Beach was a man who invested all his actions with something of the
impressiveness of a high priest conducting an intricate service at some
romantic altar. It is not easy to be impressive when you are carrying an
airgun in one hand and a silver salver with a box of ammunition on it in the
other, but Beach managed it Many butlers in such a position would have looked
like sportsmen setting out for a day with the birds, but Beach still looked
like a high priest. He advanced to the table at Lord Emsworth's side and laid
his cargo upon it as if the gun and the box of ammunition had been a smoked
offering and bis lordship a tribal god.
Lord Emsworth eyed his faithful servitor sourly. His manner was that of a
tribal god who considers the smoked offering not up to sample.
'What the devil's all this?'
'It is an airgun, m'lord.'
'I can see that, dash it. What are you bringing it here for?'
'Her ladyship instructed me to convey it to your lordship - I gathered for
safe keeping, m'lord. The weapon was until recently the property of Master
'Why the dooce are they taking his airgun away from the poor boy?' demanded
Lord Emsworth hotly. Ever since the lad had called Rupert Baxter a blister he
had been feeling a strong affection for his grandson.
'Her ladyship did not confide in me on that point, m'lord. I was merely
instructed to convey the weapon to your lordship.'
At this moment, Lady Constance came sailing in to throw light on the mystery.
'Ah, I see Beach has brought it to you. I want you to lock that gun up
somewhere, Clarence. George is not to be allowed to have it any more.'
'Because he is not to be trusted with it. Do you know what happened? He shot
'Yes. Out on the drive just now. I noticed that the boy's manner was sullen
when I introduced him to Mr Baxter, and said that he was going to be his
tutor. He disappeared into the shrubbery, and just now, as Mr Baxter was
standing on the drive, George shot him from behind a bush.'
'Good!' cried Lord Emsworth, then prudently added the word'gracious'.
There was a pause. Lord Emsworth took up the gun and bandied it curiously.
'Bang!' he said, pointing it at a bust of Aristotle which stood on a bracket
by the book-shelves.
'Please don't wave the thing about like that, Clarence. It may be loaded.'
'Not if George has just shot Baxter with it. No,' said Lord Emsworth, pulling
the trigger, 'it's not loaded.' He mused awhile. An odd, nostalgic feeling was
creeping over him. Far-off memories of his boyhood had begun to stir within
him. 'Bless my soul,' he said. 'I haven't had one of these things in my
hand since I was a child. Did you ever have one of these things. Beach?'
'Yes, m'lord, when a small lad.'
'Bless my soul, I remember my sister Julia borrowing mine to shoot her
governess. You remember Julia shooting the governess, Connie?'
'Don't be absurd, Clarence.'
'It's not absurd. She did shoot her. Fortunately women wore bustles in those
days. Beach, don't you remember my sister Julia shooting the governess?'
The incident would, no doubt, have occurred before my arrival at the castle,
That will do, Beach,' said Lady Constance. 'I do wish, Clarence,' she
continued as the door closed, that you would not say that sort of thing in
front of Beach.'
'Julia did shoot ihe governess.'
'If she did, there is no need to make your butler a confidant.'
'Now, what was that governess's name? I have an idea it began with -'
'Never mind what her name was or what it began with. Tell me about Jane. I saw
her coming out of the library. Had you been speaking to her?'
'Yes. Oh, yes. I spoke to her.'
'I hope you were firm.'
'Oh, very firm. I said "Jane ..." But listen, Connie, damn it, aren't we being
a little hard on the girl? One doesn't want to ruin her whole life's
happiness, dash it.'
'I knew she would get round you. But you are not to give way an inch.'
'But this fellow seems to be a most suitable fellow. One of the Abercrombies
and all that. Did well in the Crusades.'
'I am not going to have my niece throwing herself away on a man without a
'She isn't going to marry Roegate, you know. Nothing will induce her. She said
she wouldn't marry Roegate if she were the only girl in the world and he was
the only boy.'
'I don't care what she said. And I don't want to discuss the matter any
longer. I am now going to send George in, for you to give him a good
'I haven't time.'
'You have time.'
'I haven't. I'm going to look at my flowers.'
'You are not. You are going to talk to George. I want you to make him see
quite clearly what a wicked thing he has done. Mr Baxter was furious.'
'It all comes back to me,' cried Lord Emsworth, 'Mapleton!'
'What are you talking about?'
'Her name was Mapleton. Julia's governess.'
'Do stop about Julia's governess. Will you talk to George?'
'Oh, all right, all right.'
'Good. I'll go and send him to you.'
And presently George entered. For a boy who had just stained the escutcheon of
a proud family by shooting tutors with airguns, he seemed remarkably cheerful.
His manner was that of one getting together with an old crony for a cosy chat
'Hullo, grandpapa,' he said breezily.
'Hullo, my boy,' replied Lord Emsworth, with equal affability.
'Aunt Connie said you wanted to see me.'
'Eh? Ah! Oh! Yes.' Lord Emsworth pulled himself together. 'Yes, that's right.
Yes, to be sure. Certainly I want to see you. What's all this, my boy, eh? Eh,
what? What's all this?'
'What's all what, grandpapa?'
'Shooting people and all that sort of thing. Shooting Baxter and all that sort
of thing. Mustn't do that, you know. Can't have that. It's very wrong and - er
- very dangerous to shoot at people with a dashed great gun. Don't you know
that, hey? Might put their eye out, dash it.'
'Oh, I couldn't have hit him in the eye, grandpapa. His back was turned and he
was bending over, tying his shoelace.'
Lord Emsworth started.
'What! Did you get Baxter in the seat of the trousers?'
'Ha, ha ... I mean, disgraceful ... I - er -I expect he jumped?'
'Oh, yes, grandpapa. He jumped like billy-o.'
'Did he, indeed? How this reminds me of Julia's governess.
'Your Aunt Julia once shot her governess under precisely similar conditions.
She was tying her shoelace.'
'Coo! Did she jump?'
'She certainly did, my boy.'
'Ha, h - ... Ah ... Er - well, just so,' said Lord Emsworth, a belated doubt
assailing him as to whether, this was quite the tone. "Well, George, I shall
of course impound this - er -instrument.'
'Right ho, grandpapa,' said George, with the easy amiability of a boy
conscious of having two catapults in his drawer upstairs.
'Can't have you going about the place shooting people.'
Lord Emsworth fondled the gun. That nostalgic feeling was growing.
'Do yon know, young man, I used to have one of these things when I was a boy.'
'Coo! Were guns invented then?'
'Yes, I had one when I was your age.'
'Ever hit anything, grandpapa?'
Lord Emsworth drew himself up a little haughtily.
'Certainly I did. I hit all sorts of things. Rats and things. I had a very
accurate aim. But now I wouldn't even know how to load the dashed affair.'
This is how you load it, grandpapa. You open it like this and shove the slug
in here and snap it together again like that and there you are.'
'Indeed? Really? I see. Yes. Yes, of course, I remember now.'
'You can't kill anything much with it,' said George, with a wistfulness which
betrayed an aspiration to higher things. 'Still, it's awfully useful for
tickling up cows.'
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