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

‘Dahlia!’ he … yes better make it vociferated once more, I’m pretty sure it’s the word I want.

The fiend that slept in Aunt Dahlia was also up on its toes. She gave him a look which, if directed at an erring member of the personnel of the Quorn or Pytchley hound ensemble, would have had that member sticking his tail between his legs and resolving for the future to lead a better life.

‘Now what?’

Just as Aunt Dahlia had done, Aubrey Upjohn struggled for utterance. Quite a bit of utterance-struggling there had been around these parts this summer afternoon.

‘I have just been speaking to my lawyer on the telephone,’ he said, getting going after a short stage wait. ‘I had asked him to make inquiries and ascertain the name of the author of that libellous attack on me in the columns of the Thursday Review. He did so, and has now informed me that it was the work of my former pupil, Reginald Herring.’

He paused at this point, to let us chew it over, and the heart sank. Mine, I mean. Aunt Dahlia’s seemed to be carrying on much as usual. She scratched her chin with her trowel, and said:

‘Oh, yes?’

Upjohn blinked, as if he had been expecting something better than this in the way of sympathy and concern.

‘Is that all you can say?’

That’s the lot.’

‘Oh? Well, I am suing the paper for heavy damages, and furthermore, I refuse to remain in the same house with Reginald Herring. Either he goes, or I go.’

There was the sort of silence which I believe cyclones drop into for a second or two before getting down to it and starting to give the populace the works. Throbbing? Yes, throbbing wouldn’t be a bad word to describe it. Nor would electric, for the matter of that, and if you care to call it ominous, it will be all right with me. It was a silence of the type that makes the toes curl and sends a shiver down the spinal cord as you stand waiting for the bang. I could see Aunt Dahlia swelling slowly like a chunk of bubble gum, and a less prudent man than Bertram Wooster would have warned her again about her blood pressure.

‘I beg your pardon?’ she said.

He repeated the key words.

‘Oh?’ said the relative, and went off with a pop. I could have told Upjohn he was asking for it. Normally as genial a soul as ever broke biscuit, this aunt, when stirred, can become the haughtiest of grandes dames before whose wrath the stoutest quail, and she doesn’t, like some, have to use a lorgnette to reduce the citizenry to pulp, she does it all with the naked eye. ‘Oh?’ she said. ‘So you have decided to revise my guest list for me? You have the nerve, the – the -‘

I saw she needed helping out.

‘Audacity,’ I said, throwing her the line.

‘The audacity to dictate to me who I shall have in my house.’

It should have been ‘whom’, but I let it go.

‘You have the -‘


‘- the immortal rind,’ she amended, and I had to admit it was stronger, ‘to tell me whom’ – she got it right that time – ‘I may entertain at Brinkley Court and who’ – wrong again – ‘I may not. Very well, if you feel unable to breathe the same air as my friends, you must please yourself. I believe the “Bull and Bush” in Market Snodsbury is quite comfortable.’

‘Well spoken of in the Automobile Guide,’ I said.

‘I shall go there,’ said Upjohn. ‘I shall go there as soon as my things are packed. Perhaps you will be good enough to tell your butler to pack them.’

He strode off, and she went into Uncle Tom’s study, me following, she still snorting. She rang the bell.

Jeeves appeared.

‘Jeeves?’ said the relative, surprised. ‘I was ringing for-‘

‘It is Sir Roderick’s afternoon off, madam.’

‘Oh? Well, would you mind packing Mr Upjohn’s things, Jeeves? He is leaving us.’

‘Very good, madam.’

‘And you can drive him to Market Snodsbury, Bertie.’

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Categories: Wodehouse, P G