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 more.
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 butlers.
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.