Ukridge and the Old Stepper
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"Ukridge and the Old Stepper" is a short story by P. G. Wodehouse, which first appeared in the United States in the June 9, 1928 issue of Liberty, and in the United Kingdom in the June 1928 Strand. It was included in the collection Eggs, Beans and Crumpets, published in 1940. It features the irrepressible Stanley Featherstonehaugh Ukridge.
- Stanley Featherstonehaugh Ukridge, the irrepressible entrepreneur
- Julia Ukridge, his haughty writer aunt, who owns a country cottage
- Jimmy Corcoran, Ukridge's writer friend
- George Tupper, an old schoolfriend of Ukridge and Corcoran
- Charles Percy Cuthbertson, known as "The Old Stepper", a long-lost Australian relative
- Sir Edward Bayliss, O.B.E., a rich man in the Jute business, owner of Deeping Hall and a friend of Aunt Julia
- Myrtle Bayliss, Sir Edward's daughter, a pretty girl
- Colonel Bayliss, Sir Edward's brother, owner of "Pondicherry", a house nearby
Ukridge and his friend Jimmy Corcoran, the latter angry that Ukridge has stolen his best new suit, run into the titular Old Stepper in the street one day, and Corky is astounded to see Ukridge blank the fellow, despite his friendly greeting and offer of a free lunch. Ukridge explains how the chill fell on their relationship...
Ukridge is sent by his Aunt Julia to her cottage in the country, mainly because her neighbour there is a successful man in the jute trade, and she hopes he may give Ukridge a job. Ukridge is sceptical, until he sees the man's daughter over his hedge and falls in love with her.
Later, a stranger calls at the house, and introduces himself as Ukridge's "Uncle Percy" - having married Ukridge's stepmother's stepsister (hence the nickname "The Old Stepper") - freshly arrived from Australia. Ukridge takes him in, and is delighted to find him a generous fellow, filling the house with comfortable furniture and providing a summer house for the garden.
The girl next door's birthday approaches, and Ukridge is in need of funds and ideas for her gift, until the Old Stepper suggests a sundial, which Ukridge agrees is a romantic thought. The man then goes and provides one, perfect for the job. With Ukridge well in the good books of his neighbours, he finally gets them to agree to come to tea one day, and his houseguest promises to fill the place with roses.
The girl and her father arrive, and all is going swimmingly until a stranger calls at the house, claims that the furniture was paid for with a bad cheque, and begins to repossess it. Ukridge has just managed to calm his guests when another stranger, the girl's uncle and Ukridge's neighbour on the other side, appears. He has returned home to find his sundial at his brother's house, his roses all removed to Ukridge's parlour and his summer house in Ukridge's garden. The guests all leave in disgust.
When the Old Stepper comes home, Ukridge berates him for his thieving ways. The old man tries to defend himself, claiming he has always "scrounged" things that were not in use, but ever since Ukridge has not trusted him, and has avoided him where possible, even at the cost of turning down a free meal.