Right Ho, Jeeves
P. G. Wodehouse
Part 2 out of 6
moment that you are going to get out of distributing those prizes, you
are very much mistaken. Deeply regret Brinkley Court hundred miles from
London, as unable hit you with a brick. Love. Travers._
I then put my fortune to the test, to win or lose it all. It was not a
moment for petty economies. I let myself go regardless of expense:
_No, but dash it, listen. Honestly, you don't want me. Get Fink-Nottle
distribute prizes. A born distributor, who will do you credit.
Confidently anticipate Augustus Fink-Nottle as Master of Revels on
thirty-first inst. would make genuine sensation. Do not miss this great
chance, which may never occur again. Tinkerty-tonk. Bertie._
There was an hour of breathless suspense, and then the joyful tidings
_Well, all right. Something in what you say, I suppose. Consider you
treacherous worm and contemptible, spineless cowardly custard, but have
booked Spink-Bottle. Stay where you are, then, and I hope you get run
over by an omnibus. Love. Travers._
The relief, as you may well imagine, was stupendous. A great weight
seemed to have rolled off my mind. It was as if somebody had been pouring
Jeeves's pick-me-ups into me through a funnel. I sang as I dressed for
dinner that night. At the Drones I was so gay and cheery that there were
several complaints. And when I got home and turned into the old bed, I
fell asleep like a little child within five minutes of inserting the
person between the sheets. It seemed to me that the whole distressing
affair might now be considered definitely closed.
Conceive my astonishment, therefore, when waking on the morrow and
sitting up to dig into the morning tea-cup, I beheld on the tray another
My heart sank. Could Aunt Dahlia have slept on it and changed her mind?
Could Gussie, unable to face the ordeal confronting him, have legged it
during the night down a water-pipe? With these speculations racing
through the bean, I tore open the envelope And as I noted contents I
uttered a startled yip.
"Sir?" said Jeeves, pausing at the door.
I read the thing again. Yes, I had got the gist all right. No, I had not
been deceived in the substance.
"Jeeves," I said, "do you know what?"
"You know my cousin Angela?"
"You know young Tuppy Glossop?"
"They've broken off their engagement."
"I am sorry to hear that, sir."
"I have here a communication from Aunt Dahlia, specifically stating this.
I wonder what the row was about."
"I could not say, sir."
"Of course you couldn't. Don't be an ass, Jeeves."
I brooded. I was deeply moved.
"Well, this means that we shall have to go down to Brinkley today. Aunt
Dahlia is obviously all of a twitter, and my place is by her side. You
had better pack this morning, and catch that 12.45 train with the
luggage. I have a lunch engagement, so will follow in the car."
"Very good, sir."
I brooded some more.
"I must say this has come as a great shock to me, Jeeves."
"No doubt, sir."
"A very great shock. Angela and Tuppy.... Tut, tut! Why, they seemed like
the paper on the wall. Life is full of sadness, Jeeves."
"Still, there it is."
"Right ho, then. Switch on the bath."
"Very good, sir."
I meditated pretty freely as I drove down to Brinkley in the old
two-seater that afternoon. The news of this rift or rupture of Angela's
and Tuppy's had disturbed me greatly.
The projected match, you see, was one on which I had always looked with
kindly approval. Too often, when a chap of your acquaintance is planning
to marry a girl you know, you find yourself knitting the brow a bit and
chewing the lower lip dubiously, feeling that he or she, or both, should
be warned while there is yet time.
But I have never felt anything of this nature about Tuppy and Angela.
Tuppy, when not making an ass of himself, is a soundish sort of egg. So
is Angela a soundish sort of egg. And, as far as being in love was
concerned, it had always seemed to me that you wouldn't have been far out
in describing them as two hearts that beat as one.
True, they had had their little tiffs, notably on the occasion when
Tuppy--with what he said was fearless honesty and I considered thorough
goofiness--had told Angela that her new hat made her look like a
Pekingese. But in every romance you have to budget for the occasional
dust-up, and after that incident I had supposed that he had learned his
lesson and that from then on life would be one grand, sweet song.
And now this wholly unforeseen severing of diplomatic relations had
popped up through a trap.
I gave the thing the cream of the Wooster brain all the way down, but it
continued to beat me what could have caused the outbreak of hostilities,
and I bunged my foot sedulously on the accelerator in order to get to
Aunt Dahlia with the greatest possible speed and learn the inside history
straight from the horse's mouth. And what with all six cylinders hitting
nicely, I made good time and found myself closeted with the relative
shortly before the hour of the evening cocktail.
She seemed glad to see me. In fact, she actually said she was glad to see
me--a statement no other aunt on the list would have committed herself
to, the customary reaction of these near and dear ones to the spectacle
of Bertram arriving for a visit being a sort of sick horror.
"Decent of you to rally round, Bertie," she said.
"My place was by your side, Aunt Dahlia," I responded.
I could see at a g. that the unfortunate affair had got in amongst her in
no uncertain manner. Her usually cheerful map was clouded, and the genial
smile conspic. by its a. I pressed her hand sympathetically, to indicate
that my heart bled for her.
"Bad show this, my dear old flesh and blood," I said. "I'm afraid you've
been having a sticky time. You must be worried."
She snorted emotionally. She looked like an aunt who has just bitten into
a bad oyster.
"Worried is right. I haven't had a peaceful moment since I got back from
Cannes. Ever since I put my foot across this blasted threshold," said
Aunt Dahlia, returning for the nonce to the hearty _argot_ of the hunting
field, "everything's been at sixes and sevens. First there was that mix-up
about the prize-giving."
She paused at this point and gave me a look. "I had been meaning to speak
freely to you about your behaviour in that matter, Bertie," she said. "I
had some good things all stored up. But, as you've rallied round like
this, I suppose I shall have to let you off. And, anyway, it is probably
all for the best that you evaded your obligations in that sickeningly
craven way. I have an idea that this Spink-Bottle of yours is going to be
good. If only he can keep off newts."
"Has he been talking about newts?"
"He has. Fixing me with a glittering eye, like the Ancient Mariner. But
if that was the worst I had to bear, I wouldn't mind. What I'm worrying
about is what Tom says when he starts talking."
"I wish there was something else you could call him except 'Uncle Tom',"
said Aunt Dahlia a little testily. "Every time you do it, I expect to see
him turn black and start playing the banjo. Yes, Uncle Tom, if you must
have it. I shall have to tell him soon about losing all that money at
baccarat, and, when I do, he will go up like a rocket."
"Still, no doubt Time, the great healer----"
"Time, the great healer, be blowed. I've got to get a cheque for five
hundred pounds out of him for _Milady's Boudoir_ by August the third at
I was concerned. Apart from a nephew's natural interest in an aunt's
refined weekly paper, I had always had a soft spot in my heart for
_Milady's Boudoir_ ever since I contributed that article to it on What
the Well-Dressed Man is Wearing. Sentimental, possibly, but we old
journalists do have these feelings.
"Is the _Boudoir_ on the rocks?"
"It will be if Tom doesn't cough up. It needs help till it has turned the
"But wasn't it turning the corner two years ago?"
"It was. And it's still at it. Till you've run a weekly paper for women,
you don't know what corners are."
"And you think the chances of getting into uncle--into my uncle by
marriage's ribs are slight?"
"I'll tell you, Bertie. Up till now, when these subsidies were required,
I have always been able to come to Tom in the gay, confident spirit of an
only child touching an indulgent father for chocolate cream. But he's
just had a demand from the income-tax people for an additional fifty-eight
pounds, one and threepence, and all he's been talking about since I got
back has been ruin and the sinister trend of socialistic legislation and
what will become of us all."
I could readily believe it. This Tom has a peculiarity I've noticed in
other very oofy men. Nick him for the paltriest sum, and he lets out a
squawk you can hear at Land's End. He has the stuff in gobs, but he hates
"If it wasn't for Anatole's cooking, I doubt if he would bother to carry
on. Thank God for Anatole, I say."
I bowed my head reverently.
"Good old Anatole," I said.
"Amen," said Aunt Dahlia.
Then the look of holy ecstasy, which is always the result of letting the
mind dwell, however briefly, on Anatole's cooking, died out of her face.
"But don't let me wander from the subject," she resumed. "I was telling
you of the way hell's foundations have been quivering since I got home.
First the prize-giving, then Tom, and now, on top of everything else,
this infernal quarrel between Angela and young Glossop."
I nodded gravely. "I was frightfully sorry to hear of that. Terrible
shock. What was the row about?"
"Sharks. Or, rather, one individual shark. The brute that went for the
poor child when she was aquaplaning at Cannes. You remember Angela's
Certainly I remembered Angela's shark. A man of sensibility does not
forget about a cousin nearly being chewed by monsters of the deep. The
episode was still green in my memory.
In a nutshell, what had occurred was this: You know how you aquaplane. A
motor-boat nips on ahead, trailing a rope. You stand on a board, holding
the rope, and the boat tows you along. And every now and then you lose
your grip on the rope and plunge into the sea and have to swim to your
A silly process it has always seemed to me, though many find it
Well, on the occasion referred to, Angela had just regained her board
after taking a toss, when a great beastly shark came along and cannoned
into it, flinging her into the salty once more. It took her quite a bit
of time to get on again and make the motor-boat chap realize what was up
and haul her to safety, and during that interval you can readily picture
According to Angela, the finny denizen kept snapping at her ankles
virtually without cessation, so that by the time help arrived, she was
feeling more like a salted almond at a public dinner than anything human.
Very shaken the poor child had been, I recall, and had talked of nothing
else for weeks.
"I remember the whole incident vividly," I said. "But how did that start
"She was telling him the story last night."
"Her eyes shining and her little hands clasped in girlish excitement."
"And instead of giving her the understanding and sympathy to which she
was entitled, what do you think this blasted Glossop did? He sat
listening like a lump of dough, as if she had been talking about the
weather, and when she had finished, he took his cigarette holder out of
his mouth and said, 'I expect it was only a floating log'!"
"He did. And when Angela described how the thing had jumped and snapped
at her, he took his cigarette holder out of his mouth again, and said,
'Ah! Probably a flatfish. Quite harmless. No doubt it was just trying to
play.' Well, I mean! What would you have done if you had been Angela? She
has pride, sensibility, all the natural feelings of a good woman. She
told him he was an ass and a fool and an idiot, and didn't know what he
was talking about."
I must say I saw the girl's viewpoint. It's only about once in a lifetime
that anything sensational ever happens to one, and when it does, you
don't want people taking all the colour out of it. I remember at school
having to read that stuff where that chap, Othello, tells the girl what a
hell of a time he'd been having among the cannibals and what not. Well,
imagine his feelings if, after he had described some particularly sticky
passage with a cannibal chief and was waiting for the awestruck "Oh-h!
Not really?", she had said that the whole thing had no doubt been greatly
exaggerated and that the man had probably really been a prominent local
Yes, I saw Angela's point of view.
"But don't tell me that when he saw how shirty she was about it, the
chump didn't back down?"
"He didn't. He argued. And one thing led to another until, by easy
stages, they had arrived at the point where she was saying that she
didn't know if he was aware of it, but if he didn't knock off starchy
foods and do exercises every morning, he would be getting as fat as a
pig, and he was talking about this modern habit of girls putting make-up
on their faces, of which he had always disapproved. This continued for a
while, and then there was a loud pop and the air was full of mangled
fragments of their engagement. I'm distracted about it. Thank goodness
you've come, Bertie."
"Nothing could have kept me away," I replied, touched. "I felt you needed
"Or, rather," she said, "not you, of course, but Jeeves. The minute all
this happened, I thought of him. The situation obviously cries out for
Jeeves. If ever in the whole history of human affairs there was a moment
when that lofty brain was required about the home, this is it."
I think, if I had been standing up, I would have staggered. In fact, I'm
pretty sure I would. But it isn't so dashed easy to stagger when you're
sitting in an arm-chair. Only my face, therefore, showed how deeply I had
been stung by these words.
Until she spoke them, I had been all sweetness and light--the sympathetic
nephew prepared to strain every nerve to do his bit. I now froze, and the
face became hard and set.
"Jeeves!" I said, between clenched teeth.
"Oom beroofen," said Aunt Dahlia.
I saw that she had got the wrong angle.
"I was not sneezing. I was saying 'Jeeves!'"
"And well you may. What a man! I'm going to put the whole thing up to
him. There's nobody like Jeeves."
My frigidity became more marked.
"I venture to take issue with you, Aunt Dahlia."
"You take what?"
"You do, do you?"
"I emphatically do. Jeeves is hopeless."
"Quite hopeless. He has lost his grip completely. Only a couple of days
ago I was compelled to take him off a case because his handling of it was
so footling. And, anyway, I resent this assumption, if assumption is the
word I want, that Jeeves is the only fellow with brain. I object to the
way everybody puts things up to him without consulting me and letting me
have a stab at them first."
She seemed about to speak, but I checked her with a gesture.
"It is true that in the past I have sometimes seen fit to seek Jeeves's
advice. It is possible that in the future I may seek it again. But I
claim the right to have a pop at these problems, as they arise, in
person, without having everybody behave as if Jeeves was the only onion
in the hash. I sometimes feel that Jeeves, though admittedly not
unsuccessful in the past, has been lucky rather than gifted."
"Have you and Jeeves had a row?"
"Nothing of the kind."
"You seem to have it in for him."
"Not at all."
And yet I must admit that there was a modicum of truth in what she said.
I had been feeling pretty austere about the man all day, and I'll tell
You remember that he caught that 12.45 train with the luggage, while I
remained on in order to keep a luncheon engagement. Well, just before I
started out to the tryst, I was pottering about the flat, and suddenly--I
don't know what put the suspicion into my head, possibly the fellow's
manner had been furtive--something seemed to whisper to me to go and have
a look in the wardrobe.
And it was as I had suspected. There was the mess-jacket still on its
hanger. The hound hadn't packed it.
Well, as anybody at the Drones will tell you, Bertram Wooster is a pretty
hard chap to outgeneral. I shoved the thing in a brown-paper parcel and
put it in the back of the car, and it was on a chair in the hall now. But
that didn't alter the fact that Jeeves had attempted to do the dirty on
me, and I suppose a certain what-d'you-call-it had crept into my manner
during the above remarks.
"There has been no breach," I said. "You might describe it as a passing
coolness, but no more. We did not happen to see eye to eye with regard to
my white mess-jacket with the brass buttons and I was compelled to assert
my personality. But----"
"Well, it doesn't matter, anyway. The thing that matters is that you are
talking piffle, you poor fish. Jeeves lost his grip? Absurd. Why, I saw
him for a moment when he arrived, and his eyes were absolutely glittering
with intelligence. I said to myself 'Trust Jeeves,' and I intend to."
"You would be far better advised to let me see what I can accomplish,
"For heaven's sake, don't you start butting in. You'll only make matters
"On the contrary, it may interest you to know that while driving here I
concentrated deeply on this trouble of Angela's and was successful in
formulating a plan, based on the psychology of the individual, which I am
proposing to put into effect at an early moment."
"Oh, my God!"
"My knowledge of human nature tells me it will work."
"Bertie," said Aunt Dahlia, and her manner struck me as febrile, "lay
off, lay off! For pity's sake, lay off. I know these plans of yours. I
suppose you want to shove Angela into the lake and push young Glossop in
after her to save her life, or something like that."
"Nothing of the kind."
"It's the sort of thing you would do."
"My scheme is far more subtle. Let me outline it for you."
"I say to myself----"
"But not to me."
"Do listen for a second."
"Right ho, then. I am dumb."
"And have been from a child."
I perceived that little good could result from continuing the discussion.
I waved a hand and shrugged a shoulder.
"Very well, Aunt Dahlia," I said, with dignity, "if you don't want to be
in on the ground floor, that is your affair. But you are missing an
intellectual treat. And, anyway, no matter how much you may behave like
the deaf adder of Scripture which, as you are doubtless aware, the more
one piped, the less it danced, or words to that effect, I shall carry on
as planned. I am extremely fond of Angela, and I shall spare no effort to
bring the sunshine back into her heart."
"Bertie, you abysmal chump, I appeal to you once more. Will you please
lay off? You'll only make things ten times as bad as they are already."
I remember reading in one of those historical novels once about a chap--a
buck he would have been, no doubt, or a macaroni or some such bird as
that--who, when people said the wrong thing, merely laughed down from
lazy eyelids and flicked a speck of dust from the irreproachable Mechlin
lace at his wrists. This was practically what I did now. At least, I
straightened my tie and smiled one of those inscrutable smiles of mine. I
then withdrew and went out for a saunter in the garden.
And the first chap I ran into was young Tuppy. His brow was furrowed, and
he was moodily bunging stones at a flowerpot.
I think I have told you before about young Tuppy Glossop. He was the
fellow, if you remember, who, callously ignoring the fact that we had
been friends since boyhood, betted me one night at the Drones that I
could swing myself across the swimming bath by the rings--a childish feat
for one of my lissomeness--and then, having seen me well on the way,
looped back the last ring, thus rendering it necessary for me to drop
into the deep end in formal evening costume.
To say that I had not resented this foul deed, which seemed to me
deserving of the title of the crime of the century, would be paltering
with the truth. I had resented it profoundly, chafing not a little at the
time and continuing to chafe for some weeks.
But you know how it is with these things. The wound heals. The agony
I am not saying, mind you, that had the opportunity presented itself of
dropping a wet sponge on Tuppy from some high spot or of putting an eel
in his bed or finding some other form of self-expression of a like
nature, I would not have embraced it eagerly; but that let me out. I mean
to say, grievously injured though I had been, it gave me no pleasure to
feel that the fellow's bally life was being ruined by the loss of a girl
whom, despite all that had passed, I was convinced he still loved like
On the contrary, I was heart and soul in favour of healing the breach and
rendering everything hotsy-totsy once more between these two young
sundered blighters. You will have gleaned that from my remarks to Aunt
Dahlia, and if you had been present at this moment and had seen the
kindly commiserating look I gave Tuppy, you would have gleaned it still
It was one of those searching, melting looks, and was accompanied by the
hearty clasp of the right hand and the gentle laying of the left on the
"Well, Tuppy, old man," I said. "How are you, old man?"
My commiseration deepened as I spoke the words, for there had been no
lighting up of the eye, no answering pressure of the palm, no sign
whatever, in short, of any disposition on his part to do Spring dances at
the sight of an old friend. The man seemed sandbagged. Melancholy, as I
remember Jeeves saying once about Pongo Twistleton when he was trying to
knock off smoking, had marked him for her own. Not that I was surprised,
of course. In the circs., no doubt, a certain moodiness was only natural.
I released the hand, ceased to knead the shoulder, and, producing the old
case, offered him a cigarette.
He took it dully.
"Are you here, Bertie?" he asked.
"Yes, I'm here."
"Just passing through, or come to stay?"
I thought for a moment. I might have told him that I had arrived at
Brinkley Court with the express intention of bringing Angela and himself
together once more, of knitting up the severed threads, and so on and so
forth; and for perhaps half the time required for the lighting of a
gasper I had almost decided to do so. Then, I reflected, better, on the
whole, perhaps not. To broadcast the fact that I proposed to take him and
Angela and play on them as on a couple of stringed instruments might have
been injudicious. Chaps don't always like being played on as on a
"It all depends," I said. "I may remain. I may push on. My plans are
He nodded listlessly, rather in the manner of a man who did not give a
damn what I did, and stood gazing out over the sunlit garden. In build
and appearance, Tuppy somewhat resembles a bulldog, and his aspect now
was that of one of these fine animals who has just been refused a slice
of cake. It was not difficult for a man of my discernment to read what
was in his mind, and it occasioned me no surprise, therefore, when his
next words had to do with the subject marked with a cross on the agenda
"You've heard of this business of mine, I suppose? Me and Angela?"
"I have, indeed, Tuppy, old man."
"We've bust up."
"I know. Some little friction, I gather, _in re_ Angela's shark."
"Yes. I said it must have been a flatfish."
"So my informant told me."
"Who did you hear it from?"
"I suppose she cursed me properly?"
Beyond referring to you in one passage as 'this blasted Glossop', she
was, I thought, singularly temperate in her language for a woman who at
one time hunted regularly with the Quorn. All the same, I could see, if
you don't mind me saying so, old man, that she felt you might have
behaved with a little more tact."
"And I must admit I rather agreed with her. Was it nice, Tuppy, was it
quite kind to take the bloom off Angela's shark like that? You must
remember that Angela's shark is very dear to her. Could you not see what
a sock on the jaw it would be for the poor child to hear it described by
the man to whom she had given her heart as a flatfish?"
I saw that he was struggling with some powerful emotion.
"And what about my side of the thing?" he demanded, in a voice choked
"You don't suppose," said Tuppy, with rising vehemence, "that I would
have exposed this dashed synthetic shark for the flatfish it undoubtedly
was if there had not been causes that led up to it. What induced me to
speak as I did was the fact that Angela, the little squirt, had just been
most offensive, and I seized the opportunity to get a bit of my own
"Exceedingly offensive. Purely on the strength of my having let fall some
casual remark--simply by way of saying something and keeping the
conversation going--to the effect that I wondered what Anatole was going
to give us for dinner, she said that I was too material and ought not
always to be thinking of food. Material, my elbow! As a matter of fact,
I'm particularly spiritual."
"I don't see any harm in wondering what Anatole was going to give us for
dinner. Do you?"
"Of course not. A mere ordinary tribute of respect to a great artist."
"All the same----"
"I was only going to say that it seems a pity that the frail craft of
love should come a stinker like this when a few manly words of
He stared at me.
"You aren't suggesting that I should climb down?"
"It would be the fine, big thing, old egg."
"I wouldn't dream of climbing down."
"No. I wouldn't do it."
"But you love her, don't you?"
This touched the spot. He quivered noticeably, and his mouth twisted.
Quite the tortured soul.
"I'm not saying I don't love the little blighter," he said, obviously
moved. "I love her passionately. But that doesn't alter the fact that I
consider that what she needs most in this world is a swift kick in the
A Wooster could scarcely pass this. "Tuppy, old man!"
"It's no good saying 'Tuppy, old man'."
"Well, I do say 'Tuppy, old man'. Your tone shocks me. One raises the
eyebrows. Where is the fine, old, chivalrous spirit of the Glossops."
"That's all right about the fine, old, chivalrous spirit of the Glossops.
Where is the sweet, gentle, womanly spirit of the Angelas? Telling a
fellow he was getting a double chin!"
"Did she do that?"
"Oh, well, girls will be girls. Forget it, Tuppy. Go to her and make it
He shook his head.
"No. It is too late. Remarks have been passed about my tummy which it is
impossible to overlook."
"But, Tummy--Tuppy, I mean--be fair. You once told her her new hat made
her look like a Pekingese."
"It did make her look like a Pekingese. That was not vulgar abuse. It was
sound, constructive criticism, with no motive behind it but the kindly
desire to keep her from making an exhibition of herself in public.
Wantonly to accuse a man of puffing when he goes up a fight of stairs is
something very different."
I began to see that the situation would require all my address and
ingenuity. If the wedding bells were ever to ring out in the little
church of Market Snodsbury, Bertram had plainly got to put in some
shrewdish work. I had gathered, during my conversation with Aunt Dahlia,
that there had been a certain amount of frank speech between the two
contracting parties, but I had not realized till now that matters had
gone so far.
The pathos of the thing gave me the pip. Tuppy had admitted in so many
words that love still animated the Glossop bosom, and I was convinced
that, even after all that occurred, Angela had not ceased to love him. At
the moment, no doubt, she might be wishing that she could hit him with a
bottle, but deep down in her I was prepared to bet that there still
lingered all the old affection and tenderness. Only injured pride was
keeping these two apart, and I felt that if Tuppy would make the first
move, all would be well.
I had another whack at it.
"She's broken-hearted about this rift, Tuppy."
"How do you know? Have you seen her?"
"No, but I'll bet she is."
"She doesn't look it."
"Wearing the mask, no doubt. Jeeves does that when I assert my
"She wrinkles her nose at me as if I were a drain that had got out of
"Merely the mask. I feel convinced she loves you still, and that a kindly
word from you is all that is required."
I could see that this had moved him. He plainly wavered. He did a sort of
twiddly on the turf with his foot. And, when he spoke, one spotted the
tremolo in the voice:
"You really think that?"
"If you were to go to her----"
He shook his head.
"I can't do that. It would be fatal. Bing, instantly, would go my
prestige. I know girls. Grovel, and the best of them get uppish." He
mused. "The only way to work the thing would be by tipping her off in
some indirect way that I am prepared to open negotiations. Should I sigh
a bit when we meet, do you think?"
"She would think you were puffing."
I lit another cigarette and gave my mind to the matter. And first crack
out of the box, as is so often the way with the Woosters, I got an idea.
I remembered the counsel I had given Gussie in the matter of the sausages
"I've got it, Tuppy. There is one infallible method of indicating to a
girl that you love her, and it works just as well when you've had a row
and want to make it up. Don't eat any dinner tonight. You can see how
impressive that would be. She knows how devoted you are to food."
He started violently.
"I am not devoted to food!"
"I am not devoted to food at all."
"Quite. All I meant----"
"This rot about me being devoted to food," said Tuppy warmly, "has got to
stop. I am young and healthy and have a good appetite, but that's not the
same as being devoted to food. I admire Anatole as a master of his craft,
and am always willing to consider anything he may put before me, but when
you say I am devoted to food----"
"Quite, quite. All I meant was that if she sees you push away your dinner
untasted, she will realize that your heart is aching, and will probably
be the first to suggest blowing the all clear."
Tuppy was frowning thoughtfully.
"Push my dinner away, eh?"
"Push away a dinner cooked by Anatole?"
"Push it away untasted?"
"Let us get this straight. Tonight, at dinner, when the butler offers me
a _ris de veau a la financiere_, or whatever it may be, hot from
Anatole's hands, you wish me to push it away untasted?"
He chewed his lip. One could sense the struggle going on within. And then
suddenly a sort of glow came into his face. The old martyrs probably used
to look like that.
"You'll do it?"
"Of course, it will be agony."
I pointed out the silver lining.
"Only for the moment. You could slip down tonight, after everyone is in
bed, and raid the larder."
"That's right. I could, couldn't I?"
"I expect there would be something cold there."
"There is something cold there," said Tuppy, with growing cheerfulness. "A
steak-and-kidney pie. We had it for lunch today. One of Anatole's ripest.
The thing I admire about that man," said Tuppy reverently, "the thing
that I admire so enormously about Anatole is that, though a Frenchman, he
does not, like so many of these _chefs_, confine himself exclusively to
French dishes, but is always willing and ready to weigh in with some good
old simple English fare such as this steak-and-kidney pie to which I have
alluded. A masterly pie, Bertie, and it wasn't more than half finished.
It will do me nicely."
"And at dinner you will push, as arranged?"
"Absolutely as arranged."
"It's an excellent idea. One of Jeeves's best. You can tell him from me,
when you see him, that I'm much obliged."
The cigarette fell from my fingers. It was as though somebody had slapped
Bertram Wooster across the face with a wet dish-rag.
"You aren't suggesting that you think this scheme I have been sketching
out is Jeeves's?"
"Of course it is. It's no good trying to kid me, Bertie. You wouldn't
have thought of a wheeze like that in a million years."
There was a pause. I drew myself up to my full height; then, seeing that
he wasn't looking at me, lowered myself again.
"Come, Glossop," I said coldly, "we had better be going. It is time we
were dressing for dinner."
Tuppy's fatheaded words were still rankling in my bosom as I went up to
my room. They continued rankling as I shed the form-fitting, and had not
ceased to rankle when, clad in the old dressing-gown, I made my way along
the corridor to the _salle de bain_.
It is not too much to say that I was piqued to the tonsils.
I mean to say, one does not court praise. The adulation of the multitude
means very little to one. But, all the same, when one has taken the
trouble to whack out a highly juicy scheme to benefit an in-the-soup
friend in his hour of travail, it's pretty foul to find him giving the
credit to one's personal attendant, particularly if that personal
attendant is a man who goes about the place not packing mess-jackets.
But after I had been splashing about in the porcelain for a bit,
composure began to return. I have always found that in moments of
heart-bowed-downness there is nothing that calms the bruised spirit like
a good go at the soap and water. I don't say I actually sang in the tub,
but there were times when it was a mere spin of the coin whether I would
do so or not.
The spiritual anguish induced by that tactless speech had become
The discovery of a toy duck in the soap dish, presumably the property of
some former juvenile visitor, contributed not a little to this new and
happier frame of mind. What with one thing and another, I hadn't played
with toy ducks in my bath for years, and I found the novel experience
most invigorating. For the benefit of those interested, I may mention
that if you shove the thing under the surface with the sponge and then
let it go, it shoots out of the water in a manner calculated to divert
the most careworn. Ten minutes of this and I was enabled to return to the
bedchamber much more the old merry Bertram.
Jeeves was there, laying out the dinner disguise. He greeted the young
master with his customary suavity.
"Good evening, sir."
I responded in the same affable key.
"Good evening, Jeeves."
"I trust you had a pleasant drive, sir."
"Very pleasant, thank you, Jeeves. Hand me a sock or two, will you?"
He did so, and I commenced to don,
"Well, Jeeves," I said, reaching for the underlinen, "here we are again
at Brinkley Court in the county of Worcestershire."
"A nice mess things seem to have gone and got themselves into in this
"The rift between Tuppy Glossop and my cousin Angela would appear to be
"Yes, sir. Opinion in the servants' hall is inclined to take a grave view
of the situation."
"And the thought that springs to your mind, no doubt, is that I shall
have my work cut out to fix things up?"
"You are wrong, Jeeves. I have the thing well in hand."
"You surprise me, sir."
'I thought I should. Yes, Jeeves, I pondered on the matter most of the
way down here, and with the happiest results. I have just been in
conference with Mr. Glossop, and everything is taped out."
"Indeed, sir? Might I inquire----"
"You know my methods, Jeeves. Apply them. Have you," I asked, slipping
into the shirt and starting to adjust the cravat, "been gnawing on the
thing at all?"
"Oh, yes, sir. I have always been much attached to Miss Angela, and I
felt that it would afford me great pleasure were I to be able to be of
service to her."
"A laudable sentiment. But I suppose you drew blank?"
"No, sir. I was rewarded with an idea."
"What was it?"
"It occurred to me that a reconciliation might be effected between Mr.
Glossop and Miss Angela by appealing to that instinct which prompts
gentlemen in time of peril to hasten to the rescue of----"
I had to let go of the cravat in order to raise a hand. I was shocked.
"Don't tell me you were contemplating descending to that old
he-saved-her-from-drowning gag? I am surprised, Jeeves. Surprised and
pained. When I was discussing the matter with Aunt Dahlia on my arrival,
she said in a sniffy sort of way that she supposed I was going to shove
my Cousin Angela into the lake and push Tuppy in to haul her out, and I
let her see pretty clearly that I considered the suggestion an insult to
my intelligence. And now, if your words have the meaning I read into them,
you are mooting precisely the same drivelling scheme. Really, Jeeves!"
"No, sir. Not that. But the thought did cross my mind, as I walked in the
grounds and passed the building where the fire-bell hangs, that a sudden
alarm of fire in the night might result in Mr. Glossop endeavouring to
assist Miss Angela to safety."
"No good. Not a bit like it."
"I fancy, sir----"
"No, Jeeves. No more. Enough has been said. Let us drop the subj."
I finished tying the tie in silence. My emotions were too deep for
speech. I knew, of course, that this man had for the time being lost his
grip, but I had never suspected that he had gone absolutely to pieces
like this. Remembering some of the swift ones he had pulled in the past,
I shrank with horror from the spectacle of his present ineptitude. Or is
it ineptness? I mean this frightful disposition of his to stick straws in
his hair and talk like a perfect ass. It was the old, old story, I
supposed. A man's brain whizzes along for years exceeding the speed
limit, and something suddenly goes wrong with the steering-gear and it
skids and comes a smeller in the ditch.
"A bit elaborate," I said, trying to put the thing in as kindly a light
as possible. "Your old failing. You can see that it's a bit elaborate?"
"Possibly the plan I suggested might be considered open to that
criticism, sir, but _faute de mieux_----"
"I don't get you, Jeeves."
"A French expression, sir, signifying 'for want of anything better'."
A moment before, I had been feeling for this wreck of a once fine thinker
nothing but a gentle pity. These words jarred the Wooster pride, inducing
"I understand perfectly well what _faute de mieux_ means, Jeeves. I did
not recently spend two months among our Gallic neighbours for nothing.
Besides, I remember that one from school. What caused my bewilderment was
that you should be employing the expression, well knowing that there is
no bally _faute de mieux_ about it at all. Where do you get that
_faute-de-mieux_ stuff? Didn't I tell you I had everything taped out?"
"Yes, sir, but----"
"What do you mean--but?"
"Push on, Jeeves. I am ready, even anxious, to hear your views."
"Well, sir, if I may take the liberty of reminding you of it, your plans
in the past have not always been uniformly successful."
There was a silence--rather a throbbing one--during which I put on my
waistcoat in a marked manner. Not till I had got the buckle at the back
satisfactorily adjusted did I speak.
"It is true, Jeeves," I said formally, "that once or twice in the past I
may have missed the bus. This, however, I attribute purely to bad luck."
"On the present occasion I shall not fail, and I'll tell you why I shall
not fail. Because my scheme is rooted in human nature."
"It is simple. Not elaborate. And, furthermore, based on the psychology
of the individual."
"Jeeves," I said, "don't keep saying 'Indeed, sir?' No doubt nothing is
further from your mind than to convey such a suggestion, but you have a
way of stressing the 'in' and then coming down with a thud on the 'deed'
which makes it virtually tantamount to 'Oh, yeah?' Correct this, Jeeves."
"Very good, sir."
"I tell you I have everything nicely lined up. Would you care to hear
what steps I have taken?"
"Very much, sir."
"Then listen. Tonight at dinner I have recommended Tuppy to lay off the
"Tut, Jeeves, surely you can follow the idea, even though it is one that
would never have occurred to yourself. Have you forgotten that telegram I
sent to Gussie Fink-Nottle, steering him away from the sausages and ham?
This is the same thing. Pushing the food away untasted is a universally
recognized sign of love. It cannot fail to bring home the gravy. You must
"I don't want to seem always to be criticizing your methods of voice
production, Jeeves," I said, "but I must inform you that that 'Well, sir'
of yours is in many respects fully as unpleasant as your 'Indeed, sir?'
Like the latter, it seems to be tinged with a definite scepticism. It
suggests a lack of faith in my vision. The impression I retain after
hearing you shoot it at me a couple of times is that you consider me to
be talking through the back of my neck, and that only a feudal sense of
what is fitting restrains you from substituting for it the words 'Says
"Oh, no, sir."
"Well, that's what it sounds like. Why don't you think this scheme will
"I fear Miss Angela will merely attribute Mr. Glossop's abstinence to
I hadn't thought of that, and I must confess it shook me for a moment.
Then I recovered myself. I saw what was at the bottom of all this.
Mortified by the consciousness of his own ineptness--or ineptitude--the
fellow was simply trying to hamper and obstruct. I decided to knock the
stuffing out of him without further preamble.
"Oh?" I said. "You do, do you? Well, be that as it may, it doesn't alter
the fact that you've put out the wrong coat. Be so good, Jeeves," I said,
indicating with a gesture the gent's ordinary dinner jacket or _smoking_,
as we call it on the Cote d'Azur, which was suspended from the hanger on
the knob of the wardrobe, "as to shove that bally black thing in the
cupboard and bring out my white mess-jacket with the brass buttons."
He looked at me in a meaning manner. And when I say a meaning manner, I
mean there was a respectful but at the same time uppish glint in his eye
and a sort of muscular spasm flickered across his face which wasn't quite
a quiet smile and yet wasn't quite not a quiet smile. Also the soft
"I regret to say, sir, that I inadvertently omitted to pack the garment
to which you refer."
The vision of that parcel in the hall seemed to rise before my eyes, and
I exchanged a merry wink with it. I may even have hummed a bar or two.
I'm not quite sure.
"I know you did, Jeeves," I said, laughing down from lazy eyelids and
nicking a speck of dust from the irreproachable Mechlin lace at my
wrists. "But I didn't. You will find it on a chair in the hall in a
The information that his low manoeuvres had been rendered null and void
and that the thing was on the strength after all, must have been the
nastiest of jars, but there was no play of expression on his finely
chiselled to indicate it. There very seldom is on Jeeves's f-c. In
moments of discomfort, as I had told Tuppy, he wears a mask, preserving
throughout the quiet stolidity of a stuffed moose.
"You might just slide down and fetch it, will you?"
"Very good, sir."
"Right ho, Jeeves."
And presently I was sauntering towards the drawing-room with me good old
j. nestling snugly abaft the shoulder blades.
And Dahlia was in the drawing-room. She glanced up at my entrance.
"Hullo, eyesore," she said. "What do you think you're made up as?"
I did not get the purport.
"The jacket, you mean?" I queried, groping.
"I do. You look like one of the chorus of male guests at Abernethy Towers
in Act 2 of a touring musical comedy."
"You do not admire this jacket?"
I do not."
"You did at Cannes."
"Well, this isn't Cannes."
"But, dash it----"
"Oh, never mind. Let it go. If you want to give my butler a laugh, what
does it matter? What does anything matter now?"
There was a death-where-is-thy-sting-fullness about her manner which I
found distasteful. It isn't often that I score off Jeeves in the
devastating fashion just described, and when I do I like to see happy,
smiling faces about me.
"Tails up, Aunt Dahlia," I urged buoyantly.
"Tails up be dashed," was her sombre response. "I've just been talking to
"No, listening to him. I haven't had the nerve to tell him yet."
"Is he still upset about that income-tax money?"
"Upset is right. He says that Civilisation is in the melting-pot and that
all thinking men can read the writing on the wall."
"Old Testament, ass. Belshazzar's feast."
"Oh, that, yes. I've often wondered how that gag was worked. With
mirrors, I expect."
"I wish I could use mirrors to break it to Tom about this baccarat
I had a word of comfort to offer here. I had been turning the thing over
in my mind since our last meeting, and I thought I saw where she had got
twisted. Where she made her error, it seemed to me, was in feeling she
had got to tell Uncle Tom. To my way of thinking, the matter was one on
which it would be better to continue to exercise a quiet reserve.
"I don't see why you need mention that you lost that money at baccarat."
"What do you suggest, then? Letting _Milady's Boudoir_ join Civilisation
in the melting-pot. Because that is what it will infallibly do unless I
get a cheque by next week. The printers have been showing a nasty spirit
"You don't follow. Listen. It's an understood thing, I take it, that
Uncle Tom foots the _Boudoir_ bills. If the bally sheet has been turning
the corner for two years, he must have got used to forking out by this
time. Well, simply ask him for the money to pay the printers."
"I did. Just before I went to Cannes."
"Wouldn't he give it to you?"
"Certainly he gave it to me. He brassed up like an officer and a
gentleman. That was the money I lost at baccarat."
"Oh? I didn't know that."
"There isn't much you do know."
A nephew's love made me overlook the slur.
"Tut!" I said.
"What did you say?"
"I said 'Tut!'"
"Say it once again, and I'll biff you where you stand. I've enough to
endure without being tutted at."
"Any tutting that's required, I'll attend to myself. And the same applies
to clicking the tongue, if you were thinking of doing that."
"Far from it."
I stood awhile in thought. I was concerned to the core. My heart, if you
remember, had already bled once for Aunt Dahlia this evening. It now bled
again. I knew how deeply attached she was to this paper of hers. Seeing
it go down the drain would be for her like watching a loved child sink
for the third time in some pond or mere.
And there was no question that, unless carefully prepared for the touch,
Uncle Tom would see a hundred _Milady's Boudoirs_ go phut rather than
take the rap.
Then I saw how the thing could be handled. This aunt, I perceived, must
fall into line with my other clients. Tuppy Glossop was knocking off
dinner to melt Angela. Gussie Fink-Nottle was knocking off dinner to
impress the Bassett. Aunt Dahlia must knock off dinner to soften Uncle
Tom. For the beauty of this scheme of mine was that there was no limit to
the number of entrants. Come one, come all, the more the merrier, and
satisfaction guaranteed in every case.
"I've got it," I said. "There is only one course to pursue. Eat less
She looked at me in a pleading sort of way. I wouldn't swear that her
eyes were wet with unshed tears, but I rather think they were, certainly
she clasped her hands in piteous appeal.
"Must you drivel, Bertie? Won't you stop it just this once? Just for
tonight, to please Aunt Dahlia?"
"I'm not drivelling."
"I dare say that to a man of your high standards it doesn't come under
the head of drivel, but----"
I saw what had happened. I hadn't made myself quite clear.
"It's all right," I said. "Have no misgivings. This is the real Tabasco.
When I said 'Eat less meat', what I meant was that you must refuse your
oats at dinner tonight. Just sit there, looking blistered, and wave away
each course as it comes with a weary gesture of resignation. You see what
will happen. Uncle Tom will notice your loss of appetite, and I am
prepared to bet that at the conclusion of the meal he will come to you
and say 'Dahlia, darling'--I take it he calls you 'Dahlia'--'Dahlia
darling,' he will say, 'I noticed at dinner tonight that you were a bit
off your feed. Is anything the matter, Dahlia, darling?' 'Why, yes, Tom,
darling,' you will reply. 'It is kind of you to ask, darling. The fact
is, darling, I am terribly worried.' 'My darling,' he will say----"
Aunt Dahlia interrupted at this point to observe that these Traverses
seemed to be a pretty soppy couple of blighters, to judge by their
dialogue. She also wished to know when I was going to get to the point.
I gave her a look.
"'My darling,' he will say tenderly, 'is there anything I can do?' To
which your reply will be that there jolly well is--viz. reach for his
cheque-book and start writing."
I was watching her closely as I spoke, and was pleased to note respect
suddenly dawn in her eyes.
"But, Bertie, this is positively bright."
"I told you Jeeves wasn't the only fellow with brain."
"I believe it would work."
"It's bound to work. I've recommended it to Tuppy."
"In order to soften Angela."
"And to Gussie Fink-Nottle, who wants to make a hit with the Bassett."
"Well, well, well! What a busy little brain it is."
"Always working, Aunt Dahlia, always working."
"You're not the chump I took you for, Bertie."
"When did you ever take me for a chump?"
"Oh, some time last summer. I forget what gave me the idea. Yes, Bertie,
this scheme is bright. I suppose, as a matter of fact, Jeeves suggested
"Jeeves did not suggest it. I resent these implications. Jeeves had
nothing to do with it whatsoever."
"Well, all right, no need to get excited about it. Yes, I think it will
work. Tom's devoted to me."
"Who wouldn't be?"
"I'll do it."
And then the rest of the party trickled in, and we toddled down to
Conditions being as they were at Brinkley Court--I mean to say, the place
being loaded down above the Primsoll mark with aching hearts and standing
room only as regarded tortured souls--I hadn't expected the evening meal
to be particularly effervescent. Nor was it. Silent. Sombre. The whole
thing more than a bit like Christmas dinner on Devil's Island.
I was glad when it was over.
What with having, on top of her other troubles, to rein herself back from
the trough, Aunt Dahlia was a total loss as far as anything in the shape
of brilliant badinage was concerned. The fact that he was fifty quid in
the red and expecting Civilisation to take a toss at any moment had
caused Uncle Tom, who always looked a bit like a pterodactyl with a
secret sorrow, to take on a deeper melancholy. The Bassett was a silent
bread crumbler. Angela might have been hewn from the living rock. Tuppy
had the air of a condemned murderer refusing to make the usual hearty
breakfast before tooling off to the execution shed.
And as for Gussie Fink-Nottle, many an experienced undertaker would have
been deceived by his appearance and started embalming him on sight.
This was the first glimpse I had had of Gussie since we parted at my
flat, and I must say his demeanour disappointed me. I had been expecting
something a great deal more sparkling.
At my flat, on the occasion alluded to, he had, if you recall,
practically given me a signed guarantee that all he needed to touch him
off was a rural setting. Yet in this aspect now I could detect no
indication whatsoever that he was about to round into mid-season form. He
still looked like a cat in an adage, and it did not take me long to
realise that my very first act on escaping from this morgue must be to
draw him aside and give him a pep talk.
If ever a chap wanted the clarion note, it looked as if it was this
In the general exodus of mourners, however, I lost sight of him, and,
owing to the fact that Aunt Dahlia roped me in for a game of backgammon,
it was not immediately that I was able to institute a search. But after
we had been playing for a while, the butler came in and asked her if she
would speak to Anatole, so I managed to get away. And some ten minutes
later, having failed to find scent in the house, I started to throw out
the drag-net through the grounds, and flushed him in the rose garden.
He was smelling a rose at the moment in a limp sort of way, but removed
the beak as I approached.
"Well, Gussie," I said.
I had beamed genially upon him as I spoke, such being my customary policy
on meeting an old pal; but instead of beaming back genially, he gave me a
most unpleasant look. His attitude perplexed me. It was as if he were not
glad to see Bertram. For a moment he stood letting this unpleasant look
play upon me, as it were, and then he spoke.
"You and your 'Well, Gussie'!"
He said this between clenched teeth, always an unmatey thing to do, and I
found myself more fogged than ever.
"How do you mean--me and my 'Well, Gussie'?"
"I like your nerve, coming bounding about the place, saying 'Well,
Gussie.' That's about all the 'Well, Gussie' I shall require from you,
Wooster. And it's no good looking like that. You know what I mean. That
damned prize-giving! It was a dastardly act to crawl out as you did and
shove it off on to me. I will not mince my words. It was the act of a
hound and a stinker."
Now, though, as I have shown, I had devoted most of the time on the
journey down to meditating upon the case of Angela and Tuppy, I had not
neglected to give a thought or two to what I was going to say when I
encountered Gussie. I had foreseen that there might be some little
temporary unpleasantness when we met, and when a difficult interview is
in the offing Bertram Wooster likes to have his story ready.
So now I was able to reply with a manly, disarming frankness. The sudden
introduction of the topic had given me a bit of a jolt, it is true, for
in the stress of recent happenings I had rather let that prize-giving
business slide to the back of my mind; but I had speedily recovered and,
as I say, was able to reply with a manly d.f.
"But, my dear chap," I said, "I took it for granted that you would
understand that that was all part of my schemes."
He said something about my schemes which I did not catch.
"Absolutely. 'Crawling out' is entirely the wrong way to put it. You
don't suppose I didn't want to distribute those prizes, do you? Left to
myself, there is nothing I would find a greater treat. But I saw that the
square, generous thing to do was to step aside and let you take it on, so
I did so. I felt that your need was greater than mine. You don't mean to
say you aren't looking forward to it?"
He uttered a coarse expression which I wouldn't have thought he would
have known. It just shows that you can bury yourself in the country and
still somehow acquire a vocabulary. No doubt one picks up things from the
neighbours--the vicar, the local doctor, the man who brings the milk, and
"But, dash it," I said, "can't you see what this is going to do for you?
It will send your stock up with a jump. There you will be, up on that
platform, a romantic, impressive figure, the star of the whole
proceedings, the what-d'you-call-it of all eyes. Madeline Bassett will be
all over you. She will see you in a totally new light."
"She will, will she?"
"Certainly she will. Augustus Fink-Nottle, the newts' friend, she knows.
She is acquainted with Augustus Fink-Nottle, the dogs' chiropodist. But
Augustus Fink-Nottle, the orator--that'll knock her sideways, or I know
nothing of the female heart. Girls go potty over a public man. If ever
anyone did anyone else a kindness, it was I when I gave this
extraordinary attractive assignment to you."
He seemed impressed by my eloquence. Couldn't have helped himself, of
course. The fire faded from behind his horn-rimmed spectacles, and in its
place appeared the old fish-like goggle.
'"Myes," he said meditatively. "Have you ever made a speech, Bertie?"
"Dozens of times. It's pie. Nothing to it. Why, I once addressed a girls'
"You weren't nervous?"
"Not a bit."
"How did you go?"
"They hung on my lips. I held them in the hollow of my hand."
"They didn't throw eggs, or anything?"
"Not a thing."
He expelled a deep breath, and for a space stood staring in silence at a
"Well," he said, at length, "it may be all right. Possibly I am letting
the thing prey on my mind too much. I may be wrong in supposing it the
fate that is worse than death. But I'll tell you this much: the prospect
of that prize-giving on the thirty-first of this month has been turning
my existence into a nightmare. I haven't been able to sleep or think or
eat ... By the way, that reminds me. You never explained that cipher
telegram about the sausages and ham."
"It wasn't a cipher telegram. I wanted you to go light on the food, so
that she would realize you were in love."
He laughed hollowly.
"I see. Well, I've been doing that, all right."
"Yes, I was noticing at dinner. Splendid."
"I don't see what's splendid about it. It's not going to get me anywhere.
I shall never be able to ask her to marry me. I couldn't find nerve to do
that if I lived on wafer biscuits for the rest of my life."
"But, dash it, Gussie. In these romantic surroundings. I should have
thought the whispering trees alone----"
"I don't care what you would have thought. I can't do it."
"I can't. She seems so aloof, so remote."
"Yes, she does. Especially when you see her sideways. Have you seen her
sideways, Bertie? That cold, pure profile. It just takes all the heart
out of one."
"I tell you it does. I catch sight of it, and the words freeze on my
He spoke with a sort of dull despair, and so manifest was his lack of
ginger and the spirit that wins to success that for an instant, I
confess, I felt a bit stymied. It seemed hopeless to go on trying to
steam up such a human jellyfish. Then I saw the way. With that
extraordinary quickness of mine, I realized exactly what must be done if
this Fink-Nottle was to be enabled to push his nose past the judges' box.
"She must be softened up," I said.
"Softened up. Sweetened. Worked on. Preliminary spadework must be put in.
Here, Gussie, is the procedure I propose to adopt: I shall now return to
the house and lug this Bassett out for a stroll. I shall talk to her of
hearts that yearn, intimating that there is one actually on the premises.
I shall pitch it strong, sparing no effort. You, meanwhile, will lurk on
the outskirts, and in about a quarter of an hour you will come along and
carry on from there. By that time, her emotions having been stirred, you
ought to be able to do the rest on your head. It will be like leaping on
to a moving bus."
I remember when I was a kid at school having to learn a poem of sorts
about a fellow named Pig-something--a sculptor he would have been, no
doubt--who made a statue of a girl, and what should happen one morning
but that the bally thing suddenly came to life. A pretty nasty shock for
the chap, of course, but the point I'm working round to is that there
were a couple of lines that went, if I remember correctly:
_She starts. She moves. She seems to feel
The stir of life along her keel._
And what I'm driving at is that you couldn't get a better description of
what happened to Gussie as I spoke these heartening words. His brow
cleared, his eyes brightened, he lost that fishy look, and he gazed at
the slug, which was still on the long, long trail with something
approaching bonhomie. A marked improvement.
"I see what you mean. You will sort of pave the way, as it were."
"That's right. Spadework."
"It's a terrific idea, Bertie. It will make all the difference."
"Quite. But don't forget that after that it will be up to you. You will
have to haul up your slacks and give her the old oil, or my efforts will
have been in vain."
Something of his former Gawd-help-us-ness seemed to return to him. He
gasped a bit.
"That's true. What the dickens shall I say?"
I restrained my impatience with an effort. The man had been at school
"Dash it, there are hundreds of things you can say. Talk about the
"Certainly. Half the married men you meet began by talking about the
"But what can I say about the sunset?"
"Well, Jeeves got off a good one the other day. I met him airing the dog
in the park one evening, and he said, 'Now fades the glimmering landscape
on the sight, sir, and all the air a solemn stillness holds.' You might
"What sort of landscape?"
"Glimmering. _G_ for 'gastritis,' _l_ for 'lizard'----"
"Oh, glimmering? Yes, that's not bad. Glimmering landscape ... solemn
stillness.... Yes, I call that pretty good."
"You could then say that you have often thought that the stars are God's
"But I haven't."
"I dare say not. But she has. Hand her that one, and I don't see how she
can help feeling that you're a twin soul."
"God's daisy chain?"
"God's daisy chain. And then you go on about how twilight always makes
you sad. I know you're going to say it doesn't, but on this occasion it
has jolly well got to."
"That's just what she will ask, and you will then have got her going.
Because you will reply that it is because yours is such a lonely life. It
wouldn't be a bad idea to give her a brief description of a typical home
evening at your Lincolnshire residence, showing how you pace the meadows
with a heavy tread."
"I generally sit indoors and listen to the wireless."
"No, you don't. You pace the meadows with a heavy tread, wishing that you
had someone to love you. And then you speak of the day when she came into
"Like a fairy princess."
"Absolutely," I said with approval. I hadn't expected such a hot one from
such a quarter. "Like a fairy princess. Nice work, Gussie."
"Well, after that it's easy. You say you have something you want to say
to her, and then you snap into it. I don't see how it can fail. If I were
you, I should do it in this rose garden. It is well established that
there is no sounder move than to steer the adored object into rose
gardens in the gloaming. And you had better have a couple of quick ones
"Drinks, do you mean? But I don't drink."
"I've never touched a drop in my life."
This made me a bit dubious, I must confess. On these occasions it is
generally conceded that a moderate skinful is of the essence.
However, if the facts were as he had stated, I supposed there was nothing
to be done about it.
"Well, you'll have to make out as best you can on ginger pop."
"I always drink orange juice."
"Orange juice, then. Tell me, Gussie, to settle a bet, do you really like
"Then there is no more to be said. Now, let's just have a run through, to
see that you've got the lay-out straight. Start off with the glimmering
"Stars God's daisy chain."
"Twilight makes you feel sad."
"Because mine lonely life."
"Talk about the day I met her."
"Add fairy-princess gag. Say there's something you want to say to her.
Heave a couple of sighs. Grab her hand. And give her the works. Right."
And confident that he had grasped the scenario and that everything might
now be expected to proceed through the proper channels, I picked up the
feet and hastened back to the house.
It was not until I had reached the drawing-room and was enabled to take a
square look at the Bassett that I found the debonair gaiety with which I
had embarked on this affair beginning to wane a trifle. Beholding her at
close range like this, I suddenly became cognisant of what I was in for.
The thought of strolling with this rummy specimen undeniably gave me a
most unpleasant sinking feeling. I could not but remember how often, when
in her company at Cannes, I had gazed dumbly at her, wishing that some
kindly motorist in a racing car would ease the situation by coming along
and ramming her amidships. As I have already made abundantly clear, this
girl was not one of my most congenial buddies.
However, a Wooster's word is his bond. Woosters may quail, but they do
not edge out. Only the keenest ear could have detected the tremor in the
voice as I asked her if she would care to come out for half an hour.
"Lovely evening," I said.
"Yes, lovely, isn't it?"
"Lovely. Reminds me of Cannes."
"How lovely the evenings were there!"
"Lovely," I said.
"Lovely," said the Bassett.
"Lovely," I agreed.
That completed the weather and news bulletin for the French Riviera.
Another minute, and we were out in the great open spaces, she cooing a
bit about the scenery, and self replying, "Oh, rather, quite," and
wondering how best to approach the matter in hand.
How different it all would have been, I could not but reflect, if this
girl had been the sort of girl one chirrups cheerily to over the
telephone and takes for spins in the old two-seater. In that case, I
would simply have said, "Listen," and she would have said, "What?" and I
would have said, "You know Gussie Fink-Nottle," and she would have said,
"Yes," and I would have said, "He loves you," and she would have said
either, "What, that mutt? Well, thank heaven for one good laugh today,"
or else, in more passionate vein, "Hot dog! Tell me more."
I mean to say, in either event the whole thing over and done with in
under a minute.
But with the Bassett something less snappy and a good deal more glutinous
was obviously indicated. What with all this daylight-saving stuff, we had
hit the great open spaces at a moment when twilight had not yet begun to
cheese it in favour of the shades of night. There was a fag-end of sunset
still functioning. Stars were beginning to peep out, bats were fooling
round, the garden was full of the aroma of those niffy white flowers
which only start to put in their heavy work at the end of the day--in
short, the glimmering landscape was fading on the sight and all the air
held a solemn stillness, and it was plain that this was having the worst
effect on her. Her eyes were enlarged, and her whole map a good deal too
suggestive of the soul's awakening for comfort.
Her aspect was that of a girl who was expecting something fairly fruity
In these circs., conversation inevitably flagged a bit. I am never at my
best when the situation seems to call for a certain soupiness, and I've
heard other members of the Drones say the same thing about themselves. I
remember Pongo Twistleton telling me that he was out in a gondola with a
girl by moonlight once, and the only time he spoke was to tell her that
old story about the chap who was so good at swimming that they made him a
traffic cop in Venice.
Fell rather flat, he assured me, and it wasn't much later when the girl
said she thought it was getting a little chilly and how about pushing
back to the hotel.
So now, as I say, the talk rather hung fire. It had been all very well
for me to promise Gussie that I would cut loose to this girl about aching
hearts, but you want a cue for that sort of thing. And when, toddling
along, we reached the edge of the lake and she finally spoke, conceive my
chagrin when I discovered that what she was talking about was stars.
Not a bit of good to me.
"Oh, look," she said. She was a confirmed Oh-looker. I had noticed this
at Cannes, where she had drawn my attention in this manner on various
occasions to such diverse objects as a French actress, a Provencal
filling station, the sunset over the Estorels, Michael Arlen, a man
selling coloured spectacles, the deep velvet blue of the Mediterranean,
and the late mayor of New York in a striped one-piece bathing suit. "Oh,
look at that sweet little star up there all by itself."
I saw the one she meant, a little chap operating in a detached sort of
way above a spinney.
"Yes," I said.
"I wonder if it feels lonely."
"Oh, I shouldn't think so."
"A fairy must have been crying."
"Don't you remember? 'Every time a fairy sheds a tear, a wee bit star is
born in the Milky Way.' Have you ever thought that, Mr. Wooster?"
I never had. Most improbable, I considered, and it didn't seem to me to
check up with her statement that the stars were God's daisy chain. I
mean, you can't have it both ways.
However, I was in no mood to dissect and criticize. I saw that I had been
wrong in supposing that the stars were not germane to the issue. Quite a
decent cue they had provided, and I leaped on it Promptly: "Talking of
But she was now on the subject of rabbits, several of which were messing
about in the park to our right.
"Oh, look. The little bunnies!"
"Talking of shedding tears----"
"Don't you love this time of the evening, Mr. Wooster, when the sun has
gone to bed and all the bunnies come out to have their little suppers?
When I was a child, I used to think that rabbits were gnomes, and that if
I held my breath and stayed quite still, I should see the fairy queen."
Indicating with a reserved gesture that this was just the sort of loony
thing I should have expected her to think as a child, I returned to the
"Talking of shedding tears," I said firmly, "it may interest you to know
that there is an aching heart in Brinkley Court."
This held her. She cheesed the rabbit theme. Her face, which had been
aglow with what I supposed was a pretty animation, clouded. She unshipped
a sigh that sounded like the wind going out of a rubber duck.
"Ah, yes. Life is very sad, isn't it?"
"It is for some people. This aching heart, for instance."
"Those wistful eyes of hers! Drenched irises. And they used to dance like
elves of delight. And all through a foolish misunderstanding about a
shark. What a tragedy misunderstandings are. That pretty romance broken
and over just because Mr. Glossop would insist that it was a flatfish."
I saw that she had got the wires crossed.
"I'm not talking about Angela."
"But her heart is aching."
"I know it's aching. But so is somebody else's."
She looked at me, perplexed.
"Somebody else? Mr. Glossop's, you mean?"
"No, I don't."
The exquisite code of politeness of the Woosters prevented me clipping
her one on the ear-hole, but I would have given a shilling to be able to
do it. There seemed to me something deliberately fat-headed in the way
she persisted in missing the gist.
"No, not Aunt Dahlia's, either."
"I'm sure she is dreadfully upset."
"Quite. But this heart I'm talking about isn't aching because of Tuppy's
row with Angela. It's aching for a different reason altogether. I mean to
say--dash it, you know why hearts ache!"
She seemed to shimmy a bit. Her voice, when she spoke, was whispery: "You
"Absolutely. Right on the bull's-eye. For love."
"Oh, Mr. Wooster!"
"I take it you believe in love at first sight?"
"I do, indeed."
"Well, that's what happened to this aching heart. It fell in love at
first sight, and ever since it's been eating itself out, as I believe the
There was a silence. She had turned away and was watching a duck out on
the lake. It was tucking into weeds, a thing I've never been able to
understand anyone wanting to do. Though I suppose, if you face it
squarely, they're no worse than spinach. She stood drinking it in for a
bit, and then it suddenly stood on its head and disappeared, and this
seemed to break the spell.
"Oh, Mr. Wooster!" she said again, and from the tone of her voice, I
could see that I had got her going.
"For you, I mean to say," I proceeded, starting to put in the fancy
touches. I dare say you have noticed on these occasions that the
difficulty is to plant the main idea, to get the general outline of the
thing well fixed. The rest is mere detail work. I don't say I became glib
at this juncture, but I certainly became a dashed glibber than I had
"It's having the dickens of a time. Can't eat, can't sleep--all for love
of you. And what makes it all so particularly rotten is that it--this
aching heart--can't bring itself up to the scratch and tell you the
position of affairs, because your profile has gone and given it cold
feet. Just as it is about to speak, it catches sight of you sideways, and
words fail it. Silly, of course, but there it is."
I heard her give a gulp, and I saw that her eyes had become moistish.
Drenched irises, if you care to put it that way.
"Lend you a handkerchief?"
"No, thank you. I'm quite all right."
It was more than I could say for myself. My efforts had left me weak. I
don't know if you suffer in the same way, but with me the act of talking
anything in the nature of real mashed potatoes always induces a sort of
prickly sensation and a hideous feeling of shame, together with a marked
starting of the pores.
I remember at my Aunt Agatha's place in Hertfordshire once being put on
the spot and forced to enact the role of King Edward III saying goodbye
to that girl of his, Fair Rosamund, at some sort of pageant in aid of the
Distressed Daughters of the Clergy. It involved some rather warmish
medieval dialogue, I recall, racy of the days when they called a spade a
spade, and by the time the whistle blew, I'll bet no Daughter of the
Clergy was half as distressed as I was. Not a dry stitch.
My reaction now was very similar. It was a highly liquid Bertram who,
hearing his _vis-a-vis_ give a couple of hiccups and start to speak bent
an attentive ear.
"Please don't say any more, Mr. Wooster."
Well, I wasn't going to, of course.
I was glad to hear this.
"Yes, I understand. I won't be so silly as to pretend not to know what
you mean. I suspected this at Cannes, when you used to stand and stare at
me without speaking a word, but with whole volumes in your eyes."
If Angela's shark had bitten me in the leg, I couldn't have leaped more
convulsively. So tensely had I been concentrating on Gussie's interests
that it hadn't so much as crossed my mind that another and an unfortunate
construction could be placed on those words of mine. The persp., already
bedewing my brow, became a regular Niagara.
My whole fate hung upon a woman's word. I mean to say, I couldn't back
out. If a girl thinks a man is proposing to her, and on that
understanding books him up, he can't explain to her that she has got hold
of entirely the wrong end of the stick and that he hadn't the smallest
intention of suggesting anything of the kind. He must simply let it ride.
And the thought of being engaged to a girl who talked openly about
fairies being born because stars blew their noses, or whatever it was,
frankly appalled me.
She was carrying on with her remarks, and as I listened I clenched my
fists till I shouldn't wonder if the knuckles didn't stand out white
under the strain. It seemed as if she would never get to the nub.
"Yes, all through those days at Cannes I could see what you were trying
to say. A girl always knows. And then you followed me down here, and
there was that same dumb, yearning look in your eyes when we met this
evening. And then you were so insistent that I should come out and walk
with you in the twilight. And now you stammer out those halting words.
No, this does not come as a surprise. But I am sorry----"
The word was like one of Jeeves's pick-me-ups. Just as if a glassful of
meat sauce, red pepper, and the yolk of an egg--though, as I say, I am
convinced that these are not the sole ingredients--had been shot into me,
I expanded like some lovely flower blossoming in the sunshine. It was all
right, after all. My guardian angel had not been asleep at the switch.
"--but I am afraid it is impossible."
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