‘I was going to ask you,’ said Wilbert, ‘if you think I should inform Mrs Travers.’
The cigarette I was smoking was fortunately one of the kind that make you nonchalant, so it was nonchalantly – or fairly nonchalantly – that I was able to reply.
‘Oh, I wouldn’t do that.’
‘Might upset her.’
‘You consider her a sensitive plant?’
‘Oh, very. Rugged exterior, of course, but you can’t go by that. No, I’d just wait a while, if I were you. I expect it’ll turn out that the thing’s somewhere you put it but didn’t think you’d put it. I mean, you often put a thing somewhere and think you’ve put it somewhere else and then find you didn’t put it somewhere else but somewhere. I don’t know if you follow me?’
‘What I mean is, just stick around and you’ll probably find the thing.’
‘You think it will return?’
‘Like a homing pigeon?’
‘That’s the idea.’
‘Oh?’ said Wilbert, and turned away to greet Bobbie and Upjohn, who had just arrived on the boat-house landing stage. I had found his manner a little peculiar, particularly that last ‘Oh?’ but I was glad that there was no lurking suspicion in his mind that I had taken the bally thing. He might so easily have got the idea that Uncle Tom, regretting having parted with his ewe lamb, had employed me to recover it privily, this being the sort of thing, I believe, that collectors frequently do. Nevertheless, I was still much shaken, and I made a mental note to tell Roddy Glossop to slip it back among his effects at the earliest possible moment.
I shifted over to where Bobbie and Upjohn were standing, and though up and doing with a heart for any fate couldn’t help getting that feeling you get at times like this of having swallowed a double portion of butterflies. My emotions were somewhat similar to those I had experienced when I first sang the Yeoman’s Wedding Song. In public, I mean, for of course I had long been singing it in my bath.
‘Hullo, Bobbie,’ I said.
‘Hullo, Bertie,’ she said.
‘Hullo, Upjohn,’ I said.
The correct response to this would have been ‘Hullo, Wooster’, but he blew up in his lines and merely made a noise like a wolf with its big toe caught in a trap. Seemed a bit restive, I thought, as if wishing he were elsewhere.
Bobbie was all girlish animation.
‘I’ve been telling Mr Upjohn about that big fish we saw in the lake yesterday, Bertie.’
‘Ah yes, the big fish.’
‘It was a whopper, wasn’t it?’
‘I brought him down here to show it to him.’
‘Quite right. You’ll enjoy the big fish, Upjohn.’
I had been perfectly correct in supposing him to be restive. He did his wolf impersonation once more.
‘I shall do nothing of the sort,’ he said, and you couldn’t find a better word than ‘testily’ to describe the way he spoke. ‘It is most inconvenient for me to be away from the house at this time. I am expecting a telephone call from my lawyer.’
‘Oh, I wouldn’t bother about telephone calls from lawyers,’ said heartily. ‘These legal birds never say anything worth listening to. Just gab gab gab. You’ll never forgive yourself if you miss the big fish. You were saying, Upjohn?’ I broke off courteously, for he had spoken.
‘I am saying, Mr Wooster, that both you and Miss Wickham are labouring under a singular delusion in supposing that I am interested in fish, whether large or small. I ought never to have left the house. I shall return there at once.’
‘Oh, don’t go yet,’ said.
‘Wait for the big fish,’ said Bobbie.
‘Bound to be along shortly,’ I said.
‘At any moment now,’ said Bobbie.
Her eyes met mine, and I read in them the message she was trying to convey – viz. that the time had come to act. There is a tide in the affairs of men which taken at the flood leads on to fortune. Not my own. Jeeves’s. She bent over and pointed with an eager finger.
‘Oh, look!’ she cried.