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

‘Right-ho,’ I said, not much liking the assignment, but liking less the idea of endeavouring to thwart this incandescent aunt in her current frame of mind.

Safety first, is the Wooster slogan.


It isn’t much of a run from Brinkley Court to Market Snodsbury and I deposited Upjohn at the ‘Bull and Bush’ and started m.-p.-h.-ing homeward in what you might call a trice. We parted, of course, on rather distant terms, but the great thing when you’ve got an Upjohn on your books is to part and not be fussy about how it’s done, and had it not been for all this worry about Kipper, for whom I was now mourning in spirit more than ever, I should have been feeling fine.

I could see no happy issue for him from the soup in which he was immersed. No words had been exchanged between Upjohn and self on the journey out, but the glimpses I had caught of his face from the corner of the eyes had told me that he was grim and resolute, his supply of the milk of human kindness plainly short by several gallons. No hope, it seemed to me, of turning him from his fell purpose.

I garaged the car and went to Aunt Dahlia’s sanctum to ascertain whether she had cooled off at all since I had left her, for I was still anxious about that blood pressure of hers. One doesn’t want aunts going up in a sheet of flame all over the place.

She wasn’t there, having, I learned later, withdrawn to her room to bathe her temples with eau de Cologne and do Yogi deep-breathing, but Bobbie was, and not only Bobbie but Jeeves. He was handing her something in an envelope, and she was saying ‘Oh, Jeeves, you’ve saved a human life,’ and he was saying ‘Not at all, miss.’ The gist, of course, escaped me, but I had no leisure to probe into gists.

‘Where’s Kipper?’ I asked, and was surprised to note that Bobbie was dancing round the room on the tips of her toes uttering animal cries, apparently ecstatic in their nature.

‘Reggie?’ she said, suspending the farmyard imitations for a moment. ‘He went for a walk.’

‘Does he know that Upjohn’s found out he wrote that thing?’

‘Yes, your aunt told him.’

‘Then we ought to be in conference.’

‘About Upjohn’s libel action? It’s all right about that. Jeeves has pinched his speech.’

I could make nothing of this. It seemed to me that the beasel spoke in riddles.

‘Have you an impediment in your speech, Jeeves?’

‘No, sir.’

‘Then what, if anything, does the young prune mean?’

‘Miss Wickham’s allusion is to the typescript of the speech which Mr Upjohn is to deliver tomorrow to the scholars of Market Snodsbury Grammar School, sir.’

‘She said you’d pinched it.’

‘Precisely, sir.’

I started.

‘You don’t mean -‘

‘Yes, he does,’ said Bobbie, resuming the Ballet Russe movements. ‘Your aunt told him to pack Upjohn’s bags, and the first thing he saw when he smacked into it was the speech. He trousered it and brought it along to me.’

I raised an eyebrow.

‘Well, really, Jeeves!’

‘I deemed it best, sir.’

‘And did you deem right!’ said Bobbie, executing a Nijinsky what- ever-it’s-called. ‘Either Upjohn agrees to drop that libel suit or he doesn’t get these notes, as he calls them, and without them he won’t be able to utter a word. He’ll have to come across with the price of the papers. Won’t he, Jeeves?’

‘He would appear to have no alternative, miss.’

‘Unless he wants to get up on that platform and stand there opening and shutting his mouth like a goldfish. We’ve got him cold.’

‘Yes, but half a second,’ I said.

I spoke reluctantly. I didn’t want to damp the young ball of worsted in her hour of joy, but a thought had occurred to me.

‘I see the idea, of course. I remember Aunt Dahlia telling me about this strange inability of Upjohn’s to be silver-tongued unless he has the material in his grasp, but suppose he says he’s ill and can’t appear.’

‘He won’t.’

‘I would.’

‘But you aren’t trying to get the Conservative Association of the Market Snodsbury division to choose you as their candidate at the coming by-election. Upjohn is, and it’s vitally important for him to address the multitude tomorrow and make a good impression, because half the selection committee have sons at the school and will be there, waiting to judge for themselves how good he is as a speaker. Their last nominee stuttered, and they didn’t discover it till the time came for him to dish it out to the constituents. They don’t want to make a mistake this time.’

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Categories: Wodehouse, P G