Any excuse, frankly, to include some Wodehouse. The only problem being that he wasn’t much of a bird person. Pigs, yes. Cats and dogs, certainly. The odd newt from time to time. But birds featured seldom.
Praise be, then, for ‘Jeeves and the Impending Doom’, from his 1930 collection Very Good, Jeeves. And praise be for its menacing swan.
There’s no shortage of the Wodehousian wit. You know the kind of thing, I’m sure. “Bingo uttered a stricken woofle like a bulldog that has been refused cake.” “When it is a question of a pal being in the soup, we Woosters no longer think of self; and that poor old Bingo was knee-deep in the bisque was made plain by his mere appearance – which was that of a cat which has just been struck by a half-brick and is expecting another shortly.”
There is also a welcome appearance of the word ‘oojah-cum-spiff’.
And there is that swan.
Bertie finds himself, as you do, trying to rescue a cabinet minister from an island in the pouring rain, a project fraught with problems even if it weren’t for “one of the largest and shortest-tempered swans I had ever seen.”
The swan, of course, had reckoned without Jeeves.
“As swans go, he may have been well up in the ranks of the intelligentsia; but, when it came to pitting his brains against Jeeves, he was simply wasting his time. He might just as well have gone home at once.
Every young man starting life ought to know how to cope with an angry swan, so I will briefly relate the proper procedure. You begin by picking up the raincoat which somebody has dropped; and then, judging the distance to a nicety, you simply shove the raincoat over the bird’s head; and, taking the boat-hook which you have prudently brought with you, you insert it underneath the swan and heave. The swan goes into a bush and starts trying to unscramble itself; and you saunter back to your boat, taking with you any friends who may happen at the moment to be sitting on roofs in the vicinity. That was Jeeves’s method, and I cannot see how it could have been improved upon.
First published in The Strand Magazine 1926. Collected in Very Good, Jeeves, Doubleday 1930