‘I was thinking of Upjohn,’ he said.
I was amazed. It seemed incredible to me that anyone who had done time at Malvern House, Bramley-on-Sea, could chuckle, softly or otherwise, when letting the mind dwell on that outstanding menace. It was like laughing lightly while contemplating one of those horrors from outer space which are so much with us at the moment on the motion- picture screen.
‘I envy you, Bertie,’ he went on, continuing to chuckle. ‘You have a wonderful treat in store. You are going to be present at the breakfast table when Upjohn opens his copy of this week’s Thursday Review and starts to skim through the pages devoted to comments on current literature. I should explain that among the books that recently arrived at the office was a slim volume from his pen dealing with the Preparatory School and giving it an enthusiastic build-up. The formative years which we spent there, he said, were the happiest of our life.’
‘He little knew that his brain child would be given to one of the old lags of Malvern House to review. I’ll tell you something, Bertie, that every young man ought to know. Never be a stinker, because if you are, though you may flourish for a time like a green bay tree, sooner or later retribution will overtake you. I need scarcely tell you that I ripped the stuffing out of the beastly little brochure. The thought of those sausages on Sunday filled me with the righteous fury of a Juvenal.’
‘Of a who?’
‘Nobody you know. Before your time. I seemed inspired. Normally, I suppose, a book like that would get me a line and a half in the Other Recent Publications column, but I gave it six hundred words of impassioned prose. How extraordinarily fortunate you are to be in a position to watch his face as he reads them.’
‘How do you know he’ll read them?’
‘He’s a subscriber. There was a letter from him on the correspondence page a week or two ago, in which he specifically stated that he had been one for years.’
‘Did you sign the thing?’
‘No. Ye Ed is not keen on underlings advertising their names.’
‘And it was really hot stuff?’
‘Red hot. So eye him closely at the breakfast table. Mark his reaction. I confidently expect the blush of shame and remorse to mantle his cheek.’
‘The only catch is that 1 don’t come down to breakfast when I’m at Brinkley. Still, I suppose I could make a special effort.’
‘Do so. You will find it well worth while,’ said Kipper and shortly afterwards popped off to resume the earning of the weekly envelope.
He had been gone about twenty minutes when Jeeves came in, bowler hat in hand, to say goodbye. A solemn moment, taxing our self-control to the utmost. However, we both kept the upper lip stiff, and after we had kidded back and forth for a while he started to withdraw. He had reached the door when it suddenly occurred to me that he might have inside information about this Wilbert Cream of whom Aunt Dahlia had spoken. I have generally found that he knows everything about everyone.
‘Oh, Jeeves,’ I said. ‘Half a jiffy.’
‘Something I want to ask you. It seems that among my fellow-guests at Brinkley will be a Mrs Homer Cream, wife of an American big butter and egg man, and her son Wilbert, commonly known as Willie, and the name Willie Cream seemed somehow to touch a chord. Rightly or wrongly I associate it with trips we have taken to New York, but in what connection I haven’t the vaguest. Does it ring a bell with you?’
‘Why yes, sir. References to the gentleman are frequent in the tabloid newspapers of New York, notably in the column conducted by Mr Walter Winchell. He is generally alluded to under the sobriquet of Broadway Willie.’
‘Of course! It all comes back to me. He’s what they call a playboy.’
‘Precisely, sir. Notorious for his escapades.’
‘Yes, I’ve got him placed now. He’s the fellow who likes to let off stink bombs in night clubs, which rather falls under the head of carrying coals to Newcastle and seldom cashes a cheque at his bank without producing a gat and saying, “This is a stick-up.”‘