‘No, I’m pretty straight on that.’
‘But you pursue mice?’
‘Well, this is very interesting. I must consult my psychiatrist when I get back to New York. I’m sure he will tell me that this mouse- fixation is a symbol of something. Your head feels funny, doesn’t it?’
‘It does rather,’ I said, the bump I had given it had been a juicy one, and the temples were throbbing.
‘I thought as much. A sort of burning sensation, I imagine. Now you do just as I tell you. Go to your room and lie down. Relax. Try to get a little sleep. Perhaps a cup of strong tea would help. And … I’m trying to think of the name of that alienist I’ve heard people over here speak so highly of. Miss Wickham mentioned him yesterday. Bossom? Blossom? Glossop, that’s it, Sir Roderick Glossop. I think you ought to consult him. A friend of mine is at his clinic now, and she says he’s wonderful. Cures the most stubborn cases. Meanwhile, rest is the thing. Go and have a good rest.’
At an early point in these exchanges I had started to sidle to the door, and I now sidled through it, rather like a diffident crab on some sandy beach trying to avoid the attentions of a child with a spade. But I didn’t go to my room and relax, I went in search of Bobbie, breathing fire. I wanted to take up with her the matter of that absence of the burst of melody. I mean, considering that a mere couple of bars of some popular song hit would have saved me from an experience that had turned the bones to water and whitened the hair from the neck up, I felt entitled to demand an explanation of why those bars had not emerged.
I found her outside the front door at the wheel of her car.
‘Oh, hullo, Bertie,’ she said, and a fish on ice couldn’t have spoken more calmly. ‘Have you got it?’
I ground a tooth or two and waved the arms in a passionate gesture.
‘No,’ I said, ignoring her query as to why I had chosen this moment to do my Swedish exercises. ‘I haven’t. But Ma Cream got me.’
Her eyes widened. She squeaked a bit.
‘Don’t tell me she caught you bending again?’
‘Bending is right. I was half-way under the dressing-table. You and your singing,’ I said, and I’m not sure I didn’t add the word ‘Forsooth!’
Her eyes widened a bit further, and she squeaked another squeak.
‘Oh, Bertie, I’m sorry about that.’
‘You see, I was called away to the telephone. Mother rang up. She wanted to tell me you were a nincompoop.’
‘One wonders where she picks up such expressions.’
‘From her literary friends, I suppose. She knows a lot of literary people.’
‘Great help to the vocabulary.’
‘Yes. She was delighted when I told her I was coming home. She wants to have a long talk.’
‘About me, no doubt?’
‘Yes, I expect your name will crop up. But I mustn’t stay here chatting with you, Bertie. If I don’t get started, I shan’t hit the old nest till daybreak. It’s a pity you made such a mess of things. Poor Mr Travers, he’ll be broken-hearted. Still, into each life some rain must fall,’ she said, and drove off, spraying gravel in all directions.
If Jeeves had been there, I would have turned to him and said ‘Women, Jeeves!’, and he would have said ‘Yes, sir’ or possibly ‘Precisely, sir’, and this would have healed the bruised spirit to a certain extent, but as he wasn’t I merely laughed a bitter laugh and made for the lawn. A go at Ma Cream’s goose-flesher might, I thought, do something to soothe the vibrating ganglions.
And it did. I hadn’t been reading long when drowsiness stole over me, the tired eyelids closed, and in another couple of ticks I was off to dreamland, slumbering as soundly as if I had been the cat Augustus. I awoke to find that some two hours had passed, and it was while stretching the limbs that I remembered I hadn’t sent that wire to Kipper Herring, inviting him to come and join the gang. I went to Aunt Dahlia’s boudoir and repaired this omission, telephoning the communication to someone at the post office who would have been well advised to consult a good aurist. This done, I headed for the open spaces again, and was approaching the lawn with a view to getting on with my reading when, hearing engine noises in the background and turning to cast an eye in their direction, blow me tight if I didn’t behold Kipper alighting from his car at the front door.