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


‘It’s one of the things the man of tact does not mention in their presence.’

‘Precisely. So really I cannot see what is to be done. I am baffled.’

‘So am I.’

‘I’m not,’ said Bobbie.

I quivered like a startled what-d’you-call-it. She had spoken with a cheery ring in her voice that told an experienced ear like mine that she was about to start something. In a matter of seconds by Shrewsbury clock, as Aunt Dahlia would have said, I could see that she was going to come out with one of those schemes or plans of hers that not only stagger humanity and turn the moon to blood but lead to some unfortunate male – who on the present occasion would, I strongly suspected, be me -getting immersed in what Shakespeare calls a sea of troubles, if it was Shakespeare. I had heard that ring in her voice before, to name but one time, at the moment when she was pressing the darning needle into my hand and telling me where I would find Sir Roderick Glossop’s hot-water bottle. Many people are of the opinion that Roberta, daughter of the late Sir Cuthbert and Lady Wickham of Skeldings Hall, Herts, ought not to be allowed at large. I string along with that school of thought.

Pop Glossop, having only a sketchy acquaintance with this female of the species and so not knowing that from childhood up her motto had been ‘Anything goes’, was all animation and tell-me-more.

‘You have thought of some course of action that it will be feasible for us to pursue, Miss Wickham?’

‘Certainly. It sticks out like a sore thumb. Do you know which Wilbert’s room is?’

He said he did.

‘And do you agree that if you snitch things when you’re staying at a country-house, the only place you can park them in is your room?’

He said that this was no doubt so.

‘Very well, then.’

He looked at her with what I have heard Jeeves call a wild surmise.

‘Can you be … Is it possible that you are suggesting… ?’

‘That somebody nips into Wilbert’s room and hunts around? That’s right. And it’s obvious who the people’s choice is. You’re elected, Bertie.’

Well, I wasn’t surprised. As I say, I had seen it coming. I don’t know why it is, but whenever there’s dirty work to be undertaken at the crossroads, the cry that goes round my little circle is always ‘Let Wooster do it.’ It never fails. But though I hadn’t much hope that any words of mine would accomplish anything in the way of averting the doom, I put in a rebuttal.

‘Why me?’

‘It’s young man’s work.’

Though with a growing feeling that I was fighting in the last ditch, I continued rebutting.

‘I don’t see that,’ I said. ‘I should have thought a mature, experienced man of the world would have been far more likely to bring home the bacon than a novice like myself, who as a child was never any good at hunt-the-slipper. Stands to reason.’

‘Now don’t be difficult, Bertie. You’ll enjoy it,’ said Bobbie, though where she got that idea I was at a loss to understand. ‘Try to imagine you’re someone in the Secret Service on the track of the naval treaty which was stolen by a mysterious veiled woman diffusing a strange exotic scent. You’ll have the time of your life. What did you say?’

‘I said “Ha!” Suppose someone pops in?’

‘Don’t be silly. Mrs Cream is working on her book. Phyllis is in her room, typing Upjohn’s speech. Wilbert’s gone for a walk. Upjohn isn’t here. The only character who could pop in would be the Brinkley Court ghost. If it does, give it a cold look and walk through it. That’ll teach it not to come butting in where it isn’t wanted, ha ha.’

‘Ha ha,’ trilled Pop Glossop.

I thought their mirth ill-timed and in dubious taste, and I let them see it by my manner as I strode off. For of course I did stride off. These clashings of will with the opposite sex always end with Bertram Wooster bowing to the inev. But I was not in jocund mood, and when Bobbie, speeding me on my way, called me her brave little man and said she had known all along I had it in me, I ignored the remark with a coldness which must have made itself felt.

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Categories: Wodehouse, P G