By: P.G. Wodehouse
August 3, 2019

Leave It to Psmith (1923) is the last and most rewarding of four novels featuring the dandy, wit, and would-be adventurer Ronald Eustace Psmith, one of P.G. Wodehouse‘s most popular characters. (“One can date exactly,” Evelyn Waugh claimed, in reference to Psmith’s debut in the 1909 novel Mike, “the first moment when Wodehouse was touched by the sacred flame.”) Leave It to Psmith‘s copyright enters the public domain in 2019; HiLoBooks is pleased to serialize this terrific book here at HILOBROW. Enjoy!



Blandings Castle dozed in the midsummer heat like a palace of sleep. There had been an exodus of its inmates shortly after lunch, when Lord Emsworth, Lady Constance, Mr. Keeble, Miss Peavey and the efficient Baxter had left for the neighboring town of Bridgeford in the big car, with the Honorable Freddie puffing in its wake in a natty two-seater. Psmith, who had been invited to accompany them, had declined on the plea that he wished to write a poem. He felt but a tepid interest in the afternoon’s program, which was to consist of the unveiling by his lordship of the recently completed memorial to the late Hartley Reddish, Esq., J.P., for so many years Member of Parliament for the Bridgeford and Shifley Division of Shropshire. Not even the prospect of hearing Lord Emsworth — clad, not without vain protest and weak grumbling, in a silk hat, morning coat and sponge-bag trousers — deliver a speech had been sufficient to lure him from the castle grounds.

But at the moment when he had uttered his refusal, thereby incurring the ill-concealed envy both of Lord Emsworth and his son Freddie, the latter also an unwilling celebrant, he had supposed that his solitude would be shared by Eve. This deplorable conscientiousness of hers, this morbid craving for work, had left him at a loose end. The time and the place were both above criticism; but, as so often happens in this life of ours, he had been let down by the girl.

But, though he chafed for a while, it was not long before the dreamy peace of the afternoon began to exercise a soothing effect upon him. With the exception of the bees that worked with their usual misguided energy among the flowers, and an occasional butterfly which flitted past in the sunshine, all Nature seemed to be taking a siesta. Somewhere out of sight a lawnmower had begun to emphasize the stillness with its musical whir. A telegraph boy on a red bicycle passed up the drive to the front door and seemed to have some difficulty in establishing communication with the domestic staff, from which Psmith deduced that Beach the butler, like a good opportunist, was taking advantage of the absence of authority to enjoy a nap in some distant lair of his own. Eventually a parlor maid appeared, accepted the telegram and — apparently — a rebuke from the boy, and the bicycle passed out of sight, leaving silence and peace once more.

The noblest minds are not proof against atmospheric conditions of this kind. Psmith’s eyes closed, opened, closed again. And presently his regular breathing, varied by an occasional snore, was added to the rest of the small sounds of the summer afternoon.

The shadow of the cedar was appreciably longer when he awoke with that sudden start which generally terminates sleep in a garden chair.

A glance at his watch told him that it was close on five o’clock, a fact which was confirmed a moment later by the arrival of the parlor maid who had answered the summons of the telegraph boy. She appeared to be the sole survivor of the little world that had its center in the servants’ hall; a sort of female Casabianca.

“I have put your tea in the hall, sir.”

“You could have performed no nobler or more charitable task,” Psmith assured her; and, having corrected a certain stiffness of limb by means of massage, went in. It occurred to him that Eve, assiduous worker though she was, might have knocked off in order to keep him company.

The hope proved vain. A single cup stood bleakly on the tray. Either Eve was superior to the feminine passion for tea or she was having hers up in the library. Filled with something of the sadness which he had felt at the sight of the toiling bees, Psmith embarked on his solitary meal, wondering sorrowfully at the perverseness which made girls work when there was no one to watch them.

It was very agreeable here in the coolness of the hall. The great door of the castle was open, and through it he had a view of lawns bathed in a thirst-provoking sunlight. Through the green-baize door to his left, which led to the servants’ quarters, an occasional sharp giggle gave evidence of the presence of humanity; but apart from that he might have been alone in the world. Once again he fell into a dreamy meditation, and there is little reason to doubt that he would shortly have disgraced himself by falling asleep for the second time in a single afternoon, when he was restored to alertness by the sudden appearance of a foreign body in the open doorway. Against the background of golden light a black figure had abruptly manifested itself.

The sharp pang of apprehension which ran through Psmith’s consciousness like an electric shock, causing him to stiffen like some wild creature surprised in the woods, was due to the momentary belief that the newcomer was the local vicar, of whose conversational powers he had had experience on the second day of his visit. Another glance showed him that he had been too pessimistic. This was not the vicar. It was someone whom he had never seen before — a slim and graceful young man with a dark, intelligent face, who stood blinking in the subdued light of the hall with eyes not yet accustomed to the absence of strong sunshine. Greatly relieved, Psmith rose and approached him.

“Hullo!” said the newcomer, “I didn’t see you. It’s quite dark in here after outside.”

“The light is pleasantly dim,” agreed Psmith.

“Is Lord Emsworth anywhere about?”

“I fear not. He has legged it, accompanied by the entire household, to superintend the unveiling of a memorial at Bridgeford to — if my memory serves me rightly — the late Hartley Reddish, Esq., J.P., M.P. Is there anything I can do?”

“Well, I’ve come to stay, you know.”


“Lady Constance invited me to pay a visit as soon as I reached England.”

“Ah! Then you have come from foreign parts?”


Psmith started slightly. This, he perceived, was going to complicate matters. The last thing he desired was the addition to the Blandings circle of one familiar with Canada. Nothing could militate against his peace of mind more than the society of a man who would want to exchange with him views on that growing country.

“Oh, Canada?” he said.

“I wired,” proceeded the other, “but I suppose it came after everybody had left. Ah, that must be my telegram on that table over there. I walked up from the station.” He was rambling idly about the hall after the fashion of one breaking new ground. He paused at an occasional table, the one where, when taking after-dinner coffee, Miss Peavey was wont to sit. He picked up a book and uttered a gratified laugh. “One of my little things,” he said.

“One of what?” said Psmith.

“This. Songs of Squalor. I wrote it.”

“You wrote it!”

“Yes. My name’s McTodd — Ralston McTodd. I expect you have heard them speak of me?”


The mind of a man who has undertaken a mission as delicate as Psmith’s at Blandings Castle is necessarily alert. Ever since he had stepped into the five o’clock train at Paddington, when his adventure might have been said formally to have started, Psmith had walked warily, like one in a jungle on whom sudden and unexpected things might pounce out at any moment. This calm announcement from the slim young man, therefore, though it undoubtedly startled him, did not deprive him of his faculties. On the contrary, it quickened them. His first action was to step nimbly to the table on which the telegram lay awaiting the return of Lord Emsworth, his second was to slip the envelope into his pocket. It was imperative that telegrams signed McTodd should not lie about loose while he was enjoying the hospitality of the castle. This done, he confronted the young man.

“Come, come!” he said with quiet severity.

He was extremely grateful to a kindly Providence which had arranged that this interview should take place at a time when nobody but himself was in the house.

“You say that you are Ralston McTodd, the author of these poems?”

“Yes, I do.”

“Then what,” said Psmith incisively, “is a pale parabola of joy?”

“Er — what?” said the newcomer in an enfeebled voice. There was manifest in his demeanor now a marked nervousness.

“And here is another,” said Psmith. “ ‘The——’ Wait a minute, I’ll get it in a moment. Yes, ‘The sibilant, scented silence that shimmered where we sat.’ Could you oblige me with a diagram of that one?”

“I — I — what are you talking about?”

Psmith stretched out a long arm and patted him almost affectionately on the shoulder.

“It’s lucky you met me before you had to face the others,” he said. “I fear that you undertook this little venture without thoroughly equipping yourself. They would have detected your imposture in the first minute.”

“What do you mean — imposture? I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Psmith waggled his forefinger at him reproachfully.

“My dear comrade, I may as well tell you at once that the genuine McTodd is an old and dear friend of mine. I had a long and entertaining conversation with him only a few days ago. So that, I think we may confidently assert, is that. Or am I wrong?”

“Oh, hell!” said the young man, and flopping bonelessly into a chair he mopped his forehead in undisguised and abject collapse.

Silence reigned for a while.



SERIALIZED BY HILOBOOKS: Jack London’s The Scarlet Plague | Rudyard Kipling’s With the Night Mail (and “As Easy as A.B.C.”) | Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Poison Belt | H. Rider Haggard’s When the World Shook | Edward Shanks’ The People of the Ruins | William Hope Hodgson’s The Night Land | J.D. Beresford’s Goslings | E.V. Odle’s The Clockwork Man | Cicely Hamilton’s Theodore Savage | Muriel Jaeger’s The Man With Six Senses | Jack London’s “The Red One” | Philip Francis Nowlan’s Armageddon 2419 A.D. | Homer Eon Flint’s The Devolutionist | W.E.B. DuBois’s “The Comet” | Edgar Rice Burroughs’s The Moon Men | Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland | Sax Rohmer’s “The Zayat Kiss” | Eimar O’Duffy’s King Goshawk and the Birds | Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Lost Prince | Morley Roberts’s The Fugitives | Helen MacInnes’s The Unconquerable | Geoffrey Household’s Watcher in the Shadows | William Haggard’s The High Wire | Hammond Innes’s Air Bridge | James Branch Cabell’s Jurgen | John Buchan’s “No Man’s Land” | John Russell’s “The Fourth Man” | E.M. Forster’s “The Machine Stops” | John Buchan’s Huntingtower | Arthur Conan Doyle’s When the World Screamed | Victor Bridges’ A Rogue By Compulsion | Jack London’s The Iron Heel | H. De Vere Stacpoole’s The Man Who Lost Himself | P.G. Wodehouse’s Leave It to Psmith | Richard Connell’s “The Most Dangerous Game” | Houdini and Lovecraft’s “Imprisoned with the Pharaohs” | Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Sussex Vampire”.

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