‘Tell me,’ I said, for I was a trifle remorseful at having had to adopt that firm attitude about going to Steeple Bumpleigh and wished to bring back into his life the joy which my refusal to allow him to get in among the local fish had excluded from it, ‘is there any little thing I can do for you while I’m out?’
‘Any little gift you would like, I mean?’
‘It is extremely kind of you, sir.’
‘Not at all, Jeeves. The sky is the limit. State your desire.’
‘Well, sir, there has recently been published a new and authoritatively annotated edition of the works of the philosopher Spinoza. Since you are so generous, I would appreciate that very much.’
‘You shall have it. It shall be delivered at your door in a plain van without delay. You’re sure you’ve got the name right? Spinoza?’
‘It doesn’t sound probable, but no doubt you know best. Spinoza, eh? Is he the Book Society’s Choice of the Month?
‘I believe not, sir.’
‘Well, he’s the only fellow I ever heard of who wasn’t. Right ho. I’ll see to it instanter.’
And presently, having assembled the hat, the gloves and the neatly rolled u., I sauntered forth….
‘Good morning, good morning,’ I said. ‘I want a book.’
Of course, I ought to have known that it’s silly to try to buy a book when you go to a book shop. It merely startles and bewilders the inmates. The motheaten old bird who had stepped forward to attend to me ran true to form.
‘A book, sir?’ he said, with ill-concealed astonishment.
‘Spinoza,’ I replied, specifying.
This had him rocking back on his heels.
‘Did you say Spinoza, sir?’
‘Spinoza was what I said.’
He seemed to be feeling that if we talked this thing out long enough as man to man, we might eventually hit upon a formula.
‘You do not mean “The Spinning Wheel”?’
‘It would not be “The Poisoned Pin”?’
‘It would not.’
‘Or “With Gun and Camera in Little Known Borneo”?’ he queried, trying a long shot.
‘Spinoza,’ I repeated firmly. That was my story, and I intended to stick to it.
He sighed a bit, like one who feels that the situation has got beyond him.
‘I will go and see if we have it in stock, sir. But possibly this may be what you are requiring. Said to be very clever.’
He pushed off, Spinoza-ing under his breath in a hopeless sort of way, leaving me clutching a thing called ‘Spindrift’.
—P.G. Wodehouse, Joy in the Morning