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

‘I’ve heard Jeeves mention her.’

‘Well, that’s how I feel when I remember Anatole’s dinners. When I reflect that every night he’s dishing them up and I’m not there, I come within a very little of breaking down. What gives you the idea that you won’t enjoy yourself? Brinkley Court’s an earthly Paradise.’

‘In many respects, yes, but life there at the moment has its drawbacks. There’s far too much of that where-every-prospect-pleases- and-only-man-is-vile stuff buzzing around for my taste. Who do you think is staying at the old dosshouse? Aubrey Upjohn.’

It was plain that I had shaken him. His eyes widened, and an astonished piece of toast fell from his grasp.

‘Old Upjohn? You’re kidding.’

‘No, he’s there. Himself, not a picture. And it seems only yesterday that you were buoying me up by telling me I’d never have to see him again. The storm clouds may lower, you said, if you recollect…’

‘But how does he come to be at Brinkley?’

‘Precisely what I asked the aged relative, and she had an explanation that seems to cover the facts. Apparently after we took our eye off him he married a friend of hers, one Jane Mills, and acquired a stepdaughter, Phyllis Mills, whose godmother Aunt Dahlia is. The ancestor invited the Mills girl to Brinkley, and Upjohn came along for the ride.’

‘I see. I don’t wonder you’re trembling like a leaf.’

‘Not like a leaf, exactly, but… yes, I think you might describe me as trembling. One remembers that fishy eye of his.’

‘And the wide, bare upper lip. It won’t be pleasant having to gaze at those across the dinner table. Still, you’ll like Phyllis.’

‘Do you know her?’

‘We met out in Switzerland last Christmas. Slap her on the back, will you, and give her my regards. Nice girl, though goofy. She never told me she was related to Upjohn.’

‘She would naturally keep a thing like that dark.’

‘Yes, one sees that. Just as one would have tried to keep it dark if one had been mixed up in any way with Palmer the poisoner. What ghastly garbage that was he used to fling at us when we were serving our sentence at Malvern House. Remember the sausages on Sunday? And the boiled mutton with caper sauce?’

‘And the margarine. Recalling this last, it’s going to be a strain having to sit and watch him getting outside pounds of best country butter. Oh, Jeeves,’ I said, as he shimmered in to clear the table, ‘you never went to a preparatory school on the south coast of England, did you?’

‘No, sir, I was privately educated.’

‘Ah, then you wouldn’t understand. Mr Herring and I were discussing our former prep-school beak, Aubrey Upjohn, MA. By the way, Kipper, Aunt Dahlia was telling me something about him which I never knew before and which ought to expose him to the odium of all thinking men. You remember those powerful end-of-term addresses he used to make to us? Well, he couldn’t have made them if he hadn’t had the stuff all typed out in his grasp, so that he could read it. Without his notes, as he calls them, he’s a spent force. Revolting, that, Jeeves, don’t you think?’

‘Many orators are, I believe, similarly handicapped, sir.’

‘Too tolerant, Jeeves, far too tolerant. You must guard against this lax outlook. However, the reason I mention Upjohn to you is that he has come back into my life, or will be so coming in about two ticks. He’s staying at Brinkley, and I shall be going there tomorrow. That was Aunt Dahlia on the phone just now, and she demands my presence. Will you pack a few necessaries in a suitcase or so?’

‘Very good, sir.’

‘When are you leaving on your Herne Bay jaunt?’

‘I was thinking of taking a train this morning, sir, but if you would prefer that I remained till tomorrow -‘

‘No, no, perfectly all right. Start as soon as you like. What’s the joke?’ I asked, as the door closed behind him, for I observed that Kipper was chuckling softly. Not an easy thing to do, of course, when your mouth’s full of toast and marmalade, but he was doing it.

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