The Custody of the Pumpkin
|Author||P. G. Wodehouse|
|Publisher||The Saturday Evening Post|
|29 November 1924|
"The Custody of the Pumpkin" is a short story by British comic writer P. G. Wodehouse. It first appeared in the U.S. in the 29 November 1924 issue of The Saturday Evening Post, and in the UK in the December 1924 issue of Strand Magazine. Part of the Blandings Castle canon, it features the absent-minded peer Lord Emsworth, and was included in the collection Blandings Castle and Elsewhere (1935), although the story takes place sometime between the events of Leave it to Psmith (1923) and Summer Lightning (1929).
Lord Emsworth, enjoying the views around his castle with a telescope on the turret above the west wing, spies his younger son Freddie Threepwood kissing a girl in a spinney by the end of the water-meadow. Enraged, he confronts the young man, who reveals the girl is named Aggie, and is a "sort of cousin" of Head Gardener Angus McAllister. Emsworth demands that McAllister send the girl away, but the angered Scotsman hands in his notice.
Realising that McAllister has gone, he realises that deputy head gardener, Robert Barker, is not up to the job of preparing his precious pumpkin, "The Hope of Blandings", for the Shrewsbury Show, Emsworth heads up to London to retrieve the man. Outside the Senior Conservative Club, he runs into Freddie, who, unable to get the subject of pumpkins out of his father's head, awkwardly hands him a note and runs off. Emsworth learns from the note that Freddie has married Aggie that morning.
Despairing that his son has landed him with the cost of supporting a wife, Emsworth wanders into Kensington Gardens. Entranced by the flowers, he absent-mindedly picks a handful of tulips, arousing the wrath of a park-keeper. A police officer and crowd gather round, and Emsworth attempts to defend himself, but nobody believes a genuine Earl would dress so scruffily.
Just in time, Angus McAllister turns up and confirms Emsworth's identity; he is accompanied by Mr Donaldson, who tells Lord Emsworth that he should be supportive of his son. Learning that Donaldson is a wealthy man and plans not only to take Freddie far away but also to put him to work, Emsworth is delighted, and gives his blessing warmly, sending Freddie a message "not to hurry home".
Emsworth approaches McAllister humbly and offers to double his salary if he returns to the castle. He does, and soon afterwards the gargantuan Blandings Hope wins first prize.
The story was adapted for television by the BBC, broadcast in March 1967 as the second of six half-hour episodes. They starred Ralph Richardson as Lord Emsworth and Stanley Holloway as Beach; this one, retitled "The Great Pumpkin Crisis", had Derek Nimmo as Freddie. The master tapes of all but the first part were wiped, and no known copies of this episode exist.
The story was adapted as "Custody of the Pumpkin" in the 2014 episode of the BBC series Blandings. Timothy Spall starred as Lord Emsworth, Robert Bathurst as Parsloe, Tim Vine as Beach, and Jack Farthing as Freddie.
- List of short stories featuring Blandings, by publication date
- List of short stories and novels featuring Blandings, by collected edition
- Some versions of "The Custody of the Pumpkin" contain references to Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal. These additions were made prior to publication of the story in the collection Blandings Castle and Elsewhere in 1935. See Blandings Castle – Annotations, retrieved 2012/12/21.