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 book.’
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 together.’
‘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 bugle.
‘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 hammerhead.
‘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 breadth.
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: