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

‘You wished speech with me?’

‘Yes. I wanted to say that now perhaps you’d believe me.’

‘I beg your pardon?’

‘About that butler.’

‘What about him?’

‘I’ll tell you about him. I’d sit down, if I were you. It’s a long story.’

I sat down. Clad to, as a matter of fact, for the legs were feeling weak.

‘You remember I told you I mistrusted him from the first?’

‘Oh ah, yes. You did, didn’t you?’

‘I said he had a criminal face.’

‘He can’t help his face.’

‘He can help being a crook and an impostor. Calls himself a butler, does he? The police could shake that story. He’s no more a butler than I am.’

I did my best.

‘But think of those references of his.’

‘I am thinking of them.’

‘He couldn’t have stuck it out as major-domo to a man like Sir Roderick Glossop, if he’d been dishonest.’

‘He didn’t.’

‘But Bobbie said -‘

‘I remember very clearly what Miss Wickham said. She told me he had been with Sir Roderick Glossop for years.’

‘Well, then.’

‘You think that puts him in the clear?’


‘I don’t, and I’ll tell you why. Sir Roderick Glossop has a large clinic down in Somersetshire at a place called Chuffnell Regis, and a friend of mine is there. I wrote to her asking her to see Lady Glossop and get all the information she could about a former butler of hers named Swordfish. When I got back from Birmingham just now, I found a letter from her. She says that Lady Glossop told her she had never employed a butler called Swordfish. Try that one on for size.’

I continued to do my best. The Woosters never give up.

‘You don’t know Lady Glossop, do you?’

‘Of course I don’t, or I’d have written to her direct.’

‘Charming woman, but with a memory like a sieve. The sort who’s always losing one glove at the theatre. Naturally she wouldn’t remember a butler’s name. She probably thought all along it was Fotheringay or Binks or something. Very common, that sort of mental lapse. I was up at Oxford with a man called Robinson, and I was trying to think of his name the other day and the nearest I could get to it was Fosdyke. It only came back to me when I saw in The Times a few days ago that Herbert Robinson (26) of Grove Road, Ponder’s End, had been had up at Bosher Street police court, charged with having stolen a pair of green and yellow checked trousers. Not the same chap, of course, but you get the idea. I’ve no doubt that one of these fine mornings Lady Glossop will suddenly smack herself on the forehead and cry “Swordfish! Of course! And all this time I’ve been thinking of the honest fellow as Catbird!”‘

She sniffed. And if I were to say that I liked the way she sniffed, I would be wilfully deceiving my public. It was the sort of sniff Sherlock Holmes would have sniffed when about to clap the darbies on the chap who had swiped the Maharajah’s ruby.

‘Honest fellow, did you say? Then how do you account for this? I saw Willie just now, and he tells me that a valuable eighteenth-century cow- creamer which he bought from Mr Travers is missing. And where is it, you ask? At this moment it is tucked away in Swordfish’s bedroom in a drawer under his clean shirts.’

In stating that the Woosters never give up, I was in error. These words caught me amidships and took all the fighting spirit out of me, leaving me a spent force.

‘Oh, is it?’ I said. Not good, but the best I could do.

‘Yes, sir, that’s where it is. Directly Willie told me the thing had gone, I knew where it had gone to. I went to this man Swordfish’s room and searched it, and there it was. I’ve sent for the police.’

Again I had that feeling of having been spiritually knocked base over apex. I gaped at the woman.

‘You’ve sent for the police?’

‘I have, and they’re sending a sergeant. He ought to be here at any moment. And shall I tell you something? I’m going now to stand outside Swordfish’s door, to see that nobody tampers with the evidence. I’m not going to take any chances. I wouldn’t want to say anything to suggest that I don’t trust you implicitly, Mr Wooster, but I don’t like the way you’ve been sticking up for this fellow. You’ve been far too sympathetic with him for my taste.’

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