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

As is generally the case at country-houses on a fine day, there seemed to be nobody around. In due season the gang would assemble for tea on the lawn, but at the moment I could spot no friendly native to tell me where I might find Bobbie. I proceeded, therefore, to roam hither and thither about the grounds and messuages in the hope of locating her, wishing that I had a couple of bloodhounds to aid me in my task, for the Travers demesne is a spacious one and there was a considerable amount of sunshine above, though none, I need scarcely mention, in my heart.

And I was tooling along a mossy path with the brow a bit wet with honest sweat, when there came to my ears the unmistakable sound of somebody reading poetry to someone, and the next moment I found myself confronting a mixed twosome who had dropped anchor beneath a shady tree in what is known as a leafy glade.

They had scarcely swum into my ken when the welkin started ringing like billy-o. This was due to the barking of a small dachshund, who now advanced on me with the apparent intention of seeing the colour of my insides. Milder counsels, however, prevailed, and on arriving at journey’s end he merely rose like a rocket and licked me on the chin, seeming to convey the impression that in Bertram Wooster he had found just what the doctor ordered. I have noticed before in dogs this tendency to form a beautiful friendship immediately on getting within sniffing distance of me. Something to do, no doubt, with the characteristic Wooster smell, which for some reason seems to speak to their deeps. I tickled him behind the right ear and scratched the base of his spine for a moment or two: then, these civilities concluded, switched my attention to the poetry group.

It was the male half of the sketch who had been doing the reading, a willowy bird of about the tonnage and general aspect of David Niven with ginger hair and a small moustache. As he was unquestionably not Aubrey Upjohn, I assumed that this must be Willie Cream, and it surprised me a bit to find him dishing out verse. One would have expected a New York playboy, widely publicized as one of the lads, to confine himself to prose, and dirty prose, at that. But no doubt these playboys have their softer moments.

His companion was a well-stacked young featherweight, who could be none other than the Phyllis Mills of whom Kipper had spoken. Nice but goofy, Kipper had said, and a glance told me that he was right. One learns, as one goes through life, to spot goofiness in the other sex with an unerring eye, and this exhibit had a sort of mild, Soul’s Awakening kind of expression which made it abundantly clear that, while not a super-goof like some of the female goofs I’d met, she was quite goofy enough to be going on with. Her whole aspect was that of a girl who at the drop of a hat would start talking baby talk.

This she now proceeded to do, asking me if I didn’t think that Poppet, the dachshund, was a sweet little doggie. I assented rather austerely, for I prefer the shorter form more generally used, and she said she supposed I was Mrs Travers’s nephew Bertie Wooster, which, as we knew, was substantially the case.

‘I heard you were expected today. I’m Phyllis Mills,’ she said, and I said I had divined as much and that Kipper had told me to slap her on the back and give her his best, and she said, ‘Oh, Reggie Herring? He’s a sweetie-pie, isn’t he?’ and I agreed that Kipper was one of the sweetie-pies and not the worst of them, and she said, ‘Yes, he’s a lambkin.’

This duologue had, of course, left Wilbert Cream a bit out of it, just painted on the backdrop as you might say, and for some moments, knitting his brow, plucking at his moustache, shuffling the feet and allowing the limbs to twitch, he had been giving abundant evidence that in his opinion three was a crowd and that what the leafy glade needed to make it all that a leafy glade should be was a complete absence of Woosters. Taking advantage of a lull in the conversation, he said:

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Categories: Wodehouse, P G