And during that minute there floated into his mind the question, Who was Firby-Smith? That was the point. Who was he, after all? This started quite a new train of thought. Previously Mike had firmly intended to get up some time. Now he began to waver.
The school, or the remnants of it, waited impatiently while the prefect whose turn it was to read stammered nervously through the lesson. They were anxious to get on to what the Head was going to say at the end of prayers. At last it was over. The school waited, all ears. The headmaster bent down from the dais and called to Firby-Smith, who was standing in his place with the Sixth.
"Don't laugh, you grinning ape!" he cried. "It isn't funny." He then made for the trees where the rest of the team were sitting. Now Firby-Smith not only possessed rather prominent teeth; he was also sensitive on the subject. Mike's shaft sank in deeply. The fact that emotion caused him to swipe at a straight half-volley, miss it, and be bowled next ball made the wound rankle.
They're supposed to be for kids who steal buns at the shop or muck about generally. Not for a chap who curses a fellow who runs him out. I tell you what, there's just a chance Firby-Smith won't press the thing. He hadn't had time to get over it when he saw me. By now he'll have simmered down a bit. Look here, you're a pal of his, aren't you? Well, go and ask him to drop the business.
The only possible way of smoothing over an episode of this kind is for the guilty man to grovel. Firby-Smith did not grovel. "Easy run there, you know," he said reprovingly. The world swam before Mike's eyes. Through the red mist he could see Firby-Smith's face. The sun glinted on his rather prominent teeth. To Mike's distorted vision it seemed that the criminal was amused.
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.
With which glowing eulogy he dashed out of the room, thanking his stars that he had won through a confoundedly awkward business. Bob went across to Wain's to interview and soothe Firby-Smith. He found that outraged hero sitting moodily in his study like Achilles in his tent. Seeing Bob, he became all animation. "Look here," he said, "I wanted to see you.
He would have perished rather than admit it, but Wyatt's words had sunk in. That moment marked a distinct epoch in his career. His feelings were curiously mixed. He was still furious with Firby-Smith, yet at the same time he could not help acknowledging to himself that the latter had had the right on his side.
"Anyhow, his keenness isn't enough to make him turn out for house-fielding. If you really want to know, that's why you've got your first instead of him. You sweated away, and improved your fielding twenty per cent.; and I happened to be talking to Firby-Smith and found that young Mike had been shirking his, so out he went. A bad field's bad enough, but a slack field wants skinning."
His real reason for not turning up to house-fielding was that he considered himself above such things, and Firby-Smith a toothy weed. Could he give this excuse? There was no arguing against the fact that the head of the house was a toothy weed; but he felt a firm conviction that it would not be politic to say so. Happy thought: over-slept himself. He mentioned this. "Over-slept yourself!