"There are few pleasures," said Psmith, as he resumed his favorite
position against the mantelpiece and surveyed the commandeered study
with the pride of a householder, "keener to the reflective mind than
sitting under one's own rooftree. This place would have been wasted on
Spiller; he would not have appreciated it properly."
Mike was finishing his tea. "You're a jolly useful chap to have by you
in a crisis, Smith," he said with approval. "We ought to have known each
"The loss was mine," said Psmith courteously. "We will now, with your
permission, face the future for a while. I suppose you realize that we
are now to a certain extent up against it. Spiller's hot Spanish blood
is not going to sit tight and do nothing under a blow like this."
"What can he do? Outwood's given us the study."
"What would you have done if somebody had bagged your study?"
"Made it jolly hot for them!"
"So will Comrade Spiller. I take it that he will collect a gang and make
an offensive movement against us directly he can. To all appearances we
are in a fairly tight place. It all depends on how big Comrade Spiller's
gang will be. I don't like rows, but I'm prepared to take on a
reasonable number of assailants in defense of the home."
Mike intimated that he was with him on the point. "The difficulty is,
though," he said, "about when we leave this room. I mean, we're all
right while we stick here, but we can't stay all night."
"That's just what I was about to point out when you put it with such
admirable clearness. Here we are in a stronghold; they can only get at
us through the door, and we can lock that."
"And jam a chair against it."
"_And_, as you rightly remark, jam a chair against it. But what of the
nightfall? What of the time when we retire to our dormitory?"
"Or dormitories. I say, if we're in separate rooms we shall be in the
Psmith eyed Mike with approval. "He thinks of everything! You're the
man, Comrade Jackson, to conduct an affair of this kind--such foresight!
such resource! We must see to this at once; if they put us in different
rooms we're done--we shall be destroyed singly in the watches of
"We'd better nip down to the matron right off."
"Not the matron--Comrade Outwood is the man. We are as sons to him;
there is nothing he can deny us. I'm afraid we are quite spoiling his
afternoon by these interruptions, but we must rout him out once more."
As they got up, the door handle rattled again, and this time there
followed a knocking.
"This must be an emissary of Comrade Spiller's," said Psmith. "Let us
parley with the man."
Mike unlocked the door. A light-haired youth with a cheerful, rather
vacant face and a receding chin strolled into the room, and stood
giggling with his hands in his pockets.
"I just came up to have a look at you," he explained.
"If you move a little to the left," said Psmith, "you will catch the
light-and-shade effects on Jackson's face better."
The newcomer giggled with renewed vigor. "Are you the chap with the
eyeglass who jaws all the time?"
"I _do_ wear an eyeglass," said Psmith; "as to the rest of the
"My name's Jellicoe."
"Mine is Psmith--P-s-m-i-t-h--one of the Shropshire Psmiths. The object
on the skyline is Comrade Jackson."
"Old Spiller," giggled Jellicoe, "is cursing you like anything
downstairs. You _are_ chaps! Do you mean to say you simply bagged his
study? He's making no end of a row about it."
"Spiller's fiery nature is a byword," said Psmith.
"What's he going to do?" asked Mike, in his practical way.
"He's going to get the chaps to turn you out."
"As I suspected," sighed Psmith, as one mourning over the frailty of
human nature. "About how many horny-handed assistants should you say
that he would be likely to bring? Will you, for instance, join the
"Me? No fear! I think Spiller's an ass."
"There's nothing like a common thought for binding people together. _I_
think Spiller's an ass."
"How many _will_ there be, then?" asked Mike.
"He might get about half a dozen, not more, because most of the chaps
don't see why they should sweat themselves just because Spiller's study
has been bagged."
"Sturdy common sense," said Psmith approvingly, "seems to be the chief
virtue of the Sedleigh character."
"We shall be able to tackle a crowd like that," said Mike. "The only
thing is we must get into the same dormitory."
"This is where Comrade Jellicoe's knowledge of the local geography will
come in useful. Do you happen to know of any snug little room, with,
say, about four beds in it? How many dormitories are there?"
"Five--there's one with three beds in it, only it belongs to three
"I believe in the equal distribution of property. We will go to Comrade
Outwood and stake out another claim."
Mr. Outwood received them even more beamingly than before. "Yes, Smith?"
"We must apologize for disturbing you, sir--"
"Not at all, Smith, not at all! I like the boys in my house to come to
me when they wish for my advice or help."
"We were wondering, sir, if you would have any objection to Jackson,
Jellicoe and myself sharing the dormitory with the three beds in it. A
very warm friendship ..." explained Psmith, patting the gurgling
Jellicoe kindly on the shoulder, "has sprung up between Jackson,
Jellicoe and myself."
"You make friends easily, Smith. I like to see it--I like to see it."
"And we can have the room, sir?"
"Certainly--certainly! Tell the matron as you go down."
"And now," said Psmith, as they returned to the study, "we may say that
we are in a fairly winning position. A vote of thanks to Comrade
Jellicoe for his valuable assistance."
"You _are_ a chap!" said Jellicoe.
The handle began to revolve again.
"That door," said Psmith, "is getting a perfect incubus! It cuts into
one's leisure cruelly."
This time it was a small boy. "They told me to come up and tell you to
come down," he said.
Psmith looked at him searchingly through his eyeglass.
"The senior day room chaps."
"Spiller and Robinson and Stone, and some other chaps."
"They want us to speak to them?"
"They told me to come up and tell you to come down."
"Go and give Comrade Spiller our compliments and say that we can't come
down, but shall be delighted to see him up here. Things," he said, as
the messenger departed, "are beginning to move. Better leave the door
open, I think; it will save trouble. Ah, come in, Comrade Spiller, what
can we do for you?"
Spiller advanced into the study; the others waited outside, crowding in
"Look here," said Spiller, "are you going to clear out of here or not?"
"After Mr. Outwood's kindly thought in giving us the room? You suggest a
black and ungrateful action, Comrade Spiller."
"You'll get it hot, if you don't."
"We'll risk it," said Mike.
Jellicoe giggled in the background; the drama in the atmosphere appealed
to him. His was a simple and appreciative mind.
"Come on, you chaps," cried Spiller suddenly.
There was an inward rush on the enemy's part, but Mike had been
watching. He grabbed Spiller by the shoulders and ran him back against
the advancing crowd. For a moment the doorway was blocked, then the
weight and impetus of Mike and Spiller prevailed, the enemy gave back,
and Mike, stepping into the room again, slammed the door and locked it.
"A neat piece of work," said Psmith approvingly, adjusting his tie at
the looking glass. "The preliminaries may now be considered over, the
first shot has been fired. The dogs of war are now loose."
A heavy body crashed against the door.
"They'll have it down," said Jellicoe.
"We must act, Comrade Jackson! Might I trouble you just to turn that key
quietly, and the handle, and then to stand by for the next attack."
There was a scrambling of feet in the passage outside, and then a
repetition of the onslaught on the door. This time, however, the door,
instead of resisting, swung open, and the human battering ram staggered
through into the study. Mike, turning after relocking the door, was just
in time to see Psmith, with a display of energy of which one would not
have believed him capable, grip the invader scientifically by an arm
and a leg.
Mike jumped to help, but it was needless; the captive was already on the
windowsill. As Mike arrived, Psmith dropped him onto the
Psmith closed the window gently and turned to Jellicoe. "Who was our
guest?" he asked, dusting the knees of his trousers where they had
pressed against the wall.
"Robinson. I say, you _are_ a chap!"
"Robinson, was it? Well, we are always glad to see Comrade Robinson,
always. I wonder if anybody else is thinking of calling?"
Apparently frontal attack had been abandoned. Whisperings could be heard
in the corridor.
Somebody hammered on the door.
"Yes?" called Psmith patiently.
"You'd better come out, you know; you'll only get it hotter if you
"Leave us, Spiller; we would be alone."
A bell rang in the distance.
"Tea," said Jellicoe; "we shall have to go now."
"They won't do anything till after tea, I shouldn't think," said Mike.
"There's no harm in going out."
The passage was empty when they opened the door; the call to food was
evidently a thing not to be treated lightly by the enemy.
In the dining room the beleaguered garrison were the object of general
attention. Everybody turned to look at them as they came in. It was
plain that the study episode had been a topic of conversation. Spiller's
face was crimson, and Robinson's coat sleeve still bore traces of
Mike felt rather conscious of the eyes, but Psmith was in his element.
His demeanor throughout the meal was that of some whimsical monarch
condescending for a freak to revel with his humble subjects.
Toward the end of the meal Psmith scribbled a note and passed it to
Mike. It read: "Directly this is over, nip upstairs as quickly as
Mike followed the advice; they were first out of the room. When they had
been in the study a few moments, Jellicoe knocked at the door. "Lucky
you two cut away so quick," he said. "They were going to try and get you
into the senior day room and scrag you there."
"This," said Psmith, leaning against the mantelpiece, "is exciting, but
it can't go on. We have got for our sins to be in this place for a whole
term, and if we are going to do the Hunted Fawn business all the time,
life in the true sense of the word will become an impossibility. My
nerves are so delicately attuned that the strain would simply reduce
them to hash. We are not prepared to carry on a long campaign--the thing
must be settled at once."
"Shall we go down to the senior day room, and have it out?" said Mike.
"No, we will play the fixture on our own ground. I think we may take it
as tolerably certain that Comrade Spiller and his hired ruffians will
try to corner us in the dormitory tonight. Well, of course, we could
fake up some sort of barricade for the door, but then we should have all
the trouble over again tomorrow and the day after that. Personally I
don't propose to be chivied about indefinitely like this, so I propose
that we let them come into the dormitory, and see what happens. Is this
meeting with me?"
"I think that's sound," said Mike. "We needn't drag Jellicoe into it."
"As a matter of fact--if you don't mind ..." began that man of peace.
"Quite right," said Psmith; "this is not Comrade Jellicoe's scene at
all; he has got to spend the term in the senior day room, whereas we
have our little wooden _châlet_ to retire to in times of stress. Comrade
Jellicoe must stand out of the game altogether. We shall be glad of his
moral support, but otherwise, _ne pas_. And now, as there won't be
anything doing till bedtime, I think I'll collar this table and write
home and tell my people that all is well with their Rupert."