‘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 him.’
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.