Published: Penguin Books, 1963
     OCR: Rojer, 2002
     (more PGW titles to come, http://rojer.bdo.ru/PGW/)

     Jeeves placed the sizzling eggs and b. on the breakfast table,  and
Reginald ('Kipper') Herring and I, licking the lips, squared our elbows
and  got down to it. A lifelong buddy of mine, this Herring, linked  to
me   by  what  are  called  imperishable  memories.  Years  ago,   when
striplings,  he  and I had done a stretch together  at  Malvern  House,
Bramley-on-Sea,  the preparatory school conducted  by  that  prince  of
stinkers,  Aubrey Upjohn MA, and had frequently stood side by  side  in
the  Upjohn  study awaiting the receipt of six of the juiciest  from  a
cane of the type that biteth like a serpent and stingeth like an adder,
as  the fellow said. So we were, you might say, rather like a couple of
old  sweats  who had fought shoulder to shoulder on Crispin's  Day,  if
I've got the name right.
     The  plat du jour having gone down the hatch, accompanied  by  some
fluid  ounces  of strengthening coffee, I was about to  reach  for  the
marmalade, when I heard the telephone tootling out in the hall and rose
to attend to it.
     'Bertram  Wooster's residence, 'I said, having connected  with  the
instrument.  'Wooster in person at this end. Oh hullo, ' I  added,  for
the   voice  that  boomed  over  the  wire  was  that  of  Mrs   Thomas
Portarlington  Travers  of  Brinkley  Court,  Market  Snodsbury,   near
Droitwich  -  or,  putting it another way, my good and  deserving  Aunt
Dahlia.  'A  very hearty pip-pip to you, old ancestor, ' I  said,  well
pleased, for she is a woman with whom it is always a privilege to  chew
the fat.
     'And  a rousing toodle-oo to you, you young blot on the landscape,'
she  replied cordially. 'I'm surprised to find you up as early as this.
Or have you just got in from a night on the tiles?'
     I hastened to rebut this slur.
     'Certainly not. Nothing of that description whatsoever.  I've  been
upping  with  the lark this last week, to keep Kipper Herring  company.
He's  staying  with me till he can get into his new flat. You  remember
old  Kipper?  I brought him down to Brinkley one summer.  Chap  with  a
cauliflower ear.'
     'I know who you mean. Looks like Jack Dempsey.'
     'That's right. Far more, indeed, than Jack Dempsey does. He's on the
staff of the Thursday Review, a periodical of which you may or may  not
be  a  reader, and has to clock in at the office at daybreak. No doubt,
when  I apprise him of your call, he will send you his love, for I know
he  holds  you in high esteem. The perfect hostess, he often  describes
you  as. Well, it's nice to hear your voice again, old flesh-and-blood.
How's everything down Market Snodsbury way?'
     'Oh, we're jogging along. But I'm not speaking from Brinkley. I'm in
     'Till when?'
     'Driving back this afternoon.'
     'I'll give you lunch.'
     'Sorry,  can't  manage  it. I'm putting on  the  nosebag  with  Sir
Roderick Glossop.'
     This surprised me. The eminent brain specialist to whom she alluded
was  a  man  I would not have cared to lunch with myself, our relations
having  been on the stiff side since the night at Lady Wickham's  place
in  Hertfordshire  when, acting on the advice of my hostess's  daughter
Roberta, I had punctured his hot-water bottle with a darning needle  in
the  small hours of the morning. Quite unintentional, of course. I  had
planned to puncture the h-w-b of his nephew Tuppy Glossop, with whom  I
had  a  feud on, and unknown to me they had changed rooms, fust one  of
those unfortunate misunderstandings.
     'What on earth are you doing that for?'
     'Why shouldn't I? He's paying.'
     I saw her point - a penny saved is a penny earned and all that sort
of  thing  - but I continued surprised. It amazed me that Aunt  Dahlia,
presumably  a  free  agent, should have selected this  very  formidable
loony-doctor to chew the mid-day chop with. However, one of  the  first
lessons  life  teaches  us is that aunts will be  aunts,  so  I  merely
shrugged a couple of shoulders.
     'Well, it's up to you, of course, but it seems a rash act. Did  you
come to London just to revel with Glossop?'
     'No, I'm here to collect my new butler and take him home with me.'
     'New butler? What's become of Seppings?'
     'He's gone.'
     I clicked the tongue. I was very fond of the major-domo in question,
having enjoyed many a port in his pantry, and this news saddened me.
     'No,  really?' I said. 'Too bad. I thought he looked a little frail
when  I  last saw him. Well, that's how it goes. All flesh is grass,  I
often say.'
     'To Bognor Regis, for his holiday.'
     I unclicked the tongue.
     'Oh, I see. That puts a different complexion on the matter. Odd how
all  these  pillars of the home seem to be dashing away on toots  these
days.  It's  like  what  Jeeves was telling me  about  the  great  race
movements  of the Middle Ages. Jeeves starts his holiday this  morning.
He's off to Herne Bay for the shrimping, and I'm feeling like that bird
in  the  poem  who lost his pet gazelle or whatever the animal  was.  I
don't know what I'm going to do without him.'
     'I'll tell you what you're going to do. Have you a clean shirt?'
     'And a toothbrush?'
     'Two, both of the finest quality.'
     'Then pack them. You're coming to Brinkley tomorrow.'
     The  gloom  which always envelops Bertram Wooster like a  fog  when
Jeeves  is  about  to  take his annual vacation lightened  perceptibly.
There  are  few  things I find more agreeable than a  sojourn  at  Aunt
Dahlia's  rural lair. Picturesque scenery, gravel soil, main  drainage,
company's own water and, above all, the superb French cheffing  of  her
French chef Anatole, God's gift to the gastric juices. A full hand,  as
you might put it.
     'What  an admirable suggestion,' I said. 'You solve all my problems
and  bring the blue bird out of a hat. Rely on me. You will observe  me
bowling up in the Wooster sports model tomorrow afternoon with my  hair
in  a  braid  and  a song on my lips. My presence will,  I  feel  sure,
stimulate Anatole to new heights of endeavour. Got anybody else staying
at the old snake pit?'
     'Five inmates in all.'
     'Five?'  I  resumed my tongue-clicking. 'Golly! Uncle Tom  must  be
frothing  at  the  mouth a bit,' I said, for I knew  the  old  buster's
distaste  for guests in the home. Even a single weekender is  sometimes
enough to make him drain the bitter cup.
     'Tom's not there. He's gone to Harrogate with Cream.'
     'You mean lumbago.'
     'I  don't  mean  lumbago. I mean Cream. Homer Cream.  Big  American
tycoon,  who is visiting these shores. He suffers from ulcers, and  his
medicine man has ordered him to take the waters at Harrogate.  Tom  has
gone with him to hold his hand and listen to him of an evening while he
tells him how filthy the stuff tastes.'
     'I mean altruistic. You are probably not familiar with the word, but
it's one I've heard Jeeves use. It's what you say of a fellow who gives
selfless service, not counting the cost.'
     'Selfless service, my foot! Tom's in the middle of a very important
business deal with Cream. If it goes through, he'll make a packet  free
of income tax. So he's sucking up to him like a Hollywood Yes-man.'
     I  gave an intelligent nod, though this of course was wasted on her
because  she  couldn't see me. I could readily understand my  uncle-by-
marriage's mental processes. T. Portarlington Travers is a man who  has
accumulated the pieces of eight in sackfuls, but he is always more than
willing  to  shove a bit extra away behind the brick in the  fireplace,
feeling  - and rightly -that every little bit added to what you've  got
makes just a little bit more. And if there's one thing that's right  up
his  street,  it is not paying income tax. He grudges every  penny  the
Government nicks him for.
     'That is why, when kissing me goodbye, he urged me with tears in his
eyes  to  lush  Mrs  Cream and her son Willie up and  treat  them  like
royalty. So they're at Brinkley, dug into the woodwork.'
     'Willie, did you say?'
     'Short for Wilbert.'
     I mused. Willie Cream. The name seemed familiar somehow. I seemed to
have heard it or seen it in the papers somewhere. But it eluded me.
     'Adela  Cream writes mystery stories. Are you a fan  of  hers?  No?
Well,  start  boning  up  on them, directly you arrive,  because  every
little helps. I've bought a complete set. They're very good.'
     'I shall be delighted to run an eye over her material,' I said, for
I  am  what they call an a-something of novels of suspense. Aficionado,
would that be it? 'I can always do with another corpse or two. We  have
established,  then, that among the inmates are this Mrs Cream  and  her
son Wilbert. Who are the other three?'
     'Well, there's Lady Wickham's daughter Roberta.'
     I started violently, as if some unseen hand had goosed me.
     'What! Bobbie Wickham? Oh, my gosh!'
     'Why the agitation? Do you know her?'
     'You bet I know her.'
     'I  begin  to  see  Is she one of the gaggle of girls  you've  been
engaged to?'
     'Not  actually,  no.  We were never engaged. But  that  was  merely
because she wouldn't meet me half-way.'
     'Turned you down, did she?'
     'Yes, thank goodness '
     'Why thank goodness? She's a one-girl beauty chorus '
     'She doesn't try the eyes, I agree.'
     'A pippin, if ever there was one.'
     'Very true, but is being a pippin everything? What price the soul?'
     'Isn't her soul like mother makes?'
     'Far from it. Much below par. What I could tell you ... But no, let
it go Painful subj.'
     I had been about to mention fifty-seven or so of the reasons why the
prudent  operator, if he valued his peace of mind, deemed  it  best  to
stay  well  away  from  the  red-headed menace  under  advisement,  but
realized  that  at  a  moment when I was wanting to  get  back  to  the
marmalade it would occupy too much time. It will be enough to say  that
I  had long since come out of the ether and was fully cognizant of  the
fact  that  in declining to fall in with my suggestion that  we  should
start rounding up clergymen and bridesmaids, the beasel had rendered me
a signal service, and I'll tell you why.
     Aunt  Dahlia,  describing this young blister as a  one-girl  beauty
chorus,  had called her shots perfectly correctly. Her outer crust  was
indeed  of a nature to cause those beholding it to rock back  on  their
heels  with a startled whistle But while equipped with eyes  like  twin
stars,  hair  ruddier than the cherry, oomph, espieglene  and  all  the
fixings,  B.  Wickham had also the disposition and general  outlook  on
life of a ticking bomb In her society you always had the uneasy feeling
that something was likely to go off at any moment with a pop. You never
knew  what she was going to do next or into what murky depths  of  soup
she would carelessly plunge you.
     'Miss  Wickham, sir,' Jeeves had once said to me warningly  at  the
time  when  the  fever  was at its height, 'lacks  seriousness  She  is
volatile and frivolous. I would always hesitate to recommend as a  life
partner a young lady with quite such a vivid shade of red hair.'
     His judgment was sound I have already mentioned how with her subtle
wiles  this  girl  had induced me to sneak into Sir Roderick  Glossop's
sleeping  apartment  and  apply the darning  needle  to  his  hot-water
bottle,  and  that was comparatively mild going for  her.  In  a  word,
Roberta,  daughter  of  the  late Sir  Cuthbert  and  Lady  Wickham  of
Skeldings Hall, Herts, was pure dynamite and better kept at a  distance
by  all  those who aimed at leading the peaceful life The  prospect  of
being  immured  with her in the same house, with all the  facilities  a
country-house affords an enterprising girl for landing her nearest  and
dearest in the mulligatawny, made me singularly dubious about the shape
of things to come.
     And  I  was  tottering  under  this  blow  when  the  old  relative
administered another, and it was a haymaker.
     'And there's Aubrey Upjohn and his stepdaughter Phyllis Mills,' she
said That's the lot What's the matter with you? Got asthma?'
     I  took  her to be alluding to the sharp gasp which had escaped  my
lips, and I must confess that it had come out not unlike the last words
of a dying duck. But I felt perfectly justified in gasping A weaker man
would  have howled like a banshee. There floated into my mind something
Kipper Herring had once said to me. 'You know, Bertie,' he had said, in
philosophical mood, 'we have much to be thankful for in  this  life  of
ours,  you  and  I  However rough the going, there  is  one  sustaining
thought  to  which  we can hold. The storm clouds  may  lower  and  the
horizon grow dark, we may get a nail in our shoe and be caught  in  the
rain  without an umbrella, we may come down to breakfast and find  that
someone  else  has  taken  the brown egg, but  at  least  we  have  the
consolation  of  knowing  that we shall never see  Aubrey  Gawd-help-us
Upjohn  again. Always remember this in times of despondency,' he  said,
and I always had. And now here the bounder was, bobbing up right in  my
midst.  Enough  to  make the stoutest-hearted go  into  his  dying-duck
     'Aubrey Upjohn?' I quavered. 'You mean my Aubrey Upjohn?'
     'That's the one. Soon after you made your escape from his chain gang
he  married  Jane  Mills, a friend of mine with a  colossal  amount  of
money.  She  died,  leaving a daughter. I'm the  daughter's  godmother.
Upjohn's retired now and going in for politics. The hot tip is that the
boys  in  the  back  room  are going to run  him  as  the  Conservative
candidate  in  the  Market Snodsbury division at the next  by-election.
What a thrill it'll be for you, meeting him again. Or does the prospect
scare you?'
     'Certainly not. We Woosters are intrepid. But what on earth did you
invite him to Brinkley for?'
     'I didn't. I only wanted Phyllis, but he came along, too.'
     'You should have bunged him out.'
     'I hadn't the heart to.'
     'Weak, very weak.'
     'Besides,  I needed him in my business. He's going to  present  the
prizes  at Market Snodsbury Grammar School. We've been caught short  as
usual,  and somebody has got to make a speech on ideals and  the  great
world  outside to those blasted boys, so he fits in nicely.  I  believe
he's  a very fine speaker. His only trouble is that he's stymied unless
he  has his speech with him and can read it. Calls it referring to  his
notes. Phyllis told me that. She types the stuff for him.'
     'A  thoroughly low trick,' I said severely. 'Even I, who have never
soared  above the Yeoman's Wedding Song at a village concert,  wouldn't
have  the  crust  to  face my public unless I'd taken  the  trouble  to
memorize the words, though actually with the Yeoman's Wedding  Song  it
is  possible to get by quite comfortably by keeping singing "Ding dong,
ding dong, ding dong, I hurry along". In short...'
     I  would have spoken further, but at this point, after urging me to
put a sock in it, and giving me a kindly word of warning not to step on
any banana skins, she rang off.

     I  came  away  from the telephone on what practically  amounted  to
leaden  feet. Here, I was feeling, was a nice bit of box fruit.  Bobbie
Wickham, with her tendency to stir things up and with each new  day  to
discover some new way of staggering civilization, would by herself have
been bad enough. Add Aubrey Upjohn, and the mixture became too rich.  I
don't  know  if Kipper, when I rejoined him, noticed that my  brow  was
sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought, as I have heard Jeeves put
it.  Probably not, for he was tucking into toast and marmalade  at  the
moment,  but  it  was. As had happened so often  in  the  past,  I  was
conscious of an impending doom. Exactly what form this would take I was
of  course unable to say - it might be one thing or it might be another
-  but a voice seemed to whisper to me that somehow at some not distant
date Bertram was slated to get it in the gizzard.
     'That was Aunt Dahlia, Kipper,' I said.
     'Bless  her jolly old heart,' he responded. 'One of the very  best,
and  you  can  quote me as saying so. I shall never forget those  happy
days at Brinkley, and shall be glad at any time that suits her to cadge
another invitation. Is she up in London?'
     'Till this afternoon.'
     'We fill her to the brim with rich foods, of course?'
     'No,  she's  got  a  lunch date. She's browsing with  Sir  Roderick
Glossop, the loony-doctor. You don't know him, do you?'
     'Only from hearing you speak of him. A tough egg, I gather.'
     'One of the toughest.'
     'He was the chap, wasn't he, who found the twenty-four cats in your
     'Twenty-three,' I corrected. I like to get things right. 'They were
not  my  cats. They had been deposited there by my Cousins  Claude  and
Eustace.  But  I  found them difficult to explain. He's  a  rather  bad
listener. I hope I shan't find him at Brinkley, too.'
     'Are you going to Brinkley?'
     'Tomorrow afternoon.'
     'You'll enjoy that.'
     'Well, shall I? The point is a very moot one.'
     'You're crazy. Think of Anatole. Those dinners of his! Is the  name
of  the  Peri  who stood disconsolate at the gate of Eden  familiar  to
     'I've heard Jeeves mention her.'
     'Well, that's how I feel when I remember Anatole's dinners. When  I
reflect that every night he's dishing them up and I'm not there, I come
within a very little of breaking down. What gives you the idea that you
won't enjoy yourself? Brinkley Court's an earthly Paradise.'
     'In  many  respects,  yes, but life there at  the  moment  has  its
drawbacks.  There's  far too much of that where-every-prospect-pleases-
and-only-man-is-vile  stuff buzzing around for my  taste.  Who  do  you
think is staying at the old dosshouse? Aubrey Upjohn.'
     It  was  plain  that  I had shaken him. His eyes  widened,  and  an
astonished piece of toast fell from his grasp.
     'Old Upjohn? You're kidding.'
     'No, he's there. Himself, not a picture. And it seems only yesterday
that  you  were buoying me up by telling me I'd never have to  see  him
again. The storm clouds may lower, you said, if you recollect...'
     'But how does he come to be at Brinkley?'
     'Precisely  what  I  asked  the  aged  relative,  and  she  had  an
explanation that seems to cover the facts. Apparently after we took our
eye off him he married a friend of hers, one Jane Mills, and acquired a
stepdaughter,  Phyllis  Mills,  whose godmother  Aunt  Dahlia  is.  The
ancestor invited the Mills girl to Brinkley, and Upjohn came along  for
the ride.'
     'I see. I don't wonder you're trembling like a leaf.'
     'Not like a leaf, exactly, but... yes, I think you might describe me
as trembling. One remembers that fishy eye of his.'
     'And the wide, bare upper lip. It won't be pleasant having to  gaze
at those across the dinner table. Still, you'll like Phyllis.'
     'Do you know her?'
     'We  met  out in Switzerland last Christmas. Slap her on the  back,
will  you, and give her my regards. Nice girl, though goofy. She  never
told me she was related to Upjohn.'
     'She would naturally keep a thing like that dark.'
     'Yes, one sees that. Just as one would have tried to keep it dark if
one had been mixed up in any way with Palmer the poisoner. What ghastly
garbage  that  was  he  used to fling at us when we  were  serving  our
sentence  at  Malvern House. Remember the sausages on Sunday?  And  the
boiled mutton with caper sauce?'
     'And  the margarine. Recalling this last, it's going to be a strain
having  to  sit  and watch him getting outside pounds of  best  country
butter.  Oh,  Jeeves,' I said, as he shimmered in to clear  the  table,
'you  never went to a preparatory school on the south coast of England,
did you?'
     'No, sir, I was privately educated.'
     'Ah, then you wouldn't understand. Mr Herring and I were discussing
our  former  prep-school beak, Aubrey Upjohn, MA. By the  way,  Kipper,
Aunt  Dahlia  was  telling me something about him which  I  never  knew
before and which ought to expose him to the odium of all thinking  men.
You  remember those powerful end-of-term addresses he used to  make  to
us?  Well,  he couldn't have made them if he hadn't had the  stuff  all
typed out in his grasp, so that he could read it. Without his notes, as
he  calls them, he's a spent force. Revolting, that, Jeeves, don't  you
     'Many orators are, I believe, similarly handicapped, sir.'
     'Too tolerant, Jeeves, far too tolerant. You must guard against this
lax outlook. However, the reason I mention Upjohn to you is that he has
come  back into my life, or will be so coming in about two ticks.  He's
staying at Brinkley, and I shall be going there tomorrow. That was Aunt
Dahlia  on  the phone just now, and she demands my presence.  Will  you
pack a few necessaries in a suitcase or so?'
     'Very good, sir.'
     'When are you leaving on your Herne Bay jaunt?'
     'I  was  thinking of taking a train this morning, sir, but  if  you
would prefer that I remained till tomorrow -'
     'No, no, perfectly all right. Start as soon as you like. What's the
joke?'  I  asked,  as the door closed behind him, for I  observed  that
Kipper  was chuckling softly. Not an easy thing to do, of course,  when
your mouth's full of toast and marmalade, but he was doing it.
     'I was thinking of Upjohn,' he said.
     I  was amazed. It seemed incredible to me that anyone who had  done
time  at  Malvern  House,  Bramley-on-Sea,  could  chuckle,  softly  or
otherwise,  when letting the mind dwell on that outstanding menace.  It
was like laughing lightly while contemplating one of those horrors from
outer  space  which are so much with us at the moment  on  the  motion-
picture screen.
     'I envy you, Bertie,' he went on, continuing to chuckle. 'You have a
wonderful  treat in store. You are going to be present at the breakfast
table  when  Upjohn opens his copy of this week's Thursday  Review  and
starts  to  skim  through  the pages devoted  to  comments  on  current
literature. I should explain that among the books that recently arrived
at  the  office  was  a  slim  volume from his  pen  dealing  with  the
Preparatory  School  and  giving  it  an  enthusiastic  build-up.   The
formative years which we spent there, he said, were the happiest of our
     'He  little knew that his brain child would be given to one of  the
old  lags of Malvern House to review. I'll tell you something,  Bertie,
that every young man ought to know. Never be a stinker, because if  you
are,  though you may flourish for a time like a green bay tree,  sooner
or later retribution will overtake you. I need scarcely tell you that I
ripped the stuffing out of the beastly little brochure. The thought  of
those  sausages  on  Sunday filled me with  the  righteous  fury  of  a
     'Of a who?'
     'Nobody you know. Before your time. I seemed inspired. Normally,  I
suppose,  a book like that would get me a line and a half in the  Other
Recent  Publications  column,  but I  gave  it  six  hundred  words  of
impassioned prose. How extraordinarily fortunate you are  to  be  in  a
position to watch his face as he reads them.'
     'How do you know he'll read them?'
     'He's   a  subscriber.  There  was  a  letter  from  him  on   the
correspondence page a week or two ago, in which he specifically  stated
that he had been one for years.'
     'Did you sign the thing?'
     'No. Ye Ed is not keen on underlings advertising their names.'
     'And it was really hot stuff?'
     'Red  hot.  So  eye him closely at the breakfast  table.  Mark  his
reaction. I confidently expect the blush of shame and remorse to mantle
his cheek.'
     'The only catch is that 1 don't come down to breakfast when I'm  at
Brinkley. Still, I suppose I could make a special effort.'
     'Do so. You will find it well worth while,' said Kipper and shortly
afterwards popped off to resume the earning of the weekly envelope.
     He  had been gone about twenty minutes when Jeeves came in,  bowler
hat  in  hand, to say goodbye. A solemn moment, taxing our self-control
to  the utmost. However, we both kept the upper lip stiff, and after we
had  kidded back and forth for a while he started to withdraw.  He  had
reached  the  door when it suddenly occurred to me that he  might  have
inside  information about this Wilbert Cream of whom  Aunt  Dahlia  had
spoken. I have generally found that he knows everything about everyone.
     'Oh, Jeeves,' I said. 'Half a jiffy.'
     'Something  I want to ask you. It seems that among my fellow-guests
at  Brinkley will be a Mrs Homer Cream, wife of an American big  butter
and  egg  man, and her son Wilbert, commonly known as Willie,  and  the
name Willie Cream seemed somehow to touch a chord. Rightly or wrongly I
associate  it  with  trips  we have taken to  New  York,  but  in  what
connection I haven't the vaguest. Does it ring a bell with you?'
     'Why  yes,  sir.  References to the gentleman are frequent  in  the
tabloid newspapers of New York, notably in the column conducted  by  Mr
Walter  Winchell.  He is generally alluded to under  the  sobriquet  of
Broadway Willie.'
     'Of course! It all comes back to me. He's what they call a playboy.'
     'Precisely, sir. Notorious for his escapades.'
     'Yes, I've got him placed now. He's the fellow who likes to let off
stink  bombs  in  night clubs, which rather falls  under  the  head  of
carrying  coals  to Newcastle and seldom cashes a cheque  at  his  bank
without producing a gat and saying, "This is a stick-up."'
     'And...  No,  sir, I regret that it has for the moment  escaped  my
     'What has?'
     'Some  other  little something, sir, that I was told  regarding  Mr
Cream. Should I recall it, I will communicate with you.'
     'Yes, do. One wants the complete picture. Oh, gosh!'
     'Nothing,  Jeeves. Just a thought has floated  into  my  mind.  All
right, push off, or you'll miss your train. Good luck to your shrimping
     I'll tell you what the thought was that had floated. I have already
indicated  my  qualms at the prospect of being cooped up  in  the  same
house  with Bobbie Wickham and Aubrey Upjohn, for who could  tell  what
the harvest might be? If in addition to these two heavies I was also to
be cheek by jowl with a New York playboy apparently afflicted with bats
in  the belfry, it began to look as if this visit would prove too  much
for  Bertram's frail strength, and for an instant I toyed with the idea
of sending a telegram of regret and oiling out.
     Then I remembered Anatole's cooking and was strong again. Nobody who
has  once  tasted them would wantonly deprive himself of that  wizard's
smoked  offerings.  Whatever spiritual agonies  I  might  be  about  to
undergo  at Brinkley Court, Market Snodsbury, near Droitwich, residence
there  would at least put me several Supremes de fois gras au champagne
and Mignonettes de Poulet Petit Duc ahead of the game. Nevertheless, it
would  be  paltering with the truth to say that I was at my ease  as  I
thought  of what lay before me in darkest Worcestershire, and the  hand
that lit the after-breakfast gasper shook quite a bit.
     At this moment of nervous tension the telephone suddenly gave tongue
again, causing me to skip like the high hills, as if the Last Trump had
sounded. I went to the instrument all of a twitter.
     Some species of butler appeared to be at the other end.
     'Mr Wooster?'
     'On the spot.'
     'Good  morning,  sir. Her ladyship wishes to  speak  to  you.  Lady
Wickham, sir. Here is Mr Wooster, m'lady.'
     And Bobbie's mother came on the air.
     I should have mentioned, by the way, that during the above exchange
of  ideas  with  the  butler I had been aware of  a  distant  sound  of
sobbing, like background music, and it now became apparent that it  was
from  the  larynx of the relict of the late Sir Cuthbert  that  it  was
proceeding.  There was a short intermission before she  got  the  vocal
cords working, and while I was waiting for her to start the dialogue  I
found  myself  wrestling with two problems that presented themselves  -
the  first, What on earth is this woman ringing me up for?, the second,
Having got the number, why does she sob?
     It  was Problem A that puzzled me particularly, for ever since that
hot-water-bottle episode my relations with this parent of Bobbie's  had
been  on  the  strained side. It was, indeed, an open  secret  that  my
standing  with  her was practically that of a rat of the underworld.  I
had  had this from Bobbie, whose impersonation of her mother discussing
me  with sympathetic cronies had been exceptionally vivid, and  I  must
confess that I wasn't altogether surprised. No hostess, I mean to  say,
extending her hospitality to a friend of her daughter's, likes to  have
the  young  visitor  going about the place puncturing  people's  water-
bottles  and  leaving at three in the morning without stopping  to  say
good-bye. Yes, I could see her side of the thing all right, and I found
it  extraordinary that she should be seeking me out on the telephone in
this  fashion.  Feeling as she did so allergic to Bertram,  I  wouldn't
have thought she'd have phoned me with a ten-foot pole.
     However, there beyond a question she was.
     'Mr Wooster?'
     'Oh, hullo, Lady Wickham.'
     'Are you there?'
     I  put  her  straight on this point, and she took time out  to  sob
again.  She  then  spoke  in  a hoarse, throaty  voice,  like  Tallulah
Bankhead after swallowing a fish bone the wrong way.
     'Is this awful news true?'
     'Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear!'
     'I don't quite follow.'
     'In this morning's Times.'
     I'm  pretty shrewd, and it seemed to me, reading between the lines,
that there must have been something in the issue of The Times published
that  morning that for some reason had upset her, though why she should
have  chosen  me  to  tell her troubles to was a mystery  not  easy  to
fathom.  I  was about to institute inquiries in the hope of spearing  a
solution, when in addition to sobbing she started laughing in a hyaena-
esque  manner,  making it clear to my trained ear that she  was  having
hysterics. And before I could speak there was a dull thud suggestive of
some  solid  body  falling to earth, I knew not  where,  and  when  the
dialogue was resumed, I found that the butler had put himself on as  an
     'Mr Wooster?'
     'Still here.'
     'I regret to say that her ladyship has fainted.'
     'It was she I heard going bump?'
     'Precisely, sir. Thank you very much, sir. Good-bye.'
     He  replaced the receiver and went about his domestic duties, these
no  doubt  including the loosening of the stricken woman's corsets  and
burning  feathers under her nose, leaving me to chew on  the  situation
without further bulletins from the front.
     It  seemed to me that the thing to do here was to get hold  of  The
Times and see what it had to offer in the way of enlightenment. It's  a
paper  I  don't  often  look at, preferring for breakfast  reading  the
Mirror  and  the  Mail, but Jeeves takes it in and I have  occasionally
borrowed his copy with a view to having a shot at the crossword puzzle.
It  struck me as a possibility that he might have left today's issue in
the kitchen, and so it proved. I came back with it, lowered myself into
a  chair,  lit another cigarette and proceeded to cast an  eye  on  its
     At a cursory glance what might be called swoon material appeared to
be  totally absent from its columns. The Duchess of something had  been
opening a bazaar at Wimbledon in aid of a deserving charity, there  was
an  article  on salmon fishing on the Wye, and a Cabinet  Minister  had
made a speech about conditions in the cotton industry, but I could  see
nothing  in these items to induce a loss of consciousness. Nor  did  it
seem  probable that a woman would have passed out cold on reading  that
Herbert Robinson (26) of Grove Road, Ponder's End, had been jugged  for
stealing a pair of green and yellow checked trousers. I turned  to  the
cricket  news.  Had  some friend of hers failed  to  score  in  one  of
yesterday's county matches owing to a doubtful l.b.w. decision?
     It  was  just after I had run the eye down the Births and Marriages
that  I happened to look at the Engagements, and a moment later  I  was
shooting  out of my chair as if a spike had come through its  cushioned
seat and penetrated the fleshy parts.
     'Jeeves!' I yelled, and then remembered that he had long since gone
with the wind. A bitter thought, for if ever there was an occasion when
his advice and counsel were of the essence, this occ. was that occ. The
best  I  could do, tackling it solo, was to utter a hollow g. and  bury
the  face in the hands. And though I seem to hear my public tut-tutting
in  disapproval  of  such neurotic behaviour, I think  the  verdict  of
history will be that the paragraph on which my gaze had rested was more
than enough to excuse a spot of face-burying.
     It ran as follows:

     The  engagement  is  announced between Bertram Wilberforce  Wooster  of
Berkeley  Mansions, W.1, and Roberta, daughter of the late Sir Cuthbert
Wickham and Lady Wickham of Skeldings Hall, Herts.

     Well, as I was saying, I had several times when under the influence
of  her  oomph taken up with Roberta Wickham the idea of such a merger,
but - and here is the point I would stress - I could have sworn that on
each  occasion  she had declined to co-operate, and that  in  a  manner
which left no room for doubt regarding her views. I mean to say, when a
girl, offered a good man's heart, laughs like a bursting paper bag  and
tells him not to be a silly ass, the good man is entitled, I think,  to
assume  that  the whole thing is off. In the light of this announcement
in  The  Times  I  could only suppose that on one of  these  occasions,
unnoticed  by me possibly because my attention had wandered,  she  must
have  drooped  her  eyes and come through with a  murmured  'Right-ho.'
Though when this could have happened, I hadn't the foggiest.
     It was, accordingly, as you will readily imagine, a Bertram Wooster
with  dark circles under his eyes and a brain threatening to come apart
at  the seams who braked the sports model on the following afternoon at
the front door of Brinkley Court - a Bertram, in a word, who was asking
himself  what the dickens all this was about. Non-plussed more or  less
sums  it up. It seemed to me that my first move must be to get hold  of
my  fiancee  and see if she had anything to contribute in  the  way  of
clarifying the situation.
     As  is  generally the case at country-houses on a fine  day,  there
seemed  to be nobody around. In due season the gang would assemble  for
tea  on the lawn, but at the moment I could spot no friendly native  to
tell  me  where  I might find Bobbie. I proceeded, therefore,  to  roam
hither  and  thither about the grounds and messuages  in  the  hope  of
locating her, wishing that I had a couple of bloodhounds to aid  me  in
my  task,  for the Travers demesne is a spacious one and  there  was  a
considerable  amount of sunshine above, though none,  I  need  scarcely
mention, in my heart.
     And  I was tooling along a mossy path with the brow a bit wet  with
honest  sweat,  when  there came to my ears the unmistakable  sound  of
somebody reading poetry to someone, and the next moment I found  myself
confronting a mixed twosome who had dropped anchor beneath a shady tree
in what is known as a leafy glade.
     They  had scarcely swum into my ken when the welkin started ringing
like billy-o. This was due to the barking of a small dachshund, who now
advanced on me with the apparent intention of seeing the colour  of  my
insides.  Milder  counsels,  however, prevailed,  and  on  arriving  at
journey's  end he merely rose like a rocket and licked me on the  chin,
seeming  to convey the impression that in Bertram Wooster he had  found
just  what  the  doctor ordered. I have noticed  before  in  dogs  this
tendency  to form a beautiful friendship immediately on getting  within
sniffing  distance  of  me.  Something  to  do,  no  doubt,  with   the
characteristic Wooster smell, which for some reason seems to  speak  to
their deeps. I tickled him behind the right ear and scratched the  base
of  his  spine  for a moment or two: then, these civilities  concluded,
switched my attention to the poetry group.
     It was the male half of the sketch who had been doing the reading, a
willowy  bird  of about the tonnage and general aspect of  David  Niven
with  ginger  hair and a small moustache. As he was unquestionably  not
Aubrey  Upjohn,  I  assumed that this must  be  Willie  Cream,  and  it
surprised  me  a  bit  to find him dishing out verse.  One  would  have
expected  a New York playboy, widely publicized as one of the lads,  to
confine himself to prose, and dirty prose, at that. But no doubt  these
playboys have their softer moments.
     His companion was a well-stacked young featherweight, who could  be
none  other than the Phyllis Mills of whom Kipper had spoken. Nice  but
goofy,  Kipper  had said, and a glance told me that he was  right.  One
learns,  as one goes through life, to spot goofiness in the  other  sex
with  an  unerring  eye, and this exhibit had a sort  of  mild,  Soul's
Awakening kind of expression which made it abundantly clear that, while
not  a  super-goof like some of the female goofs I'd met, she was quite
goofy  enough to be going on with. Her whole aspect was that of a  girl
who at the drop of a hat would start talking baby talk.
     This  she  now  proceeded to do, asking me if I didn't  think  that
Poppet,  the  dachshund, was a sweet little doggie. I  assented  rather
austerely, for I prefer the shorter form more generally used,  and  she
said she supposed I was Mrs Travers's nephew Bertie Wooster, which,  as
we knew, was substantially the case.
     'I heard you were expected today. I'm Phyllis Mills,' she said, and
I said I had divined as much and that Kipper had told me to slap her on
the back and give her his best, and she said, 'Oh, Reggie Herring? He's
a  sweetie-pie,  isn't he?' and I agreed that Kipper  was  one  of  the
sweetie-pies  and  not the worst of them, and she said,  'Yes,  he's  a
     This  duologue had, of course, left Wilbert Cream a bit out of  it,
just  painted  on the backdrop as you might say, and for some  moments,
knitting  his brow, plucking at his moustache, shuffling the  feet  and
allowing the limbs to twitch, he had been giving abundant evidence that
in  his  opinion three was a crowd and that what the leafy glade needed
to  make it all that a leafy glade should be was a complete absence  of
Woosters. Taking advantage of a lull in the conversation, he said:
     'Are you looking for someone?'
     I replied that I was looking for Bobbie Wickham.
     'I'd go on looking, if I were you. Bound to find her somewhere.'
     'Bobbie?' said Phyllis Mills. 'She's down at the lake, fishing.'
     'Then what you do,' said Wilbert Cream, brightening, 'is follow this
path,  bend right, sharp left, bend right again and there you are.  You
can't miss. Start at once, is my advice.'
     I  must  say I felt that, related as I was by ties of blood,  in  a
manner  of  speaking, to this leafy glade, it was  a  bit  thick  being
practically bounced from it by a mere visitor, but Aunt Dahlia had made
it  clear that the Cream family must not be thwarted or put upon in any
way, so I did as he suggested, picking up the feet without anything  in
the  nature  of back chat. As I receded, I could hear in  my  rear  the
poetry breaking out again.
     The  lake at Brinkley calls itself a lake, but when all the returns
are  in it's really more a sort of young pond. Big enough to mess about
on  in a punt, though, and for the use of those wishing to punt a boat-
house has been provided with a small pier or landing stage attached  to
it.  On  this, rod in hand, Bobbie was seated, and it was with  me  the
work of an instant to race up and breathe down the back of her neck.
     'Hey!' I said.
     'Hey  to  you with knobs on,' she replied. 'Oh, hullo, Bertie.  You
     'You never spoke a truer word. If you can spare me a moment of your
valuable time, young Roberta -'
     'Half a second, I think I've got a bite. No, false alarm. What were
you saying?'
     'I was saying -'
     'Oh, by the way, I heard from Mother this morning.'
     'I heard from her yesterday morning.'
     'I  was  kind  of expecting you would. You saw that  thing  in  The
     'With the naked eye.'
     'Puzzled you for a moment, perhaps?'
     'For several moments.'
     'Well,  I'll  tell you all about that. The idea came  to  me  in  a
     'You mean it was you who shoved that communique in the journal?'
     'Of course.'
     'Why?' I said, getting right down to it in my direct way.
     I thought I had her there, but no.
     'I was paving the way for Reggie.'
     I passed a hand over my fevered brow.
     'Something seems to have gone wrong with my usually keen hearing,' I
said.  'It sounds just as if you were saying "I was paving the way  for
     'I  was. I was making his path straight. Softening up Mother on his
     I passed another hand over my f.b.
     'Now you seem to be saying "Softening up Mother on his behalf."'
     'That's  what I am saying. It's perfectly simple. I'll  put  it  in
words of one syllable for you. I love Reggie. Reggie loves me.'
     'Reggie,' of course, is two syllables, but I let it go.
     'Reggie who?'
     'Reggie Herring.'
     I was amazed.
     'You mean old Kipper?'
     'I wish you wouldn't call him Kipper.'
     'I  always  have. Dash it,' I said with some warmth, 'if  a  fellow
shows up at a private school on the south coast of England with a  name
like  Herring, what else do you expect his playmates to call  him?  But
how do you mean you love him and he loves you? You've never met him.'
     'Of  course  I've met him. We were in the same hotel in Switzerland
last  Christmas. I taught him to ski,' she said, a dreamy  look  coming
into  her  twin starlikes. 'I shall never forget the day I  helped  him
unscramble  himself after he had taken a toss on the beginners'  slope.
He  had  both  legs wrapped round his neck. I think that is  when  love
dawned. My heart melted as I sorted him out.'
     'You didn't laugh?'
     'Of course I didn't laugh. I was all sympathy and understanding.'
     For  the first time the thing began to seem plausible to me. Bobbie
is a fun-loving girl, and the memory of her reaction when in the garden
at  Skeldings  I had once stepped on the teeth of a rake  and  had  the
handle  jump up and hit me on the tip of the nose was still  laid  away
among  my  souvenirs. She had been convulsed with mirth. If, then,  she
had  refrained  from guffawing when confronted with  the  spectacle  of
Reginald  Herring with both legs wrapped round his neck,  her  emotions
must have been very deeply involved.
     'Well,  all right,' I said. 'I accept your statement that  you  and
Kipper are that way. But why, that being so, did you blazon it forth to
the  world, if blazoning forth is the expression I want, that you  were
engaged to me?'
     'I told you. It was to soften Mother up.'
     'Which sounded to me like delirium straight from the sick bed.'
     'You don't get the subtle strategy?'
     'Not by several parasangs.'
     'Well, you know how you stand with Mother.'
     'Our relations are a bit distant.'
     'She  shudders  at the mention of your name. So I  thought  if  she
thought I was going to marry you and then found I wasn't, she'd  be  so
thankful for the merciful escape I'd had that she'd be ready to  accept
anyone  as a son-in-law, even someone like Reggie, who, though a wonder
man,  hasn't got his name in Debrett and isn't any too hot financially.
Mother's idea of a mate for me has always been a well-to-do millionaire
or a Duke with a large private income. Now do you follow?'
     'Oh  yes,  I follow all right. You've been doing what Jeeves  does,
studying  the  psychology of the individual. But  do  you  think  it'll
     'Bound to. Let's take a parallel case. Suppose your Aunt Dahlia read
in the paper one morning that you were going to be shot at sunrise.'
     'I couldn't be. I'm never up so early.'
     'But  suppose she did? She'd be pretty worked up about it, wouldn't
     'Extremely, one imagines, for she loves me dearly. I'm  not  saying
her  manner  toward  me  doesn't verge at  times  on  the  brusque.  In
childhood days she would occasionally clump me on the side of the head,
and since I have grown to riper years she has more than once begged  me
to  tie  a brick around my neck and go and drown myself in the pond  in
the  kitchen garden. Nevertheless, she loves her Bertram,  and  if  she
heard I was to be shot at sunrise, she would, as you say, be as sore as
a gum-boil. But why? What's that got to do with it?'
     'Well, suppose she then found out it was all a mistake and it wasn't
you but somebody else who was to face the firing squad. That would make
her happy, wouldn't it?'
     'One can picture her dancing all over the place on the tips of  her
     'Exactly.  She'd be so all over you that nothing you did  would  be
wrong  in  her eyes. Whatever you wanted to do would be all right  with
her. Go to it, she would say. And that's how Mother will feel when  she
learns that I'm not marrying you after all. She'll be so relieved.'
     I agreed that the relief would, of course, be stupendous.
     'But you'll be giving her the inside facts in a day or two?' I said,
for  I  was  anxious to have assurance on this point.  A  man  with  an
Engagement notice in The Times hanging over him cannot but feel uneasy.
     'Well, call it a week or two. No sense in rushing things.'
     'You want me to sink in?'
     'That's the idea.'
     'And meanwhile what's the drill? Do I kiss you a good deal from time
to time?'
     'No, you don't.'
     'Right-ho. I just want to know where I stand.'
     'An occasional passionate glance will be ample.'
     'It  shall be attended to. Well, I'm delighted about you and Kipper
or,  as you would prefer to say, Reggie. There's nobody I'd rather  see
you centre-aisle-ing with.'
     'It's very sporting of you to take it like this.'
     'Don't give it a thought.'
     'I'm awfully fond of you, Bertie.'
     'Me, too, of you.'
     'But I can't marry everybody, can I?'
     'I wouldn't even try. Well, now that we've got all that straight, I
suppose I'd better be going and saying "Come aboard" to Aunt Dahlia.'
     'What's the time?'
     'Close on five.'
     'I  must run like a hare. I'm supposed to be presiding at  the  tea
     'You? Why you?'
     'Your  aunt's  not  here. She found a telegram when  she  got  back
yesterday saying that her son Bonzo was sick of a fever at his  school,
and  dashed off to be with him. She asked me to deputy-hostess for  her
till  her  return, but I shan't be able to for the next few days.  I've
got to dash back to Mother. Ever since she saw that thing in The Times,
she's  been wiring me every hour on the hour to come home for a  round-
table conference. What's a guffin?'
     'I don't know. Why?'
     'That's  what  she  calls you in her latest 'gram.  Quote.  "Cannot
understand  how  you can be contemplating marrying that guffin."  Close
quote.  I suppose it's more of less the same as a gaby, which  was  how
you figured in one of her earlier communications.'
     'That sounds promising.'
     'Yes, I think the thing's in the bag. After you, Reggie will come to
her  like rare and refreshing fruit. She'll lay down the red carpet for
     And  with a brief 'Whoopee!' she shot off in the direction  of  the
house  at forty or so m.p.h. I followed more slowly, for she had  given
me much food for thought, and I was musing.
     Strange,  I  was feeling, this strong pro-Kipper sentiment  in  the
Wickham  bosom. I mean, consider the facts. What with that  espieglerie
of  hers, which was tops, she had been pretty extensively wooed in  one
quarter and another for years, and no business had resulted, so that it
was  generally assumed that only something extra special in the way  of
suitors  would meet her specifications and that whoever eventually  got
his  nose  under  the wire would be a king among men  and  pretty  warm
stuff. And she had gone and signed up with Kipper Herring.
     Mind you, I'm not saying a word against old Kipper. The salt of the
earth.  But  nobody could have called him a knock-out  in  the  way  of
looks. Having gone in a lot for boxing from his earliest years, he  had
the  cauliflower  ear  of which I had spoken  to  Aunt  Dahlia  and  in
addition to this a nose which some hidden hand had knocked slightly out
of  the  straight. He would, in short, have been an unsafe  entrant  to
have backed in a beauty contest, even if the only other competitors had
been Boris Karloff, King Kong and Oofy Prosser of the Drones.
     But  then,  of course, one had to remind oneself that looks  aren't
everything. A cauliflower ear can hide a heart of gold, as in  Kipper's
case  it  did,  his being about as gold as they come. His  brain,  too,
might  have  helped to do the trick. You can't hold down  an  editorial
post  on  an  important London weekly paper without being  fairly  well
fixed  with the little grey cells, and girls admire that sort of thing.
And one had to remember that most of the bimbos to whom Roberta Wickham
had  been  giving the bird through the years had been of  the  huntin',
shootin' and fishin' type, fellows who had more or less shot their bolt
after  saying  'Eh, what?' and slapping their leg with a hunting  crop.
Kipper must have come as a nice change.
     Still, the whole thing provided, as I say, food for thought, and  I
was  in  what  is  called a reverie as I made my way to  the  house,  a
reverie  so profound that no turf accountant would have given  any  but
the  shortest  odds against my sooner or later bumping into  something.
And  this, to cut a long story s., I did. It might have been a tree,  a
bush  or  a  rustic  seat. In actual fact it turned out  to  be  Aubrey
Upjohn.  I came on him round a comer and rammed him squarely  before  I
could  put the brakes on. I clutched him round the neck and he clutched
me  about  the  middle, and for some moments we tottered  to  and  fro,
linked in a close embrace. Then, the mists clearing from my eyes, I saw
who it was that I had been treading the measure with.
     Seeing him steadily and seeing him whole, as I have heard Jeeves put
it,  I was immediately struck by the change that had taken place in his
appearance  since  those get-togethers in his study at  Malvern  House,
Bramley-on-Sea, when with a sinking heart I had watched him  reach  for
the  whangee  and start limbering up the shoulder muscles  with  a  few
trial  swings.  At  that  period of our acquaintance  he  had  been  an
upstanding  old gentleman about eight feet six in height  with  burning
eyes,  foam-flecked lips and flame coming out of both nostrils. He  had
now  shrunk  to a modest five foot seven or there-abouts, and  I  could
have felled him with a single blow.
     Not that I did, of course. But I regarded him without a trace of the
old trepidation. It seemed incredible that I could ever have considered
this human shrimp a danger to pedestrians and traffic.
     I  think this was partly due to the fact that at some point in  the
fifteen years since our last meeting he had grown a moustache.  In  the
Malvern  House  epoch what had always struck a chill into  the  plastic
mind had been his wide, bare upper lip, a most unpleasant spectacle  to
behold,  especially  when  twitching.  I  wouldn't  say  the  moustache
softened his face, but being of the walrus or soup-strainer type it hid
some of it, which was all to the good. The up-shot was that instead  of
quailing,  as  I  had  expected to do when we  met,  I  was  suave  and
debonair, possibly a little too much so.
     'Oh, hullo, Upjohn!' I said. 'Yoo-hoo!'
     'Who you?' he responded, making it sound like a reverse echo.
     'Wooster is the name.'
     'Oh,  Wooster?'  he  said, as if he had been  hoping  it  would  be
something  else, and one could understand his feelings, of  course.  No
doubt  he,  like  me, had been buoying himself up for  years  with  the
thought  that  we should never meet again and that, whatever  brickbats
life  might have in store for him, he had at least got Bertram  out  of
his system. A nasty jar it must have been for the poor bloke having  me
suddenly pop up from a trap like this.
     'Long time since we met,' I said.
     'Yes,' he agreed in a hollow voice, and it was so plain that he was
wishing it had been longer that conversation flagged, and there  wasn't
much in the way of feasts of reason and flows of the soul as we covered
the hundred yards to the lawn where the tea table awaited us. I think I
may  have  said 'Nice day, what?' and he may have grunted, but  nothing
     Only Bobbie was present when we arrived at the trough. Wilbert  and
Phyllis were presumably still in the leafy glade, and Mrs Cream, Bobbie
said,  worked in her room every afternoon on her new spine-freezer  and
seldom  knocked  off  for  a cuppa. We seated ourselves  and  had  just
started sipping, when the butler came out of the house bearing  a  bowl
of fruit and hove to beside the table with it.
     Well,  when I say 'butler', I use the term loosely. He was  dressed
like  a  butler  and he behaved like a butler, but in the  deepest  and
truest sense of the word he was not a butler.
     Reading from left to right, he was Sir Roderick Glossop.

     At the Drones Club and other places I am accustomed to frequent you
will  often  hear  comment on Bertram Wooster's  self-control  or  sang
froid,  as it's sometimes called, and it is generally agreed that  this
is  considerable. In the eyes of many people, I suppose, I seem one  of
those men of chilled steel you read about, and I'm not saying I'm  not.
But  it is possible to find a chink in my armour, and this can be  done
by  suddenly  springing eminent loony-doctors on me  in  the  guise  of
     It  was  out of the q. that I could have been mistaken in supposing
that  it was Sir Roderick Glossop who, having delivered the fruit,  was
now  ambling  back to the house. There could not be two men  with  that
vast bald head and those bushy eyebrows, and it would be deceiving  the
customers  to  say that I remained unshaken. The effect the  apparition
had  on me was to make me start violently, and we all know what happens
when  you start violently while holding a full cup of tea. The contents
of mine flew through the air and came to rest on the trousers of Aubrey
Upjohn,  MA,  moistening  them to no little extent.  Indeed,  it  would
scarcely  be  distorting the facts to say that he was now not  so  much
wearing trousers as wearing tea.
     I could see the unfortunate man felt his position deeply, and I was
surprised  that he contented himself with a mere 'Ouch!' But I  suppose
these  solid citizens have to learn to curb the tongue. Creates  a  bad
impression, I mean, if they start blinding and stiffing as  those  more
happily placed would be.
     But  words are not always needed. In the look he now shot at  me  I
seemed  to read a hundred unspoken expletives. It was the sort of  look
the  bucko  mate  of  a tramp steamer would have given  an  able-bodied
seaman who for one reason or another had incurred his displeasure.
     'I  see  you  have not changed since you were with  me  at  Malvern
House,'  he  said in an extremely nasty voice, dabbing at the  trousers
with  a  handkerchief. 'Bungling Wooster we used to call him,' he  went
on, addressing his remarks to Bobbie and evidently trying to enlist her
sympathy.  'He could not perform the simplest action such as holding  a
cup  without spreading ruin and disaster on all sides. It was an  axiom
at  Malvern  House that if there was a chair in any room  in  which  he
happened  to  be, Wooster would trip over it. The child,'  said  Aubrey
Upjohn, 'is the father of the man.'
     'Frightfully sorry,' I said.
     'Too  late  to be sorry now. A new pair of trousers ruined.  It  is
doubtful  if  anything can remove the stain of tea from white  flannel.
Still, one must hope for the best.'
     Whether  I was right or wrong at this point in patting him  on  the
shoulder and saying 'That's the spirit!' I find it difficult to decide.
Wrong,  probably, for it did not seem to soothe. He gave me another  of
those looks and strode off, smelling strongly of tea.
     'Shall  I  tell you something, Bertie?' said Bobbie, following  him
with  a  thoughtful eye. 'That walking tour Upjohn was going to  invite
you to take with him is off. You will get no Christmas present from him
this  year,  and  don't  expect him to come and  tuck  you  up  in  bed
     I upset the milk jug with an imperious wave of the hand.
     'Never mind about Upjohn and Christmas presents and walking  tours.
What is Pop Glossop doing here as the butler?'
     'Ah! I thought you might be going to ask that. I was meaning to tell
you some time.'
     'Tell me now.'
     'Well, it was his idea.'
     I eyed her sternly. Bertram Wooster has no objection to listening to
drivel,  but it must not be pure babble from the padded cell,  as  this
appeared to be.
     'His idea?'
     'Are you asking me to believe that Sir Roderick Glossop got up  one
morning,  gazed  at himself in the mirror, thought  he  was  looking  a
little  pale  and said to himself, "I need a change. I think  I'll  try
being a butler for awhile"?'
     'No, not that, but... I don't know where to begin.'
     'Begin at the beginning. Come on now, young B. Wickham, smack  into
it,' I said, and took a piece of cake in a marked manner.
     The austerity of my tone seemed to touch a nerve and kindle the fire
that  always slept in this vermilion-headed menace to the common  weal,
for  she  frowned a displeased frown and told me for heaven's  sake  to
stop goggling like a dead halibut.
     'I  have every right to goggle like a dead halibut,' I said coldly,
'and  I  shall  continue to do so as long as I see fit. I  am  under  a
considerable nervous s. As always seems to happen when you are mixed up
in  the  doings,  life has become one damn thing after another,  and  I
think  I  am  justified  in  demanding an  explanation.  I  await  your
     'Well, let me marshal my thoughts.'
     She did so, and after a brief intermission, during which I finished
my piece of cake, proceeded.
     'I'd  better  begin  by telling you about Upjohn,  because  it  all
started  through him. You see, he's egging Phyllis on to marry  Wilbert
     'When you say egging -'
     'I  mean  egging. And when a man like that eggs, something  has  to
give,  especially when the girl's a pill like Phyllis, who always  does
what Daddy tells her.'
     'No will of her own?'
     'Not  a smidgeon. To give you an instance, a couple of days ago  he
took  her  to Birmingham to see the repertory company's performance  of
Chekhov's Seagull, because he thought it would be educational. I'd like
to  catch  anyone trying to make me see Chekhov's Seagull, but  Phyllis
just bowed her head and said, "Yes, Daddy." Didn't even attempt to  put
up a fight. That'll show you how much of a will of her own she's got.'
     It  did indeed. Her story impressed me profoundly. I knew Chekhov's
Seagull.  My  Aunt  Agatha had once made me take  her  son  Thos  to  a
performance of it at the Old Vic, and what with the strain of trying to
follow  the  cock-eyed goings-on of characters called Zarietchnaya  and
Medvienko  and  having to be constantly on the alert  to  prevent  Thos
making  a  sneak  for  the great open spaces,  my  suffering  had  been
intense. I needed no further evidence to tell me that Phyllis Mills was
a girl whose motto would always be 'Daddy knows best'. Wilbert had only
got  to  propose  and she would sign on the dotted line because  Upjohn
wished it.
     'Your aunt's worried sick about it.'
     'She doesn't approve?'
     'Of course she doesn't approve. You must have heard of Willie Cream,
going over to New York so much.'
     'Why yes, news of his escapades has reached me. He's a playboy.'
     'Your aunt thinks he's a screwball.'
     'Many  playboys  are,  I  believe. Well, that  being  so,  one  can
understand why she doesn't want those wedding bells to ring out.  But,'
I  said, putting my finger on the res in my unerring way, 'that doesn't
explain where Pop Glossop comes in.'
     'Yes, it does. She got him here to observe Wilbert.'
     I found myself fogged.
     'Cock an eye at him, you mean? Drink him in, as it were? What good's
that going to do?'
     She snorted impatiently.
     'Observe  in  the  technical  sense.  You  know  how  these  brain
specialists  work. They watch the subject closely. They engage  him  in
conversation. They apply subtle tests. And sooner or later -'
     'I begin to see. Sooner or later he lets fall an incautious word to
the  effect that he thinks he's a poached egg, and then they've got him
where they want him.'
     'Well, he does something which tips them off. Your aunt was moaning
to  me  about  the  situation, and I suddenly had this  inspiration  of
bringing Glossop here. You know how I get sudden inspirations.'
     'I do. That hot-water-bottle episode.'
     'Yes, that was one of them.'
     'What did you say?'
     'Just "Ha!"'
     'Why "Ha!"?'
     'Because  when I think of that night of terror, I feel like  saying
     She  seemed  to see the justice of this. Pausing merely  to  eat  a
cucumber sandwich, she proceeded.
     'So  I said to your aunt, "I'll tell you what to do," I said.  "Get
Glossop here," I said, "and have him observe Wilbert Cream. Then you'll
be in a position to go to Upjohn and pull the rug from under him."'
     Again  I  was  not  abreast. There had been,  as  far  as  I  could
recollect, no mention of any rug.
     'How do you mean?'
     'Well, isn't it obvious? "Rope in old Glossop," I said, "and let him
observe.  Then you'll be in a position," I said, "to go to  Upjohn  and
tell  him  that Sir Roderick Glossop, the greatest alienist in England,
is  convinced that Wilbert Cream is round the bend and to ask him if he
proposes  to marry his stepdaughter to a man who at any moment  may  be
marched  off  and added to the membership list of Colney  Hatch."  Even
Upjohn  would shrink from doing a thing like that. Or don't  you  think
     I weighed this.
     'Yes,'  I  said, 'I should imagine you were right.  Quite  possibly
Upjohn  has human feelings, though I never noticed them when I  was  in
statu  pupillari,  as I believe the expression is.  One  sees  now  why
Glossop is at Brinkley Court. What one doesn't see is why one finds him
     'I  told you that was his idea. He thought he was such a celebrated
figure  that  it would arouse Mrs Cream's suspicions if  he  came  here
under his own name.'
     'I  see  what you mean. She would catch him observing  Wilbert  and
wonder why-'
     ' - and eventually put two and two together -'
     ' - and start Hey-what's-the-big-idea-ing.'
     'Exactly. No mother likes to find that her hostess has got a  brain
specialist  down to observe the son who is the apple  of  her  eye.  It
hurts her feelings.'
     'Whereas, if she catches the butler observing him, she merely  says
to  herself, "Ah, an observant butler." Very sensible. With  this  deal
Uncle  Tom's got on with Homer Cream, it would be fatal to risk  giving
her  the pip in any way. She would kick to Homer, and Homer would  draw
himself up and say "After what has occurred, Travers, I would prefer to
break off the negotiations," and Uncle Tom would lose a packet. What is
this deal they've got on, by the way? Did Aunt Dahlia tell you?'
     'Yes, but it didn't penetrate. It's something to do with some  land
your  uncle owns somewhere, and Mr Cream is thinking of buying  it  and
putting   up  hotels  and  things.  It  doesn't  matter,  anyway.   The
fundamental  thing, the thing to glue the eye on,  is  that  the  Cream
contingent have to be kept sweetened at any cost. So not a  word  to  a
     'Quite.  Bertram Wooster is not a babbler. No spiller of the  beans
he.  But why are you so certain that Wilbert Cream is loopy? He doesn't
look loopy to me.'
     'Have you met him?'
     'Just for a moment. He was in a leafy glade, reading poetry to  the
Mills girl.'
     She took this big.
     'Reading poetry? To Phyllis?'
     'That's right. I thought it odd that a chap like him should be doing
such a thing. Limericks, yes. If he had been reciting limericks to her,
I  could have understood it. But this was stuff from one of those books
they bind in limp purple leather and sell at Christmas. I wouldn't care
to swear to it, but it sounded to me extremely like Omar Khayyam.'
     She continued to take it big.
     'Break it up, Bertie, break it up! There's not a moment to be lost.
You must go and break it up immediately.'
     'Who, me? Why me?'
     'That's what you're here for. Didn't your aunt tell you? She  wants
you  to follow Wilbert Cream and Phyllis about everywhere and see  that
he doesn't get a chance of proposing.'
     'You  mean that I'm to be a sort of private eye or shamus,  tailing
them up? I don't like it,' I said dubiously.
     'You don't have to like it,' said Bobbie. 'You just do it.'

     Wax in the hands of the other sex, as the expression is, I went and
broke  it up as directed, but not blithely. It is never pleasant for  a
man  of  sensibility  to find himself regarded as  a  buttinski  and  a
trailing  arbutus, and it was thus, I could see at a g.,  that  Wilbert
Cream  was  pencilling  me  in. At the moment  of  my  arrival  he  had
suspended  the  poetry  reading and had taken Phyllis's  hand  in  his,
evidently  saying or about to say something of an intimate  and  tender
nature. Hearing my 'What ho', he turned, hurriedly released the fin and
directed  at me a look very similar to the one I had recently  received
from  Aubrey  Upjohn.  He  muttered something under  his  breath  about
someone,  whose name I did not catch, apparently having  been  paid  to
haunt the place.
     'Oh, it's you again,' he said.
     Well, it was, of course. No argument about that.
     'Kind  of  at  a  loose end?' he said. 'Why don't you  settle  down
somewhere with a good book?'
     I explained that I had just popped in to tell them that tea was now
being  served  on  the main lawn, and Phyllis squeaked  a  bit,  as  if
     'Oh, dear!' she said. 'I must run. Daddy doesn't like me to be late
for tea. He says it's not respectful to my elders.'
     I  could see trembling on Wilbert Cream's lips a suggestion  as  to
where Daddy could stick himself and his views on respect to elders, but
with a powerful effort he held it back.
     'I  shall  take  Poppet  for a walk,' he said,  chirruping  to  the
dachshund,  who  was sniffing at my legs, filling his  lungs  with  the
delicious Wooster bouquet.
     'No tea?' I said.
     'There are muffins.'
     'Tchah!' he ejaculated, if that's the word, and strode off, followed
by the low-slung dog, and it was borne in upon me that here was another
source  from  which I could expect no present at Yule-Tide.  His  whole
demeanour  made  it plain that I had not added to my little  circle  of
friends.  Though  going  like a breeze with dachshunds,  I  had  failed
signally to click with Wilbert Cream.
     When  Phyllis and I reached the lawn, only Bobbie was  at  the  tea
table, and this surprised us both.
     'Where's Daddy?' Phyllis asked.
     'He suddenly decided to go to London,' said Bobbie.
     'To London?'
     'That's what he said.'
     'He didn't tell me.'
     'I must go and see him,' said Phyllis, and buzzed off.
     Bobbie seemed to be musing.
     'Do you know what I think, Bertie?'
     'Well, when Upjohn came out just now, he was all of a doodah, and he
had  this  week's  Thursday Review in his hand. Came by  the  afternoon
post,  I suppose. I think he had been reading Reggie's comment  on  his
     This seemed plausible. I number several authors among my aquaintance
-  the  name of Boko Fittleworth is one that springs to the mind -  and
they invariably become all of a doodah when they read a stinker in  the
press about their latest effort.
     'Oh, you know about that thing Kipper wrote?'
     'Yes,  he  showed  it  to  me one day when  we  were  having  lunch
     'Very mordant, I gathered from what he told me. But I don't see why
that should make Upjohn bound up to London.'
     'I  suppose he wants to ask the editor who wrote the thing, so that
he can horsewhip him on the steps of his club. But of course they won't
tell him, and it wasn't signed so ... Oh, hullo, Mrs Cream.'
     The woman she was addressing was tall and thin with a hawk-like face
that  reminded me of Sherlock Holmes. She had an ink spot on her  nose,
the  result  of  working  on  her novel of suspense.  It  is  virtually
impossible  to  write  a novel of suspense without  getting  a  certain
amount of ink on the beezer. Ask Agatha Christie or anyone.
     'I finished my chapter a moment ago, so I thought I would stop for a
cup of tea,' said this literateuse. 'No good overdoing it.'
     'No.  Quit when you're ahead of the game, that's the idea. This  is
Mrs  Travers's  nephew  Bertie  Wooster,'  said  Bobbie  with  what   I
considered  a far too apologetic note in her voice. If Roberta  Wickham
has  one fault more pronounced than another, it is that she is inclined
to  introduce me to people as if I were something she would  much  have
preferred  to  hush  up. 'Bertie loves your books,'  she  added,  quite
unnecessarily, and the Cream started like a Boy Scout at the sound of a
     'Oh, do you?'
     'Never  happier  than when curled up with one  of  them,'  I  said,
trusting that she wouldn't ask me which one of them I liked best.
     'When I told him you were here, he was overcome.'
     'Well, that certainly is great. Always glad to meet the fans. Which
of my books do you like best?'
     And I had got as far as 'Er' and was wondering, though not with much
hope, if 'All of them' would meet the case, when Pop Glossop joined  us
with  a  telegram for Bobbie on a salver. From her mother, I  presumed,
calling  me  some  name which she had forgotten to insert  in  previous
communications.  Or,  of  course, possibly  expressing  once  more  her
conviction  that I was a guffin, which, I thought, having had  time  to
ponder  over  it, would be something in the nature of a bohunkus  or  a
     'Oh, thank you, Swordfish,' said Bobbie, taking the 'gram.
     It was fortunate that I was not holding a tea cup as she spoke, for
hearing Sir Roderick thus addressed I gave another of my sudden  starts
and,  had  I  had such a cup in my hand, must have strewn its  contents
hither and thither like a sower going forth sowing. As it was, I merely
sent a cucumber sandwich flying through the air.
     'Oh,  sorry,'  I  said, for it had missed the  Cream  by  a  hair's
     I  could have relied on Bobbie to shove her oar in. The girl had no
notion of passing a thing off.
     'Excuse it, please,' she said. 'I ought to have warned you.  Bertie
is  training  for  the Jerk The Cucumber Sandwich  event  at  the  next
Olympic Games. He has to be practising all the time.'
     On  Ma  Cream's brow there was a thoughtful wrinkle, as though  she
felt  unable to accept this explanation of what had occurred.  But  her
next  words showed that it was not on my activities that her  mind  was
dwelling but on the recent Swordfish. Having followed him with  a  keen
glance as he faded from view, she said:
     'This butler of Mrs Travers's. Do you know where she got him,  Miss
     'At the usual pet shop, I think.'
     'Had he references?'
     'Oh,  yes.  He was with Sir Roderick Glossop, the brain specialist,
for years. I remember Mrs Travers saying Sir Roderick gave him a super-
colossal reference. She was greatly impressed.'
     Ma Cream sniffed.
     'References can be forged.'
     'Good gracious! Why do you say that?'
     'Because I am not at all easy in my mind about this man. He  has  a
criminal face.'
     'Well, you might say that about Bertie.'
     'I feel that Mrs Travers should be warned. In my Blackness at Night
the  butler  turned out to be one of a gang of crooks, planted  in  the
house  to  make  it easy for them to break in. The inside  stand,  it's
called.  I  strongly suspect that this is why this Swordfish  is  here,
though  of course it is quite possible that he is working on  his  own.
One thing I am sure of, and that is that he is not a genuine butler.'
     'What  makes  you  think that?' I asked, handkerchiefing  my  upper
slopes, which had become considerably bedewed. I didn't like this  line
of  talk at all. Let the Cream get firmly in her nut the idea that  Sir
Roderick  Glossop was not the butler, the whole butler and nothing  but
the  butler,  and  disaster, as I saw it, loomed. She would  probe  and
investigate,  and  before you could say 'What  ho'  would  be  in  full
possession  of  the  facts. In which event, bim would  go  Uncle  Tom's
chance  of  scooping in a bit of easy money. And ever since I've  known
him  failure to get his hooks on any stray cash that's floating  around
has  always put him out of touch with the blue bird. It isn't that he's
mercenary. It's just that he loves the stuff.
     Her manner suggested that she was glad I had asked her that.
     'I'll tell you what makes me think it. He betrays his amateurishness
in  a  hundred  ways.  This  very morning I found  him  having  a  long
conversation with Wilbert. A real butler would never do that. He  would
feel it was a liberty.'
     I contested this statement.
     'Now  there,' I said, 'I take issue with you, if taking issue means
what  I  think  it  means. Many of my happiest hours have  been  passed
chatting  with butlers, and it has nearly always happened that  it  was
they  who  made the first advances. They seek me out and tell me  about
their rheumatism. Swordfish looks all right to me.'
     'You  are not a student of criminology, as I am. I have the trained
eye, and my judgment is never wrong. That man is here for no good.'
     I  could see that all this was making Bobbie chafe, but her  better
self  prevailed and she checked the heated retort. She is very fond  of
T.  Portarlington Travers, who, she tells me, is the living image of  a
wire-haired terrier now residing with the morning stars but at one time
very dear to her, and she remembered that for his sake the Cream had to
be deferred to and handled with gloves. When she spoke, it was with the
mildness of a cushat dove addressing another cushat dove from  whom  it
was hoping to borrow money.
     'But  don't  you  think,  Mrs Cream,  that  it  may  be  just  your
imagination? You have such a wonderful imagination. Bertie  was  saying
only  the other day that he didn't know how you did it. Write all those
frightfully imaginative books, I mean. Weren't you, Bertie?'
     'My very words.'
     'And if you have an imagination, you can't help imagining. Can you,
     'Dashed difficult.'
     Her  honeyed words were wasted. The Cream continued to dig her toes
in like Balaam's ass, of whom you have doubtless heard.
     'I'm not imagining that that butler is up to something fishy,'  she
said tartly. 'And I should have thought it was pretty obvious what that
something  was. You seem to have forgotten that Mr Travers has  one  of
the finest collections of old silver in England.'
     This was correct. Owing possibly to some flaw in his mental make-up,
Uncle  Tom  has been collecting old silver since I was so high,  and  I
suppose the contents of the room on the ground floor where he parks the
stuff  are  worth a princely sum. I knew all about that  collection  of
his,  not  only  because I had had to listen to him for  hours  on  the
subject  of  sconces,  foliation, ribbon wreaths  in  high  relief  and
gadroon  borders,  but  because I had what you might  call  a  personal
interest  in  it, once having stolen an eighteenth-century  cow-creamer
for  him.  (Long  story. No time to go into it now. You  will  find  it
elsewhere in the archives.)
     'Mrs  Travers was showing it to Willie the other day,  and  he  was
thrilled. Willie collects old silver himself.'
     With each hour that passed I was finding it more and more difficult
to  get  a  toe-hold  on  the  character of  W.  Cream.  An  in-and-out
performer,  if ever there was one. First all that poetry, I  mean,  and
now  this. I had always supposed that playboys didn't give a  hoot  for
anything  except  blondes and cold bottles. It just showed  once  again
that half the world doesn't know how the other three-quarters lives.
     'He  says there are any number of things in Mr Travers's collection
that  he would give his back teeth for. There was an eighteenth-century
cow-creamer  he particularly coveted. So keep your eye on that  butler.
I'm  certainly  going to keep mine. Well,' said the Cream,  rising,  'I
must  be  getting  back to my work. I always like to rough  out  a  new
chapter before finishing for the day.'
     She  legged it, and for a moment silence reigned. Then Bobbie said,
'Phew!' and I agreed that 'Phew!' was the mot juste.
     'We'd better get Glossop out of here quick,' I said.
     'How can we? It's up to your aunt to do that, and she's away.'
     'Then  I'm  jolly  well going to get out myself. There's  too  much
impending doom buzzing around these parts for my taste. Brinkley Court,
once  a peaceful country-house, has become like something sinister  out
of Edgar Allan Poe, and it makes my feet cold. I'm leaving.'
     'You  can't till your aunt gets back. There has to be some sort  of
host  or  hostess  here,  and I simply must go home  tomorrow  and  see
Mother. You'll have to clench your teeth and stick it.'
     'And the severe mental strain to which I am being subjected doesn't
matter, I suppose?'
     'Not a bit. Does you good. Keeps your pores open.'
     I  should probably have said something pretty cutting in  reply  to
this, if I could have thought of anything, but as I couldn't I didn't.
     'What's Aunt Dahlia's address?' I said.
     'Royal Hotel, Eastbourne. Why?'
     'Because,' I said, taking another cucumber sandwich, 'I'm going  to
wire her to ring me up tomorrow without fail, so that I can apprise her
of what's going on in this joint.'

     I  forget how the subject arose, but I remember Jeeves once  saying
that sleep knits up the ravelled sleave of care. Balm of hurt minds, he
described it as. The idea being, I took it, that if things are  getting
sticky,  they tend to seem less glutinous after you've had  your  eight
     Apple sauce, in my opinion. It seldom pans out that way with me, and
it  didn't now. I had retired to rest taking a dim view of the  current
situation  at Brinkley Court and opening my eyes to a new day,  as  the
expression is, I found myself taking an even dimmer. Who knew, I  asked
myself as I practically pushed the breakfast egg away untasted, what Ma
Cream might not at any moment uncover? And who could say how soon, if I
continued to be always at his side, Wilbert Cream would get it  up  his
nose and start attacking me with tooth and claw? Already his manner was
that  of  a  man  whom the society of Bertram Wooster had  fed  to  the
tonsils,  and  one  more sight of the latter at his elbow  might  quite
easily  make  him  decide  to  take prompt  steps  through  the  proper
     Musing  along these lines, I had little appetite for lunch,  though
Anatole  had  extended himself to the utmost. I winced every  time  the
Cream  shot a sharp, suspicious look at Pop Glossop as he messed  about
at  the  sideboard,  and the long, loving looks her  son  Wilbert  kept
directing  at Phyllis Mills chilled me to the marrow. At the conclusion
of  the  meal  he would, I presumed, invite the girl to  accompany  him
again  to that leafy glade, and it was idle to suppose that there would
not be pique on his part, or even chagrin, when I came along, too.
     Fortunately, as we rose from the table, Phyllis said she was  going
to  her room to finish typing Daddy's speech, and my mind was eased for
the  nonce. Even a New York playboy, accustomed from his earliest years
to  pursue blondes like a bloodhound, would hardly follow her there and
press his suit.
     Seeming himself to recognize that there was nothing constructive to
be  done in that direction for the moment, he said in a brooding  voice
that  he  would  take  Poppet  for a walk. This,  apparently,  was  his
invariable  method  of  healing the stings of  disappointment,  and  an
excellent  thing of course from the point of view of a  dog  who  liked
getting  around and seeing the sights. They headed for the horizon  and
passed  out  of  view;  the hound gambolling,  he  not  gambolling  but
swishing his stick a good deal in an overwrought sort of manner, and I,
feeling that this was a thing that ought to be done, selected one of Ma
Cream's books from Aunt Dahlia's shelves and took it out to read  in  a
deck  chair  on  the  lawn.  And I should  no  doubt  have  enjoyed  it
enormously, for the Cream unquestionably wielded a gifted pen, had  not
the  warmth of the day caused me to drop off into a gentle sleep in the
middle of Chapter Two.
     Waking  from this some little time later and running  an  eye  over
myself  to  see if the ravelled sleave of care had been  knitted  up  -
which  it  hadn't  - I was told that I was wanted on the  telephone.  I
hastened  to  the  instrument, and Aunt Dahlia's voice came  thundering
over the wire.
     'Bertram it is.'
     'Why  the devil have you been such a time? I've been hanging on  to
this damned receiver a long hour by Shrewsbury clock.'
     'Sorry.  I came on winged feet, but I was out on the lawn when  you
broke loose.'
     'Sleeping off your lunch, I suppose?'
     'My eyes may have closed for a moment.'
     'Always eating, that's you.'
     'It  is customary, I believe, to take a little nourishment at about
this hour,' I said rather stiffly. 'How's Bonzo?'
     'Getting along.'
     'What was it?'
     'German  measles,  but he's out of danger.  Well,  what's  all  the
excitement  about? Why did you want me to phone you? Just so  that  you
could hear Auntie's voice?'
     'I  am  always glad to hear Auntie's voice, but I had a deeper  and
graver  reason.  I  thought you ought to know about all  these  lurking
perils in the home.'
     'What lurking perils?'
     'Ma Cream for one. She's hotting up. She entertains suspicions.'
     'What of ?'
     'Pop Glossop. She doesn't like his face.'
     'Well, hers is nothing to write home about.'
     'She thinks he isn't a real butler.'
     From the fact that my ear-drum nearly split in half I deduced  that
she had laughed a jovial laugh.
     'Let her think.'
     'You aren't perturbed?'
     'Not a bit. She can't do anything about it. Anyway, Glossop ought to
be  leaving  in about a week. He told me he didn't think it would  take
longer than that to make up his mind about Wilbert. Adela Cream doesn't
worry me.'
     'Well, if you say so, but I should have thought she was a menace.'
     'She doesn't seem so to me. Anything else on your mind?'
     'Yes, this Wilbert-Cream-Phyllis-Mills thing.'
     'Ah, now you're talking. That's important. Did young Bobbie Wickham
tell you that you'd got to stick to Wilbert closer than -'
     'A brother?'
     'I  was going to say porous plaster, but have it your own way.  She
explained the position of affairs?'
     'She  did, and it's precisely that that I want to thresh  out  with
     'Do what out?'
     'All right, start threshing.'
     Having  given the situation the best of the Wooster brain for  some
considerable  time, I had the res all clear in my mind. I proceeded  to
decant it.
     'As  we  go through this life, my dear old ancestor,' I  said,  'we
should  always strive to see the other fellow's side of  a  thing,  the
other  fellow in the case under advisement being Wilbert Cream. Has  it
occurred  to  you  to  put yourself in Wilbert Cream's  place  and  ask
yourself how he's going to feel, being followed around all the time? It
isn't as if he was Mary.'
     'What did you say?'
     'I  said it wasn't as if he was Mary. Mary, as I remember,  enjoyed
the experience of being tailed up.'
     'Bertie, you're tight.'
     'Nothing of the kind.'
     'Say "British constitution."'
     I did so.
     'And now "She sells sea shells by the sea shore."'
     I reeled it off in a bell-like voice.
     'Well, you seem all right,' she said grudgingly. 'How do you mean he
isn't Mary? Mary who?'
     'I  don't think she had a surname, had she? I was alluding  to  the
child  who  had  a  little  lamb with fleece  as  white  as  snow,  and
everywhere  that Mary went the lamb was sure to go. Now I'm not  saying
that  I  have  fleece as white as snow, but I am going everywhere  that
Wilbert  Cream goes, and one speculates with some interest as  to  what
the upshot will be. He resents my constant presence.'
     'Has he said so?'
     'Not yet. But he gives me nasty looks.'
     'That's all right. He can't intimidate me.'
     I saw that she was missing the gist.
     'Yes, but don't you see the peril that looms?'
     'I thought you said it lurked.'
     'And looms. What I'm driving at is that if I persist in this porous
plastering,  a  time  must inevitably come when, feeling  that  actions
speak  louder  than words, he will haul off and bop me  one.  In  which
event, I shall have no alternative but to haul off and bop him one. The
Woosters  have their pride. And when I bop them, they stay bopped  till
     She bayed like a foghorn, showing that she was deeply stirred.
     'You'll  do nothing of the sort, unless you want to have an  aunt's
curse  delivered on your doorstep by special messenger. Don't you  dare
to  start mixing it with that man, or I'll tattoo my initials  on  your
chest  with  a  meat axe. Turn the other cheek, you poor  fish.  If  my
nephew socked her son, Adela Cream would never forgive me. She would go
running to her husband -'
     ' - and Uncle Tom's deal would be dished. That's the very point I'm
trying  to  make. If Wilbert Cream is bust by anyone,  it  must  be  by
somebody having no connection with the Travers family. You must at once
engage a substitute for Bertram.'
     'Are you suggesting that I hire a private detective?'
     '"Eye"  is  the more usual term. No, not that, but you must  invite
Kipper Herring down here. Kipper is the man you want. He will spring to
the task of dogging Wilbert's footsteps, and if Wilbert bops him and he
bops  Wilbert,  it won't matter, he being outside talent.  Not  that  I
anticipate  that  Wilbert will dream of doing  so,  for  Kipper's  mere
appearance commands respect. The muscles of his brawny arms are  strong
as iron bands, and he has a cauliflower ear.'
     There  was  a silence of some moments, and it was not difficult  to
divine  that she was passing my words under review, this way  and  that
dividing the swift mind, as I have heard Jeeves put it. When she spoke,
it was in quite an awed voice.
     'Do  you  know, Bertie, there are times - rare, yes,  but  they  do
happen - when your intelligence is almost human. You've hit it. I never
thought of young Herring. Do you think he could come?'
     'He was saying to me only the day before yesterday that his dearest
wish  was  to  cadge an invitation. Anatole's cooking is green  in  his
     'Then send him a wire. You can telephone it to the post office. Sign
it with my name.'
     'Tell him to drop everything and come running.'
     She rang off, and I was about to draft the communication, when,  as
so  often  happens  to one on relaxing from a great  strain,  I  became
conscious of an imperious desire for a little something quick. Oh,  for
a  beaker full of the warm south, as Jeeves would have said. I  pressed
the  bell, accordingly, and sank into a chair, and presently  the  door
opened  and  a  circular  object with a bald head  and  bushy  eyebrows
manifested  itself,  giving  me quite a start.  I  had  forgotten  that
ringing  bells  at  Brinkley  Court under  prevailing  conditions  must
inevitably produce Sir Roderick Glossop.
     It's always a bit difficult to open the conversation with a blend of
brain  specialist and butler, especially if your relations with him  in
the  past have not been too chummy, and I found myself rather at a loss
to  know how to set the ball rolling. I yearned for that drink  as  the
hart  desireth the water-brook, but if you ask a butler to bring you  a
whisky-and-soda  and  he happens to be a brain  specialist,  too,  he's
quite  apt to draw himself up and wither you with a glance. All depends
on which side of him is uppermost at the moment. It was a relief when I
saw  that  he  was smiling a kindly smile and evidently welcoming  this
opportunity of having a quiet chat with Bertram. So long as we kept off
the subject of hot-water bottles, it looked as if all would be well.
     'Good afternoon, Mr Wooster. I had been hoping for a word with  you
in  private.  But  perhaps  Miss  Wickham  has  already  explained  the
circumstances?  She  has? Then that clears the air,  and  there  is  no
danger of you incautiously revealing my identity. She impressed it upon
you that Mrs Cream must have no inkling of why I am here?'
     'Oh,  rather.  Secrecy and silence, what?  If  she  knew  you  were
observing  her  son with a view to finding out if he was foggy  between
the ears, there would be umbrage on her part, or even dudgeon.'
     'And how's it coming along?'
     'I beg your pardon?'
     'The observing. Have you spotted any dippiness in the subject?'
     'If by that expression you mean have I formed any definite views on
Wilbert Cream's sanity, the answer is no. It is most unusual for me not
to  be able to make up my mind after even a single talk with the person
I  am  observing, but in young Cream's case I remain uncertain. On  the
one hand, we have his record.'
     'The stink bombs?'
     'And the cheque-cashing with levelled gat?'
     'Precisely. And a number of other things which one would say pointed
to a mental unbalance. Unquestionably Wilbert Cream is eccentric.'
     'But  you  feel the time has not yet come to measure  him  for  the
strait waistcoat?'
     'I would certainly wish to observe further.'
     'Jeeves told me there was something about Wilbert Cream that someone
had told him when we were in New York. That might be significant.'
     'Quite possibly. What was it?'
     'He couldn't remember.'
     'Too  bad.  Well, to return to what I was saying, the  young  man's
record  appears to indicate some deep-seated neurosis,  if  not  actual
schizophrenia, but against this must be set the fact that he  gives  no
sign  of this in his conversation. I was having quite a long talk  with
him yesterday morning, and found him most intelligent. He is interested
in  old  silver,  and  spoke  with a great deal  of  enthusiasm  of  an
eighteenth-century cow-creamer in your uncle's collection.'
     'He didn't say he was an eighteenth-century cow-creamer?'
     'Certainly not.'
     'Probably just wearing the mask.'
     'I beg your pardon?'
     'I  mean  crouching for the spring, as it were.  Lulling  you  into
security.  Bound  to  break out sooner or later in  some  direction  or
other. Very cunning, these fellows with deep-seated neuroses.'
     He shook his head reprovingly.
     'We  must not judge hastily, Mr Wooster. We must keep an open mind.
Nothing  is ever gained by not pausing to weigh the evidence.  You  may
remember  that  at one time I reached a hasty judgment  regarding  your
sanity. Those twenty-three cats in your bedroom.'
     I  flushed  hotly.  The  incident had  taken  place  several  years
previously,  and it would have been in better taste, I  considered,  to
have let the dead past bury its dead.
     'That was explained fully.'
     'Exactly. I was shown to be in error. And that is why I say I  must
not  form an opinion prematurely in the case of Wilbert Cream.  I  must
wait for further evidence.'
     'And weigh it?'
     'And,  as  you  say, weigh it. But you rang, Mr Wooster.  Is  there
anything I can do for you?'
     'Well, as a matter of fact, I wanted a whisky-and-soda, but I  hate
to trouble you.'
     'My  dear Mr Wooster, you forget that I am, if only temporarily,  a
butler and, I hope, a conscientious one. I will bring it immediately.'
     I was wondering, as he melted away, if I ought to tell him that Mrs
Cream,  too, was doing a bit of evidence-weighing, and about  him,  but
decided  on the whole better not. No sense in disturbing his  peace  of
mind.  It  seemed to me that having to answer to the name of  Swordfish
was  enough for him to have to cope with for the time being. Given  too
much to think about, he would fret and get pale.
     When  he returned, he brought with him not only the beaker full  of
the  warm south, on which I flung myself gratefully, but a letter which
he  said had just come for me by the afternoon post. Having slaked  the
thirst,  I  glanced at the envelope and saw that it was from Jeeves.  I
opened  it without much of a thrill, expecting that he would merely  be
informing  me that he had reached his destination safely and expressing
a  hope  that this would find me in the pink as it left him at present.
In short, the usual guff.
     It wasn't the usual guff by a mile and a quarter. One glance at its
contents  and I was Gosh-ing sharply, causing Pop Glossop to regard  me
with a concerned eye.
     'No bad news, I trust, Mr Wooster?'
     'It  depends  what  you call bad news. It's front-page  stuff,  all
right. This is from Jeeves, my man, now shrimping at Herne Bay, and  it
casts a blinding light on the private life of Wilbert Cream.'
     'Indeed? This is most interesting.'
     'I must begin by saying that when Jeeves was leaving for his annual
vacation,  the  subject of W. Cream came up in the  home,  Aunt  Dahlia
having told me he was one of the inmates here, and we discussed him  at
some length. I said this, if you see what I mean, and Jeeves said that,
if you follow me. Well, just before Jeeves pushed off, he let fall that
significant  remark  I mentioned just now, the one about  having  heard
something  about Wilbert and having forgotten it. If it  came  back  to
him, he said, he would communicate with me. And he has, by Jove! Do you
know what he says in this missive? Give you three guesses.'
     'Surely this is hardly the time for guessing games?'
     'Perhaps  you're right, though they're great fun, don't you  think?
Well,  he says that Wilbert Cream is a ... what's the word?' I referred
to  the letter. 'A kleptomaniac,' I said. 'Which means, if the term  is
not  familiar  to  you,  a chap who flits hither and  thither  pinching
everything he can lay his hands on.'
     'Good gracious!'
     'You might even go so far as "Lor' lumme!"'
     'I never suspected this.'
     'I told you he was wearing a mask. I suppose they took him abroad to
get him away from it all.'
     'No doubt.'
     'Overlooking the fact that there are just as many things to pinch in
England as in America. Does any thought occur to you?'
     'It most certainly does. I am thinking of your uncle's collection of
old silver.'
     'Me, too.'
     'It presents a grave temptation to the unhappy young man.'
     'I  don't  know  that I'd call him unhappy. He probably  thoroughly
enjoys lifting the stuff.'
     'We  must  go  to  the collection room immediately.  There  may  be
something missing.'
     'Everything except the floor and ceiling, I expect. He  would  have
had difficulty in getting away with those.'
     To reach the collection room was not the work of an instant with us,
for  Pop  Glossop  was built for stability rather than  speed,  but  we
fetched  up there in due course and my first emotion on giving  it  the
once-over was one of relief, all the junk appearing to be in statu quo.
It  was only after Pop Glossop had said 'Woof!' and was starting to dry
off the brow, for the going had been fast, that I spotted the hiatus.
     The cow-creamer was not among those present.

     This  cow-creamer, in case you're interested, was a silver  jug  or
pitcher or whatever you call it shaped, of all silly things, like a cow
with  an arching tail and a juvenile-delinquent expression on its face,
a  cow that looked as if it were planning, next time it was milked,  to
haul  off  and  let the milkmaid have it in the lower  ribs.  Its  back
opened  on  a  hinge and the tip of the tail touched  the  spine,  thus
giving  the  householder something to catch hold of when  pouring.  Why
anyone should want such a revolting object had always been a mystery to
me,  it  ranking  high  up  on the list of things  I  would  have  been
reluctant  to be found dead in a ditch with, but apparently they  liked
that  sort  of jug in the eighteenth century and, coming down  to  more
modern  times,  Uncle  Tom  was all for it and  so,  according  to  the
evidence of the witness Glossop, was Wilbert. No accounting for  tastes
is  the  way  one has to look at these things, one man's  caviar  being
another man's major-general, as the old saw says.
     However, be that as it may and whether you liked the bally thing or
didn't, the point was that it had vanished, leaving not a wrack behind,
and  I  was about to apprise Pop Glossop of this and canvass his views,
when  we  were joined by Bobbie Wickham. She had doffed the  shirt  and
Bermuda-shorts which she had been wearing and was now dressed  for  her
journey home.
     'Hullo,  souls,' she said. 'How goes it? You look  a  bit  hot  and
bothered, Bertie. What's up?'
     I made no attempt to break the n. gently.
     'I'll tell you what's up. You know that cow-creamer of Uncle Tom's?'
     'No, I don't. What is it?'
     'Sort  of  cream jug kind of thing, ghastly but very valuable.  One
would not be far out in describing it as Uncle Tom's ewe lamb. He loves
it dearly.'
     'Bless his heart.'
     'It's all right blessing his heart, but the damn thing's gone.'
     The still summer air was disturbed by a sound like beer coming  out
of a bottle. It was Pop Glossop gurgling. His eyes were round, his nose
wiggled, and one could readily discern that this news item had come  to
him not as rare and refreshing fruit but more like a buffet on the base
of the skull with a sock full of wet sand.
     'Are you sure?'
     I said that sure was just what I wasn't anything but.
     'It is not possible that you may have overlooked it?'
     'You can't overlook a thing like that.'
     He re-gurgled.
     'But this is terrible.'
     'Might be considerably better, I agree.'
     'Your uncle will be most upset.'
     'He'll have kittens.'
     'That's right.'
     'Why kittens?'
     'Why not?'
     From the look on Bobbie's face, as she stood listening to our cross-
talk  act,  I could see that the inner gist was passing over her  head.
Cryptic, she seemed to be registering it as.
     'I don't get this,' she said. 'How do you mean it's gone?'
     'It's been pinched.'
     'Things don't get pinched in country-houses.'
     'They  do if there's a Wilbert Cream on the premises. He's a  klep-
whatever-it-is,' I said, and thrust Jeeves's letter on her. She perused
it  with an interested eye and having mastered its contents said,  'Cor
chase my Aunt Fanny up a gum tree,' adding that you never knew what was
going to happen next these days. There was, however, she said, a bright
     'You'll be able now to give it as your considered opinion that  the
man is as loony as a coot, Sir Roderick.'
     A  pause  ensued during which Pop Glossop appeared to  be  weighing
this,  possibly thinking back to coots he had met in the course of  his
professional career and trying to estimate their dippiness as  compared
with that of W. Cream.
     'Unquestionably  his metabolism is unduly susceptible  to  stresses
resulting  from the interaction of external excitations,' he said,  and
Bobbie patted him on the shoulder in a maternal sort of way, a thing  I
wouldn't have cared to do myself though our relations were, as  I  have
indicated, more cordial than they had been at one time, and told him he
had said a mouthful.
     'That's how I like to hear you talk. You must tell Mrs Travers that
when  she  gets back. It'll put her in a strong position to  cope  with
Upjohn in this matter of Wilbert and Phyllis. With this under her belt,
she'll be able to forbid the banns in no uncertain manner. "What  price
his  metabolism?" she'll say, and Upjohn won't know which way to  look.
So everything's fine.'
     'Everything,' I pointed out, 'except that Uncle Tom is short one ewe
     She chewed the lower lip.
     'Yes,  that's true. You have a point there. What steps do  we  take
about that?'
     She looked at me, and I said I didn't know, and then she looked  at
Pop Glossop, and he said he didn't know.
     'The  situation  is  an  extremely delicate  one.  You  concur,  Mr
     'Like billy-o.'
     'Placed  as  he is, your uncle can hardly go to the young  man  and
demand  restitution.  Mrs Travers impressed it upon  me  with  all  the
emphasis  at  her disposal that the greatest care must be exercised  to
prevent Mr and Mrs Cream taking -'
     'I was about to say offence.'
     'Just as good, probably. Not much in it either way.'
     'And they would certainly take offence, were their son to be accused
of theft.'
     'It would stir them up like an egg whisk. I mean, however well they
know that Wilbert is a pincher, they don't want to have it rubbed in.'
     'It's  one of the things the man of tact does not mention in  their
     'Precisely.  So  really I cannot see what  is  to  be  done.  I  am
     'So am I.'
     'I'm not,' said Bobbie.
     I quivered like a startled what-d'you-call-it. She had spoken with a
cheery  ring in her voice that told an experienced ear like  mine  that
she  was about to start something. In a matter of seconds by Shrewsbury
clock,  as Aunt Dahlia would have said, I could see that she was  going
to  come  out with one of those schemes or plans of hers that not  only
stagger  humanity  and  turn  the  moon  to  blood  but  lead  to  some
unfortunate  male  -  who  on the present occasion  would,  I  strongly
suspected, be me -getting immersed in what Shakespeare calls a  sea  of
troubles,  if  it was Shakespeare. I had heard that ring in  her  voice
before,  to name but one time, at the moment when she was pressing  the
darning  needle  into my hand and telling me where  I  would  find  Sir
Roderick  Glossop's hot-water bottle. Many people are  of  the  opinion
that  Roberta,  daughter of the late Sir Cuthbert and Lady  Wickham  of
Skeldings Hall, Herts, ought not to be allowed at large. I string along
with that school of thought.
     Pop Glossop, having only a sketchy acquaintance with this female of
the  species  and so not knowing that from childhood up her  motto  had
been 'Anything goes', was all animation and tell-me-more.
     'You have thought of some course of action that it will be feasible
for us to pursue, Miss Wickham?'
     'Certainly.  It  sticks out like a sore thumb. Do  you  know  which
Wilbert's room is?'
     He said he did.
     'And do you agree that if you snitch things when you're staying at a
country-house, the only place you can park them in is your room?'
     He said that this was no doubt so.
     'Very well, then.'
     He looked at her with what I have heard Jeeves call a wild surmise.
     'Can you be ... Is it possible that you are suggesting... ?'
     'That  somebody nips into Wilbert's room and hunts  around?  That's
right.  And  it's  obvious who the people's choice is. You're  elected,
     Well,  I wasn't surprised. As I say, I had seen it coming. I  don't
know why it is, but whenever there's dirty work to be undertaken at the
crossroads,  the cry that goes round my little circle  is  always  'Let
Wooster do it.' It never fails. But though I hadn't much hope that  any
words  of  mine  would accomplish anything in the way of  averting  the
doom, I put in a rebuttal.
     'Why me?'
     'It's young man's work.'
     Though with a growing feeling that I was fighting in the last ditch,
I continued rebutting.
     'I  don't  see  that,'  I said. 'I should have  thought  a  mature,
experienced man of the world would have been far more likely  to  bring
home the bacon than a novice like myself, who as a child was never  any
good at hunt-the-slipper. Stands to reason.'
     'Now  don't  be difficult, Bertie. You'll enjoy it,'  said  Bobbie,
though  where she got that idea I was at a loss to understand. 'Try  to
imagine you're someone in the Secret Service on the track of the  naval
treaty  which  was  stolen  by a mysterious veiled  woman  diffusing  a
strange  exotic scent. You'll have the time of your life. What did  you
     'I said "Ha!" Suppose someone pops in?'
     'Don't be silly. Mrs Cream is working on her book. Phyllis is in her
room,  typing Upjohn's speech. Wilbert's gone for a walk. Upjohn  isn't
here.  The only character who could pop in would be the Brinkley  Court
ghost.  If  it does, give it a cold look and walk through  it.  That'll
teach it not to come butting in where it isn't wanted, ha ha.'
     'Ha ha,' trilled Pop Glossop.
     I thought their mirth ill-timed and in dubious taste, and I let them
see  it  by my manner as I strode off. For of course I did stride  off.
These  clashings of will with the opposite sex always end with  Bertram
Wooster  bowing  to the inev. But I was not in jocund  mood,  and  when
Bobbie, speeding me on my way, called me her brave little man and  said
she  had  known all along I had it in me, I ignored the remark  with  a
coldness which must have made itself felt.
     It  was  a  lovely afternoon, replete with blue sky,  beaming  sun,
buzzing insects and what not, an afternoon that seemed to call  to  one
to  be  out  in  the  open with God's air playing  on  one's  face  and
something cool in a glass at one's side, and here was I, just to oblige
Bobbie Wickham, tooling along a corridor indoors on my way to search  a
comparative stranger's bedroom, this involving crawling on  floors  and
routing  under beds and probably getting covered with dust  and  fluff.
The  thought  was a bitter one, and I don't suppose I  have  ever  come
closer to saying 'Faugh!' It amazed me that I could have allowed myself
to  be  let in for a binge of this description simply because  a  woman
wished  it.  Too  bally chivalrous for our own good, we  Woosters,  and
always have been.
     As  I  reached  Wilbert's door and paused outside doing  a  bit  of
screwing the courage to the sticking point, as I have heard Jeeves call
it,  I  found the proceedings reminding me of something, and I suddenly
remembered  what. I was feeling just as I had felt in  the  old  Malvem
House epoch when I used to sneak down to Aubrey Upjohn's study at  dead
of  night in quest of the biscuits he kept there in a tin on his  desk,
and  there came back to me the memory of the occasion when, not letting
a twig snap beneath my feet, I had entered his sanctum in pyjamas and a
dressing-gown,  to  find  him seated in his  chair,  tucking  into  the
biscuits  himself. A moment fraught with embarrassment. The  What-does-
this-mean-Wooster-ing that ensued and the aftermath next morning -  six
of  the best on the old spot - had always remained on the tablets of my
mind, if that's the expression I want.
     Except for the tapping of a typewriter in a room along the corridor,
showing  that Ma Cream was hard at her self-appointed task of  curdling
the  blood  of the reading public, all was still. I stood  outside  the
door  for a space, letting 'I dare not' wait upon 'I would', as  Jeeves
tells  me  cats do in adages, then turned the handle softly,  pushed  -
also  softly  -  and,  carrying  on into  the  interior,  found  myself
confronted  by  a girl in housemaid's costume who put  a  hand  to  her
throat  like  somebody  in  a play and leaped  several  inches  in  the
direction of the ceiling.
     'Coo!' she said, having returned to terra firma and taken aboard  a
spot of breath. 'You gave me a start, sir!'
     'Frightfully sorry, my dear old housemaid,' I responded  cordially.
'As  a  matter of fact, you gave me a start, making two starts in  all.
I'm looking for Mr Cream.'
     'I'm looking for a mouse.'
     This opened up an interesting line of thought.
     'You feel there are mice in these parts?'
     'I  saw  one this morning, when I was doing the room. So I  brought
Augustus,' she said, and indicated a large black cat who until then had
escaped  my  notice. I recognized him as an old crony with whom  I  had
often breakfasted, I wading into the scrambled eggs, he into the saucer
of milk.
     'Augustus will teach him,' she said.
     Now,  right from the start, as may readily be imagined, I had  been
wondering  how  this housemaid was to be removed,  for  of  course  her
continued presence would render my enterprise null and void. You  can't
search rooms with the domestic staff standing on the sidelines, but  on
the  other  hand it was impossible for anyone with any claim  to  be  a
preux  chevalier to take her by the slack of her garment and heave  her
out. For a while the thing had seemed an impasse, but this statement of
hers that Augustus would teach the mouse gave me an idea.
     'I doubt it,' I said. 'You're new here, aren't you?'
     She  conceded this, saying that she had taken office  only  in  the
previous month.
     'I thought as much, or you would be aware that Augustus is a broken
reed  to  lean  on in the matter of catching mice. My own  acquaintance
with  him is a longstanding one, and I have come to know his psychology
from  soup to nuts. He hasn't caught a mouse since he was a slip  of  a
kitten. Except when eating, he does nothing but sleep. Lethargic is the
word that springs to the lips. If you cast an eye on him, you will  see
that he's asleep now.'
     'Coo! So he is.'
     'It's  a  sort of disease. There's a scientific name for it.  Trau-
something.  Traumatic  symplegia, that's it.  This  cat  has  traumatic
symplegia. In other words, putting it in simple language adapted to the
lay  mind,  where  other  cats are content to get  their  eight  hours,
Augustus  wants his twenty-four. If you will be ruled by me,  you  will
abandon  the  whole  project and take him back to the  kitchen.  You're
simply wasting your time here.'
     My  eloquence  was not without its effect. She said  'Coo!'  again,
picked  up  the cat, who muttered something drowsily which  I  couldn't
follow, and went out, leaving me to carry on.

     The first thing I noticed when at leisure to survey my surroundings
was  that the woman up top, carrying out her policy of leaving no stone
unturned in the way of sucking up to the Cream family, had done Wilbert
well where sleeping accommodation was concerned. What he had drawn when
clocking  in at Brinkley Court was the room known as the Blue  Room,  a
signal  honour to be accorded to a bachelor guest, amounting  to  being
given star billing, for at Brinkley, as at most country-houses, any old
nook  or  cranny is considered good enough for the celibate contingent.
My  own apartment, to take a case in point, was a sort of hermit's cell
in  which  one would have been hard put to it to swing a  cat,  even  a
smaller  one  than Augustus, not of course that one often wants  to  do
much  cat-swinging. What I'm driving at is that when I blow in on  Aunt
Dahlia,  you  don't catch her saying 'Welcome to Meadowsweet  Hall,  my
dear  boy. I've put you in the Blue Room, where I am sure you  will  be
comfortable.' I once suggested to her that I be put there, and all  she
said was 'You?' and the conversation turned to other topics.
     The furnishing of this Blue Room was solid and Victorian, it having
been  the  GHQ  of  my  Uncle  Tom's  late  father,  who  liked  things
substantial.  There was a four-poster bed, a chunky  dressing-table,  a
massive  writing table, divers chairs, pictures on the walls of fellows
in  cocked hats bending over females in muslin and ringlets and over at
the  far  side a cupboard or armoire in which you could have  hidden  a
dozen corpses. In short, there was so much space and so many things  to
shove  things behind that most people, called on to find a silver  cow-
creamer there, would have said 'Oh, what's the use?' and thrown in  the
     But where I had the bulge on the ordinary searcher was that I am  a
man  of wide reading. Starting in early boyhood, long before they  were
called  novels  of  suspense, I've read more mystery stories  than  you
could  shake a stick at, and they have taught me something  -viz.  that
anybody with anything to hide invariably puts it on top of the cupboard
or,  if you prefer it, the armoire. This is what happened in Murder  at
Mistleigh Manor, Three Dead on Tuesday, Excuse my Gat, Guess Who and  a
dozen  more standard works, and I saw no reason to suppose that Wilbert
Cream would have deviated from routine. My first move, accordingly, was
to  take a chair and prop it against the armoire, and I had climbed  on
this  and  was  preparing to subject the top to a close scrutiny,  when
Bobbie  Wickham,  entering on noiseless feet and  speaking  from  about
eighteen inches behind me, said:
     'How are you getting on?'
     Really,  one  sometimes  despairs of the modern  girl.  You'd  have
thought that this Wickham would have learned at her mother's knee  that
the  last thing a fellow in a highly nervous condition wants, when he's
searching  someone's room, is a disembodied voice in his immediate  ear
asking  him how he's getting on. The upshot, I need scarcely  say,  was
that  I came down like a sack of coals. The pulse was rapid, the  blood
pressure high, and for awhile the Blue Room pirouetted about me like an
adagio dancer.
     When  Reason returned to its throne, I found that Bobbie, no  doubt
feeling after that resounding crash that she was better elsewhere,  had
left  me  and  that I was closely entangled in the chair,  my  position
being  in some respects similar to that of Kipper Herring when  he  got
both  legs  wrapped round his neck in Switzerland. It seemed improbable
that I would ever get loose without the aid of powerful machinery.
     However, by pulling this way and pushing that, I made progress, and
I'd  just  contrived  to de-chair myself and was about  to  rise,  when
another voice spoke.
     'For  Pete's sake!' it said, and, looking up, I found that  it  was
not,  as  I  had for a moment supposed, from the lips of  the  Brinkley
Court  ghost that the words had proceeded, but from those of Mrs  Homer
Cream.  She  was  looking at me, as Sir Roderick Glossop  had  recently
looked  at Bobbie, with a wild surmise, her whole air that of  a  woman
who  is  not abreast. This time, I noticed, she had an ink spot on  her
     'Mr Wooster!' she yipped.
     Well,  there's nothing much you can say in reply to  'Mr  Wooster!'
except 'Oh, hullo,' so I said it.
     'You are doubtless surprised,' I was continuing, when she hogged the
conversation  again, asking me (a) what I was doing in her  son's  room
and (b) what in the name of goodness I thought I was up to.
     'For the love of Mike,' she added, driving her point home.
     It  is frequently said of Bertram Wooster that he is a man who  can
think on his feet, and if the necessity arises he can also use his loaf
when  on  all fours. On the present occasion I was fortunate in  having
had  that get-together with the housemaid and the cat Augustus, for  it
gave me what they call in France a point d'appui. Removing a portion of
chair  which had got entangled in my back hair, I said with  a  candour
that became me well:
     'I was looking for a mouse.'
     If she had replied, 'Ah, yes, indeed. I understand now. A mouse, to
be  sure. Quite,' everything would have been nice and smooth,  but  she
     'A mouse?' she said. 'What do you mean?'
     Well,  of  course, if she didn't know what a mouse was,  there  was
evidently  a  good deal of tedious spadework before us, and  one  would
scarcely have known where to start. It was a relief when her next words
showed  that that 'What do you mean?' had not been a query but more  in
the nature of a sort of heart-cry.
     'What makes you think there is a mouse in this room?'
     'The evidence points that way.'
     'Have you seen it?'
     'Actually, no. It's been lying what the French call perdu.'
     'What made you come and look for it?'
     'Oh, I thought I would.'
     'And why were you standing on a chair?'
     'Sort of just trying to get a bird's-eye view, as it were.'
     'Do you often go looking for mice in other people's rooms?'
     'I  wouldn't  say often. Just when the spirit moves me,  don't  you
     'I see. Well...'
     When people say 'Well' to you like that, it usually means that they
think  you  are outstaying your welcome and that the time has  come  to
call  it  a day. She felt, I could see, that Woosters were not required
in  her  son's  sleeping apartment, and realizing that there  might  be
something in this, I rose, dusted the knees of the trousers, and  after
a  courteous word to the effect that I hoped the spine-freezer on which
she  was  engaged was coming out well, left the presence. Happening  to
glance  back  as I reached the door, I saw her looking after  me,  that
wild  surmise still functioning on all twelve cylinders. It  was  plain
that she considered my behaviour odd, and I'm not saying it wasn't. The
behaviour  of  those who allow their actions to be  guided  by  Roberta
Wickham is nearly always odd.
     The  thing  I wanted most at this juncture was to have a  heart-to-
heart  talk with that young femme fatale, and after roaming hither  and
thither for a while I found her in my chair on the lawn, reading the Ma
Cream book in which I had been engrossed when these doings had started.
She greeted me with a bright smile, and said:
     'Back already? Did you find it?'
     With  a strong effort I mastered my emotion and replied curtly  but
civilly that the answer was in the negative.
     'No,' I said, 'I did not find it.'
     'You can't have looked properly.'
     Again  I  was compelled to pause and remind myself that an  English
gentleman  does  not  slosh  a  sitting redhead,  no  matter  what  the
     'I  hadn't time to look properly. I was impeded in my movements  by
half-witted females sneaking up behind me and asking how I was  getting
     'Well, I wanted to know.' A giggle escaped her. 'You did come down a
wallop, didn't you? How art thou fallen from heaven, oh Lucifer, son of
the morning, I said to myself. You're so terribly neurotic, Bertie. You
must  try  to be less jumpy. What you need is a good nerve  tonic.  I'm
sure  Sir  Roderick  would shake you up one,  if  you  asked  him.  And
     'How do you mean, "And meanwhile"?'
     'What are your plans now?'
     'I  propose to hoik you out of that chair and seat myself in it and
take that book, the early chapters of which I found most gripping,  and
start catching up with my reading and try to forget.'
     'You mean you aren't going to have another bash?'
     'I  am not. Bertram is through. You may give this to the press,  if
you wish.'
     'But  the  cow-creamer. How about your Uncle Tom's grief and  agony
when he learns of his bereavement?'
     'Let Uncle Tom eat cake.'
     'Bertie! Your manner is strange.'
     'Your manner would be strange if you'd been sitting on the floor of
Wilbert Cream's sleeping apartment with a chair round your neck, and Ma
Cream had come in.'
     'Golly! Did she?'
     'In person.'
     'What did you say?'
     'I said I was looking for a mouse.'
     'Couldn't you think of anything better than that?'
     'And how did it all come out in the end?'
     'I  melted  away, leaving her plainly convinced that I was  off  my
rocker. And so, young Bobbie, when you speak of having another bash,  I
merely  laugh  bitterly,' I said, doing so. 'Catch me going  into  that
sinister  room again! Not for a million pounds sterling, cash  down  in
small notes.'
     She made what I believe, though I wouldn't swear to it, is called a
moue. Putting the lips together and shoving them out, if you know  what
I  mean. The impression I got was that she was disappointed in Bertram,
having  expected  better things, and this was borne  out  by  her  next
     'Is this the daredevil spirit of the Woosters?'
     'As of even date, yes.'
     'Are you man or mouse?'
     'Kindly do not mention that word "mouse" in my presence.'
     'I do think you might try again. Don't spoil the ship for a ha'porth
of tar. I'll help you this time.'
     'Haven't I heard that word before somewhere?'
     'You may confidently expect to hear it again.'
     'No,  but listen, Bertie. Nothing can possibly go wrong if we  work
together.  Mrs  Cream won't show up this time. Lightning never  strikes
twice in the same place.'
     'Who made that rule?'
     'And  if she does ... Here's what I thought we'd do. You go in  and
start searching, and I'll stand outside the door.'
     'You feel that will be a lot of help?'
     'Of course it will. If I see her coming, I'll sing.'
     'Always  glad to hear you singing, of course, but in what way  will
that ease the strain?'
     'Oh, Bertie, you really are an abysmal chump. Don't you get it? When
you hear me burst into song, you'll know there's peril afoot and you'll
have plenty of time to nip out of the window.'
     'And break my bally neck?'
     'How  can you break your neck? There's a balcony outside  the  Blue
Room. I've seen Wilbert Cream standing on it, doing his Daily Dozen. He
breathes deeply and ties himself into a lovers' knot and -'
     'Never mind Wilbert Cream's excesses.'
     'I  only put that in to make it more interesting. The point is that
there is a balcony and once on it you're home. There's a water pipe  at
the  end of it. You just slide down that and go on your way, singing  a
gypsy song. You aren't going to tell me that you have any objection  to
sliding down water pipes. Jeeves says you're always doing it.'
     I  mused. It was true that I had slid down quite a number of  water
pipes  in my time. Circumstances had often so moulded themselves as  to
make  such an action imperative. It was by that route that I  had  left
Skeldings  Hall  at  three  in the morning after  the  hot-water-bottle
incident.  So  while it would be too much, perhaps, to say  that  I  am
never happier than when sliding down water pipes, the prospect of doing
so  caused  me  little or no concern. I began to  see  that  there  was
something in this plan she was mooting, if mooting is the word I want.
     What tipped the scale was the thought of Uncle Tom. His love for the
cow-creamer might be misguided, but you couldn't get away from the fact
that  he was deeply attached to the beastly thing, and one didn't  like
the  idea of him coming back from Harrogate and saying to himself  'And
now  for a refreshing look at the old cow-creamer' and finding  it  was
not  in  residence.  It  would blot the sunshine  from  his  life,  and
affectionate  nephews hate like the dickens to blot the  sunshine  from
the  lives  of uncles. It was true that I had said 'Let Uncle  Tom  eat
cake,' but I hadn't really meant it. I could not forget that when I was
at  Malvern House, Bramley-on-Sea, this relative by marriage had  often
sent  me postal orders sometimes for as much as ten bob. He, in  short,
had done the square thing by me, and it was up to me to do the s.t.  by
     And so it came about that some five minutes later I stood once more
outside the Blue Room with Bobbie beside me, not actually at the moment
singing  in  the  wilderness but prepared  so  to  sing  if  Ma  Cream,
modelling her strategy on that of the Assyrian, came down like  a  wolf
on the fold. The nervous system was a bit below par, of course, but not
nearly  so much so as it might have been. Knowing that Bobbie would  be
on  sentry-go made all the difference. Any gangster will tell you  that
the  strain  and  anxiety of busting a safe are greatly  diminished  if
you've a look-out man ready at any moment to say 'Cheese it, the cops!'
     Just  to  make sure that Wilbert hadn't returned from his  hike,  I
knocked  on the door. Nothing stirred. The coast seemed c. I  mentioned
this to Bobbie, and she agreed that it was as c. as a whistle.
     'Now a quick run-through, to see that you have got it straight. If I
sing, what do you do?'
     'Nip out of the window.'
     'And - ?'
     'Slide down the water pipe.'
     'And - ?'
     'Leg it over the horizon.'
     'Right. In you go and get cracking,' she said, and I went in.
     The dear old room was just as I'd left it, nothing changed, and  my
first move, of course, was to procure another chair and give the top of
the  armoire  the once-over. It was a set-back to find  that  the  cow-
creamer wasn't there. I suppose these kleptomaniacs know a thing or two
and  don't hide the loot in the obvious place. There was nothing to  be
done  but start the exhaustive search elsewhere, and I proceeded to  do
so,  keeping an ear cocked for any snatch of song. None coming, it  was
with  something of the old debonair Wooster spirit that I looked  under
this  and  peered  behind  that, and I had  just  crawled  beneath  the
dressing-table  in  pursuance  of my  researches,  when  one  of  those
disembodied  voices  which were so frequent in  the  Blue  Room  spoke,
causing me to give my head a nasty bump.
     'For  goodness' sake!' it said, and I came out like a pickled onion
on  the  end of a fork, to find that Ma Cream was once more a  pleasant
visitor.  She was standing there, looking down at me with  a  what-the-
hell  expression on her finely chiselled face, and I didn't blame  her.
Gives  a  woman a start, naturally, to come into her son's bedroom  and
observe  an  alien trouser-seat sticking out from under  the  dressing-
     We went into our routine.
     'Mr Wooster!'
     'Oh, hullo.'
     'It's you again?'
     'Why, yes,' I said, for this of course was perfectly correct, and an
odd  sound  proceeded from her, not exactly a hiccup and yet not  quite
not a hiccup.
     'Are you still looking for that mouse?'
     'That's right. I thought I saw it run under there, and I was  about
to deal with it regardless of its age or sex.'
     'What makes you think there is a mouse here?'
     'Oh, one gets these ideas.'
     'Do you often hunt for mice?'
     'Fairly frequently.'
     An idea seemed to strike her.
     'You don't think you're a cat?'
     'No, I'm pretty straight on that.'
     'But you pursue mice?'
     'Well, this is very interesting. I must consult my psychiatrist when
I  get  back  to  New York. I'm sure he will tell me that  this  mouse-
fixation is a symbol of something. Your head feels funny, doesn't it?'
     'It  does rather,' I said, the bump I had given it had been a juicy
one, and the temples were throbbing.
     'I thought as much. A sort of burning sensation, I imagine. Now you
do  just as I tell you. Go to your room and lie down. Relax. Try to get
a  little  sleep. Perhaps a cup of strong tea would help. And  ...  I'm
trying  to  think of the name of that alienist I've heard  people  over
here  speak so highly of. Miss Wickham mentioned him yesterday. Bossom?
Blossom? Glossop, that's it, Sir Roderick Glossop. I think you ought to
consult  him. A friend of mine is at his clinic now, and she says  he's
wonderful. Cures the most stubborn cases. Meanwhile, rest is the thing.
Go and have a good rest.'
     At  an early point in these exchanges I had started to sidle to the
door, and I now sidled through it, rather like a diffident crab on some
sandy beach trying to avoid the attentions of a child with a spade. But
I didn't go to my room and relax, I went in search of Bobbie, breathing
fire.  I wanted to take up with her the matter of that absence  of  the
burst of melody. I mean, considering that a mere couple of bars of some
popular song hit would have saved me from an experience that had turned
the  bones  to  water and whitened the hair from the neck  up,  I  felt
entitled to demand an explanation of why those bars had not emerged.
     I found her outside the front door at the wheel of her car.
     'Oh,  hullo,  Bertie,' she said, and a fish on  ice  couldn't  have
spoken more calmly. 'Have you got it?'
     I ground a tooth or two and waved the arms in a passionate gesture.
     'No,' I said, ignoring her query as to why I had chosen this moment
to do my Swedish exercises. 'I haven't. But Ma Cream got me.'
     Her eyes widened. She squeaked a bit.
     'Don't tell me she caught you bending again?'
     'Bending is right. I was half-way under the dressing-table. You and
your  singing,'  I  said,  and  I'm not sure  I  didn't  add  the  word
     Her eyes widened a bit further, and she squeaked another squeak.
     'Oh, Bertie, I'm sorry about that.'
     'Me, too.'
     'You  see, I was called away to the telephone. Mother rang up.  She
wanted to tell me you were a nincompoop.'
     'One wonders where she picks up such expressions.'
     'From  her literary friends, I suppose. She knows a lot of literary
     'Great help to the vocabulary.'
     'Yes. She was delighted when I told her I was coming home. She wants
to have a long talk.'
     'About me, no doubt?'
     'Yes,  I  expect  your name will crop up. But I mustn't  stay  here
chatting with you, Bertie. If I don't get started, I shan't hit the old
nest till daybreak. It's a pity you made such a mess of things. Poor Mr
Travers, he'll be broken-hearted. Still, into each life some rain  must
fall,' she said, and drove off, spraying gravel in all directions.
     If  Jeeves  had  been there, I would have turned to  him  and  said
'Women,  Jeeves!',  and  he  would have said  'Yes,  sir'  or  possibly
'Precisely,  sir', and this would have healed the bruised spirit  to  a
certain  extent, but as he wasn't I merely laughed a bitter  laugh  and
made  for  the lawn. A go at Ma Cream's goose-flesher might, I thought,
do something to soothe the vibrating ganglions.
     And  it did. I hadn't been reading long when drowsiness stole  over
me,  the tired eyelids closed, and in another couple of ticks I was off
to  dreamland, slumbering as soundly as if I had been the cat Augustus.
I  awoke  to  find  that some two hours had passed, and  it  was  while
stretching  the  limbs that I remembered I hadn't  sent  that  wire  to
Kipper Herring, inviting him to come and join the gang. I went to  Aunt
Dahlia's   boudoir   and  repaired  this  omission,   telephoning   the
communication  to someone at the post office who would have  been  well
advised  to  consult a good aurist. This done, I headed  for  the  open
spaces  again, and was approaching the lawn with a view to  getting  on
with  my  reading  when, hearing engine noises in  the  background  and
turning  to cast an eye in their direction, blow me tight if  I  didn't
behold Kipper alighting from his car at the front door.

     The distance from London to Brinkley Court being a hundred miles or
so  and not much more than two minutes having elapsed since I had  sent
off  that telegram, the fact that he was now outside the Brinkley front
door  struck me as quick service. It lowered the record of the chap  in
the  motoring sketch which Catsmeat Potter-Pirbright sometimes does  at
the Drones Club smoking concert where the fellow tells the other fellow
he's  going to drive to Glasgow and the other fellow says 'How  far  is
that?'  and the fellow says 'Three hundred miles' and the other  fellow
says 'How long will it take you to get there?' and the fellow says 'Oh,
about  half  an  hour, about half an hour.' The What-ho  with  which  I
greeted  the  back of his head as I approached was tinged, accordingly,
with a certain bewilderment.
     At the sound of the old familiar voice he spun around with something
of the agility of a cat on hot bricks, and I saw that his dial, usually
cheerful,  was  contorted with anguish, as if he had  swallowed  a  bad
oyster.  Guessing now what was biting him, I smiled one  of  my  subtle
smiles. I would soon, I told myself, be bringing the roses back to  his
     He  gulped a bit, then spoke in a hollow voice, like a spirit at  a
     'Hullo, Bertie.'
     'So there you are.'
     'Yes, here I am.'
     'I was hoping I might run into you.'
     'And now the dream's come true.'
     'You see, you told me you were staying here.'
     'How's everything?'
     'Pretty fruity.'
     'Your aunt well?'
     'You all right?'
     'More or less.'
     'Capital. Long time since I was at Brinkley.'
     'Nothing much changed, I mean.'
     'Well, that's how it goes.'
     He paused and did another splash of gulping, and I could see that we
were  about  to come to the nub, all that had gone before  having  been
merely what they call pour-parlers. I mean the sort of banana oil  that
passes  between statesmen at conferences conducted in an atmosphere  of
the  utmost cordiality before they tear their whiskers off and get down
to cases.
     I  was right. His face working as if the first bad oyster had  been
followed by a second with even more spin on the ball, he said:
     'I saw that thing in The Times, Bertie.'
     I  dissembled.  I ought, I suppose, to have started bringing  those
roses  back right away, but I felt it would be amusing to kid the  poor
fish along for a while, so I wore the mask.
     'Ah, yes. In The Times. That thing. Quite. You saw it, did you?'
     'At the club, after lunch. I couldn't believe my eyes.'
     Well,  I  hadn't been able to believe mine, either,  but  I  didn't
mention this. I was thinking how like Bobbie it was, when planning this
scheme of hers, not to have let him in on the ground floor. Slipped her
mind, I suppose, or she may have kept it under her hat for some strange
reason of her own. She had always been a girl who moved in a mysterious
way her wonders to perform.
     'And I'll tell you why I couldn't. You'll scarcely credit this, but
only a couple of days ago she was engaged to me.'
     'You don't say?'
     'Yes, I jolly well do.'
     'Engaged to you, eh?'
     'Up to the hilt. And all the while she must have been contemplating
this ghastly bit of treachery.'
     'A bit thick.'
     'If you can tell me anything that's thicker, I shall be glad to hear
it.  It  just  shows you what women are like. A frightful sex,  Bertie.
There  ought to be a law. I hope to live to see the day when women  are
no longer allowed.'
     'That  would rather put a stopper on keeping the human race  going,
wouldn't it?'
     'Well, who wants to keep the human race going?'
     'I see what you mean. Yes, something in that, of course.'
     He  kicked  petulantly  at  a passing beetle,  frowned  awhile  and
     'It's the cold, callous heartlessness of the thing that shocks  me.
Not  a  hint that she was proposing to return me to store. As  short  a
while  ago as last week, when we had a bite of lunch together, she  was
sketching out plans for the honeymoon with the greatest animation.  And
now this! Without a word of warning. You'd have thought that a girl who
was  smashing a fellow's life into hash would have dropped him a  line,
if only a postcard. Apparently that never occurred to her. She just let
me get the news from the morning paper. I was stunned.'
     'I bet you were. Did everything go black?'
     'Pretty black. I took the rest of the day thinking it over, and this
morning wangled leave from the office and got the car out and came down
here to tell you...'
     He paused, seeming overcome with emotion.
     'To  tell you that, whatever we do, we mustn't let this thing break
our old friendship.'
     'Of course not. Damn silly idea.'
     'It's such a very old friendship.'
     'I don't know when I've met an older.'
     'We were boys together.'
     'In Eton jackets and pimples.'
     'Exactly.  And more like brothers than anything. I would  share  my
last  bar  of almond rock with you, and you would cut me in fifty-fifty
on  your last bag of acid drops. When you had mumps, I caught them from
you,  and  when  I had measles, you caught them from me.  Each  helping
each.  So  we  must  carry  on regardless, just  as  if  this  had  not
     'The same old lunches.'
     'Oh, rather.'
     'And golf on Saturdays and the occasional game of squash. And  when
you are married and settled down, I shall frequently look in on you for
a cocktail.'
     'Yes, do.'
     'I will. Though I shall have to exercise an iron self-restraint  to
keep  me  from beaning that pie-faced little hornswoggler  Mrs  Bertram
Wooster, nee Wickham, with the shaker.'
     'Ought you to call her a pie-faced little hornswoggler?'
     'Why,  can you think of something worse?' he said, with the air  of
one always open to suggestions. 'Do you know Thomas Otway?'
     'I don't believe so. Pal of yours?'
     'Seventeenth-century  dramatist. Wrote The Orphan.  In  which  play
these  words occur. "What mighty ills have not been done by Woman?  Who
was't betrayed the Capitol? A woman. Who lost Marc Antony the world?  A
woman. Who was the cause of a long ten years' war and laid at last  old
Troy  in  ashes? Woman. Deceitful, damnable, destructive Woman."  Otway
knew what he was talking about He had the right slant. He couldn't have
put it better if he had known Roberta Wickham personally.'
     I  smiled  another subtle smile. I was finding all  this  extremely
     'I  don't  know  if  it's my imagination,  Kipper,'  I  said,  'but
something gives me the impression that at moment of going to press  you
aren't too sold on Bobbie.'
     He shrugged a shoulder.
     'Oh,  I wouldn't say that. Apart from wishing I could throttle  the
young twister with my bare hands and jump on the remains with hobnailed
boots,  I  don't feel much about her one way or the other. She  prefers
you to me, and there's nothing more to be said. The great thing is that
everything is all right between you and me.'
     'You  came  all  the way here just to make sure of that?'  I  said,
     'Well, there may possibly also have been an idea at the back of  my
mind  that  I  might get invited to dig in at one of those  dinners  of
Anatole's  before  going on to book a room at the "Bull  and  Bush"  in
Market Snodsbury. How is Anatole's cooking these days?'
     'Superber than ever.'
     'Continues to melt in the mouth, does it? It's two years since I bit
into his products, but the taste still lingers. What an artist!'
     'Ah!' I said, and would have bared my head, only I hadn't a hat on.
     'Would it run to a dinner invitation, do you think?'
     'My dear chap, of course. The needy are never turned from our door.'
     'Splendid. And after the meal I shall propose to Phyllis Mills.'
     'Yes, I know what you're thinking. She is closely related to Aubrey
Upjohn, you are saying to yourself. But surely, Bertie, she can't  help
     'More to be pitied than censured, you think?'
     'Exactly. We mustn't be narrow-minded. She is a sweet, gentle girl,
unlike certain scarlet-headed Delilahs who shall be nameless, and I  am
very fond of her.'
     'I thought you scarcely knew her.'
     'Oh  yes,  we saw quite a bit of one another in Switzerland.  We're
great buddies.'
     It seemed to me that the moment had come to bring the good news from
Aix to Ghent, as the expression is.
     'I don't know that I would propose to Phyllis Mills, Kipper. Bobbie
might not like it.'
     'But that's the whole idea, to show her she isn't the only onion in
the  stew  and that if she doesn't want me, there are others  who  feel
differently. What are you grinning about?'
     As a matter of fact, I was smiling subtly, but I let it go.
     'Kipper,' I said, 'I have an amazing story to relate.'
     I  don't  know  if  you  happen to take Old  Doctor  Gordon's  Bile
Magnesia,  which  when  the liver is disordered gives  instant  relief,
acting  like  magic and imparting an inward glow? I  don't  myself,  my
personal  liver being always more or less in mid-season form, but  I've
seen  the  advertisements.  They show the  sufferer  before  and  after
taking,  in  the  first case with drawn face and hollow  eyes  and  the
general  look of one shortly about to hand in his dinner pail,  in  the
second  all  beans and buck and what the French call bien  etre.  Well,
what  I'm  driving  at is that my amazing story had  exactly  the  same
effect on Kipper as the daily dose for adults ... He moved, he stirred,
he  seemed to feel the rush of life along his keel, and while  I  don't
suppose  he  actually  put on several pounds  in  weight  as  the  tale
proceeded, one got the distinct illusion that he was swelling like  one
of  those rubber ducks which you fill with air before inserting them in
the bath tub.
     'Well, I'll be blowed!' he said, when I had placed the facts before
him. 'Well, I'll be a son of a what not!'
     'I thought you would be.'
     'Bless her ingenious little heart! Not many girls would have got the
grey matter working like that.'
     'Very few.'
     'What a helpmeet! Talk about service and co-operation. Have you any
idea how the thing is working out?'
     'Rather smoothly, I think. On reading the announcement in The Times,
Wickham senior had hysterics and swooned in her tracks.'
     'She doesn't like you?'
     'That was the impression I got. It has been confirmed by subsequent
telegrams to Bobbie in which she refers to me as a guffin and  a  gaby.
She also considers me a nincompoop.'
     'Well, that's fine. It looks as though, after you, I shall come  to
her like ... it's on the tip of my tongue.'
     'Rare and refreshing fruit?'
     'Exactly. If you care to have a bet on it, five bob will get you ten
that this scenario will end with a fade-out of Lady Wickham folding  me
in her arms and kissing me on the brow and saying she knows I will make
her little girl happy. Gosh, Bertie, when I think that she - Bobbie,  I
mean,  not  Lady  Wickham - will soon be mine and  that  shortly  after
yonder sun has set I shall be tucking into one of Anatole's dinners,  I
could  dance a saraband. By the way, talking of dinner, do you  suppose
it  would also run to a bed? The "Bull and Bush" is well spoken  of  in
the  Automobile Guide, but I'm always a bit wary of these country pubs.
I'd  much  rather  be at Brinkley Court, of which  I  have  such  happy
memories. Could you swing it with your aunt?'
     'She isn't here. She left to minister to her son Bonzo, who is down
with  German measles at his school. But she rang up this afternoon  and
instructed me to wire you to come and make a prolonged stay.'
     'You're pulling my leg.'
     'No, this is official.'
     'But what made her think of me?'
     'There's something she wants you to do for her.'
     'She  can  have anything she asks, even unto half my kingdom.  What
does she ...' He paused, and a look of alarm came into his face. 'Don't
tell  me she wants me to present the prizes at Market Snodsbury Grammer
School, like Gussie?'
     He  was  alluding to a mutual friend of ours of the name of  Gussie
Fink-Nottle,  who, hounded by the aged relative into  undertaking  this
task  in the previous summer, had got pickled to the gills and made  an
outstanding  exhibition of himself, setting up  a  mark  at  which  all
future orators would shoot in vain.
     'No, no, nothing like that. The prizes this year will be distributed
by Aubrey Upjohn.'
     'That's a relief. How is he, by the way? You've met him, of course?'
     'Oh, yes, we got together. I spilled some tea on him.'
     'You couldn't have done better.'
     'He's grown a moustache.'
     'That  eases my mind. I wasn't looking forward to seeing that  bare
upper  lip  of  his.  Remember how it used to make  us  quail  when  he
twitched  it at us? I wonder how he'll react when confronted  with  not
only  one former pupil but two, and those two the very brace that  have
probably haunted him in his dreams for the last fifteen years. Might as
well unleash me on him now.'
     'He isn't here.'
     'You said he was.'
     'Yes, he was and he will be, but he isn't. He's gone up to London.'
     'Isn't anybody here?'
     'Certainly. There's Phyllis Mills -'
     'Nice girl.'
     '  - and Mrs Homer Cream of New York City, NY, and her son Wilbert.
And  that  brings me to the something Aunt Dahlia wants you to  do  for
     I  was  pleased, as I put him hep on the Wilbert -Phyllis situation
and  revealed the part he was expected to play in it, to note  that  he
showed  no  signs  of  being about to issue the presidential  veto.  He
followed the set-up intelligently and when I had finished said that  of
course he would be only too willing to oblige. It wasn't much, he said,
to ask of a fellow who esteemed Aunt Dahlia as highly as he did and who
ever  since she had lushed him up so lavishly two summers ago had  been
wishing there was something he could do in the way of buying back.
     'Rely on me, Bertie,' he said. 'We can't have Phyllis tying herself
up  with  a  man who on the evidence would appear to be as nutty  as  a
fruit  cake.  I  will be about this Cream's bed and  about  his  board,
spying out all his ways. Every time he lures the poor girl into a leafy
glade,  I will be there, nestling behind some wild flower all ready  to
pop out and gum the game at the least indication that he is planning to
get  mushy. And now if you would show me to my room, I will have a bath
and brush-up so as to be all sweet and fresh for the evening meal. Does
Anatole still do those Timbales de ris de veau toulousaine?'
     'And the Sylphides a la creme d'ecrevisses.'
     'There  is none like him, none,' said Kipper, moistening  the  lips
with  the  tip  of  the tongue and looking like a wolf  that  has  just
spotted its Russian peasant. 'He stands alone.'

     As  I  hadn't  the  remotest which rooms were available  and  which
weren't, getting Kipper dug in necessitated ringing for Pop Glossop.  I
pressed the button and he appeared, giving me, as he entered, the  sort
of conspiratorial glance the acting secretary of a secret society would
have given a friend on the membership roll.
     'Oh, Swordfish,' I said, having given him a conspiratorial glance in
return,  for  one  always  likes to do the civil  thing,  'this  is  Mr
Herring, who has come to join our little group.'
     He bowed from the waist, not that he had much waist.
     'Good evening, sir.'
     'He will be staying some time. Where do we park him?'
     'The Red Room suggests itself, sir.'
     'You get the Red Room, Kipper.'
     'I  had it last year. 'Tis not as deep as a well nor as wide  as  a
church door, but 'tis enough, 'twill serve,' I said, recalling a gag of
Jeeves's. 'Will you escort Mr Herring thither, Swordfish?'
     'Very good, sir.'
     'And  when you have got him installed, perhaps I could have a  word
with you in your pantry,' I said, giving him a conspiratorial glance.
     'Certainly, sir,' he responded, giving me a conspiratorial glance.
     It was one of those big evenings for conspiratorial glances.
     I hadn't been waiting in the pantry long when he navigated over the
threshold,  and my first act was to congratulate him on the  excellence
of  his  technique. I had been much impressed by all that  'Very  good,
sir,' 'Certainly, sir,' bowing-from-the-waist stuff. I said that Jeeves
himself  couldn't have read his lines better, and he simpered  modestly
and said that one picked up these little tricks of the trade from one's
own butler.
     'Oh, by the way,' I said, 'where did you get the Swordfish?'
     He smiled indulgently.
     'That was Miss Wickham's suggestion.'
     'I thought as much.'
     'She  informed me that she had always dreamed of one day meeting  a
butler called Swordfish. A charming young lady. Full of fun.'
     'It  may be fun for her,' I said with one of my bitter laughs, 'but
it isn't so diverting for the unfortunate toads beneath the harrow whom
she  plunges  so ruthlessly in the soup. Let me tell you what  occurred
after I left you this afternoon.'
     'Yes, I am all eagerness to hear.'
     'Then pin your ears back and drink it in.'
     If  I  do say so, I told my story well, omitting no detail  however
slight.  It  had  him  Bless-my-soul-ing throughout,  and  when  I  had
finished  he  t'ck-t'ck-t'ck-ed  and  said  it  must  have  been   most
unpleasant for me, and I said that 'unpleasant' covered the facts  like
the skin on a sausage.
     'But  I  think  that  in your place I should  have  thought  of  an
explanation  of  your  presence  calculated  to  carry  more  immediate
conviction than that you were searching for a mouse.'
     'Such as?'
     'It is hard to say on the spur of the moment.'
     'Well,  it  was  on the spur of the m. that I had  to  say  it,'  I
rejoined  with  some heat. 'You don't get time to polish your  dialogue
and  iron out the bugs in the plot when a woman who looks like Sherlock
Holmes  catches you in her son's room with your rear elevation sticking
out from under the dressing-table.'
     'True. Quite true. But I wonder...'
     'Wonder what?'
     'I do not wish to hurt your feelings.'
     'Go ahead. My feelings have been hurt so much already that a little
bit extra won't make any difference.'
     'I may speak frankly?'
     'Well,  then, I am wondering if it was altogether wise  to  entrust
this  very  delicate operation to a young fellow like  yourself.  I  am
coming  round  to the view you put forward when we were discussing  the
matter  with Miss Wickham. You said, if you recall, that the enterprise
should  have been placed in the hands of a mature, experienced  man  of
the world and not in those of one of less ripe years who as a child had
never  been  expert at hunt-the-slipper. I am, you will agree,  mature,
and in my earlier days I won no little praise for my skill at hunt-the-
slipper.  I  remember  one of the hostesses whose Christmas  parties  I
attended   comparing  me  to  a  juvenile  bloodhound.  An  extravagant
encomium, of course, but that is what she said.'
     I looked at him with a wild surmise. It seemed to me that there was
but one meaning to be attached to his words.
     'You aren't thinking of having a pop at it yourself?'
     'That is precisely my intention, Mr Wooster.'
     'Lord love a duck!'
     'The expression is new to me, but I gather from it that you consider
my conduct eccentric.'
     'Oh,  I  wouldn't say that, but do you realize what you are letting
yourself in for? You won't enjoy meeting Ma Cream. She has an eye  like
... what are those things that have eyes? Basilisks, that's the name  I
was  groping  for. She has an eye like a basilisk. Have you  considered
the  possibility  of  having that eye go through you  like  a  dose  of
     'Yes,  I  can  envisage the peril. But the fact is, Mr  Wooster,  I
regard what has happened as a challenge. My blood is up.'
     'Mine froze.'
     'And  you  may possibly not believe me, but I find the prospect  of
searching Mr Cream's room quite enjoyable.'
     'Yes. In a curious way it restores my youth. It brings back to me my
preparatory school days, when I would often steal down at night to  the
headmaster's study to eat his biscuits.'
     I  started. I looked at him with a kindling eye. Deep had called to
deep, and the cockles of the heart were warmed.
     'He kept them in a tin on his desk.'
     'You really used to do that at your prep school?'
     'Many years ago.'
     'So did I,' I said, coming within an ace of saying, 'My brother!'
     He  raised  his bushy eyebrows, and you could see that his  heart's
cockles were warmed, too.
     'Indeed? Fancy that! I had supposed the idea original with  myself,
but  no doubt all over England today the rising generation is doing the
same thing. So you too have lived in Arcady? What kind of biscuits were
yours? Mine were mixed.'
     'The ones with pink and white sugar on?'
     'In many instances, though some were plain.'
     'Mine were ginger nuts.'
     'Those are very good, too, of course, but I prefer the mixed.'
     'So do I. But you had to take what you could get in those days. Were
you ever copped?'
     'I am glad to say never.'
     'I was once. I can feel the place in frosty weather still.'
     'Too  bad.  But these things will happen. Embarking on the  present
venture, I have the sustaining thought that if the worst occurs  and  I
am apprehended, I can scarcely be given six of the best bending over  a
chair,  as  we  used to call it. Yes, you may leave this little  matter
entirely to me, Mr Wooster.'
     'I wish you'd call me Bertie.'
     'Certainly, certainly.'
     'And might I call you Roderick?'
     'I shall be delighted.'
     'Or Roddy? Roderick's rather a mouthful.'
     'Whichever you prefer.'
     'And you are really going to hunt the slipper?'
     'I  am resolved to do so. I have the greatest respect and affection
for your uncle and appreciate how deeply wounded he would be, were this
prized  object to be permanently missing from his collection.  I  would
never  forgive  myself if in the endeavour to recover his  property,  I
were to leave any -'
     'Stone unturned?'
     'I was about to say avenue unexplored. I shall strain every -'
     'I was thinking of the word nerve.'
     'Just as juste. You'll have to bide your time, of course.'
     'And await your opportunity.'
     'Opportunity knocks but once.'
     'So I understand.'
     'I'll  give you one tip. The thing isn't on top of the cupboard  or
     'Ah, that is helpful.'
     'Unless  of course he's put it there since. Well, anyway,  best  of
luck, Roddy.'
     'Thank you, Bertie.'
     If I had been taking Old Doctor Gordon's Bile Magnesia regularly, I
couldn't have felt more of an inward glow as I left him and headed  for
the  lawn  to get the Ma Cream book and return it to its place  on  the
shelves  of Aunt Dahlia's boudoir. I was lost in admiration of  Roddy's
manly  spirit. He was well stricken in years, fifty if a  day,  and  it
thrilled me to think that there was so much life in the old dog  still.
It  just  showed  ... well, I don't know what, but something.  I  found
myself  musing on the boy Glossop, wondering what he had been  like  in
his  biscuit-snitching days. But except that I knew  he  wouldn't  have
been  bald then, I couldn't picture him. It's often this way  when  one
contemplates one's seniors. I remember how amazed I was to  learn  that
my Uncle Percy, a tough old egg with apparently not a spark of humanity
in  him, had once held the metropolitan record for being chucked out of
Covent Garden Balls.
     I  got the book, and ascertaining after reaching Aunt Dahlia's lair
that there remained some twenty minutes before it would be necessary to
start  getting ready for the evening meal I took a seat and resumed  my
reading.  I  had  had to leave off at a point where Ma Cream  had  just
begun  to  spit on her hands and start filling the customers with  pity
and  terror. But I hadn't put more than a couple of clues  and  a  mere
sprinkling  of  human gore under my belt, when the door flew  open  and
Kipper  appeared. And as the eye rested on him, he too filled  me  with
pity and terror, for his map was flushed and his manner distraught.  He
looked like Jack Dempsey at the conclusion of his first conference with
Gene Tunney, the occasion, if you remember, when he forgot to duck.
     He lost no time in bursting into speech.
     'Bertie! I've been hunting for you all over the place!'
     'I was having a chat with Swordfish in his pantry. Something wrong?'
     'Something wrong!'
     'Don't you like the Red Room?'
     'The Red Room!'
     I  gathered from his manner that he had not come to beef about  his
sleeping accommodation.
     'Then what is your little trouble?'
     'My little trouble!'
     I felt that this sort of thing must be stopped at its source. It was
only  ten minutes to dressing-for-dinner time, and we could go on along
these lines for hours.
     'Listen, old crumpet,' I said patiently. 'Make up your mind whether
you  are  my  old  friend Reginald Herring or  an  echo  in  the  Swiss
mountains. If you're simply going to repeat every word I say -'
     At  this  moment  Pop Glossop entered with the  cocktails,  and  we
cheesed  the  give-and-take. Kipper drained his glass to the  lees  and
seemed  to become calmer. When the door closed behind Roddy and he  was
at liberty to speak, he did so quite coherently. Taking another beaker,
he said:
     'Bertie, the most frightful thing has happened.'
     I  don't  mind  saying that the heart did a bit of sinking.  In  an
earlier conversation with Bobbie Wickham it will be recalled that I had
compared Brinkley Court to one of those joints the late Edgar Allan Poe
used  to  write about. If you are acquainted with his works,  you  will
remember that in them it was always tough going for those who stayed in
country-houses, the visitor being likely at any moment to  encounter  a
walking  corpse  in a winding sheet with blood all over it.  Prevailing
conditions at Brinkley were not perhaps quite as testing as  that,  but
the atmosphere had undeniably become sinister, and here was Kipper more
than  hinting  that  he had a story to relate which  would  deepen  the
general feeling that things were hotting up.
     'What's the matter?' I said.
     'I'll tell you what's the matter,' he said.
     'Yes, do,' I said, and he did.
     'Bertie,' he said, taking a third one. 'I think you will understand
that  when  I read that announcement in The Times I was utterly  bowled
     'Oh quite. Perfectly natural.'
     'My head swam, and -'
     'Yes, you told me. Everything went black.'
     'I  wish  it had stayed black,' he said bitterly, 'but  it  didn't.
After awhile the mists cleared, and I sat there seething with fury. And
after  I  had seethed for a bit I rose from my chair, took pen in  hand
and wrote Bobbie a stinker.'
     'Oh, gosh!'
     'I put my whole soul into it.'
     'Oh, golly!'
     'I accused her in set terms of giving me the heave-ho in order that
she  could mercenarily marry a richer man. I called her a carrot-topped
Jezebel  whom  I was thankful to have got out of my hair.  I...  Oh,  I
can't remember what else I said but, as I say, it was a stinker.'
     'But you never mentioned a word about this when I met you.'
     'In  the ecstasy of learning that that Times thing was just a  ruse
and that she loved me still it passed completely from my mind. When  it
suddenly came back to me just now, it was like getting hit in  the  eye
with a wet fish. I reeled.'
     'Reeled.  I felt absolutely boneless. But I had enough strength  to
stagger  to  the telephone. I rang up Skeldings Hall and  was  informed
that she had just arrived.'
     'She must have driven like an inebriated racing motorist.'
     'No doubt she did. Girls will be girls. Anyway, she was there.  She
told me with a merry lilt in her voice that she had found a letter from
me  on  the  hall table and could hardly wait to open it. In a  shaking
voice I told her not to.'
     'So you were in time.'
     'In time, my foot! Bertie, you're a man of the world. You've known a
good  many  members of the other sex in your day. What does a  girl  do
when she is told not to open a letter?'
     I got his drift.
     'Opens it?'
     'Exactly. I heard the envelope rip, and the next moment... No,  I'd
rather not think of it.'
     'She took umbrage?'
     'Yes, and she also took my head off. I don't know if you have  ever
been in a typhoon on the Indian Ocean.'
     'No, I've never visited those parts.'
     'Nor have I, but from what people tell me what ensued must have been
very like being in one. She spoke for perhaps five minutes -'
     'By Shrewsbury clock.'
     'Nothing. What did she say?'
     'I can't repeat it all, and wouldn't if I could.'
     'And what did you say?'
     'I couldn't get a word in edgeways.'
     'One can't sometimes.'
     'Women talk so damn quick.'
     'How well I know it! And what was the final score?'
     'She said she was thankful that I was glad to have got her out of my
hair,  because she was immensely relieved to have got me out  of  hers,
and  that  I had made her very happy because now she was free to  marry
you, which had always been her dearest wish.'
     In  this hair-raiser of Ma Cream's which I had been perusing  there
was  a  chap of the name of Scarface McColl, a gangster of sorts,  who,
climbing  into the old car one morning and twiddling the starting  key,
went  up in fragments owing to a business competitor having inserted  a
bomb  in  his engine, and I had speculated for a moment, while reading,
as to how he must have felt. I knew now. Just as he had done, I rose. I
sprang to the door, and Kipper raised an eyebrow.
     'Am I boring you?' he said rather stiffly.
     'No, no. But I must go and get my car.'
     'You going for a ride?'
     'But it's nearly dinner-time.'
     'I don't want any dinner.'
     'Where are you going?'
     'Herne Bay.'
     'Why Herne Bay?'
     'Because Jeeves is there, and this thing must be placed in his hands
without a moment's delay.'
     'What can Jeeves do?'
     'That,' I said, 'I cannot say, but he will do something. If he  has
been  eating plenty of fish, as no doubt he would at a seashore resort,
his brain will be at the top of its form, and when Jeeves's brain is at
the top of its form, all you have to do is press a button and stand out
of the way while he takes charge.'

     It's considerably more than a step from Brinkley Court to Herne Bay,
the  one  being in the middle of Worcestershire and the  other  on  the
coast  of Kent, and even under the best of conditions you don't  expect
to do the trip in a flash. On the present occasion, held up by the Arab
steed getting taken with a fit of the vapours and having to be towed to
a garage for medical treatment, I didn't fetch up at journey's end till
well past midnight. And when I rolled round to Jeeves's address on  the
morrow, I was informed that he had gone out early and they didn't  know
when he would be back. Leaving word for him to ring me at the Drones, I
returned  to the metropolis and was having the pre-dinner keg of  nails
in the smoking-room when his call came through.
     'Mr Wooster? Good evening, sir. This is Jeeves.'
     'And not a moment too soon,' I said, speaking with the emotion of a
lost  lamb  which after long separation from the parent  sheep  finally
manages  to  spot it across the meadow. 'Where have you been  all  this
     'I had an appointment to lunch with a friend at Folkestone, sir, and
while  there  was  persuaded to extend my visit in  order  to  judge  a
seaside bathing belles contest.'
     'No, really? You do live, don't you?'
     'Yes, sir.'
     'How did it go off?'
     'Quite satisfactorily, sir, thank you.'
     'Who won?'
     'A  Miss  Marlene Higgins of Brixton, sir, with Miss Lana Brown  of
Tulse Hill and Miss Marilyn Bunting of Penge honourably mentioned.  All
most attractive young ladies.'
     'Extremely so.'
     'Well, let me tell you, Jeeves, and you can paste this in your hat,
shapeliness isn't everything in this world. In fact, it sometimes seems
to me that the more curved and lissome the members of the opposite sex,
the  more  likely  they  are to set Hell's foundations  quivering.  I'm
sorely  beset, Jeeves. Do you recall telling me once about someone  who
told somebody he could tell him something which would make him think  a
bit? Knitted socks and porcupines entered into it, I remember.'
     'I think you may be referring to the ghost of the father of Hamlet,
Prince  of  Denmark, sir. Addressing his son, he said "I could  a  tale
unfold  whose lightest word would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy  young
blood,  make  thy two eyes, like stars, start from their  spheres,  thy
knotted and combined locks to part and each particular hair to stand on
end like quills upon the fretful porpentine."'
     'That's right. Locks, of course, not socks. Odd that he should have
said  porpentine when he meant porcupine. Slip of the tongue, no doubt,
as  so  often happens with ghosts. Well, he had nothing on me,  Jeeves.
It's  a tale of that precise nature that I am about to unfold. Are  you
     'Yes, sir.'
     'Then hold on to your hat and don't miss a word.'
     When  I  had finished unfolding, he said, 'I can readily appreciate
your  concern,  sir.  The situation, as you say, is  one  fraught  with
anxiety,'  which is pitching it strong for Jeeves, he as a rule  coming
through with a mere 'Most disturbing, sir.'
     'I will come to Brinkley Court immediately, sir.'
     'Will you really? I hate to interrupt your holiday.'
     'Not at all, sir.'
     'You can resume it later.'
     'Certainly, sir, if that is convenient to you.'
     'But now -'
     'Precisely sir. Now, if I may borrow a familiar phrase -'
     ' - is the time for all good men to come to the aid of the party?'
     'The  very  words I was about to employ, sir. I will  call  at  the
apartment at as early an hour tomorrow as is possible.'
     'And we'll drive down together. Right,' I said, and went off to  my
simple but wholesome dinner.
     It was with ... well, not quite an uplifted heart... call it a heart
lifted  about  half  way ... that I started out  for  Brinkley  on  the
following afternoon. The thought that Jeeves was at my side, his  fish-
fed  brain  at  my  disposal, caused a spot of silver lining  to  gleam
through  the storm clouds, but only a spot, for I was asking myself  if
even  Jeeves might not fail to find a solution of the problem that  had
raised  its  ugly  head. Admittedly expert though  he  was  at  joining
sundered  hearts, he had rarely been up against a rift within the  lute
so  complete  as that within the lute of Roberta Wickham  and  Reginald
Herring, and as I remember hearing him say once, 'tis not in mortals to
command  success. And at the thought of what would ensue,  were  he  to
fall  down  on the assignment, I quivered like something  in  aspic.  I
could  not  forget  that  Bobbie, while handing  Kipper  his  hat,  had
expressed  in set terms her intention of lugging me to the altar  rails
and  signalling to the clergyman to do his stuff. So as I  drove  along
the heart, as I have indicated, was uplifted only to a medium extent.
     When  we  were  out of the London traffic and it  was  possible  to
converse  without  bumping  into buses and  pedestrians,  I  threw  the
meeting open for debate.
     'You  have  not forgotten our telephone conversation  of  yestreen,
     'No, sir.'
     'You have the salient points docketed in your mind?'
     'Yes, sir.'
     'Have you been brooding on them?'
     'Yes, sir.'
     'Got a bite of any sort?'
     'Not yet, sir.'
     'No, I hardly expected you would. These things always take time.'
     'Yes, sir.'
     'The core of the matter is,' I said, twiddling the wheel to avoid a
passing  hen, 'that in Roberta Wickham we are dealing with  a  girl  of
high and haughty spirit.'
     'Yes, sir.'
     'And  girls  of  high and haughty spirit need kidding  along.  This
cannot be done by calling them carrot-topped Jezebels.'
     'No, sir.'
     'I know if anyone called me a carrot-topped Jezebel, umbrage is the
first  thing  I'd  take. Who was Jezebel, by the way?  The  name  seems
familiar, but I can't place her.'
     'A character in the Old Testament, sir. A queen of Israel.'
     'Of  course,  yes. Be forgetting my own name next. Eaten  by  dogs,
wasn't she?'
     'Yes, sir.'
     'Can't have been pleasant for her.'
     'No, sir.'
     'Still,  that's the way the ball rolls. Talking of being  eaten  by
dogs, there's a dachshund at Brinkley who when you first meet him  will
give you the impression that he plans to convert you into a light snack
between  his  regular meals. Pay no attention. It's  all  eyewash.  His
belligerent attitude is simply -'
     'Sound and fury signifying nothing, sir?'
     'That's it. Pure swank. A few civil words, and he will be grappling
you ... what's that expression I've heard you use?'
     'Grappling me to his soul with hoops of steel, sir?'
     'In the first two minutes. He wouldn't hurt a fly, but he has to put
up  a  front because his name's Poppet. One can readily appreciate that
when  a  dog  hears himself addressed day in and day out as Poppet,  he
feels he must throw his weight about. His self-respect demands it.'
     'Precisely, sir.'
     'You'll  like Poppet. Nice dog. Wears his ears inside out.  Why  do
dachshunds wear their ears inside out?'
     'I could not say, sir.'
     'Nor  me. I've often wondered. But this won't do, Jeeves.  Here  we
are,  yakking  about  Jezebels and dachshunds,  when  we  ought  to  be
concentrating our minds on...'
     I broke off abruptly. My eye had been caught by a wayside inn. Well,
not actually so much by the wayside inn as by what was standing outside
it  -  to wit, a scarlet roadster which I recognized instantly  as  the
property of Bobbie Wickham. One saw what had happened. Driving back  to
Brinkley after a couple of nights with Mother, she had found the  going
a  bit warm and had stopped off at this hostelry for a quick one. And a
very  sensible thing to do, too. Nothing picks one up more than a  spot
of sluicing on a hot summer afternoon.
     I applied the brakes.
     'Mind waiting here a minute, Jeeves?'
     'Certainly, sir. You wish to speak to Miss Wickham?'
     'Ah, you spotted her car?'
     'Yes, sir. It is distinctly individual.'
     'Like  its owner. I have a feeling that I may be able to accomplish
something  in the breach-healing way with a honeyed word or two.  Worth
trying, don't you think?'
     'Unquestionably, sir.'
     'At a time like this one doesn't want to leave any avenue unturned.'
     The interior of the wayside inn - the 'Fox and Goose', not that  it
matters - was like the interiors of all wayside inns, dark and cool and
smelling  of  beer,  cheese, coffee, pickles  and  the  sturdy  English
peasantry. Entering, you found yourself in a cosy nook with tankards on
the  walls and chairs and tables dotted hither and thither. On  one  of
the  chairs at one of the tables Bobbie was seated with a glass  and  a
bottle of ginger ale before her.
     'Good Lord, Bertie!' she said as I stepped up and what-ho-ed. 'Where
did you spring from?'
     I explained that I was on my way back to Brinkley from London in my
     'Be careful someone doesn't pinch it. I'll bet you haven't taken out
the keys.'
     'No, but Jeeves is there, keeping watch and ward, as you might say.'
     'Oh,  you've  brought  Jeeves with you? I thought  he  was  on  his
     'He very decently cancelled it.'
     'Pretty feudal.'
     'Very. When I told him I needed him at my side, he didn't hesitate.'
     'What do you need him at your side for?'
     The  moment had come for the honeyed word. I lowered my voice to  a
confidential murmur, but on her inquiring if I had laryngitis raised it
     'I had an idea that he might be able to do something.'
     'What about?'
     'About  you  and  Kipper,'  I said, and  started  to  feel  my  way
cautiously towards the core and centre. It would be necessary, I  knew,
to pick my words with c., for with girls of high and haughty spirit you
have to watch your step, especially if they have red hair, like Bobbie.
If  they  think you're talking out of turn, dudgeon ensues, and dudgeon
might  easily lead her to reach for the ginger ale bottle and  bean  me
with it. I don't say she would, but it was a possibility that had to be
taken into account. So I sort of eased into the agenda.
     'I must begin by saying that Kipper has given me a full eyewitness's
-  well, earwitness's I suppose you'd say -report of that chat you  and
he had over the telephone, and no doubt you are saying to yourself that
it  would  have been in better taste for him to have kept it under  his
hat.  But  you must remember that we were boys together, and  a  fellow
naturally confides in a chap he was boys together with. Anyway, be that
as  it  may,  he poured out his soul to me, and he hadn't been  pouring
long  before I was able to see that he was cut to the quick. His  blood
pressure was high, his eye rolled in what they call a fine frenzy,  and
he was death-where-is-thy-sting-ing like nobody's business.'
     I  saw her quiver and kept a wary eye on the ginger ale bottle. But
even  if  she had raised it and brought it down on the Wooster bean,  I
couldn't  have been more stunned than I was by the words that left  her
     'The poor lamb!'
     I had ordered a gin and tonic. I now spilled a portion of this.
     'Did you say poor lamb?'
     'You  bet  I said poor lamb, though "Poor sap" would perhaps  be  a
better  description.  Just imagine him taking all  that  stuff  I  said
seriously. He ought to have known I didn't mean it.'
     I groped for the gist.
     'You were just making conversation?'
     'Well, blowing off steam. For heaven's sake, isn't a girl allowed to
blow off some steam occasionally? I never dreamed it would really upset
him. Reggie always takes everything so literally.'
     'Then  is  the  position that the laughing love god  is  once  more
working at the old stand?'
     'Like a beaver.'
     'In fact, to coin a phrase, you're sweethearts still?'
     'Of course. I may have meant what I said at the time, but only  for
about five minutes.'
     I drew a deep breath, and a moment later wished I hadn't, because I
drew it while drinking the remains of my gin and tonic.
     'Does Kipper know of this?' I said, when I had finished coughing.
     'Not yet. I'm on my way to tell him.'
     I raised a point on which I particularly desired assurance.
     'Then what it boils down to is - No wedding bells for me?'
     'I'm afraid not.'
     'Quite all right. Anything that suits you.'
     'I don't want to get jugged for bigamy.'
     'No,  one  sees that. And your selection for the day is  Kipper.  I
don't blame you. The ideal mate.'
     'Just the way I look at it. He's terrific, isn't he?'
     'I  wouldn't  marry anyone else if they came to me  bringing  apes,
ivory and peacocks. Tell me what he was like as a boy.'
     'Oh, much the same as the rest of us.'
     'Except, of course, for rescuing people from burning buildings  and
saving blue-eyed children from getting squashed by runaway horses.'
     'He did that a lot?'
     'Almost daily.'
     'Was he the Pride of the School?'
     'Oh, rather.'
     'Not that it was much of a school to be the pride of, from what  he
tells me. A sort of Dotheboys Hall, wasn't it?'
     'Conditions  under  Aubrey Upjohn were  fairly  tough.  One's  mind
reverts particularly to the sausages on Sunday.'
     'Reggie was very funny about those. He said they were made not from
contented  pigs but from pigs which had expired, regretted by  all,  of
glanders, the botts and tuberculosis.'
     'Yes, that would be quite a fair description of them, I suppose. You
going?' I said, for she had risen.
     'I  can't  wait  for another minute. I want to  fling  myself  into
Reggie's arms. If I don't see him soon, I shall pass out.'
     'I know how you feel. The chap in the Yeoman's Wedding Song thought
along  those  same lines, only the way he put it was "Ding  dong,  ding
dong, ding dong, I hurry along". At one time I often used to render the
number at village concerts, and there was a nasty Becher's Brook to get
over when you got to "For it is my wedding morning," because you had to
stretch  out  the  "mor" for about ten minutes, which tested  the  lung
power severely. I remember the vicar once telling me -'
     Here I was interrupted, as I'm so often interrupted when giving  my
views on the Yeoman's Wedding Song, by her saying that she was dying to
hear  all  about it but would rather wait till she could get it  in  my
autobiography. We went out together, and I saw her off and returned  to
where Jeeves kept his vigil in the car, all smiles. I was all smiles, I
mean,  not  Jeeves. The best he ever does is to let  his  mouth  twitch
slightly on one side, generally the left. I was in rare fettle, and the
heart had touched a new high. I don't know anything that braces one  up
like finding you haven't got to get married after all.
     'Sorry  to  keep  you waiting, Jeeves,' I said. 'Hope  you  weren't
     'Oh no, sir, thank you. I was quite happy with my Spinoza.'
     'The  copy of Spinoza's Ethics which you kindly gave me  some  time
     'Oh, ah, yes, I remember. Good stuff?'
     'Extremely, sir.'
     'I  suppose it turns out in the end that the butler did  it.  Well,
Jeeves, you'll be glad to hear that everything's under control.'
     'Indeed, sir?'
     'Yes,  rift in lute mended and wedding bells liable to ring out  at
any moment. She's changed her mind.'
     'Varium et mutabile semper femina, sir.'
     'I  shouldn't wonder. And now,' I said, climbing in and taking  the
wheel,  'I'll  unfold the tale of Wilbert and the cow-creamer,  and  if
that  doesn't make your knotted locks do a bit of starting  from  their
spheres, I for one shall be greatly surprised.'

     Arriving  at  Brinkley in the quiet evenfall and  putting  the  old
machine away in the garage, I noticed that Aunt Dahlia's car was  there
and gathered from this that the aged relative was around and about once
more. Nor was I in error. I found her in her boudoir getting outside  a
dish  of  tea and a crumpet. She greeted me with one of those  piercing
view-halloos which she had picked up on the hunting field in  the  days
when  she had been an energetic chivvier of the British fox. It sounded
like  a gas explosion and went through me from stem to stem. I've never
hunted  myself, but I understand that half the battle is being able  to
make  noises like some jungle animal with dyspepsia, and I believe that
Aunt  Dahlia  in her prime could lift fellow-members of the  Quorn  and
Pytchley out of their saddles with a single yip, though separated  from
them by two ploughed fields and a spinney.
     'Hullo, ugly,' she said. 'Turned up again, have you?'
     'Just this moment breasted the tape.'
     'Been to Herne Bay, young Herring tells me.'
     'Yes, to fetch Jeeves. How's Bonzo?'
     'Spotty but cheerful. What did you want Jeeves for?'
     'Well,  as  it  turns out, his presence isn't needed,  but  I  only
discovered that when I was half-way here. I was bringing him  along  to
meditate  ...  no, it isn't meditate ... to mediate, that's  the  word,
between Bobbie Wickham and Kipper. You knew they were betrothed?'
     'Yes, she told me.'
     'Did she tell you about shoving that thing in The Times saying  she
was engaged to me?'
     'I  was the first in whom she confided. I got a good laugh  out  of
     'More  than  Kipper did, because it hadn't occurred to  the  cloth-
headed  young  nitwit to confide in him. When he read the announcement,
he  reeled and everything went black. It knocked his faith in woman for
a  loop,  and  after seething for a while he sat down and wrote  her  a
letter in the Thomas Otway vein.'
     'In the who's vein?'
     'You  are  not  familiar  with  Thomas  Otway?  Seventeenth-century
dramatist,  celebrated for making bitter cracks about  the  other  sex.
Wrote a play called The Orphan, which is full of them.'
     'So you do read something beside the comics?'
     'Well,  actually I haven't steeped myself to any  great  extent  in
Thos's  output,  but Kipper told me about him. He held  the  view  that
women  are  a mess, and Kipper passed this information on to Bobbie  in
this letter of which I speak. It was a snorter.'
     'And you never thought of explaining to him, I suppose?'
     'Of course I did. But by that time she'd got the letter.'
     'Why didn't the idiot tell her not to open it?'
     'It  was  his  first  move. "I've found a  letter  from  you  here,
precious,"  she said. "On no account open it, angel," he  said.  So  of
course she opened it.'
     She  pursed  the lips, nodded the loaf, and ate a  moody  piece  of
     'So  that's why he's been going about looking like a dead  fish.  I
suppose Roberta broke the engagement?'
     'In a speech lasting five minutes without a pause for breath.'
     'And you brought Jeeves along to mediate?'
     'That was the idea.'
     'But if things have gone as far as that...'
     'You doubt whether even Jeeves can heal the rift?' I patted her  on
the  top knot. 'Dry the starting tear, old ancestor, it's healed. I met
her  at  a pub on the way here, and she told me that almost immediately
after  she had flipped her lid in the manner described she had a change
of  heart. She loves him still with a passion that's more like  boiling
oil  than anything, and when we parted she was tooling off to tell  him
so.  By  this time they must be like ham and eggs again. It's  a  great
burden off my mind, because, having parted brass rags with Kipper,  she
announced her intention of marrying me.'
     'A bit of luck for you, I should have thought.'
     'Far from it.'
     'Why? You were crazy about the girl once.' 'But no longer. The fever
has  passed, the scales have fallen from my eyes, and we're  just  good
friends.  The snag in this business of falling in love, aged  relative,
is  that  the parties of the first part so often get mixed up with  the
wrong  parties of the second part, robbed of their cooler  judgment  by
the  parties of the second part's glamour. Put it like this.  The  male
sex  is  divided into rabbits and non-rabbits and the female  sex  into
dashers and dormice, and the trouble is that the male rabbit has a  way
of  getting attracted by the female dasher (who would be fine  for  the
male  non-rabbit)  and realizing too late that he ought  to  have  been
concentrating on some mild, gentle dormouse with whom he  could  settle
down peacefully and nibble lettuce.'
     'The  whole thing, in short, a bit of a mix-up?' 'Exactly. Take  me
and  Bobbie.  I yield to no one in my appreciation of her  espieglerie,
but  I'm one of the rabbits and always have been while she is about  as
pronounced a dasher as ever dashed. What I like is the quiet life,  and
Roberta Wickham wouldn't recognize the quiet life if you brought it  to
her  on a plate with watercress round it. She's all for not letting the
sun  go  down  without having started something calculated  to  stagger
humanity.  In a word, she needs the guiding hand, which is  a  thing  I
couldn't  supply  her with. Whereas from Kipper  she  will  get  it  in
abundance,  he  being one of those tough non-rabbits  for  whom  it  is
child's play to make the little woman draw the line somewhere. That  is
why  the union of these twain has my support and approval and why, when
she  told  me  all  that in the pub, I felt like doing a  buck-and-wing
dance. Where is Kipper? I should like to shake him by the hand and  pat
his back.'
     'He went on a picnic with Wilbert and Phyllis.'
     The significance of this did not escape me.
     'Tailing up stuff, eh? Right on the job, is he?'
     'Wilbert is constantly under his eye.'
     'And  if ever a man needed to be constantly under an eye, it's  the
above kleptomaniac.'
     'The what?'
     'Haven't you been told? Wilbert's a pincher.'
     'How do you mean, a pincher?'
     'He  pinches things. Everything that isn't nailed down is grist  to
his mill.'
     'Don't be an ass.'
     'I'm not being an ass. He's got Uncle Tom's cow-creamer.'
     'I know.'
     'You know?'
     'Of course I know.'
     Her ... what's the word? ... phlegm, is it? ... something beginning
with  a  p...  astounded me. I had expected to freeze her young  -  or,
rather,  middle-aged -blood and have her perm stand on end like  quills
upon the fretful porpentine, and she hadn't moved a muscle.
     'Beshrew me,' I said, 'you take it pretty calmly.'
     'Well, what's there to get excited about? Tom sold him the thing.'
     'Wilbert got in touch with him at Harrogate and put in his bid, and
Tom  phoned  me to give it to him. Just shows how important  that  deal
must  be to Tom. I'd have thought he would rather have parted with  his
     I  drew  a deep breath, this time fortunately unmixed with gin  and
tonic. I was profoundly stirred.
     'You  mean,'  said, my voice quavering like that  of  a  coloratura
soprano, 'that I went through that soul-shattering experience  all  for
     'Who's been shattering your soul, if any?'
     'Ma  Cream. By popping in while I was searching Wilbert's room  for
the loathsome object. Naturally I thought he'd swiped it and hidden  it
     'And she caught you?'
     'Not once, but twice.'
     'What did she say?'
     'She  recommended me to take treatment from Roddy Glossop, of whose
skill in ministering to the mentally afflicted she had heard such  good
reports.  One  sees  what gave her the idea. I was half-way  under  the
dressing-table at the moment, and no doubt she thought it odd.'
     'Bertie! How absolutely priceless!'
     The adjective 'priceless' seemed to me an ill-chosen one, and I said
so.  But  my  words were lost in the gale of mirth into which  she  now
exploded.  I had never heard anyone laugh so heartily, not even  Bobbie
on  the  occasion when the rake jumped up and hit me on the tip of  the
     'I'd have given fifty quid to have been there,' she said, when  she
was  able to get the vocal cords working. 'Half-way under the dressing-
table, were you?'
'The second time. When we first forgathered, I was sitting on the floor
with a chair round my neck.'
     'Like an Elizabethan ruff, as worn by Thomas Botway.'
     'Otway,' I said stiffly. As I have mentioned, I like to get  things
right.  And  I was about to tell her that what I had hoped for  from  a
blood  relation was sympathy and condolence rather than this  crackling
of  thorns under a pot, as it is sometimes called, when the door opened
and Bobbie came in.
     The  moment  I cast an eye on her, it seemed to me that  there  was
something  strange about her aspect. Normally, this beasel presents  to
the  world  the appearance of one who is feeling that if it  isn't  the
best of all possible worlds, it's quite good enough to be going on with
till  a  better one comes along. Verve, I mean, and animation  and  all
that sort of thing. But now there was a listlessness about her, not the
listlessness  of the cat Augustus but more that of the  female  in  the
picture  in the Louvre, of whom Jeeves, on the occasion when he  lugged
me there to take a dekko at her, said that here was the head upon which
all  the  ends of the world are come. He drew my attention, I remember,
to  the  weariness  of the eyelids. I got just the same  impression  of
weariness from Bobbie's eyelids.
     Unparting her lips which were set in a thin line as if she had just
been taking a suck at a lemon, she said:
     'I  came  to  get that book of Mrs Cream's that I was reading,  Mrs
     'Help yourself, child,' said the ancestor. 'The more people in this
joint  reading  her  stuff,  the  better.  It  all  goes  to  help  the
     'So you got here all right, Bobbie,' I said. 'Have you seen Kipper?'
     I wouldn't say she snorted, but she certainly sniffed.
     'Bertie,'  she said in a voice straight from the frigidaire,  'will
you do me a favour?'
     'Of course. What?'
     'Don't mention that rat's name in my presence,' she said, and pushed
off, the eyelids still weary.
     She  left me fogged and groping for the inner meaning, and I  could
see  from  Aunt Dahlia's goggling eyes that the basic idea  hadn't  got
across with her either.
'Well!'  she  said. 'What's all this? I thought you told me  she  loved
young Herring with a passion like boiling oil.'
     'That was her story.'
     'The oil seems to have gone off the boil. Yes, sir, if that was the
language  of love, I'll eat my hat,' said the blood relation, alluding,
I  took  it,  to the beastly straw contraption in which  she  does  her
gardening, concerning which I can only say that it is almost as foul as
Uncle  Tom's  Sherlock Holmes deerstalker, which  has  frightened  more
crows  than  any  other lid in Worcestershire. 'They must  have  had  a
     'It does look like it,' I agreed, 'and I don't understand how it can
have  happened considering that she left me with the love light in  her
eyes  and can't have been back here more than about half an hour. What,
one  asks oneself, in so short a time can have changed a girl  full  of
love  and  ginger  ale into a girl who speaks of the adored  object  as
"that rat" and doesn't want to hear his name mentioned? These are  deep
waters. Should I send for Jeeves?'
     'What on earth can Jeeves do?'
     'Well,  now  you put it that way, I'm bound to admit that  I  don't
know.  It's  just that one drops into the habit of sending  for  Jeeves
whenever  things have gone agley, if that's the word I'm  thinking  of.
Scotch,  isn't  it?  Agley, I mean. It sounds Scotch  to  me.  However,
passing  lightly over that, the thing to do when you want the  low-down
is  to  go  to  the fountainhead and get it straight from  the  horse's
mouth. Kipper can solve this mystery. I'll pop along and find him.'
     I was, however, spared the trouble of popping, for at this moment he
entered left centre.
     'Oh, there you are, Bertie,' he said. 'I heard you were back. I was
looking for you.'
     He  had  spoken in a low, husky sort of way, like a voice from  the
tomb,  and I now saw that he was exhibiting all the earmarks of  a  man
who  has  recently  had a bomb explode in his vicinity.  His  shoulders
sagged  and his eyes were glassy. He looked, in short, like the  fellow
who  hadn't  started to take Old Doctor Gordon's Bile Magnesia,  and  I
snapped  into  it without preamble. This was no time for being  tactful
and pretending not to notice.
     'What's  all this strained-relations stuff between you and  Bobbie,
Kipper?'  I  said,  and when he said, 'Oh, nothing,' rapped  the  table
sharply and told him to cut out the coy stuff and come clean.
     'Yes,' said Aunt Dahlia. 'What's happened, young Herring?'
     I  think for a moment he was about to draw himself up with  hauteur
and  say he would prefer, if we didn't mind, not to discuss his private
affairs,  but when he was half-way up he caught Aunt Dahlia's  eye  and
returned  to  position one. Aunt Dahlia's eye, while not  in  the  same
class  as that of my Aunt Agatha, who is known to devour her young  and
conduct  human  sacrifices at the time of the full moon,  has  lots  of
authority. He subsided into a chair and sat there looking filleted.
     'Well, if you must know,' he said, 'she's broken the engagement.'
     This didn't get us any farther. We had assumed as much. You don't go
calling people rats if love still lingers.
     'But it's only an hour or so,' I said, 'since I left her outside  a
hostelry called the "Fox and Goose", and she had just been giving you a
rave notice. What came unstuck? What did you do to the girl?'
     'Oh, nothing.'
     'Come, come!'
     'Well, it was this way.'
     There  was a pause here while he said that he would give a  hundred
quid  for a stiff whisky-and-soda, but as this would have involved  all
the  delay  of ringing for Pop Glossop and having it fetched  from  the
lowest  bin, Aunt Dahlia would have none of it. In lieu of the  desired
refreshment she offered him a cold crumpet, which he declined, and told
him to get on with it.
     'Where  I  went wrong,' he said, still speaking in that low,  husky
voice as if he had been a ghost suffering from catarrh, 'was in getting
engaged to Phyllis Mills.'
     'What?' I cried.
     'What?' cried Aunt Dahlia.
     'Egad!' I said.
     'What on earth did you do that for?' said Aunt Dahlia.
     He shifted uneasily in his chair, like a man troubled with ants  in
the pants.
'It  seemed a good idea at the time,' he said. 'Bobbie had told  me  on
the  telephone that she never wanted to speak to me again in this world
or  the  next, and Phyllis had been telling me that, while  she  shrank
from Wilbert Cream because of his murky past, she found him so magnetic
that she knew she wouldn't be able to refuse him if he proposed, and  I
had  been commissioned to stop him proposing, so I thought the simplest
thing to do was to get engaged to her myself. So we talked it over, and
having  reached a thorough understanding that it was simply a ruse  and
nothing binding on either side, we announced it to Cream.'
     'Very shrewd,' said Aunt Dahlia. 'How did he take it?'
     'He reeled.'
     'Lot of reeling there's been in this business,' I said. 'You reeled,
if  you  recollect, when you remembered you'd written  that  letter  to
     'And I reeled again when she suddenly appeared from nowhere just as
I was kissing Phyllis.'
     I pursed the lips. Getting a bit French, this sequence, it seemed to
     'There was no need for you to do that.'
     'No need, perhaps, but I wanted to make it look natural to Cream.'
     'Oh, I see. Driving it home, as it were?'
     'That was the idea. Of course I wouldn't have done it if I'd  known
that  Bobbie had changed her mind and wanted things to be as they  were
before that telephone
conversation.  But  I  didn't know. It's  just  one  of  life's  little
ironies. You get the same sort of thing in Thomas Hardy.'
     I knew nothing of this T. Hardy of whom he spoke, but I saw what he
meant.  It  was like what's always happening in the novels of suspense,
where the girl goes around saying, 'Had I but known.'
     'Didn't you explain?'
     He gave me a pitying look.
     'Have you ever tried explaining something to a red-haired girl who's
madder than a wet hen?'
     I took his point.
     'What happened then?'
     'Oh,  she was very lady-like. Talked amiably of this and that  till
Phyllis  had left us. Then she started in. She said she had raced  here
with  a  heart overflowing with love, longing to be in my arms,  and  a
jolly surprise it was to find those arms squeezing the stuffing out  of
another and ... Oh, well, a lot more along those lines. The trouble is,
she's  always  been  a  bit  squiggle-eyed about  Phyllis,  because  in
Switzerland  she held the view that we were a shade too matey.  Nothing
in it, of course.'
     'Just good friends?'
     'Well, if you want to know what I think,' said Aunt Dahlia.
     But we never did get around to knowing what she thought, for at this
moment Phyllis came in.

     Giving the wench the once-over as she entered, I found myself  well
able  to  understand why Bobbie on observing her entangled with  Kipper
had  exploded  with  so loud a report. I'm not myself,  of  course,  an
idealistic  girl  in love with a member of the staff  of  the  Thursday
Review  and  never have been, but if I were I know I'd get the  megrims
somewhat severely if I caught him in a clinch with anyone as personable
as  this  stepdaughter of Aubrey Upjohn, for though shaky  on  the  IQ,
physically  she  was  a  pipterino of the first water.  Her  eyes  were
considerably  bluer  than the skies above, she  was  wearing  a  simple
summer dress which accentuated rather than hid the graceful outlines of
her  figure,  if  you know what I mean, and it was not surprising  that
Wilbert Cream, seeing her, should have lost no time in reaching for the
book  of  poetry  and making a bee line with her to the  nearest  leafy
     'Oh, Mrs Travers,' she said, spotting Aunt Dahlia, 'I've just  been
talking to Daddy on the telephone.'
     This took the old ancestor's mind right off the tangled affairs  of
the Kipper-Bobbie axis, to which a moment before she had been according
her  best  attention,  and I didn't wonder. With  the  prize-giving  at
Market  Snodsbury  Grammar School, a function at  which  all  that  was
bravest  and  fairest in the neighbourhood would be present,  only  two
days away, she must have been getting pretty uneasy about the continued
absence of the big shot slated to address the young scholars on  ideals
and life in the world outside. If you are on the board of governors  of
a  school and have contracted to supply an orator for the great day  of
the year, you can be forgiven for feeling a trifle jumpy when you learn
that  the silver-tongued one has gadded off to the metropolis,  leaving
no  word  as to when he will be returning, if ever. For all  she  knew,
Upjohn  might  have  got the holiday spirit and be planning  to  remain
burning  up the boulevards indefinitely, and of course nothing gives  a
big  beano a black eye more surely than the failure to show up  of  the
principal speaker. So now she quite naturally blossomed like a rose  in
June  and  asked  if  the old son of a bachelor had mentioned  anything
about when he was coming back.
     'He's  coming  back  tonight. He says he  hopes  you  haven't  been
     A  snort of about the calibre of an explosion in an ammunition dump
escaped my late father's sister.
     'Oh,  does  he?  Well, I've a piece of news for him.  I  have  been
worrying. What's kept him in London so long?'
     'He's  been seeing his lawyer about this libel action he's bringing
against the Thursday Review.'
     I have often asked myself how many inches it was that Kipper leaped
from  his chair at these words. Sometimes I think it was ten, sometimes
only  six,  but  whichever it was he unquestionably came  up  from  the
padded  seat like an athlete competing in the Sitting High Jump  event.
Scarface McColl couldn't have risen more nippily.
     'Against the Thursday Review?' said Aunt Dahlia. 'That's your  rag,
isn't it, young Herring? What have they done to stir him up?'
     'It's  this book Daddy wrote about preparatory schools. He wrote  a
book  about  preparatory schools. Did you know he had  written  a  book
about preparatory schools?'
     'Hadn't an inkling. Nobody tells me anything.'
     'Well,  he wrote this book about preparatory schools. It was  about
preparatory schools.'
     'About preparatory schools, was it?'
     'Yes, about preparatory schools.'
     'Thank God we've got that straightened out at last. I had a feeling
we should get somewhere if we dug long enough. And - ?'
     'And  the  Thursday Review said something libellous about  it,  and
Daddy's lawyer says the jury ought to give Daddy at least five thousand
pounds. Because they libelled him. So he's been in London all this time
seeing his lawyer. But he's coming back tonight. He'll be here for  the
prize-giving, and I've got his speech all typed out and ready for  him.
Oh,  there's  my  precious Poppet,' said Phyllis, as a distant  barking
reached the ears. 'He's asking for his dinner, the sweet little  angel.
All right, darling, Mother's coming,' she fluted, and buzzed off on the
errand of mercy.
     A brief silence followed her departure.
     'I don't care what you say,' said Aunt Dahlia at length in a defiant
sort  of  way. 'Brains aren't everything. She's a dear, sweet  girl.  I
love her like a daughter, and to hell with anyone who calls her a half-
wit. Why, hullo,' she proceeded, seeing that Kipper was slumped back in
his chair trying without much success to hitch up a drooping lower jaw.
'What's eating you, young Herring?'
     I could see that Kipper was in no shape for conversation, so took it
upon myself to explain.
     'A certain stickiness has arisen, aged relative. You heard what  P.
Mills  said  before going to minister to Poppet. Those words  tell  the
     'What do you mean?'
     'The facts are readily stated. Upjohn wrote this slim volume, which,
if  you  recall, was about preparatory schools, and in  it,  so  Kipper
tells  me,  said  that the time spent in these establishments  was  the
happiest  of  our lives. Ye Ed passed it on to Kipper for comment,  and
he, remembering the dark days at Malvern House, Bramley-on-Sea, when he
and  I were plucking the gowans fine there, slated it with no uncertain
hand. Correct, Kipper?'
     He  found  speech, if you could call making a noise like a  buffalo
taking its foot out of a swamp finding speech.
     'But,  dash  it,'  he said, finding a bit more, 'it  was  perfectly
legitimate criticism. I didn't mince my words, of course -'
     'It  would  be  interesting to find out what these  unminced  words
were,' said Aunt Dahlia, 'for among them there appear to have been  one
or  two which seem likely to set your proprietor back five thousand  of
the  best  and  brightest. Bertie, get your car out and  go  to  Market
Snodsbury  station and see if the bookstall has a copy of  this  week's
...  No, wait, hold the line. Cancel that order. I shan't be a minute,'
she said, and went out, leaving me totally fogged as to what she was up
to. What aunts are up to is never an easy thing to divine.
     I turned to Kipper.
     'Bad show,' I said.
     From  the  way he writhed I gathered that he was feeling  it  could
scarcely be worse.
     'What happens when an editorial assistant on a weekly paper lets the
bosses in for substantial libel damages?'
     He was able to answer that one.
     'He gets the push and, what's more, finds it pretty damned difficult
to land another job. He's on the blacklist.'
     I  saw what he meant. These birds who run weekly papers believe  in
watching  the pennies. They like to get all that's coming to  them  and
when the stuff, instead of pouring in, starts pouring out as the result
of an injudicious move on the part of a unit of the staff, what they do
to  that  unit is plenty. I think Kipper's outfit was financed by  some
sort  of  board  or syndicate, but boards and syndicates  are  just  as
sensitive about having to cough up as individual owners. As Kipper  had
indicated, they not only give the erring unit the heave-ho but pass the
word round to the other boards and syndicates.
     'Herring?'  the  latter say when Kipper comes  seeking  employment.
'Isn't  he  the  bimbo  who took the bread out of  the  mouths  of  the
Thursday  Review people? Chuck the blighter out of the  window  and  we
want  to see him bounce.' If this action of Upjohn's went through,  his
chances of any sort of salaried post were meagre, if not slim. It might
be years before all was forgiven and forgotten.
     'Selling  pencils in the gutter is about the best I'll be  able  to
look  forward to,' said Kipper, and he had just buried his face in  his
hands,  as fellows are apt to do when contemplating a future  that's  a
bit  on the bleak side, when the door opened, to reveal not, as  I  had
expected, Aunt Dahlia, but Bobbie.
     'I got the wrong book,' she said. 'The one I wanted was -'
     Then her eye fell on Kipper and she stiffened in every limb, rather
like  Lot's  wife, who, as you probably know, did the wrong thing  that
time there was all that unpleasantness with the cities of the plain and
got  turned  into a pillar of salt, though what was the thought  behind
this I've never been able to understand. Salt, I mean. Seems so bizarre
somehow and not at all what you would expect.
     'Oh!'  she said haughtily, as if offended by this glimpse into  the
underworld,  and even as she spoke a hollow groan burst  from  Kipper's
interior and he raised an ashen face. And at the sight of that ashen f.
the  haughtiness  went  out of Roberta Wickham with  a  whoosh,  to  be
replaced  by  all the old love, sympathy, womanly tenderness  and  what
not,  and she bounded at him like a leopardess getting together with  a
lost cub.
     'Reggie!  Oh, Reggie! Reggie, darling, what is it?' she cried,  her
whole demeanour undergoing a marked change for the better. She was,  in
short, melted by his distress, as so often happens with the female sex.
Poets have frequently commented on this. You are probably familiar with
the  one  who  said 'Oh, woman in our hours of ease turn  tumty  tiddly
something please, when something something something something brow,  a
something something something thou.'
     She turned on me with an animal snarl.
     'What have you been doing to the poor lamb?' she demanded, giving me
one of the nastiest looks seen that summer in the midland counties, and
I  had  just finished explaining that it was not I but Fate or  Destiny
that  had  removed the sunshine from the poor lamb's  life,  when  Aunt
Dahlia returned. She had a slip of paper in her hand.
     'I  was right,' she said. 'I knew Upjohn's first move on getting  a
book published would be to subscribe to a press-cutting agency. I found
this  on  the  hall table. It's your review of his slim  volume,  young
Herring,  and having run an eye over it I'm not surprised that  he's  a
little upset. I'll read it to you.'
     As  might have been expected, this having been foreshadowed a  good
deal  in one way and another, what Kipper had written was on the severe
side,  and  as  far  as  I  was concerned it fell  into  the  rare  and
refreshing  fruit class. I enjoyed every minute of it. It concluded  as
     'Aubrey  Upjohn  might have taken a different view  of  preparatory
schools if he had done a stretch at the Dotheboys Hall conducted by him
at  Malvern House, Bramley-on-Sea, as we had the misfortune to  do.  We
have  not  forgotten the sausages on Sunday, which were made  not  from
contented  pigs but from pigs which had expired, regretted by  all,  of
glanders, the botts and tuberculosis.'
     Until  this passage left the aged relative's lips Kipper  had  been
sitting  with  the tips of his fingers together, nodding from  time  to
time  as  much  as  to  say  'Caustic, yes,  but  perfectly  legitimate
criticism,'  but on hearing this excerpt he did another of his  sitting
high  jumps,  lowering  all  previous records  by  several  inches.  It
occurred to me as a passing thought that if all other sources of income
failed, he had a promising future as an acrobat.
     'But I never wrote that,' he gasped.
     'Well, it's here in cold print.'
     'Why, that's libellous!'
     'So Upjohn and his legal eagle seem to feel. And I must say it reads
like a pretty good five thousand pounds' worth to me.'
     'Let me look at that,' yipped Kipper. 'I don't understand this. No,
half  a  second,  darling. Not now. Later. I want to  concentrate,'  he
said, for Bobbie had flung herself on him and was clinging to him  like
the ivy on the old garden wall.
     'Reggie!' she wailed - yes, wail's the word. 'It was me!'
     'That  thing Mrs Travers just read. You remember you showed me  the
proof  at  lunch that day and told me to drop it off at the office,  as
you  had to rush along to keep a golf date. I read it again after you'd
gone,  and  saw  you  had  left  out that  bit  about  the  sausages  -
accidentally, I thought - and it seemed to me so frightfully funny  and
clever that... Well, I put it in at the end. I felt it just rounded the
thing off.'

     There was silence for some moments, broken only by the sound of  an
aunt  saying  'Lord  love  a duck!' Kipper stood  blinking,  as  I  had
sometimes seen him do at the boxing tourneys in which he indulged  when
in  receipt of a shrewd buffet on some tender spot like the tip of  the
nose. Whether or not the idea of taking Bobbie's neck in both hands and
twisting  it into a spiral floated through his mind, I cannot say,  but
if  so it was merely the ideal dream of a couple of seconds or so,  for
almost immediately love prevailed. She had described him as a lamb, and
it  was  with  all the mildness for which lambs are noted that  he  now
     'Oh, I see. So that's how it was.'
     'I'm so sorry.'
     'Don't mention it.'
     'Can you ever forgive me?'
     'Oh, rather.'
     'I meant so well.'
     'Of course you did.'
     'Will you really get into trouble about this?'
     'There may be some slight unpleasantness.'
     'Oh, Reggie!'
     'Quite all right.'
     'I've ruined your life.'
     'Nonsense. The Thursday Review isn't the only paper in  London.  If
they fire me, I'll accept employment elsewhere.'
     This  scarcely  squared  with what  he  had  told  me  about  being
blacklisted,  but I forbore to mention this, for I saw that  his  words
had cheered Bobbie up considerably, and I didn't want to bung a spanner
into  her  mood of bien etre. Never does to dash the cup  of  happiness
from  a  girl's lips when after plumbing the depths she has started  to
take a swig at it.
     'Of  course!' she said. 'Any paper would be glad to have a valuable
man like you.'
     'They'll fight like tigers for his services,' I said, helping things
along.  'You don't find a chap like Kipper out of circulation for  more
than a day or so.'
     'You're so clever.'
     'Oh, thanks.'
     'I don't mean you, ass, I mean Reggie.'
     'Ah, yes. Kipper has what it takes, all right.'
     'All the same,' said Aunt Dahlia, 'I think, when Upjohn arrives, you
had better do all you can to ingratiate yourself with him.'
     I got her meaning. She was recommending that grappling-to-the-soul-
with-hoops-of-steel stuff.
     'Yes,'  I  said. 'Exert the charm, Kipper, and there's a chance  he
might call the thing off.'
     'Bound to,' said Bobbie. 'Nobody can resist you, darling.'
     'Do you think so, darling?'
     'Of course I do, darling.'
     'Well,  let's  hope you're right, darling. In the  meantime,'  said
Kipper,   'if   I  don't  get  that  whisky-and-soda  soon,   I   shall
disintegrate. Would you mind if I went in search of it, Mrs Travers?'
     'It's the very thing I was about to suggest myself. Dash along  and
drink your fill, my unhappy young stag at eve.'
     'I'm feeling rather like a restorative, too,' said Bobbie.
     'Me also,' I said, swept along on the tide of the popular movement.
'Though I would advise,' I said, when we were outside, 'making it port.
More authority. We'll look in on Swordfish. He will provide.'
     We found Pop Glossop in his pantry polishing silver, and put in our
order.  He seemed a little surprised at the inrush of such a multitude,
but on learning that our tongues were hanging out obliged with a bottle
of  the  best, and after we had done a bit of tissue-restoring, Kipper,
who  had preserved a brooding silence since entering, rose and left us,
saying  that if we didn't mind he would like to muse apart for a while.
I  saw  Pop Glossop give him a sharp look as he went out and knew  that
Kipper's demeanour had roused his professional interest, causing him to
scent   in  the  young  visitor  a  potential  customer.  These   brain
specialists  are  always on the job and never miss a  trick.  Tactfully
waiting till the door had closed, he said:
     'Is Mr Herring an old friend of yours, Mr Wooster?'
     'I beg your pardon. Bertie. You have known him for some time?'
     'Practically from the egg.'
     'And is Miss Wickham a friend of his?'
     'Reggie Herring and I are engaged, Sir Roderick,' said Bobbie.  Her
words  seemed to seal the Glossop lips. He said 'Oh' and began to  talk
about  the  weather  and  continued to do so until  Bobbie,  who  since
Kipper's departure had been exhibiting signs of restlessness, said  she
thought she would go and see how he was making out. Finding himself de-
Wickham-ed, he unsealed his lips without delay.
     'I  did not like to mention it before Miss Wickham, as she  and  Mr
Herring  are engaged, for one is always loath to occasion anxiety,  but
that young man has a neurosis.'
     'He isn't always as dippy as he looked just now.'
     'And let me tell you something, Roddy. If you were as up against it
as he is, you'd have a neurosis, too.'
     And feeling that it would do no harm to get his views on the Kipper
situation, I unfolded the tale.
     'So you see the posish,' I concluded. 'The only way he can avoid the
fate  that is worse than death - viz. Letting his employers get  nicked
for  a  sum  beyond the dreams of avarice - is by ingratiating  himself
with Upjohn, which would seem to any thinking man a shot that's not  on
the  board.  I  mean, he had four years with him at Malvern  House  and
didn't ingratiate himself once, so it's difficult to see how he's going
to  start  doing it now. It seems to me the thing's an impasse.  French
expression,' I explained, 'meaning that we're stymied good  and  proper
with no hope of finding a formula.'
     To my surprise, instead of clicking the tongue and waggling the head
gravely  to  indicate that he saw the stickiness  of  the  dilemma,  he
chuckled fatly, as if having spotted an amusing side to the thing which
had  escaped me. Having done this, he blessed his soul, which  was  his
way of saying 'Gorblimey'.
     'It  really is quite extraordinary, my dear Bertie,' he said,  'how
associating  with you restores my youth. Your lightest  word  seems  to
bring  back  old memories. I find myself recollecting episodes  in  the
distant past which I have not thought of for years and years. It is  as
though  you waved a magic wand of some kind. This matter of the problem
confronting your friend Mr Herring is a case in point. While  you  were
telling me of his troubles, the mists shredded away, the hands  of  the
clock  turned  back, and I was once again a young fellow  in  my  early
twenties,  deeply  involved in the strange affair  of  Bertha  Simmons,
George Lanchester and Bertha's father, old Mr Simmons, who at that time
resided in Putney. He was in the imported lard and butter business.'
     'The - what was that strange affair again?'
     He  repeated the cast of characters, asked me if I would  care  for
another  drop of port, a suggestion with which I readily fell  in,  and
     'George, a young man of volcanic passions, met Bertha Simmons at  a
dance  at  Putney  Town Hall in aid of the widows of  deceased  railway
porters and became instantly enamoured. And his love was returned. When
he  encountered Bertha next day in Putney High Street and,  taking  her
off  to a confectioner's for an ice cream, offered her with it his hand
and  heart, she accepted them enthusiastically. She said that when they
were dancing together on the previous night something had seemed to  go
all over her, and he said he had had exactly the same experience.'
     'Twin souls, what?'
     'A most accurate description.'
     'In fact, so far, so good.'
     'Precisely.  But  there was an obstacle, and a  very  serious  one.
George was a swimming instructor at the local baths, and Mr Simmons had
higher  views for his daughter. He forbade the marriage. I am speaking,
of  course, of the days when fathers did forbid marriage. It  was  only
when George saved him from drowning that he relented and gave the young
couple his consent and blessing.'
     'How did that happen?'
     'Perfectly simple. I took Mr Simmons for a stroll on the river bank
and pushed him in, and George, who was waiting in readiness, dived into
the  water  and  pulled him out. Naturally I had to undergo  a  certain
amount  of criticism of my clumsiness, and it was many weeks  before  I
received another invitation to Sunday supper at Chatsworth, the Simmons
residence,  quite  a privation in those days when  I  was  a  penniless
medical  student  and perpetually hungry, but I was glad  to  sacrifice
myself  to  help  a  friend  and the results,  as  far  as  George  was
concerned, were of the happiest. And what crossed my mind, as you  were
telling me of Mr Herring's desire to ingratiate himself with Mr Upjohn,
was that a similar -is "set-up" the term you young fellows use? - would
answer  in his case. All the facilities are here at Brinkley Court.  In
my  rambles about the grounds I have noticed a small but quite adequate
lake, and ... well, there you have it, my dear Bertie. I throw it  out,
of course, merely as a suggestion.'
     His words left me all of a glow. When I thought how I had misjudged
him  in  the  days when our relations had been distant, I  burned  with
shame  and remorse. It seemed incredible that I could ever have  looked
on  this admirable loony-doctor as the menace in the treatment. What  a
lesson, I felt, this should teach all of us that a man may have a  bald
head  and  bushy eyebrows and still remain at heart a jovial  sportsman
and one of the boys. There was about an inch of the ruby juice nestling
in  my  glass,  and as he finished speaking I raised the  beaker  in  a
reverent  toast. I told him he had hit the bull's eye and was  entitled
to a cigar or coconut according to choice.
     'I'll go and take the matter up with my principals immediately.'
     'Can Mr Herring swim?'
     'Like several fishes.'
     'Then I see no obstacle in the path.'
     We  parted  with mutual expressions of good will, and it  was  only
after I had emerged into the summer air that I remembered I hadn't told
him that Wilbert had purchased, not pinched, the cow-creamer, and for a
moment I thought of going back to apprise him. But I thought again, and
didn't.  First things first, I said to myself, and the item at the  top
of the agenda paper was the bringing of a new sparkle to Kipper's eyes.
Later  on,  I  told myself, would do, and carried on to  where  he  and
Bobbie  were pacing the lawn with bowed heads. It would not be long,  I
anticipated, before I would be bringing those heads up with a jerk.
     Nor  was  I  in error. Their enthusiasm was unstinted. Both  agreed
unreservedly  that if Upjohn had the merest spark of human  feeling  in
him, which of course had still to be proved, the thing was in the bag.
     'But  you  never  thought this up yourself, Bertie,'  said  Bobbie,
always  inclined to underestimate the Wooster shrewdness. 'You've  been
talking to Jeeves.'
     'No, as a matter of fact, it was Swordfish who had the idea.'
     Kipper seemed surprised.
     'You mean you told him about it?'
     'I thought it the strategic move. Four heads are better than three.'
     'And he advised shoving Upjohn into the lake?'
     'That's right.'
     'Rather a peculiar butler.'
     I turned this over in my mind.
     'Peculiar?  Oh, I don't know. Fairly run-of-the-mill I should  call
him. Yes, more or less the usual type,' I said.

     With  self  all  eagerness and enthusiasm for  the  work  in  hand,
straining at the leash, as you might say, and full of the will to  win,
it  came  as a bit of a damper when I found on the following  afternoon
that  Jeeves didn't think highly of Operation Upjohn. I told him  about
it  just  before starting out for the tryst, feeling that it  would  be
helpful  to  have his moral support, and was stunned to  see  that  his
manner  was austere and even puff-faced. He was giving me a description
at  the time of how it felt to act as judge at a seaside bathing belles
contest,  and  it was with regret that I was compelled  to  break  into
this, for he had been holding me spellbound.
     'I'm sorry, Jeeves,' I said, consulting my watch, 'but I shall have
to  be  dashing  off. Urgent appointment. You must  tell  me  the  rest
     'At any time that suits you, sir.'
     'Are you doing anything for the next half-hour or so?'
     'No, sir.'
     'Not  planning to curl up in some shady nook with a  cigarette  and
     'No, sir.'
     'Then I strongly advise you to come down to the lake and witness  a
human drama.'
     And  in  a few brief words I outlined the programme and the  events
which  had  led up to it. He listened attentively and raised  his  left
eyebrow a fraction of an inch.
     'Was this Miss Wickham's idea, sir?'
     'No.  I agree that it sounds like one of hers, but actually it  was
Sir  Roderick  Glossop who suggested it. By the way, you were  probably
surprised to find him buttling here.'
     'It  did  occasion me a momentary astonishment,  but  Sir  Roderick
explained the circumstances.'
     'Fearing that if he didn't let you in on it, you might unmask him in
front of Mrs Cream?'
     'No doubt, sir. He would naturally wish to take all precautions.  I
gathered  from  his  remarks that he has not  yet  reached  a  definite
conclusion regarding the mental condition of Mr Cream.'
     'No,  he's still observing. Well, as I say, it was from his fertile
bean that the idea sprang. What do you think of it?'
     'Ill-advised, sir, in my opinion.'
     I was amazed. I could hardly b. my e.
     'Yes, sir.'
     'But it worked without a hitch in the case of Bertha Simmons, George
Lanchester and old Mr Simmons.'
     'Very possibly, sir.'
     Then why this defeatist attitude?'
     'It  is  merely  a feeling, sir, due probably to my preference  for
finesse. I mistrust these elaborate schemes. One cannot depend on them.
As  the  poet Burns says, the best laid plans of mice and men gang  aft
     'Scotch, isn't it, that word?'
     'Yes, sir.'
     'I  thought as much. The "gang" told the story. Why do Scotsmen say
     'I have no information, sir. They have not confided in me.'
     I was getting a bit peeved by now, not at all liking the sniffiness
of  his manner. I had expected him to speed me on my way with words  of
encouragement and.uplift, not to go trying to blunt the keen edge of my
zest like this. I was rather in the position of a child who runs to his
mother hoping for approval and endorsement of something he's done,  and
is awarded instead a brusque kick in the pants. It was with a good deal
of warmth that I came back at him.
     'So  you think the poet Burns would look askance at this enterprise
of  ours,  do  you? Well, you can tell him from me he's an  ass.  We've
thought  the thing out to the last detail. Miss Wickham asks Mr  Upjohn
to come for a stroll with her. She leads him to the lake. I am standing
on  the  brink, ostensibly taking a look at the fishes playing  amongst
the  reeds.  Kipper, ready to the last button, is behind a neighbouring
tree. On the cue "Oh, look!" from Miss Wickham, accompanied by business
of  pointing with girlish excitement at something in the water,  Upjohn
bends  over to peer. I push, Kipper dives in, and there we are. Nothing
can possibly go wrong.'
     'Just as you say, sir. But I still have that feeling.'
     The blood of the Woosters is hot, and I was about to tell him in set
terms what I thought of his bally feeling, when I suddenly spotted what
it  was  that  was making him crab the act. The green-eyed monster  had
bitten  him.  He  was miffed because he wasn't the brains  behind  this
binge,  the  blue prints for it having been laid down by a rival.  Even
great  men have their weaknesses. So I held back the acid crack I might
have  made,  and went off with a mere 'Oh, yeah?' No sense in  twisting
the knife in the wound, I mean.
     All  the same, I remained a bit hot under the collar, because  when
you're all strung up and tense and all that, the last thing you want is
people upsetting you by bringing in the poet Burns. I hadn't told  him,
but  our  plans  had already nearly been wrecked at the outset  by  the
unfortunate  circumstance of Upjohn, while in  the  metropolis,  having
shaved  his moustache, this causing Kipper to come within a toucher  of
losing  his  nerve and calling the whole thing off. The sight  of  that
bare  expanse  or  steppe  of flesh beneath  the  nose,  he  said,  did
something to him, bringing back the days when he had so often found his
blood turning to ice on beholding it. It had required quite a series of
pep talks to revive his manly spirits.
     However, there was good stuff in the lad, and though for a while the
temperature of his feet had dropped sharply, threatening to reduce  him
to  the status of a non-co-operative cat in an adage, at 3.30 Greenwich
Mean  Time he was at his post behind the selected tree, resolved to  do
his  bit.  He poked his head round the tree as I arrived,  and  when  I
waved a cheery hand at him, waved a fairly cheery hand at me. Though  I
only caught a glimpse of him, I could see that his upper lip was stiff.
     There being no signs as yet of the female star and her companion, I
deduced that I was a bit on the early side. I lit a cigarette and stood
awaiting their entrance, and was pleased to note that conditions  could
scarcely  have been better for the coming water fete. Too often  on  an
English summer day you find the sun going behind the clouds and a nippy
wind  springing up from the north-east, but this afternoon was  one  of
those  still, sultry afternoons when the slightest movement brings  the
persp. in beads to the brow, an afternoon, in short, when it would be a
positive  pleasure to be shoved into a lake. 'Most refreshing,'  Upjohn
would say to himself as the cool water played about his limbs.
     I was standing there running over the stage directions in my mind to
see  that  I  had  got  them all clear, when  I  beheld  Wilbert  Cream
approaching, the dog Poppet curvetting about his ankles. On seeing  me,
the  hound  rushed forward with uncouth cries as was his wont,  but  on
heaving  alongside  and getting a whiff of Wooster Number  Five  calmed
down,  and  I  was  at liberty to attend to Wilbert, who  I  could  see
desired speech with me.
     He  was  looking, I noticed, fairly green about the gills,  and  he
conveyed  the  same suggestion of having just swallowed  a  bad  oyster
which I had observed in Kipper on his arrival at Brinkley. It was plain
that  the  loss of Phyllis Mills, goofy though she unquestionably  was,
had  hit him a shrewd wallop, and I presumed that he was coming  to  me
for  sympathy and heart balm, which I would have been only too  pleased
to dish out. I hoped, of course, that he would make it crisp and remove
himself  at an early date, for when the moment came for the balloon  to
go  up I didn't want to be hampered by an audience. When you're pushing
someone into a lake, nothing embarrasses you more than having the front
seats filled up with goggling spectators.
     It was not, however, on the subject of Phyllis that he proceeded to
     'Oh, Wooster,' he said, 'I was talking to my mother a night or  two
     'Oh,  yes?'  I  said, with a slight wave of the  hand  intended  to
indicate that if he liked to talk to his mother anywhere, all over  the
house, he had my approval.
     'She tells me you are interested in mice.'
     I didn't like the trend the conversation was taking, but I preserved
my aplomb.
     'Why, yes, fairly interested.'
     'She says she found you trying to catch one in my bedroom!'
     'Yes, that's right.'
     'Good of you to bother.'
     'Not at all. Always a pleasure.'
     'She  says  you seemed to be making a very thorough  search  of  my
     'Oh, well, you know, when one sets one's hand to the plough.'
     'You didn't find a mouse?'
     'No, no mouse. Sorry.'
     'I  wonder  if  by any chance you happened to find  an  eighteenth-
century cow-creamer?'
     'A silver jug shaped like a cow.'
     'No. Why, was it on the floor somewhere?'
     'It was in a drawer of the bureau.'
     'Ah, then I would have missed it.'
     'You'd certainly miss it now. It's gone.'
     'You mean disappeared, as it were?'
     'I do.'
     'Very strange.'
     'Yes, does seem extremely strange, doesn't it?'
     I  had spoken with all the old Wooster coolness, and I doubt  if  a
casual  observer would have detected that Bertram was not at his  ease,
but  I  can assure my public that he wasn't by a wide margin. My  heart
had  leaped  in the manner popularized by Kipper Herring  and  Scarface
McColl,  crashing against my front teeth with a thud  which  must  have
been audible in Market Snodsbury. A far less astute man would have been
able to divine what had happened. Not knowing the score owing to having
missed the latest stop-press news and looking on the cow-creamer purely
in the light of a bit of the swag collected by Wilbert in the course of
his larcenous career, Pop Glossop, all zeal, had embarked on the search
he  had planned to make, and intuition, developed by years of hunt-the-
slipper,  had  led  him to the right spot. Too late I regretted  sorely
that,  concentrating so tensely on Operation Upjohn, I  had  failed  to
place the facts before him. Had he but known, about summed it up.
     'I  was  going  to ask you,' said Wilbert, 'if you think  I  should
inform Mrs Travers.'
     The  cigarette I was smoking was fortunately one of the  kind  that
make you nonchalant, so it was nonchalantly - or fairly nonchalantly  -
that I was able to reply.
     'Oh, I wouldn't do that.'
     'Why not?'
     'Might upset her.'
     'You consider her a sensitive plant?'
     'Oh, very. Rugged exterior, of course, but you can't go by that. No,
I'd  just wait a while, if I were you. I expect it'll turn out that the
thing's somewhere you put it but didn't think you'd put it. I mean, you
often put a thing somewhere and think you've put it somewhere else  and
then  find you didn't put it somewhere else but somewhere. I don't know
if you follow me?'
     'I don't.'
     'What  I  mean is, just stick around and you'll probably  find  the
     'You think it will return?'
     'I do.'
     'Like a homing pigeon?'
     'That's the idea.'
     'Oh?' said Wilbert, and turned away to greet Bobbie and Upjohn, who
had  just  arrived on the boat-house landing stage.  I  had  found  his
manner  a little peculiar, particularly that last 'Oh?' but I was  glad
that  there was no lurking suspicion in his mind that I had  taken  the
bally  thing.  He  might so easily have got the idea  that  Uncle  Tom,
regretting having parted with his ewe lamb, had employed me to  recover
it  privily,  this being the sort of thing, I believe, that  collectors
frequently  do. Nevertheless, I was still much shaken,  and  I  made  a
mental note to tell Roddy Glossop to slip it back among his effects  at
the earliest possible moment.
     I shifted over to where Bobbie and Upjohn were standing, and though
up  and  doing  with  a heart for any fate couldn't help  getting  that
feeling you get at times like this of having swallowed a double portion
of  butterflies.  My  emotions were somewhat similar  to  those  I  had
experienced when I first sang the Yeoman's Wedding Song. In  public,  I
mean, for of course I had long been singing it in my bath.
     'Hullo, Bobbie,' I said.
     'Hullo, Bertie,' she said.
     'Hullo, Upjohn,' I said.
     The correct response to this would have been 'Hullo, Wooster',  but
he  blew  up in his lines and merely made a noise like a wolf with  its
big  toe  caught  in a trap. Seemed a bit restive,  I  thought,  as  if
wishing he were elsewhere.
     Bobbie was all girlish animation.
     'I've been telling Mr Upjohn about that big fish we saw in the lake
yesterday, Bertie.'
     'Ah yes, the big fish.'
     'It was a whopper, wasn't it?'
     'Very well-developed.'
     'I brought him down here to show it to him.'
     'Quite right. You'll enjoy the big fish, Upjohn.'
     I had been perfectly correct in supposing him to be restive. He did
his wolf impersonation once more.
     'I shall do nothing of the sort,' he said, and you couldn't find  a
better  word than 'testily' to describe the way he spoke. 'It  is  most
inconvenient  for  me to be away from the house  at  this  time.  I  am
expecting a telephone call from my lawyer.'
     'Oh,  I  wouldn't bother about telephone calls from lawyers,'  said
heartily.  'These  legal birds never say anything worth  listening  to.
Just  gab  gab gab. You'll never forgive yourself if you miss  the  big
fish.  You  were saying, Upjohn?' I broke off courteously, for  he  had
     'I  am  saying,  Mr  Wooster, that both you and  Miss  Wickham  are
labouring  under a singular delusion in supposing that I am  interested
in  fish, whether large or small. I ought never to have left the house.
I shall return there at once.'
     'Oh, don't go yet,' said.
     'Wait for the big fish,' said Bobbie.
     'Bound to be along shortly,' I said.
     'At any moment now,' said Bobbie.
     Her eyes met mine, and I read in them the message she was trying to
convey  -  viz. that the time had come to act. There is a tide  in  the
affairs  of  men which taken at the flood leads on to fortune.  Not  my
own. Jeeves's. She bent over and pointed with an eager finger.
     'Oh, look!' she cried.
     This,  as I had explained to Jeeves, should have been the  cue  for
Upjohn to bend over, too, thus making it a simple task for me to do  my
stuff, but he didn't bend over an inch. And why? Because at this moment
the goof Phyllis, suddenly appearing in our midst, said:
     'Daddy, dear, you're wanted on the telephone.'
     Upon which, standing not on the order of his going, Upjohn was  off
as  if  propelled from a gun. He couldn't have moved quicker if he  had
been  the  dachshund Poppet, who at this juncture was running round  in
circles, trying, if I read his thoughts aright, to work off the  rather
heavy lunch he had had earlier in the afternoon.
     One  began  to  see  what the poet Burns had meant.  I  don't  know
anything that more promptly gums up a dramatic sequence than the sudden
and  unexpected exit of an important member of the cast at  a  critical
point  in  the  proceedings. I was reminded of the  time  when  we  did
Charley's  Aunt at the Market Snodsbury Town Hall in aid of  the  local
church  organ  fund and half-way through the second act, just  when  we
were all giving of our best, Catsmeat Potter-Pirbright, who was playing
Lord  Fancourt  Babberley,  left the stage abruptly  to  attend  to  an
unforeseen nose bleed.
     As  far as Bobbie and I were concerned, silence reigned, this novel
twist  in  the  scenario  having wiped speech from  our  lips,  as  the
expression is, but Phyllis continued vocal.
     'I found this darling pussycat in the garden,' she said, and for the
first time I observed that she was bearing Augustus in her arms. He was
looking a bit disgruntled, and one could readily see why. He wanted  to
catch up with his sleep and was being kept awake by the endearments she
was murmuring in his ear.
     She lowered him to the ground.
     'I brought him here to talk to Poppet. Poppet loves cats, don't you
angel? Come and say how-d'you-do to the sweet pussykins, darling.'
     I shot a quick look at Wilbert Cream, to see how he was reacting to
this. It was the sort of observation which might well have quenched the
spark  of love in his bosom, for nothing tends to cool the human  heart
more  swiftly  than  babytalk. But so far from being  revolted  he  was
gazing  yearningly at her as if her words were music to his ears.  Very
odd, I felt, and I was just saying to myself that you never could tell,
when I became aware of a certain liveliness in my immediate vicinity.
     At the moment when Augustus touched ground and curling himself into
a  ball fell into a light doze, Poppet had completed his tenth lap  and
was  preparing to start on his eleventh. Seeing Augustus, he halted  in
mid-stride, smiled broadly, turned his ears inside out, stuck his  tail
straight  up  at  right angles to the parent body and bounded  forward,
barking merrily.
     I  could have told the silly ass his attitude was all wrong. Roused
abruptly from slumber, the most easy-going cat is apt to wake up cross.
Already Augustus had had much to endure from Phyllis, who had doubtless
jerked him out of dreamland when scooping him up in the garden, and all
this noise and heartiness breaking out just as he dropped off again put
the  lid on his sullen mood. He spat peevishly, there was a sharp yelp,
and   something  long  and  brown  came  shooting  between   my   legs,
precipitating  itself and me into the depths. The waters  closed  about
me, and for an instant I knew no more.
     When I rose to the surface, I found that Poppet and I were not  the
only  bathers. We had been joined by Wilbert Cream, who had  dived  in,
seized  the hound by the scruff of the neck, and was towing  him  at  a
brisk pace to the shore. And by one of those odd coincidences I was  at
this moment seized by the scruff of the neck myself.
     'It's all right, Mr Upjohn, keep quite cool, keep quite ... What the
hell  are  you doing here, Bertie?' said Kipper, for it was he.  I  may
have been wrong, but it seemed to me that he spoke petulantly.
     I expelled a pint or so of H2O.
     'You may well ask,' I said, moodily detaching a water beetle from my
hair.  'I  don't  know  if you know the meaning of  the  word  "agley",
Kipper,  but  that,  to put it in a nutshell, is the  way  things  have

     Reaching the mainland some moments later and squelching back to the
house,  accompanied  by Bobbie, like a couple of  Napoleons  squelching
back from Moscow, we encountered Aunt Dahlia, who, wearing that hat  of
hers  that  looks  like one of those baskets you  carry  fish  in,  was
messing about in the herbaceous border by the tennis lawn. She gaped at
us  dumbly  for perhaps five seconds, then uttered an ejaculation,  far
from  suitable to mixed company, which she had no doubt picked up  from
fellow-Nimrods in her hunting days. Having got this off the chest,  she
     'What's been going on in this joint? Wilbert Cream came by here just
now,  soaked to the eyebrows, and now you two appear, leaking at  every
seam. Have you all been playing water polo with your clothes on?'
     'Not so much water polo, more that seaside bathing belles stuff,' I
said.  'But it's a long story, and one feels that the cagey  thing  for
Kipper  and me to do now is to nip along and get into some dry  things,
not  to linger conferring with you, much,' I added courteously, 'as  we
always enjoy your conversation.'
     'The extraordinary thing is that I saw Upjohn not long ago, and  he
was  as dry as a bone. How was that? Couldn't you get him to play  with
     'He  had  to go and talk to his lawyer on the phone,' I  said,  and
leaving  Bobbie  to  place  the  facts  before  her,  we  resumed   our
squelching. And I was in my room, having shed the moistened outer crust
and  substituted something a bit more sec in pale flannel,  when  there
was  a  knock on the door. I flung wide the gates and found Bobbie  and
Kipper on the threshold.
     The  first  thing I noticed about their demeanour was  the  strange
absence of gloom, despondency and what not. I mean, considering that it
was  little  more  than a quarter of an hour since all  our  hopes  and
dreams had taken the knock, one would have expected their hearts to  be
bowed  down with weight of woe, but their whole aspect was one of  buck
and  optimism. It occurred to me as a possible solution that with  that
bulldog  spirit of never admitting defeat which has made  Englishmen  -
and,  of course, Englishwomen - what they are they had decided to  have
another  go  along the same lines at some future date, and I  asked  if
this was the case.
     The  answer  was  in the negative. Kipper said  No,  there  was  no
likelihood  of getting Upjohn down to the lake again, and  Bobbie  said
that even if they did, it wouldn't be any good, because I would be sure
to mess things up once more.
     This stung me, I confess.
     'How do you mean, mess things up?'
     'You'd be bound to trip over your flat feet and fall in, as you did
     'Pardon me,' I said, preserving with an effort the polished suavity
demanded from an English gentleman when chewing the rag with one of the
other  sex,  'you're talking through the back of your fatheaded  little
neck. I did not trip over my flat feet. I was hurled into the depths by
an  Act  of God, to wit, a totally unexpected dachshund getting between
my  legs.  If  you're going to blame anyone blame the goof Phyllis  for
bringing  Augustus  there  and calling  him  in  his  hearing  a  sweet
pussykins. Naturally it made him sore and disinclined to stand any  lip
from barking dogs.'
     'Yes,'  said  Kipper, always the staunch pal. 'It  wasn't  Bertie's
fault,  angel.  Say what you will of dachshunds, their  peculiar  shape
makes  them the easiest breed of dog to trip over in existence. I  feel
that Bertie emerges without a stain on his character.'
     'I don't,' said Bobbie. 'Still, it doesn't matter.'
     'No, it doesn't really matter,' said Kipper, 'because your aunt has
suggested a scheme that's just as good as the Lanchester-Simmons thing,
if  not  better.  She  was  telling Bobbie about  the  time  when  Boko
Fittleworth was trying to ingratiate himself with your Uncle Percy, and
you  very sportingly offered to go and call your Uncle Percy a  lot  of
offensive names, so that Boko, hovering outside the door, could come in
and  stick  up  for him, thus putting himself in solid  with  him.  You
probably remember the incident?'
     I quivered. I remembered the incident all right.
     'She thinks the same treatment would work with Upjohn, and I'm sure
she's right. You know how you feel when you suddenly discover you've  a
real  friend, a fellow who thinks you're terrific and won't hear a word
said against you. It touches you. If you had anything in the nature  of
a  prejudice against the chap, you change your opinion of him. You feel
you  can't do anything to injure such a sterling bloke. And that's  how
Upjohn  is going to feel about me, Bertie, when I come in and lend  him
my  sympathy and support as you stand there calling him all  the  names
you  can  think of. You must have picked up dozens from your aunt.  She
used to hunt, and if you hunt, you have to know all the names there are
because people are always riding over hounds and all that. Ask  her  to
jot down a few of the best on a half-sheet of notepaper.'
     'He  won't  need that,' said Bobbie. 'He's probably  got  them  all
tucked away in his mind.'
     'Of  course. Learned them at her knee as a child. Well, that's  the
set-up,  Bertie. You wait your opportunity and corner Upjohn  somewhere
and tower over him-'
     'As he crouches in his chair.'
     '  -  and shake your finger in his face and abuse him roundly.  And
when  he's quailing beneath your scorn and wishing some friend in  need
would  intervene  and save him from this terrible ordeal,  I  come  in,
having  heard all. Bobbie suggests that I knock you down, but  I  don't
think I could do that. The recollection of our ancient friendship would
make  me  pull my punch. I shall simply rebuke you. "Wooster," I  shall
say, "I am shocked. Shocked and astounded. I cannot understand how  you
can talk like that to a man I have always respected and looked up to, a
man  in whose preparatory school I spent the happiest years of my life.
You  strangely  forget yourself, Wooster." Upon which, you  slink  out,
bathed  in shame and confusion, and Upjohn thanks me brokenly and  says
if there is anything he can do for me, I have only to name it.'
     'I still think you ought to knock him down.'
     'Having endeared myself to him thus -'
     'Much more box-office.'
     'Having endeared myself to him thus, I lead the conversation  round
to the libel suit.'
     'One good punch in the eye would do it.'
     'I  say  that I have seen the current issue of the Thursday Review,
and  I  can  quite  understand him wanting  to  mulct  the  journal  in
substantial damages, but "Don't forget, Mr Upjohn," I say, "that when a
weekly paper loses a chunk of money, it has to retrench, and the way it
retrenches  is by getting rid of the more junior members of its  staff.
You  wouldn't want me to lose my job, would you, Mr Upjohn?" He starts.
"Are  you on the staff of the Thursday Review?" he says. "For the  time
being,  yes,"  I say. "But if you bring that suit, I shall  be  selling
pencils  in the street." This is the crucial moment. Looking  into  his
eyes, I can see that he is thinking of that five thousand quid, and for
an instant quite naturally he hesitates. Then his better self prevails.
His  eyes soften. They fill with tears. He clasps my hand. He tells  me
he  could use five thousand quid as well as the next man, but no  money
in  the world would make him dream of doing an injury to the fellow who
championed him so stoutly against the louse Wooster, and the scene ends
with  our going off together to Swordfish's pantry for a drop of  port,
probably  with  our arms round each other's waists, and that  night  he
writes  a  letter to his lawyer telling him to call the suit  off.  Any
     'Not from me. It isn't as if he could find out that it was you  who
wrote that review. It wasn't signed.'
     'No, thank heaven for the editorial austerity that prevented that.'
     'I  can't  see a flaw in the scenario. He'll have to  withdraw  the
     'In common decency, one would think. The only thing that remains is
to choose a time and place for Bertie to operate.'
     'No time like the present.'
     'But how do we locate Upjohn?'
     'He's in Mr Travers's study. I saw him through the french window.'
     'Excellent. Then, Bertie, if you're ready...'
     It will probably have been noticed that during these exchanges I had
taken  no  part  in  the conversation. This was  because  I  was  fully
occupied with envisaging the horror that lay before me. I knew that  it
did lie before me, of course, for where the ordinary man would have met
the  suggestion they had made with a firm nolle prosequi, I was  barred
from  doing  this  by  the code of the Woosters, which,  as  is  pretty
generally known, renders it impossible for me to let a pal down. If the
only way of saving a boyhood friend from having to sell pencils in  the
street  -  though I should have thought that blood oranges  would  have
been  a far more lucrative line - was by wagging my finger in the  face
of  Aubrey Upjohn and calling him names, that finger would have  to  be
wagged and those names called. The ordeal would whiten my hair from the
roots  up and leave me a mere shell of my former self, but it  was  one
that I must go through. Mine not to reason why, as the fellow said.
     So I uttered a rather husky 'Right-ho' and tried not to think of how
the Upjohn face looked without its moustache. For what chilled the feet
most  was  the mental picture of that bare upper lip which  he  had  so
often  twitched  at me in what are called days of yore.  Dimly,  as  we
started  off for the arena, I could hear Bobbie saying 'My  hero!'  and
Kipper asking anxiously if I was in good voice, but it would have taken
a  fat lot more than my-hero-ing and solicitude about my vocal cords to
restore tone to Bertram's nervous system. I was, in short, feeling like
an  inexperienced novice going up against the heavyweight champion when
in due course I drew up at the study door, opened it and tottered in. I
could  not forget that an Aubrey Upjohn who for years had been  looking
strong parents in the eye and making them wilt, and whose toughness was
a  byword  in Bramley-on-Sea, was not a man lightly to wag a finger  in
the face of.
     Uncle Tom's study was a place I seldom entered during my visits  to
Brinkley  Court, because when I did go there he always grabbed  me  and
started  to talk about old silver, whereas if he caught me in the  open
he  often touched on other topics, and the way I looked at it was  that
there was no sense in sticking one's neck out. It was more than a  year
since  I  had  been  inside  this sanctum,  and  I  had  forgotten  how
extraordinarily like its interior was to that of Aubrey  Upjohn's  lair
at  Malvern House. Discovering this now and seeing Aubrey Upjohn seated
at the desk as I had so often seen him sit on the occasions when he had
sent  for me to discuss some recent departure of mine from the straight
and narrow path, I found what little was left of my sang froid expiring
with  a  pop. And at the same time I spotted the flaw in this scheme  I
had  undertaken to sit in on - viz. that you can't just charge  into  a
room and start calling someone names - out of a blue sky, as it were  -
you  have  to lead up to the thing. Pourparlers, in short, are  of  the
     So I said 'Oh, hullo,' which seemed to me about as good a pourparler
as  you  could  have by way of an opener. I should imagine  that  those
statesmen  of  whom  I was speaking always edge into their  conferences
conducted  in  an  atmosphere of the utmost  cordiality  in  some  such
     'Reading?' I said.
     He lowered his book - one of Ma Cream's, I noticed -and flashed  an
upper lip at me.
     'Your powers of observation have not led you astray, Wooster. I  am
     'Interesting book?'
     'Very.  I  am counting the minutes until I can resume  its  perusal
     I'm pretty quick, and I at once spotted that the atmosphere was not
of the utmost cordiality. He hadn't spoken matily, and he wasn't eyeing
me  matily. His whole manner seemed to suggest that he felt that I  was
taking  up space in the room which could have been better employed  for
other purposes.
     However, I persevered.
     'I see you've shaved off your moustache.'
     'I have. You do not feel, I hope, that I pursued a mistaken course?'
     'Oh no, rather not. I grew a moustache myself last year, but had to
get rid of it.'
     'Public sentiment was against it.'
     'I  see.  Well,  I  should  be  delighted  to  hear  more  of  your
reminiscences,  Wooster, but at the moment I am expecting  a  telephone
call from my lawyer.'
     'I thought you'd had one.'
     'I beg your pardon?'
     'When you were down by the lake, didn't you go off to talk to him?'
     'I  did.  But when I reached the telephone, he had grown  tired  of
waiting  and had rung off. I should never have allowed Miss Wickham  to
take me away from the house.'
     'She wanted you to see the big fish.'
     'So I understood her to say.'
     'Talking of fish, you must have been surprised to find Kipper here.'
     'Oh,  Herring,' he said, and one spotted the almost total  lack  of
animation in his voice. And conversation had started to flag, when  the
door  flew  open  and  the goof Phyllis bounded  in,  full  of  girlish
     'Oh, Daddy,' she burbled, 'are you busy?'
     'No, my dear.'
     'Can I speak to you about something?'
     'Certainly. Goodbye, Wooster.'
     I  saw what this meant. He didn't want me around. There was nothing
for  it but to ooze out through the french window, so I oozed, and  had
hardly got outside when Bobbie sprang at me like a leopardess.
     'What  on  earth are you fooling about for like this, Bertie?'  she
stage-whispered.  'All that rot about moustaches. I  thought  you'd  be
well into it by this time.'
     I pointed out that as yet Aubrey Upjohn had not given me a cue.
     'You and your cues!'
     'All  right,  me  and my cues. But I've got to  sort  of  lead  the
conversation in the right direction, haven't I?'
     'I see what Bertie means, darling,' said Kipper. 'He wants -'
     'A point d'appui.'
     'A what?' said Bobbie.
     'Sort of jumping-off place.'
     The beasel snorted.
     'If you ask me, he's lost his nerve. I knew this would happen.  The
worm has got cold feet.'
     I  could have crushed her by drawing her attention to the fact that
worms  don't have feet, cold or piping hot, but I had no wish to  bandy
     'I  must ask you, Kipper,' I said with frigid dignity, 'to  request
your  girl friend to preserve the decencies of debate. My feet are  not
cold.  I  am as intrepid as a lion and only too anxious to get down  to
brass  tacks, but just as I was working round to the res, Phyllis  came
in. She said she had something she wanted to speak to him about.'
     Bobbie snorted again, this time in a despairing sort of way.
     'She'll be there for hours. It's no good waiting.'
     'No,'  said Kipper. 'May as well call it off for the moment.  We'll
let you know time and place of next fixture, Bertie.'
     'Oh, thanks,' I said, and they drifted away.
     And  about a couple of minutes later, as I stood there brooding  on
Kipper's  sad case, Aunt Dahlia came along. I was glad to  see  her.  I
thought  she  might  possibly come across with  aid  and  comfort,  for
though,  like  the female in the poem I was mentioning,  she  sometimes
inclined to be a toughish egg in hours of ease, she could generally  be
relied  on  to be there with the soothing solace when one had  anything
wrong with one's brow.
     As  she approached, I got the impression that her own brow had  for
some reason taken it on the chin. Quite a good deal of that upon-which-
all-the-ends-of-the-earth-are-come stuff, it seemed to me.
     Nor was I mistaken.
     'Bertie,' she said, heaving to beside me and waving a trowel in  an
overwrought manner, 'do you know what?'
     'No, what?'
     'I'll  tell you what,' said the aged relative, rapping out a  sharp
monosyllable  such as she might have uttered in her Quorn and  Pytchley
days  on observing a unit of the pack of hounds chasing a rabbit. 'That
ass Phyllis has gone and got engaged to Wilbert Cream!'

     Her  words  gave  me  quite a wallop. I don't  say  I  reeled,  and
everything  didn't actually go black, but I was shaken, as what  nephew
would not have been. When a loved aunt has sweated herself to the  bone
trying  to  save her god-child from the clutches of a New York  playboy
and  learns that all her well-meant efforts have gone blue on her, it's
only natural for her late brother's son to shudder in sympathy.
     'You don't mean that?' I said. 'Who told you?'
     'She did.'
     'In person?'
     'In the flesh. She came skipping to me just now, clapping her little
hands  and  bleating  about how very, very  happy  she  was,  dear  Mrs
Travers.  The  silly  young geezer. I nearly conked  her  one  with  my
trowel. I'd always thought her half-baked, but now I think they  didn't
even put her in the oven.'
     'But how did it happen?'
     'Apparently that dog of hers joined you in the water.'
     'Yes, that's right, he took his dip with the rest of us. But what's
that got to do with it?'
     'Wilbert Cream dived in and saved him.'
     'He  could have got ashore perfectly well under his own  steam.  In
fact,  he  was already on his way, doing what looked like an Australian
     'That wouldn't occur to a pinhead like Phyllis. To her Wilbert Cream
is  the  man  who rescued her dachshund from a watery grave.  So  she's
going to marry him.'
     'But you don't marry fellows because they rescue dachshunds.'
     'You do, if you've a mentality like hers.'
     'Seems odd.'
     'And  is. But that's how it goes. Girls like Phyllis Mills  are  an
open  book to me. For four years I was, if you remember, the proprietor
and  editress  of  a weekly paper for women.' She was alluding  to  the
periodical entitled Milady's Boudoir, to the Husbands and Brothers page
of  which  I once contributed an article or 'piece' on What  The  Well-
Dressed Man Is Wearing. It had recently been sold to a mug up Liverpool
way,  and I have never seen Uncle Tom look chirpier than when the  deal
went through, he for those four years having had to foot the bills.
     'I  don't suppose,' she continued, 'that you were a regular reader,
so for your information there appeared in each issue a short story, and
in  seventy per cent of those short stories the hero won the  heroine's
heart  by  saving  her dog or her cat or her canary  or  whatever  foul
animal  she happened to possess. Well, Phyllis didn't write  all  those
stories,  but she easily might have done, for that's the way  her  mind
works.  When  I  say mind,' said the blood relation, 'I  refer  to  the
quarter-teaspoonful of brain which you might possibly find in her  head
if you sank an artesian well. Poor Jane!'
     'Poor who?'
     'Her mother. Jane Mills.'
     'Oh, ah, yes. She was a pal of yours, you told me.'
     'The best I ever had, and she was always saying to me "Dahlia,  old
girl, if I pop off before you, for heaven's sake look after Phyllis and
see  that she doesn't marry some ghastly outsider. She's sure  to  want
to.  Girls always do, goodness knows why," she said, and I knew she was
thinking  of her first husband, who was a heel to end all heels  and  a
constant  pain  in  the neck to her till one night he most  fortunately
walked into the River Thames while under the influence of the sauce and
didn't come up for days. "Do stop her," she said, and I said "Jane, you
can rely on me." And now this happens.'
     I endeavoured to soothe.
     'You can't blame yourself.'
     'Yes, I can.'
     'It isn't your fault.'
     'I invited Wilbert Cream here.'
     'Merely from a wifely desire to do Uncle Tom a bit of good.'
     'And I let Upjohn stick around, always at her elbow egging her on.'
     'Yes, Upjohn's the bird I blame.'
     'Me, too.'
     'But  for  his - undue influence, do they call it? - Phyllis  would
have  remained a bachelor or spinster or whatever it is. "Thou art  the
man,  Upjohn!" seems to me the way to sum it up. He ought to be ashamed
of himself.'
     'And  am  I going to tell him so! I'd give a tenner to have  Aubrey
Upjohn here at this moment.'
     'You can get him for nothing. He's in Uncle Tom's study.'
     Her face lit up.
     'He  is?' She threw her head back and inflated the lungs. 'UPJOHN!'
she  boomed,  rather like someone calling the cattle  home  across  the
sands of Dee, and I issued a kindly word of warning.
     'Watch that blood pressure, old ancestor.'
     'Never you mind my blood pressure. You let it alone, and it'll leave
you alone. UPJOHN!'
     He appeared in the french window, looking cold and severe, as I had
so often seen him look when hobnobbing with him in his study at Malvern
House, self not there as a willing guest but because I'd been sent for.
('I  should  like to see Wooster in my study immediately after  morning
prayers' was the formula.)
     'Who is making that abominable noise? Oh, it's you, Dahlia.'
     'Yes, it's me.'
     'You wished to see me?'
     'Yes, but not the way you're looking now. I'd have preferred you to
have fractured your spine or at least to have broken a couple of ankles
and got a touch of leprosy.'
     'My dear Dahlia!'
     'I'm  not your dear Dahlia. I'm a seething volcano. Have  you  seen
     'She has just left me.'
     'Did she tell you?'
     'That she was engaged to Wilbert Cream? Certainly.'
     'And I suppose you're delighted?'
     'Of course I am.'
     'Yes,  of course you are! I can well imagine that it's your dearest
wish to see that unfortunate muttonheaded girl become the wife of a man
who  lets off stink bombs in night clubs and pinches the spoons and has
had three divorces already and who, if the authorities play their cards
right,  will  end up cracking rocks in Sing-Sing. That  is  unless  the
loony-bin  gets  its  bid in first. Just a Prince Charming,  you  might
     'I don't understand you.'
     'Then you're an ass.'
     'Well, really!' said Aubrey Upjohn, and there was a dangerous  note
in  his  voice. I could see that the relative's manner, which  was  not
affectionate, and her words, which lacked cordiality, were peeving him.
It looked like an odds-on shot that in about another two ticks he would
be  giving her the Collect for the Day to write out ten times  or  even
instructing her to bend over while he fetched his whangee. You can push
these preparatory schoolmasters just so far.
     'A fine way for Jane's daughter to end up. Mrs Broadway Willie!'
     'Broadway Willie?'
     'That's  what  he's called in the circles in which he  moves,  into
which  he  will now introduce Phyllis. "Meet the moll," he'll say,  and
then  he'll  teach her in twelve easy lessons how to make stink  bombs,
and the children, if and when, will be trained to pick people's pockets
as  they  dandle them on their knee. And you'll be responsible,  Aubrey
     I  didn't  like the way things were trending. Admittedly  the  aged
relative was putting up a great show and it was a pleasure to listen to
her,  but  I  had  seen  Upjohn's lip twitch  and  that  look  of  smug
satisfaction come into his face which I had so often seen when  he  had
been  counsel for the prosecution in some case in which I was  involved
and  had spotted a damaging flaw in my testimony. The occasion  when  I
was  on  trial for having broken the drawing-room window with a cricket
ball  springs to the mind. It was plain to an eye as discerning as mine
that  he  was about to put it across the old flesh-and-blood  properly,
making her wish she hadn't spoken. I couldn't see how, but the symptoms
were all there.
     I was right. That twitching lip had not misled me.
     'If  I might be allowed to make a remark, my dear Dahlia,' he said,
'I  think we are talking at cross purposes. You appear to be under  the
impression that Phyllis is marrying Wilbert's younger brother  Wilfred,
the  notorious playboy whose escapades have caused the family  so  much
distress  and  who,  as  you are correct in saying,  is  known  to  his
disreputable friends as Broadway Willie. Wilfred, I agree, would make -
and  on  three  successive  occasions has made  -  a  most  undesirable
husband,  but no one to my knowledge has ever spoken a derogatory  word
of  Wilbert. I know few young men who are more generally respected.  He
is   a   member  of  the  faculty  of  one  of  the  greatest  American
universities,  over  in  this  country on his  sabbatical.  He  teaches
romance languages.'
     Stop  me  if I've told you this before, I rather fancy I have,  but
once when I was up at Oxford and chatting on the river bank with a girl
called  something that's slipped my mind there was a sound  of  barking
and  a  great  hefty  dog  of the Hound of the Baskervilles  type  came
galloping at me, obviously intent on mayhem, its whole aspect that of a
dog that has no use for Woosters. And I was just commending my soul  to
God  and thinking that this was where my new flannel trousers got about
thirty  bobs' worth of value bitten out of them, when the girl, waiting
till  she  saw the whites of its eyes, with extraordinary  presence  of
mind  opened  a coloured Japanese umbrella in the animal's  face.  Upon
which,  with  a startled exclamation it did three back somersaults  and
retired into private life.
     And the reason I bring this up now is that, barring the somersaults,
Aunt  Dahlia's reaction to this communique was precisely  that  of  the
above hound to the Japanese umbrella. The same visible taken-abackness.
She  has since told me that her emotions were identical with those  she
had  experienced when she was out with the Pytchley and riding  over  a
ploughed  field  in rainy weather, and the horse of a  sports-lover  in
front of her suddenly kicked three pounds of wet mud into her face.
     She  gulped like a bulldog trying to swallow a sirloin  steak  many
sizes too large for its thoracic cavity.
     'You mean there are two of them?'
     'And Wilbert isn't the one I thought he was?'
     'You  have  grasped the position of affairs to a nicety.  You  will
appreciate  now, my dear Dahlia,' said Upjohn, speaking with  the  same
unction,  if  that's the word, with which he had spoken when  unmasking
his  batteries and presenting unshakable proof that yours was the hand,
Wooster, which propelled this cricket ball, 'that your concern,  though
doing  you the greatest credit, has been needless. I could wish Phyllis
no  better  husband.  Wilbert  has looks,  brains,  character  ...  and
excellent prospects,' he added, rolling the words round his tongue like
vintage  port. 'His father, I should imagine, would be worth  at  least
twenty  million  dollars,  and Wilbert is  the  elder  son.  Yes,  most
satisfactory, most...'
     As he spoke, the telephone rang, and with a quick 'Ha!' he shot back
into the study like a homing rabbit.

     For perhaps a quarter of a minute after he had passed from the scene
the  aged relative stood struggling for utterance. At the end  of  this
period she found speech.
     'Of all the damn silly fatheaded things!' she vociferated, if that's
the  word.  'With  a  million ruddy names to choose from,  these  ruddy
Creams call one ruddy son Wilbert and the other ruddy son Wilfred,  and
both these ruddy sons are known as Willie. Just going out of their  way
to  mislead the innocent bystander. You'd think people would have  more
     Again I begged her to keep an eye on her blood pressure and not get
so  worked up, and once more she brushed me off, this time with a  curt
request that I would go and boil my head.
     'You'd  be  worked  up if you had just been scored  off  by  Aubrey
Upjohn, with that loathsome self-satisfied look on his face as if  he'd
been  rebuking  a pimply pupil at his beastly school for shuffling  his
feet in church.'
     'Odd, that,' I said, struck by the coincidence. 'He once rebuked me
for that very reason. And I had pimples.'
     'Pompous ass!'
     'Shows what a small world it is.'
     'What's he doing here anyway? I didn't invite him.'
     'Bung  him  out.  I  took this point up with  you  before,  if  you
remember. Cast him into the outer darkness, where there is wailing  and
gnashing of teeth.'
     'I will, if he gives me any more of his lip.'
     'I can see you're in a dangerous mood.'
     'You bet I'm in a dangerous ... My God! He's with us again!'
     And A. Upjohn was indeed filtering through the french window. But he
had  lost the look of which the ancestor had complained, the one he was
wearing now seeming to suggest that since last heard from something had
occurred to wake the fiend that slept in him.
     'Dahlia!'  he  ... yes better make it vociferated  once  more,  I'm
pretty sure it's the word I want.
     The  fiend that slept in Aunt Dahlia was also up on its  toes.  She
gave him a look which, if directed at an erring member of the personnel
of  the  Quorn or Pytchley hound ensemble, would have had  that  member
sticking his tail between his legs and resolving for the future to lead
a better life.
     'Now what?'
     Just as Aunt Dahlia had done, Aubrey Upjohn struggled for utterance.
Quite  a bit of utterance-struggling there had been around these  parts
this summer afternoon.
     'I have just been speaking to my lawyer on the telephone,' he said,
getting  going  after  a short stage wait. 'I had  asked  him  to  make
inquiries and ascertain the name of the author of that libellous attack
on  me  in the columns of the Thursday Review. He did so, and  has  now
informed me that it was the work of my former pupil, Reginald Herring.'
     He  paused  at this point, to let us chew it over, and  the  heart
sank.  Mine,  I mean. Aunt Dahlia's seemed to be carrying  on  much  as
usual. She scratched her chin with her trowel, and said:
     'Oh, yes?'
     Upjohn  blinked, as if he had been expecting something better  than
this in the way of sympathy and concern.
     'Is that all you can say?'
     That's the lot.'
     'Oh? Well, I am suing the paper for heavy damages, and furthermore,
I  refuse to remain in the same house with Reginald Herring. Either  he
goes, or I go.'
     There was the sort of silence which I believe cyclones drop into for
a  second  or  two before getting down to it and starting to  give  the
populace the works. Throbbing? Yes, throbbing wouldn't be a bad word to
describe  it. Nor would electric, for the matter of that,  and  if  you
care to call it ominous, it will be all right with me. It was a silence
of the type that makes the toes curl and sends a shiver down the spinal
cord  as  you  stand  waiting for the bang. I  could  see  Aunt  Dahlia
swelling slowly like a chunk of bubble gum, and a less prudent man than
Bertram Wooster would have warned her again about her blood pressure.
     'I beg your pardon?' she said.
     He repeated the key words.
     'Oh?' said the relative, and went off with a pop. I could have told
Upjohn  he  was asking for it. Normally as genial a soul as ever  broke
biscuit, this aunt, when stirred, can become the haughtiest of  grandes
dames  before  whose wrath the stoutest quail, and  she  doesn't,  like
some, have to use a lorgnette to reduce the citizenry to pulp, she does
it  all  with  the naked eye. 'Oh?' she said. 'So you have  decided  to
revise my guest list for me? You have the nerve, the - the -'
     I saw she needed helping out.
     'Audacity,' I said, throwing her the line.
     'The audacity to dictate to me who I shall have in my house.'
     It should have been 'whom', but I let it go.
     'You have the -'
     '-  the  immortal rind,' she amended, and I had  to  admit  it  was
stronger,  'to  tell me whom' - she got it right that  time  -  'I  may
entertain  at Brinkley Court and who' - wrong again - 'I may not.  Very
well,  if  you  feel unable to breathe the same air as my friends,  you
must please yourself. I believe the "Bull and Bush" in Market Snodsbury
is quite comfortable.'
     'Well spoken of in the Automobile Guide,' I said.
     'I  shall go there,' said Upjohn. 'I shall go there as soon  as  my
things  are packed. Perhaps you will be good enough to tell your butler
to pack them.'
     He  strode  off, and she went into Uncle Tom's study, me following,
she still snorting. She rang the bell.
     Jeeves appeared.
     'Jeeves?' said the relative, surprised. 'I was ringing for-'
     'It is Sir Roderick's afternoon off, madam.'
     'Oh? Well, would you mind packing Mr Upjohn's things, Jeeves? He is
leaving us.'
     'Very good, madam.'
     'And you can drive him to Market Snodsbury, Bertie.'
     'Right-ho,' I said, not much liking the assignment, but liking less
the  idea  of  endeavouring  to thwart this incandescent  aunt  in  her
current frame of mind.
     Safety first, is the Wooster slogan.

     It isn't much of a run from Brinkley Court to Market Snodsbury and I
deposited  Upjohn  at  the  'Bull and Bush'  and  started  m.-p.-h.-ing
homeward  in  what  you might call a trice. We parted,  of  course,  on
rather distant terms, but the great thing when you've got an Upjohn  on
your books is to part and not be fussy about how it's done, and had  it
not  been  for all this worry about Kipper, for whom I was now mourning
in spirit more than ever, I should have been feeling fine.
     I  could see no happy issue for him from the soup in which  he  was
immersed.  No words had been exchanged between Upjohn and self  on  the
journey out, but the glimpses I had caught of his face from the  corner
of  the  eyes had told me that he was grim and resolute, his supply  of
the  milk of human kindness plainly short by several gallons. No  hope,
it seemed to me, of turning him from his fell purpose.
     I  garaged  the car and went to Aunt Dahlia's sanctum to  ascertain
whether she had cooled off at all since I had left her, for I was still
anxious about that blood pressure of hers. One doesn't want aunts going
up in a sheet of flame all over the place.
     She wasn't there, having, I learned later, withdrawn to her room to
bathe  her temples with eau de Cologne and do Yogi deep-breathing,  but
Bobbie  was,  and  not  only  Bobbie but Jeeves.  He  was  handing  her
something in an envelope, and she was saying 'Oh, Jeeves, you've  saved
a  human  life,'  and he was saying 'Not at all, miss.'  The  gist,  of
course, escaped me, but I had no leisure to probe into gists.
     'Where's Kipper?' I asked, and was surprised to note that Bobbie was
dancing  round the room on the tips of her toes uttering animal  cries,
apparently ecstatic in their nature.
     'Reggie?' she said, suspending the farmyard imitations for a moment.
'He went for a walk.'
     'Does he know that Upjohn's found out he wrote that thing?'
     'Yes, your aunt told him.'
     'Then we ought to be in conference.'
     'About Upjohn's libel action? It's all right about that. Jeeves has
pinched his speech.'
     I could make nothing of this. It seemed to me that the beasel spoke
in riddles.
     'Have you an impediment in your speech, Jeeves?'
     'No, sir.'
     'Then what, if anything, does the young prune mean?'
     'Miss Wickham's allusion is to the typescript of the speech which Mr
Upjohn  is  to  deliver tomorrow to the scholars  of  Market  Snodsbury
Grammar School, sir.'
     'She said you'd pinched it.'
     'Precisely, sir.'
     I started.
     'You don't mean -'
     'Yes,  he  does,' said Bobbie, resuming the Ballet Russe movements.
'Your  aunt told him to pack Upjohn's bags, and the first thing he  saw
when he smacked into it was the speech. He trousered it and brought  it
along to me.'
     I raised an eyebrow.
     'Well, really, Jeeves!'
     'I deemed it best, sir.'
     'And  did you deem right!' said Bobbie, executing a Nijinsky  what-
ever-it's-called. 'Either Upjohn agrees to drop that libel suit  or  he
doesn't get these notes, as he calls them, and without them he won't be
able  to utter a word. He'll have to come across with the price of  the
papers. Won't he, Jeeves?'
     'He would appear to have no alternative, miss.'
     'Unless he wants to get up on that platform and stand there opening
and shutting his mouth like a goldfish. We've got him cold.'
     'Yes, but half a second,' I said.
     I spoke reluctantly. I didn't want to damp the young ball of worsted
in her hour of joy, but a thought had occurred to me.
     'I see the idea, of course. I remember Aunt Dahlia telling me about
this  strange inability of Upjohn's to be silver-tongued unless he  has
the  material  in  his grasp, but suppose he says he's  ill  and  can't
     'He won't.'
     'I would.'
     'But  you aren't trying to get the Conservative Association of  the
Market  Snodsbury  division to choose you as  their  candidate  at  the
coming  by-election. Upjohn is, and it's vitally important for  him  to
address the multitude tomorrow and make a good impression, because half
the  selection  committee have sons at the school and  will  be  there,
waiting to judge for themselves how good he is as a speaker. Their last
nominee  stuttered, and they didn't discover it till the time came  for
him  to  dish  it out to the constituents. They don't want  to  make  a
mistake this time.'
     'Yes,  I  get you now,' I said. I remembered that Aunt  Dahlia  had
spoken to me of Upjohn's political ambitions.
     'So that fixes that,' said Bobbie. 'His future hangs on this speech,
and we've got it and he hasn't. We take it from there.'
     'And what exactly is the procedure?'
     'That's  all arranged. He'll be ringing up any moment  now,  making
inquiries.  When  he does, you step to the telephone  and  outline  the
position of affairs to him.'
     'That's right.'
     'Why me?'
     'Jeeves deems it best.'
     'Well, really, Jeeves! Why not Kipper?'
     'Mr Herring and Mr Upjohn are not on speaking terms, sir.'
     'So  you  can see what would happen if he heard Reggie's voice.  He
would  hang up  haughtily, and all the weary work to do again.  Whereas
he'll drink in your every word.'
     'But, dash it-'
     'And,  anyway, Reggie's gone for a walk and isn't available.  I  do
wish you wouldn't always be so difficult, Bertie. Your aunt tells me it
was  just  the same when you were a child. She'd want you to  eat  your
cereal,  and you would stick your ears back and be stubborn and non-co-
operative, like Jonah's ass in the Bible.'
     I  could  not let this go uncorrected. It's pretty generally  known
that when at school I won a prize for Scripture Knowledge.
     'Balaam's ass. Jonah was the chap who had the whale. Jeeves!'
     'To  settle  a bet, wasn't it Balaam's ass that entered  the  nolle
     'Yes, sir.'
     'I told you so,' I said to Bobbie, and would have continued grinding
her  into  the  dust,  had not the telephone at  this  moment  tinkled,
diverting  my  mind from the point at issue. The sound  sent  a  sudden
chill through the Wooster limbs, for I knew what it portended.
     Bobbie, too, was not unmoved.
     'Hullo!' she said. 'This, if I mistake not, is our client  now.  In
you go, Bertie. Over the top and best of luck.'
     I  have  mentioned before that Bertram Wooster, chilled steel  when
dealing with the sterner sex, is always wax in a woman's hands, and the
present case was no
exception  to the r. Short of going over Niagara Falls in a  barrel,  I
could think of nothing I wanted to do less than chat with Aubrey Upjohn
at this juncture, especially along the lines indicated, but having been
requested by one of the delicately nurtured to take on the grim task, I
had  no  option.  I  mean, either a chap's preux or he  isn't,  as  the
Chevalier Bayard used to say.
     But  as  I  approached the instrument and unhooked  the  thing  you
unhook,  I was far from being at my most nonchalant, and when  I  heard
Upjohn  are-you-there-ing at the other end my manly  spirit  definitely
blew  a fuse. For I could tell by his voice that he was in the testiest
of moods. Not even when conferring with me at Malvern House, Bramley-on-
Sea, on the occasion when I put sherbet in the ink, had I sensed in him
a more marked stirred-up-ness.
     'Hullo? Hullo? Hullo? Are you there? Will you kindly answer me? This
is Mr Upjohn speaking.'
     They always say that when the nervous system isn't all it should be
the  thing to do is to take a couple of deep breaths. I took six, which
of  course  occupied a certain amount of time, and the delay noticeably
increased  his  umbrage. Even at this distance one could  spot  what  I
believe is called the deleterious animal magnetism.
     'Is that Brinkley Court?'
     I could put him straight there. None other, I told him.
     'Who are you?'
     I had to think for a moment. Then I remembered.
     'This is Wooster, Mr Upjohn,'
     'Well, listen to me carefully, Wooster.'
     'Yes,  Mr  Upjohn. How do you like the "Bull and Bush"?  Everything
pretty snug?'
     'What did you say?'
     'I was asking if you like the "Bull and Bush".'
     'Never mind the "Bull and Bush".'
     'No, Mr Upjohn.'
     'This is of vital importance. I wish to speak to the man who packed
my things.'
     'What do you mean by Jeeves?'
     'You  keep  saying "Jeeves" and it makes no sense.  Who  packed  my
     'Oh, Jeeves is the man's name?'
     'Yes, Mr Upjohn.'
     'Well,  he  carelessly omitted to pack the notes for my  speech  at
Market Snodsbury Grammar School tomorrow.'
     'No, really! I don't wonder you're sore.'
     'Saw whom?'
     'Sore with an r.'
     'No, sorry. I mean with an o-r-e.'
     'Yes, Mr Upjohn.'
     'Are you intoxicated?'
     'No, Mr Upjohn.'
     'Then you are drivelling. Stop drivelling, Wooster.'
     'Yes, Mr Upjohn.'
     'Send for this man Jeeves immediately and ask him what he did  with
the notes for my speech.'
     'Yes, Mr Upjohn.'
     'At once! Don't stand there saying "Yes, Mr Upjohn".'
     'No, Mr Upjohn.'
     'It is imperative that I have them in my possession immediately.'
     'Yes, Mr Upjohn.'
     Well,  I  suppose, looking at it squarely, I hadn't made much  real
progress and a not too close observer might quite possibly have got the
impression  that I had lost my nerve and was shirking  the  issue,  but
that didn't in my opinion justify Bobbie at this point in snatching the
receiver from my grasp and bellowing the word 'Worm!' at me.
     'What did you call me?' said Upjohn.
     'I  didn't  call  you  anything,'  I  said.  'Somebody  called  me
     'I wish to speak to this man Jeeves.'
     'You do, do you?' said Bobbie. 'Well, you're going to speak to  me.
This  is  Roberta Wickham, Upjohn. If I might have your kind  attention
for a moment.'
     I must say that, much as I disapproved in many ways of this carrot-
topped Jezebel, as she was sometimes called, there was no getting  away
from it that she had mastered the art of talking to retired preparatory
schoolmasters. The golden words came pouring out like syrup. Of course,
she  wasn't  handicapped, as I had been, by having sojourned  for  some
years beneath the roof of Malvern House, Bramley-on-Sea, and having  at
a malleable age associated with this old Frankenstein's monster when he
was going good, but even so her performance deserved credit.
     Beginning with a curt 'Listen, Buster,' she proceeded to sketch out
with  admirable  clearness the salient points in the situation  as  she
envisaged  it, and judging from the loud buzzing noises that came  over
the  wire, clearly audible to me though now standing in the background,
it was evident that the nub was not escaping him. They were the buzzing
noises  of  a man slowly coming to the realization that a woman's  hand
had got him by the short hairs.
     Presently they died away, and Bobbie spoke.
     'That's fine,' she said. 'I was sure you'd come round to our  view.
Then  I  will be with you shortly. Mind there's plenty of ink  in  your
fountain pen.'
     She  hung up and legged it from the room, once more giving vent  to
those animal cries, and I turned to Jeeves as I had so often turned  to
him before when musing on the activities of the other sex.
     'Women, Jeeves!'
     'Yes, sir.'
     'Were you following all that?'
     'Yes, sir.'
     'I gather that Upjohn, vowing ... How does it go?'
     'Vowing he would ne'er consent, consented, sir.'
     'He's withdrawing the suit.'
     'Yes,  sir. And Miss Wickham prudently specified that he do  so  in
     'Thus avoiding all rannygazoo?'
     'Yes, sir.'
     'She thinks of everything.'
     'Yes, sir.'
     'I thought she was splendidly firm.'
     'Yes, sir.'
     'It's the red hair that does it, I imagine.'
     'Yes, sir.'
     'If  anyone  had told me that I should live to hear  Aubrey  Upjohn
addressed as "Buster" ...'
     I  would have spoken further, but before I could get under way  the
door  opened,  revealing Ma Cream, and he shimmered silently  from  the
room.  Unless expressly desired to remain, he always shimmers off  when
what is called the Quality arrive.

     This was the first time I had seen Ma Cream today, she having  gone
off  around noon to lunch with some friends in Birmingham, and I  would
willingly not have seen her now, for something in her manner seemed  to
suggest  that  she spelled trouble. She was looking more like  Sherlock
Holmes  than ever. Slap a dressing-gown on her and give her  a  violin,
and  she  could have walked straight into Baker Street and no questions
asked. Fixing me with a penetrating eye, she said:
     'Oh, there you are, Mr Wooster. I was looking for you.'
     'You wished speech with me?'
     'Yes. I wanted to say that now perhaps you'd believe me.'
     'I beg your pardon?'
     'About that butler.'
     'What about him?'
     'I'll tell you about him. I'd sit down, if I were you. It's a  long
     I sat down. Clad to, as a matter of fact, for the legs were feeling
     'You remember I told you I mistrusted him from the first?'
     'Oh ah, yes. You did, didn't you?'
     'I said he had a criminal face.'
     'He can't help his face.'
     'He can help being a crook and an impostor. Calls himself a butler,
does  he? The police could shake that story. He's no more a butler than
I am.'
     I did my best.
     'But think of those references of his.'
     'I am thinking of them.'
     'He  couldn't  have stuck it out as major-domo to a  man  like  Sir
Roderick Glossop, if he'd been dishonest.'
     'He didn't.'
     'But Bobbie said -'
     'I remember very clearly what Miss Wickham said. She told me he had
been with Sir Roderick Glossop for years.'
     'Well, then.'
     'You think that puts him in the clear?'
     'I  don't, and I'll tell you why. Sir Roderick Glossop has a  large
clinic down in Somersetshire at a place called Chuffnell Regis,  and  a
friend  of mine is there. I wrote to her asking her to see Lady Glossop
and  get  all the information she could about a former butler  of  hers
named  Swordfish. When I got back from Birmingham just now, I  found  a
letter  from  her. She says that Lady Glossop told her  she  had  never
employed a butler called Swordfish. Try that one on for size.'
     I continued to do my best. The Woosters never give up.
     'You don't know Lady Glossop, do you?'
     'Of course I don't, or I'd have written to her direct.'
     'Charming  woman, but with a memory like a sieve.  The  sort  who's
always losing one glove at the theatre. Naturally she wouldn't remember
a  butler's name. She probably thought all along it was Fotheringay  or
Binks or something. Very common, that sort of mental lapse. I was up at
Oxford  with  a man called Robinson, and I was trying to think  of  his
name  the  other day and the nearest I could get to it was Fosdyke.  It
only  came  back  to  me when I saw in The Times a few  days  ago  that
Herbert Robinson (26) of Grove Road, Ponder's End, had been had  up  at
Bosher Street police court, charged with having stolen a pair of  green
and  yellow checked trousers. Not the same chap, of course, but you get
the  idea.  I've no doubt that one of these fine mornings Lady  Glossop
will  suddenly  smack herself on the forehead and  cry  "Swordfish!  Of
course!  And all this time I've been thinking of the honest  fellow  as
     She sniffed. And if I were to say that I liked the way she sniffed,
I  would  be  wilfully deceiving my public. It was the  sort  of  sniff
Sherlock  Holmes would have sniffed when about to clap the  darbies  on
the chap who had swiped the Maharajah's ruby.
     'Honest fellow, did you say? Then how do you account for this? I saw
Willie just now, and he tells me that a valuable eighteenth-century cow-
creamer  which he bought from Mr Travers is missing. And where  is  it,
you  ask? At this moment it is tucked away in Swordfish's bedroom in  a
drawer under his clean shirts.'
     In  stating that the Woosters never give up, I was in error.  These
words  caught me amidships and took all the fighting spirit out of  me,
leaving me a spent force.
     'Oh, is it?' I said. Not good, but the best I could do.
     'Yes, sir, that's where it is. Directly Willie told me the thing had
gone, I knew where it had gone to. I went to this man Swordfish's  room
and searched it, and there it was. I've sent for the police.'
     Again  I  had that feeling of having been spiritually knocked  base
over apex. I gaped at the woman.
     'You've sent for the police?'
     'I have, and they're sending a sergeant. He ought to be here at any
moment.  And shall I tell you something? I'm going now to stand outside
Swordfish's door, to see that nobody tampers with the evidence. I'm not
going  to take any chances. I wouldn't want to say anything to  suggest
that I don't trust you implicitly, Mr Wooster, but I don't like the way
you've  been  sticking  up  for  this  fellow.  You've  been  far   too
sympathetic with him for my taste.'
     'It's just that I think he may have yielded to sudden temptation and
all that.'
     'Nonsense. He's probably been acting this way all his life. I'll bet
he was swiping things as a small boy.'
     'Only biscuits.'
     'I beg your pardon?'
     'Or crackers you would call them, wouldn't you? He was telling me he
occasionally pinched a cracker or two in his salad days.'
     'Well,  there you are. You start with crackers and you end up  with
silver  jugs. That's life,' she said, and buzzed off to keep her vigil,
leaving  me kicking myself because I'd forgotten to say anything  about
the  quality of mercy not being strained. It isn't, as I dare  say  you
know, and a mention of this might just have done the trick.
     I was still brooding on this oversight and wondering what was to be
done for the best, when Bobbie and Aunt Dahlia came in, looking like  a
young  female  and an elderly female who were sitting  on  top  of  the
     'Roberta  tells me she has got Upjohn to withdraw the libel  suit,'
said Aunt Dahlia. 'I couldn't be more pleased, but I'm blowed if I  can
imagine how she did it.'
     'Oh, I just appealed to his better feelings,' said Bobbie, giving me
one  of those significant glances. I got the message. The ancestor, she
was  warning  me, must never learn that she had achieved  her  ends  by
jeopardizing the delivery of the Upjohn speech to the young scholars of
Market  Snodsbury Grammar School on the morrow. 'I told  him  that  the
quality of mercy ... What's the matter, Bertie?'
     'Nothing. Just starting.'
     'What do you want to start for?'
     'I  believe  Brinkley Court is open for starting in at  about  this
hour, is it not? The quality of mercy, you were saying?'
     'Yes. It isn't strained.'
     'I believe not.'
     'And  in  case you didn't know, it's twice bless'd and becomes  the
throned  monarch better than his crown. I drove over to the  "Bull  and
Bush"  and put this to Upjohn, and he saw my point. So now everything's
     I uttered a hacking laugh.
     'No,'  I  said, in answer to a query from Aunt Dahlia. 'I have  not
accidentally  swallowed  my tonsils, I was merely  laughing  hackingly.
Ironical that the young blister should say that everything is fine, for
at  this very moment disaster stares us in the eyeball. I have a  story
to  relate  which  I  think  you  will agree  falls  into  the  fretful
porpentine class,' I said, and without further pourparlers I  unshipped
my tale.
     I  had  anticipated  that it would shake them to  their  foundation
garments, and it did. Aunt Dahlia reeled like an aunt struck behind the
ear with a blunt instrument, and Bobbie tottered like a red-haired girl
who hadn't known it was loaded.
     'You  see  the set-up,' I continued, not wanting to rub it  in  but
feeling  that they should be fully briefed. 'Glossop will  return  from
his afternoon off to find the awful majesty of the Law waiting for him,
complete  with  handcuffs.  We  can hardly  expect  him  to  accept  an
exemplary  sentence  without a murmur, so his first  move  will  be  to
establish his innocence by revealing all. "True," he will say,  "I  did
pinch this bally cow-creamer, but merely because I thought Wilbert  had
pinched it and it ought to be returned to store," and he will go on  to
explain his position in the house - all this, mind you, in front of  Ma
Cream. So what ensues? The sergeant removes the gloves from his wrists,
and  Ma  Cream asks you if she may use your telephone for a moment,  as
she  wishes  to  call her husband on long distance. Pop  Cream  listens
attentively to the tale she tells, and when Uncle Tom looks in  on  him
later, he finds him with folded arms and a forbidding scowl. "Travers,"
he  says,  "the  deal's off." "Off ?" quivers Uncle  Tom.  "Off,"  says
Cream.  "O-ruddy-double-f. I don't do business with  guys  whose  wives
bring  in loony-doctors to observe my son." A short while ago Ma  Cream
was  urging me to try something on for size. I suggest that you do  the
same for this.'
     Aunt  Dahlia had sunk into a chair and was starting to turn purple.
Strong emotion always has this effect on her.
     'The only thing left, it seems to me,' I said, 'is to put our trust
in a higher power.'
     'You're right,' said the relative, fanning her brow. 'Go and  fetch
Jeeves, Roberta. And what you do, Bertie, is get out that car of  yours
and  scour the countryside for Glossop. It may be possible to head  him
off.  Come  on, come on, let's have some service. What are you  waiting
     I  hadn't  exactly  been waiting. I'd only been thinking  that  the
enterprise had more than a touch of looking for a needle in a  haystack
about  it. You can't find loony-doctors on their afternoon off just  by
driving  around  Worcestershire  in a car;  you  need  bloodhounds  and
handkerchiefs  for  them to sniff at and all that  professional  stuff.
Still, there it was.
     'Right-ho,' I said. 'Anything to oblige.'

     And, of course, as I had anticipated from the start, the thing was a
wash-out.  I  stuck it out for about an hour and then,  apprised  by  a
hollow  feeling  in the midriff that the dinner hour  was  approaching,
laid a course for home.
     Arriving there, I found Bobbie in the drawing-room. She had the air
of  a girl who was waiting for something, and when she told me that the
cocktails would be coming along in a moment, I knew what it was.
     'Cocktails, eh? I could do with one or possibly more,' I said.  'My
fruitless  quest  has  taken  it out of me.  I  couldn't  find  Glossop
anywhere. He must be somewhere, of course, but Worcestershire  hid  its
secret well.'
     'Glossop?'  she said, seeming surprised. 'Oh, he's  been  back  for
     She wasn't half as surprised as I was. The calm with which she spoke
amazed me.
     'Good Lord! This is the end.'
     'What is?'
     'This is. Has he been pinched?'
     'Of course not. He told them who he was and explained everything.'
     'Oh, gosh!'
     'What's the matter? Oh, of course, I was forgetting. You don't know
the latest developments. Jeeves solved everything.'
     'He did?'
     'With a wave of the hand. It was so simple, really. One wondered why
one  hadn't thought of it oneself. On his advice, Glossop revealed  his
identity and said your aunt had got him down here to observe you.'
     I reeled, and might have fallen, had I not clutched at a photograph
on   a  near-by  table  of  Uncle  Tom  in  the  uniform  of  the  East
Worcestershire Volunteers.
     'No?' I said.
     'And of course it carried immediate conviction with Mrs Cream. Your
aunt  explained  that she had been uneasy about you for  a  long  time,
because  you  were always doing extraordinary things like sliding  down
water pipes and keeping twenty-three cats in your bedroom and all that,
and Mrs Cream recalled the time when she had found you hunting for mice
under  her son's dressing-table, so she quite agreed that it  was  high
time  you  were  under  the  observation of  an  experienced  eye  like
Glossop's.  She was greatly relieved when Glossop assured her  that  he
was  confident of effecting a cure. She said we must all be very,  very
kind  to  you. So everything's nice and smooth. It's extraordinary  how
things turn out for the best, isn't it?' she said, laughing merrily.
     Whether I would or would not at this juncture have taken her in  an
iron  grasp and shaken her till she frothed is a point on which  I  can
make  no  definite announcement. The chivalrous spirit of the  Woosters
would  probably  have  restrained me, much as  I  resented  that  merry
laughter, but as it happened the matter was not put to the test, for at
this moment Jeeves entered, bearing a tray on which were glasses and  a
substantial  shaker filled to the brim with the juice  of  the  juniper
berry.  Bobbie drained her beaker with all possible speed and left  us,
saying  that  if she didn't get dressed, she'd be late for dinner,  and
Jeeves and I were alone, like a couple of bimbos in one of those movies
where two strong men stand face to face and might is the only law.
     'Well, Jeeves,' I said.
     'Miss Wickham has been telling me all.'
     'Ah yes, sir.'
     'The  words "Ah yes, sir" fall far short of an adequate comment  on
the  situation.  A  nice  ...  what is it?  Begins  with  an  i...  im-
     'Imbroglio, sir?'
     'That's it. A nice imbroglio you've landed me in. Thanks to you ...'
     'Yes, sir.'
     'Don't  say "Yes, sir." Thanks to you I have been widely publicized
as off my rocker.'
     'Not  widely, sir. Merely to your immediate circle now resident  at
Brinkley Court.'
     'You  have held me up at the bar of world opinion as a man who  has
not got all his marbles.'
     'It was not easy to think of an alternative scheme, sir.'
     'And  let  me  tell you,' said, and I meant this  to  sting,  'it's
amazing that you got away with it.'
     'There's a flaw in your story that sticks up like a sore thumb.'
     'It's  no good standing there saying "Sir?", Jeeves. It's  obvious.
The cow-creamer was in Glossop's bedroom. How did he account for that?'
     'On  my  suggestion, sir, he explained that he had removed it  from
your  room,  where  he  had ascertained that you had  hidden  it  after
purloining it from Mr Cream.'
     I started.
     'You mean,' I... yes, thundered would be the word, 'You mean that I
am  now labelled not only as a loony in a general sort of way but  also
as a klept-whatever-it-is?'
     'Merely  to  your immediate circle now resident at Brinkley  Court,
     'You  keep  saying that, and you must know it's  the  purest  apple
sauce.  You  don't  really  think the Creams will  maintain  a  tactful
reserve?  They'll  dine  out  on it for years.  Returning  to  America,
they'll  spread the story from the rock-bound coasts of  Maine  to  the
Everglades of Florida, with the result that when I go over there again,
keen  looks  will  be shot at me at every house I go  into  and  spoons
counted  before I leave. And do you realize that in a few  shakes  I've
got  to  show up at dinner and have Mrs Cream being very, very kind  to
me? It hurts the pride of the Woosters, Jeeves.'
     'My advice, sir, would be to fortify yourself for the ordeal.'
     'There are always cocktails, sir. Should I pour you another?'
     'You should.'
     'And we must always remember what the poet Longfellow said, sir.'
     'What was that?'
     'Something attempted, something done, has earned a night's  repose.
You  have  the  satisfaction  of  having  sacrificed  yourself  in  the
interests of Mr Travers.'
     He  had  found a talking point. He had reminded me of those  postal
orders, sometimes for as much as ten bob, which Uncle Torn had sent  me
in the Malvern House days. I softened. Whether or not a tear rose to my
eye, I cannot say, but it may be taken as official that I softened.
     'How right you are, Jeeves!' I said.

: 19, Last-modified: Sun, 17 Feb 2002 06:12:14 GMT