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

What tipped the scale was the thought of Uncle Tom. His love for the cow-creamer might be misguided, but you couldn’t get away from the fact that he was deeply attached to the beastly thing, and one didn’t like the idea of him coming back from Harrogate and saying to himself ‘And now for a refreshing look at the old cow-creamer’ and finding it was not in residence. It would blot the sunshine from his life, and affectionate nephews hate like the dickens to blot the sunshine from the lives of uncles. It was true that I had said ‘Let Uncle Tom eat cake,’ but I hadn’t really meant it. I could not forget that when I was at Malvern House, Bramley-on-Sea, this relative by marriage had often sent me postal orders sometimes for as much as ten bob. He, in short, had done the square thing by me, and it was up to me to do the s.t. by him.

And so it came about that some five minutes later I stood once more outside the Blue Room with Bobbie beside me, not actually at the moment singing in the wilderness but prepared so to sing if Ma Cream, modelling her strategy on that of the Assyrian, came down like a wolf on the fold. The nervous system was a bit below par, of course, but not nearly so much so as it might have been. Knowing that Bobbie would be on sentry-go made all the difference. Any gangster will tell you that the strain and anxiety of busting a safe are greatly diminished if you’ve a look-out man ready at any moment to say ‘Cheese it, the cops!’

Just to make sure that Wilbert hadn’t returned from his hike, I knocked on the door. Nothing stirred. The coast seemed c. I mentioned this to Bobbie, and she agreed that it was as c. as a whistle.

‘Now a quick run-through, to see that you have got it straight. If I sing, what do you do?’

‘Nip out of the window.’

‘And – ?’

‘Slide down the water pipe.’

‘And – ?’

‘Leg it over the horizon.’

‘Right. In you go and get cracking,’ she said, and I went in.

The dear old room was just as I’d left it, nothing changed, and my first move, of course, was to procure another chair and give the top of the armoire the once-over. It was a set-back to find that the cow- creamer wasn’t there. I suppose these kleptomaniacs know a thing or two and don’t hide the loot in the obvious place. There was nothing to be done but start the exhaustive search elsewhere, and I proceeded to do so, keeping an ear cocked for any snatch of song. None coming, it was with something of the old debonair Wooster spirit that I looked under this and peered behind that, and I had just crawled beneath the dressing-table in pursuance of my researches, when one of those disembodied voices which were so frequent in the Blue Room spoke, causing me to give my head a nasty bump.

‘For goodness’ sake!’ it said, and I came out like a pickled onion on the end of a fork, to find that Ma Cream was once more a pleasant visitor. She was standing there, looking down at me with a what-the- hell expression on her finely chiselled face, and I didn’t blame her. Gives a woman a start, naturally, to come into her son’s bedroom and observe an alien trouser-seat sticking out from under the dressing- table.

We went into our routine.

‘Mr Wooster!’

‘Oh, hullo.’

‘It’s you again?’

‘Why, yes,’ I said, for this of course was perfectly correct, and an odd sound proceeded from her, not exactly a hiccup and yet not quite not a hiccup.

‘Are you still looking for that mouse?’

‘That’s right. I thought I saw it run under there, and I was about to deal with it regardless of its age or sex.’

‘What makes you think there is a mouse here?’

‘Oh, one gets these ideas.’

‘Do you often hunt for mice?’

‘Fairly frequently.’

An idea seemed to strike her.

‘You don’t think you’re a cat?’

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Categories: Wodehouse, P G