Lord Emsworth and the Girl Friend
The day was so warm, so fair, so magically a thing of sunshine
and blue skies and bird-song that anyone acquainted with
Clarence, ninth Earl of Emsworth, and aware of his liking for fine
weather, would have pictured him going about the place on this
summer morning with a beaming smile and an uplifted heart.
Instead of which, humped over the breakfast-table, he was
directing at a blameless kippered herring a look of such intense
bitterness that the fish seemed to sizzle beneath it. For it was
August Bank Holiday, and Blandings Castle on August Bank
Holiday became, in his lordship’s opinion, a miniature Inferno.
This was the day when his park and grounds broke out into a
noisome rash of swings, roundabouts, marquees, toy balloons
and paper bags; when a tidal wave of the peasantry and its
squealing young engulfed those haunts of immemorial peace.
On August Bank Holiday he was not allowed to potter
pleasantly about his gardens in an old coat: forces beyond his control
shoved him into a stiff collar and a top hat and told him to go out
and be genial. And in the cool of the quiet evenfall they put him
on a platform and made him make a speech. To a man with a day
like that in front of him fine weather was a mockery.
His sister, Lady Constance Keeble, looked brightly at him
over the coffeepot.
‘What a lovely morning!’ she said.
Lord Emsworth’s gloom deepened. He chafed at being
called upon — by this woman of all others — to behave as if
everything was for the jolliest in the jolliest of all possible
worlds. But for his sister Constance and her hawk-like vigilance,
he might, he thought, have been able at least to dodge the
‘Have you got your speech ready?’
‘Well, mind you learn it by heart this time and don’t stammer
and dodder as you did last year.’
Lord Emsworth pushed plate and kipper away. He had lost
desire for food.
‘And don’t you forget to go to the village this morning to
judge the cottage gardens.’
‘All right, all right, all right,’ said his lordship testily. ‘I’ve not forgotten.’
‘I think I will come to the village with you. There are a
number of those Fresh Air London children staying there now,
and I must warn them to behave properly when they come to the
Fête this afternoon. You know what London children are.
McAllister said he found one of them in the gardens the other
day, picking his flowers.’
At any other time the news of this outrage would, no doubt,
have affected Lord Emsworth profoundly. But now, so intense
was his self-pity, he did not even shudder. He drank coffee with
the air of a man who regretted that it was not hemlock.
‘By the way, McAllister was speaking to me again last night
about that gravel path through the yew alley. He seems very keen
‘Glug!’ said Lord Emsworth - which, as any philologist will
tell you, is the sound which peers of the realm make when
stricken to the soul while drinking coffee.
Concerning Glasgow, that great and commercial manufacturing
city in the country of Lanarkshire in Scotland, much has
been written. So lyrically does the Encyclopedia Britannica deal
with the place that it covers twenty-seven pages before it can tear
itself away and go on to Glass, Glastonbury, Glatz and Glauber.
The only aspect of it, however, which immediately concerns the
present historian is the fact that the citizens it breeds are apt to be
grim, dour, persevering, tenacious men; men with red whiskers
who know what they want and mean to get it. Such a one
was Angus McAllister, head-gardener at Blandings Castle.
For years Angus McAllister had set before himself as his
earthly goal the construction of a gravel path through the Castle’s
famous yew alley. For years he had been bringing the project
to notice of his employer, though in anyone less whiskered
the latter’s unconcealed loathing would have caused embarrassment.
And now, it seemed, he was at it again.
‘Gravel path!’ Lord Emsworth stiffened through the whole
length of his stringy body. Nature, he had always maintained,
intended a yew alley to be carpeted with a mossy growth. And,
whatever Nature felt about it, he personally was dashed if he was
going to have men with Clydeside accents and faces like dissipated
potatoes coming along and mutilating that lovely expanse of green
velvet. ‘Gravel path, indeed! Why not asphalt? Why not a few
hoardings with advertisements of liver pills and a filling-station?
That’s what the man would really like.’
Lord Emsworth felt bitter, and when he felt bitter he could be
‘Well, I think it is a very good idea,’ said his sister. ‘One could
walk there in wet weather then. Damp moss is ruinous to shoes.’
Lord Emsworth rose. He could bear no more of this. He left
the table, the room and the house and, reaching the yew alley
some minutes later, was revolted to find it infested by Angus
McAllister in person. The head-gardener was standing gazing
at the moss like a high priest of some ancient religion about to
stick the gaff into the human sacrifice.
‘Morning, McAllister,’ said Lord Emsworth coldly.
‘Good morrrning, your lorrudsheep.’
There was a pause. Angus McAllister, extending a foot that
looked like a violin-case, pressed it on the moss. The meaning of
the gesture was plain. It expressed contempt, dislike, a generally
anti-moss spirit: and Lord Emsworth, wincing, surveyed the
man unpleasantly through his pince-nez. Though not often
given to theological speculation, he was wondering why Providence,
if obliged to make head-gardeners, had found it necessary to make
them so Scotch. In the case of Angus McAllister, why, going a step
farther, have made him a human being at all? All the ingredients of
a first-class mule simply thrown away. He felt that he might have
like Angus McAllister if he had been a mule.
‘I was speaking to her leddyship yesterday’
‘About the gravel path I was speaking to her leddyship.’
‘Her leddyship likes the notion fine.’
Lord Emsworth’s face had turned a lively pink, and he was
about to release the blistering words which were forming themselves
in his mind when suddenly he caught the head-gardener’s eye and
paused. Angus McAllister was looking at him in a peculiar manner,
and he knew what that look meant. Just one crack, his eye was saying —
in Scotch, of course — just one crack out of you and I tender my resignation.
And with a sickening shock it came home to Lord Emsworth how completely
he was in this man’s clutches.
He shuffled miserably. Yes, he was helpless. Except for that
kink about gravel paths, Angus McAllister was a head-gardener
in a thousand, and he needed him. He could not do without him.
That, unfortunately, had been proved by experiment. Once
before, at the time when they were grooming for the Agricultural
Show that pumpkin which had subsequently romped home
so gallant a winner, he had dared to flout Angus McAllister. And
Angus had resigned, and he had been forced to plead - yes, plead
-with him to come back. An employer cannot hope to do this
sort of thing and still rule with an iron hand. Filled with the
coward rage that dares to burn but does not dare to blaze, Lord
Emsworth coughed a cough that was undisguisedly a bronchial
‘I’ll - er - I’ll think it over, McAllister.’
‘I have to go to the village now.’ I will see you later.’
‘Meanwhile, I will - er - think it over.’
The task of judging the floral displays in the cottage gardens
of the little village of Blandings Parva was one to which Lord
Emsworth had looked forward with pleasurable anticipation. It
was the sort of job he liked. But now, even though he had
managed to give his sister Constance the slip and was free
from her threatened society, he approached the task with a
downcast spirit. It was always unpleasant for a proud man to
realize that he is no longer captain of his soul; that he is to all
intents and purposes ground beneath the number twelve heel of
a Glaswegian head-gardner; and, brooding on this, he judged
the cottage gardens with a distrait eye. It was only when he came
to the last on his list that anything like animation crept into his
This, he perceived, peering over its rickety fence, was not at
all a bad little garden. It demanded closer inspection. He
unlatched the gate and pottered in. And a dog, dozing behind
a water-butt, opened one eye and looked at him. It was one of
those hairy, nondescript dogs, and its gaze was cold, wary and
suspicious, like that of a stockbroker who thinks someone is
going to play the confidence trick on him.
Lord Emsworth did not observe the animal. He had pottered
to a bed of wallflowers and now, stooping, he took a sniff at
As sniffs go, it was an innocent sniff, but the dog for some
reason appeared to read into it criminality of a high order. All
the indignant householder in him woke in a flash. The next
moment the world had become full of hideous noises, and Lord Emsworth’s
preoccupation was swept away in a passionated desire to save his ankles
As these chronicles of Blandings Castle have already shown,
he was not at his best with strange dogs. Beyond saying ‘Go
away, Sir!’ and leaping to and fro with an agility surprising in one
of his years, he had accomplished little in the direction of a
reasoned plan of defense when the cottage door opened and
a girl came out.
‘Hoy!’ cried the girl.
And on the instant, at the mere sound of her voice, the
mongrel, suspending hostilities, bounded at the new-comer
and writhed on his back at her feet with all four legs in the air.
The spectacle reminded Lord Emsworth irresistibly of his own
behavior when in the presence of Angus McAllister.
He blinked at his preserver. She was a small girl, of uncertain
age - possibly twelve or thirteen, though a combination of
London fogs and early cares had given her face a sort of wizened
motherliness which in some odd way caused his lordship from
the first to look on her as belonging to his own generation. She
was the type of girl you see in back streets carrying a baby nearly
as large as herself and still retaining sufficient energy to lead one
little brother by the hand and shout recrimination at another in
the distance. Her cheeks shone from recent soaping, and she was
dressed in a velveteen frock which was obviously the pick of her
wardrobe. Her hair, in defiance of the prevailing mode, she wore
drawn tightly back into a short pigtail.
‘Er-thank you,’ said Lord Emsworth.
‘Thank you, sir,’ said the girl.
For what she was thanking him, his lordship was not able to
gather. Later, as their acquaintance ripened, he was to discover
that this strange gratitude was a habit with his new friend. She
thanked everybody for everything. At the moment, the mannerism
surprised him. He continued to blink at her through his pince-nez.
Lack of practice had rendered Lord Emsworth a little rusty in
the art of making conversation to members of the other sex. He
sought in his mind for topics.
‘Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.’
‘Are you’ - Lord Emsworth furtively consulted his list - ‘are
you the daughter of - ah - Ebenezer Sprockett?’ he asked,
thinking, as he had often thought before, what ghastly names
some of his tenantry possessed.
‘No. sir. I’m from London, sir.’
‘Ah, London, eh? Pretty warm it must be there.’ He paused.
Then, remembering a formula of his youth: ‘Er - been out much
‘Everybody out of town now, I suppose? What part of London?’
‘Drury Line, sir.’
‘What’s your name? Eh, what?’
‘Gladys, sir. Thank you, sir. This is Ern.’
A small boy had wandered out of the cottage, a rather hard-
boiled specimen with freckles, bearing surprisingly in his hand a
large and beautiful bunch of flowers. Lord Emsworth bowed
courteously and with the addition of this third party to the tête-
á-tête felt more at his ease.
‘How do you do,’ he said. ‘What pretty flowers.’
With her brother’s advent, Gladys, also, had lost diffidence
and gained conversational aplomb.
‘A treat, ain’t they?’ she agreed eagerly. ‘I got ‘em for ‘im up at
the big ‘ahse. Coo! The old josser the plice belongs to didn’t arf
chase me. ‘E found me picking ‘em and ‘e sharted somefin at me
and come runnin’ after me, but I copped ‘im on the shin wiv a
stone and ‘e stopped to rub it and I come away.’
Lord Emsworth might have corrected her impression that
Blandings Castle and its gardens belonged to Angus McAllister,
but his mind was so filled with admiration and gratitude that he
refrained from doing so. He looked at the girl almost reverently.
Not content with controlling savage dogs with a mere word, this
super-woman actually threw stones at Angus McAllister - a
thing which he had never been able to nerve himself to do in
an association which had lasted nine years - and, what was more,
copped him on the shin with them. What nonsense, Lord Emsworth
felt, the papers talked about the Modern Girl. If this was a specimen,
the Modern Girl was the highest point the sex had yet reached.
‘Ern,’ said Gladys, changing the subject, ‘is wearin’ ‘air-oil
Lord Emsworth had already observed this and had, indeed,
been moving to windward as she spoke.
‘For the Feet,’ explained Gladys.
‘For the feet?’ It seemed unusual.
‘For the Feet in the pork this afternoon.’
‘Oh, you are going to the Fête?’
‘Yes, sir, thank you, sir.’
For the first time, Lord Emsworth found himself regarding
that grisly social event with something approaching favor.
‘We must look out for one another there,’ he said cordially.
‘You will remember me again? I shall be wearing’ - he gulped -
‘a top hat.’
‘Ern’s going to wear a stror penamaw that’s been give ‘im.’
Lord Emsworth regarded the lucky young devil with frank
envy. He rather fancied he knew that panama. It had been his
constant companion for some six years and then had been torn
from him by his sister Constance and handed over to the vicar's
wife for her rummage-sale.
‘Good-bye, sir. Thank you, sir.’
Lord Emsworth walked pensively out of the garden and,
turning into the little street, encountered Lady Constance.
‘Oh, there you are, Clarence.’
‘Yes,’ said Lord Emsworth, for such was the case.
‘Have you finished judging the gardens?’
‘I am just going into this end cottage here. The vicar tells me
there is a little girl from London staying there. I want to warn
her to behave this afternoon. I have spoken to the others.’
Lord Emsworth drew himself up. His pince-nez were
slightly askew, but despite this his gaze was commanding and
‘Well, mind what you say,’ he said authoritatively. ‘None of
your district-visiting stuff, Constance.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘You know what I mean. I have the greatest respect for the
young lady to whom you refer. She behaved on a certain recent
occasion - on two recent occasions - with notable gallantry and
resource, and I won’t have her ballyragged. Understand that!’
The technical title of the orgy which broke out annually on
the first Monday in August in the park of Blandings Castle
was the Blandings Parva School Treat, and it seemed to Lord
Emsworth, wanly watching the proceedings from under the
shadow of his top hat, that if this was the sort of thing schools
looked on as pleasure he and they were mentally poles apart. A
function like the Blandings Parva School Treat blurred his
conception of Man as Nature’s Final Word.
The decent sheep and cattle to whom this park normally
belonged had been hustled away into regions unknown, leaving
the smooth expanse of turf to children whose vivacity scared
Lord Emsworth and adults who appeared to him have cast
aside all dignity and every other noble quality which goes to
make a one hundred per cent British citizen. Look at Mrs.
Rossiter over there, for instance, the wife of Jno. Rossiter,
Provisions, Groceries and Home-Made Jams. On any other day
of the year, when you met her, Mrs. Rossiter was a nice, quiet,
docile woman who gave at the knees respectfully as you passed.
To-day, flushed in the face and with her bonnet on one side, she
seemed to have gone completely native. She was wandering to
and fro drinking lemonade out of a bottle and employing her
mouth, when not so occupied, to make a devastating noise with
what we believed was termed a squeaker.
The injustice of the thing stung Lord Emsworth, This park
was his own private park. What right had people to come
and blow squeakers in it? How would Mrs Rossiter like it
if one afternoon he suddenly invaded her neat little garden
in the High Street and rushed about over her lawn, blowing a
And it was always on these occasions so infernally hot. July
might have ended in a flurry of snow, but directly the first
Monday in August arrived he had to put on a stiff collar and
out came the sun, blazing with tropic fury.
Of course, admitted Lord Emsworth, for he was a fair-
minded man, this cut both ways. The hotter the day, the more
quickly his collar lost its starch and ceased to spike him like a
javelin. This afternoon, for instance, it had resolved itself almost
immediately into something which felt like a wet compress.
Severe as were his sufferings, he was compelled to recognize
that he was that much ahead of the game.
A masterful figure loomed at his side.
Lord Emsworth’s mental and spiritual state was now such
that not even the advent of his sister Constance could add
noticeably to his discomfort.
‘Clarence, you look a perfect sight.’
‘I know I do. Who wouldn’t in a rig-out like this? Why in the
name of goodness you always insist…’
‘Please don’t be childish, Clarence. I cannot understand the
fuss you make about dressing for once in your life like a reason
-able English gentleman and not like a tramp.’
‘It’s this top hat. It’s exciting the children.’
‘What on earth do you mean, exciting the children?’
‘Well, all I can tell you is that just now, as I was passing the
place where they’re playing football - Football! In weather like
this! - a small boy called out something derogatory and threw a
portion of a coco-nut at it.’
‘If you will identify the child,’ said Lady Constance warmly,
‘I will have him severely punished.’
‘How the dickens,’ replied his lordship with equal warmth,
‘can I identify the child? They all look alike to me. And if I did
identify him, I would shake him by the hand. A boy who throws
coco-nuts at top hats is fundamentally sound in his views. And
‘Stiff! That’s what I came to speak to you about. Are you
aware that your collar looks like a rag? Go in and change it at
‘But, my dear Constance…’
‘At once, Clarence. I simply cannot understand a man having
so little pride in his appearance. But all your life you have been
like that. I remember when we were children…’
Lord Emsworth’s past was not of such a purity that he was
prepared to stand and listen to it being lectured on by a sister
with a good memory.
‘Oh, all right, all right, all right,’ he said. ‘I’ll change it, I’ll change it.’
‘Well, hurry. They are just staring tea.’
Lord Emsworth quivered.
‘Have I got to go into that tea-tent?’
‘Of course you have. Don’t be so ridiculous. I do wish you
would realize your position. As master of Blandings Castle…’
A bitter, mirthless laugh from the poor peon thus ludicrously
described drowned the rest of the sentence.
It always seemed to Lord Emsworth, in analyzing these
entertainments, that the August Bank Holiday Saturnalia at
Blandings Castle reached a peak of repulsiveness when tea was
served in the big marquee. Tea over, the agony abated, to become
acute once more at the moment when he stepped to the edge
of the platform and cleared his throat and tried to recollect what
the deuce he had planned to say to the goggling audience
beneath him. After that, it subsided again and passed until the
Conditions during the tea hour, the marquee having stood all
day under a blazing sun, were generally such that Shadrach,
Meshach and Abednego, had they been there, could have
learned something new about burning fiery furnaces. Lord
Emsworth, delayed by the revision of his toilet, made his entry
when the meal was half over and was pleased to find that his
second collar almost instantaneously began to relax its iron grip.
That, however, was the only gleam of happiness which was to be
vouchsafed him. Once in the tent, it took his experienced eye but
a moment to discern that the present feast was eclipsing in
frightfulness all its predecessors.
Young Blandings Parva, in its normal form, tended rather to
the stolidly bovine than the riotous. In all villages, of course,
there must of necessity be an occasional tough egg — in the case
of Blandings Parva the names of Willie Drake and Thomas
(Rat-face) Blenkiron spring to mind — but it was seldom
that the local infants offered anything beyond the power of a
curate to control. What was giving the present gathering its
striking resemblance to a reunion of sans-culottes at the height
of the French Revolution was the admixture of the Fresh Air
About the London child, reared among the tin cans and
cabbage stalks of Drury Lane and Clare Market, there is a breezy
insouciance which his country cousin lacks. Years of back-chat
with annoyed parents and relatives have cured him of any ten-
dency he may have had towards shyness, with the result that
when he requires anything he grabs for it, and when he is amused
by any slight peculiarity in the personal appearance of members
of the governing classes he finds no difficulty in translating his
thoughts into speech. Already, up and down the long tables, the
curate’s unfortunate squint was coming in for hearty comment,
and the front teeth of one of the school-teachers ran it a close
second for popularity. Lord Emsworth was not, as a rule, a man
of swift inspirations, but it occurred to him at this juncture that it
would be a prudent move to take off his hat before his little
guests observed it and appreciated its humorous possibilities.
The action was not, however, necessary. Even as he raised his
hand a rock cake, singing through the air like a shell, took it off
Lord Emsworth had had sufficient. Even Constance, unreas-
onable woman though she was, could hardly expect him to stay
and beam genially under conditions like this. All civilized laws
had obvious gone by the board and Anarchy reigned in the
marquee. The curate was doing his best to form a provisional
government consisting of himself and the two school-teachers,
but there was only one man who could have coped adequately
with the situation and that was King Herod, who - regrettably -
was not among those present. Feeling like some aristocrat of the
old régime sneaking away from the tumbril, Lord Emsworth
edged to the exit and withdrew.
Outside the marquee the world was quieter, but only com-
paratively so. What Lord Emsworth craved was solitude, and in
all the broad park there seemed to be but one spot where it was to
be had. This was a red-tiled shed, standing beside a small pond,
used at happier times as a lounge or retiring-room for cattle.
Hurrying thither, his lordship had just began to revel in the cool,
cow-scented dimness of its interior when from one of the dark
corners, causing him to start and bite his tongue, there came the
sound of a subdued sniff.
He turned. This was persecution. With the whole park to
mess about in, why should an infernal child invade this one
sanctuary of his? He spoke with angry sharpness. He came of a
line of warrior ancestors and his fighting blood was up.
‘Me, sir. Thank you, sir.’
Only one person of Lord Emsworth’s acquaintance was cap-
able of expressing gratitude for having been barked at in such
a tone. His wrath died away and remorse took its place. He felt
like a man who in error has kicked a favorite dog.
‘God bless my soul!’ he exclaimed. ‘What in the world are you
doing in a cow-shed?’
‘Please sir, I was put.’
‘Put? How do you mean, put? Why?’
‘For pinching things, sir.’
‘Eh? What? Pinching things” Most extraordinary. What did
you - er - pinch?’
‘Two buns, two jem-sengwiches, two apples and a slicer cake.’
The girl had come out of her corner and was standing cor-
rectly at attention. Force of habit had caused her to intone the
list of purloined articles in the singsong voice in which she
was won't to recite the multiplication-table at school, but Lord
Emsworth could see that she was deeply moved. Tear-stains
glistened on her face, and no Emsworth had ever been able to
watch unstirred a woman’s tears. The ninth Earl was visibly
‘Blow your nose,’ he said, hospitably extending his handkerchief.
‘Yes, sir, Thank you, sir.’
‘What did you say you had pinched? Two buns…’
‘…Two jem-sengwiches, two apples and a slicer cake.’
‘Did you eat them?’
‘No, sir. They wasn’t for me. They was for Ern.’
‘Ern? Oh, ah. yes. Yes, to be sure. For Ern, eh?’
‘But why the dooce couldn’t Ern have - er - pinched them for
himself? Strong, able-bodied young feller, I mean.’
Lord Emsworth, a member of the old school, did not like this
disposition on the part of the modern young man to shirk the
dirty work and let the woman pay.
‘Ern wasn’t allowed to come to the treat, sir.’
‘What! Not allowed! Who said he mustn’t?’
‘The lidy, sir.’
‘The one that come in just after you’d gorn this morning.’
A fierce snort escaped Lord Emsworth. Constance! What the
devil did Constance mean by taking it upon herself to revise his
list of guests without so much as a…Constance, eh? He snorted
again. One of these days Constance would go to far.
‘Monstrous!’ he cried.
‘High-handed tyranny, by Gad. Did she give any reason?’
‘They lidy didn’t like Ern biting ‘er in the leg, sir.’
‘Ern bit her in the leg?’
‘Yes, sir. Pliying ‘e was a dorg. And the lidy was cross and Ern
wasn’t allowed to come to the treat, and I told ‘im I’d bring ‘im
back somefing nice.’
Lord Emsworth breathed heavily. He had not supposed that
in these degenerate days a family like this existed. The sister
copped Angus McAllister on the shin with stones, the brother
bit Constance in the leg…It was like listening to some grand
old saga of the exploits of heroes and demigods.
‘I thought if I didn’t ‘ave nothing myself it would make it all
‘Nothing?’ Lord Emsworth started. ‘Do you mean to tell me
you have not had tea?’
‘No, sir. Thank you, sir. I thought if I didn’t ‘ave none, then
it would be all right Ern ‘aving what I would ‘ave ‘ad if I ‘ad
His lordship’s head, never strong, swam a little. Then it
resumed its equilibrium. He caught her drift.
‘God bless my soul!’ said Lord Emsworth. ‘I never heard
anything so monstrous and appalling in my life. Come with
‘The lidy said I was to stop ‘ere, sir.’
Lord Emsworth gave vent to his loudest snort of the after-
‘Confound the lidy!’
‘Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.’
Five minutes later Beach, the butler, enjoying a siesta in the
housekeeper’s room, was roused from his slumbers by the
unexpected ringing of a bell. Answering its summons, he
found his employer in the library, and with him a surprising
young person in a velveteen frock, at the sight of whom his eye-
brows quivered and, but for his iron self-restraint, would have
‘This young lady would like some tea.’
‘Very good, your lordship.’
‘Buns. you know. And apples, and jem - I mean jam-sand-
wiches, and cake, and that sort of thing.’
‘Very good, your lordship.’
‘And she has a brother, Beach.’
‘Indeed, your lordship?’
‘She will want to take some stuff away for him.’ Lord Ems-
worth turned to his guest. ‘Ernest would like a little chicken,
‘I beg you pardon?’
‘Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.’
‘And a slice or two of ham?’
‘Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.’
‘And - he has no gouty tendency?’
‘No, sir. Thank you, sir.’
‘Capital! Then a bottle of that new lot of port, Beach. It’s
some stuff they’ve sent me down to try,’ explained his lordship.
‘Nothing special, you understand,’ he added apologetically, ‘but
quite drinkable. I should like your brother’s opinion of it. See
that all that is put together in a parcel, Beach, and leave it on the
table in the hall. We will pick it up as we go out.’
A welcome coolness had crept into the evening air by the time
Lord Emsworth and his guest came out of the great door of the
castle. Gladys, holding her host’s hand and clutching the parcel,
sighed contentedly. She had done herself well at the tea-table.
Life seemed to have nothing more to offer.
Lord Emsworth did not share this view. His spacious mood
had not yet exhausted itself.
‘Now, is there anything else you can think of that Ernest
would like?’ he asked. ‘If so, do not hesitate to mention it.
Beach, can you think of anything?’
The butler, hovering respectfully, was unable to do so.
‘No, your lordship. I ventured to add - on my own responsi-
bility, your lordship - some hard-bole eggs and a pot of jam to
‘Excellent! You are sure there is nothing else?’
A wistful look came into Gladys’s eyes.
‘Could he ‘ave some flarze?’
‘Certainly,’ said Lord Emsworth. ‘Certainly, certainly, cer-
tainly. By all means. Just what I was about to suggest my - er -
what is flarze?’
Beach, the linguist, interpreted.
‘I think the young lady means flowers, your lordship.’
‘Yes, sir. Thank you, sir. Flarze.’
‘Oh,’ said Lord Emsworth. ‘Oh? Flarze?’ he said slowly. ‘Oh,
ah yes. Yes. I see. H’m!’
He removed his pince-nez, wiped them thoughtfully, replaced
them, and gazed with wrinkling forehead at the gardens that
stretched gaily out before him. Flarze! It would be idle to deny
that those gardens contained flarze in full measure. They were
bright with Achillea, Bignonia Radicans, Campanula, Digitalis,
Euphorbia, Funkia, Gyspsophila, Helianthus, Iris, Liatris, Mon-
arda, Phlox Drummondi, Salvia, Thalictrum, Vinca and Yucca.
But the devil of it was that Angus McAllister would have a fit if
they were picked. Across the threshold of this Eden the ginger
whiskers of Angus McAllister lay like a flaming sword.
As a general rule, the procedure for getting flowers out of
Angus McAllister was as follows. You waited till he was in one
of his rare moods of complaisance, then you led the conversation
gently round to the subject of interior decoration, and then,
choosing your moment, you asked if he could possibly spare a
few to put in vases. The last thing you thought of doing was to
charge in an start helping yourself.
‘I - er -…’ said Lord Emsworth.
He stopped. In a sudden blinding flash of clear vision he had
seen himself for what he was - the spineless, unspeakably
unworthy descendant of ancestors, who, though they may have
had their faults, had certainly known how to handle employees.
It was “How now, varlet!’ and ‘Marry come up, thou malapert
knave!’ in the days of previous Earls of Emsworth. Of course,
they had possessed certain advantages which he lacked. It
undoubtedly helped a man in his dealings with the domestic
staff to have, as they had had, the rights of the high, the middle
and the low justice - which meant, broadly, that if you got
annoyed with your head-gardener you could immediately divide
him into four head-gardeners with a battle-axe and no questions
asked - but even so, he realized that they were better men than
he was and that, if he allowed craven fear of Angus McAllister to
stand in the way of this delightful girl and her charming brother
getting all the flowers they required, he was not worthy to be the
last of their line.
Lord Emsworth wrestled with his tremors.
‘Certainly, certainly, certainly,’ he said, though not without
a qualm. ‘Take as many as you want.’
And so it came about that Angus McAllister, crouched in his
potting-shed like some dangerous beast in its den, beheld a sight
which first froze his blood and then sent it boiling through his
veins. Flitting to and fro through his sacred gardens, picking
his sacred flowers, was a small girl in a velveteen frock. And -
which brought apoplexy a step closer - it was the same small girl
who two days before had copped him on the shin with a stone.
The stillness of the summer evening was shattered by a roar that
sounded like boilers exploding, and Angus McAllister came out
of the potting-shed at forty-five miles per hour.
Gladys did not linger. She was a London child, trained from
infancy to bear herself gallantly in the presence of alarms and
excursions, but this excursion had been so sudden that it
momentarily broke her nerve. With a horrified yelp she scuttled
to where Lord Emsworth stood and, hiding behind him,
clutched the tails of his morning-coat.
‘Oo-er!’ said Gladys.
Lord Emsworth was not feeling so frightfully good himself.
We have pictured him a few moments back drawing inspiration
from the nobility of his ancestors and saying, in effect, ‘That for McAllister!’
but truth now compels us to admit that this hardy attitude was largely
due to the fact that he believed the head-gardener to be a safe quarter
of a mile away among the swings and roundabouts of the Fête. The spectacle
of the man charging vengefully down on him with gleaming eyes and bristling
whiskers made him feel like a nervous English infantryman at the Battle of
Bannockburn. His knees shook and the soul within him quivered.
And then something happened, and the whole aspect of the
It was, in itself, quite a trivial thing, but it had an astound-
ingly stimulating effect on Lord Emsworth’s morale. What
happened was that Gladys, seeking further protection, slipped
at this moment a small, hot hand into his.
It was a mute vote of confidence, and Lord Emsworth
intended to be worthy of it.
‘He’s coming,’ whispered his lordship’s Inferiority Complex
‘What of it?’ replied Lord Emsworth stoutly.
‘Tick him off,’ breathed his lordship’s ancestors in his
‘Leave it to me,’ replied Lord Emsworth.
He drew himself up and adjusted his pince-nez. He felt filled
with a cool masterfulness. If the man tendered his resignation,
let him tender his damned resignation.
‘Well, McAllister?’ said Lord Emsworth coldly.
He removed his top hat and brushed it against his sleeve.
‘What is the matter, McAllister?’
He replaced his top hat.
‘You appear agitated, McAllister.’
He jerked his head militantly. The hat fell off. He let it lie.
Freed from its loathsome weight he felt more masterful than
ever. It had just needed that to bring him to the top of his form.
‘This young lady,’ said Lord Emsworth, ‘has my full permis-
sion to pick all the flowers she wants, McAllister. If you do not
see eye to eye with me in this matter, McAllister, say so and we
will discuss what you are going to do about it, McAllister. These
gardens, McAllister, belong to me, and if you do not - er -
appreciate that fact you will, no doubt, be able to find another
employer - ah - more in tune with your views. I value your
services highly, McAllister, but I will not be dictated to in my
own garden, McAllister. Er - dash it,' added his lordship, spoil
ing the whole effect.
A long moment followed in which Nature stood still, breath-
less. The Achillea stood still, so did the Bignonia Radicans. So
did the Campanula, the Digitalis, the Euphorbia, the Funkia,
the Gyspsophila, the Helianthus, the Iris, the Liatris, the Mon-
arda, the Phlox Drummondi, the Salvia, the Thalictrum, the
Vinca and the Yucca. From far off in the direction of the park
there sounded the happy howls of children who were probably
breaking things, but even these seemed hushed. The evening
breeze had died away.
Angus McAllister stood glowering. His attitude was that of
one sorely perplexed. So might the early bird have looked if the
worm ear-marked for its breakfast had suddenly turned and
snapped at it. It had never occurred to him that his employer
would voluntarily suggest that he seek another position, and
now that he had suggested it Angus McAllister disliked the idea
very much. Blandings Castle was in his bones. Elsewhere, he
would feel in exile. He fingered his whiskers, but they gave him
He made his decision. Better to cease to be a Napoleon than
be a Napoleon in exile.
'Mphm,' said Angus McAllister.
'Oh, and by the way, McAllister,' said Lord Emsworth, 'that
matter of the gravel path through the yew alley. I've been
thinking it over, and I won't have it. Not on any account.
Mutilate my beautiful moss with a beastly gravel path? Make
an eyesore of the loveliest spot in one of the finest and oldest
gardens in the United Kingdom? Certainly not. Most decidedly
not. Try to remember, McAllister, as you work in the gardens of
Blandings Castle, that you are not back in Glasgow, laying out
recreation grounds. That is all, McAllister. Er - dash it- that
'Mphm,' said Angus McAllister.
He turned. He walked away. The potting-shed swallowed
him up. Nature resumed its breathing. The breeze began to blow
again. And all over the gardens birds who had stopped on their
high note carried on according to plan.
Lord Emsworth took out his handkerchief and dabbed with
it at his forehead. He was shaken, but a novel sense of being a
man among men thrilled him. It might seem bravado, but he
almost wished - yes, dash it, he almost wished - that his sister
Constance would come along and start something while he felt
He had his wish.
Yes, there she was, hurrying towards him up the garden path.
She, like McAllister, seemed agitated. Something was on her
'Don't keep saying 'Clarence!' as if you were a dashed parrot,'
said Lord Emsworth haughtily. 'What the dickens is the matter,
'Matter? Do you know what the time is? Do you know that
everybody is waiting down there for you to make your speech?'
Lord Emsworth met her eye sternly.
'I do not,' he said. 'And I don't care. I'm not going to make any
dashed speech. If you want a speech, let the vicar make it. Or
make it yourself. Speech! I never heard such dashed nonsense in
my life.' He turned to Gladys. 'Now, my dear,' he said, 'if you will
just give me time to get out of these infernal clothes and this
ghastly collar and put on something human, we'll go down to the
village and have a chat with Ern.’