The morning sunshine descended like an amber shower-bath on Blandings Castle, lighting up with a heartening glow its ivied walls, its rolling parks, its gardens, outhouses, and messuages, and such of its inhabitants as chanced at the moment to be taking the air. It fell on green lawns and wide terraces, on noble trees and bright flower-beds. It fell on the baggy trousers-seat of Angus McAllister, head-gardener to the ninth Earl of Emsworth, as he bent with dour Scottish determination to pluck a slug from its reverie beneath the leaf of a lettuce, It fell on the white flannels of the Hon. Freddie Threepwood, lord Emsworth's second son, hurrying across the water-meadows. It also fell on Lord Emsworth himself and on Beach, his faithful butler. They were standing on the turret above the west wing, the former with his eye to a powerful telescope, the latter holding the hat which he had been sent to fetch. 'Beach,' said Lord Emsworth.
'I've been swindled. This dashed thing doesn't work.'
'Your lordship cannot see clearly?'
'I can't see at all, dash it. It's all black.'
The butler was an observant man. 'Perhaps if I were to remove the cap at the extremity of the instrument, m'lord, more satisfactory results might be obtained.'
'Eh? Cap? Is there a cap? So there is. Take it off, Beach.'
'Very good, m'lord.'
'Ah! There was satisfaction in Lord Emsworth's voice. He twiddled and adjusted, and the satisfaction deepened. 'Yes, that's better. That's capital. Beach, I can see a cow.' 'Indeed, m'lord?
'Down in the water-meadows. Remarkable. Might be two yards away. All right, Beach. Shan't want you any longer.'
'Your hat m'lord?'
'Put it on my head.'
'Very good, m'lord.'
The butler, this kindly act performed, withdrew. Lord Emsworth continued gazing at the cow.
The ninth Earl of Emsworth was a fluffy-minded and amiable old gentleman with a fondness for new toys. Although the main interest of his life was his garden, he was always ready to try a side line, and the latest of these side lines was this telescope of his. Ordered from London in a burst of enthusiasm consequent upon the reading of an article on astronomy in a monthly magazine, it had been placed in position on the previous evening. What was now in progress was its trial trip. Presently, the cow's audience-appeal began to wane. It was a fine cow, as cows go, but like so many cows, it lacked sustained dramatic interest. Surfeited after a while by the spectacle of it chewing the cud and staring glassily at nothing, Lord Emsworth decided to swivel the apparatus round in the hope of picking up something a trifle more sensational. And he was just about to do so, when into the range of his vision there came the Hon. Freddie. White and shining, he tripped along over the turf like a Theocritan shepherd hastening to keep an appointment with a nymph, and a sudden frown marred the serenity of Lord Emsworth's brow.
He generally frowned when he saw Freddie, for with the passage of the years that youth had become more and more of a problem to an anxious father. Unlike the male codfish, which, suddenly finding itself the parent of three million five hundred thousand little codfish, cheerfully resolves to love them all, the British aristocracy is apt to look with a somewhat jaundiced eye on its younger son. And Freddie Threepwood was one of those younger sons who rather invite the jaundiced eye. It seemed to the head of the family that there was no way of coping with the boy. If he was allowed to live in London, he piled up debts and got into mischief; and when you jerked him back into the purer surroundings of Blandings Castle, he just roamed about the place, moping broodingly. Hamlet's society at Elsinore must have had the same effect on his stepfather as did that of Freddie Threepwood at Blandings on Lord Emsworth. And it is probable that what induced the latter to keep a telescopic eye on him at this moment was the fact that his demeanour was so mysteriously jaunty, his bearing so intriguingly free from its customary crushed misery.
Some inner voice whispered to Lord Emsworth that this smiling, prancing youth was up to no god and would bear watching. The inner voice was absolutely correct. Within thirty seconds its case had been proved up to the hilt. Scarcely had his lordship had time to wish, as he invariably wished on seeing his offspring, that Freddie had been something entirely different in manners, morals, and appearance, and had been the son of somebody else living a considerable distance away, when out of a small spinney near the end of the meadow there bounded a girl. And Freddie, after a cautious glance over his shoulder, immediately proceeded to fold this female in a warm embrace. Lord Emsworth had seen enough. He tottered away from the telescope, a shattered man. One of his favourite dreams was of some nice, eligible girl, belonging to a good family, and possessing a bit of money of her own, coming along some day and taking Freddie off his hands; but that inner voice, more confident now than ever, told him that this was not she. Freddie would not sneak off in this furtive fashion to meet eligible girls, nor could he imagine any eligible girl, in her right senses, rushing into Freddie's arms in that enthusiastic way. No, there was only one explanation. In the cloistral seclusion of Blandings, far from the Metropolis with all its conveniences for that sort of thing, Freddie had managed to get himself entangled.
Seething with anguish and fury, Lord Emsworth hurried down the stairs and out on to the terrace. Here he prowled like an elderly leopard waiting for feeding-time, until in due season there was a flicker of white among the trees that flanked the drive and a cheerful whistling announced the culprit's approach. It was with a sour and hostile eye that Lord Emsworth watched his son draw near. He adjusted his pince-nez, and with their assistance was able to perceive that a fatuous smile of self-satisfaction illumined the young man's face, giving him the appearance of a beaming sheep. In the young man's buttonhole there shone a nosegay of simple meadow flowers, which, as he walked, he patted from time to time with a loving hand.
'Frederick! bellowed his lordship.
The villain of the piece halted abruptly. Sunk in a roseate trance, he had not observed his father. But such was the sunniness of his mood that even this encounter could not damp him. He gambolled happily up. '
'Hullo, guv'nor!' he carolled.
He searched in his mind for a pleasant topic of conversation - always a matter of some little difficulty on these occasions.
'Lovely day, what?'
His lordship was not to be diverted into a discussion of the weather. He drew a step nearer, looking like the man who smothered the young princes in the Tower. 'Frederick,' he demanded, 'who was that girl?'
The Hon, Freddie started convulsively. He appeared to be swallowing with difficulty something large and jagged.
'Girl?' he quavered. 'Girl? Girl, guv'nor?'
'That girl I saw you kissing ten minutes ago down in the water-meadows.'
'Oh! said the Hon. Freddie. He paused. 'Oh, ah! He paused again. 'Oh, ah, yes. l've been meaning to tell you about that, guv'nor.'
'You have, have you?'
'All perfectly correct, you know. Oh, yes, indeed. All most absolutely correct-o ! Nothing fishy, I mean to say, or anything like that. She's my fianc?.'
A sharp howl escaped Lord Emsworth, as if one of the bees humming in the lavender-beds had taken time off to sting him in the neck.
'Who is she?' he boomed. 'Who is this woman?'
'Her name's Donaldson.'
'Who is she?'
'Aggie Donaldson. Aggie's short for Niagara. Her people spent their honeymoon at the Falls, she tells me. She's American and all that. Rummy names they give kids in America,' proceeded Freddie, with hollow chattiness.'
'Who is she?'
'She's most awfully bright, you know. Full of beans. You'll love her.'
'Who is she?'
'And can play the saxophone.'
'Who,' demanded Lord Emsworth for the sixth time, 'is she? And where did you meet her?'
Freddie coughed. The information, he perceived, could no longer be withheld, and he was keenly alive to the fact that it scarcely fell into the class of tidings of great joy. 'Well, as a matter of fact, guv'nor, she's a sort of cousin of Angus McAlfister's. She's come over to England for a visit, don't you know, and is staying with the old boy. That's how I happened to run across her.'
Lord Emsworth's eyes bulged and he gargled faintly. He had had many unpleasant visions of his son's future, but they had never included one of him walking down the aisle with a sort of cousin of his head-gardener.
'Oh! he said.
'Oh, indeed?' 'That's the strength of it, guv'nor.'
Lord Emsworth threw his arms up, as if calling on Heaven to witness a good man's persecution, and shot off along the terrace at a rapid trot.
About the book:
Here are a dozen stories to delight all Wodehouse addicts...A crooning tenor is attempting to captivate the affections of the Rev. Rupert Bingham's fiancee, Lord Emsworth is striving to remove a pumpkin-shaped blot on the family escutcheon, the Hon. Freddie Threepwood is making a last-ditch attempt to convert Lady Alcester to the beneficial quality of Donaldson's Dog-Joy, and in the bar-parlor of the Anglers' Rest, Mr. Mulliner fascinates everyone with the secret history of old Hollywood.
Snippet from Things Fall Apart
- Chinua Achebe
Snippet from Far From the Madding Crowd
- Thomas Hardy