---------------------------------------------------------------
     OCR: Rojer, 2002
     (more PGW titles to come, http://rojer.bdo.ru/PGW/)
---------------------------------------------------------------






    As  I slid into my chair at the breakfast table and started  to
deal  with the toothsome eggs and bacon which Jeeves had  given  of
his  plenty, I was conscious of a strange exhilaration, if I've got
the  word right. Pretty good the set-up looked to me. Here  I  was,
back  in the old familiar headquarters, and the thought that I  had
seen  the  last of Totleigh Towers, of Sir Watkyn Bassett,  of  his
daughter Madeline and above all of the unspeakable Spode,  or  Lord
Sidcup as he now calls himself, was like the medium dose for adults
of one of those patent medicines which tone the system and impart a
gentle glow.
    'These eggs, Jeeves,' I said. 'Very good. Very tasty.'
    'Yes, sir?'
    'Laid,  no  doubt, by contented hens. And the coffee,  perfect.
Nor must I omit to give a word of praise to the bacon. I wonder  if
you notice anything about me this morning.'
    'You seem in good spirits, sir.'
    'Yes, Jeeves, I am happy today.'
    'I am very glad to hear it, sir.'
    'You  might say I'm sitting on top of the world with a  rainbow
round my shoulder.'
    'A most satisfactory state of affairs, sir.'
    'What's the word I've heard you use from time to time -  begins
with eu?'
    'Euphoria, sir?'
    'That's  the one. I've seldom had a sharper attack of euphoria.
I  feel  full to the brim of Vitamin B. Mind you, I don't know  how
long it will last. Too often it is when one feels fizziest that the
storm clouds begin doing their stuff.'
    'Very  true,  sir.  Full many a glorious morning  have  I  seen
flatter  the mountain tops with sovereign eye, kissing with  golden
face the meadows green, gilding pale streams with heavenly alchemy,
Anon  permit  the  basest clouds to ride  with  ugly  rack  on  his
celestial face and from the forlorn world his visage hide, stealing
unseen to west with this disgrace.'
    'Exactly,'  I said. I couldn't have put it better myself.  'One
always has to budget for a change in the weather. Still, the  thing
to do is to keep on being happy while you can.'
    'Precisely, sir. Carpe diem, the Roman poet Horace advised. The
English poet Herrick expressed the same sentiment when he suggested
that  we should gather rosebuds while we may. Your elbow is in  the
butter, sir.'
    'Oh,  thank you, Jeeves.'Well, all right so far. Off to a  nice
start.  But  now  we  come to something which gives  me  pause.  In
recording  the  latest instalment of the Bertram Wooster  Story,  a
task at which I am about to have a pop, I don't see how I can avoid
delving  into the past a good deal, touching on events  which  took
place  in  previous instalments, and explaining who's who and  what
happened when and where and why, and this will make it heavy  going
for those who have been with me from the start. 'Old hat' they will
cry or, if French, 'Deja vu'.
   On  the  other hand, I must consider the new customers. I  can't
just  leave  the  poor perishers to try to puzzle  things  out  for
themselves. If I did, the exchanges in the present case  would  run
somewhat as follows.
   SELF:    The  relief  I  felt at having  escaped  from  Totleigh
Towers was stupendous.
   NEW C: What's Totleigh Towers?
   SELF:    For one thing it had looked odds on that I should  have
to marry Madeline.
   NEW C: Who's Madeline?
   SELF:  Gussie Fink-Nottle, you see, had eloped with the cook.
   NEW C: Who's Gussie Fink-Nottle?
   SELF:   But most fortunately Spode was in the offing and scooped
her up, saving me from the scaffold.
   NEW C: Who's Spode?
   You  see.  Hopeless. Confusion would be rife, as one  might  put
it. The only way out that I can think of is to ask the old gang  to
let  their  attention wander for a bit - there are heaps of  things
they  can be doing; washing the car, solving the crossword  puzzle,
taking  the  dog  for a run - while I place the  facts  before  the
newcomers.
   Briefly,  then,  owing  to  circumstances  I  needn't  go  into,
Madeline Bassett daughter of Sir Watkyn Bassett of Totleigh Towers,
Glos.  had long been under the impression that I was hopelessly  in
love  with  her and had given to understand that if  ever  she  had
occasion to return her betrothed, Gussie Fink-Nottle, to store, she
would marry me. Which wouldn't have fitted in with my plans at all,
she  though  physically  in the pin-up  class,  being  as  mushy  a
character as ever broke biscuit, convinced that the stars are God's
daisy  chain and that every time a fairy blows its wee nose a  baby
is  born.  The last thing, as you can well imagine, one would  want
about the home.
   So  when Gussie unexpectedly eloped with the cook, it looked  as
though Bertram was for it. If a girl thinks you're in love with her
and says she will marry you, you can't very well voice a preference
for  being  dead  in a ditch. Not, I mean, if you  want  to  regard
yourself  as  a  preux chevalier, as the expression  is,  which  is
always  my  aim.  But just as I was about to put in  my  order  for
sackcloth  and ashes, up, as I say, popped Spode, now  going  about
under  the alias of Lord Sidcup. He had loved her since she was  so
high but had never got around to mentioning it, and when he did  so
now,  they clicked immediately. And the thought that she was safely
out  of  circulation and no longer a menace was possibly the  prime
ingredient in my current euphoria.
   I   think   that   makes  everything  clear   to   the   meanest
intelligence, does it not? Right ho, so we can go ahead. Where were
we? Ah yes, I had just told Jeeves that I was sitting on top of the
world  with a rainbow round my shoulder, but expressing a doubt  as
to  whether  this state of things would last, and how  well-founded
that doubt proved to be; for scarcely a forkful of eggs and b later
it  was  borne in upon me that life was not the grand sweet song  I
had supposed it to be, but, as you might say, stern and earnest and
full of bumps.
   'Was I mistaken, Jeeves,' I said, making idle conversation as  I
sipped  my  coffee,  'or as the mists of sleep shredded  away  this
morning did I hear your typewriter going?'
   'Yes, sir. I was engaged in composition.'
   'A  dutiful letter to Charlie Silversmith?' I said, alluding  to
his  uncle who held the post of butler at Deverill Hall,  where  we
had once been pleasant visitors. 'Or possibly a lyric in the manner
of the bloke who advocates gathering rosebuds?'
   'Neither,  sir.  I  was  recording  the  recent  happenings   at
Totleigh Towers for the club book.'
   And  here, dash it, I must once more ask what I may call the old
sweats  to let their attention wander while I put the new  arrivals
abreast.
   Jeeves,  you  must  know  (I am addressing  the  new  arrivals),
belongs  to  a  club  for butlers and gentlemen's  gentlemen  round
Curzon  Street way, and one of the rules there is that every member
must  contribute to the club book the latest information concerning
the fellow he's working for, the idea being to inform those seeking
employment of the sort of thing they will be taking on. If a member
is  contemplating signing up with someone, he looks him up  in  the
club  book, and if he finds that he puts out crumbs for the birdies
every  morning  and  repeatedly saves golden-haired  children  from
being  run over by automobiles, he knows he is on a good thing  and
has  no hesitation in accepting office. Whereas if the book informs
him  that  the fellow habitually kicks starving dogs and  generally
begins  the day by throwing the breakfast porridge at his  personal
attendant, he is warned in time to steer clear of him.
   Which  is  all very well and one follows the train  of  thought,
but in my opinion such a book is pure dynamite and ought not to  be
permitted.  There are, Jeeves has informed me, eleven pages  in  it
about me; and what will the harvest be, I ask him, if it falls into
the  hands of my Aunt Agatha, with whom my standing is already low.
She  spoke her mind freely enough some years ago when - against  my
personal wishes - I was found with twenty-three cats in my  bedroom
and  again when I was accused - unjustly, I need hardly  say  -  of
having marooned A. B. Filmer, the Cabinet minister, on an island in
her  lake.  To  what heights of eloquence would she  not  soar,  if
informed  of  my  vicissitudes at Totleigh Towers? The  imagination
boggles, Jeeves, I tell him.
   To  which  he  replies that it won't fall into the hands  of  my
Aunt  Agatha,  she  not  being likely to  drop  in  at  the  Junior
Ganymede,  which is what his club is called, and there  the  matter
rests.  His reasoning is specious and he has more or less succeeded
in  soothing my tremors, but I still can't help feeling uneasy, and
my  manner, as I addressed him now, had quite a bit of agitation in
it.
   'Good  Lord!'  I ejaculated, if ejaculated is the word  I  want.
'Are you really writing up that Totleigh business?'
   'Yes, sir.'
   'All  the  stuff  about my being supposed to  have  pinched  old
Bassett's amber statuette?'
   'Yes, sir.'
   'And the night I spent in a prison cell? Is this necessary?  Why
not let the dead past bury its dead? Why not forget all about it?'
   'Impossible, sir.'
   'Why  impossible?  Don't tell me you can't  forget  things.  You
aren't an elephant.'
   I thought I had him there, but no.
   'It  is my membership in the Junior Ganymede which restrains  me
from  obliging you, sir. The rules with reference to the club  book
are  very strict and the penalty for omitting to contribute  to  it
severe. Actual expulsion has sometimes resulted.'
   'I  see,' I said. I could appreciate that this put him in  quite
a spot, the feudal spirit making him wish to do the square thing by
the  young master, while a natural disinclination to get bunged out
of  a  well-loved club urged him to let the young master  boil  his
head.  The  situation seemed to me to call for what is known  as  a
compromise.
   'Well, couldn't you water the thing down a bit? Omit one or  two
of the juiciest episodes?'
   'I  fear  not,  sir. The full facts are required. The  committee
insists on this.'
   I  suppose  I ought not at this point to have expressed  a  hope
that  his blasted committee would trip over banana skins and  break
their  ruddy necks, for I seemed to detect on his face a  momentary
look of pain. But he was broadminded and condoned it.
   'Your  chagrin  does  not surprise me, sir.  One  can,  however,
understand their point of view. The Junior Ganymede club book is  a
historic  document.  It  has  been in existence  more  than  eighty
years.'
   'It must be the size of a house.'
   'No,  sir,  the records are in several volumes. The present  one
dates back some twelve years. And one must remember that it is  not
every employer who demands a great deal of space.'
   'Demands!'
   'I  should have said "requires". As a rule, a few lines suffice.
Your eighteen pages are quite exceptional.'
   'Eighteen? I thought it was eleven.'
   'You  are omitting to take into your calculations the report  of
your   misadventures  at  Totleigh  Towers,  which  I  have  nearly
completed. I anticipate that this will run to approximately  seven.
If you will permit me, sir, I will pat your back.'
   He  made this kindly offer because I had choked on a swallow  of
coffee.  A few pats and I was myself again and more than  a  little
incensed,  as  always happens when we are discussing  his  literary
work.  Eighteen pages, I mean to say, and every page full of  stuff
calculated,  if thrown open to the public, to give my prestige  the
blackest  of  eyes.  Conscious  of a  strong  desire  to  kick  the
responsible  parties  in the seat of the  pants,  I  spoke  with  a
generous warmth.
   'Well,  I  call it monstrous. There's no other word for  it.  Do
you  know  what  that  blasted committee  of  yours  are  inviting?
Blackmail, that's what they're inviting. Let some man of  ill  will
get  his  hooks  on  that book, and what'll be  the  upshot?  Ruin,
Jeeves, that's what'll be the upshot.'
   I  don't  know if he drew himself to his full height, because  I
was  lighting a cigarette at the moment and wasn't looking,  but  I
think  he  must  have done, for his voice, when he spoke,  was  the
chilly voice of one who has drawn himself to his full height.
   'There are no men of ill will in the Junior Ganymede, sir.'
    I contested this statement hotly.
   That's  what you think. How about Brinkley?' I said, my allusion
being to a fellow the agency had sent me some years previously when
Jeeves and I had parted company temporarily because he didn't  like
me playing the banjolele. 'He's a member, isn't he?'
   'A  county member, sir. He rarely comes to the club. In passing,
sir, his name is not Brinkley, it is Bingley.'
   I  waved  an  impatient cigarette holder. I was in  no  mood  to
split straws. Or is it hairs?
   'His  name is not of the essence, Jeeves. What is of  the  e  is
that  he  went off on his afternoon out, came back in  an  advanced
state of intoxication, set the house on fire and tried to dismember
me with a carving knife.'
   'A most unpleasant experience, sir.'
   'Having  heard  noises down below, I emerged from  my  room  and
found  him  wrestling  with the grandfather clock,  with  which  he
appeared to have had a difference. He then knocked over a lamp  and
leaped  up the stairs at me, complete with cutlass. By a miracle  I
avoided  becoming the late Bertram Wooster, but only by a  miracle.
And  you  say  there are no men of ill will in the Junior  Ganymede
club.  Tchah!' I said. It is an expression I don't often  use,  but
the situation seemed to call for it.
   Things  had  become difficult. Angry passions  were  rising  and
dudgeon  bubbling up a bit. It was fortunate that at this  juncture
the telephone should have tootled, causing a diversion.
   'Mrs Travers, sir,' said Jeeves, having gone to the instrument.


   I  had already divined who was at the other end of the wire,  my
good  and  deserving Aunt Dahlia having a habit of talking  on  the
telephone with the breezy vehemence of a hog-caller in the  western
states of America calling his hogs to come and get it. She got this
way  through  hunting a lot in her youth with  the  Quorn  and  the
Pytchley.  What  with people riding over hounds and  hounds  taking
time  off  to chase rabbits, a girl who hunts soon learns  to  make
herself  audible. I believe that she, when in good voice, could  be
heard in several adjoining counties.

   I  stepped  to the telephone, well pleased. There are few  males
or  females  whose society I enjoy more than that  of  this  genial
sister  of  my  late father, and it was quite a time since  we  had
foregathered.  She  lives  near the town  of  Market  Snodsbury  in
Worcestershire and sticks pretty closely to the rural  seat,  while
I,  as  Jeeves had just recorded in the club book, had had my  time
rather  full elsewhere of late. I was smiling sunnily as I took  up
the receiver. Not much good, of course, as she couldn't see me, but
it's the spirit that counts.
   'Hullo, aged relative.'
   'Hullo to you, you young blot. Are you sober?'
   I  felt  a  natural  resentment at being considered  capable  of
falling under the influence of the sauce at ten in the morning, but
I  reminded myself that aunts will be aunts. Show me an aunt,  I've
often said, and I will show you someone who doesn't give a hoot how
much  her obiter dicta may wound a nephew's sensibilities.  With  a
touch  of  hauteur I reassured her on the point she had raised  and
asked her in what way I could serve her.
   'How about lunch?'
   'I'm  not in London. I'm at home. And you can serve me,  as  you
call it, by coming here. Today, if possible.'
   'Your  words  are music to my ears, old ancestor. Nothing  could
tickle  me  pinker,'  I said, for I am always glad  to  accept  her
hospitality  and  to  renew  my acquaintance  with  the  unbeatable
eatables dished up by her superb French chef Anatole, God's gift to
the  gastric  juices. I have often regretted that I  have  but  one
stomach to put at his disposal. 'Staying how long?'
   'As  long  as you like, my beamish boy. I'll let you  know  when
the  time  comes to throw you out. The great thing is  to  get  you
here.'
   I  was touched, as who would not have been, by the eagerness she
showed  for my company. Too many of my circle are apt when inviting
me  to  their homes to stress the fact that they are only expecting
me  for  the week-end and to dwell with too much enthusiasm on  the
excellence of the earlier trains back to the metropolis  on  Monday
morning. The sunny smile widened an inch or two.
   'Awfully good of you to have me, old blood relation.'
   'It is, rather.'
   'I look forward to seeing you.'
   'Who wouldn't?'
   'Each  minute  will  seem  like an  hour  till  we  meet.  How's
Anatole?'
   'Greedy young pig, always thinking of Anatole.'
   'Difficult to help it. The taste lingers. How is his  art  these
days?'
   'At its peak.'
   'That's good.'
   'Ginger says his output has been a revelation to him.'
   I  asked her to repeat this. It had sounded to me just as if she
had said 'Ginger says his output has been a revelation to him', and
I  knew this couldn't be the case. It turned out, however, that  it
was.
   'Ginger?' I said, not abreast.
   'Harold  Winship.  He told me to call him Ginger.  He's  staying
here. He says he's a friend of yours, which he would scarcely admit
unless  he  knew it could be proved against him. You do  know  him,
don't you? He speaks of having been at Oxford with you.'
   I  uttered  a  joyful cry, and she said if I did it  again,  she
would  sue  me,  it  having nearly cracked her eardrum.  A  notable
instance of the pot calling the kettle black, as the old saying has
it,   she  having  been  cracking  mine  since  the  start  of  the
proceedings.
   'Know  him?'  I  said. 'You bet I know him.  We  were  like  ...
Jeeves!'
   'Sir?'
   'Who were those two fellows?'
   'Sir?'
   'Greek,  if  I  remember correctly. Always  mentioned  when  the
subject of bosom pals comes up.'
   'Would you be referring to Damon and Pythias, sir?'
   'That's  right.  We were like Damon and Pythias,  old  ancestor.
But  what's he doing chez you? I wasn't aware that you and  he  had
ever met.'
   'We hadn't. But his mother was an old school friend of mine.'
   'I see.'
   'And  when  I heard he was standing for Parliament  in  the  by-
election at Market Snodsbury, I wrote to him and told him  to  make
my house his base. Much more comfortable than dossing at a pub.'
   'Oh, you've got a by-election at Market Snodsbury, have you?'
   'Under full steam.'
   'And Ginger's one of the candidates?'
   'The Conservative one. You seem surprised.'
   'I  am.  You might say stunned. I wouldn't have thought  it  was
his dish at all. How's he doing?'
   'Difficult to say so far. Anyway, he needs all the help  he  can
get, so I want you to come and canvass for him.'
   This  made  me  chew  the lower lip for a  moment.  One  has  to
exercise caution at a time like this, or where is one?
   'What  does  it involve?' I asked guardedly. 'I shan't  have  to
kiss babies, shall I?'
   'Of course you won't, you abysmal chump.'
   'I've  always  heard  that kissing babies entered  largely  into
these things.'
   'Yes,  but  it's the candidate who does it, poor  blighter.  All
you have to do is go from house to house urging the inmates to vote
for Ginger.'
   'Then  rely on me. Such an assignment should be well  within  my
scope.  Old Ginger!' I said, feeling emotional. 'It will  warm  the
what-d'you-call-its of my heart to see him again.'
   'Well, you'll have the opportunity of hotting them up this  very
afternoon. He's gone to London for the day and wants you  to  lunch
with him.'
   'Does he, egad! That's fine. What time?'
   'One-thirty.'
   'At what spot?'
   'Barribault's grill-room.'
   'I'll  be  there.  Jeeves,' I said, hanging  up,  'You  remember
Ginger Winship, who used to play Damon to my Pythias?'
   'Yes, indeed, sir.'
   'They've  got  an  election  on at Market  Snodsbury,  and  he's
standing in the Conservative interest.'
   'So I understood Madam to say, sir.'
   'Oh, you caught her remarks?'
   'With  little  or  no difficulty, sir. Madam has  a  penetrating
voice.'
   'It  does  penetrate, doesn't it,' I said, massaging the  ear  I
had been holding to the receiver. 'Good lung power.'
   'Extremely, sir.'
   'I  wonder  whether she ever sang lullabies to me in my  cradle.
If  so,  it must have scared me cross-eyed, giving me the  illusion
that  the boiler had exploded. However, that is not germane to  the
issue, which is that we leave for her abode this afternoon. I shall
be  lunching  with  Ginger. In my absence, pack  a  few  socks  and
toothbrushes, will you.'
   'Very  good,  sir,'  he replied, and we did not  return  to  the
subject of the club book.



   It  was with no little gusto and animation that some hours later
I  set out for the tryst. This Ginger was one of my oldest buddies,
not  quite  so  old as Kipper Herring or Catsmeat Potter-Pirbright,
with  whom  I  had plucked the gowans fine at prep  school,  public
school  and University, but definitely ancient. Our rooms at Oxford
had  been  adjacent, and it would not be too much to say that  from
the  moment he looked in to borrow a syphon of soda water we became
more  like  brothers than anything, and this state  of  things  had
continued after we had both left the seat of learning.

   For  quite a while he had been a prominent member of the  Drones
Club, widely known for his effervescence and vivacity, but all of a
sudden  he  had tendered his resignation and gone to  live  in  the
country, oddly enough at Steeple Bumpleigh in Essex, where my  Aunt
Agatha  has  her  lair. This, somebody told  me,  was  due  to  the
circumstance that he had got engaged to a girl of strong  character
who  disapproved of the Drones Club. You get girls like that  every
now and then, and in my opinion they are best avoided.
   Well,  naturally  this had parted us. He never came  to  London,
and I of course never went to Steeple Bumpleigh. You don't catch me
going  anywhere  near Aunt Agatha unless I have  to.  No  sense  in
sticking  one's neck out. But I had missed him sorely. Oh  for  the
touch of a vanished hand, is how you might put it.
   Arriving  at  Barribault's, I found him in the lobby  where  you
have  the  pre-luncheon gargle before proceeding to the grill-room,
and  after the initial What-ho-ing and What-a-time-since-we-met-ing
inevitable when two vanished hands who haven't seen each other  for
ages re-establish contact, he asked me if I would like one for  the
tonsils.
   'I won't join you,' he said. 'I'm not actually on the waggon,  I
have  a  little light wine at dinner now and then, but  my  fiancee
wants me to stay off cocktails. She says they harden the arteries.'
   If  you  are  about to ask me if this didn't make me  purse  the
lips a bit, I can assure you that it did. It seemed to point to his
having gone and got hitched up with a popsy totally lacking in  the
proper spirit, and it bore out what I had been told about her being
a girl of strong character. No one who wasn't could have dashed the
cup  from his lips in this manner. She had apparently made him like
it, too, for he had spoken of her not with the sullen bitterness of
one  crushed  beneath  the iron heel but  with  devotion  in  every
syllable.  Plainly he had got it up his nose and didn't  object  to
being bossed.
   How  different  from  me, I reflected,  that  time  when  I  was
engaged  to  my  Uncle Percy's bossy daughter  Florence  Craye.  It
didn't  last  long,  because  she gave  me  the  heave-ho  and  got
betrothed  to  a fellow called Gorringe who wrote vers  libre,  but
while it lasted I felt like one of those Ethiopian slaves Cleopatra
used  to  push  around,  and I chafed more than  somewhat.  Whereas
Ginger  obviously hadn't even started to chafe. It isn't  difficult
to  spot  when a fellow's chafing, and I could detect none  of  the
symptoms. He seemed to think that putting the presidential veto  on
cocktails  showed  what  an angel of mercy  the  girl  was,  always
working with his good at heart.
   The  Woosters  do not like drinking alone, particularly  with  a
critical  eye watching them to see if their arteries are hardening,
so I declined the proffered snort -reluctantly, for I was athirst -
and  came straight to the main item on the agenda paper. On my  way
to  Barribault's I had, as you may suppose, pondered deeply on this
business  of him standing for Parliament, and I wanted to know  the
motives behind the move. It looked cock-eyed to me.
   'Aunt  Dahlia tells me you are staying with her in order  to  be
handy  to Market Snodsbury while giving the electors there the  old
oil,' I said.
   'Yes,  she very decently invited me. She was at school  with  my
mother.'
   'So  she told me. I wonder if her face was as red in those days.
How do you like it there?'
   'It's a wonderful place.'
   'Grade  A.  Gravel  soil, main drainage, spreading  grounds  and
Company's own water. And, of course, Anatole's cooking.'
   'Ah!'  he  said, and I think he would have bared his head,  only
he hadn't a hat on. 'Very gifted, that man.'
   'A  wizard,'  I agreed. 'His dinners must fortify  you  for  the
tasks you have to face. How's the election coming along?'
   'All right.'
   'Kissed any babies lately?'
   'Ah!' he said again, this time with a shudder. I could see  that
I had touched an exposed nerve. 'What blighters babies are, Bertie,
dribbling, as they do, at the side of the mouth. Still, it  has  to
be  done. My agent tells me to leave no stone unturned if I want to
win the election.'
   'But  why do you want to win the election? I'd have thought  you
wouldn't have touched Parliament with a ten-foot pole,' I said, for
I knew the society there was very mixed. 'What made you commit this
rash act?'
   'My  fiancee wanted me to,' he said, and as his lips framed  the
word  'fiancee' his voice took on a sort of tremolo like that of  a
male  turtle  dove cooing to a female turtle dove. 'She  thought  I
ought to be carving out a career for myself.'
   'Do you want a career?'
   'Not much, but she insisted.'
   The  uneasiness I had felt when he told me the beasel  had  made
him  knock off cocktails deepened. His every utterance rendered  it
more apparent to an experienced man like myself that he had run  up
against something too hot to handle, and for a moment I thought  of
advising him to send her a telegram saying it was all off and, this
done, to pack a suitcase and catch the next boat to Australia.  But
feeling  that this might give offence I merely asked him  what  the
procedure  was when you stood for Parliament - or ran  for  it,  as
they  would say in America. Not that I particularly wanted to know,
but  it  was  something  to  talk about other  than  his  frightful
fiancee.
   A  cloud  passed over his face, which I ought to have  mentioned
earlier  was  well  worth looking at, the eyes  clear,  the  cheeks
tanned,  the  chin firm, the hair ginger and the nose  shapely.  It
topped  off,  moreover, a body which also repaid inspection,  being
muscular  and well knit. His general aspect, as a matter  of  fact,
was  rather  like that presented by Esmond Haddock, the  squire  of
Deverill  Hall, where Jeeves's Uncle Charlie Silversmith  drew  his
monthly envelope. He had the same poetic look, as if at any  moment
about  to rhyme June with moon, yet gave the impression, as  Esmond
did,  of  being able, if he cared to, to fell an ox with  a  single
blow.  I don't know if he had ever actually done this, for  one  so
seldom  meets  an ox, but in his undergraduate days he  had  felled
people  right  and left, having represented the University  in  the
ring as a heavyweight a matter of three years. He may have included
oxen among his victims.
   'You  go  through hell,' he said, the map still  clouded  as  he
recalled  the past. 'I had to sit in a room where you could  hardly
breathe because it was as crowded as the Black Hole of Calcutta and
listen  to  addresses of welcome till midnight. After that  I  went
about making speeches.'
   'Well,  why  aren't you down there, making speeches,  now?  Have
they given you a day off?'
   'I came up to get a secretary.'
   'Surely you didn't go there without one?'
   'No,  I  had one all right, but my fiancee fired her.  They  had
some sort of disagreement.'
   I  had  pursed the lips a goodish bit when he had told me  about
his fiancee and the cocktails, and I pursed them to an even greater
extent  now.  The more I heard of this girl he had got engaged  to,
the  less  I  liked the sound of her. I was thinking how  well  she
would  get  on with Florence Craye if they happened to  meet.  Twin
souls,  I  mean to say, each what a housemaid I used to know  would
have called an overbearing dishpot.
   I  didn't say so, of course. There is a time to call someone  an
overbearing  dishpot, and a time not to. Criticism of the  girl  he
loved  might  be taken in ill part, as the expression is,  and  you
don't want an ex-Oxford boxing Blue taking things in ill part  with
you.
   'Have you anyone in mind?' I asked. 'Or are you just going to  a
secretary bin, accepting what they have in stock?'
   'I'm  hoping to get hold of an American girl I saw something  of
before  I  left London. I was sharing a flat with Boko  Fittleworth
when he was writing a novel, and she came every day and worked with
him.  Boko  dictates  his stuff, and he said  she  was  tops  as  a
shorthand  typist. I have her address, but I don't  know  if  she's
still there. I'm going round there after lunch. Her name's Magnolia
Glendennon.'
   'It can't be.'
   'Why not?'
   'Nobody could have a name like Magnolia.'
   'They  could  if they came from South Carolina, as she  did.  In
the  southern  states of America you can't throw  a  brick  without
hitting  a  Magnolia. But I was telling you about this business  of
standing  for  Parliament. First, of course, you have  to  get  the
nomination.'
   'How did you manage that?'
   'My  fiancee  fixed it. She knows one of the Cabinet  ministers,
and he pulled strings. A man named Filmer.'
   'Not A. B. Filmer?'
   'That's right. Is he a friend of yours?'
   'I  wouldn't  say exactly a friend. I came to know him  slightly
owing  to being chased with him on to the roof of a sort of summer-
house by an angry swan. This drew us rather close together for  the
moment, but we never became really chummy.'
   'Where was this?'
   'On  an  island on the lake at my Aunt Agatha's place at Steeple
Bumpleigh.  Living  at  Steeple  Bumpleigh,  you've  probably  been
there.'
   He  looked  at  me with a wild surmise, much as  those  soldiers
Jeeves  has told me about looked on each other when on  a  peak  in
Darien, wherever that is.
   'Is Lady Worpledon your aunt?'
   'And how.'
   'She's never mentioned it.'
   'She wouldn't. Her impulse would be to hush it up.'
   'Then, good Lord, she must be your cousin.'
   'No, my aunt. You can't be both.'
   'I mean Florence. Florence Craye, my fiancee.'
   It  was a shock, I don't mind telling you, and if I hadn't  been
seated  I  would probably have reeled. Though I ought not  to  have
been  so surprised. Florence was one of those girls who are  always
getting   engaged  to  someone,  first  teaming  up  with   Stilton
Cheesewright,  then  me,  and  finally  Percy  Gorringe,  who   was
dramatizing her novel Spindrift. The play, by the way, had recently
been presented to the public at the Duke of York's theatre and  had
laid  an  instantaneous egg, coming off on the following  Saturday.
One  of  the  critics said he had perhaps seen it at a disadvantage
because  when he saw it the curtain was up. I had wondered  a  good
deal what effect this had had on Florence's haughty spirit.
   'You're  engaged to Florence?' I yipped, looking at him  with  a
wild surmise.
   'Yes. Didn't you know?'
   'Nobody  tells  me  anything. Engaged  to  Florence,  eh?  Well,
well.'
   A  less tactful man than Bertram Wooster might have gone  on  to
add 'Oh, tough luck!' or something along those lines, for there was
no  question  but that the unhappy man was properly up against  it,
but  if there's one thing the Woosters have in heaping measure,  it
is  tact. I merely gripped his hand, gave it a shake and wished him
happiness. He thanked me for this.
   'You're lucky,' I said, wearing the mask.
   'Don't I know it!'
   'She's a charming girl,' I said, still wearing as above.
   'That just describes her.'
   'Intellectual, too.'
   'Distinctly. Writes novels.'
   'Always at it.'
   'Did you read Spindrift?'
   'Couldn't put it down,' I said, cunningly not revealing  that  I
hadn't been able to take it up. 'Did you see the play?'
   'Twice.  Too  bad it didn't run. Gorringe's adaptation  was  the
work of an ass.'
   'I spotted him as an ass the first time I saw him.'
   'It's a pity Florence didn't.'
   'Yes.  By the way, what became of Gorringe? When last heard  of,
she was engaged to him.'
   'She broke it off.'
   'Very wise of her. He had long side-whiskers.'
   'She considered him responsible for the failure of the play  and
told him so.'
   'She would.'
   'What do you mean she would?'
   'Her nature is so frank, honest and forthright.'
   'It is, isn't it.'
   'She speaks her mind.'
   'Invariably.'
   'It's an admirable trait.'
   'Oh, most.'
   'You can't get away with much with a girl like Florence.'
   'No.'
   We  fell into a silence. He was twiddling his fingers and a sort
of  what-d'you-call-it had come into his manner, as if he wanted to
say  something  but  was  having  trouble  in  getting  it  out.  I
remembered  encountering a similar diffidence in the  Rev.  Stinker
Pinker  when he was trying to nerve himself to ask me  to  come  to
Totleigh Towers, and you find the same thing in dogs when they  put
a  paw  on  your knee and look up into your face but  don't  utter,
though  making it clear that there is a subject on which  they  are
anxious to touch.
   'Bertie,' he said at length.
   'Hullo?'
   'Bertie.'
   'Yes?'
   'Bertie.'
   'Still  here.  Excuse  me  asking,  but  have  you  any  cracked
gramophone  record blood in you? Perhaps your mother was frightened
by one?'
   And  then  it  all  came out in a rush as if  a  cork  had  been
pulled.
   'Bertie,  there's  something I must  tell  you  about  Florence,
though you probably know it already, being a cousin of hers.  She's
a  wonderful girl and practically perfect in every respect, but she
has  one  characteristic which makes it awkward for those who  love
her and are engaged to her. Don't think I'm criticizing her.'
   'No, no.'
   'I'm just mentioning it.'
   'Exactly.'
   'Well,  she has no use for a loser. To keep her esteem you  have
to  be  a  winner. She's like one of those princesses in the  fairy
tales  who set fellows some task to perform, as it might be scaling
a  mountain of glass or bringing her a hair from the beard  of  the
Great  Cham  of  Tartary,  and gave them the  brush-off  when  they
couldn't make the grade.'
   I  recalled  the princesses of whom he spoke, and I  had  always
thought  them  rather  fatheads.  I  mean  to  say,  what  sort  of
foundation  for  a  happy marriage is the bridegroom's  ability  to
scale  mountains of glass? A fellow probably wouldn't be called  on
to do it more than about once every ten years, if that.
   'Gorringe,'  said  Ginger, continuing, 'was a  loser,  and  that
dished  him.  And long ago, someone told me, she was engaged  to  a
gentleman jockey and she chucked him because he took a spill at the
canal  turn in the Grand National. She's a perfectionist. I  admire
her for it, of course.'
   'Of course.'
   'A girl like her is entitled to have high standards.'
   'Quite.'
   'But,  as  I  say, it makes it awkward for me. She has  set  her
heart  on  my winning this Market Snodsbury election, heaven  knows
why, for I never thought she had any interest in politics, and if I
lose it, I shall lose her, too. So ...'
   'Now  is  the time for all good men to come to the  aid  of  the
party?'
   'Exactly. You are going to canvass for me. Well, canvass like  a
ton  of bricks, and see that Jeeves does the same. I've simply  got
to win.'
   'You can rely on us.'
   'Thank  you,  Bertie, I knew I could. And now let's  go  in  and
have a bite of lunch.'



   Having  restored  the  tissues with  the  excellent  nourishment
which  Barribault's hotel always provides and arranged that  Ginger
was  to pick me up in his car later in the afternoon, my own sports
model  being at the vet's with some nervous ailment, we parted,  he
to  go  in  search of Magnolia Glendennon, I to walk  back  to  the
Wooster GHQ.

   It  was,  as you may suppose, in thoughtful mood that I made  my
way  through  London's  thoroughfares. I was  reading  a  novel  of
suspense  the other day in which the heroine, having experienced  a
sock  in  the eye or two, was said to be lost in a maze of mumbling
thoughts, and that description would have fitted me like the  paper
on the wall.
   My  heart  was  heavy. When a man is an old  friend  and  pretty
bosom  at  that,  it  depresses you to hear that  he's  engaged  to
Florence Craye. I recalled my own emotions when I had found  myself
in that unpleasant position. I had felt like someone trapped in the
underground den of the Secret Nine.
   Though,  mark  you, there's nothing to beef about in  her  outer
crust.  At the time when she was engaged to Stilton Cheesewright  I
remember  recording in the archives that she was tall  and  willowy
with  a  terrific profile and luxuriant platinum-blonde  hair;  the
sort  of girl who might, as far as looks were concerned, have  been
the  star unit of the harem of one of the better-class Sultans; and
though  I hadn't seen her for quite a while, I presumed that  these
conditions still prevailed. The fact that Ginger, when speaking  of
her,  had gone so readily into his turtle dove impersonation seemed
to indicate as much.
   Looks,  however, aren't everything. Against this pin-up-ness  of
hers  you  had to put the bossiness which would lead her to  expect
the  bloke  she  married to behave like a Hollywood  Yes-man.  From
childhood up she had been ... I can't think of the word ...  begins
with an i... No, it's gone ... but I can give you the idea. When at
my private school I once won a prize for Scripture Knowledge, which
naturally involved a lot of researching into Holy Writ, and in  the
course of my researches I came upon the story of the military  chap
who  used to say 'Come' and they cometh and 'Go' and they goeth.  I
have always thought that that was Florence in a nutshell. She would
have  given short shrift, as the expression is, to anyone  who  had
gone when she said 'Come' or the other way round. Imperious, that's
the  word I was groping for. She was as imperious as a traffic cop.
Little  wonder  that  the  heart was heavy.  I  felt  that  Ginger,
mistaking  it  for a peach, had plucked a lemon in  the  garden  of
love.
   And  then  my  meditations took a less sombre turn.  This  often
happens  after a good lunch, even if you haven't had a cocktail.  I
reminded  myself that many married men positively enjoy being  kept
on their toes by the little woman, and possibly Ginger might be one
of them. He might take the view that when the little w made him sit
up  and  beg  and  snap  lumps of sugar off  his  nose,  it  was  a
compliment  really,  because  it showed  that  she  was  taking  an
interest.
   Feeling  a  bit  more cheerful, I reached for my cigarette  case
and was just going to open it, when like an ass I dropped it and it
fell  into the road. And as I stepped from the pavement to retrieve
it there was a sudden tooting in my rear, and whirling on my axis I
perceived that in about another two ticks I was going to be  rammed
amidships by a taxi.
   The  trouble  about whirling on your axis, in  case  you  didn't
know, is that you're liable, if not an adagio dancer, to trip  over
your  feet, and this was what I proceeded to do. My left  shoe  got
all  mixed up with my right ankle, I tottered, swayed, and after  a
brief  pause  came down like some noble tree beneath the  woodman's
axe,  and  I was sitting there lost in a maze of numbing  thoughts,
when an unseen hand attached itself to my arm and jerked me back to
safety. The taxi went on and turned the corner.
   Well,  of course the first thing the man of sensibility does  on
these  occasions is to thank his brave preserver. I  turned  to  do
this,  and  blow  me  tight if the b.p. wasn't Jeeves.  Came  as  a
complete  surprise. I couldn't think what he was doing  there,  and
for  an  instant  the idea occurred to me that this  might  be  his
astral body.
   'Jeeves!'  I  ejaculated.  I'm  pretty  sure  that's  the  word.
Anyway, I'll risk it.
   'Good afternoon, sir. I trust you are not too discommoded.  That
was a somewhat narrow squeak.'
   'It  was indeed. I don't say my whole life passed before me, but
a considerable chunk of it did. But for you -'
   'Not at all, sir.'
   'Yes,  you  and  you only saved me from appearing in  tomorrow's
obituary column.'
   'A pleasure, sir.'
   'It's  amazing  how  you always turn up at the  crucial  moment,
like  the United States Marines. I remember how you did when A.  B.
Filmer and I were having our altercation with that swan, and  there
were  other  occasions  too numerous to  mention.  Well,  you  will
certainly  get a rave notice in my prayers next time I  make  them.
But  how do you happen to be in these parts? Where are we,  by  the
way?'
   'This is Curzon Street, sir.'
   'Of course. I'd have known that if I hadn't been musing.'
   'You were musing, sir?'
   'Deeply.  I'll tell you about it later. This is where your  club
is, isn't it?'
   'Yes,  sir,  just round the corner. In your absence  and  having
completed the packing, I decided to lunch there.'
   'Thank  heaven you did. If you hadn't, I'd have been ...  what's
that gag of yours? Something about wheels.'
   'Less than the dust beneath thy chariot wheels, sir.'
   'Or, rather, the cabby's chariot wheels. Why are you looking  at
me with such a searching eye, Jeeves?'
   'I  was  thinking that your misadventure had left  you  somewhat
dishevelled,  sir. If I might suggest it, I think we should  repair
to the Junior Ganymede now.'
   'I see what you mean. You would give me a wash and brush-up?'
   'Just so, sir.'
   'And perhaps a whisky-and-soda?'
   'Certainly, sir.'
   'I  need  one  sorely. Ginger's practically on  the  waggon,  so
there  were  no  cocktails before lunch. And do you know  why  he's
practically  on  the waggon? Because the girl he's engaged  to  has
made  him take that foolish step. And do you know who the girl he's
engaged to is? My cousin Florence Craye.'
   'Indeed, sir?'
   Well,  I  hadn't expected him to roll his eyes and  leap  about,
because he never does no matter how sensational the news item,  but
I  could  see  by  the way one of his eyebrows  twitched  and  rose
perhaps  an eighth of an inch that I had interested him. And  there
was  what  is called a wealth of meaning in that 'Indeed, sir?'  He
was  conveying his opinion that this was a bit of luck for Bertram,
because  a  girl you have once been engaged to is always a  lurking
menace  till she gets engaged to someone else and so cannot  decide
at  any  moment  to  play  a return date. I  got  the  message  and
thoroughly agreed with him, though naturally I didn't say so.
   Jeeves, you see, is always getting me out of entanglements  with
the  opposite sex, and he knows all about the various  females  who
from  time  to time have come within an ace of hauling  me  to  the
altar  rails,  but of course we don't discuss them. To  do  so,  we
feel, would come under the head of bandying a woman's name, and the
Woosters do not bandy women's names. Nor do the Jeeveses.  I  can't
speak for his Uncle Charlie Silversmith, but I should imagine  that
he,  too,  has  his  code of ethics in this respect.  These  things
generally run in families.
   So  I  merely  filled him in about her making Ginger  stand  for
Parliament  and  the canvassing we were going to undertake,  urging
him  to  do  his utmost to make the electors think along the  right
lines,  and  he said 'Yes, sir' and 'Very good, sir' and  'I  quite
understand, sir', and we proceeded to the Junior Ganymede.
   An  extremely cosy club it proved to be. I didn't wonder that he
liked  to  spend  so  much  of his leisure  there.  It  lacked  the
sprightliness of the Drones. I shouldn't think there was much bread
and  sugar thrown about at lunch time, and you would hardly  expect
that  there  would  be  when  you  reflected  that  the  membership
consisted  of elderly butlers and gentlemen's gentlemen  of  fairly
ripe  years,  but  as regards comfort it couldn't be  faulted.  The
purler  I had taken had left me rather tender in the fleshy  parts,
and  it was a relief after I had been washed and brushed up and was
on  the spruce side once more to sink into a well-stuffed chair  in
the smoking-room.
   Sipping  my  whisky-and-s.,  I brought  the  conversation  round
again  to  Ginger and his election, which was naturally  the  front
page stuff of the day.
   'Do you think he has a chance, Jeeves?'
   He  weighed the question for a moment, as if dubious as to where
he would place his money.
   'It  is  difficult to say, sir. Market Snodsbury, like  so  many
English country towns, might be described as straitlaced. It sets a
high value on respectability.'
   'Well, Ginger's respectable enough.'
   'True, sir, but, as you are aware, he has had a Past.'
   'Not much of one.'
   'Sufficient,  however,  to prejudice  the  voters,  should  they
learn of it.'
   'Which  they can't possibly do. I suppose he's in the club  book
-'
   'Eleven pages, sir.'
   '  -  But you assure me that the contents of the club book  will
never be revealed.'
   'Never, sir. Mr Winship has nothing to fear from that quarter.'
   His words made me breathe more freely.
   'Jeeves,'  I said, 'your words make me breathe more  freely.  As
you  know, I am always a bit uneasy about the club book. Kept under
lock and key, is it?'
   'Not  actually  under  lock  and key,  sir,  but  it  is  safely
bestowed in the secretary's office.'
   'Then there's nothing to worry about.'
   'I  would not say that, sir. Mr Winship must have had companions
in  his escapades, and they might inadvertently make some reference
to them which would get into gossip columns in the Press and thence
into  the  Market Snodsbury journals. I believe there  are  two  of
these,  one rigidly opposed to the Conservative interest  which  Mr
Winship  is  representing.  It is always  a  possibility,  and  the
results  would  be  disastrous. I have no means at  the  moment  of
knowing the identity of Mr Winship's opponent, but he is sure to be
a  model  of  respectability  whose past  can  bear  the  strictest
investigation.'
   'You're   pretty  gloomy,  Jeeves.  Why  aren't  you   gathering
rosebuds? The poet Herrick would shake his head.'
   'I  am  sorry,  sir.  I did not know that  you  were  taking  Mr
Winship's  fortunes  so much to heart, or I would  have  been  more
guarded in my speech. Is victory in the election of such importance
to him?'
   'It's vital. Florence will hand him his hat if he doesn't win.'
   'Surely not, sir?'
   'That's  what  he says, and I think he's right. His observations
on  the subject were most convincing. He says she's a perfectionist
and  has no use for a loser. It is well established that she handed
Percy  Gorringe the pink slip because the play he made of her novel
only ran three nights.'
   'Indeed, sir?'
   'Well-documented fact.'
   'Then let us hope that what I fear will not happen, sir.'
   We  were  sitting  there hoping that what he  feared  would  not
happen,  when a shadow fell on my whisky-and-s. and I saw  that  we
had  been  joined  by  another member of  the  Junior  Ganymede,  a
smallish,  plumpish, Gawd-help-us-ish member wearing  clothes  more
suitable  for  the country than the town and a tie  that  suggested
that he belonged to the Brigade of Guards, though I doubted if this
was the case. As to his manner, I couldn't get a better word for it
at the moment than 'familiar', but I looked it up later in Jeeves's
Dictionary of Synonyms and found that it had been unduly  intimate,
too  free,  forward, lacking in proper reserve,  deficient  in  due
respect,  impudent, bold and intrusive. Well, when I tell you  that
the first thing he did was to prod Jeeves in the lower ribs with an
uncouth forefinger, you will get the idea.
   'Hullo,  Reggie,' he said, and I froze in my chair,  stunned  by
the  revelation that Jeeves's first name was Reginald. It had never
occurred  to  me before that he had a first name. I  couldn't  help
thinking  what embarrassment would have been caused if it had  been
Bertie.
   'Good  afternoon,' said Jeeves, and I could see  that  the  chap
was not one of his inner circle of friends. His voice was cold, and
anyone  less lacking in proper reserve and deficient in due respect
would have spotted this and recoiled.
   The  Gawd-help-us fellow appeared to notice nothing  amiss.  His
manner  continued  to be that of one who has  met  a  pal  of  long
standing.
   'How's yourself, Reggie?'
   'I am in tolerably good health, thank you.'
   'Lost  weight,  haven't you? You ought to live  in  the  country
like  me  and get good country butter.' He turned to me.  'And  you
ought to be more careful, cocky, dancing about in the middle of the
street like that. I was in that cab and I thought you were a goner.
You're Wooster, aren't you?'
   'Yes,'  I  said,  amazed. I hadn't known I  was  such  a  public
figure.
   'Thought  so.  I don't often forget a face. Well, I  can't  stay
chatting  with you. I've got to see the secretary about  something.
Nice to have seen you, Reggie.'
   'Goodbye.'
   'Nice to have seen you, Wooster, old man.'
   I  thanked  him, and he withdrew. I turned to Jeeves, that  wild
surmise  I  was  speaking about earlier functioning on  all  twelve
cylinders.
   'Who was that?'
   He  did  not reply immediately, plainly too ruffled for  speech.
He  had to take a sip of his liqueur brandy before he was master of
himself.  His manner, when he did speak, was that of one who  would
have preferred to let the whole thing drop.
   'The   person  you  mentioned  at  the  breakfast  table,   sir.
Bingley,' he said, pronouncing the name as if it soiled his lips.
   I  was  astounded.  You  could  have  knocked  me  down  with  a
toothpick.
   'Bingley?   I'd   never  have  recognized  him.   He's   changed
completely. He was quite thin when I knew him, and very gloomy, you
might  say sinister. Always seemed to be brooding silently  on  the
coming  revolution, when he would be at liberty to  chase  me  down
Park Lane with a dripping knife.'
   The  brandy  seemed to have restored Jeeves. He spoke  now  with
his customary calm.
   'I  believe his political views were very far to the left at the
time when he was in your employment. They changed when he became  a
man of property.'
   'A man of property, is he?'
   'An  uncle  of his in the grocery business died and left  him  a
house and a comfortable sum of money.'
   'I  suppose  it  often happens that the views  of  fellows  like
Bingley change when they come into money.'
   'Very  frequently.  They  regard the coming  revolution  from  a
different standpoint.'
   'I  see  what you mean. They don't want to be chased  down  Park
Lane  with  dripping knives themselves. Is he still  a  gentleman's
gentleman?'
   'He   has  retired.  He  lives  a  life  of  leisure  in  Market
Snodsbury.'
   'Market Snodsbury? That's funny.'
   'Sir?'
   'Odd, I mean, that he should live in Market Snodsbury.'
   'Many people do, sir.'
   'But  when that's just where we're going. Sort of a coincidence.
His uncle's house is there, I suppose.'
   'One presumes so.'
   'We may be seeing something of him.'
   'I  hope not, sir. I disapprove of Bingley. He is dishonest. Not
a man to be trusted.'
   'What makes you think so?'
   'It is merely a feeling.'
   Well,  it was no skin off my nose. A busy man like myself hasn't
time  to  go about trusting Bingley. All I demanded of Bingley  was
that  if our paths should cross he would remain sober and keep away
from  carving  knives. Live and let live is the  Wooster  motto.  I
finished my whisky-and-soda and rose.
   'Well,'   I  said,  'there's  one  thing.  Holding  the   strong
Conservative  views he does, it ought to be a snip to  get  him  to
vote  for  Ginger. And now we'd better be getting along. Ginger  is
driving  us down in his car, and I don't know when he'll be  coming
to fetch us. Thanks for your princely hospitality, Jeeves. You have
brought new life to the exhausted frame.'
   'Not at all, sir.'


   Ginger  turned up in due course, and on going out to the  car  I
saw  that  he  had managed to get hold of Magnolia all  right,  for
there was a girl sitting in the back and when he introduced us  his
'Mr Wooster, Miss Glendennon' told the story.

   Nice  girl  she seemed to me and quite nice-looking. I  wouldn't
say  hers was the face that launched a thousand ships, to quote one
of  Jeeves's  gags,  and this was probably all  to  the  good,  for
Florence,  I  imagine, would have had a word to say if  Ginger  had
returned from his travels with something in tow calculated to bring
a  whistle to the lips of all beholders. A man in his position  has
to  exercise considerable care in his choice of secretaries, ruling
out  anything that might have done well in the latest Miss  America
contest.  But  you  could  certainly  describe  her  appearance  as
pleasant.  She gave me the impression of being one of those  quiet,
sympathetic  girls  whom you could tell your  troubles  to  in  the
certain  confidence of having your hand held and your head  patted.
The  sort  of  girl  you  could go to and say  'I  say,  I've  just
committed  a  murder and it's worrying me rather,'  and  she  would
reply,  'There, there, try not to think about it, it's the sort  of
thing  that might happen to anybody.' The little mother, in  short,
with the added attraction of being tops at shorthand and typing.  I
could have wished Ginger's affairs in no better hands.
   Jeeves  brought  out  the suitcases and stowed  them  away,  and
Ginger  asked me to do the driving, as he had a lot of business  to
go  into  with  his new secretary, giving her the low-down  on  her
duties,  I suppose. We set out, accordingly, with me and Jeeves  in
front,  and about the journey down there is nothing of interest  to
report. I was in merry mood throughout, as always when about to get
another  whack  at  Anatole's cooking. Jeeves presumably  felt  the
same,  for  he,  like  me, is one of that master  skillet-wielder's
warmest  admirers,  but whereas I sang a good  deal  as  we  buzzed
along,  he  maintained, as is his custom, the silent reserve  of  a
stuffed frog, never joining in the chorus, though cordially invited
to.
   Arriving at journey's end, we all separated. Jeeves attended  to
the luggage, Ginger took Magnolia Glendennon off to his office, and
I  made  my  way  to the drawing-room, which I found  empty.  There
seemed to be nobody about, as so often happens when you fetch up at
a  country house lateish in the afternoon. No sign of Aunt  Dahlia,
nor  of Uncle Tom, her mate. I toyed with the idea of going to  see
if  the latter was in the room where he keeps his collection of old
silver,  but  thought  better  not.  Uncle  Tom  is  one  of  those
enthusiastic collectors who, if in a position to grab  you,  detain
you for hours, talking about sconces, foliation, ribbon wreaths  in
high  relief and gadroon borders, and one wants as little  of  that
sort of thing as can be managed.
   I  might  have  gone  to pay my respects to Anatole,  but  there
again  I  thought  better not. He, too, is  inclined  to  the  long
monologue when he gets you in his power, his pet subject the  state
of  his  interior. He suffers from bouts of what he  calls  mal  au
foie,  and  his  conversation would be of  greater  interest  to  a
medical man than to a layman like myself. I don't know why  it  is,
but  when somebody starts talking to me about his liver I never can
listen with real enjoyment.
   On  the  whole, the thing to do seemed to be to go for a saunter
in the extensive grounds and messuages.
   It  was one of those heavy, sultry afternoons when Nature  seems
to  be saying to itself 'Now shall I or shall I not scare the pants
off these people with a hell of a thunderstorm?', but I decided  to
risk  it.  There's a small wooded bit not far from the house  which
I've  always been fond of, and thither I pushed along. This  wooded
bit contains one or two rustic benches for the convenience of those
who wish to sit and meditate, and as I hove alongside the first  of
these I saw that there was an expensive-looking camera on it.
   It  surprised  me somewhat, for I had no idea that  Aunt  Dahlia
had  taken to photography, but of course you never know what  aunts
will  be  up  to  next.  The thought that  occurred  to  me  almost
immediately  was  that if there was going to be a thunderstorm,  it
would  be accompanied by rain, and rain falling on a camera doesn't
do it any good. I picked the thing up, accordingly, and started off
with it to take it back to the house, feeling that the old relative
would  thank me for my thoughtfulness, possibly with tears  in  her
eyes, when there was a sudden bellow and an individual emerged from
behind  a  clump of bushes. Startled me considerably, I don't  mind
telling you.
   He  was an extremely stout individual with a large pink face and
a  Panama hat with a pink ribbon. A perfect stranger to me,  and  I
wondered  what he was doing here. He didn't look the sort of  crony
Aunt  Dahlia would have invited to stay, and still less Uncle  Tom,
who is so allergic to guests that when warned of their approach  he
generally makes a bolt for it and disappears, leaving not  a  wrack
behind as I have heard Jeeves put it. However, as I was saying, you
never  know what aunts will be up to next and no doubt the ancestor
had had some good reason for asking the chap to come and mix, so  I
beamed  civilly  and opened the conversation with a  genial  'Hullo
there'.
   'Nice  day,'  I said, continuing to beam civilly.  'Or,  rather,
not   so  frightfully  nice.  Looks  as  if  we  were  in   for   a
thunderstorm.'
   Something seemed to have annoyed him. The pink of his  face  had
deepened to about the colour of his Panama hat ribbon, and both his
chins trembled slightly.
   'Damn  thunderstorms!' he responded - curtly, I  suppose,  would
be  the  word - and I said I didn't like them myself.  It  was  the
lightning, I added, that I chiefly objected to.
   'They say it never strikes twice in the same place, but then  it
hasn't got to.'
   'Damn the lightning! What are you doing with my camera?'
   This naturally opened up a new line of thought.
   'Oh, is this your camera?'
   'Yes, it is.'
   'I was taking it to the house.'
   'You were, were you?'
   'I didn't want it to get wet.'
   'Oh? And who are you?'
   I  was  glad he had asked me that. His whole manner had made  it
plain  to  a  keen mind like mine that he was under the  impression
that  he  had caught me in the act of absconding with his property,
and   I  was  glad  to  have  the  opportunity  of  presenting   my
credentials. I could see that if we were ever to have a good  laugh
together over this amusing misunderstanding, there would have to be
a certain amount of preliminary spadework.
   'Wooster  is the name,' I said. 'I'm my aunt's nephew. I  mean,'
I went on, for those last words seemed to me not to have rung quite
right, 'Mrs Travers is my aunt.'
   'You are staying in the house?'
   'Yes. Just arrived.'
   'Oh?'  he  said again, but this time in what you  might  call  a
less hostile tone.
   'Yes,' I said, rubbing it in.
   There  followed a silence, presumably occupied by him in turning
things  over in his mind in the light of my statement and examining
them in depth and then he said 'Oh?' once more and stumped off.
   I  made  no move to accompany him. What little I had had of  his
society  had been ample. As we were staying in the same  house,  we
would no doubt meet occasionally, but not, I resolved, if I saw him
first. The whole episode reminded me of my first encounter with Sir
Watkyn  Bassett  and the misunderstanding about his umbrella.  That
had  left  me shaken, and so had this. I was glad to have a  rustic
bench handy, so that I could sit and try to bring my nervous system
back into shape. The sky had become more and more inky I suppose is
the  word I want and the odds on a thunderstorm shorter than  ever,
but  I  still  lingered. It was only when there came from  above  a
noise  like  fifty-seven trucks going over a wooden bridge  that  I
felt  that  an immediate move would be judicious. I rose  and  soon
gathered speed, and I had reached the French window of the drawing-
room  and  was  on the point of popping through, when  from  within
there  came  the sound of a human voice. On second thoughts  delete
the  word  'human', for it was the voice of my recent  acquaintance
with whom I had chatted about cameras.
   I  halted.  There was a song I used to sing in my  bath  at  one
time,  the  refrain  or burthen of which began with  the  words  'I
stopped and I looked and I listened', and this was what I did  now,
except  for  the  looking. It wasn't raining,  nor  was  there  any
repetition of the trucks-going-over-a-wooden-bridge noise.  It  was
as  though  Nature  had said to itself 'Oh to  hell  with  it'  and
decided  that it was too much trouble to have a thunderstorm  after
all.  So  I  wasn't getting struck by lightning or even wet,  which
enabled me to remain in status quo.
   The  camera  bloke  was speaking to some unseen  companion,  and
what he said was;
   'Wooster, his name is. Says he's Mrs Travers's nephew.'
   It   was  plain  that  I  had  arrived  in  the  middle   of   a
conversation.  The  words  must have  been  preceded  by  a  query,
possibly  'Oh,  by  the way, do you happen  to  know  who  a  tall,
slender, good-looking - I might almost say fascinating - young  man
I  was  talking  to  outside there would  be?',  though  of  course
possibly  not. That, at any rate, must have been the  gist,  and  I
suppose  the  party of the second part had replied  'No,  sorry,  I
can't  place  him', or words to that effect. Whereupon  the  camera
chap  had  spoken as above. And as he spoke as above a  snort  rang
through  the  quiet room; a voice, speaking with every evidence  of
horror and disgust, exclaimed 'Wooster!'; and I quivered from hair-
do  to shoe sole. I may even have gasped, but fortunately not  loud
enough to be audible beyond the French window.
   For  it  was  the voice of Lord Sidcup - or, as I  shall  always
think  of  him,  no matter how many titles he may  have  inherited,
Spode. Spode, mark you, whom I had thought and hoped I had seen the
last  of after dusting the dust of Totleigh Towers from the Wooster
feet;  Spode, who went about seeking whom he might devour and  from
early  boyhood  had  been a hissing and a  by-word  to  all  right-
thinking men. Little wonder that for a moment everything seemed  to
go  black  and I had to clutch at a passing rose bush to keep  from
falling.
   This Spode, I must explain for the benefit of the newcomers  who
have  not  read the earlier chapters of my memoirs, was a character
whose  path had crossed mine many a time and oft, as the expression
is,  and always with the most disturbing results. I have spoken  of
the  improbability of a beautiful friendship ever getting under way
between  me  and the camera chap, but the likelihood  of  any  such
fusion  of  souls, as I have heard Jeeves call it, between  me  and
Spode  was even more remote. Our views on each other were definite.
His was that what England needed if it was to become a land fit for
heroes to live in was fewer and better Woosters, while I had always
felt that there was nothing wrong with England that a ton of bricks
falling from a height on Spode's head wouldn't cure.
   'You know him?' said the camera chap.
   'I'm  sorry  to  say I do,' said Spode, speaking  like  Sherlock
Holmes asked if he knew Professor Moriarty. 'How did you happen  to
meet him?'
   'I found him making off with my camera.'
   'Ha!'
   'Naturally I thought he was stealing it. But if he's really  Mrs
Travers's nephew, I suppose I was mistaken.'
   Spode  would  have  none  of this reasoning,  though  it  seemed
pretty  sound to me. He snorted again with even more follow-through
than the first time.
   'Being  Mrs Travers's nephew means nothing. If he was the nephew
of  an  archbishop he would behave in a precisely  similar  manner.
Wooster would steal anything that was not nailed down, provided  he
could do it unobserved. He couldn't have known you were there?'
   'No. I was behind a bush.'
   'And your camera looks a good one.'
   'Cost me a lot of money.'
   'Then  of  course  he was intending to steal it.  He  must  have
thought  he  had dropped into a bit of good luck. Let me  tell  you
about  Wooster. The first time I met him was in an antique shop.  I
had gone there with Sir Watkyn Bassett, my future father-in-law. He
collects  old  silver. And Sir Watkyn had propped his  umbrella  up
against a piece of furniture. Wooster was there, but lurking, so we
didn't see him.'
   'In a dark corner, perhaps?'
   'Or  behind something. The first we saw of him, he was  sneaking
off with Sir Watkyn's umbrella.'
   'Pretty cool.'
   'Oh, he's cool all right. These fellows have to be.'
   'I suppose so. Must take a nerve of ice.'
   To  say that I boiled with justifiable indignation would not  be
putting it too strongly. As I have recorded elsewhere, there was  a
ready  explanation  of  my behaviour. I had  come  out  without  my
umbrella  that morning, and, completely forgetting that I had  done
so,  I  had  grasped  old Bassett's, obeying the primeval  instinct
which makes a man without an umbrella reach out for the nearest one
in  sight, like a flower groping towards the sun. Unconsciously, as
it were.
   Spode  resumed. They had taken a moment off, no doubt  in  order
to  brood on my delinquency. His voice now was that of one about to
come to the high spot in his narrative.
   'You'll  hardly believe this, but soon after that he  turned  up
at Totleigh Towers, Sir Watkyn's house in Gloucestershire.'
   'Incredible!'
   'I thought you'd think so.'
   'Disguised, of course? A wig? A false beard? His cheeks  stained
with walnut juice?'
   'No, he came quite openly, invited by my future wife. She has  a
sort of sentimental pity for him. I think she hopes to reform him.'
   'Girls will be girls.'
   'Yes, but I wish they wouldn't.'
   'Did you rebuke your future wife?'
   'I wasn't in a position to then.'
   'Probably  a  wise  thing, anyway. I once  rebuked  the  girl  I
wanted to marry, and she went off and teamed up with a stockbroker.
So what happened?'
   'He  stole  a  valuable piece of silver. A sort of silver  cream
jug. A cow-creamer, they call it.'
   'My doctor forbids me cream. You had him arrested, of course?'
   'We couldn't. No evidence.'
   'But you knew he had done it?'
   'We were certain.'
   'Well, that's how it goes. See any more of him after that?'
   'This you will not believe. He came to Totleigh Towers again!'
   'Impossible!'
   'Once more invited by my future wife.'
   'Would that be the Miss Bassett who arrived last night?'
   'Yes, that was Madeline.'
   'Lovely  girl.  I  met  her in the garden before  breakfast.  My
doctor  recommends a breath of fresh air in the early morning.  Did
you know she thinks those bits of mist you see on the grass are the
elves' bridal veils?'
   'She has a very whimsical fancy.'
   'And  nothing  to  be  done about it, I suppose.  But  you  were
telling me about this second visit of Wooster's to Totleigh Towers.
Did he steal anything this time?'
   'An amber statuette worth a thousand pounds.'
   'He  certainly  gets  around,' said  the  camera  chap  with,  I
thought,  a  sort  of  grudging admiration. 'I  hope  you  had  him
arrested?'
   'We  did. He spent the night in the local gaol. But next morning
Sir Watkyn weakened and let him off.'
   'Mistaken kindness.'
   'So I thought.'
   The  camera chap didn't comment further on this, though  he  was
probably thinking that of all the soppy families introduced to  his
notice the Bassetts took the biscuit.
   'Well,  I'm very much obliged to you,' he said, 'for telling  me
about  this man Wooster and putting me on my guard. I've brought  a
very valuable bit of old silver with me. I am hoping to sell it  to
Mr  Travers.  If  Wooster learns of this, he is  bound  to  try  to
purloin  it, and I can tell you, that if he does and I  catch  him,
there  will be none of this nonsense of a single night in gaol.  He
will  get  the stiffest sentence the law can provide. And now,  how
about a quick game of billiards before dinner? My doctor advises  a
little gentle exercise.'
   'I should enjoy it.'
   'Then let us be getting along.'
   Having given them time to remove themselves, I went in and  sank
down  on a sofa. I was profoundly stirred, for if you think fellows
enjoy  listening to the sort of thing Spode had been  saying  about
me,  you're  wrong. My pulse was rapid and my brow wet with  honest
sweat,  like  the  village blacksmith's. I was  badly  in  need  of
alcoholic refreshment, and just as my tongue was beginning to stick
out  and  blacken at the roots, shiver my timbers if Jeeves  didn't
enter  left  centre  with a tray containing  all  the  makings.  St
Bernard  dogs, you probably know, behave in a similar  way  in  the
Alps and are well thought of in consequence.
   Mingled  with the ecstasy which the sight of him aroused  in  my
bosom  was  a  certain surprise that he should be  acting  as  cup-
bearer.  It  was  a job that should rightly have  fallen  into  the
province of Seppings, Aunt Dahlia's butler.
   'Hullo, Jeeves!' I ejaculated.
   'Good  evening, sir. I have unpacked your effects.  Can  I  pour
you a whisky-and-soda?'
   'You  can  indeed.  But  what  are  you  doing,  buttling?  This
mystifies me greatly. Where's Seppings?'
   'He  has  retired  to  bed, sir, with an attack  of  indigestion
consequent  upon  a  too liberal indulgence in  Monsieur  Anatole's
cooking at lunch. I am undertaking his duties for the time being.'
   'Very  white  of you, and very white of you to pop  up  at  this
particular moment. I have had a shock, Jeeves.'
   'I am sorry to hear that, sir.'
   'Did you know Spode was here?'
   'Yes, sir.'
   'And Miss Bassett?'
   'Yes, sir.'
   'We might as well be at Totleigh Towers.'
   'I  can  appreciate  your dismay, sir,  but  fellow  guests  are
easily avoided.'
   'Yes,  and  if  you avoid them, what do they do? They  go  about
telling  men in Panama hats you're a sort of cross between  Raffles
and  one  of  those fellows who pinch bags at railway stations,'  I
said,  and  in  a  few crisp words I gave him a resume  of  Spode's
remarks.
   'Most disturbing, sir.'
   'Very.  You  know  and  I know how sound  my  motives  were  for
everything I did at Totleigh, but what if Spode tells Aunt Agatha?'
   'An unlikely contingency, sir.'
   'I suppose it is.'
   'But  I  know just how you feel, sir. Who steals my purse steals
trash; 'tis something, nothing; 'twas mine, 'tis his, and has  been
slave to thousands. But he who filches from me my good name robs me
of that which not enriches him and makes me poor indeed.'
   'Neat, that. Your own?'
   'No, sir. Shakespeare's.'
   'Shakespeare said some rather good things.'
   'I  understand  that  he  has given uniform  satisfaction,  sir.
Shall I mix you another?'
   'Do just that thing, Jeeves, and with all convenient speed.'
   He  had  completed his St Bernard act and withdrawn, and  I  was
sipping my second rather more slowly than the first, when the  door
opened  and  Aunt  Dahlia  bounded  in,  all  joviality  and   rosy
complexion.



   I  never  see this relative without thinking how odd it is  that
one  sister - call her Sister A - can be so unlike another  sister,
whom  we will call Sister B. My Aunt Agatha, for instance, is  tall
and  thin and looks rather like a vulture in the Gobi desert, while
Aunt  Dahlia is short and solid, like a scrum half in the  game  of
Rugby  football.  In  disposition, too, they  differ  widely.  Aunt
Agatha is cold and haughty, though presumably unbending a bit  when
conducting human sacrifices at the time of the full moon, as she is
widely rumoured to do, and her attitude towards me has always  been
that  of an austere governess, causing me to feel as if I were  six
years  old  and she had just caught me stealing jam  from  the  jam
cupboard;  whereas  Aunt Dahlia is as jovial  and  bonhomous  as  a
pantomime dame in a Christmas pantomime. Curious.

   I  welcomed her with a huge 'Hello', in both syllables of  which
a  nephew's love and esteem could be easily detected, and  went  so
far  as to imprint an affectionate kiss on her brow. Later I  would
take  her  roundly to task for filling the house  with  Spodes  and
Madeline  Bassetts and bulging bounders in Panama  hats,  but  that
could wait.
   She  returned my greeting with one of her uncouth hunting  cries
-  'Yoicks', if I remember correctly. Apparently, when you've  been
with  the  Quorn and the Pytchley for some time, you drop into  the
habit of departing from basic English.
   'So here you are, young Bertie.'
   'You  never spoke a truer word. Up and doing, with a  heart  for
any fate.'
   'As  thirsty  as  ever, I observe. I thought I  would  find  you
tucking into the drinks.'
   'Purely medicinal. I've had a shock.'
   'What gave you that?'
   'Suddenly becoming apprised of the fact that the blighter  Spode
was my fellow guest,' I said, feeling that I couldn't have a better
cue  for getting down to my recriminations. 'What on earth was  the
idea  of  inviting a fiend in human shape like that here?' I  said,
for  I  knew  she shared my opinion of the seventh Earl of  Sidcup.
'You have told me many a time and oft that you consider him one  of
Nature's gravest blunders. And yet you go out of your way to  court
his  society, if court his society is the expression  I  want.  You
must have been off your onion, old ancestor.'
   It  was  a  severe ticking-off, and you would have expected  the
blush of shame to have mantled her cheeks, not that you would  have
noticed  it much, her complexion being what it was after all  those
winters in the hunting field, but she was apparently imp-something,
impervious, that's the word, to remorse. She remained what  Anatole
would have called as cool as some cucumbers.
   'Ginger  asked me to. He wanted Spode to speak for him  at  this
election. He knows him slightly.'
   'Far the best way of knowing Spode.'
   'He  needs  all the help he can get, and Spode's  one  of  those
silver-tongued orators you read about. Extraordinary  gift  of  the
gab  he  has.  He  could get into Parliament  without  straining  a
sinew.'
   I  dare say she was right, but I resented any praise of Spode. I
made clear my displeasure by responding curtly:
   'Then why doesn't he?'
   'He can't, you poor chump. He's a lord.'
   'Don't they allow lords in?'
   'No, they don't.'
   'I  see,' I said, rather impressed by this proof that the  House
of  Commons drew the line somewhere. 'Well, I suppose you aren't so
much to blame as I had thought. How do you get on with him?'
   'I avoid him as much as possible.'
   'Very  shrewd.  I  shall do the same. We now  come  to  Madeline
Bassett. She's here, too. Why?'
   'Oh,  Madeline came along for the ride. She wanted  to  be  near
Spode.  An extraordinary thing to want, I agree. Morbid, you  might
call  it.  Florence  Craye, of course, has come  to  help  Ginger's
campaign.'
   I  started visibly. In fact, I jumped about six inches, as if  a
skewer or knitting-needle had come through the seat of my chair.
   'You don't mean Florence is here as well?'
   'With bells on. You seem perturbed.'
   'I'm  all of a twitter. It never occurred to me that when I came
here I would be getting into a sort of population explosion.'
   'Who ever told you about population explosions?'
   'Jeeves. They are rather a favourite subject of his. He says  if
something isn't done pretty soon -'
   'I'll  bet  he said, If steps are not taken shortly through  the
proper channels.'
   'He  did,  as  a matter of fact. He said, If steps aren't  taken
shortly  through the proper channels, half the world will  soon  be
standing on the other half's shoulders.'
   'All right if you're one of the top layer.'
   'Yes, there's that, of course.'
   'Though  even  then it would be uncomfortable.  Tricky  sort  of
balancing act.'
   'True.'
   'And  difficult to go for a stroll if you wanted to stretch  the
legs. And one wouldn't get much hunting.'
   'Not much.'
   We  mused  for  awhile on what lay before  us,  and  I  remember
thinking that present conditions, even with Spode and Madeline  and
Florence  on the premises, suited one better. From this to thinking
of  Uncle  Tom  was but a step. It seemed to me that the  poor  old
buster  must be on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Even a  single
guest is sometimes too much for him.
   'How,' I asked, 'is Uncle Tom bearing up under this invasion  of
his cabin?'
   She stared incredibly or rather incredulously.
   'Did  you  expect to find him here playing his  banjo?  My  poor
halfwitted child, he was off to the south of France the  moment  he
learned  that danger threatened. I had a picture postcard from  him
yesterday. He's having a wonderful time and wishes I was there.'
   'And don't you mind all these blighters overrunning the place?'
   'I  would  prefer it if they went elsewhere, but  I  treat  them
with saintly forbearance because I feel it's all helping Ginger.'
   'How do things look in that direction?'
   'An  even  bet, I would say. The slightest thing might turn  the
scale. He and his opponent are having a debate in a day or two, and
a good deal, you might say everything, depends on that.'
   'Who's the opponent?'
   'Local talent. A barrister.'
   'Jeeves  says Market Snodsbury is very straitlaced, and  if  the
electors  found out about Ginger's past they would  heave  him  out
without even handing him his hat.'
   'Has he a past?'
   'I  wouldn't call it that. Pure routine, I'd describe it as.  In
the days before he fell under Florence's spell he was rather apt to
get slung out of restaurants for throwing eggs at the electric fan,
and  he  seldom  escaped unjugged on Boat Race night  for  pinching
policemen's helmets. Would that lose him votes?'
   'Lose  him  votes?  If  it  was brought  to  Market  Snodsbury's
attention, I doubt if he would get a single one. That sort of thing
might  be overlooked in the cities of the plain, but not in  Market
Snodsbury.  So  for  heaven's sake don't go babbling  about  it  to
everyone you meet.'
   'My dear old ancestor, am I likely to?'
   'Very likely, I should say. You know how fat your head is.'
   I   would   have  what-d'you-call-it-ed  this  slur,  and   with
vehemence, but the adjective she had used reminded me that  we  had
been  talking all this time and I hadn't enquired about the  camera
chap.
   'By the way,' I said, 'who would a fat fellow be?'
   'Someone  fond  of starchy foods who had omitted  to  watch  his
calories,  I  imagine. What on earth, if anything, are you  talking
about?'
   I  saw  that  my  question had been too abrupt.  I  hastened  to
clarify it.
   'Strolling  in the grounds and messuages just now I  encountered
an  obese  bird  in  a Panama hat with a pink  ribbon,  and  I  was
wondering who he was and how he came to be staying here. He  didn't
look  the sort of bloke for whom you would be putting out mats with
"Welcome" on them. He gave me the impression of being a thug of the
first order.'
   My  words  seemed  to have touched a chord. Rising  nimbly,  she
went  to  the  door  and opened it, then to the French  window  and
looked out, plainly in order to ascertain that nobody - except  me,
of course - was listening. Spies in spy stories do the same kind of
thing  when  about to make communications which are for  your  ears
only.
   'I suppose I'd better tell you about him,' she said.
   I intimated that I would be an attentive audience.
   'That's  L. P. Runkle, and I want you to exercise your charm  on
him, such as it is. He has to be conciliated and sucked up to.'
   'Why, is he someone special?'
   'You  bet  he's someone special. He's a big financier,  Runkle's
Enterprises. Loaded with money.'
   It   seemed  to  me  that  these  words  could  have   but   one
significance.
   'You're hoping to touch him?'
   'Such  is  indeed my aim. But not for myself. I want  to  get  a
round sum out of him for Tuppy Glossop.'
   Her  allusion  was  to the nephew of Sir Roderick  Glossop,  the
well-known  nerve  specialist and loony doctor, once  a  source  of
horror  and concern to Bertram but now one of my leading  pals.  He
calls  me  Bertie,  I call him Roddy. Tuppy,  too,  is  one  of  my
immediate  circle  of buddies, in spite of the fact  that  he  once
betted  me I couldn't swing myself from end to end of the  swimming
bath at the Drones, and when I came to the last ring I found he had
looped  it back, giving me no option but to drop into the water  in
faultless  evening dress. This had been like a dagger in the  bosom
for a considerable period, but eventually Time the great healer had
ironed things out and I had forgiven him. He has been betrothed  to
Aunt  Dahlia's daughter Angela for ages, and I had never been  able
to  understand  why they hadn't got around to letting  the  wedding
bells get cracking. I had been expecting every day for ever so long
to  be  called on to weigh in with the silver fish-slice,  but  the
summons never came.
   Naturally  I asked if Tuppy was hard up, and she said he  wasn't
begging  his  bread and nosing about in the gutters  for  cigarette
ends, but he hadn't enough to marry on.
   'Thanks to L. P. Runkle. I'll tell you the whole story.'
   'Do.'
   'Did you ever meet Tuppy's late father?'
   'Once.  I remember him as a dreamy old bird of the absent-minded
professor type.'
   'He  was  a  chemical  researcher  or  whatever  they  call  it,
employed by Runkle's Enterprises, one of those fellows you  see  in
the movies who go about in white coats peering into test tubes. And
one  day  he invented what were afterwards known as Runkle's  Magic
Midgets,  small  pills for curing headaches. You've  probably  come
across them.'
   'I  know  them  well. Excellent for a hangover,  though  not  of
course to be compared with Jeeves's patent pick-me-up. They're very
popular  at the Drones. I know a dozen fellows who swear  by  them.
There must be a fortune in them.'
   'There was. They sell like warm winter woollies in Iceland.'
   'Then why is Tuppy short of cash? Didn't he inherit them?'
   'Not by a jugful.'
   'I  don't get it. You speak in riddles, aged relative,' I  said,
and there was a touch of annoyance in my voice, for if there is one
thing that gives me the pip, it is an aunt speaking in riddles. 'If
these ruddy midget things belonged to Tuppy's father -'
   'L.  P.  Runkle claimed they didn't. Tuppy's father was  working
for  him on a salary, and the small print in the contract read that
all  inventions  made  on  Runkle's Enterprises'  time  became  the
property  of  Runkle's Enterprises. So when old  Glossop  died,  he
hadn't  much  to  leave  his  son,  while  L.  P.  Runkle  went  on
flourishing like a green bay tree.'
   I  had  never  seen  a green bay tree, but I gathered  what  she
meant.
   'Couldn't Tuppy sue?'
   'He would have been bound to lose. A contract is a contract.'
   I  saw what she meant. It was not unlike that time when she  was
running  that  weekly  paper  of  hers,  Milady's  Boudoir,  and  I
contributed  to it an article, or piece as it is sometimes  called,
on  What  The Well-Dressed Man Is Wearing. She gave me a packet  of
cigarettes  for  it,  and  it then became her  property.  I  didn't
actually get offers for it from France, Germany, Italy, Canada  and
the  United States, but if I had had I couldn't have accepted them.
My pal Boko Littleworth, who makes a living by his pen, tells me  I
ought  to have sold her only the first serial rights, but I  didn't
think  of it at the time. One makes these mistakes. What one needs,
of course, is an agent.
   All  the  same,  I considered that L. P. Runkle  ought  to  have
stretched a point and let Tuppy's father get something out of it. I
put this to the ancestor, and she agreed with me.
   'Of course he ought. Moral obligation.'
   'It confirms one's view that this Runkle is a stinker.'
   'The  stinker  supreme. And he tells me he has been  tipped  off
that he's going to get a knighthood in the New Year's Honours.'
   'How can they knight a chap like that?'
   'Just  the sort of chap they do knight. Prominent business  man.
Big deals. Services to Britain's export trade.'
   'But a stinker.'
   'Unquestionably a stinker.'
   'Then  what's he doing here? You usually don't go  out  of  your
way to entertain stinkers. Spode, yes. I can understand you letting
him  infest  the premises, much as I disapprove of it. He's  making
speeches  on Ginger's behalf, and according to you doing it  rather
well. But why Runkle?'
   She  said  'Ah!', and when I asked her reason for saying  'Ah!',
she replied that she was thinking of her subtle cunning, and when I
asked  what she meant by subtle cunning, she said 'Ah!'  again.  It
looked  as if we might go on like this indefinitely, but  a  moment
later,  having toddled to the door and opened it and to the  French
window and peered out, she explained.
   'Runkle came here hoping to sell Tom an old silver what not  for
his  collection, and as Tom had vanished and he had come a long way
I  had to put him up for the night, and at dinner I suddenly had an
inspiration.  I thought if I got him to stay on and plied  him  day
and night with Anatole's cooking, he might get into mellowed mood.'
   She had ceased to speak in riddles. This time I followed her.
   'So  that you would be able to talk him into slipping Tuppy some
of his ill-gotten gains?'
   'Exactly.  I'm  biding my time. When the moment comes,  I  shall
act  like lightning. I told him Tom would be back in a day or  two,
not  that he will, because he won't come within fifty miles of  the
place till I blow the All Clear, so Runkle consented to stay on.'
   'And how's it working out?'
   'The  prospects  look  good. He mellows more  with  every  meal.
Anatole gave us his Mignonette de poulet Petit Duc last night,  and
he  tucked into it like a tapeworm that's been on a diet for weeks.
There was no mistaking the gleam in his eyes as he downed the  last
mouthful. A few more dinners ought to do the trick.'
   She  left  me shortly after this to go and dress for dinner.  I,
strong in the knowledge that I could get into the soup-and-fish  in
ten minutes, lingered on, plunged in thought.
   Extraordinary  how I kept doing that as of even  date.  It  just
shows  what  life is like now. I don't suppose in the  old  days  I
would have been plunged in thought more than about once a month.


   I  need scarcely say that Tuppy's hard case, as outlined by  the
old  blood relation, had got right in amongst me. You might suppose
that  a  fellow capable of betting you you couldn't swing  yourself
across  the Drones swimming-bath by the rings and looping the  last
ring back deserved no consideration, but as I say the agony of that
episode  had  long  since  abated  and  it  pained  me  deeply   to
contemplate  the  spot  he was in. For though  I  had  affected  to
consider  that the ancestor's scheme for melting L. P.  Runkle  was
the  goods,  I didn't really believe it would work. You  don't  get
anywhere  filling with rich foods a bloke who wears  a  Panama  hat
like his: the only way of inducing the L. P. Runkle type of man  to
part with cash is to kidnap him, take him to the cellar beneath the
lonely  mill and stick lighted matches between his toes.  And  even
then he would probably give you a dud cheque.
   The  revelation  of  Tuppy's hard-upness had  come  as  quite  a
surprise.  You  know how it is with fellows you're seeing  all  the
time;  if you think about their finances at all, you sort of assume
they  must  be  all right. It had never occurred to me  that  Tuppy
might be seriously short of doubloons, but I saw now why there  had
been  all this delay in assembling the bishop and assistant  clergy
and  getting the show on the road. I presumed Uncle Tom would brass
up  if  given  the  green light, he having  the  stuff  in  heaping
sackfuls, but Tuppy has his pride and would quite properly  jib  at
the idea of being supported by a father-in-law. Of course he really
oughtn't to have gone and signed Angela up with his bank balance in
such  a  rocky condition, but love is love. Conquers  all,  as  the
fellow said.
   Having  mused  on Tuppy for about five minutes, I changed  gears
and  started musing on Angela, for whom I had always had a cousinly
affection. A definitely nice young prune and just the sort to be  a
good wife, but of course the catch is that you can't be a good wife
if  the other half of the sketch hasn't enough money to marry  you.
Practically all you can do is hang around and twiddle your  fingers
and  hope  for the best. Weary waiting about sums it  up,  and  the
whole  lay-out, I felt, must be g. and wormwood for Angela, causing
her to bedew her pillow with many a salty tear.
   I  always  find when musing that the thing to do is to bury  the
face in the hands, because it seems to concentrate thought and keep
the  mind  from wandering off elsewhere. I did this  now,  and  was
getting along fairly well, when I suddenly had that uncanny feeling
that  I  was  not alone. I sensed a presence, if you  would  prefer
putting  it  that  way, and I had not been mistaken.  Removing  the
hands and looking up, I saw that Madeline Bassett was with me.
   It  was  a  nasty shock. I won't say she was the last  person  I
wanted to see, Spode of course heading the list of starters with L.
P. Runkle in close attendance, but I would willingly have dispensed
with  her  company. However, I rose courteously, and I don't  think
there  was anything in my manner to suggest that I would have liked
to  hit her with a brick, for I am pretty inscrutable at all times.
Nevertheless,  behind  my calm front there  lurked  the  uneasiness
which always grips me when we meet.
   Holding the mistaken view that I am hopelessly in love with  her
and  more  or  less pining away into a decline, this Bassett  never
fails  to  look at me, when our paths cross, with a sort of  tender
pity, and she was letting me have it now. So melting indeed was her
gaze  that  it  was only by reminding myself that  she  was  safely
engaged  to  Spode  that I was able to preserve my  equanimity  and
sangfroid.  When she had been betrothed to Gussie Fink-Nottle,  the
peril  of her making a switch had always been present, Gussie being
the  sort of spectacled newt-collecting freak a girl might  at  any
moment  get  second  thoughts about, but  there  was  something  so
reassuring  in  her being engaged to Spode. Because,  whatever  you
might  think of him, you couldn't get away from it that he was  the
seventh  Earl  of  Sidcup, and no girl who has managed  to  hook  a
seventh  Earl with a castle in Shropshire and an income  of  twenty
thousand pounds per annum is lightly going to change her mind about
him.
   Having  given  me the look, she spoke, and her  voice  was  like
treacle pouring out of a jug.
   'Oh, Bertie, how nice to see you again. How are you?'
   'I'm fine. How are you?'
   'I'm fine.'
   'That's fine. How's your father?'
   'He's fine.'
   I  was  sorry to hear this. My relations with Sir Watkyn Bassett
were such that a more welcome piece of news would have been that he
had contracted bubonic plague and wasn't expected to recover.
   'I heard you were here,' I said.
   'Yes, I'm here.'
   'So I heard. You're looking well.'
   'Oh, I'm very, very well, and oh so happy.'
   'That's good.'
   'I  wake  up each morning to the new day, and I know it's  going
to be the best day that ever was. Today I danced on the lawn before
breakfast, and then I went round the garden saying good morning  to
the  flowers.  There was a sweet black cat asleep  on  one  of  the
flower beds. I picked it up and danced with it.'
   I  didn't tell her so, but she couldn't have made a worse social
gaffe.  If  there  is  one thing Augustus,  the  cat  to  whom  she
referred,  hates,  it's having his sleep disturbed.  He  must  have
cursed freely, though probably in a drowsy undertone. I suppose she
thought he was purring.
   She  had paused, seeming to expect some comment on her fatheaded
behaviour, so I said:
   'Euphoria.'
   'I what?'
   'That's what it's called, Jeeves tells me, feeling like that.'
   'Oh, I see. I just call it being happy, happy, happy.'
   Having said which, she gave a start, quivered and put a hand  up
to  her face as if she were having a screen test and had been  told
to register remorse.
   'Oh, Bertie!'
   'Hullo?'
   'I'm so sorry.'
   'Eh?'
   'It  was so tactless of me to go on about my happiness. I should
have remembered how different it was for you. I saw your face twist
with pain as I came in and I can't tell you how sorry I am to think
that it is I who have caused it. Life is not easy, is it?'
   'Not very.'
   'Difficult.'
   'In spots.'
   'The only thing is to be brave.'
   'That's about it.'
   'You  must  not  lose  courage. Who knows?  Consolation  may  be
waiting for you somewhere. Some day you will meet someone who  will
make  you forget you ever loved me. No, not quite that. I  think  I
shall  always be a fragrant memory, always something deep  in  your
heart  that  will be with you like a gentle, tender  ghost  as  you
watch  the  sunset on summer evenings while the little  birds  sing
their off-to-bed songs in the shrubbery.'
   'I  wouldn't be surprised,' I said, for one simply  has  to  say
the  civil  thing.  'You look a bit damp,' I  added,  changing  the
subject. 'Was it raining when you were out?'
   'A  little,  but I didn't mind. I was saying good-night  to  the
flowers.'
   'Oh, you say good-night to them, too?'
   'Of  course. Their poor little feelings would be so  hurt  if  I
didn't.'
   'Wise of you to come in. Might have got lumbago.'
   'That  was not why I came in. I saw you through the window,  and
I had a question to ask you. A very, very serious question.'
   'Oh, yes?'
   'But  it's so difficult to know how to put it. I shall  have  to
ask it as they do in books. You know what they say in books.'
   'What who say in books?'
   'Detectives  and  people  like  that.  Bertie,  are  you   going
straight now?'
   'I beg your pardon?'
   'You know what I mean. Have you given up stealing things?'
   I laughed one of those gay debonair ones.
   'Oh, absolutely.'
   'I'm  so  glad.  You  don't  feel  the  urge  any  more?  You've
conquered the craving? I told Daddy it was just a kind of  illness.
I said you couldn't help yourself.'
   I  remembered her submitting this theory to him ... I was hiding
behind  a  sofa  at the time, a thing I have been compelled  to  do
rather oftener than I could wish ... and Sir Watkyn had replied  in
what  I  thought dubious taste that it was precisely  my  habit  of
helping  myself to everything I could lay my hands on that  he  was
criticizing.
   Another  girl  might have left it at that, but not  M.  Bassett.
She was all eager curiosity.
   'Did you have psychiatric treatment? Or was it will power?'
   'Just will power.'
   'How  splendid.  I'm  so  proud of you.  It  must  have  been  a
terrible struggle.'
   'Oh, so-so.'
   'I shall write to Daddy and tell him -'
   Here  she paused and put a hand to her left eye, and it was easy
for  a  man of my discernment to see what had happened. The  French
window  being open, gnats in fairly large numbers had  been  coming
through  and  flitting to and fro. It's a thing one always  has  to
budget  for  in  the  English countryside.  In  America  they  have
screens,   of  course,  which  make  flying  objects  feel   pretty
nonplussed, but these have never caught on in England and the gnats
have  it more or less their own way. They horse around and now  and
then get into people's eyes. One of these, it was evident, had  now
got into Madeline's.
   I  would  be  the  last  to deny that Bertram  Wooster  has  his
limitations, but in one field of endeavour I am pre-eminent. In the
matter of taking things out of eyes I yield to no one. I know  what
to say and what to do.
   Counselling her not to rub it, I advanced handkerchief in hand.
   I  remember going into the technique of operations of this  kind
with  Gussie Fink-Nottle at Totleigh when he had removed a fly from
the eye of Stephanie Byng, now the Reverend Mrs Stinker Pinker, and
we were in agreement that success could be achieved only by placing
a  hand under the patient's chin in order to steady the head.  Omit
this  preliminary  and your efforts are bootless.  My  first  move,
accordingly, was to do so and it was characteristic of  Spode  that
he  should have chosen this moment to join us, just when  we  twain
were in what you might call close juxtaposition.
   I  confess that there have been times when I have felt  more  at
my ease. Spode, in addition to being constructed on the lines of  a
rather  oversized gorilla, has a disposition like that of a  short-
tempered  tiger of the jungle and a nasty mind which leads  him  to
fall  a  ready prey to what I have heard Jeeves call the green-eyed
monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on - viz. jealousy.  Such
a  man,  finding you steadying the head of the girl  he  loves,  is
always extremely likely to start trying to ascertain the colour  of
your insides, and to avert this I greeted him with what nonchalance
I could muster.
   'Oh,  hullo, Spode old chap, I mean Lord Sidcup old  chap.  Here
we  all  are,  what. Jeeves told me you were here, and Aunt  Dahlia
says  you've  been knocking the voting public base over  apex  with
your oratory in the Conservative interest. Must be wonderful to  be
able  to  do  that.  It's a gift, of course.  Some  have  it,  some
haven't. I couldn't address a political meeting to please  a  dying
grandmother.  I  should stand there opening and shutting  my  mouth
like a goldfish. You, on the other hand, just clear your throat and
the  golden  words  come  pouring out  like  syrup.  I  admire  you
enormously.'
   Conciliatory,  I think you'll agree. I could hardly  have  given
him  the  old  salve with a more liberal hand, and one  might  have
expected  him to simper, shuffle his feet and mumble 'Awfully  nice
of you to say so' or something along those lines. Instead of which,
all  he did was come back at me with a guttural sound like an opera
basso choking on a fishbone, and I had to sustain the burden of the
conversation by myself.
   'I've just been taking a gnat out of Madeline's eye.'
   'Oh?'
   'Dangerous devils, these gnats. Require skilled handling.'
   'Oh?'
   'Everything's back to normal now, I think.'
   'Yes, thank you ever so much, Bertie.'
   It  was Madeline who said this, not Spode. He continued to  gaze
at me bleakly. She went on harping on the thing.
   'Bertie's so clever.'
   'Oh?'
   'I don't know what I would have done without him.'
   'Oh?'
   'He showed wonderful presence of mind.'
   'Oh?'
   'I feel so sorry, though, for the poor little gnat.'
   'It  asked  for  it,' I pointed out. 'It was unquestionably  the
aggressor.'
   'Yes,   I  suppose  that's  true,  but...'  The  clock  on   the
mantelpiece  caught  her now de-gnatted eye,  and  she  uttered  an
agitated squeak. 'Oh, my goodness, is that the time? I must rush.'
   She  buzzed off, and I was on the point of doing the same,  when
Spode detained me with a curt 'One moment'. There are all sorts  of
ways  of  saying  'One moment'. This was one of the  nastier  ones,
spoken with an unpleasant rasping note in the voice.
   'I want a word with you, Wooster.'
   I  am  never anxious to chat with Spode, but if I had been  sure
that  he  merely  wanted to go on saying 'Oh?', I would  have  been
willing  to listen. Something, however, seemed to tell me  that  he
was  about  to  give evidence of a wider vocabulary,  and  I  edged
towards the door.
   'Some other time, don't you think?'
   'Not some ruddy other time. Now.'
   'I shall be late for dinner.'
   'You  can't  be  too  late for me. And if  you  get  your  teeth
knocked  down  your  throat,  as  you  will  if  you  don't  listen
attentively  to what I have to say, you won't be able  to  eat  any
dinner.'
   This  seemed  plausible. I decided to lend him an  ear,  as  the
expression is. 'Say on,' I said, and he said on, lowering his voice
to  a  sort  of rumbling growl which made him difficult to  follow.
However, I caught the word 'read' and the word 'book' and perked up
a bit. If this was going to be a literary discussion, I didn't mind
exchanging views.
   'Book?' I said.
   'Book.'
   'You  want me to recommend you a good book? Well, of course,  it
depends  on  what you like. Jeeves, for instance, is never  happier
than when curled up with his Spinoza or his Shakespeare. I, on  the
other  hand,  go in mostly for who-dun-its and novels of  suspense.
For  the  who-dun-it Agatha Christie is always a safe bet. For  the
novel of suspense ...'
   Here  I  paused,  for he had called me an opprobrious  name  and
told  me  to  stop  babbling, and it is always my  policy  to  stop
babbling  when  a  man  eight  foot six  in  height  and  broad  in
proportion  tells me to. I went into the silence, and he  continued
to say on.
   'I  said that I could read you like a book, Wooster. I know what
your game is.'
   'I don't understand you, Lord Sidcup.'
   'Then  you must be as big an ass as you look, which is saying  a
good  deal. I am referring to your behaviour towards my fiancee.  I
come into this room and I find you fondling her face.'
   I  had  to  correct  him here. One likes  to  get  these  things
straight.
   'Only her chin.'
   'Pah!' he said, or something that sounded like that.
   'And  I  had  to get a grip on it in order to extract  the  gnat
from her eye. I was merely steadying it.'
   'You were steadying it gloatingly.'
   'I wasn't!'
   'Pardon  me.  I have eyes and can see when a man is steadying  a
chin gloatingly and when he isn't. You were obviously delighted  to
have an excuse for soiling her chin with your foul fingers.'
   'You are wrong, Lord Spodecup.'
   'And,  as  I  say, I know what your game is. You are  trying  to
undermine  me,  to win her from me with your insidious  guile,  and
what  I  want  to  impress upon you with all  the  emphasis  at  my
disposal is that if anything of this sort is going to occur  again,
you  would  do well to take out an accident policy with  some  good
insurance company at the earliest possible date. You probably think
that  being a guest in your aunt's house I would hesitate to butter
you  over  the  front lawn and dance on the fragments in  hobnailed
boots, but you are mistaken. It will be a genuine pleasure.  By  an
odd coincidence I brought a pair of hobnailed boots with me!'
   So  saying, and recognizing a good exit line when he saw one, he
strode  out, and after an interval of tense meditation  I  followed
him.  Repairing  to  my  bedroom, I  found  Jeeves  there,  looking
reproachful.  He knows I can dress for dinner in ten  minutes,  but
regards  haste askance, for he thinks it results in  a  tie  which,
even if adequate, falls short of the perfect butterfly effect.
   I  ignored the silent rebuke in his eyes. After meeting  Spode's
eyes, I was dashed if I was going to be intimidated by Jeeves's.
   'Jeeves,'  I  said, 'you're fairly well up in Hymns Ancient  and
Modern, I should imagine. Who were the fellows in the hymn who used
to prowl and prowl around?'
   'The troops of Midian, sir.'
   'That's right. Was Spode mentioned as one of them?'
   'Sir?'
   'I  ask  because he's prowling around as if Midian was his  home
town. Let me tell you all about it.'
   'I fear it will not be feasible, sir. The gong is sounding.'
   'So it is. Who's sounding it? You said Seppings was in bed.'
   'The parlourmaid, sir, deputizing for Mr Seppings.'
   'I like her wrist work. Well, I'll tell you later.'
   'Very good, sir. Pardon me, your tie.'
   'What's wrong with it?'
   'Everything, sir. If you will allow me.'
   'All  right,  go ahead. But I can't help asking myself  if  ties
really matter at a time like this.'
   There is no time when ties do not matter, sir.'
   My  mood  was  sombre as I went down to dinner. Anatole,  I  was
thinking, would no doubt give us of his best, possibly his  Timbale
de   ris   de  veau  Toulousaine  or  his  Sylphides  a  la   creme
d'ecrevisses, but Spode would be there and Madeline would be  there
and Florence would be there and L. P. Runkle would be there.
   There was, I reflected, always something.


   It  has been well said of Bertram Wooster that when he sets  his
hand  to  the plough he does not stop to pick daisies and  let  the
grass  grow  under  his  feet.  Many men  in  my  position,  having
undertaken  to canvass for a friend anxious to get into Parliament,
would  have waited till after lunch next day to get rolling, saying
to themselves Oh, what difference do a few hours make and going off
to  the  billiard-room for a game or two of snooker.  I,  in  sharp
contradistinction as I have heard Jeeves call it,  was  on  my  way
shortly  after  breakfast. It can't have  been  much  more  than  a
quarter  to  eleven when, fortified by a couple of kippers,  toast,
marmalade  and  three cups of coffee, I might  have  been  observed
approaching a row of houses down by the river to which someone with
a  flair  for the mot juste had given the name of River  Row.  From
long  acquaintance with the town I knew that this was  one  of  the
posher parts of Market Snodsbury, stiff with householders likely to
favour  the Conservative cause, and it was for that reason  that  I
was  making it my first port of call. No sense, I mean, in starting
off  with  the  less highly priced localities where  everybody  was
bound  to  vote Labour and would not only turn a deaf ear to  one's
reasoning but might even bung a brick at one. Ginger no doubt had a
special posse of tough supporters, talking and spitting out of  the
side  of  their  mouths, and they would attend to the brick-bunging
portion of the electorate.
   Jeeves was at my side, but whereas I had selected Number One  as
my  objective, his intention was to push on to Number Two. I  would
then  give  Number Three the treatment, while he did  the  same  to
Number Four. Talking it over, we had decided that if we made  it  a
double  act  and  blew into a house together,  it  might  give  the
occupant  the  impression that he was receiving a  visit  from  the
plain  clothes police and excite him unduly. Many of  the  men  who
live in places like River Row have a tendency to apoplectic fits as
the  result of high living, and a voter expiring on the floor  from
shock  means a voter less on the voting list. One has to  think  of
these things.
   'What  beats me, Jeeves,' I said, for I was in thoughtful  mood,
'is  why people don't object to somebody they don't know from  Adam
muscling into their homes without a ... without a what? It's on the
tip of my tongue.'
   'A With-your-leave or a By-your-leave, sir?'
   'That's right. Without a With-your-leave or a By-your-leave  and
telling  them  which way to vote. Taking a liberty, it  strikes  me
as.'
   'It  is  the custom at election time, sir. Custom reconciles  us
to everything, a wise man once said.'
   'Shakespeare?'
   'Burke,  sir. You will find the apothegm in his On  The  Sublime
And  Beautiful. I think the electors, conditioned by many years  of
canvassing, would be disappointed if nobody called on them.'
   'So  we  shall  be  bringing a ray of sunshine into  their  drab
lives?'
   'Something on that order, sir.'
   'Well,  you may be right. Have you ever done this sort of  thing
before?'
   'Once or twice, sir, before I entered your employment.'
   'What were your methods?'
   'I  outlined  as  briefly as possible  the  main  facets  of  my
argument, bade my auditors goodbye, and withdrew.'
   'No preliminaries?'
   'Sir?'
   'You  didn't  make a speech of any sort before getting  down  to
brass tacks? No mention of Burke or Shakespeare or the poet Burns?'
   'No, sir. It might have caused exasperation.'
   I  disagreed  with him. I felt that he was on  the  wrong  track
altogether and couldn't expect anything in the nature of a  triumph
at  Number Two. There is probably nothing a voter enjoys more  than
hearing  the  latest  about  Burke  and  his  On  The  Sublime  And
Beautiful,  and  here  he  was,  deliberately  chucking  away   the
advantages  his learning gave him. I had half a mind  to  draw  his
attention  to the Parable of the Talents, with which I  had  become
familiar when doing research for that Scripture Knowledge  prize  I
won at school. Time, however, was getting along, so I passed it up.
But  I  told  him  I  thought  he was  mistaken.  Preliminaries,  I
maintained,  were  of the essence. Breaking the ice  is  what  it's
called.  I mean, you can't just barge in on a perfect stranger  and
get off the mark with an abrupt 'Hoy there. I hope you're going  to
vote  for my candidate!' How much better to say 'Good morning, sir.
I can see at a glance that you are a man of culture, probably never
happier  than when reading your Burke. I wonder if you are familiar
with his On The Sublime And Beautiful?' Then away you go, off to  a
nice start.
   'You  must have an approach,' I said. 'I myself am all  for  the
jolly, genial. I propose, on meeting my householder, to begin  with
a  jovial  "Hullo  there,  Mr Whatever-it-is,  hullo  there",  thus
ingratiating myself with him from the kick-off. I shall  then  tell
him  a  funny story. Then, and only then, will I get to the  nub  -
waiting, of course, till he has stopped laughing. I can't fail.'
   'I  am sure you will not, sir. The system would not suit me, but
it is merely a matter of personal taste.'
   'The psychology of the individual, what?'
   'Precisely, sir. By different methods different men excel.'
   'Burke?'
   'Charles  Churchill,  sir, a poet who flourished  in  the  early
eighteenth  century.  The words occur in  his  Epistle  To  William
Hogarth.'
   We  halted. Cutting out a good pace, we had arrived at the  door
of Number One. I pressed the bell.
   'Zero hour, Jeeves,' I said gravely.
   'Yes, sir.'
   'Carry on.'
   'Very good, sir.'
   'Heaven speed your canvassing.'
   'Thank you, sir.'
   'And mine.'
   'Yes, sir.'
   He  pushed along and mounted the steps of Number Two, leaving me
feeling  rather  as I had done in my younger days  at  a  clergyman
uncle's  place  in  Kent when about to compete in  the  Choir  Boys
Bicycle  Handicap open to all those whose voices had not broken  by
the  first  Sunday in Epiphany - nervous, but full of the  will  to
win.
   The  door opened as I was running through the high spots of  the
laughable story I planned to unleash when I got inside. A maid  was
standing  there, and conceive my emotion when I recognized  her  as
one  who  had  held office under Aunt Dahlia the last  time  I  had
enjoyed the latter's hospitality; the one with whom, the old sweats
will  recall,  I  had  chewed the fat on the  subject  of  the  cat
Augustus  and  his  tendency to pass his days in sleep  instead  of
bustling about and catching mice.
   The  sight  of  her friendly face was like a tonic.  My  morale,
which  had  begun  to  sag a bit after Jeeves  had  left  me,  rose
sharply,  closing at nearly par. I felt that even if the  fellow  I
was  going to see kicked me downstairs, she would be there to  show
me  out and tell me that these things are sent to try us, with  the
general idea of making us more spiritual.
   'Why, hullo!' I said.
   'Good morning, sir.'
   'We meet again.'
   'Yes, sir.'
   'You remember me?'
   'Oh yes, sir.'
   'And you have not forgotten Augustus?'
   'Oh no, sir.'
   'He's  still  as  lethargic as ever. He joined me  at  breakfast
this morning, fust managed to keep awake while getting outside  his
portion of kipper, then fell into a dreamless sleep at the  end  of
the  bed  with  his  head hanging down. So you have  resigned  your
portfolio at Aunt Dahlia's since we last met. Too bad. We shall all
miss you. Do you like it here?'
   'Oh yes, sir.'
   'That's  the spirit. Well, getting down to business,  I've  come
to  see your boss on a matter of considerable importance. What sort
of chap is he? Not too short-tempered? Not too apt to be cross with
callers, I hope?'
   'It isn't a gentleman, sir, it's a lady. Mrs McCorkadale.'
   This  chipped quite a bit off the euphoria I was feeling. I  had
been  relying  on the story I had prepared to put me  over  with  a
bang, carrying me safely through the first awkward moments when the
fellow you've called on without an invitation is staring at you  as
if  wondering to what he owes the honour of this visit, and now  it
would  have to remain untold. It was one I had heard from  Catsmeat
Potter-Pirbright at the Drones and it was essentially a conte whose
spiritual  home was the smoking-room of a London club or the  men's
wash-room on an American train - in short, one by no means  adapted
to  the ears of the gentle sex; especially a member of that sex who
probably ran the local Watch Committee.
   It  was,  consequently, a somewhat damped Bertram  Wooster  whom
the  maid ushered into the drawing-room, and my pep was in  no  way
augmented by the first sight I had of mine hostess. Mrs McCorkadale
was  what I would call a grim woman. Not so grim as my Aunt Agatha,
perhaps, for that could hardly be expected, but certainly  well  up
in  the  class of Jael the wife of Heber and the Madame Whoever-it-
was  who used to sit and knit at the foot of the guillotine  during
the  French Revolution. She had a beaky nose, tight thin lips,  and
her eye could have been used for splitting logs in the teak forests
of  Borneo.  Seeing  her  steadily and seeing  her  whole,  as  the
expression  is, one marvelled at the intrepidity of Mr  McCorkadale
in marrying her - a man obviously whom nothing could daunt.
   However, I had come there to be jolly and genial, and jolly  and
genial  I  was resolved to be. Actors will tell you that  on  these
occasions,  when the soul is a-twitter and the nervous  system  not
like  mother makes it, the thing to do is to take a deep breath.  I
took three, and immediately felt much better.
   'Good  morning,  good  morning, good  morning,'  I  said.  'Good
morning,' I added, rubbing it in, for it was my policy to let there
be no stint.
   'Good  morning,' she replied, and one might have  totted  things
up as so far, so good. But if I said she said it cordially, I would
be  deceiving my public. The impression I got was that the sight of
me hurt her in some sensitive spot. The woman, it was plain, shared
Spode's  view  of what was needed to make England a  land  fit  for
heroes to live in.
   Not  being able to uncork the story and finding the way her  eye
was going through me like a dose of salts more than a little trying
to my already dented sangfroid, I might have had some difficulty in
getting the conversation going, but fortunately I was full of  good
material just waiting to be decanted. Over an after-dinner smoke on
the  previous  night  Ginger had filled me in  on  what  his  crowd
proposed to do when they got down to it. They were going, he  said,
to cut taxes to the bone, straighten out our foreign policy, double
our  export trade, have two cars in the garage and two chickens  in
the  pot for everyone and give the pound the shot in the arm it had
been  clamouring for for years. Than which, we both agreed, nothing
could  be  sweeter,  and  I  saw no  reason  to  suppose  that  the
McCorkadale  gargoyle would not feel the same. I began,  therefore,
by asking her if she had a vote, and she said Yes, of course, and I
said  Well, that was fine, because if she hadn't had, the point  of
my arguments would have been largely lost.
   'An  excellent  thing,  I've always thought,  giving  women  the
vote,'  I  proceeded  heartily, and she said  -rather  nastily,  it
seemed  to me - that she was glad I approved. 'When you cast yours,
if  cast  is the word I want, I strongly advise you to cast  it  in
favour of Ginger Winship.'
   'On what do you base that advice?'
   She  couldn't have given me a better cue. She had handed  it  to
me on a plate with watercress round it. Like a flash I went into my
sales talk, mentioning Ginger's attitude towards taxes, our foreign
policy,  our export trade, cars in the garage, chickens in the  pot
and first aid for the poor old pound, and was shocked to observe an
entire absence of enthusiasm on her part. Not a ripple appeared  on
the  stern  and  rockbound coast of her map. She looked  like  Aunt
Agatha  listening  to  the boy Wooster trying  to  explain  away  a
drawing-room window broken by a cricket ball.
   I pressed her closely, or do I mean keenly.
   'You want taxes cut, don't you?'
   'I do.'
   'And our foreign policy bumped up?'
   'Certainly.'
   'And  our exports doubled and a stick of dynamite put under  the
pound?  I'll bet you do. Then vote for Ginger Winship, the man  who
with  his hand on the helm of the ship of state will steer  England
to  prosperity and happiness, bringing back once more the  spacious
days  of Good Queen Bess.' This was a line of talk that Jeeves  had
roughed out for my use. There was also some rather good stuff about
this  sceptred isle and this other Eden, demi-something, but I  had
forgotten it. 'You can't say that wouldn't be nice,' I said.
   A  moment  before, I wouldn't have thought it possible that  she
could  look more like Aunt Agatha than she had been doing, but  she
now  achieved this breathtaking feat. She sniffed, if not  snorted,
and spoke as follows:
   'Young  man, don't be idiotic. Hand on the helm of the  ship  of
state,  indeed! If Mr Winship performs the miracle of winning  this
election,  which  he  won't, he will be an  ordinary  humble  back-
bencher,  doing nothing more notable than saying "Hear, hear"  when
his  superiors  are  speaking  and "Oh"  and  "Question"  when  the
opposition have the floor. As,' she went on, 'I shall if I win this
election, as I intend to.'
   I  blinked. A sharp 'Whatwasthatyousaid?' escaped my  lips,  and
she proceeded to explain or, as Jeeves would say, elucidate.
   'You  are not very quick at noticing things, are you? I  imagine
not,  or  you  would have seen that Market Snodsbury  is  liberally
plastered with posters bearing the words "Vote for McCorkadale". An
abrupt  way of putting it, but one that is certainly successful  in
conveying its meaning.'
   It  was  a  blow,  I confess, and I swayed beneath  it  like  an
aspen, if aspens are those things that sway. The Woosters can  take
a  good  deal,  but only so much. My most coherent thought  at  the
moment was that it was just like my luck, when I sallied forth as a
canvasser,  to  collide first crack out of the box with  the  rival
candidate.  I  also  had the feeling that if Jeeves  had  taken  on
Number  One instead of Number Two, he would probably have persuaded
Ma McCorkadale to vote against herself.
   I  suppose if you had asked Napoleon how he had managed  to  get
out  of Moscow, he would have been a bit vague about it, and it was
the  same  with me. I found myself on the front steps with  only  a
sketchy notion of how I had got there, and I was in the poorest  of
shapes.  To  try to restore the shattered system I lit a  cigarette
and  had begun to puff, when a cheery voice hailed me and I  became
aware  that some foreign substance was sharing my doorstep. 'Hullo,
Wooster old chap' it was saying and, the mists clearing from before
my eyes, I saw that it was Bingley.
   I  gave  the blighter a distant look. Knowing that this blot  on
the  species  resided in Market Snodsbury, I had  foreseen  that  I
might  run into him sooner or later, so I was not surprised to  see
him. But I certainly wasn't pleased. The last thing I wanted in the
delicate  state  to  which  the  McCorkadale  had  reduced  me  was
conversation  with a man who set cottages on fire  and  chased  the
hand that fed him hither and thither with a carving knife.
   He   was  as  unduly  intimate,  forward,  bold,  intrusive  and
deficient in due respect as he had been at the Junior Ganymede.  He
gave my back a cordial slap and would, I think, have prodded me  in
the  ribs if it had occurred to him. You wouldn't have thought that
carving knives had ever come between us.
   'And what are you doing in these parts, cocky?' he asked.
   I  said  I was visiting my aunt Mrs Travers, who had a house  in
the  vicinity, and he said he knew the place, though he  had  never
met the old geezer to whom I referred.
   'I've seen her around. Red-faced old girl, isn't she?'
   'Fairly vermilion.'
   'High blood pressure, probably.'
   'Or caused by going in a lot for hunting. It chaps the cheeks.'
   'Different from a barmaid. She cheeks the chaps.'
   If he had supposed that his crude humour would get so much as  a
simper  out  of  me,  he  was disappointed. I  preserved  the  cold
aloofness of a Wednesday matinee audience, and he proceeded.
   'Yes, that might be it. She looks a sport. Making a long stay?'
   'I  don't know,' I said, for the length of my visits to the  old
ancestor is always uncertain. So much depends on whether she throws
me  out  or not. 'Actually I'm here to canvass for the Conservative
candidate. He's a pal of mine.'
   He   whistled  sharply.  He  had  been  looking  repulsive   and
cheerful;  he  now looked repulsive and grave. Seeming  to  realize
that he had omitted a social gesture, he prodded me in the ribs.
   'You're  wasting  your time, Wooster, old  man,'  he  said.  'He
hasn't an earthly.'
   'No?'  I  quavered. It was simply one man's opinion, of  course,
but  the  earnestness with which he had spoken  was  unquestionably
impressive. 'What makes you think that?'
   'Never you mind what makes me think it. Take my word for it.  If
you're  sensible, you'll phone your bookie and have a  big  bet  on
McCorkadale.  You'll never regret it. You'll come to me  later  and
thank me for the tip with tears in your -'
   At  some point in this formal interchange of thoughts by  spoken
word,  as  Jeeves's Dictionary of Synonyms puts it,  he  must  have
pressed  the bell, for at this moment the door opened  and  my  old
buddy  the maid appeared. Quickly adding the word 'eyes', he turned
to her.
   'Mrs  McCorkadale in, dear?' he asked, and having been responded
to  in  the affirmative he left me, and I headed for home. I ought,
of  course,  to  have carried on along River Row,  taking  the  odd
numbers while Jeeves attended to the even, but I didn't feel in the
vein.
   I  was  uneasy. You might say, if you happened to know the word,
that  the  prognostications of a human wart like  Bingley  deserved
little  credence, but he had spoken with such conviction,  so  like
someone who has heard something, that I couldn't pass them off with
a light laugh.
   Brooding  tensely,  I reached the old homestead  and  found  the
ancestor  lying  on  a chaise longue, doing the Observer  crossword
puzzle.



   There  was  a  time  when  this worthy housewife,  tackling  the
Observer  crossword puzzle, would snort and tear her hair and  fill
the  air  with strange oaths picked up from cronies on the  hunting
field,  but consistent inability to solve more than about an eighth
of  the clues has brought a sort of dull resignation and today  she
merely  sits and stares at it, knowing that however much she  licks
the end of her pencil little or no business will result.
   As  I came in, I heard her mutter, soliloquizing like someone in
Shakespeare,  'Measured tread of saint round St Paul's,  for  God's
sake', seeming to indicate that she had come up against a hot  one,
and  I  think  it  was  a relief to her to become  aware  that  her
favourite nephew was at her side and that she could conscientiously
abandon  her  distasteful task, for she looked up  and  greeted  me
cheerily.  She  wears tortoiseshell-rimmed spectacles  for  reading
which  make her look like a fish in an aquarium. She peered  at  me
through these.
   'Hullo, my bounding Bertie.'
   'Good morning, old ancestor.'
   'Up already?'
   'I have been up some time.'
   'Then  why  aren't you out canvassing? And why are  you  looking
like something the cat brought in?'
   I  winced.  I had not intended to disclose the recent past,  but
with  an  aunt's perception she had somehow spotted  that  in  some
manner I had passed through the furnace and she would go on probing
and  questioning  till  I came clean. Any  capable  aunt  can  give
Scotland  Yard  inspectors strokes and bisques  in  the  matter  of
interrogating  a  suspect,  and  I  knew  that  all   attempts   at
concealment would be fruitless. Or is it bootless? I would have  to
check with Jeeves.
   'I  am  looking like something the cat brought in because  I  am
feeling like something the c.b. in,' I said. 'Aged relative, I have
a  strange story to relate. Do you know a local blister of the name
of Mrs McCorkadale?'
   'Who lives in River Row?'
   'That's the one.'
   'She's a barrister.'
   'She looks it.'
   'You've met her?'
   'I've met her.'
   'She's Ginger's opponent in this election.'
   'I know. Is Mr McCorkadale still alive?'
   'Died years ago. He got run over by a municipal tram.'
   'I  don't blame him. I'd have done the same myself in his place.
It's  the only course to pursue when you're married to a woman like
that.'
   'How did you meet her?'
   'I  called  on her to urge her to vote for Ginger,' I said,  and
in a few broken words I related my strange story.
   It  went  well.  In fact, it went like a breeze. Myself,  I  was
unable to see anything humorous in it, but there was no doubt about
it  entertaining  the blood relation. She guffawed  more  liberally
than  I  had ever heard a woman guffaw. If there had been an aisle,
she  would have rolled in it. I couldn't help feeling how  ironical
it  was  that,  having  failed so often to be  well  received  when
telling  a funny story, I should have aroused such gales  of  mirth
with one that was so essentially tragic.
   While  she  was still giving her impersonation of a hyena  which
has  just  heard  a  good one from another hyena,  Spode  came  in,
choosing  the wrong moment as usual. One never wants to see  Spode,
but  least  of  all when someone is having a hearty laugh  at  your
expense.
   'I'm  looking  for the notes for my speech tomorrow,'  he  said.
'Hullo, what's the joke?'
   Convulsed  as  she  was, it was not easy  for  the  ancestor  to
articulate, but she managed a couple of words.
   'It's Bertie.'
   'Oh?'  said Spode, looking at me as if he found it difficult  to
believe  that  any word or act of mine could excite mirth  and  not
horror and disgust.
   'He's just been calling on Mrs McCorkadale.'
   'Oh?'
   'And asking her to vote for Ginger Winship.'
   'Oh?'  said Spode again. I have already indicated that he was  a
compulsive  Oh-sayer. 'Well, it is what I would  have  expected  of
him,'  and  with  another look in which scorn  and  animosity  were
nicely  blended  and a word to the effect that he might  have  left
those  notes  in  the  summerhouse  by  the  lake  he  removed  his
distasteful presence.
   That  he  and  I were not on Damon and Pythias terms  seemed  to
have  impressed itself on the aged relative. She switched  off  the
hyena sound effects.
   'Not a bonhomous type, Spode.'
   'No.'
   'He doesn't like you.'
   'No.'
   'And I don't think he likes me.'
   'No,'  I  said,  and  it occurred to me, for  the  Woosters  are
essentially  fairminded, that it was hardly  for  me  to  criticize
Spode's Oh's when my No's were equally frequent. Why beholdest thou
the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam
that is in thine own eye, Wooster? I found myself asking myself, it
having  been  one  of the many good things I had picked  up  in  my
researches when I won that Scripture Knowledge prize.
   'Does  he  like anyone?' said the relative. 'Except, presumably,
Madeline Bassett.'
   'He seems fond of L. P. Runkle.'
   'What makes you think that?'
   'I overheard them exchanging confidences.'
   'Oh?'  said the relative, for these things are catching.  'Well,
I suppose one ought not to be surprised. Birds of a feather -'
   'Flock together?'
   'Exactly. And even the dregs of pond life fraternize with  other
dregs  of  pond  life. By the way, remind me to tell you  something
about L. P. Runkle.'
   'Right ho.'
   'We  will come to L. P. Runkle later. This animosity of Spode's,
is  it  just  the  memory of old Totleigh days, or  have  you  done
anything lately to incur his displeasure?'
   This  time  I had no hesitation in telling her all. I  felt  she
would  be  sympathetic.  I laid the facts  before  her  with  every
confidence that an aunt's condolences would result.
   'There was this gnat.'
   'I don't follow you.'
   'I had to rally round.'
   'You've still lost me.'
   'Spode didn't like it.'
   'So  he  doesn't like gnats either. Which gnat? What gnat?  Will
you  get  on with your story, curse you, starting at the  beginning
and carrying on to the end.'
   'Certainly, if you wish. Here is the scenario.'
   I  told  her  about the gnat in Madeline's eye, the part  I  had
played in restoring her vision to mid-season form and the exception
Spode  had  taken to my well-meant efforts. She whistled.  Everyone
seemed  to  be  whistling  at me today. Even  the  recent  maid  on
recognizing me had puckered up her lips as if about to.
   'I wouldn't do that sort of thing again,' she said.
   'If the necessity arose I would have no option.'
   'Then you'd better get one as soon as possible.
   Because if you keep on taking things out of Madeline's eye,  you
may have to marry the girl.'
   'But  surely  the  peril has passed now that  she's  engaged  to
Spode.'
   'I  don't  know  so much. I think there's some  trouble  between
Spode and Madeline.'
   I  would  be  surprised to learn that in the  whole  W.1  postal
section  of London there is a man more capable than Bertram Wooster
of bearing up with a stiff upper lip under what I have heard Jeeves
call  the  slings and arrows of outrageous fortune;  but  at  these
frightful  words  I confess that I went into my old  aspen  routine
even  more  wholeheartedly than I had done during  my  get-together
with the relict of the late McCorkadale.
   And  not  without reason. My whole foreign policy was  based  on
the  supposition that the solidarity of these two consenting adults
was  something that couldn't be broken or even cracked. He, on  his
own statement, had worshipped her since she was so high, while she,
as  I  have already recorded, would not lightly throw a man of  his
eligibility into the discard. If ever there was a union  which  you
could  have  betted with perfect confidence would  culminate  in  a
golden wedding with all the trimmings, this was the one.
   'Trouble?' I whispered hoarsely. 'You mean there's a what-d'you-
call-it?'
   'What would that be?'
   'A  rift  within the lute which widens soon and makes the  music
mute. Not my own, Jeeves's.'
   'The  evidence points in that direction. At dinner last night  I
noticed  that he was refusing Anatole's best, while she looked  wan
and  saintlike  and crumbled bread. And talking of Anatole's  best,
what I wanted to tell you about L. P. Runkle was that zero hour  is
approaching.  I  am crouching for my spring and have  strong  hopes
that Tuppy will soon be in the money.'
   I  clicked  the tongue. Nobody could be keener than I on  seeing
Tuppy  dip  into L. P. Runkle's millions, but this was no  time  to
change the subject.
   'Never  mind  about  Tuppy for the moment.  Concentrate  on  the
sticky affairs of Bertram Wilberforce Wooster.'
   'Wilberforce,'  she  murmured,  as  far  as  a  woman   of   her
outstanding lung power could murmur. 'Did I ever tell you  how  you
got that label? It was your father's doing. The day before you were
lugged to the font looking like a minor actor playing a bit part in
a  gangster  film  he  won a packet on an  outsider  in  the  Grand
National called that, and he insisted on you carrying on the  name.
Tough  on you, but we all have our cross to bear. Your Uncle  Tom's
second  name  is Portarlington, and I came within an ace  of  being
christened Phyllis.'
   I  rapped  her  sharply on the top-knot with  a  paper-knife  of
Oriental  design, the sort that people in novels  of  suspense  are
always getting stabbed in the back with.
   'Don't  wander  from  the  res. The fact  that  you  nearly  got
christened  Phyllis  will, no doubt, figure in your  autobiography,
but  we  need not discuss it now. What we are talking about is  the
ghastly peril that confronts me if the Madeline-Spode axis blows  a
fuse.'
   'You  mean that if she breaks her engagement, you will  have  to
fill the vacuum?'
   'Exactly.'
   'She won't. Not a chance.'
   'But you said -'
   'I  only  wanted to emphasize my warning to you not to  keep  on
taking gnats out of Madeline's eyes. Perhaps I overdid it.'
   'You chilled me to the marrow.'
   'Sorry I was so dramatic. You needn't worry. They've only had  a
lovers' tiff such as occurs with the mushiest couples.'
   'What about?'
   'How  do I know? Perhaps he queried her statement that the stars
were God's daisy chain.'
   I  had  to  admit  that  there  was something  in  this  theory.
Madeline's  breach with Gussie Fink-Nottle had been caused  by  her
drawing his attention to the sunset and saying sunsets always  made
her  think of the Blessed Damozel leaning out from the gold bar  of
heaven,  and  he said, 'Who?' and she said, 'The Blessed  Damozel',
and  he  said, 'Never heard of her', adding that sunsets  made  him
sick, and so did the Blessed Damozel. A girl with her outlook would
be bound to be touchy about stars and daisy chains.
   'It's  probably over by now,' said the ancestor. 'All the  same,
you'd better keep away from the girl. Spode's an impulsive man.  He
might slosh you.'
   'He said he would.'
   'He used the word slosh?'
   'No,  but  he assured me he would butter me over the front  lawn
and dance on the remains with hobnailed boots.'
   'Much  the  same  thing. So I would be careful if  I  were  you.
Treat  her with distant civility. If you see any more gnats  headed
in her direction, hold their coats and wish them luck, but restrain
the impulse to mix in.'
   'I will.'
   'I hope I have relieved your fears?'
   'You have, old flesh-and-blood.'
   'Then why the furrows in your brow?'
   'Oh, those? It's Ginger.'
   'What's Ginger?'
   'He's why my brow is furrowed.'
   It   shows  how  profoundly  the  thought  of  Madeline  Bassett
possibly  coming into circulation again had moved me  that  it  was
only  now that I had remembered Bingley and what he had said  about
the certainty of Ginger finishing as an also-ran in the election. I
burned  with  shame  and  remorse that I  should  have  allowed  my
personal  troubles to make me shove him down to  the  foot  of  the
agenda  paper in this scurvy manner. Long ere this I ought to  have
been  inviting Aunt Dahlia's views on his prospects. Not  doing  so
amounted  to  letting a pal down, a thing I pride myself  on  never
being guilty of. Little wonder that I b.'d with s. and r.
   I  hastened to make amends, if those are what you make when  you
have done the dirty on a fellow you love like a brother.
   'Did I ever mention a bloke called Bingley to you?'
   'If you did. I've forgotten.'
   'He  was my personal attendant for a brief space when Jeeves and
I  differed about me playing the banjolele. That time when I had  a
cottage down at Chufnell Regis.'
   'Oh yes, he set it on fire, didn't he?'
   'While  tight as an owl. It was burned to a cinder,  as  was  my
banjolele.'
   'I've got him placed now. What about him?'
   'He  lives  in  Market  Snodsbury. I met him  this  morning  and
happened to mention that I was canvassing for Ginger.'
   'If you can call it canvassing.'
   'And  he told me I was wasting my time. He advised me to have  a
substantial  bet  on  Ma  McCorkadale. He  said  Ginger  hadn't  an
earthly.'
   'He's a fool.'
   'I  must say I've always thought so, but he spoke as if  he  had
inside information.'
   'What  on earth information could he have? An election  isn't  a
horse  race where you get tips from the stable cat. I don't say  it
may not be a close thing, but Ginger ought to win all right. He has
a secret weapon.'
   'Repeat that, if you wouldn't mind. I don't think I got it.'
   'Ginger defies competition because he has a secret weapon.'
   'Which is?'
   'Spode.'
   'Spode?'
   'My lord Sidcup. Have you ever heard him speak?'
   'I did just now.'
   'In public, fool.'
   'Oh, in public. No, I haven't.'
   'He's  a  terrific orator, as I told you, only  you've  probably
forgotten.'
   This seemed likely enough to me. Spode at one time had been  one
of those Dictators, going about at the head of a band of supporters
in footer shorts shouting 'Heil Spode', and to succeed in that line
you have to be able to make speeches.
   'You  aren't  fond of him, nor am I, but nobody  can  deny  that
he's  eloquent.  Audiences hang on his every word,  and  when  he's
finished cheer him to the echo.'
   I  nodded.  I  had had the same experience myself  when  singing
'The  Yeoman's  Wedding  Song' at village concerts.  Two  or  three
encores sometimes, even when I blew up in the words and had to fill
in  with 'Ding dong, ding dong, ding dong, I hurry along'. I  began
to  feel  easier  in my mind. I told her this, and she  said  'Your
what?'
   'You  have put new heart into me, old blood relation,'  I  said,
ignoring  the crack. 'You see, it means everything to  him  to  win
this election.'
   'Is   he  so  bent  on  representing  Market  Snodsbury  in  the
Westminster menagerie?'
   'It  isn't  that  so much. Left to himself, I imagine  he  could
take Parliament or leave it alone. But he thinks Florence will give
him the bum's rush if he loses.'
   'He's probably right. She can't stand a loser.'
   'So he told me. Remember what happened to Percy Gorringe.'
   'And  others. England is strewn with ex-fiances whom she bounced
because they didn't come up to her specifications. Dozens of  them.
I believe they form clubs and societies.'
   'Perhaps calling themselves the Old Florentians.'
   'And having an annual dinner!'
   We  mused on Florence for awhile; then she said she ought to  be
going  to confer with Anatole about dinner tonight, urging  him  to
dish  up something special. It was vital, she said, that he  should
excel his always high standard.
   'I  was  speaking, just now, when you interrupted me and  turned
my thoughts to the name Wilberforce, of L. P. Runkle.'
   'You said you had an idea he might be going to cooperate.'
   'Exactly.  Have you ever seen a python after a series of  hearty
meals?'
   'Not to my knowledge.'
   'It  gets all softened up. It becomes a kindlier, gentler,  more
lovable python. And if I am not greatly mistaken, the same thing is
happening  to L. P. Runkle as the result of Anatole's cooking.  You
saw him at dinner last night.'
   'Sorry,  no,  I  wasn't looking. Every fibre  of  my  being  was
concentrated  on  the foodstuffs. He would have repaid  inspection,
would he? Worth seeing, eh?'
   'He  was  positively beaming. He was too busy to utter,  but  it
was plain that he had become all amiability and benevolence. He had
the  air  of a man who would start scattering largesse if  given  a
word  of  encouragement. It is for Anatole to see to it  that  this
Christmas spirit does not evaporate but comes more and more to  the
boil. And I know that I can rely on him.'
   'Good old Anatole,' I said, lighting a cigarette.
   'Amen,'  said the ancestor reverently; then, touching on another
subject, 'Take that foul cigarette outside, you young hellhound. It
smells like an escape of sewer gas.'
   Always  glad to indulge her lightest whim, I passed through  the
French  window, in a far different mood from that in  which  I  had
entered  the  room.  Optimism now reigned  in  the  Wooster  bosom.
Ginger,  I told myself, was going to be all right, Tuppy was  going
to  be all right, and it would not be long before the laughing love
god straightened things out between Madeline and Spode, even if  he
had talked out of turn about stars and daisy chains.
   Having  finished  the gasper, I was about to return  and  resume
conversation  with the aged relative, when from within  there  came
the  voice of Seppings, now apparently restored to health, and what
he  was  saying  froze  me in every limb. I  couldn't  have  become
stiffer if I had been Lot's wife, whose painful story I had had  to
read up when I won that Scripture Knowledge prize.
   What he was saying ran as follows:
   'Mrs McCorkadale, madam.'



   Leaning against the side of the house, I breathed rather in  the
manner copyrighted by the hart which pants for cooling streams when
heated  in the chase. The realization of how narrowly I had  missed
having to mingle again with this blockbusting female barrister kept
me  Lot's-wifed for what seemed an hour or so, though I suppose  it
can't have been more than a few seconds. Then gradually I ceased to
be a pillar of salt and was able to concentrate on finding out what
on  earth Ma McCorkadale's motive was in paying us this visit.  The
last  place, I mean to say, where you would have expected  to  find
her.  Considering how she stood in regard to Ginger, it was  as  if
Napoleon  had dropped in for a chat with Wellington on the  eve  of
Waterloo.
   I  have  had  occasion to mention earlier the  advantages  as  a
listening-post afforded by the just-outside-the-French-window  spot
where  I  was standing. Invisible to those within, I could take  in
all  they  were saying, as I had done with Spode and L. P.  Runkle.
Both  had come through loud and clear, and neither had had a notion
that Bertram Wooster was on the outskirts, hearing all.
   As  I  could  hardly step in and ask her to repeat  any  of  her
remarks  which  I  didn't quite catch, it was  fortunate  that  the
McCorkadale's voice was so robust, while Aunt Dahlia's, of  course,
would  be  audible  if  you were at Hyde Park  Corner  and  she  in
Piccadilly Circus. I have often thought that the deaf adder I  read
about  when I won my Scripture Knowledge prize would have  got  the
message  right  enough if the aged relative had  been  one  of  the
charmers.  I was able to continue leaning against the side  of  the
house in full confidence that I shouldn't miss a syllable of either
protagonist's words.
   The  proceedings  started with a couple of Good  mornings,  Aunt
Dahlia's  the  equivalent  of  'What  the  hell?',  and  then   the
McCorkadale, as if aware that it was up to her to offer a  word  of
explanation, said she had called to see Mr Winship on a  matter  of
great importance.
   'Is he in?'
   Here  was  a chance for the ancestor to get one up by  retorting
that  he jolly well would be after the votes had been counted,  but
she  let  it  go,  merely  saying No, he  had  gone  out,  and  the
McCorkadale said she was sorry.
   'I  would have preferred to see him in person, but you,  I  take
it, are his hostess, so I can tell you and you will tell him.'
   This  seemed  fair  enough to me, and I remember  thinking  that
these barristers put things well, but it appeared to annoy the aged
relative.
   'I  am afraid I do not understand you,' she said, and I knew she
was  getting  steamed up, for if she had been her  calm  self,  she
would have said 'Sorry, I don't get you.'
   'If  you  will allow me to explain. I can do so in a few  simple
words. I have just had a visit from a slimy slinking slug.'
   I  drew  myself up haughtily. Not much good, of course,  in  the
circs,  but the gesture seemed called for. One does not  object  to
fair  criticism, but this was mere abuse. I could think of  nothing
in our relations which justified such a description of me. My views
on barristers and their way of putting things changed sharply.
   Whether  or  not  Aunt Dahlia bridled, as the expression  is,  I
couldn't  say, but I think she must have done, for her  next  words
were straight from the deep freeze.
   'Are you referring to my nephew Bertram Wooster?'
   The  McCorkadale  did  much to remove  the  bad  impression  her
previous  words had made on me. She said her caller had  not  given
his  name,  but  she was sure he could not have been Mrs  Travers's
nephew.
   'He  was  a  very common man,' she said, and with the  quickness
which  is so characteristic of me I suddenly got on to it that  she
must be alluding to Bingley, who had been ushered into her presence
immediately after I had left. I could understand her applying those
derogatory  adjectives to Bingley. And the noun slug,  just  right.
Once again I found myself thinking how well barristers put things.
   The  old  ancestor,  too, appeared - what's the  word  beginning
with m and meaning less hot under the collar? Mollified, that's it.
The  suggestion that she could not have a nephew capable  of  being
described as a common man mollified her. I don't say that even  now
she  would have asked Ma McCorkadale to come on a long walking tour
with her, but her voice was definitely matier.
   'Why  do  you  call him a slug?' she asked, and the  McCorkadale
had her answer to that.
   'For the same reason that I call a spade a spade, because it  is
the  best  way  of conveying a verbal image of him. He  made  me  a
disgraceful proposition.'
   'WHAT?' said Aunt Dahlia rather tactlessly.
   I  could  understand her being surprised. It  was  difficult  to
envisage  a  man  so  eager  to collect girl  friends  as  to  make
disgraceful  propositions to Mrs McCorkadale.  It  amazed  me  that
Bingley  could  have done it. I had never liked  him,  but  I  must
confess  to  a  certain  admiration for his  temerity.  Our  humble
heroes, I felt.
   'You're pulling my leg,' said the aged relative.
   The McCorkadale came back at her briskly.
   'I  am  doing  nothing of the kind. I am telling  you  precisely
what  occurred. I was in my drawing-room going over  the  speech  I
have  prepared  for the debate tomorrow, when I was interrupted  by
the  incursion of this man. Naturally annoyed, I asked him what his
business  was, and he said with a most offensive leer that  he  was
Father Christmas bringing me manna in the wilderness and tidings of
great joy. I was about to ring the bell to have him shown out,  for
of  course I assumed that he was intoxicated, when he made me  this
extraordinary  proposition. He had contrived to obtain  information
to  the detriment of my opponent, and this he wished to sell to me.
He said it would make my victory in the election certain. It would,
as he phrased it, 'be a snip'.
   I  stirred  on  my  base. If I hadn't been  afraid  I  might  be
overheard, I would have said 'Aha!' Had circs been other than  they
were,  I  would have stepped into the room, tapped the ancestor  on
the  shoulder  and said 'Didn't I tell you Bingley had information?
Perhaps  another  time you'll believe me'. But as this  would  have
involved  renewing  my acquaintance with a  woman  of  whom  I  had
already  seen sufficient to last a lifetime, it was not within  the
sphere of practical politics. I remained, accordingly, where I was,
merely  hitching my ears up another couple of notches in order  not
to miss the rest of the dialogue.
   After  the ancestor had said 'For heaven's sake!' or 'Gorblimey'
or  whatever it was, indicating that her visitor's story interested
her  strongly, the McCorkadale resumed. And what she resumed  about
unquestionably put the frosting on the cake. Words of doom  is  the
only way I can think of to describe the words she spoke as.
   'The  man, it appeared, was a retired valet, and he belonged  to
a  club for butlers and valets in London, one of the rules of which
was  that  all  members were obliged to record  in  the  club  book
information about their employers. My visitor explained that he had
been  at  one  time in the employment of Mr Winship  and  had  duly
recorded  a number of the latter's escapades which if made  public,
would  be  certain to make the worst impression on  the  voters  of
Market Snodsbury.'
   This  surprised me. I hadn't had a notion that Bingley had  ever
worked  for Ginger. It just shows the truth of the old saying  that
half the world doesn't know how the other three-quarters live.
   'He  then  told me without a blush of shame that on  his  latest
visit  to London he had purloined this book and now had it  in  his
possession.'
   I  gasped  with horror. I don't know why, but the  thought  that
Bingley  must have been pinching the thing at the very moment  when
Jeeves and I were sipping our snootfuls in the next room seemed  to
make  it  so particularly poignant. Not that it wouldn't have  been
pretty  poignant anyway. For years I had been haunted by  the  fear
that  the  Junior  Ganymede club book, with  all  the  dynamite  it
contained, would get into the wrong hands, and the hands it had got
into  couldn't  have  been more the sort of hands  you  would  have
wished it hadn't. I don't know if I make myself clear, but what I'm
driving  at  is that if I had been picking a degraded character  to
get  away  with that book, Bingley was the last character  I  would
have picked. I remember Jeeves speaking of someone who was fit  for
treasons, stratagems and spoils, and that was Bingley all over. The
man was wholly without finer feelings, and when you come up against
someone without finer feelings, you've had it.
   The  aged  relative was not blind to the drama of the situation.
She  uttered an awed 'Lord love a duck!', and the McCorkadale  said
she  might  well  say  'Lord love a duck', though  it  was  not  an
expression she would have used herself.
   'What  did  you  do?'  the ancestor asked,  all  agog,  and  the
McCorkadale gave that sniffing snort of hers. It was partly like an
escape  of  steam  and partly like two or three  cats  unexpectedly
encountering two or three dogs, with just a suggestion of  a  cobra
waking up cross in the morning. I wondered how it had affected  the
late  Mr  McCorkadale. Probably made him feel that there are  worse
things than being run over by a municipal tram.
   'I  sent  him  away with a flea in his ear. I  pride  myself  on
being a fair fighter, and his proposition revolted me. If you  want
to have him arrested, though I am afraid I cannot see how it can be
done,  he  lives at 5 Ormond Crescent. He appears to have asked  my
maid  to look in and see his etchings on her afternoon off, and  he
gave  her  his address. But, as I say, there would seem not  to  be
sufficient  evidence  for an arrest. Our conversation  was  without
witnesses, and he would simply have to deny possession of the book.
A  pity. I would have enjoyed seeing a man like that hanged,  drawn
and quartered.'
   She  snorted again, and the ancestor, who always knows what  the
book  of  etiquette  would advise, came across  with  the  soothing
syrup. She said Ma McCorkadale deserved a medal.
   'Not at all.'
   'It was splendid of you to turn the man down.'
   'As I said, I am a fair fighter.'
   'Apart  from  your revulsion at his proposition,  it  must  have
been  very annoying for you to be interrupted when you were working
on your speech.'
   'Especially as a few moments before this person appeared  I  had
been  interrupted by an extraordinary young man  who  gave  me  the
impression of being half-witted.'
   'That would have been my nephew, Bertram Wooster.'
   'Oh, I beg your pardon.'
   'Quite all right.'
   'I  may  have  formed  a wrong estimate of  his  mentality.  Our
interview  was very brief. I just thought it odd that he should  be
trying to persuade me to vote for my opponent.'
   'It's  the  sort  of  thing that would seem  a  bright  idea  to
Bertie.  He's like that. Whimsical. Moving in a mysterious way  his
wonders  to  perform. But he ought not to have butted in  when  you
were busy with your speech. Is it coming out well?'
   'I am satisfied with it.'
   'Good for you. I suppose you're looking forward to the debate?'
   'Very  keenly.  I  am  greatly in favour of  it.  It  simplifies
things  so much if the two opponents face one another on  the  same
platform  and  give  the voters a chance to  compare  their  views.
Provided, of course, that both observe the decencies of debate. But
I really must be getting back to my work.'
   'Just  a  moment.' No doubt it was the word 'observe'  that  had
rung  a  bell with the ancestor. 'Do you do the Observer  crossword
puzzle by any chance?'
   'I solve it at breakfast on Sunday mornings.'
   'Not the whole lot?'
   'Oh yes.'
   'Every clue?'
   'I have never failed yet. I find it ridiculously simple.'
   'Then  what's  all that song and dance about the measured  tread
of saints round St Paul's?'
   'Oh,  I  guessed  that immediately. The answer,  of  course,  is
pedometer.  You  measure tread with a pedometer. Dome,  meaning  St
Paul's, comes in the middle and Peter, for St Peter, round it. Very
simple.'
   'Oh,  very.  Well, thank you. You have taken a great weight  off
my  mind,' said Aunt Dahlia, and they parted in complete  amity,  a
thing I wouldn't have thought possible when Ma McCorkadale was  one
of the parters.
   For  perhaps  a  quarter of a minute after I  had  rejoined  the
human  herd,  as represented by my late father's sister  Dahlia,  I
wasn't able to get a word in, the old ancestor being fully occupied
with  saying  what  she  thought of the compiler  of  the  Observer
crossword   puzzle,  with  particular  reference   to   domes   and
pedometers.  And  when she had said her say  on  that  subject  she
embarked on a rueful tribute to the McCorkadale, giving it  as  her
opinion  that against a woman with a brain like that Ginger  hadn't
the meagre chance of a toupee in a high wind. Though, she added  in
more  hopeful vein, now that the menace of the Ganymede  Club  book
had  been  squashed there was just a possibility that the eloquence
of Spode might get his nose in front.
   All  this  while  I had been trying to cut in  with  my  opening
remark,  which was to the effect that the current situation  was  a
bit  above the odds, but it was only when I had repeated  this  for
the third time that I succeeded in obtaining her attention.
   'This  is  a  bit  thick,  what,' I said,  varying  my  approach
slightly.
   She seemed surprised as if the idea had not occurred to her.
   'Thick?'
   'Well, isn't it?'
   'Why?  If  you were listening, you heard her say that,  being  a
fair fighter, she had scorned the tempter and sent him away with  a
flea  in his ear, which must be a most uncomfortable thing to have.
Bingley was baffled.'
   'Only for the nonce.'
   'Nonsense.'
   'Not  nonsense, nonce, which isn't at all the same thing. I feel
that  Bingley, though crushed to earth, will rise again. How  about
if  he  sells that book with all its ghastly contents to the Market
Snodsbury Argus-Reminder?'
   I  was alluding to the powerful bi-weekly sheet which falls over
itself  in its efforts to do down the Conservative cause,  omitting
no  word or act to make anyone with Conservative leanings feel like
a  piece  of  cheese. Coming out every Wednesday and Saturday  with
proofs  of Ginger's past, I did not see how it could fail  to  give
his candidature the sleeve across the windpipe.
   I  put  this to the old blood relation in no uncertain terms.  I
might have added that that would wipe the silly smile off her face,
but there was no necessity. She saw at once that I spoke sooth, and
a crisp hunting-field expletive escaped her. She goggled at me with
all the open dismay of an aunt who has inadvertently bitten into  a
bad oyster.
   'I never thought of that!'
   'Give it your attention now.'
   'Those Argus-Reminder hounds stick at nothing.'
   'The sky is notoriously their limit.'
   'Did you tell me Ginger had done time?'
   'I  said  he was always in the hands of the police on Boat  Race
night. And, of course, on Rugger night.'
   'What's Rugger night?'
   'The  night  of the annual Rugby football encounter between  the
universities of Oxford and Cambridge. Many blithe spirits get  even
more  effervescent then than when celebrating the Boat Race. Ginger
was one of them.'
   'He really got jugged?'
   'Invariably.  His  practice  of  pinching  policemen's   helmets
ensured  this.  Released next morning on payment  of  a  fine,  but
definitely after spending the night in a dungeon cell.'
   There  was  no doubt that I had impressed on her the gravity  of
the  situation.  She  gave a sharp cry like that  of  a  stepped-on
dachshund, and her face took on the purple tinge it always  assumes
in moments of strong emotion.
   'This does it!'
   'Fairly serious, I agree.'
   'Fairly  serious! The merest whisper of such goings-on  will  be
enough to alienate every voter in the town. Ginger's done for.'
   'You  don't  think they might excuse him because his  blood  was
young at the time?'
   'Not  a hope. They won't be worrying about his ruddy blood.  You
don't  know  what these blighters here are like. Most of  them  are
chapel folk with a moral code that would have struck Torquemada  as
too rigid.'
   'Torquemada?'
   'The Spanish Inquisition man.'
   'Oh, that Torquemada.'
   'How many Torquemadas did you think there were?'
   I admitted that it was not a common name, and she carried on.
   'We must act!'
   'But how?'
   'Or,  rather, you must act. You must go to this man  and  reason
with him.'
   I  h'med  a  bit  at  this.  I doubted  whether  a  fellow  with
Bingley's lust for gold would listen to reason.
   'What shall I say?'
   'You'll know what to say.'
   'Oh, shall I?'
   'Appeal to his better instincts.'
   'He hasn't got any.'
   'Now  don't  make  difficulties, Bertie. That's  your  besetting
sin, always arguing. You want to help Ginger, don't you?'
   'Of course I do.'
   'Very well, then.'
   When an aunt has set her mind on a thing, it's no use trying  to
put in a nolle prosequi. I turned to the door.
   Half-way there a thought occurred to me. I said:
   'How about Jeeves?'
   'What about him?'
   'We  ought  to  spare  his  feelings  as  far  as  possible.   I
repeatedly warned him that that club book was high-level  explosive
and  ought  not to be in existence. What if it fell into the  wrong
hands, I said, and he said it couldn't possibly fall into the wrong
hands. And now it has fallen into about the wrongest hands it could
have  fallen into. I haven't the heart to say "I told you  so"  and
watch  him  writhe with shame and confusion. You see, up  till  now
Jeeves  has always been right. His agony on finding that he has  at
last  made  a floater will be frightful. I shouldn't wonder  if  he
might not swoon. I can't face him. You'll have to tell him.'
   'Yes, I'll do it.'
   'Try to break it gently.'
   'I  will. When you were listening outside, did you get this  man
Bingley's address?'
   'I got it.'
   'Then off you go.'
   So off I went.



   Considering how shaky was his moral outlook and how  marked  his
tendency  to weave low plots at the drop of a hat, you  would  have
expected  Bingley's headquarters to have been one of those sinister
underground  dens lit by stumps of candles stuck in the  mouths  of
empty  beer  bottles  such  as abound, I believe,  in  places  like
Whitechapel and Limehouse. But no. Number 5 Ormond Crescent  turned
out  to be quite an expensive-looking joint with a nice little  bit
of  garden in front of it well supplied with geraniums, bird  baths
and  terracotta gnomes, the sort of establishment that  might  have
belonged  to  a blameless retired Colonel or a saintly stockbroker.
Evidently  his late uncle hadn't been just an ordinary  small  town
grocer, weighing out potted meats and raisins to a public that  had
to  watch  the  pennies, but something on a  much  more  impressive
scale.  I learned later that he had owned a chain of shops, one  of
them as far afield as Birmingham, and why the ass had gone and left
his  money  to  a chap like Bingley is more than I  can  tell  you,
though the probability is that Bingley, before bumping him off with
some  little-known  Asiatic poison, had  taken  the  precaution  of
forging the will.

   On  the  threshold I paused. I remember in my early days at  the
private  school  where I won my Scripture Knowledge  prize,  Arnold
Abney  MA, the headmaster, would sometimes announce that he  wished
to  see  Wooster in his study after morning prayers, and  I  always
halted  at  the  study door, a prey to uneasiness and apprehension,
not liking the shape of things to come. It was much the same now. I
shrank from the impending interview. But whereas in the case of  A.
Abney  my disinclination to get things moving had been due  to  the
fear  that the proceedings were going to lead up to six of the best
from a cane that stung like an adder, with Bingley it was a natural
reluctance to ask a favour of a fellow I couldn't stand  the  sight
of. I wouldn't say the Woosters were particularly proud, but we  do
rather jib at having to grovel to the scum of the earth.
   However, it had to be done, and, as I heard Jeeves say once,  if
it  were done, then 'twere well 'twere done quickly. Stiffening the
sinews  and  summoning up the blood, to quote another his  gags,  I
pressed the bell.
   If  I  had any doubts as to Bingley now being in the chips,  the
sight  of the butler who opened the door would have dispelled them.
In  assembling his domestic staff, Bingley had done himself  proud,
sparing  no expense. I don't say his butler was quite in the  class
of  Jeeves's Uncle Charlie Silversmith, but he came so near it that
the  breath was taken. And like Uncle Charlie he believed  in  pomp
and  ceremony when buttling. I asked him if I could see Mr Bingley,
and he said coldly that the master was not receiving.
   'I think he'll see me. I'm an old friend of his.'
   'I will enquire. Your name, sir?'
   'Mr Wooster.'
   He  pushed  off,  to return some moments later to  say  that  Mr
Bingley  would be glad if I would join him in the library. Speaking
in  what  seemed to me a disapproving voice, as though  to  suggest
that,  while  he  was  compelled to carry out the  master's  orders
however eccentric, he would never have admitted a chap like  me  if
it had been left to him.
   'If you would step this way, sir,' he said haughtily.
   What  with one thing and another I had rather got out  of  touch
lately  with that If-you-would-step-this-way-sir stuff, and it  was
in  a somewhat rattled frame of mind that I entered the library and
found  Bingley  in  an armchair with his feet up on  an  occasional
table.  He greeted me cordially enough, but with that touch of  the
patronizing so noticeable at our two previous meetings.
   'Ah,  Wooster, my dear fellow, come in. I told Bastable to  tell
everyone I was not at home, but of course you're different.  Always
glad to see an old pal. And what can I do for you, Wooster?'
   I  had  to  say  for  him that he had made it  easy  for  me  to
introduce the subject I was anxious to discuss. I was about to  get
going, when he asked me if I would like a drink. I said No, thanks,
and he said in an insufferably smug way that I was probably wise.
   'I  often  thought,  when I was staying with  you  at  Chuffnell
Regis,  that you drank too much, Wooster. Remember how  you  burned
that  cottage down? A sober man wouldn't have done that.  You  must
have been stewed to the eyebrows, cocky.'
   A  hot  denial trembled on my lips. I mean to say,  it's  a  bit
thick  to be chided for burning cottages down by the very chap  who
put  them  to  the  flames. But I restrained  myself.  The  man,  I
reminded  myself,  had  to be kept in with.  If  that  was  how  he
remembered that night of terror at Chuffnell Regis, it was not  for
me to destroy his illusions. I refrained from comment, and he asked
me  if I would like a cigar. When I said I wouldn't, he nodded like
a father pleased with a favourite son.
   'I  am  glad to see this improvement in you, Wooster.  I  always
thought  you smoked too much. Moderation, moderation in all things,
that's  the  only way. But you were going to tell me why  you  came
here. Just for a chat about old times, was it?'
   'It's  with  ref  to  that  book you  pinched  from  the  Junior
Ganymede.'
   He  had  been  drinking a whisky-and-soda as  I  spoke,  and  he
drained his glass before replying.
   'I  wish  you wouldn't use that word "pinch",' he said,  looking
puff-faced. It was plain that I had given offence.
   'I  simply  borrowed  it because I needed  it  in  my  business.
They'll get it back all right.'
   'Mrs McCorkadale told my aunt you tried to sell it to her.'
   His annoyance increased. His air was that of a man compelled  to
listen to a tactless oaf who persisted in saying the wrong thing.
   'Not  sell.  I  would have had a clause in the agreement  saying
that she was to return it when she had done with it. The idea I had
in  mind  was  that she would have photostatic copies made  of  the
pages  dealing with young Winship without the book going out of  my
possession.  But the deal didn't come off. She wouldn't  cooperate.
Fortunately  I  have  other  markets. It's  the  sort  of  property
there'll  be  a  lot  of people bidding for. But  why  are  you  so
interested, old man? Nothing to do with you, is it?'
   'I'm a pal of Ginger Winship's.'
   'And  I've no objection to him myself. Nice enough young  fellow
he always seemed to me, though the wrong size.'
   'Wrong size?' I said, not getting this.
   'His  shirts  didn't fit me. Not that I hold that  against  him.
These things are all a matter of luck. Don't run away with the idea
that  I'm  a  man with a grievance, trying to get back at  him  for
something  he  did  to  me when I was staying  at  his  place.  Our
relations  were very pleasant. I quite liked him, and if it  didn't
matter  to me one way or the other who won this election, I'd  just
as  soon  he  came  out  on top. But business  is  business.  After
studying  form I did some pretty heavy betting on McCorkadale,  and
I've  got  to  protect my investments, old man. That's only  common
sense, isn't it?'
   He  paused,  apparently expecting a round of  applause  for  his
prudence.  When  I  remained sotto voce and  the  silent  tomb,  he
proceeded.
   'If  you  want  to  get along in this world, Wooster  old  chap,
you've got to grasp your opportunities. That's what I do. I examine
each  situation that crops up, and I ask myself "What is  there  in
this for me? How," I ask myself, "can I handle this situation so as
to  do  Rupert Bingley a bit of good?", and it's not often I  don't
find  a way. This time I didn't even have to think. There was young
Winship  trying to get into Parliament, and here was I standing  to
win  something  like  a  couple of hundred  quid  if  he  lost  the
election,  and  there was the club book with all the  stuff  in  it
which would make it certain he did lose. I recognized it at once as
money for jam. The only problem was how to get the book, and I soon
solved  that. I don't know if you noticed, that day we met  at  the
Junior  Ganymede, that I had a large briefcase with me? And that  I
said  I'd  got to see the secretary about something? Well,  what  I
wanted to see him about was borrowing the book. And I wouldn't have
to  find some clever way of getting him looking the other way while
I  did  it,  because I knew he'd be out to lunch. So I  popped  in,
popped the book in the briefcase and popped off. Nobody saw  me  go
in.  Nobody  saw me come out. The whole operation was  like  taking
candy from a kid.'
   There  are  some stories which fill the man of sensibility  with
horror,  repugnance, abhorrence and disgust. I don't mean anecdotes
like the one Catsmeat Potter-Pirbright told me at the Drones, I  am
referring to loathsome revelations such as the bit of autobiography
to  which I had just been listening. To say that I felt as  if  the
Wooster soul had been spattered with mud by a passing car would not
be  putting it at all too strongly. I also felt that nothing was to
be  gained by continuing this distasteful interview. I had had some
idea  of  going  into  the possibility of Aunt Agatha  reading  the
contents of the club book and touching on the doom, desolation  and
despair which must inevitably be my portion if she did, but  I  saw
that  it  would  be  fruitless or bootless.  The  man  was  without
something and pity ... ruth, would it be? I know it begins  with  r
...  and  would simply have given me the horse's laugh. I  was  now
quite  certain that he had murdered his uncle and forged the  will.
Such a performance to such a man would have been mere routine.
   I  turned, accordingly, to the door, but before I got  there  he
stopped me, wanting to know if when coming to stay with Aunt Dahlia
I  had brought Reggie Jeeves with me. I said I had, and he said  he
would like to see old Reggie again.
   'What  a  cough drop!' he said mirthfully. The word was  strange
to  me, but weighing it and deciding that it was intended to  be  a
compliment  and a tribute to his many gifts, I agreed  that  Jeeves
was in the deepest and truest sense a cough drop.
   'Tell  Bastable as you go out that if Reggie calls to  send  him
up. But nobody else.'
   'Right ho.'
   'Good  man,  Bastable. He places my bets for me.  Which  reminds
me.  Have you done as I advised and put a bit on Ma McCorkadale for
the  Market  Snodsbury stakes? No? Do it without fail, Wooster  old
man.  You'll  never regret it. It'll be like finding money  in  the
street.'
   I  wasn't feeling any too good as I drove away. I have described
my heart-bowed-down-ness on approaching the Arnold Abney study door
after morning prayers in the days when I was in statu pupillari, as
the  expression is, and I was equally apprehensive now as  I  faced
the  prospect of telling the old ancestor of my failure to  deliver
the goods in the matter of Bingley. I didn't suppose that she would
give  me  six of the best, as A. Abney was so prone to do, but  she
would  certainly  not hesitate to let me know she  was  displeased.
Aunts as a class are like Napoleon, if it was Napoleon; they expect
their orders to be carried out without a hitch and don't listen  to
excuses.
   Nor  was  I  mistaken.  After lunching at  a  pub  in  order  to
postpone  the meeting as long as possible, I returned  to  the  old
homestead and made my report, and was unfortunate enough to make it
while  she was engaged in reading a Rex Stout - in the hard  cover,
not  a  paperback. When she threw this at me with the accurate  aim
which  years of practice have given her, its sharp edge took me  on
the tip of the nose, making me blink not a little.
   'I  might  have  known you would mess the whole thing  up,'  she
boomed.
   'Not  my  fault, aged relative,' I said. 'I did  my  best.  Than
which,' I added, 'no man can do more.'
   I  thought I had her there, but I was wrong. It was the sort  of
line which can generally be counted on to soothe the savage breast,
but  this time it laid an egg. She snorted. Her snorts are not  the
sniffing  snorts snorted by Ma McCorkadale, they resemble  more  an
explosion in the larger type of ammunition dump and send strong men
rocking back on their heels as if struck by lightning.
   'How  do  you mean you did your best? You don't seem  to  me  to
have done anything. Did you threaten to have him arrested?'
   'No, I didn't do that.'
   'Did you grasp him by the throat and shake him like a rat?'
   I admitted that that had not occurred to me.
   'In  other  words, you did absolutely nothing,'  she  said,  and
thinking  it  over I had to own that she was perfectly right.  It's
funny how one doesn't notice these things at the time. It was  only
now that I realized that I had let Bingley do all the talking, self
offering practically nil in the way of a come-back. I could  hardly
have  made less of a contribution to our conversation if I had been
the deaf adder I mentioned earlier.
   She  heaved herself up from the chaise longue on which  she  was
reclining.  Her manner was peevish. In time, of course,  she  would
get over her chagrin and start loving her Bertram again as of yore,
but there was no getting away from it that an aunt's affection was,
as of even date, at its lowest ebb. She said gloomily:
   'I'll have to do it myself.'
   'Are you going to see Bingley?'
   'I  am  going to see Bingley, and I am going to talk to Bingley,
and  I  am  going, if necessary, to take Bingley by the throat  and
shake him -'
   'Like a rat?'
   'Yes,  like  a  rat,' she said with the quiet  confidence  of  a
woman who had been shaking rats by the throat since she was a  slip
of a girl. 'Five Ormond Crescent, here I come!'
   It  shows  to  what  an extent happenings in  and  about  Market
Snodsbury  had affected my mental processes that she had been  gone
at least ten minutes before the thought of Bastable floated into my
mind,  and I wished I had been able to give her a word of  warning.
That zealous employee of Rupert Bingley had been instructed to  see
to  it that no callers were admitted to the presence, and I saw  no
reason  to  suppose  that he would fail in his duty  when  the  old
ancestor  showed up. He would not use physical violence  -  indeed,
with a woman of her physique he would be unwise to attempt it - but
it  would be the work of an instant with him not to ask her to step
this  way,  thus  ensuring her departure with what  Ma  McCorkadale
would  call a flea in her ear. I could see her returning  in,  say,
about a quarter of an hour a baffled and defeated woman.
   I  was right. It was some twenty minutes later, as I sat reading
the  Rex  Stout which she had used as a guided missile, that  heavy
breathing became audible without and shortly afterwards she  became
visible  within, walking with the measured tread of a  saint  going
round  St  Paul's. A far less discerning eye than mine  could  have
spotted that she had been having Bastable trouble.
   It  would have been kinder, perhaps, not to have spoken, but  it
was one of those occasions when you feel you have to say something.
   'Any luck?' I enquired.
   She  sank on to the chaise longue, simmering gently. She punched
a  cushion,  and  I could see she was wishing it  could  have  been
Bastable.  He  was  essentially the  sort  of  man  who  asks,  nay
clamours, to be treated in this manner.
   'No,' she said. 'I couldn't get in.'
   'Why was that?' I asked, wearing the mask.
   'A beefy butler sort of bird slammed the door in my face.'
   'Too bad.'
   'And I was just too late to get my foot in.'
   'Always  necessary  to work quick on these occasions.  The  most
precise timing is called for. Odd that he should have admitted  me.
I  suppose  my air of quiet distinction was what turned the  scale.
What did you do?'
   'I came away. What else could I have done?'
   'No, I can see how difficult it must have been.'
   'The  maddening part of it is that I was all set to try  to  get
that  money  out of L. P. Runkle this afternoon. I felt that  today
was the day. But if my luck's out, as it seems to be, perhaps I had
better postpone it.'
   'Not strike while the iron is hot?'
   'It may not be hot enough.'
   'Well, you're the judge. You know,' I said, getting back to  the
main  issue,  'the  ambassador  to conduct  the  negotiations  with
Bingley  is really Jeeves. It is he who should have been given  the
assignment.  Where I am speechless in Bingley's  presence  and  you
can't  even  get into the house, he would be inside and  talking  a
blue  streak  before you could say What ho. And he  has  the  added
advantage  that Bingley seems fond of him. He thinks he's  a  cough
drop.'
   'What on earth's a cough drop?'
   'I  don't  know,  but it's something Bingley  admires.  When  he
spoke  of  him as one, it was with a genuine ring of enthusiasm  in
his voice. Did you tell Jeeves about Bingley having the book?'
   'Yes, I told him.'
   'How did he take it?'
   'You  know how Jeeves takes things. One of his eyebrows  rose  a
little and he said he was shocked and astounded.'
   'That's strong stuff for him. "Most disturbing" is as far as  he
goes usually.'
   'It's  a  curious  thing,' said the aged relative  thoughtfully.
'As I was driving off in the car I thought I saw Jeeves coming away
from Bingley's place. Though I couldn't be sure it was him.'
   'It  must have been. His first move on getting the low-down from
you about the book would be to go and see Bingley. I wonder if he's
back yet.'
   'Not  likely. I was driving, he was walking. There  wouldn't  be
time.'
   'I'll ring for Seppings and ask. Oh, Seppings,' I said, when  he
answered the bell, 'Is Jeeves downstairs?'
   'No, sir. He went out and has not yet returned.'
   'When he does, tell him to come and see me, will you.'
   'Very good, sir.'
   I  thought of asking if Jeeves, when he left, had had the air of
a  man  going to no. 5 Ormond Crescent, but decided that this might
be  trying Seppings too high, so let it go. He withdrew, and we sat
for  some time talking about Jeeves. Then, feeling that this wasn't
going  to  get us anywhere and that nothing constructive  could  be
accomplished till he returned, we took up again the matter of L. P.
Runkle.  At  least, the aged relative took it up,  and  I  put  the
question I had been wanting to put at an earlier stage.
   'You  say,'  I  said,  'that you felt  today  was  the  day  for
approaching him. What gave you that idea?'
   'The  way  he tucked into his lunch and the way he talked  about
it  afterwards.  Lyrical was the only word for  it,  and  I  wasn't
surprised. Anatole had surpassed himself.'
   'The Supreme de Foie Gras au Champagne?'
   'And the Neige aux Perles des Alpes.'
   I  heaved  a silent sigh, thinking of what might have been.  The
garbage I had had to insult the Wooster stomach with at the pub had
been  of  a particularly lethal nature. Generally these rural  pubs
are  all  right  in  the matter of browsing,  but  I  had  been  so
unfortunate  as  to pick one run by a branch of the Borgia  family.
The  thought occurred to me as I ate that if Bingley had given  his
uncle  lunch there one day, he wouldn't have had to go to  all  the
bother and expense of buying little-known Asiatic poisons.
   I  would  have told the old relative this, hoping for  sympathy,
but at this moment the door opened, and in came Jeeves. Opening the
conversation with that gentle cough of his that sounds like a  very
old sheep clearing its throat on a misty mountain top, he said:
   'You wished to see me, sir?'
   He  couldn't  have  had a warmer welcome  if  he  had  been  the
prodigal son whose life story I had had to bone up when I won  that
Scripture Knowledge prize. The welkin, what there was of it in  the
drawing-room, rang with our excited yappings.
   'Come in, Jeeves,' bellowed the aged relative.
   'Yes,  come in, Jeeves, come in,' I cried. 'We were waiting  for
you with ... with what?'
   'Bated breath,' said the ancestor.
   'That's right. With bated breath and -'
   'Tense,  quivering nerves. Not to mention twitching muscles  and
bitten  finger nails. Tell me, Jeeves, was that you  I  saw  coming
away from 5 Ormond Crescent about an hour ago?'
   'Yes, madam.'
   'You had been seeing Bingley?'
   'Yes, madam.'
   'About the book?'
   'Yes, madam.'
   'Did you tell him he had jolly well got to return it?'
   'No, madam.'
   'Then why on earth did you go to see him?'
   'To obtain the book, madam.'
   'But you said you didn't tell him -'
   'There  was  no necessity to broach the subject, madam.  He  had
not  yet recovered consciousness. If I might explain. On my arrival
at  his residence he offered me a drink, which I accepted. He  took
one  himself.  We  talked  for awhile of  this  and  that.  Then  I
succeeded  in diverting his attention for a moment, and  while  his
scrutiny was elsewhere I was able to insert a chemical substance in
his  beverage  which  had the effect of rendering  him  temporarily
insensible. I thus had ample time to make a search of the  room.  I
had  assumed that he would be keeping the book there, and I had not
been in error. It was in a lower drawer of the desk. I secured  it,
and took my departure.'
   Stunned  by this latest revelation of his efficiency and  do-it-
yourself-ness, I was unable to utter, but the old ancestor gave the
sort of cry or yowl which must have rung over many a hunting field,
causing  members  of the Quorn and the Pytchley to  leap  in  their
saddles like Mexican jumping beans.
   'You mean you slipped him a Mickey Finn?'
   'I believe that is what they are termed in the argot, madam.'
   'Do you always carry them about with you?'
   'I am seldom without a small supply, madam.'
   'Never know when they won't come in handy, eh?'
   'Precisely,  madam. Opportunities for their use  are  constantly
arising.'
   'Well, I can only say thank you. You have snatched victory  from
the jaws of defeat.'
   'It is kind of you to say so, madam.'
   'Much obliged, Jeeves.'
   'Not at all, madam.'
   I  was  expecting the aged relative to turn to me at this  point
and  tick  me  off for not having had the sense to give  Bingley  a
Mickey  Finn myself, and I knew, for you cannot reason with  aunts,
that  it  would be no use pleading that I hadn't got any;  but  her
jocund mood caused her to abstain. Returning to the subject  of  L.
P. Runkle, she said this had made her realize that her luck was in,
after all, and she was going to press it.
   'I'll  go  and  see  him now,' she yipped,  'and  I  confidently
expect  to play on him as on a stringed instrument. Out of my  way,
young  Bertie,' she cried, heading for the door, 'or  I'll  trample
you to the dust. Yoicks!' she added, reverting to the patois of the
old hunting days. 'Tally ho! Gone away! Hark forrard!'
   Or words to that effect.



   Her  departure - at, I should estimate, some sixty m.p.h. - left
behind  it the sort of quivering stillness you get during hurricane
time  in America, when the howling gale, having shaken you  to  the
back teeth, passes on to tickle up residents in spots further west.
Kind of a dazed feeling it gives you. I turned to Jeeves, and found
him,  of  course, as serene and unmoved as an oyster  on  the  half
shell. He might have been watching yowling aunts shoot out of rooms
like bullets from early boyhood.
   'What was that she said, Jeeves?'
   'Yoicks,  sir, if I am not mistaken. It seemed to me that  Madam
also added Tally-ho, Gone away and Hark forrard.'
   'I  suppose  members  of the Quorn and the Pytchley  are  saying
that sort of thing all the time.'
   'So  I  understand,  sir. It encourages the  hounds  to  renewed
efforts. It must, of course, be trying for the fox.'
   'I'd hate to be a fox, wouldn't you, Jeeves?'
   'Certainly I can imagine more agreeable existences, sir.'
   'Not only being chivvied for miles across difficult country  but
having to listen to men in top hats uttering those uncouth cries.'
   'Precisely, sir. A very wearing life.'
   I  produced  my cambric handkerchief and gave the  brow  a  mop.
Recent  events had caused me to perspire in the manner  popularized
by the fountains at Versailles.
   'Warm work, Jeeves.'
   'Yes, sir.'
   'Opens the pores a bit.'
   'Yes, sir.'
   'How quiet everything seems now.'
   'Yes,  sir. Silence like a poultice comes to heal the  blows  of
sound.'
   'Shakespeare?'
   'No,  sir. The American author Oliver Wendell Holmes. His  poem,
"The  Organ Grinders". An aunt of mine used to read it to me  as  a
child.'
   'I didn't know you had any aunts.'
   'Three,sir.'
   'Are they as jumpy as the one who has just left us?'
   'No, sir. Their outlook on life is uniformly placid.'
   I  had  begun to feel a bit more placid myself. Calmer,  if  you
know  what  I  mean.  And with the calm had  come  more  charitable
thoughts.
   'Well,  I  don't  blame the aged relative for  being  jumpy,'  I
said. 'She's all tied up with an enterprise of pith and something.'
   'Of great pith and moment, sir?'
   'That's right.'
   'Let  us  hope that its current will not turn awry and lose  the
name of action.'
   'Yes, let's. Turn what?'
   'Awry, sir.'
   'Don't you mean agley?'
   'No, sir.'
   'Then it isn't the poet Burns?'
   'No, sir. The words occur in Shakespeare's drama Hamlet.'
   'Oh,  I know Hamlet. Aunt Agatha once made me take her son  Thos
to  it  at  the  Old Vic. Not a bad show, I thought, though  a  bit
highbrow. You're sure the poet Burns didn't write it?'
   'Yes, sir. The fact, I understand, is well established.'
   'Then  that  settles that. But we have wandered from the  point,
which  is that Aunt Dahlia is up to her neck in this enterprise  of
great pith and moment. It's about Tuppy Glossop.'
   'Indeed, sir?'
   'It  ought  to interest you, because I know you've always  liked
Tuppy.'
   'A very pleasant young gentleman, sir.'
   'When  he  isn't  looping back the last  ring  over  the  Drones
swimming-pool, yes. Well, it's too long a story to tell you at  the
moment,  but the gist of it is this. L. P. Runkle, taking advantage
of a legal quibble ... is it quibble?'
   'Yes, sir.'
   'Did  down  Tuppy's  father  over a  business  deal...  no,  not
exactly a business deal, Tuppy's father was working for him, and he
took  advantage of the small print in their contract to rob him  of
the proceeds of something he had invented.'
   'It  is  often the way, sir. The financier is apt to prosper  at
the expense of the inventor.'
   'And  Aunt Dahlia is hoping to get him to cough up a bit of cash
and slip it to Tuppy.'
   'Actuated by remorse, sir?'
   'Not  just by remorse. She's relying more on the fact  that  for
quite a time he has been under the spell of Anatole's cooking,  and
she  feels  that  this  will have made him a  softer  and  kindlier
financier,  readier  to oblige and do the square  thing.  You  look
dubious, Jeeves. Don't you think it will work? She's sure it will.'
   'I wish I could share Madam's confidence, but -'
   'But,  like  me,  you look on her chance of  playing  on  L.  P.
Runkle as on a stringed instrument as ... what? A hundred to  eight
shot?'
   'A  somewhat longer price than that, sir. We have to  take  into
consideration the fact that Mr Runkle is ...'
   'Yes? You hesitate, Jeeves, Mr Runkle is what?'
   'The expression I am trying to find eludes me, sir. It is one  I
have  sometimes heard you use to indicate a deficiency of sweetness
and light in some gentleman of your acquaintance. You have employed
it  of  Mr Spode or, as I should say, Lord Sidcup and, in the  days
before your association with him took on its present cordiality, of
Mr Glossop's uncle, Sir Roderick. It is on the tip of my tongue.'
   'A stinker?'
   No, he said, it wasn't a stinker.
   'A tough baby?'
   'No.'
   'A twenty-minute egg?'
   'That was it, sir. Mr Runkle is a twenty-minute egg.'
   'But  have  you seen enough of him to judge? After  all,  you've
only just met him.'
   'Yes, sir, that is true, but Bingley, on learning that he was  a
guest  of Madam's, told me a number of stories illustrative of  his
hardhearted  and implacable character. Bingley was at one  time  in
his employment.'
   'Good lord, he seems to have been employed by everyone.'
   'Yes,  sir,  he was inclined to flit. He never remained  in  one
post for long.'
   'I don't wonder.'
   'But  his  relationship  with Mr Runkle  was  of  more  extended
duration.  He accompanied him to the United States of America  some
years ago and remained with him for several months.'
   'During which period he found him a twenty-minute egg?'
   'Precisely,  sir. So I very much fear that Madam's efforts  will
produce  no satisfactory results. Would it be a large sum of  money
that she is hoping to persuade Mr Runkle to part with?'
   'Pretty  substantial,  I gather. You see,  what  Tuppy's  father
invented were those Magic Midget things, and Runkle must have  made
a packet out of them. I suppose she aims at a fifty-fifty split.'
   'Then  I  am forced to the opinion that a hundred to one against
is  more the figure a level-headed turf accountant would place upon
the likelihood of her achieving her objective.'
   Not  encouraging, you'll agree. In fact, you might  describe  it
as definitely damping. I would have called him a pessimist, only  I
couldn't  think  of  the word, and while I was  trying  to  hit  on
something other than 'Gloomy Gus', which would scarcely have been a
fitting way to address one of his dignity, Florence came in through
the  French  window  and  he  of course  shimmered  off.  When  our
conversations are interrupted by the arrival of what you might call
the  quality, he always disappears like a family spectre  vanishing
at dawn.
   Except  at  meals I hadn't seen anything of Florence  till  now,
she,  so to speak, having taken the high road while I took the  low
road.  What  I  mean  to  say  is that she  was  always  in  Market
Snodsbury,  bustling about on behalf of the Conservative  candidate
to  whom  she  was  betrothed, while I,  after  that  nerve-racking
encounter  with  the widow of the late McCorkadale,  had  given  up
canvassing  in  favour  of  curling up with  a  good  book.  I  had
apologized  to Ginger for this ... is pusillanimity the  word?  ...
and  he  had  taken  it extraordinarily well,  telling  me  it  was
perfectly all right and he wished he could do the same.
   She  was  looking as beautiful as ever, if not more so,  and  at
least  ninety-six per cent of the members of the Drones Club  would
have  asked nothing better than to be closeted with her like  this.
I,  however, would willingly have avoided the tete-a-tete,  for  my
trained senses told me that she was in one of her tempers, and when
this  happens the instinct of all but the hardiest is  to  climb  a
tree  and  pull  it up after them. The overbearing  dishpotness  to
which  I  alluded earlier and which is so marked a feature  of  her
make-up was plainly to the fore. She said, speaking abruptly:
   'What are you doing in here on a lovely day like this, Bertie?'
   I  explained that I had been in conference with Aunt Dahlia, and
she  riposted that the conference was presumably over by now,  Aunt
D.  being  conspicuous by her absence, so why wasn't I out  getting
fresh air and sunshine.
   'You're much too fond of frowsting indoors. That's why you  have
that sallow look.'
   'I didn't know I had a sallow look.'
   'Of  course  you have a sallow look. What else did  you  expect?
You look like the underside of a dead fish.'
   My  worst  fears seemed to be confirmed. I had anticipated  that
she  would work off her choler on the first innocent bystander  she
met,  and  it  was just my luck that this happened to be  me.  With
bowed  head  I prepared to face the storm, and then to my  surprise
she changed the subject.
   'I'm looking for Harold,' she said.
   'Oh, yes?'
   'Have you seen him.'
   'I don't think I know him.'
   'Don't be a fool. Harold Winship.'
   'Oh,  Ginger,' I said, enlightened. 'No, he hasn't swum into  my
ken. What do you want to see him about? Something important?'
   'It  is  important to me, and it ought to be to him.  Unless  he
takes himself in hand, he is going to lose this election.'
   'What makes you think that?'
   'His behaviour at lunch today.'
   'Oh,  did he take you to lunch? Where did you go? I had mine  at
a  pub, and the garbage there had to be chewed to be believed.  But
perhaps you went to a decent hotel?'
   'It  was  the Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the Town  Hall.  A
vitally important occasion, and he made the feeblest speech I  have
ever heard. A child with water on the brain could have done better.
Even you could have done better.'
   Well,  I  suppose  placing me on a level of  efficiency  with  a
water-on-the-brained  child was quite a stately  compliment  coming
from  Florence,  so I didn't go further into the  matter,  and  she
carried on, puffs of flame emerging from both nostrils.
   'Er, er, er!'
   'I beg your pardon?'
   'He  kept  saying Er. Er, er, er. I could have thrown  a  coffee
spoon at him.'
   Here,  of course, was my chance to work in the old gag about  to
err  being  human, but it didn't seem to me the moment. Instead,  I
said:
   'He was probably nervous.'
   'That  was  his  excuse.  I told him  he  had  no  right  to  be
nervous.'
   'Then you've seen him?'
   'I saw him.'
   'After the lunch?'
   'Immediately after the lunch.'
   'But you want to see him again?'
   'I do.'
   'I'll go and look for him, shall I?'
   'Yes,  and tell him to meet me in Mr Travers's study.  We  shall
not be interrupted there.'
   'He's probably sitting in the summerhouse by the lake.'
   Well,  tell  him  to stop sitting and come to  the  study,'  she
said,  for  all  the  world  as if she had  been  Arnold  Abney  MA
announcing that he would like to see Wooster after morning prayers.
Quite took me back to the old days.
   To  get  to the summerhouse you have to go across the lawn,  the
one  Spode was toying with the idea of buttering me over,  and  the
first  thing  I  saw  as  I did so, apart  from  the  birds,  bees,
butterflies,  and what not which put in their leisure hours  there,
was L. P. Runkle lying in the hammock wrapped in slumber, with Aunt
Dahlia  in  a  chair at his side. When she sighted  me,  she  rose,
headed in my direction and drew me away a yard or two, at the  same
time putting a finger to her lips.

   'He's asleep,' she said.
   A  snore from the hammock bore out the truth of this, and I said
I could see he was and what a revolting spectacle he presented, and
she  told  me  for heaven's sake not to bellow like that.  Somewhat
piqued  at  being  accused of bellowing by a woman  whose  lightest
whisper  was like someone calling the cattle home across the  sands
of Dee, I said I wasn't bellowing, and she said 'Well, don't.'
   'He may be in a nasty mood if he's woken suddenly.'
   It  was  an  astute piece of reasoning, speaking  well  for  her
grasp  of  strategy and tactics, but with my quick  intelligence  I
spotted a flaw in it to which I proceeded to call her attention.
   'On  the  other hand, if you don't wake him, how can  you  plead
Tuppy's cause?'
   'I  said suddenly, ass. It'll be all right if I let Nature  take
its course.'
   'Yes, you may have a point there. Will Nature be long about  it,
do you think?'
   'How do I know?'
   'I  was  only  wondering. You can't sit there the  rest  of  the
afternoon.'
   'I can if necessary.'
   'Then  I'll leave you to it. I've got to go and look for Ginger.
Have you seen him?'
   'He  came  by  just now with his secretary on  his  way  to  the
summerhouse.  He told me he had some dictation to do.  Why  do  you
want him?'
   'I  don't  particularly,  though always  glad  of  his  company.
Florence told me to find him. She has been giving him hell  and  is
anxious to give him some more. Apparently -'
   Here  she interrupted me with a sharp 'Hist!', for L. P.  Runkle
had stirred in his sleep and it looked as if life was returning  to
the  inert frame. But it proved to be a false alarm, and I  resumed
my remarks.
   'Apparently  he  failed to wow the customers at the  Chamber  of
Commerce lunch, where she had been counting on him being a  regular
... who was the Greek chap?'
   'Bertie,  if  I wasn't afraid of waking Runkle, I'd  strike  you
with  a  blunt instrument, if I had a blunt instrument. What  Greek
chap?'
   'That's what I'm asking you. He chewed pebbles.'
   'Do you mean Demosthenes?'
   'You  may  be right. I'll take it up later with Jeeves. Florence
was  expecting Ginger to be a regular Demosthenes, if that was  the
name,  which seems unlikely, though I was at school with  a  fellow
called Gianbattista, and he let her down, and this has annoyed her.
You know how she speaks her mind, when annoyed.'
   'She   speaks  her  mind  much  too  much,'  said  the  relative
severely. 'I wonder Ginger stands it.'
   It  so  happened that I was in a position to solve  the  problem
that  was  perplexing her. The facts governing the relationship  of
guys  and dolls had long been an open book to me. I had given  deep
thought  to  the matter, and when I give deep thought to  a  matter
perplexities are speedily ironed out.
   'He  stands  it, aged relative, because he loves  her,  and  you
wouldn't be far wrong in saying that love conquers all. I know what
you  mean,  of course. It surprises you that a fellow of his  thews
and sinews should curl up in a ball when she looks squiggle-eyed at
him and receive her strictures, if that's the word I want, with the
meekness of a spaniel rebuked for bringing a decaying bone into the
drawing-room. What you overlook is the fact that in the  matter  of
finely  chiselled profile, willowy figure and platinum-blonde  hair
she is well up among the top ten, and these things weigh with a man
like Ginger. You and I, regarding Florence coolly, pencil her in as
too  bossy  for  human consumption, but he gets a different  slant.
It's  the old business of what Jeeves calls the psychology  of  the
individual.  Very possibly the seeds of rebellion start  to  seethe
within  him when she speaks her mind, but he catches sight  of  her
sideways  or  gets a glimpse of her hair, assuming for purposes  of
argument  that she isn't wearing a hat, or notices once again  that
she  has as many curves as a scenic railway, and he feels that it's
worth putting up with a spot of mind-speaking in order to make  her
his  own. His love, you see, is not wholly spiritual. There's a bit
of the carnal mixed up in it.'
   I  would  have  spoken  further, for the subject  was  one  that
always  calls  out  the  best in me, but  at  this  point  the  old
ancestor, who had been fidgeting for some time, asked me to go  and
drown  myself  in  the  lake. I buzzed off,  accordingly,  and  she
returned  to  her  chair beside the hammock, brooding  over  L.  P.
Runkle like a mother over her sleeping child.
   I  don't suppose she had observed it, for aunts seldom give much
attention to the play of expression on the faces of their  nephews,
but all through these exchanges I had been looking grave, making it
pretty  obvious that there was something on my mind. I was thinking
of  what  Jeeves had said about the hundred to one which  a  level-
headed  bookie  would wager against her chance of extracting  money
from  a  man so liberally equipped with one-way pockets  as  L.  P.
Runkle,  and  it  pained  me  deeply  to  picture  her  dismay  and
disappointment  when,  waking  from his  slumbers,  he  refused  to
disgorge.  It  would be a blow calculated to take all the  stuffing
out  of  her, she having been so convinced that she was on  a  sure
thing.
   I  was  also, of course, greatly concerned about Ginger.  Having
been  engaged to Florence myself, I knew what she could do  in  the
way  of  ticking  off the errant male, and the symptoms  seemed  to
point  to  the probability that on the present occasion  she  would
eclipse  all  previous performances. I had not failed to  interpret
the  significance  of that dark frown, that bitten  lip  and  those
flashing  eyes,  nor  the  way  the willowy  figure  had  quivered,
indicating, unless she had caught a chill, that she was as sore  as
a  sunburned neck. I marvelled at the depths to which my old friend
must  have  sunk  as an orator in order to get such stark  emotions
under way, and I intended - delicately, of course - to question him
about this.
   I  had,  however, no opportunity to do so, for on  entering  the
summerhouse  the first thing I saw was him and Magnolia  Glendennon
locked  in  an  embrace so close that it seemed  to  me  that  only
powerful machinery could unglue them.



   In  taking this view, however, I was in error, for scarcely  had
I  uttered the first yip of astonishment when the Glendennon popsy,
echoing it with a yip of her own such as might have proceeded  from
a  nymph  surprised while bathing, disentangled  herself  and  came
whizzing  past me, disappearing into the great world outside  at  a
speed  which  put her in the old ancestor's class as a sprinter  on
the  flat.  It was as though she had said 'Oh for the  wings  of  a
dove' and had got them.

   I,  meanwhile,  stood rooted to the s., the mouth slightly  ajar
and  the  eyes  bulging to their fullest extent. What's  that  word
beginning  with  dis? Disembodied? No, not disembodied.  Distemper?
No,   not   distemper.  Disconcerted,  that's  the   one.   I   was
disconcerted. I should imagine that if you happened  to  wander  by
accident  into  the steam room of a Turkish bath on Ladies'  Night,
you  would  have emotions very similar to those I was  experiencing
now.
   Ginger, too, seemed not altogether at his ease. Indeed, I  would
describe him as definitely taken aback. He breathed heavily, as  if
suffering  from asthma; the eye with which he regarded me contained
practically none of the chumminess you would expect to see  in  the
eye  of an old friend; and his voice, when he spoke, resembled that
of  an annoyed cinnamon bear. Throaty, if you know what I mean, and
on  the peevish side. His opening words consisted of a well-phrased
critique of my tactlessness in selecting that particular moment for
entering the summerhouse. He wished, he said, that I wouldn't creep
about  like  a ruddy detective. Had I, he asked, got my  magnifying
glass  with me and did I propose to go around on all fours, picking
up  small  objects and putting them away carefully in an  envelope?
What, he enquired, was I doing here, anyway?
   To  this  I might have replied that I was perfectly entitled  at
all  times to enter a summerhouse which was the property of my Aunt
Dahlia and so related to me by ties of blood, but something told me
that suavity would be the better policy. In rebuttal, therefore,  I
merely  said  that I wasn't creeping about like a ruddy  detective,
but  navigating with a firm and manly stride, and had  simply  been
looking  for  him  because Florence had ordered me  to  and  I  had
learned from a usually well-informed source that this was where  he
was.
   My  reasoning  had  the soothing effect I  had  hoped  for.  His
manner  changed, losing its cinnamon bear quality and taking  on  a
welcome  all-pals-together-ness. It bore out  what  I  have  always
said,  that  there's nothing like suavity for pouring  oil  on  the
troubled  w.'s. When he spoke again, it was plain that he  regarded
me as a friend and an ally.
   'I suppose all this seems a bit odd to you, Bertie.'
   'Not at all, old man, not at all.'
   'But there is a simple explanation. I love Magnolia.'
   'I thought you loved Florence.'
   'So did I. But you know how apt one is to make mistakes.'
   'Of course.'
   'When you're looking for the ideal girl, I mean.'
   'Quite.'
   'I dare say you've had the same experience yourself.'
   'From time to time.'
   'Happens to everybody, I expect.'
   'I shouldn't wonder.'
   'Where  one  goes wrong when looking for the ideal  girl  is  in
making  one's  selection  before walking the  full  length  of  the
counter.  You  meet someone with a perfect profile, platinum-blonde
hair  and  a  willowy figure, and you think your  search  is  over.
"Bingo!"  you  say  to  yourself.  "This  is  the  one.  Accept  no
substitutes."  Little knowing that you are linking  your  lot  with
that of a female sergeant-major with strong views on the subject of
discipline, and that if you'd only gone on a bit further you  would
have found the sweetest, kindest, gentlest girl that ever took down
outgoing mail in shorthand, who would love you and cherish you  and
would  never  dream  of  giving  you  hell,  no  matter  what   the
circumstances. I allude to Magnolia Glendennon.'
   'I thought you did.'
   'I can't tell you how I feel about her, Bertie.'
   'Don't try.'
   'Ever since we came down here I've had a lurking suspicion  that
she was the mate for me and that in signing on the dotted line with
Florence  I  had  made the boner of a lifetime. Just  now  my  last
doubts were dispelled.'
   'What happened just now?'
   'She  rubbed  the back of my neck. My interview  with  Florence,
coming on top of that ghastly Chamber of Commerce lunch, had  given
me a splitting headache, and she rubbed the back of my neck. Then I
knew. As those soft fingers touched my skin like dainty butterflies
hovering over a flower -'
   'Right-ho.'
   'It  was  a  revelation,  Bertie. I knew  that  I  had  come  to
journey's  end.  I said to myself, "This is a good thing.  Push  it
along."  I  turned. I grasped her hand. I gazed into her eyes.  She
gazed  into mine. I told her I loved her. She said so she  did  me.
She   fell  into  my  arms.  I  grabbed  her.  We  stood  murmuring
endearments,  and  for a while everything was fine.  Couldn't  have
been  better.  Then a thought struck me. There was a  snag.  You've
probably spotted it.'
   'Florence?'
   'Exactly.  Bossy though she is, plain-spoken though she  may  be
when  anything displeases her, and I wish you could have heard  her
after  that Chamber of Commerce lunch, I am still engaged  to  her.
And  while girls can break engagements till the cows come home, men
can't.'
   I  followed his train of thought. It was evident that  he,  like
me, aimed at being a preux chevalier, and you simply can't be preux
or anything like it if you go about the place getting betrothed and
then  telling the party of the second part it's all off. It  seemed
to  me  that  the snag which had raised its ugly head  was  one  of
formidable  -you might say king-size - dimensions, well  calculated
to  make  the current of whatever he proposed to do about  it  turn
awry and lose the name of action. But when I put this to him with a
sympathetic tremor in my voice, and I'm not sure I didn't clasp his
hand, he surprised me by chuckling like a leaky radiator.
   'That's all right,' he said. 'It would, I admit, appear to be  a
tricky situation, but I can handle it. I'm going to get Florence to
break the engagement.'
   He  spoke with such a gay, confident ring in his voice, so  like
the old ancestor predicting what she was going to do to L.P. Runkle
in  the playing-on-a-stringed-instrument line, that I was loath, if
that's  the  word I want, to say anything to depress him,  but  the
question had to be asked.
   'How?' I said, asking it.
   'Quite  simple. We agreed, I think, that she has no  use  for  a
loser. I propose to lose this election.'
   Well,  it  was  a  thought of course,  and  I  was  in  complete
agreement with his supposition that if the McCorkadale nosed  ahead
of  him  in the voting, Florence would in all probability hand  him
the pink slip, but where it seemed to me that the current went awry
was  that he had no means of knowing that the electorate would  put
him  in  second place. Of course voters are like aunts,  you  never
know what they will be up to from one day to the next, but it was a
thing you couldn't count on.
   I  mentioned this to him, and he repeated his impersonation of a
leaky radiator.
   'Don't  you  worry, Bertie. I have the situation well  in  hand.
Something  happened in a dark corner of the Town Hall  after  lunch
which justifies my confidence.'
   'What happened in a dark corner of the Town Hall after lunch?'
   'Well,  the  first  thing that happened  after  lunch  was  that
Florence got hold of me and became extremely personal. It was  then
that  I  realized  that it would be the act of a fathead  to  marry
her.'
   I  nodded  adhesion to this sentiment. That time  when  she  had
broken her engagement with me my spirits had soared and I had  gone
about singing like a relieved nightingale.
   One  thing  rather puzzled me and seemed to call for explanatory
notes.
   'Why  did Florence draw you into a dark corner when planning  to
become  personal?' I asked. 'I wouldn't have credited her  with  so
much  tact and consideration. As a rule, when she's telling  people
what  she  thinks  of them, an audience seems to stimulate  her.  I
recall  one  occasion when she ticked me off  in  the  presence  of
seventeen Girl Guides, all listening with their ears flapping,  and
she had never spoken more fluently.'
   He  put  me straight on the point I had raised. He said  he  had
misled me.
   'It  wasn't  Florence who drew me into the dark  comer,  it  was
Bingley.'
   'Bingley?'
   'A fellow who worked for me once.'
   'He worked for me once.'
   'Really? It's a small world, isn't it.'
   'Pretty small. Did you know he'd come into money?'
   'He'll soon be coming into some more.'
   'But  you were saying he drew you into the dark corner. Why  did
he do that?'
   'Because  he  had  a  proposition to make to me  which  demanded
privacy. He ... but before going on I must lay a proper foundation.
You  know  in  those  Perry Mason stories how whenever  Perry  says
anything  while  cross-examining a witness, the  District  Attorney
jumps  up  and yells "Objection, your honour. The SOB has  laid  no
proper foundation". Well, then, you must know that this man Bingley
belongs  to  a butlers and valets club in London called the  Junior
Ganymede, and one of the rules there is that members have to record
the doings of their employers in the club book.'
   I  would  have told him I knew all too well about that,  but  he
carried on before I could speak.
   'Such  a  book, as you can imagine, contains a lot  of  damaging
stuff,  and  he  told me he had been obliged to contribute  several
pages about me which, if revealed, would lose me so many votes that
the election would be a gift to my opponent. He added that some men
in his place would have sold it to the opposition and made a lot of
money, but he wouldn't do a thing like that because it would be low
and  in the short time we were together he had come to have a great
affection   for   me.  I  had  never  realized   before   what   an
extraordinarily good chap he was. I had always thought him a bit of
a squirt. Shows how wrong you can be about people.'
   Again  I  would have spoken, but he rolled over me like a  tidal
wave.
   'I  should  have  explained that the  committee  of  the  Junior
Ganymede, recognizing the importance of this book, had entrusted it
to  him  with  instructions to guard it  with  his  life,  and  his
constant  fear was that bad men would get wind of this and  try  to
steal  it.  So what would remove a great burden from his  mind,  he
said,  would be if I took it into my possession. Then  I  could  be
sure  that its contents wouldn't be used against me. I could return
it  to him after the election and slip him a few quid, if I wished,
as  a  token of my gratitude. You can picture me smiling my  subtle
smile as he said this. He little knew that my first act would be to
send  the thing by messenger to the offices of the Market Snodsbury
Argus-Reminder,  thereby handing the election on  a  plate  to  the
McCorkadale  and  enabling  me to free myself  from  my  honourable
obligations to Florence, who would of course, on reading the stuff,
recoil from me in horror. Do you know the Argus-Reminder? Very  far
to the left. Can't stand Conservatives. It had a cartoon of me last
week  showing  me  with my hands dripping with  the  blood  of  the
martyred proletariat. I don't know where they get these ideas. I've
never  spilled  a drop of anybody's blood except when  boxing,  and
then the other chap was spilling mine - wholesome give and take. So
it wasn't long before Bingley and I had everything all fixed up. He
couldn't give me the book then, as he had left it at home,  and  he
wouldn't come and have a drink with me because he had to hurry back
because  he thought Jeeves might be calling and he didn't  want  to
miss  him. Apparently Jeeves is a pal of his - old club crony, that
sort  of thing. We're meeting tomorrow. I shall reward him  with  a
purse of gold, he will give me the book, and five minutes later, if
I  can  find some brown paper and string, it will be on its way  to
the  Argus-Reminder. The material should be in print the day  after
tomorrow.  Allow an hour or so for Florence to get hold of  a  copy
and say twenty minutes for a chat with her after she's read it, and
I  ought to be a free man well before lunch. About how much gold do
you think I should reward Bingley with? Figures were not named, but
I  thought  at least a hundred quid, because he certainly  deserves
something  substantial  for his scrupulous high-mindedness.  As  he
said,  some  men  in  his place would have sold  the  book  to  the
opposition and cleaned up big.'
   By  what  I have always thought an odd coincidence he paused  at
this  point and asked me why I was looking like something  the  cat
brought  in, precisely as the aged relative had asked me  after  my
interview  with Ma McCorkadale. I don't know what cats  bring  into
houses,  but one assumes that it is something not very jaunty,  and
apparently,  when  in  the grip of any strong emotion,  I  resemble
their  treasure trove. I could well understand that I  was  looking
like that now. I find it distasteful to have to shatter a long-time
buddy's hopes and dreams, and no doubt this shows on the surface.
   There  was  no sense in beating about bushes. It was another  of
those  cases  of  if  it were done, then 'twere  well  'twere  done
quickly.
   'Ginger,' I said, 'I'm afraid I have a bit of bad news for  you.
That  book  is  no  longer among those present.  Jeeves  called  on
Bingley,  gave him a Mickey Finn and got it away from him.  He  now
has it among his archives.'
   He didn't get it at first, and I had to explain.
   'Bingley  is not the man of integrity you think him.  He  is  on
the contrary a louse of the first water. You might describe him  as
a  slimy  slinking  slug.  He pinched that  book  from  the  Junior
Ganymede and tried to sell it to the McCorkadale. She sent him away
with a flea in his ear because she was a fair fighter, and he tried
to sell it to you. But meanwhile Jeeves nipped in and obtained it.'
   It  took him perhaps a minute to absorb this, but to my surprise
he wasn't a bit upset.
   'Well,  that's  all  right. Jeeves can take  it  to  the  Argus-
Reminder.'
   I  shook  the loaf sadly, for I knew that this time those  hopes
and dreams of his were really due for a sock in the eye.
   'He  wouldn't do it, Ginger. To Jeeves that club book is sacred.
I've  gone after him a dozen times, urging him to destroy the pages
concerning me, but he always remains as unco-operative as  Balaam's
ass,  who, you may remember, dug his feet in and firmly refused  to
play ball. He'll never let it out of his hands.'
   He  took it, as I had foreseen, big. He spluttered a good  deal.
He  also kicked the table and would have splintered it if it hadn't
been made of marble. It must have hurt like sin, but what disturbed
him,  I  deduced,  was not so much the pain of  a  bruised  toe  as
spiritual anguish. His eyes glittered, his nose wiggled, and if  he
was not gnashing his teeth I don't know a gnashed tooth when I hear
one.
   'Oh,  won't he?' he said, going back into the old cinnamon  bear
routine.  'He  won't,  won't he? We'll see  about  that.  Pop  off,
Bertie. I want to think.'
   I  popped  off,  glad to do so. These displays of naked  emotion
take it out of one.


   The  shortest way to the house was across the lawn, but I didn't
take  it.  Instead, I made for the back door. It was imperative,  I
felt,  that I should see Jeeves without delay and tell him  of  the
passions he had unchained and warn him, until the hot blood had had
time  to  cool, to keep out of Ginger's way. I hadn't at all  liked
the  sound of the latter's 'We'll see about that', nor the clashing
of  those  gnashed teeth. I didn't of course suppose that,  however
much  on  the boil, he would inflict personal violence on Jeeves  -
sock him, if you prefer the expression - but he would certainly say
things  to  him  which  would wound his feelings  and  cause  their
relations,  so pleasant up to now, to deteriorate. And naturally  I
didn't want that to happen.
   Jeeves  was  in  a  deck-chair outside the  back  door,  reading
Spinoza  with  the  cat Augustus on his lap. I had  given  him  the
Spinoza at Christmas and he was constantly immersed in it. I hadn't
dipped into it myself, but he tells me it is good ripe stuff,  well
worth perusal.
   He  would have risen at my approach, but I begged him to  remain
seated, for I knew that Augustus, like L. P. Runkle, resented being
woken suddenly, and one always wants to consider a cat's feelings.
   'Jeeves,'  I said, 'a somewhat peculiar situation has popped  up
out of a trap, and I would be happy to have your comments on it.  I
am  sorry to butt in when you are absorbed in your Spinoza and have
probably  just  got  to  the  part  where  the  second  corpse   is
discovered, but what I have to say is of great pith and moment,  so
listen attentively.'
   'Very good, sir.'
   'The  facts are these,' I said, and without further preamble  or
whatever  they  call  it  I  embarked on my  narrative.  'Such,'  I
concluded  some minutes later, 'is the position of affairs,  and  I
think  you  will  agree  that the problem confronting  us  presents
certain points of interest.'
   'Undeniably, sir.'
   'Somehow Ginger has got to lose the election.'
   'Precisely, sir.'
   'But how?'
   'It  is  difficult  to say on the spur of the moment,  sir.  The
tide  of  popular  opinion appears to be swaying  in  Mr  Winship's
direction. Lord Sidcup's eloquence is having a marked effect on the
electorate and may well prove the deciding factor. Mr Seppings, who
obliged  as  an  extra  waiter at the luncheon,  reports  that  his
lordship's  address to the members of the Market Snodsbury  Chamber
of  Commerce was sensational in its brilliance. He tells  me  that,
owing  entirely  to his lordship, the odds to be  obtained  in  the
various  public houses, which at one time favoured Mrs  McCorkadale
at ten to six, have now sunk to evens.'
   'I don't like that, Jeeves.'
   'No, sir, it is ominous.'
   'Of course, if you were to release the club book ...'
   'I fear I cannot do that, sir.'
   'No,  I  told  Ginger  you regarded it as a sacred  trust.  Then
nothing  can  be  done  except to urge you to  get  the  old  brain
working.'
   'I will certainly do my utmost, sir.'
   'No doubt something will eventually emerge. Keep eating lots  of
fish. And meanwhile stay away from Ginger as much as possible,  for
he is in ugly mood.'
   'I quite understand, sir. Stockish, hard and full of rage.'
   'Shakespeare?'
   'Yes, sir. His merchant of Venice.'
   I  left  him then, pleased at having got one right for a change,
and headed for the drawing-room, hoping for another quiet go at the
Rex  Stout  which  the swirling rush of events  had  forced  me  to
abandon.  I  was, however, too late. The old ancestor  was  on  the
chaise  longue with it in her grasp, and I knew that  I  had  small
chance of wresting it from her. No one who has got his or her hooks
on a Rex Stout lightly lets it go.
   Her  presence  there surprised me. I had supposed that  she  was
still brooding over the hammock and its contents.
   'Hullo,' I said, 'have you finished with Runkle?'
   She  looked  up,  and  I  noted a  trace  of  annoyance  in  her
demeanour. I assumed that Nero Wolfe had come down from the  orchid
room  and told Archie Goodwin to phone Saul Panzar and Orrie what's
his  name  and things were starting to warm up. In which event  she
would  naturally resent the intrusion of even a loved  nephew  whom
she had often dandled on her knee - not recently, I don't mean, but
when I was a bit younger.
   'Oh,  it's  you,'  she  said, which it was  of  course.  'No,  I
haven't  finished  with Runkle. I haven't even  begun.  He's  still
asleep.'
   She  gave  me the impression of being not much in the  mood  for
chit-chat,  but  one  has to say something on  these  occasions.  I
brought  up  a  subject which I felt presented  certain  points  of
interest.
   'Have you ever noticed the remarkable resemblance between L.  P.
Runkle's daily habits and those of the cat Augustus? They  seem  to
spend  all  their time sleeping. Do you think they've got traumatic
symplegia?'
   'What on earth's that?'
   'I  happened to come on it in a medical book I was reading. It's
a  disease that makes you sleep all the time. Has Runkle  shown  no
signs of waking?'
   'Yes,  he  did,  and just as he was beginning to  stir  Madeline
Bassett came along. She said could she speak to me, so I had to let
her. It wasn't easy to follow what she was saying, because she  was
sobbing  all the time, but I got it at last. It was all  about  the
rift with Spode. I told you they had had a tiff. It turns out to be
more serious than that. You remember me telling you he couldn't  be
a  Member  of Parliament because he was a peer. Well, he  wants  to
give up his title so that he will be eligible.'
   'Can  a  fellow with a title give it up? I thought he was  stuck
with it.'
   'He  couldn't  at  one time, at least only by  being  guilty  of
treason,  but they've changed the rules and apparently  it's  quite
the posh thing to do nowadays.'
   'Sounds silly.'
   'That's the view Madeline takes.'
   'Did she say what put the idea into Spode's fat head?'
   'No,  but I can see what did. He has made such a smash hit  with
his  speeches  down  here that he's saying to  himself  "Why  am  I
sweating  like  this on behalf of somebody else? Why  not  go  into
business for myself ?" Who was it said someone was intoxicated with
the exuberance of his own verbosity?'
   'I don't know.'
   'Jeeves  would.  It  was  Bernard Shaw or  Mark  Twain  or  Jack
Dempsey or somebody. Anyway, that's Spode. He's all puffed  up  and
feels he needs a wider scope. He sees himself holding the House  of
Commons spellbound.'
   'Why can't he hold the House of Lords spellbound?'
   'It  wouldn't be the same thing. It would be like playing in the
Market Snodsbury tennis tournament instead of electrifying one  and
all on the centre court at Wimbledon. I can see his point.'
   'I can't.'
   'Nor  can  Madeline. She's all worked up about  it,  and  I  can
understand how she feels. No joke for a girl who thinks she's going
to be the Countess of Sidcup to have the fellow say "April fool, my
little chickadee. What you're going to be is Mrs Spode." If  I  had
been  told  at Madeline's age that Tom had been made a peer  and  I
then learned that he was going to back out of it and I wouldn't  be
able  to  call  myself Lady Market Snodsbury after  all,  I'd  have
kicked like a mule. Titles to a girl are like catnip to a cat.'
   'Can nothing be done?'
   'The  best plan would be for you to go to him and tell  him  how
much  we  all admire him for being Lord Sidcup and what a  pity  it
would be for him to go back to a ghastly name like Spode.'
   'What's the next best plan?'
   'Ah, that wants thinking out.'
   We  fell into a thoughtful silence, on my part an uneasy one.  I
didn't at this juncture fully appreciate the peril that lurked, but
anything in the nature of a rift within the lute between Spode  and
Madeline  was always calculated to make me purse the lips  to  some
extent. I was still trying to hit on some plan which would be  more
to  my taste than telling Spode what a pity it would be for him  to
stop  being the Earl of Sidcup and go back to a ghastly  name  like
his,  when  my reverie was broken by the entry through  the  French
window  of  the cat Augustus, for once awake and in full possession
of  his faculties, such as they were. No doubt in a misty dreamlike
sort  of  way he had seen me when I was talking to Jeeves  and  had
followed  me  on my departure, feeling, after those  breakfasts  of
ours  together, that association with me was pretty well  bound  to
culminate in kippers. A vain hope, of course. The well-dressed  man
does not go around with kippered herrings in his pocket. But one of
the lessons life teaches us is that cats will be cats.
   As  is  my  unvarying policy when closeted  with  one  of  these
fauna, I made chirruping noises and bent down to tickle the back of
the dumb chum's left ear, but my heart was not in the tickling. The
more I mused on the recent conversation, the less I liked what  the
aged  relative had revealed. Telling Augustus that I would be  back
with  him in a moment, I straightened myself and was about  to  ask
her  for further details, when I discovered that she was no  longer
in  my midst. She must suddenly have decided to have another pop at
L.  P.  Runkle  and  was presumably even now putting  Tuppy's  case
before him. Well, best of luck to her, of course, and nice to think
she  had a fine day for it, but I regretted her absence. When  your
mind  is  weighed down with matters of great pith  and  moment,  it
gives  you a sort of sinking feeling to be alone. No doubt the  boy
who  stood on the burning deck whence all but he had fled had  this
experience.
   However,  I wasn't alone for long. Scarcely had Augustus  sprung
on  to my lap and started catching up with his sleep when the  door
opened and Spode came in.
   I  leaped to my feet, causing Augustus to fall to earth  I  knew
not  where,  as  the  fellow said. I was a prey  to  the  liveliest
apprehensions.  My  relations with  Spode  had  been  for  long  so
consistently  strained  that I never saw  him  nowadays  without  a
lurking  fear that he was going to sock me in the eye. Obviously  I
wasn't to be blamed if he and Madeline had been having trouble, but
that  wouldn't stop him blaming me. It was like the  story  of  the
chap who was in prison and a friend calls and asks him why and  the
chap tells him and the friend says But they can't put you in prison
for  that and the chap says I know they can't, but they have. Spode
didn't  have  to have logical reasons for setting about  people  he
wasn't fond of, and it might be that he was like Florence and would
work  off  his  grouch  on the first available innocent  bystander.
Putting  it in a nutshell, my frame of mind was approximately  that
of  the  fellows in the hymn who got such a start when they  looked
over  their  shoulders and saw the troops of  Midian  prowling  and
prowling around.
   It  was with profound relief, therefore, that I suddenly got  on
to  it  that his demeanour was free from hostility. He was  looking
like  somebody who has just seen the horse on which he had put  all
his  savings,  plus  whatever he had been able  to  lift  from  his
employer's till, beaten by a short head. His face, nothing to write
home  about at the best of times, was drawn and contorted, but with
pain  rather  than the urge to commit mayhem. And while  one  would
always  prefer  him  not to be present, a drawn-and-contorted-with-
pain  Spode  was  certainly the next best thing.  My  greeting,  in
consequence, had the real ring of cordiality in it.
   'Oh, hullo, Spode, hullo. There you are, what? Splendid.'
   'Can I have a word with you, Wooster?'
   'Of course, of course. Have several.'
   He  did  not  speak for a minute or so, filling in the  time  by
subjecting  me to a close scrutiny. Then he gave a sigh  and  shook
his head.
   'I can't understand it,' he said.
   'What  can't you understand, Spode old man or rather Lord Sidcup
old  man?'  I asked in a kind voice, for I was only too willing  to
help this new and improved Spode solve any little problem that  was
puzzling him.
   'How  Madeline can contemplate marrying a man like you. She  has
broken  our engagement and says that's what she's going to do.  She
was quite definite about it. "All is over," she said. "Here is your
ring," she said. "I shall marry Bertie Wooster and make him happy,"
she said. You can't want it plainer than that.'
   I  stiffened from head to f. Even with conditions what they were
in  this  disturbed post-war world I hadn't been  expecting  to  be
turned into a pillar of salt again for some considerable time,  but
this had done it. I don't know how many of my public have ever been
slapped  between the eyes with a wet fish, but those who have  will
appreciate my emotions as the seventh Earl of Sidcup delivered this
devastating  bulletin. Everything started to  go  all  wobbly,  and
through  what  is known as a murky mist I seemed to be  watching  a
quivering-at-the-edges  seventh  Earl  performing   the   sort   of
gyrations travelled friends have told me the Ouled Nail dancers  do
in Cairo.
   I  was stunned. It seemed to me incredible that Madeline Bassett
should  have  blown  the  whistle  on  their  engagement.  Then   I
remembered  that at the time when she had plighted her troth  Spode
was  dangling a countess's coronet before her eyes, and  the  thing
became more understandable. I mean, take away the coronet and  what
had  you  got? Just Spode. Not good enough, a girl would  naturally
feel.
   He,  meanwhile,  was  going on to explain why  he  found  it  so
bizarre  that  Madeline should be contemplating  marrying  me,  and
almost immediately I saw that I had been mistaken in supposing that
he  was not hostile. He spoke from between clenched teeth, and that
always tells the story.
   'As  far  as  I can see, Wooster, you are without attraction  of
any  kind.  Intelligence? No. Looks? No. Efficiency? No. You  can't
even steal an umbrella without getting caught. All that can be said
for  you  is that you don't wear a moustache. They tell me you  did
grow  one  once,  but mercifully shaved it off.  That  is  to  your
credit, but it is a small thing to weigh in the balance against all
your other defects. When one considers how numerous these are,  one
can  only suppose that it is your shady record of stealing anything
you can lay your hands on that appeals to Madeline's romantic soul.
She  is marrying you in the hope of reforming you, and let me  tell
you,  Wooster, that if you disappoint that hope, you will be sorry.
She  may  have rejected me, but I shall always love her as  I  have
done  since she was so high, and I shall do my utmost to  see  that
her  gentle heart is not broken by any sneaking son of a  what  not
who  looks  like a chorus boy in a touring revue playing the  small
towns  and cannot see anything of value without pocketing  it.  You
will  probably think you are safe from me when you are  doing  your
stretch in Wormwood Scrubs for larceny, but I shall be waiting  for
you when you come out and I shall tear you limb from limb. And,' he
added,  for  his was a one-track mind, 'dance on the  fragments  in
hobnailed boots.'
   He  paused,  produced his cigarette case, asked me if  I  had  a
match, thanked me when I gave him one, and withdrew.
   He  left behind him a Bertram Wooster whom the dullest eye could
have spotted as not being at the peak of his form. The prospect  of
being  linked  for life to a girl who would come down to  breakfast
and  put  her hands over my eyes and say 'Guess who' had  given  my
morale a sickening wallop, reducing me to the level of one of those
wee  sleekit  timorous cowering beasties Jeeves tells me  the  poet
Burns  used  to  write about. It is always my policy  in  times  of
crisis to try to look on the bright side, but I make one proviso  -
viz.  that  there has to be a bright side to look on,  and  in  the
present case there wasn't even the sniff of one.
   As  I  sat there draining the bitter cup, there were noises  off
stage and my meditations were interrupted by the return of the  old
ancestor. Well, when I say return, she came whizzing in but  didn't
stop,  just  whizzed through, and I saw, for I am pretty  quick  at
noticing  things,  that  she was upset about  something.  Reasoning
closely,  I deduced that her interview with L. P. Runkle must  have
gone awry or, as I much prefer to put it, agley.
   And  so  it  proved  when she bobbed up again some  little  time
later.  Her  first  observation  was  that  L.  P.  Runkle  was  an
illegitimate  offspring to end all illegitimate offsprings,  and  I
hastened to commiserate with her. I could have done with a  bit  of
commiseration  myself, but Women and Children First is  always  the
Wooster slogan.
   'No luck?' I said.
   'None.'
   'Wouldn't part?'
   'Not a penny.'
   'You  mentioned that without his co-operation Tuppy and Angela's
wedding bells would not ring out?'
   'Of  course I did. And he said it was a great mistake for  young
people to marry before they knew their own minds.'
   'You  could  have  pointed out that Tuppy and Angela  have  been
engaged for two years.'
   'I did.'
   'What did he say to that?'
   'He said "Not nearly long enough".'
   'So what are you going to do?'
   'I've   done  it,'  said  the  old  ancestor.  'I  pinched   his
porringer.'



   I  goggled  at  her, one hundred per cent non-plussed.  She  had
spoken  with  the exuberance of an aunt busily engaged  in  patting
herself  between  the  shoulder-blades for  having  done  something
particularly  clever, but I could make nothing  of  her  statement.
This habit of speaking in riddles seemed to be growing on her.
   'You what?' I said. 'You pinched his what?'
   'His  porringer. I told you about it the day you got here. Don't
you remember? That silver thing he came to try to sell to Tom.'
   She  had  refreshed  my memory. I recalled the  conversation  to
which she referred. I had asked her why she was entertaining in her
home  a  waste product like L. P. Runkle, and she had said that  he
had  come  hoping  to  sell Uncle Tom a silver  something  for  his
collection and she had got him to stay on in order to soften him up
with  Anatole's  cooking  and put to him,  when  softened  up,  her
request for cash for Tuppy.
   'When  he  turned me down just now, it suddenly occurred  to  me
that  if  I got hold of the thing and told him he wouldn't  get  it
back  unless  he  made a satisfactory settlement, I  would  have  a
valuable  bargaining point and we could discuss the matter  further
at any time that suited him.'
   I  was  ap-what-is-it. Forget my own name next. Appalled, that's
the  word,  though  shocked to the core would  be  about  as  good;
nothing  much  in it, really. I hadn't read any of those  etiquette
books  you see all over the place, but I was prepared to  bet  that
the leaders of Society who wrote them would raise an eyebrow or two
at  carrying-ons  of  this description. The  chapter  on  Hints  To
Hostesses  would  be  bound to have a couple of paragraphs  warning
them that it wasn't the done thing to invite people to the home and
having got them settled in to pinch their porringers.
   'But  good  Lord!' I ejaculated, appalled or, if you prefer  it,
shocked to the core.
   'Now what?'
   'The man is under your roof.'
   'Did you expect him to be on it?'
   'He has eaten your salt.'
   'Very  imprudent,  with  blood pressure  like  his.  His  doctor
probably forbids it.'
   'You can't do this.'
   'I  know  I can't, but I have,' she said, just like the chap  in
the  story, and I saw it would be fruitless or bootless  to  go  on
arguing. It rarely is with aunts - if you're their nephew, I  mean,
because they were at your side all through your formative years and
know what an ass you were then and can't believe that anything that
you  may  say later is worth listening to. I shouldn't  be  at  all
surprised if Jeeves's three aunts don't shut him up when he  starts
talking, remembering that at the age of six the child Jeeves didn't
know  the  difference between the poet Burns  and  a  hole  in  the
ground.
   Ceasing to expostulate, therefore, if expostulate is the word  I
want,  I  went to the bell and pressed it, and when she  asked  for
footnotes throwing a light on why I did this, I told her I proposed
to place the matter in the hands of a higher power.
   'I'm ringing for Jeeves.'
   'You'll only get Seppings.'
   'Seppings will provide Jeeves.'
   'And what do you think Jeeves can do?'
   'Make you see reason.'
   'I doubt it.'
   'Well, it's worth a try.'
   Further  chit-chat was suspended till Jeeves arrived and silence
fell  except for the ancestor snorting from time to time  and  self
breathing  more  heavily than usual, for I  was  much  stirred.  It
always  stirs a nephew to discover that a loved aunt does not  know
the  difference between right and wrong. There is a difference  ...
at  my  private  school Arnold Abney MA used to  rub  it  into  the
student  body  both Sundays and weekdays ... but apparently  nobody
had told the aged relative about it, with the result that she could
purloin  people's  porringers without a yip  from  her  conscience.
Shook me a bit, I confess.
   When  Jeeves  blew  in, it cheered me to see the  way  his  head
stuck out at the back, for that's where the brain is, and what  was
needed here was a man with plenty of the old grey matter who  would
put  his  points so that even a fermenting aunt would  have  to  be
guided by him.
   'Well,  here's Jeeves,' said the ancestor. 'Tell him  the  facts
and  I'll  bet  he says I've done the only possible thing  and  can
carry on along the lines I sketched out.'
   I  might have risked a fiver on this at say twelve to eight, but
it  didn't  seem fitting. But telling Jeeves the facts was  a  good
idea,  and  I did so without delay, being careful to lay  a  proper
foundation.
   'Jeeves,' I said.
   'Sir?' he responded.
   'Sorry to interrupt you again. Were you reading Spinoza?'
   'No, sir, I was writing a letter to my Uncle Charlie.'
   'Charlie  Silversmith,' I explained in an aside to the ancestor.
'Butler at Deverill Hall. One of the best.'
   'Thank you, sir.'
   'I  know  few  men  whom I esteem more highly  than  your  Uncle
Charlie.  Well,  we  won't keep you long. It's  just  that  another
problem  presenting certain points of interest has come  up.  In  a
recent  conversation  I revealed to you the situation  relating  to
Tuppy Glossop and L. P. Runkle. You recall?'
   'Yes,  sir. Madam was hoping to extract a certain sum  of  money
from Mr Runkle on Mr Glossop's behalf.'
   'Exactly. Well, it didn't come off.'
   'I am sorry to hear that, sir.'
   'But  not,  I imagine, surprised. If I remember, you  considered
it a hundred to one shot.'
   'Approximately that, sir.'
   'Runkle being short of bowels of compassion.'
   'Precisely, sir. A twenty-minute egg.'
   Here  the  ancestor repeated her doubts with  regard  to  L.  P.
Runkle's  legitimacy, and would, I think, have developed the  theme
had I not shushed her down with a raised hand.
   'She pleaded in vain,' I said. 'He sent her away with a flea  in
her  ear. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that he laughed  her  to
scorn.'
   'The   superfatted  old  son  of  a  bachelor,'   the   ancestor
interposed, and once more I shushed her down.
   'Well,  you know what happens when you do that sort of thing  to
a  woman  of spirit. Thoughts of reprisals fill her mind.  And  so,
coming to the nub, she decided to purloin Runkle's porringer. But I
mustn't  mislead you. She did this not as an act of  vengeance,  if
you  know what I mean, but in order to have a bargaining point when
she  renewed her application. "Brass up," she would have said  when
once more urging him to scare the moths out of his pocketbook,  "or
you won't get back your porringer". Do I make myself clear?'
   'Perfectly clear, sir. I find you very lucid.'
   'Now  first it will have to be explained to you what a porringer
is,  and  here  I am handicapped by not having the foggiest  notion
myself, except that it's silver and old and the sort of thing Uncle
Tom  has  in his collection. Runkle was hoping to sell it  to  him.
Could you supply any details?' I asked the aged relative.
   She  knitted the brows a bit, and said she couldn't do  much  in
that direction.
   'All  I  know  is  that it was made in the time of  Charles  the
Second by some Dutchman or other.'
   'Then  I  think I know the porringer to which you allude,  sir,'
said Jeeves, his face lighting up as much as it ever lights up,  he
for  reasons  of  his own preferring at all times to  preserve  the
impassivity of a waxwork at Madame Tussaud's. 'It was featured in a
Sotheby's  catalogue at which I happened to be  glancing  not  long
ago.  Would it,' he asked the ancestor, 'be a silver-gilt porringer
on  a  circular  moulded foot, the lower part chased with  acanthus
foliage,  with  beaded scroll handles, the cover  surmounted  by  a
foliage  on  a  rosette of swirling acanthus leaves, the  stand  of
tazza  form on circular detachable feet with acanthus border joined
to a multifoil plate, the palin top with upcurved rim?'
   He   paused  for  a  reply,  but  the  ancestor  did  not  speak
immediately,  her aspect that of one who has been  run  over  by  a
municipal  tram. Odd, really, because she must have been  listening
to that sort of thing from Uncle Tom for years. Finally she mumbled
that  she wouldn't be surprised or she wouldn't wonder or something
like that.
   'Your guess is as good as mine,' she said.
   'I  fancy it must be the same, madam. You mentioned a workman of
Dutch  origin.  Would  the  name be Hans Conrael  Brechtel  of  the
Hague?'
   'I  couldn't  tell  you.  I know it wasn't  Smith  or  Jones  or
Robinson, and that's as far as I go. But what's all this in aid  of
? What does it matter if the stand is of tazza form or if the palin
top has an upcurved rim?'
   'Exactly,' I said, thoroughly concurring. 'Or if the credit  for
these  tazza  forms  and palin tops has to be chalked  up  to  Hans
Conrael  Brechtel  of  the Hague. The point, Jeeves,  is  not  what
particular porringer the ancestor has pinched, but how far she  was
justified  in pinching any porringer at all when its  owner  was  a
guest  of hers. I hold that it was a breach of hospitality and  the
thing must be returned. Am I right?'
   'Well, sir ...'
   'Go  on, Jeeves,' said the ancestor. 'Say I'm a crook who  ought
to  be  drummed  out  of  the Market Snodsbury  Ladies  Social  and
Cultural Garden Club.'
   'Not at all, madam.'
   'Then what were you going to say when you hesitated?'
   'Merely  that  in  my opinion no useful end will  be  served  by
retaining the object.'
   'I don't follow you. How about that bargaining point?'
   'It  will,  I fear, avail you little, madam. As I understand  Mr
Wooster, the sum you are hoping to obtain from Mr Runkle amounts to
a good many thousand pounds.'
   'Fifty at least, if not a hundred.'
   'Then  I  cannot  envisage him complying with your  demands.  Mr
Runkle is a shrewd financier -'
   'Born out of wedlock.'
   'Very  possibly you are right, madam, nevertheless he is  a  man
well  versed  in weighing profit and loss. According  to  Sotheby's
catalogue  the  price at which the object was sold at  the  auction
sale  was nine thousand pounds. He will scarcely disburse a hundred
or even fifty thousand in order to recover it.'
   'Of course he won't,' I said, as enchanted with his lucidity  as
he  had  been with mine. It was the sort of thing you have  to  pay
topnotchers at the Bar a king's ransom for. 'He'll simply say "Easy
come,  easy  go"  and  write it off as a  business  loss,  possibly
consulting  his legal adviser as to whether he can deduct  it  from
his  income  tax. Thank you, Jeeves. You've straightened everything
out  in your customary masterly manner. You're a ... what were  you
saying the other day about Daniel somebody?'
   'A Daniel come to judgment, sir?'
   'That was it. You're a Daniel come to judgment.'
   'It is very kind of you to say so, sir.'
   'Not at all. Well-deserved tribute.'
   I  shot  a  glance  at  the  aged relative.  It  is  notoriously
difficult to change the trend of an aunt's mind when that  mind  is
made up about this or that, but I could see at a g. that Jeeves had
done it. I hadn't expected her to look pleased, and she didn't, but
it  was evident that she had accepted what is sometimes called  the
inevitable. I would describe her as not having a word to  say,  had
she  not  at this moment said one, suitable enough for the  hunting
field but on the strong side for mixed company. I registered it  in
my  memory as something to say to Spode some time, always  provided
it was on the telephone.
   'I  suppose  you're  right,  Jeeves,' she  said,  heavy-hearted,
though bearing up stoutly. 'It seemed a good idea at the time,  but
I  agree with you that it isn't as watertight as I thought it. It's
so often that way with one's golden dreams. The -'
   '  -  best-laid  plans of mice and men gang aft agley,'  I  said
helping  her  out.  'See the poet Burns. I've  often  wondered  why
Scotsmen  say "gang". I asked you once, Jeeves, if you recall,  and
you said they had not confided in you. You were saying, ancestor?'
   'I was about to say -'
   'Or, for that matter, "agley".'
   'I was about to say -'
   'Or "aft" for "often".'
   'I  was about to say,' said the relative, having thrown her  Rex
Stout  at  me, fortunately with a less accurate aim than the  other
time,  'that there's nothing to be done but for me to put the thing
back in Runkle's room where I took it from.'
   'Whence  I  took it' would have been better, but it was  not  to
comment  on her prose style that I interposed. I was thinking  that
if she was allowed to do the putting back, she might quite possibly
change her mind on the way to Runkle's room and decide to stick  to
the  loot after all. Jeeves's arguments had been convincing to  the
last  drop, but you can never be sure that the effect of convincing
arguments won't wear off, especially with aunts who don't know  the
difference between right and wrong, and it might be that she  would
take  the view that if she pocketed the porringer and kept it among
her  souvenirs,  she  would at least be saving something  from  the
wreck.  'Always  difficult  to  know  what  to  give  Tom  for  his
birthday,' she might say to herself. 'This will be just the thing.'
   'I'll do it,' I said. 'Unless you'd rather, Jeeves.'
   'No, thank you, sir.'
   'Only take a minute of your time.'
   'No, thank you, sir.'
   'Then  you  may leave us, Jeeves. Much obliged for  your  Daniel
come to judgmenting.'
   'A pleasure, sir.'
   'Give Uncle Charlie my love.'
   'I will indeed, sir.'
   As  the  door closed behind him, I started to make my plans  and
dispositions,  as  I believe the word is, and  I  found  the  blood
relation  docile and helpful. Runkle's room, she told me,  was  the
one known as the Blue Room, and the porringer should be inserted in
the left top drawer of the chest of drawers, whence she had removed
it.  I  asked if she was sure he was still in the hammock, and  she
said he must be, because on her departure he was bound to have gone
to  sleep  again. Taking a line through the cat Augustus,  I  found
this  plausible.  With these traumatic symplegia  cases  waking  is
never  more than a temporary thing. I have known Augustus to resume
his  slumbers  within fifteen seconds of having had a shopping  bag
containing tins of cat food fall on him. A stifled oath, and he was
off to dreamland once more.
   As  I climbed the stairs, I was impressed by the fact that L. P.
Runkle  had been given the Blue Room, for in this house it amounted
to  getting star billing. It was the biggest and most luxurious  of
the  rooms  allotted  to bachelors. I once suggested  to  the  aged
relative that I be put there, but all she said was 'You?'  and  the
conversation turned to other topics. Runkle having got it in  spite
of  the  presence  on  the premises of a seventh  Earl  showed  how
determined the a. r. had been that no stone should be left unturned
and  no  avenue unexplored in her efforts to soften him up; and  it
seemed  ironical  that all her carefully thought-out  plans  should
have  gone agley. Just shows Burns knew what he was talking  about.
You  can  generally rely on these poets to hit the mark and entitle
themselves to a cigar or coconut according to choice.
   The  old  sweats will remember, though later arrivals will  have
to be told, that this was not the first time I had gone on a secret
mission  to  the Blue Room. That other visit, the old  sweats  will
recall,  had ended in disaster and not knowing which way  to  look,
for  Mrs Homer Cream, the well-known writer of suspense novels, had
found  me on the floor with a chair round my neck, and it  had  not
been easy to explain. This was no doubt why on the present occasion
I approached the door with emotions somewhat similar to those I had
had in the old days when approaching that of Arnold Abney MA at the
conclusion of morning prayers. A voice seemed to whisper in my  ear
that  beyond that door there lurked something that wasn't going  to
do me a bit of good.
   The  voice  was  perfectly right. It had got its  facts  correct
first  shot. What met my eyes as I entered was L. P. Runkle  asleep
on  the  bed, and with my customary quickness I divined  what  must
have  happened. After being cornered there by the old  ancestor  he
must  have come to the conclusion that a hammock out in the  middle
of  a lawn, with access to it from all directions, was no place for
a  man  who wanted peace and seclusion, and that these were  to  be
obtained  only in his bedroom. Thither, accordingly, he  had  gone,
and there he was.
   Voila  tout,  as one might say if one had made a  study  of  the
French language.
   The  sight  of this sleeping beauty had, of course, given  me  a
nasty  start, causing my heart to collide rather violently with  my
front  teeth,  but it was only for a moment that I was  unequal  to
what  I  have  heard Jeeves call the intellectual pressure  of  the
situation.  It  is pretty generally recognized in  the  circles  in
which  I move that Bertram Wooster, though he may be down, is never
out,  the  betting being odds on that, given time  to  collect  his
thoughts  and  stop  his head spinning, he will  rise  on  stepping
stones  of his dead self to higher things, as the fellow said,  and
it  was so now. I would have preferred, of course, to operate in  a
room  wholly free from the presence of L. P. Runkle, but I realized
that  as  long as he remained asleep there was nothing to  keep  me
from  carrying  on.  All that was required was that  my  activities
should be conducted in absolute silence. And it was thus that I was
conducting  them,  more like a spectre or wraith than  a  chartered
member of the Drones Club, when the air was rent, as the expression
is,  by  a  sharp  yowl such as you hear when a cougar  or  a  snow
leopard  stubs  its toe on a rock, and I became aware  that  I  had
trodden on the cat Augustus, who had continued to follow me, still,
I  suppose,  under  the mistaken impression  that  I  had  kippered
herrings on my person and might at any moment start loosening up.
   In  normal  circumstances  I would  have  hastened  to  make  my
apologies and to endeavour by tickling him behind the ear to  apply
balm  to his wounded feelings, but at this moment L. P. Runkle  sat
up, said 'Wah-wah-wah', rubbed his eyes, gave me an unpleasant look
with them and asked me what the devil I was doing in his room.
   It  was  not an easy question to answer. There had been  nothing
in  our relations since we first swam into each other's ken to make
it  seem likely that I had come to smooth his pillow or ask him  if
he  would  like  a cooling drink, and I did not put  forward  these
explanations.  I was thinking how right the ancestor  had  been  in
predicting  that, if aroused suddenly, he would wake up cross.  His
whole  demeanour was that of a man who didn't much like  the  human
race as a whole but was particularly allergic to Woosters. Not even
Spode could have made his distaste for them plainer.
   I  decided  to  see  what could be done  with  suavity.  It  had
answered  well in the case of Ginger, and there was no saying  that
it might not help to ease the current situation.
   'I'm  sorry,'  I said with an enchanting smile,  'I'm  afraid  I
woke you.'
   'Yes, you did. And stop grinning at me like a half-witted ape.'
   'Right-ho,' I said. I removed the enchanting smile. It came  off
quite  easily. 'I don't wonder you're annoyed. But I'm more  to  be
pitied than censured. I inadvertently trod on the cat.'
   A  look of alarm spread over his face. It had a long way to  go,
but it spread all right.
   'Hat?' he quavered, and I could see that he feared for the well-
being of his Panama with the pink ribbon.
   I lost no time in reassuring him.
   'Not hat. Cat.'
   'What cat?'
   'Oh,  haven't you met? Augustus his name is, though for purposes
of  conversation this is usually shortened to Gus. He  and  I  have
been buddies since he was a kitten. He must have been following  me
when I came in here.'
   It  was  an  unfortunate way of putting it, for it  brought  him
back to his original theme.
   'Why the devil did you come in here?'
   A  lesser  man than Bertram Wooster would have been non-plussed,
and  I don't mind admitting that I was, too, for about a couple  of
ticks.  But as I stood shuffling the feet and twiddling the fingers
I caught sight of that camera of his standing on an adjacent table,
and   I  got  one  of  those  inspirations  you  get  occasionally.
Shakespeare  and Bums and even Oliver Wendell Holmes probably  used
to have them all the time, but self not so often. In fact, this was
the first that had come my way for some weeks.
   'Aunt  Dahlia sent me to ask you if you would come  and  take  a
few photographs of her and the house and all that sort of thing, so
that  she'll have them to look at in the long winter evenings.  You
know how long the winter evenings get nowadays.'
   The  moment  I  had  said it I found myself  speculating  as  to
whether the inspiration had been as hot as I had supposed. I  mean,
this  man  had  just had a conference with the old ancestor  which,
unlike those between ministers of state, had not been conducted  in
an atmosphere of the utmost cordiality, and he might be thinking it
odd that so soon after its conclusion she should be wanting him  to
take  photographs of her. But all was well. No doubt he  looked  on
her request as what is known as an olive branch. Anyway, he was all
animation and eagerness to co-operate.
   'I'll be right down,' he said. 'Tell her I'll be right down.'
   Having  hidden the porringer in my room and locked the  door,  I
went  back  to  the  aged relative and found her with  Jeeves.  She
expressed relief at seeing me.
   'Oh,   there  you  are,  my  beautiful  bounding  Bertie.  Thank
goodness  you didn't go to Runkle's room. Jeeves tells me  Seppings
met Runkle on the stairs and he asked him to bring him a cup of tea
in  half an hour. He said he was going to lie down. You might  have
run right into him.'
   I laughed one of those hollow, mirthless ones.
   'Jeeves speaks too late, old ancestor. I did run into him.'
   'You mean he was there?'
   'With his hair in a braid.'
   'What did you do?'
   'I  told  him you had asked me to ask him to come and take  some
photographs.'
   'Quick thinking.'
   'I always think like lightning.'
   'And did he swallow it?'
   'He appeared to. He said he would be right down.'
   'Well, I'm damned if I'm going to smile.'
   Whether  I  would  have pleaded with her to  modify  this  stern
resolve and at least show a portion of her front teeth when  Runkle
pressed the button, I cannot say, for as she spoke my thoughts were
diverted.  A  sudden query presented itself. What, I asked  myself,
was  keeping L. P. Runkle? He had said he would be right down,  but
quite a time had elapsed and no sign of him. I was toying with  the
idea  that  on a warm afternoon like this a man of his build  might
have  had  a fit of some kind, when there came from the stairs  the
sound of clumping feet, and he was with us.
   But  a very different L. P. Runkle from the man who had told  me
he would be right down. Then he had been all sunny and beaming, the
amateur  photographer who was not only going  to  make  a  pest  of
himself by taking photographs but had actually been asked to make a
pest  of  himself in this manner, which seldom happens  to  amateur
photographers. Now he was cold and hard like a picnic egg,  and  he
couldn't  have  looked at me with more loathing  if  I  really  had
trodden on his Panama hat.
   'Mrs Travers!'
   His  voice  had rung out with the clarion note of a costermonger
seeking to draw the attention of the purchasing public to his blood
oranges  and  Brussels sprouts. I saw the ancestor stiffen,  and  I
knew  she  was about to go into her grande dame act. This relative,
though in ordinary circs so genial and matey, can on occasion  turn
in  a  flash  into  a carbon copy of a Duchess of  the  old  school
reducing  an  underling  to  a spot  of  grease,  and  what  is  so
remarkable is that she doesn't have to use a lorgnette,  just  does
it  all  with the power of the human eye. I think girls in her  day
used to learn the trick at their finishing schools.
   'Will  you  kindly not bellow at me, Mr Runkle. I am  not  deaf.
What is it?'
   The  aristocratic  ice in her tone sent a cold  shiver  down  my
spine,  but in L. P. Runkle she had picked a tough customer to  try
to  freeze. He apologized for having bellowed, but briefly and with
no  real contrition. He then proceeded to deal with her query as to
what  it  was, and with a powerful effort forced himself  to  speak
quite quietly. Not exactly like a cooing pigeon, but quietly.
   'I  wonder  if you remember, Mrs Travers, a silver  porringer  I
showed you on my arrival here.'
   'I do.'
   'Very valuable.'
   'So you told me.'
   'I  kept  it in the top left-hand drawer of the chest of drawers
in  my bedroom. It did not occur to me that there was any necessity
to  hide  it. I took the honesty of everybody under your  roof  for
granted.'
   'Naturally.'
   'Even  when I found that Mr Wooster was one of my fellow  guests
I  took  no precautions. It was a fatal blunder. He has just stolen
it.'
   I  suppose  it's pretty much of a strain to keep up that  grande
dame stuff for any length of time, involving as it does rigidity of
the  facial muscles and the spinal column, for at these  words  the
ancestor called it a day and reverted to the Quorn-and-Pytchleyness
of her youth.
   'Don't  be  a  damned fool, Runkle. You're talking  rot.  Bertie
would never dream of doing such a thing, would you, Bertie?'
   'Not in a million years.'
   'The man's an ass.'
   'One might almost say a silly ass.'
   'Comes of sleeping all the time.'
   'I believe that's the trouble.'
   'Addles the brain.'
   'Must,  I imagine. It's the same thing with Gus the cat. I  love
Gus  like  a  brother, but after years of non-stop sleep  he's  got
about as much genuine intelligence as a Cabinet minister.'
   'I   hope  Runkle  hasn't  annoyed  you  with  his  preposterous
allegations?'
   'No,  no,  old  ancestor, I'm not angry, just terribly  terribly
hurt.'
   You'd  have thought all this would have rendered Runkle a  spent
force  and  a  mere shell of his former self, but his eye  was  not
dimmed nor his natural force abated. Turning to the door, he paused
there to add a few words.
   'I  disagree with you, Mrs Travers, in the view you take of your
nephew's honesty. I prefer to be guided by Lord Sidcup, who assures
me  that  Mr Wooster invariably steals anything that is not  firmly
fastened  to  the  floor. It was only by the  merest  chance,  Lord
Sidcup  tells me, that at their first meeting he did not make  away
with an umbrella belonging to Sir Watkyn Bassett, and from there he
has,  as  one  might  put  it,  gone  from  strength  to  strength.
Umbrellas, cow-creamers, amber statuettes, cameras, all  are  grist
to his mill. I was unfortunately asleep when he crept into my room,
and he had plenty of time before I woke to do what he had come for.
It was only some minutes after he had slunk out that it occurred to
me  to look in the top left-hand drawer of my chest of drawers.  My
suspicions  were confirmed. The drawer was empty. He had  got  away
with the swag. But I am a man of action. I have sent your butler to
the  police station to bring a constable to search Wooster's  room.
I,  until he arrives, propose to stand outside it, making sure that
he does not go in and tamper with the evidence.'
   Having  said  which in the most unpleasant of vocal  deliveries,
L. P. Runkle became conspic. by his a., and the ancestor spoke with
considerable  eloquence  on the subject of  fat  slobs  of  dubious
parentage who had the immortal crust to send her butler on errands.
I, too, was exercised by the concluding portion of his remarks.
   'I  don't like that,' I said, addressing Jeeves, who during  the
recent  proceedings  had been standing in the background  giving  a
lifelike impersonation of somebody who wasn't there.
   'Sir?'
   'If the fuzz search my room, I'm sunk.'
   'Have  no  anxiety, sir. A police officer is  not  permitted  to
enter  private  property without authority, nor do the  regulations
allow  him  to  ask  the owner of such property for  permission  to
enter.'
   'You're sure of that?'
   'Yes, sir.'
   Well, that was a crumb of comfort, but it would be deceiving  my
public  if  I  said  that Bertram Wooster was his usual  nonchalant
self.  Too  many things had been happening one on top of the  other
for  him  to be the carefree boulevardler one likes to  see.  If  I
hoped  to clarify the various situations which were giving  me  the
pip  and  erase the dark circles already beginning to form  beneath
the  eyes,  it  would, I saw, be necessary for  me  to  marshal  my
thoughts.
   'Jeeves,' I said, leading him from the room, 'I must marshal  my
thoughts.'
   'Certainly, sir, if you wish.'
   'And   I   can't  possibly  do  it  here  with  crises   turning
handsprings on every side. Can you think of a good excuse for me to
pop  up  to London for the night? A few hours alone in the peaceful
surroundings  of  the  flat are what I need.  I  must  concentrate,
concentrate.'
   'But do you require an excuse, sir?'
   'It's better to have one. Aunt Dahlia is on a sticky wicket  and
would  be hurt if I deserted her now unless I had some good reason.
I can't let her down.'
   'The sentiment does you credit, sir.'
   'Thank you, Jeeves. Can you think of anything?'
   'You have been summoned for jury duty, sir.'
   'Don't they let you have a longish notice for that?'
   'Yes, sir, but when the post arrived containing the letter  from
the authorities, I forgot to give it to you, and only delivered  it
a  moment  ago.  Fortunately it was not  too  late.  Would  you  be
intending to leave immediately?'
   'If not sooner. I'll borrow Ginger's car.'
   'You will miss the debate, sir.'
   'The what?'
   'The  debate between Mr Winship and his opponent. It takes place
tomorrow night.'
   'What time?'
   'It is scheduled for a quarter to seven.'
   'Taking how long?'
   'Perhaps an hour.'
   'Then  expect me back at about seven-thirty. The great thing  in
life, Jeeves, if we wish to be happy and prosperous, is to miss  as
many  political debates as possible. You wouldn't care to come with
me, would you?'
   'No,  thank  you,  sir. I am particularly  anxious  to  hear  Mr
Winship's speech.'
   'He'll probably only say "Er",' I riposted rather cleverly.


   It  was  with a heart-definitely-bowed-down mood and the circles
beneath my eyes darker than ever that I drove back next day in what
is  known as the quiet evenfall. I remember Jeeves saying something
to   me  once  about  the  heavy  and  the  weary  weight  of  this
unintelligible  world  ... not his own, I gathered,  but  from  the
works of somebody called Wordsworth, if I caught the name correctly
...  and  it  seemed  to  me rather a good way  of  describing  the
depressing feeling you get when the soup is about to close over you
and  no  life-belt is in sight. I was conscious of this  heavy  and
weary weight some years ago, that time when my cousins Eustace  and
Claude  without  notifying  me inserted  twenty-three  cats  in  my
bedroom, and I had it again, in spades, at the present juncture.
   Consider  the  facts.  I had gone up to  London  to  wrestle  in
solitude with the following problems:
   (a) How am I to get out of marrying Madeline Bassett?
   (b)  How  am  I to restore the porringer to L. P. Runkle  before
the constabulary come piling on the back of my neck?
   (c) How is the ancestor to extract that money from Runkle?
   (d)  How  is Ginger to marry Magnolia Glendennon while betrothed
to Florence?
   and  I  was returning with all four still in status quo.  For  a
night  and  day  I had been giving them the cream  of  the  Wooster
brain,  and for all I had accomplished I might have been  the  aged
relative trying to solve the Observer crossword puzzle.

   Arriving  at  journey's end, I steered the car into  the  drive.
About  half-way along it there was a tricky right-hand turn, and  I
had  slowed  down  to  negotiate this, when a dim  figure  appeared
before me, a voice said, 'Hoy!', and I saw that it was Ginger.
   He  seemed annoyed about something. His 'Hoy!' had had a note of
reproach  in  it,  as  far as it is possible to  get  the  note  of
reproach  into a 'Hoy!', and as he drew near and shoved  his  torso
through the window I received the distinct impression that  he  was
displeased.
   His opening words confirmed this.
   'Bertie, you abysmal louse, what's kept you all this time?  When
I  lent  you my car, I didn't expect you'd come back at two o'clock
in the morning.'
   'It's only half-past seven.'
   He seemed amazed.
   'Is  that  all?  I  thought  it was  later.  So  much  has  been
happening.'
   'What has been happening?'
   'No time to tell you now. I'm in a hurry.'
   It  was at this point that I noticed something in his appearance
which I had overlooked. A trifle, but I'm rather observant.
   'You've got egg in your hair,' I said.
   'Of  course  I've  got  egg in my hair,'  he  said,  his  manner
betraying impatience. 'What did you expect me to have in  my  hair,
Chanel Number Five?'
   'Did somebody throw an egg at you?'
   'Everybody  threw eggs at everybody. Correction.  Some  of  them
threw turnips and potatoes.'
   'You  mean  the meeting broke up in disorder, as the  expression
is?'
   'I  don't suppose any meeting in the history of English politics
has  ever broken up in more disorder. Eggs flew hither and thither.
The air was dark with vegetables of every description. Sidcup got a
black eye. Somebody plugged him with a potato.'
   I  found  myself in two minds. On the one hand I felt a pang  of
regret for having missed what had all the earmarks of having been a
political meeting of the most rewarding kind: on the other, it  was
like  rare and refreshing fruit to hear that Spode had got  hit  in
the  eye with a potato. I was conscious of an awed respect for  the
marksman who had accomplished this feat. A potato, being so  nobbly
in shape, can be aimed accurately only by a master hand.
   'Tell me more,' I said, well pleased.
   'Tell you more be blowed. I've got to get up to London. We  want
to  be  there  bright  and  early  tomorrow  in  order  to  inspect
registrars and choose the best one.'
   This  didn't sound like Florence, who, if she ever gets  through
an  engagement without breaking it, is sure to insist on a  wedding
with  bishops,  bridesmaids, full choral effects, and  a  reception
afterwards.  A  sudden thought struck me, and I think  I  may  have
gasped. Somebody made a noise like a dying soda-water syphon and it
was presumably me.
   'When you say "we", do you mean you and M. Glendennon?'
   'Who else?'
   'But how?'
   'Never mind how.'
   'But  I do mind how. You were Problem (d) on my list, and I want
to  know  how  you  have been solved. I gather  that  Florence  has
remitted your sentence -'
   'She  has,  in words of unmistakable clarity. Get  out  of  that
car.'
   'But why?'
   'Because  if you aren't out of it in two seconds, I'm  going  to
pull you out.'
   'I mean why did she r. your s.?'
   'Ask  Jeeves,' he said, and attaching himself to the  collar  of
my coat he removed me from the automobile like a stevedore hoisting
a  sack  of  grain. He took my place at the wheel, and  disappeared
down  the  drive  to  keep his tryst with  the  little  woman,  who
presumably awaited him at some prearranged spot with the  bags  and
baggage.
   He  left  me  in  a  condition which can best  be  described  as
befogged, bewildered, mystified, confused and perplexed. All I  had
got out of him was (a) that the debate had not been conducted in an
atmosphere  of  the utmost cordiality, (b) that at  its  conclusion
Florence  had forbidden the banns and (c) that if I wanted  further
information Jeeves would supply it. A little more than the charmers
got  out  of the deaf adder, but not much. I felt like a barrister,
as  it  might  be  Ma  McCorkadale, who  has  been  baffled  by  an
unsatisfactory witness.
   However,  he had spoken of Jeeves as a fount of information,  so
my first move on reaching the drawing-room and finding no one there
was to put forefinger to bell button and push.
   Seppings  answered the summons. He and I have been buddies  from
boyhood  -  mine, of course, not his - and as a rule when  we  meet
conversation flows like water, mainly on the subject of the weather
and  the  state  of  his lumbago, but this was  no  time  for  idle
chatter.
   'Seppings,' I said, 'I want Jeeves. Where is he?'
   'In the Servants' Hall, sir, comforting the parlourmaid.'
   I  took  him  to  allude to the employee whose gong-work  I  had
admired on my first evening, and, pressing though my business  was,
it  seemed only humane to offer a word of sympathy for whatever her
misfortunes might be.
   'Had bad news, has she?'
   'No, sir, she was struck by a turnip.'
   'Where?'
   'In the lower ribs, sir.'
   'I mean where did this happen?'
   'At the Town Hall, sir, in the later stages of the debate.'
   I  drew in the breath sharply. More and more I was beginning  to
realize  that the meeting I had missed had been marked by  passions
which recalled the worst excesses of the French Revolution.
   'I  myself,  sir,  narrowly escaped being hit by  a  tomato.  It
whizzed past my ear.'
   'You  shock me profoundly, Seppings. I don't wonder you're  pale
and  trembling.'  And indeed he was, like a badly  set  blancmange.
'What caused all this turmoil?'
   'Mr Winship's speech, sir.'
   This  surprised me. I could readily believe that any  speech  of
Ginger's would be well below the mark set by Demosthenes,  if  that
really was the fellow's name, but surely not so supremely lousy  as
to start his audience throwing eggs and vegetables; and I was about
to  institute further enquiries, when Seppings sidled to the  door,
saying  that he would inform Mr Jeeves of my desire to confer  with
him. And in due season the hour produced the man, as the expression
is.
   'You wished to see me, sir?' he said.
   'You can put it even stronger, Jeeves. I yearned to see you.'
   'Indeed, sir?'
   'Just now I met Ginger in the drive.'
   'Yes, sir, he informed me that he was going there to await  your
return.'
   'He  tells me he is no longer betrothed to Miss Craye, being now
affianced to Miss Glendennon. And when I asked him how this  switch
had come about, he said that you would explain.'
   'I shall be glad to do so, sir. You wish a complete report?'
   'That's right. Omit no detail, however slight.'
   He  was  silent for a space. Marshalling his thoughts, no doubt.
Then he got down to it.
   'The  importance attached by the electorate to the  debate,'  he
began,  'was  very  evident. An audience of considerable  size  had
assembled  in the Town Hall. The Mayor and Corporation were  there,
together  with the flower of Market Snodsbury's aristocracy  and  a
rougher  element in cloth caps and turtleneck sweaters  who  should
never have been admitted.'
   I had to rebuke him at this point.
   'Bit  snobbish,  that,  Jeeves,  what?  You  are  a  little  too
inclined to judge people by their clothes. Turtleneck sweaters  are
royal raiment when they're worn for virtue's sake, and a cloth  cap
may  hide an honest heart. Probably frightfully good chaps, if  one
had got to know them.'
   'I  would  prefer  not  to  know them,  sir.  It  was  they  who
subsequently threw eggs, potatoes, tomatoes and turnips.'
   I had to concede that he had a point there.
   'True,'  I  said.  'I  was forgetting that. All  right,  Jeeves.
Carry on.'
   'The  proceedings opened with a rendering of the national anthem
by the boys and girls of Market Snodsbury element
   ary school.'
   'Pretty ghastly, I imagine?'
   'Somewhat revolting, sir.'
   'And then?'
   'The  Mayor  made a short address, introducing the  contestants,
and Mrs McCorkadale rose to speak. She was wearing a smart coat  in
fine  quality  repp over a long-sleeved frock of  figured  marocain
pleated at the sides and finished at the neck with -'
   'Skip all that, Jeeves.'
   'I  am  sorry,  sir. I thought you wished every detail,  however
slight.'
   'Only when they're ... what's the word?'
   'Pertinent, sir?'
   'That's  right. Take the McCorkadale's outer crust as read.  How
was her speech?'
   'Extremely telling, in spite of a good deal of heckling.'
   'That wouldn't put her off her stroke.'
   'No,  sir.  She  impressed me as being of a singularly  forceful
character.'
   'Me, too.'
   'You have met the lady, sir?'
   'For  a few minutes - which, however, were plenty. She spoke  at
some length?'
   'Yes,  sir. If you would care to read her remarks? I  took  down
both speeches in shorthand.'
   'Later on, perhaps.'
   'At any time that suits you, sir.'
   'And how was the applause? Hearty? Or sporadic?'
   'On  one  side of the hall extremely hearty. The rougher element
appeared to be composed in almost equal parts of her supporters and
those of Mr Winship. They had been seated at opposite sides of  the
auditorium,  no  doubt  by  design.  Her  supporters  cheered,   Mr
Winship's booed.'
   'And when Ginger got up, I suppose her lot booed him?'
   'No  doubt they would have done so, had it not been for the tone
of  his  address. His appearance was greeted with a certain modicum
of  hostility,  but  he had scarcely begun to  speak  when  he  was
rapturously received.'
   'By the opposition?'
   'Yes, sir.'
   'Strange.'
   'Yes, sir.'
   'Can you elucidate?'
   'Yes,  sir. If I might consult my notes for a moment.  Ah,  yes.
Mr  Winship's  opening words were, "Ladies and  gentlemen,  I  come
before  you a changed man." A Voice: "That's good news."  A  second
Voice: "Shut up, you bleeder." A third Voice...'
   'I think we might pass lightly over the Voices, Jeeves.'
   'Very  good, sir. Mr Winship then said, "I should like to  begin
with a word to the gentleman in the turtleneck sweater in that seat
over  there who kept calling my opponent a silly old geezer. If  he
will kindly step on to this platform. I shall be happy to knock his
ugly block off. Mrs McCorkadale is not a silly old geezer." A Voice
.  . . Excuse me, sir, I was forgetting. "Mrs McCorkadale is not  a
silly  old  geezer," Mr Winship said, "but a lady of  the  greatest
intelligence  and  grasp  of  affairs.  I  admire  her   intensely.
Listening  to  her  this  evening has changed  my  political  views
completely. She has converted me to hers, and I propose,  when  the
polls  are opened, to cast my vote for her. I advise all of you  to
do the same. Thank you." He then resumed his seat.'
   'Good Lord, Jeeves!'
   'Yes, sir.'
   'He really said that?'
   'Yes, sir.'
   'No wonder his engagement's off.'
   'I must confess it occasioned me no surprise, sir.'
   I  continued  amazed. It seemed incredible  that  Ginger,  whose
long  suit  was  muscle  rather than brain,  should  have  had  the
ingenuity  and  know-how  to think up such  a  scheme  for  freeing
himself from Florence's clutches without forfeiting his standing as
a  fairly preux chevalier. It seemed to reveal him as possessed  of
snakiness  of a high order, and I was just thinking that you  never
can  tell about a fellow's hidden depths, when one of those  sudden
thoughts of mine came popping to the surface.
   'Was this you, Jeeves?'
   'Sir?'
   'Did you put Ginger up to doing it?'
   'It  is conceivable that Mr Winship may have been influenced  by
something  I said, sir. He was very much exercised with  regard  to
his  matrimonial  entanglements  and  he  did  me  the  honour   of
consulting me. It is quite possible that I may have let  fall  some
careless  remark  that turned his thoughts in  the  direction  they
took.'
   'In other words, you told him to go to it?'
   'Yes, sir.'
   I  was silent for a space. I was thinking how jolly it would  be
if  he could dish up something equally effective with regard to  me
and  M.  Bassett.  The thought also occurred to me  that  what  had
happened,  while  excellent for Ginger,  wasn't  so  good  for  his
backers and supporters and the Conservative cause in general.
   I mentioned this.
   'Tough on the fellows who betted on him.'
   'Into each life some rain must fall, sir.'
   'Though  possibly a good thing. A warning to them in  future  to
keep  their  money in the old oak chest and not risk it on  wagers.
May  prove a turning point in their lives. What really saddens  one
is  the  thought  that  Bingley will now clean  up.  He'll  make  a
packet.'
   'He told me this afternoon that he was expecting to do so.'
   'You mean you've seen him?'
   'He came here at about five o'clock, sir.'
   'Stockish, hard and full of rage, I suppose?'
   'On  the  contrary, sir, extremely friendly. He made no allusion
to  the  past. I gave him a cup of tea, and we chatted for  perhaps
half an hour.'
   'Strange.'
   'Yes,  sir.  I  wondered if he might not have  had  an  ulterior
motive in approaching me.'
   'Such as?'
   'I  must  confess I cannot think of one. Unless  he  entertained
some  hope of inducing me to part with the club book, but  that  is
hardly likely. Would there be anything further, sir?'
   'You want to get back to the stricken parlourmaid?'
   'Yes, sir. When you rang, I was about to see what a little  weak
brandy and water would do.'
   I  sped  him  on his errand of mercy and sat down to brood.  You
might  have  supposed that the singular behaviour of Bingley  would
have occupied my thoughts. I mean, when you hear that a chap of his
well-established  crookedness has been acting oddly,  your  natural
impulse  is to say 'Aha!' and wonder what his game is. And  perhaps
for  a  minute or two I did ponder on this. But I had so many other
things  to ponder on that Bingley soon got shoved into the discard.
If  I  remember rightly, it was as I mused on Problem (b), the  one
about  restoring the porringer to L. P. Runkle, and  again  drew  a
blank,  that my reverie was interrupted by the entrance of the  old
ancestor.
   She  was  wearing the unmistakable look of an aunt who has  just
been  having  the time of her life, and this did not  surprise  me.
Hers since she sold the weekly paper she used to run, the one I did
that  piece on What The Well-Dressed Man Will Wear for, has been  a
quiet  sort  of existence, pleasant enough but lacking in  incident
and  excitement.  A really sensational event such as  the  egg-and-
vegetable-throwing get-together she had just been present  at  must
have bucked her up like a week at the seaside.
   Her  greeting could not have been more cordial. An  aunt's  love
oozed out from every syllable.
   'Hullo, you revolting object,' she said. 'So you're back.'
   'Just arrived.'
   'Too   bad  you  had  that  jury  job.  You  missed  a  gripping
experience.'
   'So Jeeves was telling me.'
   'Ginger finally went off his rocker.'
   With  the  inside  information  which  had  been  placed  at  my
disposal I was able to correct this view.
   'It  was  no rocker that he went off, aged relative. His actions
were  motivated  by  the  soundest good sense.  He  wanted  to  get
Florence  out  of  his hair without actually telling  her  to  look
elsewhere for a mate.'
   'Don't be an ass. He loves her.'
   'No longer. He's switched to Magnolia Glendennon.'
   'You mean that secretary of his?'
   'That identical secretary.'
   'How do you know?'
   'He told me so himself.'
   'Well,  I'll  be  blowed. He finally got fed up with  Florence's
bossiness, did he?'
   'Yes,  I think it must have been coming on for some time without
him  knowing  it,  subconsciously  as  Jeeves  would  say.  Meeting
Magnolia brought it to the surface.'
   'She seems a nice girl.'
   'Very nice, according to Ginger.'
   'I must congratulate him.'
   'You'll have to wait a bit. They've gone up to London.'
   'So  have  Spode and Madeline. And Runkle ought  to  be  leaving
soon.  It's  like one of those great race movements of  the  Middle
Ages  I  used  to  read about at school. Well, this  is  wonderful.
Pretty  soon  it'll be safe for Tom to return to the nest.  There's
still  Florence, of course, but I doubt if she will be staying  on.
My  cup  runneth over, young Bertie. I've missed Tom sorely. Home's
not  home without him messing about the place. Why are you  staring
at me like a halibut on a fishmonger's slab?'
   I  had  not been aware that I was conveying this resemblance  to
the  fish  she  mentioned, but my gaze had certainly  been  on  the
intent side, for her opening words had stirred me to my depths.
   'Did  you  say,' I - yes, I suppose, vociferated  would  be  the
word, 'that Spode and Madeline Bassett had gone to London?'
   'Left half an hour ago.'
   'Together?'
   'Yes, in his car.'
   'But Spode told me she had given him the push.'
   'She  did, but everything's all right again. He's not  going  to
give up his title and stand for Parliament. Getting hit in the  eye
with  that  potato changed his plans completely. It made  him  feel
that  if that was the sort of thing you have to go through  to  get
elected  to the House of Commons, he preferred to play it safe  and
stick to the House of Lords. And she, of course, assured that there
was  going  to be no funny business and that she would  become  the
Countess  of Sidcup all right, withdrew her objections to  marrying
him.  Now  you're puffing like Tom when he goes upstairs too  fast.
Why is this?'
   Actually,  I had breathed deeply, not puffed, and certainly  not
like Uncle Tom when he goes upstairs too fast, but I suppose to  an
aunt  there  isn't much difference between a deep-breathing  nephew
and  a  puffing nephew, and anyway I was in no mood to discuss  the
point.
   'You  don't  know who it was who threw that potato, do  you?'  I
asked.
   'The  one  that hit Spode? I don't. It sort of came out  of  the
void. Why?'
   'Because  if  I  knew  who it was, I would send  camels  bearing
apes, ivory and peacocks to his address. He saved me from the  fate
that  is  worse than death. I allude to marriage with  the  Bassett
disaster.'
   'Was she going to marry you?'
   'According to Spode.'
   A look almost of awe came into the ancestor's face.
   'How right you were,' she said, 'when you told me once that  you
had  faith  in  your star. I've lost count of the number  of  times
you've been definitely headed for the altar with apparently no hope
of  evading the firing squad, and every time something has happened
which enabled you to wriggle out of it. It's uncanny.'
   She  would,  I  think,  have gone deeper into  the  matter,  for
already she had begun to pay a marked tribute to my guardian angel,
who,  she said, plainly knew his job from soup to nuts, but at this
moment  Seppings appeared and asked her if she would  have  a  word
with Jeeves, and she went out to have it.
   And  I  had  just  put my feet up on the chaise longue  and  was
starting  to muse ecstatically on the astounding bit of luck  which
had  removed the Bassett menace from my life, when my mood of  what
the  French call bien etre was given the sleeve across the windpipe
by  the  entrance of L. P. Runkle, the mere sight  of  whom,  circs
being what they were, was enough to freeze the blood and make  each
particular  hair  stand  on  end  like  quills  upon  the   fretful
porpentine, as I have heard Jeeves put it.
   I wasn't glad to see him, but he seemed glad to see me.
   'Oh,  there  you are,' he said. 'They told me you  had  skipped.
Very sensible of you to come back. It's never any good going on the
run, because the police are sure to get you sooner or later, and it
makes it all the worse for you if you've done a bolt.'
   With  cold  dignity  I said I had had to  go  up  to  London  on
business.  He  paid  no attention to this. He was  scrutinizing  me
rather  in  the manner of the halibut on the fishmonger's  slab  to
which the ancestor had referred in our recent conversation.
   'The  odd  thing  is,' he said, continuing to scan  me  closely,
'that you haven't a criminal face. It's a silly, fatuous face,  but
not  criminal. You remind me of one of those fellows who do  dances
with the soubrette in musical comedy.'
   Come,  come,  I  said  to  myself, this  is  better.  Spode  had
compared  me  to a member of the ensemble. In the  view  of  L.  P.
Runkle  I was at any rate one of the principals. Moving up  in  the
world.
   'Must  be  a  great help to you in your business.  Lulls  people
into  a  false security. They think there can't be any danger  from
someone  who  looks like you, they're off their  guard,  and  wham!
you've got away with their umbrellas and cameras. No doubt you  owe
all  your successes to this. But you know the old saying about  the
pitcher going too often to the well. This time you're for it.  This
time -'
   He  broke  off, not because he had come to an end  of  his  very
offensive  remarks  but because Florence had  joined  us,  and  her
appearance  immediately claimed his attention.  She  was  far  from
being  dapper. It was plain that she had been in the  forefront  of
the  late  battle, for whereas Ginger had merely  had  egg  in  his
hair',  she  was, as it were, festooned in egg. She  had  evidently
been  right in the centre of the barrage. In all political meetings
of  the stormier kind these things are largely a matter of luck.  A
escapes unscathed, B becomes a human omelette.
   A  more tactful man than L. P. Runkle would have affected not to
notice  this, but I don't suppose it ever occurred to him to affect
not to notice things.
   'Hullo!' he said. 'You've got egg all over you.'
   Florence replied rather acidly that she was aware of this.
   'Better change your dress.'
   'I  intend  to. Would you mind, Mr Runkle, if I had a word  with
Mr Wooster alone?'
   I  think Runkle was on the point of saying 'What about?', but on
catching  her eye he had prudent second thoughts. He lumbered  off,
and she proceeded to have . the word she had mentioned.
   She  kept  it  crisp. None of the 'Er' stuff which  was  such  a
feature  of  Ginger's  oratory. Even Demosthenes  would  have  been
slower  in  coming  to the nub, though he, of  course,  would  been
handicapped by having to speak in Greek.
   'I'm glad I found you, Bertie.'
   A civil 'Oh, ah' was all the reply I could think of.
   'I  have been thinking things over, and I have made up my  mind.
Harold Winship is a mere lout, and I am having nothing more  to  do
with him. I see now that I made a great mistake when I broke off my
engagement  to  you.  You have your faults,  but  they  are  easily
corrected.  I have decided to marry you, and I think  we  shall  be
very happy.'
   'But  not  immediately,'  said L. P.  Runkle,  rejoining  us.  I
described  him a moment ago as lumbering off, but a man  like  that
never lumbers far if there is a chance of hearing what somebody has
to  say  to  somebody else in private. 'He'll first have  to  do  a
longish stretch in prison.'
   His  reappearance  had  caused  Florence  to  stiffen.  She  now
stiffened  further, her aspect similar to that of the old  ancestor
when about to go into her grande dame act.
   'Mr Runkle!'
   'I'm here.'
   'I thought you had gone.'
   'I hadn't.'
   'How dare you listen to a private conversation!'
   'They're  the only things worth listening to. I owe much  of  my
large fortune to listening to private conversations.'
   'What is this nonsense about prison?'
   'Wooster  won't  find  it nonsense. He has  sneaked  a  valuable
silver porringer of mine, a thing I paid nine thousand pounds  for,
and  I  am  expecting  a man any minute now who  will  produce  the
evidence necessary to convict. It's an open and shut case.'
   'Is  this  true, Bertie?' said Florence with that touch  of  the
prosecuting District Attorney I remembered so vividly,  and  all  I
could say was 'Well... I... er ... well.'
   With  a  guardian  angel  like mine  working  overtime,  it  was
enough. She delivered judgment instantaneously.
   'I shall not marry you,' she said, and went off haughtily to de-
egg herself.
   'Very sensible of her,' said L. P. Runkle. 'The right course  to
take.  A  man like you, bound to be in and out of prison,  couldn't
possibly  be  a good husband. How is a wife to make her  plans  ...
dinner  parties, holidays, Christmas treats for the  children,  the
hundred and one things a woman has to think of ... when she doesn't
know from one day to another whether the head of the house won't be
telephoning  to say he's been arrested again and no  bail  allowed?
Yes?'  said  Runkle, and I saw that Seppings had  appeared  in  the
offing.
   'A Mr Bingley has called to see you, sir.'
   'Ah, yes, I was expecting him.'
   He  popped  off,  and  scarcely had he  ceased  to  pollute  the
atmosphere when the old ancestor blew in.
   She  was  plainly  agitated, the resemblance to  a  cat  on  hot
bricks being very marked. She panted a good deal, and her face  had
taken  on  the rather pretty mauve colour it always does  when  the
soul is not at rest.
   'Bertie,'  she  boomed, 'when you went away yesterday,  did  you
leave the door of your bedroom unlocked?'
   'Of course I didn't.'
   'Well, Jeeves says it's open now.'
   'It can't be.'
   'It  is.  He  thinks Runkle or some minion of his has  skeleton-
keyed the lock. Don't yell like that, curse you.'
   I  might have retorted by asking her what she expected me to  do
when  I  suddenly  saw all, but I was too busy  seeing  all  to  be
diverted into arguments about my voice production. The awful  truth
had hit me as squarely between the eyes as if it had been an egg or
a turnip hurled by one of the Market Snodsbury electorate.
   'Bingley!' I ejaculated.
   'And don't sing.'
   'I   was   not   singing,  I  was  ejaculating  "Bingley!",   or
vociferating "Bingley!" if you prefer it. You remember Bingley, the
fellow who stole the club book, the chap you were going to take  by
the  throat and shake like a rat. Aged relative, we are up  against
it in no uncertain manner. Bingley is the Runkle minion you alluded
to.
   Jeeves  says  he dropped in to tea this afternoon. What  simpler
for  him, having had his cuppa, than to nip upstairs and search  my
room?  He  used to be Runkle's personal attendant, so Runkle  would
turn  to  him naturally when he needed an accomplice. Yes, I  don't
wonder  you're  perturbed,' I added, for she  had  set  the  welkin
ringing  with  one of those pungent monosyllables so often  on  her
lips  in  the  old  Quorn-and-Pytchley days.  'And  I'll  tell  you
something else which will remove your last doubts, if you had  any.
He's  just turned up again, and Runkle has gone out to confer  with
him.  What do you suppose they're conferring about? Give you  three
guesses.'
   The  Quorn trains its daughters well. So does the Pytchley.  She
did not swoon, as many an aunt would have done in her place, merely
repeated  the  monosyllable in a slightly lower tone - meditatively
as  it were, like some aristocrat of the French Revolution on being
informed that the tumbril waited.
   'This  tears  it,' she said, the very words such  an  aristocrat
would have used, though speaking of course in French. 'I'll have to
confess that I took his foul porringer.'
   'No, no, you mustn't do that.'
   'What  else  is  there  for me to do? I  can't  let  you  go  to
chokey.'
   'I don't mind.'
   'I do. I may have my faults -'
   'No, no.'
   'Yes,  yes.  I  am  quite aware that there are blemishes  in  my
spiritual  make-up  which  ought  to  have  been  corrected  at  my
finishing  school, but I draw the line at letting my  nephew  do  a
stretch  for  pinching  porringers which I pinched  myself.  That's
final.'
   I  saw what she meant, of course. Noblesse oblige, and all that.
And  very  creditable, too. But I had a powerful  argument  to  put
forward, and I lost no time in putting it.
   'But  wait, old ancestor. There's another aspect of the  matter.
If  it's ... what's the expression? ... if it's bruited abroad that
I'm  merely  an  as-pure-as-the-driven-snow innocent bystander,  my
engagement to Florence will be on again.'
   'Your  what to who?' It should have been 'whom', but  I  let  it
go. 'Are you telling me that you and Florence ...'
   'She  proposed  to me ten minutes ago and I had  to  accept  her
because one's either preux or one isn't, and then Runkle butted  in
and  pointed  out to her the disadvantages of marrying someone  who
would  shortly be sewing mailbags in Wormwood Scrubs, and she broke
it off.'
   The  relative  seemed stunned, as if she had come  on  something
abstruse in the Observer crossword puzzle.
   'What  is it about you that fascinates the girls? First Madeline
Bassett,  now Florence, and dozens of others in the past. You  must
have a magnetic personality.'
   'That  would  seem  to be the explanation,' I  agreed.  'Anyway,
there  it is. One whisper that there isn't a stain on my character,
and  I  haven't a hope. The Bishop will be notified, the  assistant
clergy  and  bridesmaids  rounded  up,  the  organist  will   start
practising "The Voice That Breathed O'er Eden", and the limp figure
you  see  drooping  at the altar rails will be Bertram  Wilberforce
Wooster.  I implore you, old blood relation, to be silent  and  let
the  law take its course. If it's a choice between serving  a  life
sentence  under Florence and sewing a mailbag or two, give  me  the
mailbags every time.'
   She nodded understandingly, and said she saw what I meant.
   'I thought you would.'
   'There  is much in what you say.' She mused awhile. 'As a matter
of  fact,  though, I doubt if it will get as far as  mailbags.  I'm
pretty  sure what's going to happen. Runkle will offer to drop  the
whole thing if I let him have Anatole.'
   'Good God!'
   'You  may well say "Good God!" You know what  Anatole means  to
Tom.'
   She  did  not  need to labour the point. Uncle  Tom  combines  a
passionate love of food with a singular difficulty in digesting it,
and Anatole is the only chef yet discovered who can fill him up  to
the Plimsoll mark without causing the worst sort of upheaval in his
gastric juices.
   'But would Anatole go to Runkle?'
   'He'd go to anyone if the price was right.'
   'None of that faithful old retainer stuff ?'
   'None.  His outlook is entirely practical. That's the French  in
him.'
   'I  wonder  you've been able to keep him so long. He  must  have
had other offers.'
   'I've  always  topped  them. If it was simply  another  case  of
outbidding the opposition, I wouldn't be worrying.'
   'But when Uncle Tom comes back and finds Anatole conspicuous  by
his absence, won't the home be a bit in the melting pot?'
   'I don't like to think of it.'
   But she did think of it. So did I. And we were both thinking  of
it,  when  our  musings were interrupted by the  return  of  L.  P.
Runkle, who waddled in and fixed us with a bulging eye.
   I  suppose  if  he had been slenderer, one might have  described
him  as  a  figure of doom, but even though so badly in need  of  a
reducing  diet he was near enough to being one to make my  interior
organs  do a quick shuffle-off-to-Buffalo as if some muscular  hand
had  stirred them up with an egg-whisk. And when he began to speak,
he  was certainly impressive. These fellows who have built up large
commercial  empires  are  always what  I  have  heard  Jeeves  call
orotund.   They   get   that  way  from  dominating   meetings   of
shareholders.  Having  started off with 'Oh,  there  you  are,  Mrs
Travers',  he went into his speech, and it was about as orotund  as
anything  that  has ever come my way. It ran, as nearly  as  I  can
remember, as follows:
   'I   was   hoping  to  see  you,  Mrs  Travers.  In  a  previous
conversation,  you will recall that I stated uncompromisingly  that
your  nephew Mr Wooster had purloined the silver porringer which  I
brought  here  to  sell to your husband, whose  absence  I  greatly
deplore.  That  this  was  no mere suspicion  has  now  been  fully
substantiated. I have a witness who is prepared to testify on  oath
in court that he found it in the top drawer of the chest of drawers
in  Mr  Wooster's bedroom, unskilfully concealed behind  socks  and
handkerchiefs.'
   Here  if  it had been a shareholders meeting, he would  probably
have been reminded of an amusing story which may be new to some  of
you present this afternoon, but I suppose in a private conversation
he saw no need for it. He continued, still orotund.
   'The  moment I report this to the police and acquaint them  with
the   evidence  at  my  disposal,  Wooster's  arrest  will   follow
automatically, and a sharp sentence will be the inevitable result.'
   It  was an unpleasant way of putting it, but I was compelled  to
admit  that  it covered the facts like a bedspread. Dust  off  that
cell, Wormwood Scrubs, I was saying to myself, I shall soon be with
you.
   'Such is the position. But I am not a vindictive man, I have  no
wish, if it can be avoided, to give pain to a hostess who has  been
to such trouble to make my visit enjoyable.'
   He  paused  for  a moment to lick his lips, and I  knew  he  was
tasting  again  those master-dishes of Anatole's.  And  it  was  on
Anatole that he now touched.
   'While   staying  here  as  your  guest,  I  have  been  greatly
impressed by the skill and artistry of your chef. I will agree  not
to  press  charges against Mr Wooster provided you consent  to  let
this gifted man leave your employment and enter mine.'
   A  snort  rang  through the room, one of the ancestor's  finest.
You might almost have called it orotund. Following it with the word
'Ha!', she turned to me with a spacious wave of the hand.
   'Didn't  I  tell you, Bertie? Wasn't I right? Didn't I  say  the
child of unmarried parents would blackmail me?'
   A  fellow  with  the  excess weight of L.  P.  Runkle  finds  it
difficult  to  stiffen all over when offended, but he stiffened  as
far  as he could. It was as if some shareholder at the meeting  had
said the wrong thing.
   'Blackmail?'
   'That's what I said.'
   'It is not blackmail. It is nothing of the sort.'
   'He   is  quite  right,  madam,'  said  Jeeves,  appearing  from
nowhere.  I'll  swear he hadn't been there half  a  second  before.
'Blackmail  implies  the extortion of money. Mr  Runkle  is  merely
extorting a cook.'
   'Exactly.   A   purely  business  transaction,'   said   Runkle,
obviously considering him a Daniel come to judgment.
   'It  would  be very different,' said Jeeves, 'were  somebody  to
try to obtain money from him by threatening to reveal that while in
America he served a prison sentence for bribing a juror in  a  case
in which he was involved.'
   A  cry  broke from L. P. Runkle's lips, somewhat similar to  the
one  the cat Gus had uttered when the bag of cat food fell on  him.
He  tottered and his face would, I think, have turned ashy white if
his  blood pressure hadn't been the sort that makes it pretty tough
going  for a face to turn ashy white. The best it could manage  was
something Florence would have called sallow.
   The  ancestor,  on the other hand, had revived like  a  floweret
beneath  the watering-can. Not that she looks like a floweret,  but
you know what I mean.
   'What!' she ejaculated.
   'Yes,  madam,  the  details are all in the  club  book.  Bingley
recorded  them very fully. His views were very far to the  left  at
the  time,  and  I think he derived considerable satisfaction  from
penning an expose of a gentleman of Mr Runkle's wealth. It is  also
with  manifest gusto that he relates how Mr Runkle, in grave danger
of  a  further  prison sentence in connection with  a  real  estate
fraud,  forfeited  the money he had deposited as security  for  his
appearance in court and disappeared.'
   'Jumped his bail, you mean?'
   'Precisely, madam. He escaped to Canada in a false beard.'
   The  ancestor  drew  a deep breath. Her eyes were  glowing  more
like  twin stars than anything. Had not her dancing days been  long
past,  I think she might have gone into a brisk buck-and-wing.  The
lower limbs twitched just as if she were planning to.
   'Well,'  she  said,  'a  nice bit of news  that'll  be  for  the
fellows who dole out knighthoods. "Runkle?" they'll say. "That  old
lag?  If we made a man like that a knight, we'd never hear the last
of  it. The boys on the Opposition benches would kid the pants  off
us."  We  were discussing, Runkle, yesterday that little matter  of
the  money you ought to have given Tuppy Glossop years ago. If  you
will  step  into  my  boudoir, we will go  into  it  again  at  our
leisure.'


   The  following day dawned bright and clear, at least  I  suppose
it  did, but I wasn't awake at the time. When eventually I came  to
life,  the sun was shining, all Nature appeared to be smiling,  and
Jeeves  was  bringing in the breakfast tray. Gus the cat,  who  had
been  getting  his  eight hours on an adjacent  armchair,  stirred,
opened an eye and did a sitting high jump on to the bed, eager  not
to miss anything that was going.
   'Good morning, Jeeves.'
   'Good morning, sir.'
   'Weather looks all right.'
   'Extremely clement, sir.'
   'The  snail's on the wing and the lark's on the thorn, or rather
the  other  way round, as I've sometimes heard you say.  Are  those
kippers I smell?'
   'Yes, sir.'
   'Detach  a portion for Gus, will you. He will probably  like  to
take it from the soap dish, reserving the saucer for milk.'
   'Very good, sir.'
   I  sat  up and eased the spine into the pillows. I was conscious
of a profound peace.
   'Jeeves,' I said, 'I am conscious of a profound peace. I  wonder
if  you remember me telling you a few days ago that I was having  a
sharp attack of euphoria?'
   'Yes,  sir.  I  recall your words clearly.  You  said  you  were
sitting on top of the world with a rainbow round your shoulder.'
   'Similar  conditions prevail this morning. I thought  everything
went off very well last night, didn't you?'
   'Yes, sir.'
   'Thanks to you.'
   'It is very kind of you to say so, sir.'
   'I  take it the ancestor came to a satisfactory arrangement with
Runkle?'
   'Most  satisfactory,  sir. Madam has just informed  me  that  Mr
Runkle was entirely co-operative.'
   'So  Tuppy  and  Angela will be joined in holy wedlock,  as  the
expression is?'
   'Almost immediately, I understood from Madam.'
   'And  even  now  Ginger  and  M.  Glendennon  are  probably   in
conference with the registrar of their choice.'
   'Yes, sir.'
   'And  Spode has got a black eye, which one hopes is painful.  In
short,  on  every  side one sees happy endings popping  up  out  of
traps.  A pity that Bingley is flourishing like a green what-is-it,
but one can't have everything.'
   'No,  sir. Medio de fonte leporum surgit amari aliquid in  ipsis
floribus angat.'
   'I don't think I quite followed you there, Jeeves.'
   'I  was  quoting  from the Roman poet Lucretius,  sir.  A  rough
translation  would be "From the heart of this fountain of  delights
wells up some bitter taste to choke them even among the flowers".'
   'Who did you say wrote that?'
   'Lucretius, sir, 99-55 bc.'
   'Gloomy sort of bird.'
   'His outlook was perhaps somewhat sombre, sir.'
   'Still,  apart from Bingley, one might describe joy as  reigning
supreme.'
   'A very colourful phrase, sir.'
   'Not  my  own.  I  read it somewhere. Yes, I think  we  may  say
everything's  more  or less oojah-cum-spiff.  With  one  exception,
Jeeves,'  I said, a graver note coming into my voice as I gave  Gus
his second helping of kipper. 'There remains a fly in the ointment,
a familiar saying meaning ... well, I don't quite know what it does
mean. It seems to imply a state of affairs at which one is supposed
to  look  askance,  but why, I ask myself, shouldn't  flies  be  in
ointment? What harm do they do? And who wants ointment, anyway? But
you get what I'm driving at. The Junior Ganymede club book is still
in existence. That is what tempers my ecstasy with anxiety. We have
seen  how packed with trinitrotoluol it is, and we know how  easily
it  can fall into the hands of the powers of darkness. Who can  say
that  another  Bingley may not come along and snitch  it  from  the
secretary's  room? I know it is too much to ask  you  to  burn  the
beastly thing, but couldn't you at least destroy the eighteen pages
in which I figure?'
   'I have already done so, sir.'
   I  leaped like a rising trout, to the annoyance of Gus, who  had
gone  to  sleep  on my solar plexus. Words failed me,  but  in  due
season I managed three.
   'Much obliged, Jeeves.'
   'Not at all, sir.'

Популярность: 23, Last-modified: Wed, 20 Feb 2002 13:21:35 GMT