The story so far: Eccles and his Aunt Moly are on a pilgrimage. Now P.G. Wodehouse takes up the story.
"Oh dash it all, Aunt Moly," I said, "Do I really have to go and visit Uncle Thomas at Brentwood Castle? We're supposed to be on a pilgrimage. I've been looking forward to seeing the shrine of St Damian Thompson at Reading, and visiting my old chum Des Pond of Slough."
"Eccles, you woeful idiot," replied my aged relative, "Lord McMahon needs our help urgently. His whole life is in disarray, and he believes that his prize pig, the Empress of Brentwood, is dying."
"Well, needs must when the Devil drives, as the jolly old Bard puts it," I conceded. I summoned my manservant, Bosco, who shimmered in with some life-restoring Mystic Zuhlsdorf coffee.
"Excuse me for a moment, sir," said Bosco. "May I take the liberty of informing you that your new tartan biretta really does not suit you?"
"It really does not suit you, sir."
I am used to criticism from Bosco: usually it takes the form of remarks such as "May I remind you, sir, that you are not saved as I am, because Jesus has not chosen to visit you?" These I can safely ignore, as Bosco gets some strange ideas from his attendance at the Calvary Chapel; but when it comes to criticisms of my taste in headgear, then I feel I must put my foot down. Explaining coldly to Bosco that my biretta had been greatly admired by Ms Katharine Jefferts Schori, who writes the fashion column for the Episcopalian Times, I sent him off to buy some railway tickets for Brentwood.
What the well-dressed cleric is wearing.
We arrived at Brentwood Castle, where the door was opened by my uncle, Lord McMahon himself. "Uncle Thomas," I said. "Opening your own door, now?"
"Eccles, how nice to see you!" sighed my exhausted uncle. "It's my new butler, Liturgist. He's taken over the running of Brentwood Castle, and gives all the orders now."
"Ah, like the unjust steward chap in the Bible, what?" I had once won a prize for scripture knowledge at my prep school, and the parable of the cove in question (Luke 16, I fancy) was well known to me. "He fiddled a few things with his chief's debtors, and at the end the boss was very pleased with him. I'd have been furious."
The unjust butler.
"Yes, that's Liturgist. Everything has been changed in the running of the Castle. He's told the servants to disobey all my instructions. Here he is now."
Liturgist came in with a tray containing refreshments for Uncle Thomas, Aunt Moly, and myself. Instead of the usual whisky-and-soda, gin and wine that we had been expecting, we were served with strawberry milkshakes.
I looked in vain for my manservant Bosco to save the situation. Since the butler Liturgist had just broken into an impromptu dance, the Vati-can-can, Uncle Thomas hastily agreed to escort us to the pigsties, to see the Empress of Brentwood.
The Empress of Brentwood.
Knowing that Uncle Thomas regularly won prizes for his porcines, I had been expecting to see a healthy obese animal, but all we found was a scrawny-looking pig. The creature was clearly malnourished: instead of a well-balanced diet containing all that was necessary for nourishment, the poor beast was chewing on some old copies of the Tablet and minutes of ACTA meetings. It was looking decidedly the worse for wear.
A most unhealthy diet.
At that moment, Bosco, my "saved gentleman's personal saved gentleman", arrived, bearing a delicious dish of cupcakes, rhubarb crumble and custard, as recommended in Thompson's The care of the pig.
"Where did you get that food?" asked my Uncle Thomas. "Whenever I try to feed the Empress, my butler Liturgist gives contrary orders."
"I think we shall not be troubled by Mr Liturgist again," replied Bosco soothingly. "I have induced him to leave your employment, indicating to him that his unique talents would be more appreciated by Lord Paul Inwood, the son of the Duke of Cacophony.
"Bosco, I take my hat off to you!" I exclaimed.
"I would be most grateful if you did so, sir," replied my faithful employee. "As I said, it really does not suit you, sir."