Service with a Smile
First UK edition
|Author||P. G. Wodehouse|
|Publisher||Simon & Schuster|
|15 October 1961|
|Media type||Print (hardback & paperback)|
|Preceded by||Pigs Have Wings (Blandings), Cocktail Time (Uncle Fred)|
|Followed by||Galahad at Blandings|
Service with a Smile is a novel by P. G. Wodehouse, first published in the United States on 15 October 1961 by Simon & Schuster, Inc., New York, and in the United Kingdom on 17 August 1962 by Herbert Jenkins, London. It is the eighth full-length novel set at Blandings Castle, and features the unstoppable Uncle Fred in his fourth and final novel appearance.
More turmoil at Blandings Castle, as Lord Emsworth finds his idyllic home overrun not only with the local Church Lad's Brigade, but also old curmudgeon the Duke of Dunstable and publishing magnate (and fellow pig-lover) Lord Tilbury, both scheming to get their hands on Emsworth's peerless pig, Empress of Blandings. Meanwhile, star-crossed lovers battle the iron will of Lady Constance Keeble. Fortunately, Uncle Fred is also on hand, to sort things out.
Myra Schoonmaker is in durance vile at Blandings Castle, her London season having been cut short by Connie to put a stop to Myra's unfortunate entanglement with impoverished East End curate Bill Bailey. Her misery adds to Lord Emsworth's woes, already weighing heavily thanks to the efficiency of his latest secretary Lavender Briggs and the presence of both the Duke of Dunstable, on another of his long visits to the castle, and a party of Church Lads, camping out by his beloved lake.
When Connie reveals plans to spend a day having her hair done in Shrewsbury, Myra at once contacts Bailey, arranging to meet in a registry office and tie the knot. Bailey, with his friend Pongo Twistleton and Pongo's Uncle Fred in tow, waits at the selected spot, but Myra doesn't turn up. Uncle Fred, an old friend of Myra and her father and taking to Bailey from the off, runs into Emsworth (in town to attend the Opening of Parliament), and wastes no time in inviting himself to Blandings, with Bailey in tow in the guise of "Cuthbert Meriweather", an old friend newly returned from Brazil.
At the castle, Bailey and Myra are reunited, and the wrinkle in their love caused by the registry office mix-up easily smoothed out by Uncle Fred. The Church Lads trick Emsworth into diving into the lake to rescue one of their number, which turns out to be a log. This leads the Duke of Dunstable to once again question Emsworth's sanity, blaming the amiable peer's affection for his pig for his apparently crumbling mental state; while Emsworth, at Fred's suggestion, takes his revenge on the Church Lads by cutting the ropes of their tent in the small hours.
Recalling hearing Lord Tilbury saying he would pay £2000 for such a superb specimen, Dunstable arranges to pay Lavender Briggs £500 to steal her for him, Briggs in turn hiring the untrustworthy Wellbeloved to help and claiming she has a second assistant available.
Uncle Fred hears from Myra that her beloved Bill is being blackmailed by Briggs, who has recognised him, into helping with the pig scheme, but before Fred can come up with a plan, Bailey has confessed all to Lord Emsworth, who in his wrath sacks both Briggs and Wellbeloved, but lets slip Bailey's true identity to Connie. Fred keeps Connie quiet by threatening to reveal to the county that Beach cut the tent ropes, which would lead to embarrassment in the county and the loss of a superlative butler, but Connie contacts James Schoonmaker, urging him to come to her aid.
When George Threepwood tells Dunstable that he has photographed his grandfather in the act of cutting the tent ropes, Dunstable realises that the sacked Briggs is no longer needed, as he can blackmail Emsworth into parting with the pig. He meets up with Tilbury at The Emsworth Arms, where Lavender Briggs, returned from a day out in London ignorant of the change in her situation, overhears him telling Tilbury he has cancelled her cheque; he also proposes to charge Tilbury £3000 for the pig. Briggs later approaches Tilbury, her former employer, offering to undercut Dunstable and steal the pig for Tilbury; he accepts and pays up, but on leaving the inn, Briggs meets Uncle Fred, who tells her of her sacking and advises her to head straight to London and pay in Tilbury's cheque.
Schoonmaker arrives, answering Connie's request, but Fred intercepts him too, and takes him to the Emsworth Arms, where they catch up on old times and Fred informs his old friend of Myra's engagement to Archie Gilpin (she having broken things off with Bailey after his rash confession). Schoonmaker reveals he loves Connie, but lacks the courage to propose, and later Gilpin tells Fred he has once again become engaged to Millicent Rigby, with whom he had had a minor falling out, and now finds himself engaged to two girls at once; he also wants £1000, to buy into his cousin Ricky's onion-soup business.
Uncle Fred tricks Dunstable into thinking Schoonmaker is broke, and persuades him to pay out £1000 to get his nephew out of his engagement to Myra; he helps Schoonmaker build up the nerve to propose to Connie, and persuades him that Bill Bailey is a more suitable match for Myra; and on a tip-off from Lavender Briggs, he shows Dunstable that he has proof (in the form of a tape-recording) that Dunstable schemed to steal the pig, thus extracting from him the compromising photos of Lord Emsworth.
With Bill and Myra off to a register office, Archie back with Millicent and set up in business, Connie and Schoonmaker engaged and Dunstable well and truly scuppered, Fred smiles at the services he has done to one and all.
Characters in "Service with a Smile"
- Lord Emsworth, absent-minded master of Blandings Castle
- Frederick Twistleton, 5th Earl of Ickenham, Uncle Fred, Emsworth's friend and protector
- Pongo Twistleton, Fred's put-upon nephew
- James Schoonmaker, an American millionaire, friends with both Fred and Connie
- Alaric, Duke of Dunstable, a cantakerous peer
- Archie Gilpin, Dunstable's handsome artist nephew
- George Alexander Pyke, Lord Tilbury, publishing magnate and pig lover
- Millicent Rigby, Tilbury's secretary, romantically entwined with Archie
- Beach, butler at the castle
Dunstable and Uncle Fred had both previously visited the Castle in Uncle Fred in the Springtime (1939), while Tilbury showed up there in Heavy Weather (1933), as well as appearing, like Uncle Fred, in several non-Blandings stories.
- McIlvaine, E., Sherby, L.S. and Heineman, J.H. (1990) P.G. Wodehouse: A comprehensive bibliography and checklist. New York: James H. Heineman, pp. 96–97. ISBN 087008125X