P.G.Wodehouse. Jeeves in the offing, 1960

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 nightfall.’

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 memory.’

‘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.

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