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|My Man Jeeves||P. G. Wodehouse|
Doing Clarence A Bit Of Good
|Page 4 of 11||
He was a little thin, nervous-looking chappie of about thirty-five. His hair was getting grey at the temples and straggly on top. He wore pince-nez, and he had a drooping moustache. I'm no Bombardier Wells myself, but in front of Clarence I felt quite a nut. And Elizabeth, mind you, is one of those tall, splendid girls who look like princesses. Honestly, I believe women do it out of pure cussedness.
"How do you do, Mr. Pepper? Hark! Can you hear a mewing cat?" said Clarence. All in one breath, don't you know.
"Eh?" I said.
"A mewing cat. I feel sure I hear a mewing cat. Listen!"
While we were listening the door opened, and a white-haired old gentleman came in. He was built on the same lines as Clarence, but was an earlier model. I took him correctly, to be Mr. Yeardsley, senior. Elizabeth introduced us.
"Father," said Clarence, "did you meet a mewing cat outside? I feel positive I heard a cat mewing."
"No," said the father, shaking his head; "no mewing cat."
"I can't bear mewing cats," said Clarence. "A mewing cat gets on my nerves!"
"A mewing cat is so trying," said Elizabeth.
"I dislike mewing cats," said old Mr. Yeardsley.
That was all about mewing cats for the moment. They seemed to think they had covered the ground satisfactorily, and they went back to pictures.
We talked pictures steadily till it was time to dress for dinner. At least, they did. I just sort of sat around. Presently the subject of picture-robberies came up. Somebody mentioned the "Monna Lisa," and then I happened to remember seeing something in the evening paper, as I was coming down in the train, about some fellow somewhere having had a valuable painting pinched by burglars the night before. It was the first time I had had a chance of breaking into the conversation with any effect, and I meant to make the most of it. The paper was in the pocket of my overcoat in the hall. I went and fetched it.
"Here it is," I said. "A Romney belonging to Sir Bellamy Palmer----"
They all shouted "What!" exactly at the same time, like a chorus. Elizabeth grabbed the paper.
"Let me look! Yes. 'Late last night burglars entered the residence of Sir Bellamy Palmer, Dryden Park, Midford, Hants----'
"Why, that's near here," I said. "I passed through Midford----"
"Dryden Park is only two miles from this house," said Elizabeth. I noticed her eyes were sparkling.
"Only two miles!" she said. "It might have been us! It might have been the 'Venus'!"
Old Mr. Yeardsley bounded in his chair.
"The 'Venus'!" he cried.
They all seemed wonderfully excited. My little contribution to the evening's chat had made quite a hit.
Why I didn't notice it before I don't know, but it was not till Elizabeth showed it to me after dinner that I had my first look at the Yeardsley "Venus." When she led me up to it, and switched on the light, it seemed impossible that I could have sat right through dinner without noticing it. But then, at meals, my attention is pretty well riveted on the foodstuffs. Anyway, it was not till Elizabeth showed it to me that I was aware of its existence.
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|My Man Jeeves
P. G. Wodehouse
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