‘That’s a relief. How is he, by the way? You’ve met him, of course?’
‘Oh, yes, we got together. I spilled some tea on him.’
‘You couldn’t have done better.’
‘He’s grown a moustache.’
‘That eases my mind. I wasn’t looking forward to seeing that bare upper lip of his. Remember how it used to make us quail when he twitched it at us? I wonder how he’ll react when confronted with not only one former pupil but two, and those two the very brace that have probably haunted him in his dreams for the last fifteen years. Might as well unleash me on him now.’
‘He isn’t here.’
‘You said he was.’
‘Yes, he was and he will be, but he isn’t. He’s gone up to London.’
‘Isn’t anybody here?’
‘Certainly. There’s Phyllis Mills -‘
‘ – and Mrs Homer Cream of New York City, NY, and her son Wilbert. And that brings me to the something Aunt Dahlia wants you to do for her.’
I was pleased, as I put him hep on the Wilbert -Phyllis situation and revealed the part he was expected to play in it, to note that he showed no signs of being about to issue the presidential veto. He followed the set-up intelligently and when I had finished said that of course he would be only too willing to oblige. It wasn’t much, he said, to ask of a fellow who esteemed Aunt Dahlia as highly as he did and who ever since she had lushed him up so lavishly two summers ago had been wishing there was something he could do in the way of buying back.
‘Rely on me, Bertie,’ he said. ‘We can’t have Phyllis tying herself up with a man who on the evidence would appear to be as nutty as a fruit cake. I will be about this Cream’s bed and about his board, spying out all his ways. Every time he lures the poor girl into a leafy glade, I will be there, nestling behind some wild flower all ready to pop out and gum the game at the least indication that he is planning to get mushy. And now if you would show me to my room, I will have a bath and brush-up so as to be all sweet and fresh for the evening meal. Does Anatole still do those Timbales de ris de veau toulousaine?’
‘And the Sylphides a la creme d’ecrevisses.’
‘There is none like him, none,’ said Kipper, moistening the lips with the tip of the tongue and looking like a wolf that has just spotted its Russian peasant. ‘He stands alone.’
As I hadn’t the remotest which rooms were available and which weren’t, getting Kipper dug in necessitated ringing for Pop Glossop. I pressed the button and he appeared, giving me, as he entered, the sort of conspiratorial glance the acting secretary of a secret society would have given a friend on the membership roll.
‘Oh, Swordfish,’ I said, having given him a conspiratorial glance in return, for one always likes to do the civil thing, ‘this is Mr Herring, who has come to join our little group.’
He bowed from the waist, not that he had much waist.
‘Good evening, sir.’
‘He will be staying some time. Where do we park him?’
‘The Red Room suggests itself, sir.’
‘You get the Red Room, Kipper.’
‘I had it last year. ‘Tis not as deep as a well nor as wide as a church door, but ’tis enough, ’twill serve,’ I said, recalling a gag of Jeeves’s. ‘Will you escort Mr Herring thither, Swordfish?’
‘Very good, sir.’
‘And when you have got him installed, perhaps I could have a word with you in your pantry,’ I said, giving him a conspiratorial glance.
‘Certainly, sir,’ he responded, giving me a conspiratorial glance.
It was one of those big evenings for conspiratorial glances.
I hadn’t been waiting in the pantry long when he navigated over the threshold, and my first act was to congratulate him on the excellence of his technique. I had been much impressed by all that ‘Very good, sir,’ ‘Certainly, sir,’ bowing-from-the-waist stuff. I said that Jeeves himself couldn’t have read his lines better, and he simpered modestly and said that one picked up these little tricks of the trade from one’s own butler.