before going to the nets.
Mike arrived, sidling into the study in the half-sheepish, half-defiant
manner peculiar to small brothers in the presence of their elders, and
stared in silence at the photographs on the walls. Bob was changing into
his cricket things. The atmosphere was one of constraint and awkwardness.
The arrival of tea was the cue for conversation.
"Well, how are you getting on?" asked Bob.
"Oh, all right," said Mike.
"Sugar?" asked Bob.
"Thanks," said Mike.
"How many lumps?"
Bob pulled himself together.
"I asked Firby-Smith to keep an eye on you," said Bob.
"What!" said Mike.
The mere idea of a worm like the Gazeka being told to keep an eye on
_him_ was degrading.
"He said he'd look after you," added Bob, making things worse.
Look after him! Him!! M. Jackson, of the third eleven!!!
Mike helped himself to another chunk of cake, and spoke crushingly.
"He needn't trouble," he said. "I can look after myself all right,
Bob saw an opening for the entry of the Heavy Elder Brother.
"Look here, Mike," he said, "I'm only saying it for your good----"
I should like to state here that it was not Bob's habit to go about
the world telling people things solely for their good. He was only
doing it now to ease his conscience.
"Yes?" said Mike coldly.
"It's only this. You know, I should keep an eye on myself if I were
you. There's nothing that gets a chap so barred here as side."
"What do you mean?" said Mike, outraged.
"Oh, I'm not saying anything against you so far," said Bob. "You've
been all right up to now. What I mean to say is, you've got on so well
at cricket, in the third and so on, there's just a chance you might
start to side about a bit soon, if you don't watch yourself. I'm not
saying a word against you so far, of course. Only you see what I
Mike's feelings were too deep for words. In sombre silence he reached
out for the jam; while Bob, satisfied that he had delivered his
message in a pleasant and tactful manner, filled his cup, and cast
about him for further words of wisdom.
"Seen you about with Wyatt a good deal," he said at length.
"Yes," said Mike.
"Yes," said Mike cautiously.
"You know," said Bob, "I shouldn't--I mean, I should take care what
you're doing with Wyatt."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, he's an awfully good chap, of course, but still----"
"Well, I mean, he's the sort of chap who'll probably get into some
thundering row before he leaves. He doesn't care a hang what he does.
He's that sort of chap. He's never been dropped on yet, but if you go
on breaking rules you're bound to be sooner or later. Thing is, it
doesn't matter much for him, because he's leaving at the end of the
term. But don't let him drag you into anything. Not that he would try
to. But you might think it was the blood thing to do to imitate him,
and the first thing you knew you'd be dropped on by Wain or somebody.
See what I mean?"
Bob was well-intentioned, but tact did not enter greatly into his
"What rot!" said Mike.
"All right. But don't you go doing it. I'm going over to the nets. I
see Burgess has shoved you down for them. You'd better be going and
changing. Stick on here a bit, though, if you want any more tea. I've
got to be off myself."
Mike changed for net-practice in a ferment of spiritual injury. It was
maddening to be treated as an infant who had to be looked after. He
felt very sore against Bob.
A good innings at the third eleven net, followed by some strenuous
fielding in the deep, soothed his ruffled feelings to a large extent;
and all might have been well but for the intervention of Firby-Smith.
That youth, all spectacles and front teeth, met Mike at the door of
"Ah, I wanted to see you, young man," he said. (Mike disliked being
called "young man.") "Come up to my study."
Mike followed him in silence to his study, and preserved his silence
till Firby-Smith, having deposited his cricket-bag in a corner of the
room and examined himself carefully in a looking-glass that hung over
the mantelpiece, spoke again.
"I've been hearing all about you, young man." Mike shuffled.
"You're a frightful character from all accounts." Mike could not think
of anything to say that was not rude, so said nothing.
"Your brother has asked me to keep an eye on you."
Mike's soul began to tie itself into knots again. He was just at the
age when one is most sensitive to patronage and most resentful of it.
"I promised I would," said the Gazeka, turning round and examining
himself in the mirror again. "You'll get on all right if you behave
yourself. Don't make a frightful row in the house. Don't cheek your
elders and betters. Wash. That's all. Cut along."
Mike had a vague idea of sacrificing his career to the momentary
pleasure of flinging a chair at the head of the house. Overcoming this
feeling, he walked out of the room, and up to his dormitory to change.
* * * * *
In the dormitory that night the feeling of revolt, of wanting to
do something actively illegal, increased. Like Eric, he burned, not
with shame and remorse, but with rage and all that sort of thing.
He dropped off to sleep full of half-formed plans for asserting
himself. He was awakened from a dream in which he was batting against
Firby-Smith's bowling, and hitting it into space every time, by a
slight sound. He opened his eyes, and saw a dark figure silhouetted
against the light of the window. He sat up in bed.
"Hullo," he said. "Is that you, Wyatt?"
"Are you awake?" said Wyatt. "Sorry if I've spoiled your beauty
"Are you going out?"
"I am," said Wyatt. "The cats are particularly strong on the wing just
now. Mustn't miss a chance like this. Specially as there's a good
moon, too. I shall be deadly."
"I say, can't I come too?"
A moonlight prowl, with or without an air-pistol, would just have
suited Mike's mood.
"No, you can't," said Wyatt. "When I'm caught, as I'm morally certain
to be some day, or night rather, they're bound to ask if you've ever
been out as well as me. Then you'll be able to put your hand on your
little heart and do a big George Washington act. You'll find that
useful when the time comes."
"Do you think you will be caught?"
"Shouldn't be surprised. Anyhow, you stay where you are. Go to sleep
and dream that you're playing for the school against Ripton. So long."
And Wyatt, laying the bar he had extracted on the window-sill,
wriggled out. Mike saw him disappearing along the wall.
* * * * *
It was all very well for Wyatt to tell him to go to sleep, but it was
not so easy to do it. The room was almost light; and Mike always found
it difficult to sleep unless it was dark. He turned over on his side
and shut his eyes, but he had never felt wider awake. Twice he heard
the quarters chime from the school clock; and the second time he gave
up the struggle. He got out of bed and went to the window. It was a
lovely night, just the sort of night on which, if he had been at home,
he would have been out after moths with a lantern.
A sharp yowl from an unseen cat told of Wyatt's presence somewhere in
the big garden. He would have given much to be with him, but he
realised that he was on parole. He had promised not to leave the
house, and there was an end of it.
He turned away from the window and sat down on his bed. Then a
beautiful, consoling thought came to him. He had given his word that
he would not go into the garden, but nothing had been said about
exploring inside the house. It was quite late now. Everybody would be
in bed. It would be quite safe. And there must be all sorts of things
to interest the visitor in Wain's part of the house. Food, perhaps.
Mike felt that he could just do with a biscuit. And there were bound
to be biscuits on the sideboard in Wain's dining-room.
He crept quietly out of the dormitory.
He had been long enough in the house to know the way, in spite of the
fact that all was darkness. Down the stairs, along the passage to the
left, and up a few more stairs at the end The beauty of the position
was that the dining-room had two doors, one leading into Wain's part
of the house, the other into the boys' section. Any interruption that
there might be would come from the further door.
To make himself more secure he locked that door; then, turning up the
incandescent light, he proceeded to look about him.
Mr. Wain's dining-room repaid inspection. There were the remains of
supper on the table. Mike cut himself some cheese and took some
biscuits from the box, feeling that he was doing himself well. This
was Life. There was a little soda-water in the syphon. He finished it.
As it swished into the glass, it made a noise that seemed to him like
three hundred Niagaras; but nobody else in the house appeared to have
He took some more biscuits, and an apple.
After which, feeling a new man, he examined the room.
And this was where the trouble began.
On a table in one corner stood a small gramophone. And gramophones
happened to be Mike's particular craze.
All thought of risk left him. The soda-water may have got into his
head, or he may have been in a particularly reckless mood, as indeed
he was. The fact remains that _he_ inserted the first record that
came to hand, wound the machine up, and set it going.
The next moment, very loud and nasal, a voice from the machine
announced that Mr. Godfrey Field would sing "The Quaint Old Bird."
And, after a few preliminary chords, Mr. Field actually did so.
_"Auntie went to Aldershot in a Paris pom-pom hat."_
Mike stood and drained it in.
_"... Good gracious_ (sang Mr. Field), _what was that?"_
It was a rattling at the handle of the door. A rattling that turned
almost immediately into a spirited banging. A voice accompanied the
banging. "Who is there?" inquired the voice. Mike recognised it as Mr.
Wain's. He was not alarmed. The man who holds the ace of trumps has no
need to be alarmed. His position was impregnable. The enemy was held
in check by the locked door, while the other door offered an admirable
and instantaneous way of escape.
Mike crept across the room on tip-toe and opened the window. It had
occurred to him, just in time, that if Mr. Wain, on entering the room,
found that the occupant had retired by way of the boys' part of the
house, he might possibly obtain a clue to his identity. If, on the
other hand, he opened the window, suspicion would be diverted. Mike
had not read his "Raffles" for nothing.
The handle-rattling was resumed. This was good. So long as the frontal
attack was kept up, there was no chance of his being taken in the
rear--his only danger.
He stopped the gramophone, which had been pegging away patiently at
"The Quaint Old Bird" all the time, and reflected. It seemed a pity to
evacuate the position and ring down the curtain on what was, to date,
the most exciting episode of his life; but he must not overdo the
thing, and get caught. At any moment the noise might bring
reinforcements to the besieging force, though it was not likely, for
the dining-room was a long way from the dormitories; and it might
flash upon their minds that there were two entrances to the room. Or
the same bright thought might come to Wain himself.
"Now what," pondered Mike, "would A. J. Raffles have done in a case
like this? Suppose he'd been after somebody's jewels, and found that
they were after him, and he'd locked one door, and could get away by
The answer was simple.
"He'd clear out," thought Mike.
Two minutes later he was in bed.
He lay there, tingling all over with the consciousness of having
played a masterly game, when suddenly a gruesome idea came to him, and
he sat up, breathless. Suppose Wain took it into his head to make a
tour of the dormitories, to see that all was well! Wyatt was still
in the garden somewhere, blissfully unconscious of what was going on
indoors. He would be caught for a certainty!
IN WHICH A TIGHT CORNER IS EVADED
For a moment the situation paralysed Mike. Then he began to be equal
to it. In times of excitement one thinks rapidly and clearly. The main
point, the kernel of the whole thing, was that he must get into the
garden somehow, and warn Wyatt. And at the same time, he must keep Mr.
Wain from coming to the dormitory. He jumped out of bed, and dashed
down the dark stairs.
He had taken care to close the dining-room door after him. It was open
now, and he could hear somebody moving inside the room. Evidently his
retreat had been made just in time.
He knocked at the door, and went in.
Mr. Wain was standing at the window, looking out. He spun round at the
knock, and stared in astonishment at Mike's pyjama-clad figure. Mike,
in spite of his anxiety, could barely check a laugh. Mr. Wain was a
tall, thin man, with a serious face partially obscured by a grizzled
beard. He wore spectacles, through which he peered owlishly at Mike.
His body was wrapped in a brown dressing-gown. His hair was ruffled.
He looked like some weird bird.
"Please, sir, I thought I heard a noise," said Mike.
Mr. Wain continued to stare.
"What are you doing here?" said he at last.
"Thought I heard a noise, please, sir."
"Please, sir, a row."
"You thought you heard----!"
The thing seemed to be worrying Mr. Wain.
"So I came down, sir," said Mike.
The house-master's giant brain still appeared to be somewhat clouded.
He looked about him, and, catching sight of the gramophone, drew
inspiration from it.
"Did you turn on the gramophone?" he asked.
"_Me_, sir!" said Mike, with the air of a bishop accused of
contributing to the _Police News_.
"Of course not, of course not," said Mr. Wain hurriedly. "Of course
not. I don't know why I asked. All this is very unsettling. What are
you doing here?"
"Thought I heard a noise, please, sir."
"A row, sir."
If it was Mr. Wain's wish that he should spend the night playing Massa
Tambo to his Massa Bones, it was not for him to baulk the house-master's
innocent pleasure. He was prepared to continue the snappy dialogue till
"I think there must have been a burglar in here, Jackson."
"Looks like it, sir."
"I found the window open."
"He's probably in the garden, sir."
Mr. Wain looked out into the garden with an annoyed expression, as if
its behaviour in letting burglars be in it struck him as unworthy of a
"He might be still in the house," said Mr. Wain, ruminatively.
"Not likely, sir."
"You think not?"
"Wouldn't be such a fool, sir. I mean, such an ass, sir."
"Perhaps you are right, Jackson."
"I shouldn't wonder if he was hiding in the shrubbery, sir."
Mr. Wain looked at the shrubbery, as who should say, _"Et tu,
"By Jove! I think I see him," cried Mike. He ran to the window, and
vaulted through it on to the lawn. An inarticulate protest from Mr.
Wain, rendered speechless by this move just as he had been beginning
to recover his faculties, and he was running across the lawn into the
shrubbery. He felt that all was well. There might be a bit of a row on
his return, but he could always plead overwhelming excitement.
Wyatt was round at the back somewhere, and the problem was how to get
back without being seen from the dining-room window. Fortunately a
belt of evergreens ran along the path right up to the house. Mike
worked his way cautiously through these till he was out of sight, then
tore for the regions at the back.
The moon had gone behind the clouds, and it was not easy to find a way
through the bushes. Twice branches sprang out from nowhere, and hit
Mike smartly over the shins, eliciting sharp howls of pain.
On the second of these occasions a low voice spoke from somewhere on
"Who on earth's that?" it said.
"Is that you, Wyatt? I say----"
The moon came out again, and Mike saw Wyatt clearly. His knees were
covered with mould. He had evidently been crouching in the bushes on
"You young ass," said Wyatt. "You promised me that you wouldn't get
"Yes, I know, but----"
"I heard you crashing through the shrubbery like a hundred elephants.
If you _must_ get out at night and chance being sacked, you might
at least have the sense to walk quietly."
"Yes, but you don't understand."
And Mike rapidly explained the situation.
"But how the dickens did he hear you, if you were in the dining-room?"
asked Wyatt. "It's miles from his bedroom. You must tread like a
"It wasn't that. The thing was, you see, it was rather a rotten thing
to do, I suppose, but I turned on the gramophone."
"The gramophone. It started playing 'The Quaint Old Bird.' Ripping it
was, till Wain came along."
Wyatt doubled up with noiseless laughter.
"You're a genius," he said. "I never saw such a man. Well, what's the
game now? What's the idea?"
"I think you'd better nip back along the wall and in through the
window, and I'll go back to the dining-room. Then it'll be all right
if Wain comes and looks into the dorm. Or, if you like, you might come
down too, as if you'd just woke up and thought you'd heard a row."
"That's not a bad idea. All right. You dash along then. I'll get
Mr. Wain was still in the dining-room, drinking in the beauties of the
summer night through the open window. He gibbered slightly when Mike
"Jackson! What do you mean by running about outside the house in this
way! I shall punish you very heavily. I shall certainly report the
matter to the headmaster. I will not have boys rushing about the
garden in their pyjamas. You will catch an exceedingly bad cold. You
will do me two hundred lines, Latin and English. Exceedingly so. I
will not have it. Did you not hear me call to you?"
"Please, sir, so excited," said Mike, standing outside with his hands
on the sill.
"You have no business to be excited. I will not have it. It is
exceedingly impertinent of you."
"Please, sir, may I come in?"
"Come in! Of course, come in. Have you no sense, boy? You are laying
the seeds of a bad cold. Come in at once."
Mike clambered through the window.
"I couldn't find him, sir. He must have got out of the garden."
"Undoubtedly," said Mr. Wain. "Undoubtedly so. It was very wrong of
you to search for him. You have been seriously injured. Exceedingly
He was about to say more on the subject when Wyatt strolled into the
room. Wyatt wore the rather dazed expression of one who has been
aroused from deep sleep. He yawned before he spoke.
"I thought I heard a noise, sir," he said.
He called Mr. Wain "father" in private, "sir" in public. The presence
of Mike made this a public occasion.
"Has there been a burglary?"
"Yes," said Mike, "only he has got away."
"Shall I go out into the garden, and have a look round, sir?" asked
The question stung Mr. Wain into active eruption once more.
"Under no circumstances whatever," he said excitedly. "Stay where you
are, James. I will not have boys running about my garden at night. It
is preposterous. Inordinately so. Both of you go to bed immediately. I
shall not speak to you again on this subject. I must be obeyed
instantly. You hear me, Jackson? James, you understand me? To bed at
once. And, if I find you outside your dormitory again to-night, you
will both be punished with extreme severity. I will not have this lax
and reckless behaviour."
"But the burglar, sir?" said Wyatt.
"We might catch him, sir," said Mike.
Mr. Wain's manner changed to a slow and stately sarcasm, in much the
same way as a motor-car changes from the top speed to its first.
"I was under the impression," he said, in the heavy way almost
invariably affected by weak masters in their dealings with the
obstreperous, "I was distinctly under the impression that I had
ordered you to retire immediately to your dormitory. It is possible
that you mistook my meaning. In that case I shall be happy to repeat
what I said. It is also in my mind that I threatened to punish you
with the utmost severity if you did not retire at once. In these
circumstances, James--and you, Jackson--you will doubtless see the
necessity of complying with my wishes."
They made it so.
IN WHICH MIKE IS DISCUSSED
Trevor and Clowes, of Donaldson's, were sitting in their study a week
after the gramophone incident, preparatory to going on the river. At
least Trevor was in the study, getting tea ready. Clowes was on the
window-sill, one leg in the room, the other outside, hanging over
space. He loved to sit in this attitude, watching some one else work,
and giving his views on life to whoever would listen to them. Clowes
was tall, and looked sad, which he was not. Trevor was shorter, and
very much in earnest over all that he did. On the present occasion he
was measuring out tea with a concentration worthy of a general
planning a campaign.
"One for the pot," said Clowes.
"All right," breathed Trevor. "Come and help, you slacker."
"You aren't doing a stroke."
"My lad, I'm thinking of Life. That's a thing you couldn't do. I often
say to people, 'Good chap, Trevor, but can't think of Life. Give him a
tea-pot and half a pound of butter to mess about with,' I say, 'and
he's all right. But when it comes to deep thought, where is he? Among
the also-rans.' That's what I say."
"Silly ass," said Trevor, slicing bread. "What particular rot were you
thinking about just then? What fun it was sitting back and watching
other fellows work, I should think."
"My mind at the moment," said Clowes, "was tensely occupied with the
problem of brothers at school. Have you got any brothers, Trevor?"
"One. Couple of years younger than me. I say, we shall want some more
jam to-morrow. Better order it to-day."
"See it done, Tigellinus, as our old pal Nero used to remark. Where is
he? Your brother, I mean."
"That shows your sense. I have always had a high opinion of your
sense, Trevor. If you'd been a silly ass, you'd have let your people
send him here."
"Why not? Shouldn't have minded."
"I withdraw what I said about your sense. Consider it unsaid. I have a
brother myself. Aged fifteen. Not a bad chap in his way. Like the
heroes of the school stories. 'Big blue eyes literally bubbling over
with fun.' At least, I suppose it's fun to him. Cheek's what I call
it. My people wanted to send him here. I lodged a protest. I said,
'One Clowes is ample for any public school.'"
"You were right there," said Trevor.
"I said, 'One Clowes is luxury, two excess.' I pointed out that I was
just on the verge of becoming rather a blood at Wrykyn, and that I
didn't want the work of years spoiled by a brother who would think it
a rag to tell fellows who respected and admired me----"
"Such as who?"
"----Anecdotes of a chequered infancy. There are stories about me
which only my brother knows. Did I want them spread about the school?
No, laddie, I did not. Hence, we see my brother two terms ago, packing
up his little box, and tooling off to Rugby. And here am I at Wrykyn,
with an unstained reputation, loved by all who know me, revered by all
who don't; courted by boys, fawned upon by masters. People's faces
brighten when I throw them a nod. If I frown----"
"Oh, come on," said Trevor.
Bread and jam and cake monopolised Clowes's attention for the next
quarter of an hour. At the end of that period, however, he returned to
"After the serious business of the meal was concluded, and a simple
hymn had been sung by those present," he said, "Mr. Clowes resumed his
very interesting remarks. We were on the subject of brothers at
school. Now, take the melancholy case of Jackson Brothers. My heart
bleeds for Bob."
"Jackson's all right. What's wrong with him? Besides, naturally, young
Jackson came to Wrykyn when all his brothers had been here."
"What a rotten argument. It's just the one used by chaps' people, too.
They think how nice it will be for all the sons to have been at the
same school. It may be all right after they're left, but while they're
there, it's the limit. You say Jackson's all right. At present,
perhaps, he is. But the term's hardly started yet."
"Look here, what's at the bottom of this sending young brothers to the
same school as elder brothers?"
"Elder brother can keep an eye on him, I suppose."
"That's just it. For once in your life you've touched the spot. In
other words, Bob Jackson is practically responsible for the kid.
That's where the whole rotten trouble starts."
"Well, what happens? He either lets the kid rip, in which case he may
find himself any morning in the pleasant position of having to explain
to his people exactly why it is that little Willie has just received
the boot, and why he didn't look after him better: or he spends all
his spare time shadowing him to see that he doesn't get into trouble.
He feels that his reputation hangs on the kid's conduct, so he broods
over him like a policeman, which is pretty rotten for him and maddens
the kid, who looks on him as no sportsman. Bob seems to be trying the
first way, which is what I should do myself. It's all right, so far,
but, as I said, the term's only just started."
"Young Jackson seems all right. What's wrong with him? He doesn't
stick on side any way, which he might easily do, considering his
"There's nothing wrong with him in that way. I've talked to him
several times at the nets, and he's very decent. But his getting into
trouble hasn't anything to do with us. It's the masters you've got to
"What's up? Does he rag?"
"From what I gather from fellows in his form he's got a genius for
ragging. Thinks of things that don't occur to anybody else, and does
"He never seems to be in extra. One always sees him about on
"That's always the way with that sort of chap. He keeps on wriggling
out of small rows till he thinks he can do anything he likes without
being dropped on, and then all of a sudden he finds himself up to the
eyebrows in a record smash. I don't say young Jackson will land
himself like that. All I say is that he's just the sort who does. He's
asking for trouble. Besides, who do you see him about with all the
"He's generally with Wyatt when I meet him."
"Yes. Well, then!"
"What's wrong with Wyatt? He's one of the decentest men in the
"I know. But he's working up for a tremendous row one of these days,
unless he leaves before it comes off. The odds are, if Jackson's so
thick with him, that he'll be roped into it too. Wyatt wouldn't land
him if he could help it, but he probably wouldn't realise what he was
letting the kid in for. For instance, I happen to know that Wyatt
breaks out of his dorm. every other night. I don't know if he takes
Jackson with him. I shouldn't think so. But there's nothing to prevent
Jackson following him on his own. And if you're caught at that game,
it's the boot every time."
Trevor looked disturbed.
"Somebody ought to speak to Bob."
"What's the good? Why worry him? Bob couldn't do anything. You'd only
make him do the policeman business, which he hasn't time for, and
which is bound to make rows between them. Better leave him alone."
"I don't know. It would be a beastly thing for Bob if the kid did get
into a really bad row."
"If you must tell anybody, tell the Gazeka. He's head of Wain's, and
has got far more chance of keeping an eye on Jackson than Bob has."
"The Gazeka is a fool."
"All front teeth and side. Still, he's on the spot. But what's the
good of worrying. It's nothing to do with us, anyhow. Let's stagger
out, shall we?"
* * * * *
Trevor's conscientious nature, however, made it impossible for him to
drop the matter. It disturbed him all the time that he and Clowes were
on the river; and, walking back to the house, he resolved to see Bob
about it during preparation.
He found him in his study, oiling a bat.
"I say, Bob," he said, "look here. Are you busy?"
"It's this way. Clowes and I were talking----"
"If Clowes was there he was probably talking. Well?"
"About your brother."
"Oh, by Jove," said Bob, sitting up. "That reminds me. I forgot to get
the evening paper. Did he get his century all right?"
"Who?" asked Trevor, bewildered.
"My brother, J. W. He'd made sixty-three not out against Kent in this
morning's paper. What happened?"
"I didn't get a paper either. I didn't mean that brother. I meant the
"Oh, Mike? What's Mike been up to?"
"Nothing as yet, that I know of; but, I say, you know, he seems a
great pal of Wyatt's."
"I know. I spoke to him about it."
"Oh, you did? That's all right, then."
"Not that there's anything wrong with Wyatt."
"Not a bit. Only he is rather mucking about this term, I hear. It's
his last, so I suppose he wants to have a rag."