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Plum Pie, Page 1

P. G. Wodehouse



  P. G. Wodehouse


  Table of Contents

  1. Jeeves and the Greasy Bird 3

  Our Man in America 28

  2. Sleepy Time 31

  Our Man in America 41

  3. Sticky Wicket at Blandings 43

  Our Man in America 53

  4. Ukridge Starts a Bank Account 55

  Our Man in America 65

  5 Bingo Bans the Bomb 67

  Our Man in America 76

  6. Stylish Stouts 79

  Our Man in America 95

  7. George and Alfred 98

  Our Man in America 111

  8. A Good Cigar is a Smoke 113

  Our Man in America 125

  9. Life With Freddie 126

  Time Like an Ever-rolling Stream 164

  Printer's Error 166

  A Note on Humour 168

  1. Jeeves and the Greasy Bird

  The shades of night were falling fairly fast as I latchkeyed self and suitcase into the Wooster G.H.Q. Jeeves was in the sitting room messing about with holly, for we would soon be having Christmas at our throats and he is always a stickler for doing the right thing. I gave him a cheery greeting.

  "Well, Jeeves, here I am, back again."

  "Good evening, sir. Did you have a pleasant visit?"

  "Not too bad. But I'm glad to be home. What was it the fellow said about home?”

  "If your allusion is to the American poet John Howard Payne, sir, he compared it to its advantage with pleasures and palaces. He called it sweet and said there was no place like it."

  "And he wasn't so far out. Shrewd chap, John Howard Payne."

  "I believe he gave uniform satisfaction, sir."

  I had just returned from a week end at the Chuffnel Regis clinic of Sir Roderick Glossop, the eminent loony doctor or nerve specialist as he prefers to call himself—not, I may add, as a patient but as a guest. My Aunt Dahlia's cousin Percy had recently put in there for repairs, and she had asked me to pop down and see how he was making out. He had got the idea, I don't know why, that he was being followed about by little men with black beards, a state of affairs which he naturally wished to have adjusted with all possible speed.

  "You know, Jeeves," I said some moments later, as I sat quaffing the whisky-and-s with which he had supplied me, "life's odd, you can't say it isn't. You never know where you are with it."

  "There was some particular aspect of it that you had in mind, sir?"

  "I was thinking of me and Sir R. Glossop. Who would ever have thought the day would come when he and I would be hobnobbing like a couple of sailors on shore leave? There was a time, you probably remember, when he filled me with a nameless fear and I leaped like a startled grasshopper at the sound o his name. You have not forgotten?"

  "No, sir, I recall that you viewed Sir Roderick with concern.

  "And he me with ditto."

  "Yes, sir, a stiffness certainly existed. There was no fusion between your souls."

  "Yet now our relations are as cordial as they can stick. The barriers that separated us have come down with a bump, beam at him. He beams at me. He calls me Bertie. I call him Roddy. To put the thing in a nutshell, the dove of peace is in a rising market and may quite possibly go to par. Of course, like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, if I've got the names right we passed through the furnace together, and that always for a bond."

  I was alluding to the time when—from motives I need not go into beyond saying that they were fundamentally sound- we had both blacked our faces, he with burned cork, I with boot polish, and had spent a night of terror wandering through Chuffnel Regis with no place to lay our heads, as the expression is. You don't remain on distant terms with somebody you've shared an experience like that with.

  "But I'll tell you something about Roddy Glossop, Jeeves said, having swallowed a rather grave swallow of the strengthening fluid. "He has something on his mind. Physically I found him in excellent shape—few fiddles could have been fitter—but he was gloomy...distrait...brooding. Conversing with him, one felt that his thoughts were far away and that those thoughts were stinkers. I could hardly get a word out of him. It made me feel like that fellow in the Bible who tried to charm the deaf adder and didn't get to first base. There was a blighter named Blair Eggleston there, and it may have been this that depressed him, for this Eggleston...Ever hear of him? He writes books."

  "Yes, sir. Mr. Eggleston is one of our angry young novelists. The critics describe his work as frank, forthright and fearless."

  "Oh, do they? Well, whatever his literary merits he struck me as a fairly noxious-specimen. What's he angry about?"

  "Life, sir."

  "He disapproves of it?"

  "So one would gather from his output, sir."

  "Well, I disapproved of him, which makes us all square. But I don't think it was having him around that caused the Glossop gloom. I am convinced that the thing goes deeper than that. I believe it's something to do with his love life."

  I must mention that while at Chuffnell Regis Pop Glossop, who was a widower with one daughter, had become betrothed to Myrtle, Lady Chuffnell, the aunt of my old crony Marmaduke ('Chuffy') Chuffnell, and that I should have found him still single more than a year later seemed strange to me. One would certainly have expected him by this time to have raised the price of a marriage licence and had the Bishop and assistant clergy getting their noses down to it. A redblooded loony doctor under the influence of the divine passion ought surely to have put the thing through months ago.

  "Do you think they've had a row, Jeeves?"


  "Sir Roderick and Lady Chuffnel."

  "Oh no, sir. I am sure there is no diminution of affection on either side."

  "Then why the snag?"

  "Her ladyship refuses to take part in the wedding ceremony while Sir Roderick's daughter remains unmarried, sir. She has stated in set terms that nothing will induce her to share a home with Miss Glossop. This would naturally render Sir Roderick moody and despondent."

  A bright light flashed upon me. I saw all. As usual, Jeeves had got to the very heart of the matter.

  A thing that always bothers me when compiling these memoirs of mine is the problem of what steps to take when I bring on the stage a dramatis persona, as I believe the expression is, who has already appeared in some earlier instalment. Will the customers, I ask myself, remember him or her, or will they have completely forgotten her or him, in which case they will naturally want a few footnotes to put them abreast. This difficulty arises in regard to Honoria Glossop, who got into the act in what I suppose would be about Chapter Two of the Wooster Story. Some will recall her, but there may be those who will protest that they have never heard of the beazel in their lives, so perhaps better be on the safe side and risk the displeasure of the blokes with good memories.

  Here, then, is what I recorded with ref to this H. Glossop at the time when owing to circumstances over which I had no control we had become engaged.

  'Honoria Glossop,' I wrote, 'was one of those large, strenuous, dynamic girls with the physique of a middleweight catch-as-catch-can wrestler and a laugh resembling the sound made by the Scotch Express going under a bridge. The effect she had on me was to make me slide into a cellar and lie low there till they blew the All Clear.'

  One could readily, therefore, understand the reluctance of Myrtle, Lady Chuffnell to team up with Sir Roderick while the above was still a member of the home circle. The stand she had taken reflected great credit on her sturdy commonsense, I considered.

  A thought struck me, the thought I so often have when Jeeves starts dishing the dirt.

  "How do you know all this, Jeeves? Did he confer with you?" I said, for I knew how wide his consulting pra
ctice was. ‘Put it up to Jeeves' is so much the slogan in my circle of acquaintance that it might be that even Sir Roderick Glossop, finding himself on a sticky wicket, had decided to place his affairs in his hands. Jeeves is like Sherlock Holmes. The highest in the land come to him with their problems. For all I know, they may give him jewelled snuff boxes. It appeared that I had guessed wrong.

  "No, sir, I have not been honoured with Sir Roderick's confidence."

  "Then how did you find out about his spot of trouble? By extra-whatever-it's-called?"

  "Extra-sensory perception? No, sir. I happened to be glancing yesterday at the G section of the club book."

  I got the gist. Jeeves belongs to a butlers and valets club in Curzon Street called the Junior Ganymede, and they have a book there in which members are required to enter information about their employers. I remember how stunned I was when he told me one day that there are eleven pages about me in it.

  "The data concerning Sir Roderick and the unfortunate situation in which he finds himself were supplied by Mr. Dobson."


  "Sir Roderick's butler, sir."

  "Of course, yes," I said, recalling the dignified figure into whose palm I had pressed a couple of quid on leaving that morning. "But surely Sir Roderick didn't confide in him?"

  "No, sir, but Dobson's hearing is very acute and it enabled him to learn the substance of conversations between Sir Roderick and her ladyship."

  "He listened at the keyhole?"

  "So one would be disposed to imagine, sir."

  I mused awhile. So that was how the cookie crumbled. A pang of p for the toad beneath the harrow whose affairs we were discussing passed through me. It would have been plain to a far duller auditor than Bertram Wooster that poor old Roddy was in a spot. I knew how deep was his affection and esteem for Chuffy's Aunt Myrtle. Even when he was liberally coated with burned cork that night at Chuffnell Regis I had been able to detect the lovelight in his eyes as he spoke of her. And when I reflected how improbable it was that anyone would ever be ass enough to marry his daughter Honoria. thus making his path straight and ironing out the bugs in the scenario, my heart bled for him. I mentioned this to Jeeves.

  "Jeeves," I said, "my heart bleeds for Sir R. Glossop."

  "Yes, sir."

  "Does your heart bleed for him?"

  "Profusely, sir."

  "And nothing to be done about it. We are helpless to assist."

  "One fears so, sir."

  "Life can be very sad, Jeeves."

  "Extremely, sir."

  "I'm not surprised that Blair Eggleston has taken a dislike to it."

  "No, sir."

  "Perhaps you had better bring me another whisky-and-s, to cheer me up. And after that I'll pop off to the Drones for a bite to eat."

  He gave me an apologetic look. He does this by allowing one eyebrow to flicker for a moment.

  "I am sorry to say I have been remiss, sir. I inadvertently forgot to mention that Mrs. Travers is expecting you to entertain her to dinner here tonight."

  "But isn't she at Brinkley?"

  "No, sir, she has temporarily left Brinkley Court and taken up residence at her town house in order to complete her Christmas shopping."

  "And she wants me to give her dinner?"

  "That was the substance of her words to me on the telephone this morning, sir."

  My gloom lightened perceptibly. This Mrs. Travers is my good and deserving Aunt Dahlia, with whom it is always a privilege and pleasure to chew the fat. I would be seeing her, of course, when I went to Brinkley for Christmas, but getting this preview was an added attraction. If anyone could take my mind off the sad case of Roddy Glossop, it was she. I looked forward to the reunion with bright anticipation. I little knew that she had a bombshell up her sleeve and would be touching it off under my trouser seat while the night was yet young.

  On these occasions when she comes to town and I give her dinner at the flat there is always a good deal of gossip from Brinkley Court and neighbourhood to be got through before other subjects are broached, and she tends not to allow a nephew to get a word in edgeways. It wasn't till Jeeves had brought the coffee that any mention of Sir Roderick Glossop was made. Having lit a cigarette and sipped her first sip, she asked me how he was, and I gave her the same reply I had given Jeeves.

  "In robust health," I said, "but gloomy. Sombre. Moody. Despondent."

  "Just because you were there, or was there some other reason?"

  "He didn't tell me," I said guardedly. I always have to be very careful not to reveal my sources when Jeeves gives me information he has gleaned from the club book. The rules about preserving secrecy concerning its contents are frightfully strict at the Junior Ganymede. I don't know what happens to you if you're caught giving away inside stuff, but I should imagine that you get hauled -up in a hollow square of valets and butlers and have your buttons snipped off before being formally bunged out of the institution. And it's a very comforting thought that such precautions are taken, for I should hate to think that there was any chance of those eleven pages about me receiving wide publicity. It's bad enough to know that a book like that—pure dynamite, as you might say—is in existence. "He didn't let me in on what was eating him. He just sat there being gloomy and despondent."

  The old relative laughed one of those booming laughs of her which in the days when she hunted with the Quorn and Pytchley probably lifted many a sportsman from the saddle Her vocal delivery when amused always resembles one of those explosions in London street you read about in the papers.

  "Well, Percy had been with him for several weeks. And then you on top of Percy. Enough to blot the sunshine from any man's life. How is Percy, by the way?"

  "Quite himself again. A thing I wouldn't care to be, but no doubt it pleases him."

  "Little men no longer following him around?"

  "If they are, they've shaved. He hasn't seen a black beard for quite a while, he tells me."

  "That's good. Percy'll be all right if he rid himself of the idea that alcohol is a food. Well, we'll soon buck Glossop up when he comes to Brinkley for Christmas."

  "Will he be there?"

  "He certainly will, and joy will be unconfined. We're going to have a real oldfashioned Christmas with all the trimmings."

  "Holly? Mistletoe?"

  "Yards of both. And a children's party complete with Santa Claus."

  "With the vicar in the stellar role?"

  "No, he's down with flu."

  "The curate?"

  "Sprained his ankle."

  "Then who are you going to get?"

  "Oh, I'll find someone. Was anyone else at Glossop's?"

  "Only a fellow of the name of Eggleston."

  "Blair Eggleston, the writer?"

  "Yes, Jeeves tells me he writes books."

  "And articles. He's doing a series for me on the Modern Girl."

  For some years, helped out by doles from old Tom Travers, her husband, Aunt Dahlia had been running a weekly paper for women called Milady's Boudoir, to which I once contributed a 'piece', as we journalists call it, on What The Well Dressed Man Is Wearing. The little sheet has since been sold, but at that time it was still limping along and losing its bit of money each week, a source of considerable spiritual agony to Uncle Tom, who had to foot the bills. He has the stuff in sackfuls, but he hates to part.

  "I'm sorry for that boy," said Aunt Dahlia.

  "For Blair Eggleston? Why?"

  “He's in love with Honoria Glossop."

  "What! " I cried. She amazed me. I wouldn't have thought it could be done.

  “And is too timid to tell her so. It's often that way with these frank, fearless young novelists. They're devils on paper, but put them up against a girl who doesn't come out of their fountain pen and their feet get as cold as a dachshund's nose. You'd think, when you read his novels, that Blair Eggleston was a menace to the sex and ought to be kept on a chain in the interests of pure womanhood, but is he? No, sir. He's just a rabbit. I don't know
if he has ever actually found himself in an incense-scented boudoir alone with a girl with sensual lips and dark smouldering eyes, but if he did, I'll bet he would take a chair as far away from her as possible and ask her if she had read any good books lately. Why are you looking like a halfwitted fish?"

  "I was thinking of something."


  "Oh, just something," I said warily. Her character sketch of Blair Eggleston had given me one of those ideas I do so often get quick as a flash, but I didn't want to spill it till I'd had time to think it over and ponder on it. It never does to expose these brain waves to the public eye before you've examined them every angle.

  How do you know all this?" I said.

  "He told me in a burst of confidence the other day when we were discussing his Modern Girl Series. I suppose I must have one of those sympathetic personalities which invite confidences You will recall that you have always told me about you various love affairs."

  "That's different."

  "In what way?"

  "Use the loaf, old flesh and blood. You're my aunt. A nephew naturally bares his soul to a loved aunt."

  "I see what you mean. Yes, that makes sense. You do love me dearly, don't you?"

  "Like billy-o. Always have."

  "Well, I'm certainly glad to hear you say that—"

  "Well deserved tribute."

  "—because there's something I want you to do for me."

  "Consider it done."

  "I want you to play Santa Claus at my children's Christmas party."

  Should I have seen it coming? Possibly. But I hadn't, and I tottered where I sat. I was trembling like an aspen. I don't know if you've ever seen an aspen—I haven't myself as far as I can remember—but I knew they were noted for trembling like the dickens. I uttered a sharp cry, and she said if I was going to sing, would I kindly do it elsewhere, as her ear drum was sensitive.

  "Don't say such things even in fun," I begged her.

  "I'm not joking."

  I gazed at her incredulously.

  "You seriously expect me to put on white whiskers and a padded stomach and go about saying 'Ho, ho, ho' to a bunch of kids as tough as those residing near your rural seat?"