Bertie Wooster has had more than his share of trouble from well-meaning and ill-meaning aunts over the years, and while that sort of trouble disturbs him some in this novel, he must deal more with the sort of trouble that comes from beautiful young women wanting to marry his friends.
For example, Madeline Bassett, who is “undeniably of attractive exterior—slim, svelte, if that’s the word, and bountifully equipped with golden hair and all the fixings.” This beautiful thing plans to marry Bertie’s friend, Augustus Fink-Nottle or Gussie, which is not a settled matter owing to her father’s disapproval of him. If she cannot marry Gussie, however, she is resigned to marrying Bertie. Not that he wants to marry her, but somehow Madeline’s got it locked between the ears that Bertie wants to marry her and is only deferring to Gussie, who got to her first. If there’s one thing at which Bertie is extremely bad, it’s convincing women he does not want to marry them once they’ve decided he does.
And then there’s Stiffy, or Stephanie Byng, who wants to marry Bertie’s old college buddy, Harold “Old Stinker” Pinker. That arrangement isn’t looking good either, because her uncle, Madeline’s father, isn’t going to allow to two undesirable men marrying the girls of his charge in one weekend, if ever. So Stiffy asks Bertie to stage a situation for Harold to impress himself on her uncle, and those types of things never work out as planned. This one actually calls for blood, so Bertie isn’t eager to give it his all.
But Bertie could give them all up and leave the country or at least Totleigh Towers, if only his favorite aunt hadn’t forced him into a difficult task—he must pinch a silver cow creamer. If he fails to abscond with the ghastly antique, his aunt will bar him from her house and her famous chef’s delicious meals; but if he does steal the cow-shaped server, no lack of evidence to the deed will prevent him from being pounded by Roderick Spode, a close friend to the owner of the desired silver creamer.
“Don’t you ever read the papers?” Gussie asks. “Roderick Spode is the founder and head of the Saviours of Britain, a Fascist organization better known as the Black Shorts. His general idea, if her doesn’t get knocked on the head with a bottle in one of the frequent brawls in which he and his followers indulge, is to make himself a Dictator. . . . He and his adherents wear black shorts.”
“Footer bags, you mean?”
“How perfectly foul.” Of course, such a man is more than able to deliver a good pounding to creamer stealers.
Through it all, Bertram Wooster lives up to his family code to never leave a friend in the lurch, even at personal cost. As with almost everything I’ve read by Wodehouse, this book doesn’t not take all the predictable turns, and even when you know what’s going to happen, it’s hilarious to follow it through. Though Lars has said this was the first Bertie and Jeeves book he read, I enjoyed remembering the references to earlier stories. More than once, Bertie says that we may remember the time when … and I enjoy remembering it too.