He raised his bushy eyebrows, and you could see that his heart’s cockles were warmed, too.
‘Indeed? Fancy that! I had supposed the idea original with myself, but no doubt all over England today the rising generation is doing the same thing. So you too have lived in Arcady? What kind of biscuits were yours? Mine were mixed.’
‘The ones with pink and white sugar on?’
‘In many instances, though some were plain.’
‘Mine were ginger nuts.’
‘Those are very good, too, of course, but I prefer the mixed.’
‘So do I. But you had to take what you could get in those days. Were you ever copped?’
‘I am glad to say never.’
‘I was once. I can feel the place in frosty weather still.’
‘Too bad. But these things will happen. Embarking on the present venture, I have the sustaining thought that if the worst occurs and I am apprehended, I can scarcely be given six of the best bending over a chair, as we used to call it. Yes, you may leave this little matter entirely to me, Mr Wooster.’
‘I wish you’d call me Bertie.’
‘And might I call you Roderick?’
‘I shall be delighted.’
‘Or Roddy? Roderick’s rather a mouthful.’
‘Whichever you prefer.’
‘And you are really going to hunt the slipper?’
‘I am resolved to do so. I have the greatest respect and affection for your uncle and appreciate how deeply wounded he would be, were this prized object to be permanently missing from his collection. I would never forgive myself if in the endeavour to recover his property, I were to leave any -‘
‘I was about to say avenue unexplored. I shall strain every -‘
‘I was thinking of the word nerve.’
‘Just as juste. You’ll have to bide your time, of course.’
‘And await your opportunity.’
‘Opportunity knocks but once.’
‘So I understand.’
‘I’ll give you one tip. The thing isn’t on top of the cupboard or armoire.’
‘Ah, that is helpful.’
‘Unless of course he’s put it there since. Well, anyway, best of luck, Roddy.’
‘Thank you, Bertie.’
If I had been taking Old Doctor Gordon’s Bile Magnesia regularly, I couldn’t have felt more of an inward glow as I left him and headed for the lawn to get the Ma Cream book and return it to its place on the shelves of Aunt Dahlia’s boudoir. I was lost in admiration of Roddy’s manly spirit. He was well stricken in years, fifty if a day, and it thrilled me to think that there was so much life in the old dog still. It just showed … well, I don’t know what, but something. I found myself musing on the boy Glossop, wondering what he had been like in his biscuit-snitching days. But except that I knew he wouldn’t have been bald then, I couldn’t picture him. It’s often this way when one contemplates one’s seniors. I remember how amazed I was to learn that my Uncle Percy, a tough old egg with apparently not a spark of humanity in him, had once held the metropolitan record for being chucked out of Covent Garden Balls.
I got the book, and ascertaining after reaching Aunt Dahlia’s lair that there remained some twenty minutes before it would be necessary to start getting ready for the evening meal I took a seat and resumed my reading. I had had to leave off at a point where Ma Cream had just begun to spit on her hands and start filling the customers with pity and terror. But I hadn’t put more than a couple of clues and a mere sprinkling of human gore under my belt, when the door flew open and Kipper appeared. And as the eye rested on him, he too filled me with pity and terror, for his map was flushed and his manner distraught. He looked like Jack Dempsey at the conclusion of his first conference with Gene Tunney, the occasion, if you remember, when he forgot to duck.
He lost no time in bursting into speech.
‘Bertie! I’ve been hunting for you all over the place!’
‘I was having a chat with Swordfish in his pantry. Something wrong?’