P.G.Wodehouse. Jeeves in the offing
P.G.Wodehouse. Jeeves in the offing, 1960
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 London.’
‘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?’