Lady Malvern was a hearty, happy, healthy, overpowering sort of dashed female, not so very tall but making up for it by measuring about six feet from the O.P. to the Prompt Side. She fitted into my biggest arm-chair as if it had been built round her by someone who knew they were wearing arm-chairs tight about the hips that season. She had bright, bulging eyes and a lot of yellow hair, and when she spoke she showed about fifty-seven front teeth. She was one of those women who kind of numb a fellow’s faculties. She made me feel as if I were ten years old and had been brought into the drawing-room in my Sunday clothes to say how-d’you-do. Altogether by no means the sort of thing a chappie would wish to find in his sitting-room before breakfast.
Motty, the son, was about twenty-three, tall and thin and meek-looking. He had the same yellow hair as his mother, but he wore it plastered down and parted in the middle. His eyes bulged, too, but they weren’t bright. They were a dull grey with pink rims. His chin gave up the struggle about half-way down, and he didn’t appear to have any eyelashes. A mild, furtive, sheepish sort of blighter, in short.
“Awfully glad to see you,” I said. “So you’ve popped over, eh? Making a long stay in America?”
“About a month. Your aunt gave me your address and told me to be sure and call on you.”
I was glad to hear this, as it showed that Aunt Agatha was beginning to come round a bit. There had been some unpleasantness a year before, when she had sent me over to New York to disentangle my Cousin Gussie from the clutches of a girl on the music-hall stage. When I tell you that by the time I had finished my operations, Gussie had not only married the girl but had gone on the stage himself, and was doing well, you’ll understand that Aunt Agatha was upset to no small extent. I simply hadn’t dared go back and face her, and it was a relief to find that time had healed the wound and all that sort of thing enough to make her tell her pals to look me up. What I mean is, much as I liked America, I didn’t want to have England barred to me for the rest of my natural; and, believe me, England is a jolly sight too small for anyone to live in with Aunt Agatha, if she’s really on the warpath. So I braced on hearing these kind words and smiled genially on the assemblage.
“Your aunt said that you would do anything that was in your power to be of assistance to us.”
“Rather? Oh, rather! Absolutely!”
“Thank you so much. I want you to put dear Motty up for a little while.”
I didn’t get this for a moment.
“Put him up? For my clubs?”
“No, no! Darling Motty is essentially a home bird. Aren’t you, Motty darling?”
Motty, who was sucking the knob of his stick, uncorked himself.
“Yes, mother,” he said, and corked himself up again.
“I should not like him to belong to clubs. I mean put him up here. Have him to live with you while I am away.”
These frightful words trickled out of her like honey. The woman simply didn’t seem to understand the ghastly nature of her proposal. I gave Motty the swift east-to-west. He was sitting with his mouth nuzzling the stick, blinking at the wall. The thought of having this planted on me for an indefinite period appalled me. Absolutely appalled me, don’t you know. I was just starting to say that the shot wasn’t on the board at any price, and that the first sign Motty gave of trying to nestle into my little home I would yell for the police, when she went on, rolling placidly over me, as it were.
There was something about this woman that sapped a chappie’s will-power.
“I am leaving New York by the midday train, as I have to pay a visit to Sing-Sing prison. I am extremely interested in prison conditions in America. After that I work my way gradually across to the coast, visiting the points of interest on the journey. You see, Mr. Wooster, I am in America principally on business. No doubt you read my book, India and the Indians? My publishers are anxious for me to write a companion volume on the United States. I shall not be able to spend more than a month in the country, as I have to get back for the season, but a month should be ample. I was less than a month in India, and my dear friend Sir Roger Cremorne wrote his America from Within after a stay of only two weeks. I should love to take dear Motty with me, but the poor boy gets so sick when he travels by train. I shall have to pick him up on my return.”
From where I sat I could see Jeeves in the dining-room, laying the breakfast-table. I wished I could have had a minute with him alone. I felt certain that he would have been able to think of some way of putting a stop to this woman.
“It will be such a relief to know that Motty is safe with you, Mr. Wooster. I know what the temptations of a great city are. Hitherto dear Motty has been sheltered from them. He has lived quietly with me in the country. I know that you will look after him carefully, Mr. Wooster. He will give very little trouble.” She talked about the poor blighter as if he wasn’t there. Not that Motty seemed to mind. He had stopped chewing his walking-stick and was sitting there with his mouth open. “He is a vegetarian and a teetotaller and is devoted to reading. Give him a nice book and he will be quite contented.” She got up. “Thank you so much, Mr. Wooster! I don’t know what I should have done without your help. Come, Motty! We have just time to see a few of the sights before my train goes. But I shall have to rely on you for most of my information about New York, darling. Be sure to keep your eyes open and take notes of your impressions! It will be such a help. Good-bye, Mr. Wooster. I will send Motty back early in the afternoon.”
They went out, and I howled for Jeeves.
“Jeeves! What about it?”
“What’s to be done? You heard it all, didn’t you? You were in the dining-room most of the time. That pill is coming to stay here.”
“I beg your pardon, sir?”
I looked at Jeeves sharply. This sort of thing wasn’t like him. It was as if he were deliberately trying to give me the pip. Then I understood. The man was really upset about that tie. He was trying to get his own back.
“Lord Pershore will be staying here from to-night, Jeeves,” I said coldly.
“Very good, sir. Breakfast is ready, sir.”