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

‘Good afternoon, Mr Wooster. I had been hoping for a word with you in private. But perhaps Miss Wickham has already explained the circumstances? She has? Then that clears the air, and there is no danger of you incautiously revealing my identity. She impressed it upon you that Mrs Cream must have no inkling of why I am here?’

‘Oh, rather. Secrecy and silence, what? If she knew you were observing her son with a view to finding out if he was foggy between the ears, there would be umbrage on her part, or even dudgeon.’


‘And how’s it coming along?’

‘I beg your pardon?’

‘The observing. Have you spotted any dippiness in the subject?’

‘If by that expression you mean have I formed any definite views on Wilbert Cream’s sanity, the answer is no. It is most unusual for me not to be able to make up my mind after even a single talk with the person I am observing, but in young Cream’s case I remain uncertain. On the one hand, we have his record.’

‘The stink bombs?’


‘And the cheque-cashing with levelled gat?’

‘Precisely. And a number of other things which one would say pointed to a mental unbalance. Unquestionably Wilbert Cream is eccentric.’

‘But you feel the time has not yet come to measure him for the strait waistcoat?’

‘I would certainly wish to observe further.’

‘Jeeves told me there was something about Wilbert Cream that someone had told him when we were in New York. That might be significant.’

‘Quite possibly. What was it?’

‘He couldn’t remember.’

‘Too bad. Well, to return to what I was saying, the young man’s record appears to indicate some deep-seated neurosis, if not actual schizophrenia, but against this must be set the fact that he gives no sign of this in his conversation. I was having quite a long talk with him yesterday morning, and found him most intelligent. He is interested in old silver, and spoke with a great deal of enthusiasm of an eighteenth-century cow-creamer in your uncle’s collection.’

‘He didn’t say he was an eighteenth-century cow-creamer?’

‘Certainly not.’

‘Probably just wearing the mask.’

‘I beg your pardon?’

‘I mean crouching for the spring, as it were. Lulling you into security. Bound to break out sooner or later in some direction or other. Very cunning, these fellows with deep-seated neuroses.’

He shook his head reprovingly.

‘We must not judge hastily, Mr Wooster. We must keep an open mind. Nothing is ever gained by not pausing to weigh the evidence. You may remember that at one time I reached a hasty judgment regarding your sanity. Those twenty-three cats in your bedroom.’

I flushed hotly. The incident had taken place several years previously, and it would have been in better taste, I considered, to have let the dead past bury its dead.

‘That was explained fully.’

‘Exactly. I was shown to be in error. And that is why I say I must not form an opinion prematurely in the case of Wilbert Cream. I must wait for further evidence.’

‘And weigh it?’

‘And, as you say, weigh it. But you rang, Mr Wooster. Is there anything I can do for you?’

‘Well, as a matter of fact, I wanted a whisky-and-soda, but I hate to trouble you.’

‘My dear Mr Wooster, you forget that I am, if only temporarily, a butler and, I hope, a conscientious one. I will bring it immediately.’

I was wondering, as he melted away, if I ought to tell him that Mrs Cream, too, was doing a bit of evidence-weighing, and about him, but decided on the whole better not. No sense in disturbing his peace of mind. It seemed to me that having to answer to the name of Swordfish was enough for him to have to cope with for the time being. Given too much to think about, he would fret and get pale.

When he returned, he brought with him not only the beaker full of the warm south, on which I flung myself gratefully, but a letter which he said had just come for me by the afternoon post. Having slaked the thirst, I glanced at the envelope and saw that it was from Jeeves. I opened it without much of a thrill, expecting that he would merely be informing me that he had reached his destination safely and expressing a hope that this would find me in the pink as it left him at present. In short, the usual guff.

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Categories: Wodehouse, P G