Clarence, 9th Earl of Emsworth, is a worried man. To be sure, he seems to have resolved the problem that faces all peers of the realm — what to do with the younger son — for his younger son, Frederick, is shortly to marry Aline, the daughter of American tycoon J Preston Peters. But what worries Lord Emsworth is that he's on his way to visit Mr Peters, to be shown the latter's collection of scarabs . . . and he has no idea what a scarab is.

Freddie is also worried. Before meeting Aline, he had fallen in love with a chorus girl and, though he never actually met her, he had written her letters. And not just letters, but poetry!! What if the girl decides to sue him for breach of promise? Fortunately for Freddie, his friend, Mr R Jones, is just the man to deal with such a problem. And fortunately for R Jones, he is just the man to know how to turn the situation to his own advantage!

Aline, too, is worried. Her father's dyspepsia is making him bad-tempered and it's Aline who has to bear the brunt of his bad-temper. She also has to to fend off the attentions of an old friend, George Emerson, who is proving to be a more ardent suitor than her fiancé and who has just told her that Freddie has invited him to join the house party at Blandings Castle, Lord Emsworth's stately home in Shropshire, where she and her father are to be introduced to the rest of Freddie's relatives.

Meanwhile, struggling author Ashe Marson, dissatisfied with his job writing stories about Gridley Quayle, Investigator, has just met one of his neighbours, a young woman named Joan Valentine, whose attractiveness more than makes up for the fact that she had laughed at him when he was performing his daily exercises. Joan is a dynamic young woman and has no time for Ashe's defeatist approach to life; she suggests that he scan the advertisements in the morning paper and find another job.

So when Lord Emsworth absent-mindedly pockets one of Mr Peters's most valuable scarabs, and the tycoon, believing the Earl to have stolen it, advertises for someone to recover it for him, Ashe is quick to apply for the job, which will require him to masquerade as Mr Peters's valet during the latter's visit to Blandings.

Unknown to Ashe Marson, Aline Peters — anxious to please her father — has persuaded her old friend Joan Valentine to try to recover the scarab. Joan agrees to accompany her to Blandings, in the guise of a lady's maid; and when Ashe tells Joan about his new job, she quickly realises that they will be rivals, something that she keeps to herself. Something else that she keeps to herself is that she is the girl to whom Freddie wrote his poetry, and it is to avoid any chance of being recognised that she insists on using a false name while visiting Blandings.

Joan has, in fact, just had a visit from R Jones and dismissed any suggestion that she had even thought of sueing Freddie for breach of promise. R Jones is convinced, especially as it allows him to pocket the money with which Freddie had been prepared to buy her off, but when, as he is leaving, he observes Aline calling on Joan, he jumps to the conclusion that Joan is actually planning to auction the letters to the highest bidder, Freddie or Aline.

And so the stage is set for total confusion. Ashe soon learns that being an imposter in the servants' hall is more difficult than he thought, while Joan comes close to revealing her true identity; and each is rescued only by the quick-thinking of the other. And both soon realise that trying to recover the scarab is not as easy as they thought, not when their every move is being watched by the ever-suspicious Rupert Baxter, Lord Emsworth's all-too-efficient secretary. And while they remain blissfully unaware that someone else is seeking to purloin the scarab, Freddie is equally unaware that George Emerson is seeking to purloin his fiancée.

Eventually, of course, all will turn out for the best. Aline, realising that life with Freddie would entail an endless diet of Gridley Quayle, Investigator, will run away with George, Ashe and Joan will recognise what the reader has long since realised, that they love one another, and Ashe, having effected a partial cure of Mr Peters's dyspepsia, will be employed by the tycoon as his personal trainer. Freddie, meanwhile, has just reached the bit where Gridley Quayle . . .

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