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Title: Lord Emsworth and Others
Series: Blandings Castle #6
Authors: PG Wodehouse
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
“The Crime Wave at Blandings”
US: Saturday Evening Post, 10 & 17 October 1936
UK: Strand, January 1937 (as “Crime Wave at Blandings”)
Lord Emsworth’s sister, Lady Constance, has decided that Emsworth’s grandson George needs a tutor to keep him in line over the summer holidays and chooses Rupert Baxter, Emsworth’s former secretary. Emsworth is worried that Constance is trying to get the controlling and unpleasant Baxter reinstated as his secretary. George, who does not want to be tutored during the summer holidays, dislikes Baxter, and Emsworth sympathizes with George. Meanwhile, Lord Emsworth’s niece Jane is engaged to George Abercrombie. Constance disapproves since Abercrombie does not have money or a job, and wants Jane to marry someone else. Lord Emsworth previously agreed to give Abercrombie the position of land agent at Blandings, but Constance pushes Emsworth, who just wants to be left alone so he can read Whiffle on The Care Of The Pig, to rescind the job offer. This dismays Jane.
The butler Beach brings an airgun and a box of ammunition to Emsworth. The gun was confiscated from young George on Lady Constance’s instructions. George shot Baxter in the seat of the trousers while Baxter was tying his shoes. Emsworth again sympathizes with George. He reminisces about a time in his youth when his sister Julia borrowed his airgun to shoot her governess, and Beach mentions that he also had an airgun when he was young. Later, Emsworth sees Baxter outside bending over to pick up a cigarette. Acting on an impulse inspired by his childhood memories, Emsworth shoots Baxter with the airgun through a window. Baxter angrily comes into the room, thinking that George shot him again. Constance, however, suspects that Emsworth shot Baxter. Jane saw Emsworth shoot Baxter and threatens to tell Constance unless he writes a letter to Abercrombie giving him the land agent job. Emsworth writes the letter for her.
Baxter eavesdropped on their conversation and knows Emsworth shot him. To keep Baxter from telling Constance, Emsworth reluctantly offers him his old job as secretary, which Baxter gladly accepts. However, Beach later delivers a note from Baxter in which he declines the job and says he will leave Blandings. Emsworth fears Baxter has decided to tell Constance after all, and Jane advises him to deny everything Baxter says. Furthermore, Beach announces he is resigning. Constance admits she shot Beach with George’s airgun on an impulse. Though Emsworth had thought he remembered Julia shooting the governess, it had actually been Constance. Emsworth is alarmed about their indispensable butler resigning but relieved that Constance can hardly reproach him now.
In front of Constance, Baxter accuses Emsworth of shooting him, which Emsworth denies, and says he was willing to return as secretary until Emsworth shot him a second time, though Emsworth only shot him once. Constance wants Baxter to stay, but Emsworth insists that Baxter will go, and that Jane will marry Abercrombie as she wants to. Beach tells Emsworth that he is resigning because he acted on an impulse and shot Baxter (though Baxter mistakenly thought Emsworth shot him again). He is not resigning because of Constance and says her shot actually missed. Emsworth convinces Beach to stay by telling him that Baxter is leaving, and decides to test his aim by again shooting Baxter through a window. Baxter shouts and immediately leaves on his motorcycle. Beach raises a glass of port in a toast to Emsworth’s success.
UK: Strand, September 1936
US: This Week, 27 September 1936 (as “Hidden Treasure”)
Mr Mulliner’s nephew Brancepeth wants to marry his beloved Muriel, but hasn’t a sou to do it on, so her father Lord Bromborough is forcing her to marry the boob of the first water Edwin Potter (heir of Potter’s Potted Meats). Bromborough has a weakness, though: his great moustache Joyeuse, which he compares favorably to Love in Idleness, the facial decoration of Potter’s father Sir Preston. Having been invited to Rumpling Hall to paint a portrait of Lord Bromborough, Brancepeth realizes that if he can turn a moustachless Bromborough into an animated cartoon in Hollywood, fame, fortune, and Muriel are his.
“The Letter of the Law”
UK: Strand, April 1936
US: Red Book, April 1936 (as “Not Out of Distance”)
The President’s Cup and the love of Gwendoline Poskitt occasion the only time the Oldest Member ever saw profit from driving into anyone. Young Wilmot Byng loves Gwendoline, but has recently smitten her father (a member of the Wrecking Crew) a juicy one on the leg for holding up play. To win her hand, the Oldest Member recommends that Wilmot appease Poskitt, and he does so—up to the day of the President’s Cup match. In that match, Poskitt plays well above form, but ends up in match play against Wadsworth Hemmingway, an ex-lawyer-turned-golfer who carries the Book of Rules in his bag and makes it his best club. With one swing, Wilmot ensures that Poskitt gets the Cup and Wilmot gets his bride.
“Farewell to Legs”
US: This Week, 14 July 1935 (omitting Oldest Member introduction)
UK: Strand, May 1936
The title is a play on Ernest Hemingway’s 1929 novel, A Farewell to Arms.
The betrothal of Evangeline Brackett to Angus McTavish is built, in large part, on the way she bites her lip and rolls her eyes when she tops her drive, says the Oldest Member. But when Legs Mortimer takes up residence in the Clubhouse, Evangeline’s mind wanders from her golf, and Angus worries that she is losing her form for the Ladies’ Medal. But the scales fall from Evangeline’s eyes when Legs does the unthinkable on the links.
“There’s Always Golf”
US: Red Book, February 1936 (as “A Triple Threat Man”)
UK: Strand, March 1936
Clarice Fitch was a force to be reckoned with, recalls the Oldest Member, and weedy, bespectacled accountant Ernest Plinlimmon is powerfully affected by the impact of her personality. But like hundreds of others, he escapes her notice, until he encounters her on the eighteenth fairway, needing a four to win the Medals Competition. But she is not playing—she is tying her shoelace. When a forceful woman comes between a man and a coveted tournament medal, she sees the true depths of his soul.
“The Masked Troubadour”
US: Saturday Evening Post, 28 November 1936 (as “Reggie and the Greasy Bird”, with different setting & characters)
UK: Strand, December 1936
“Reggie and the Greasy Bird” is a rewritten version of the story with different characters, created because Wodehouse needed the money for his taxes.
At the Drones Club, two Beans see Freddie Widgeon handing money to a greasy-looking man. A Crumpet explains that the man, Jos. Waterbury, is a professional pianist, and Freddie feels obliged to give him money occasionally. The Crumpet tells the following story.
Freddie has lunch with his uncle, Lord Blicester (pronounced “blister”). Blicester has invited his friend Lady Pinfold and her daughter Dora to lunch. He wants Freddie to marry Dora. Freddie falls in love with Dora. She volunteers at a sort of Mission where they are putting on an entertainment. Freddie sings for the event, accompanied by Dora on the piano. He is a hit and invites the audience to return in a week for buns and cocoa. However, he does not have enough money to pay for the food. His uncle gives him ten pounds, but Freddie thinks he needs more. At the Drones, Freddie sees a kid, Barmy Fotheringay-Phipps’s cousin Egbert. Fellow Drone Catsmeat Potter-Pirbright says that Egbert can hit anything with a Brazil nut fired from a catapult. Freddie bets Catsmeat five pounds that Egbert cannot shoot the hat off an old gentleman leaving a cab. Freddie loses the bet, and sees that it was Blicester whose hat was knocked off. Incidentally, Blicester came to get two pounds ten shillings back.
Freddie decides to sing in an East End music hall’s Amateur Night to win the five-pound prize. He pays Waterbury five shillings to be his accompanist. Blicester is nearby, so Freddie disguises himself with a mask and calls himself The Masked Troubadour. Freddie sings well, but a red-headed man in the audience, “Ginger” Murphy, recognizes Waterbury. He throws an egg at Waterbury, which misses. They argue and a food fight breaks out. Waterbury flees to a pub, where Freddie and Murphy follow. A bar-room brawl ensues. Outside, Blicester sees Freddie get thrown out. When he grabs Freddie’s arm, Freddie mistakes him for a brawler and hits him in the midriff before rejoining the brawl. The next day, Blicester decides to send Freddie away to the country for a few weeks. Freddie calls Dora and tells her everything; she hangs up on him. Waterbury thanks Freddie for saving him in the brawl, and plays on Freddie’s sympathy to get some money from him.
The version titled “Reggie and the Greasy Bird” features Reggie Mumford and is very similar to the Freddie Widgeon version. Reggie is a member of the Junior Rotters Club instead of the Drones, where his fellow member is Beano Bagshot rather than Catsmeat. His uncle is Lord Uppingham, and the girl he falls for is Constance Rackstraw. At the Amateur Night competition, he is accompanied by the greasy-looking pianist Sid Montrose. Ginger Murphy’s name is not changed.
“Ukridge and the Home from Home”
US: Cosmopolitan, February 1931
UK: Strand, June 1931
Ukridge arrives at his friend Jimmy Corcoran’s house at 3 a.m., dressed in his pyjamas and mackintosh. He relates to his friend how he had been left in charge of his Aunt Julia’s house, and had come up with the ingenious idea of renting out rooms to an exclusive clientele of boarders while she was away.
For a time the plan goes smoothly. With the staff bribed to help, he fills the house with paying guests, and rakes in their money while playing the gracious host. However, meeting an old friend of his Aunt’s, he hears she is returning sooner than expected, and tries to think of a way to get rid of the guests before their contracted stays are up.
After a plot to imply the drainage in the house is faulty fails, Ukridge decides to claim the house is infected with Scarlet fever, but receiving a telegram from his aunt saying she will arrive in Paris the following week, and knowing a trip there always takes his aunt a few weeks, decides to delay shutting down his plan to grab a few more weeks rent.
Soon after, the house is aroused by shooting. One of guests, the retired Lieutenant-Colonel B. B. Bagnew, convinced he has seen a burglar, opened fire with his service revolver. Ukridge calms the house, but on retiring to bed, finds Aunt Julia hiding in the cupboard, convinced the butler has gone insane. Ukridge attempts to smuggle her out of the house, but she insists on getting some things from her bedroom. Entering the room, she disturbs the guest staying there, who screams; the Colonel rushes in and opens fire once more. Ukridge, taking advantage of the confusion, grabs his coat and slips away, ending up at his friend’s bedside in the small hours of the night.
“The Come-back of Battling Billson”
US: Cosmopolitan, June 1935
UK: Strand, July 1935
Corky, having had a story idea turned down by Hollywood, attacks the talking picture, but his friend Ukridge comes to its defence. He has, he says, always had a special affection for the talkies. He tells his friend why…
About to be left alone once more at his Aunt Julia’s house, Ukridge realises he can make some quick cash by renting out the lawns to a party of folk dancers. Of course, Aunt Julia’s trip is unexpectedly cancelled, and Ukridge needs some cash to pay back the dancers, who are upset at having their party cancelled at the last minute.
Ukridge sets up a bout for “Battling” Billson, using the man’s desire to wed his girl Flossie to persuade him to take part. Finding Billson’s training methods (mostly involving ale and cigars) somewhat lacking, Ukridge inveigles the big boxer into his Aunt’s house as an odd-job man, allowing him to personally supervise the training regime. His aunt is a little nonplussed, but is soon persuaded everything is alright.
The training continues apace, but Billson seems to be benefitting little. His waist expands and his wind does not. The butler Oakshott, it emerges, having wowed Billson with his dignified manner, is now plying the boxer with an excess of food, cigars and port. Ukridge has just discovered that the conniving butler has money on Billson’s opponent in the upcoming bout, when Aunt Julia learns of Ukridge’s dance scheme, and throws him out of the house. He tries to persuade Billson to leave with him, but the big man resolutely refuses.
Ukridge, seeing disaster loom, fetches Flossie to the house to talk some sense into Billson. They find he has gone to the movie theatre with the butler, and hasten down there, but Flossie is as weak before the butler’s fatherly gaze as Billson himself. All four of them end up in the cinema, at a screening of The Jazz Singer. When the talking starts up, Billson is enraged, calling loudly for quiet in the cinema. The audience reacts strongly, fighting ensues, and Billson is hauled off to jail for two weeks. He emerges trim and in top form, easily besting his opponent in the ring.
“The Level Business Head”
UK: Strand, May 1926
US: Liberty 8 May 1926
Corky is surprised to find himself dining at Ukridge’s Aunt Julia’s house, where he is not usually welcome; Ukridge explains that he has recently acquired a certain degree of power over his aunt, thanks to his having pawned her brooch. He explains…
Ukridge runs into Joe the Lawyer, a notorious bookmaker, and is offered the chance to buy a half-share in a dog with excellent prospects. Ukridge can’t afford the stake £50, of course, so at first refuses, but later that day Aunt Julia, about to depart on yet another tour, tasks him with collecting her brooch from a jeweller’s and locking it safely in her desk. He pawns the brooch, and hands the cash over to Joe the Lawyer. The next day, Joe informs him that the dog has died and offers to reimburse him £5, leaving Ukridge considerably short of the money he needs to buy back the brooch.
Angelica Vining, a friend of Aunt Julia’s, arrives having been told she can borrow the brooch and lent the key to the drawer, but Ukridge pockets the key and sends the woman away. He heads to Lewes races to rake back some money, and there meets Joe the Lawyer once more. He tries to borrow money from him, but is refused, and learns that Joe has raffled the dead dog for a considerable sum. He gets a lift with Joe to the next race meet at Sandown Park Racecourse, as a favour.
On the way, the car overheats and breaks down. Visiting a nearby house to fetch water, they find it guarded by a fearsome dog; Joe, afraid of dogs, drops his bag full of money in the garden as he flees. Ukridge sees that the dog is harmless, and tells Joe he will retrieve the bag for £50, an offer which Joe accepts, but while Ukridge is playing merrily with the dog, Joe grabs the bag himself, and refuses to pay.
When Joe goes off to find water elsewhere, Ukridge meets the owner of the house, and buys his dog from him for 5 shillings. He puts the dog in the car, and when Joe returns and finds he cannot get into his car, Ukridge offers to sell him the dog, for £100. He then charges a further £50 to remove the dog from the car, returns it to its previous owner, and returns home with his pockets full.
Aunt Julia, returning in a rage at hearing her friend has been refused the loan of her brooch, tells Ukridge she is sure he has pawned it; she makes him force open the drawer, and is deflated to find it sitting there, having been returned just in time, giving Ukridge an advantage over his distrustful aunt.
The ONE story about Blandings Castle was amusing. All of the others, not nearly as much.