JEEVES STORIES

P.G.WODEHOUSE

Editor’s Preface

P. G. Wodehouse was an incredibly prolific writer who sold short stories to various publications around the world for the bulk of his career. His stories were also often anthologized later in larger collections like Carry on Jeeves or The Inimitable Jeeves.

As a result of this practice, variations⁠—sometimes extreme⁠—exist between the published versions of the stories. They were adapted for differences between British and American audiences, titles were changed and, in the case of the anthologies, whole paragraphs were added or deleted to create a more consistent internal flow. Wodehouse was also known to rewrite stories with entirely new characters in order to resell the content. In this anthology we have attempted to include the most recently published versions of the texts that are in the public domain⁠—subsequent versions may indeed have further revisions.

Most of the stories are, despite a paragraph or two, relatively unchanged from their original form. Stories that were split into chapters for publication in The Inimitable Jeeves have been recombined and published under their original titles, with a notable exception being “Aunt Agatha Makes a Bloomer.” It was originally published in April 1922 in The Strand Magazine as “Aunt Agatha Takes the Count.” Then a few months later, in October 1922, it was republished in Cosmopolitan as “Aunt Agatha Makes a Bloomer,” having been extensively rewritten and certain key plot elements changed. That version was split to make up two chapters in the 1922 The Inimitable Jeeves: “Aunt Agatha Speaks Her Mind” and “Pearls Mean Tears.” This revised version is reproduced here, recombined and titled “Aunt Agatha Makes a Bloomer.”

As many of the later stories are drawn from The Inimitable Jeeves, they are presented in the order they appeared in that volume. The rest are ordered by the date they first appeared in magazine form.

Jeeves Stories

Extricating Young Gussie

She sprang it on me before breakfast. There in seven words you have a complete character sketch of my Aunt Agatha. I could go on indefinitely about brutality and lack of consideration. I merely say that she routed me out of bed to listen to her painful story somewhere in the small hours. It can’t have been half past eleven when Jeeves, my man, woke me out of the dreamless and broke the news:

Mrs. Gregson to see you, sir.”

I thought she must be walking in her sleep, but I crawled out of bed and got into a dressing-gown. I knew Aunt Agatha well enough to know that, if she had come to see me, she was going to see me. That’s the sort of woman she is.

She was sitting bolt upright in a chair, staring into space. When I came in she looked at me in that darn critical way that always makes me feel as if I had gelatine where my spine ought to be. Aunt Agatha is one of those strong-minded women. I should think Queen Elizabeth must have been something like her. She bosses her husband, Spencer Gregson, a battered little chappie on the Stock Exchange. She bosses my cousin, Gussie Mannering-Phipps. She bosses her sister-in-law, Gussie’s mother. And, worst of all, she bosses me. She has an eye like a man-eating fish, and she has got moral suasion down to a fine point.

I dare say there are fellows in the world⁠—men of blood and iron, don’t you know, and all that sort of thing⁠—whom she couldn’t intimidate; but if you’re a chappie like me, fond of a quiet life, you simply curl into a ball when you see her coming, and hope for the best. My experience is that when Aunt Agatha wants you to do a thing you do it, or else you find yourself wondering why those fellows in the olden days made such a fuss when they had trouble with the Spanish Inquisition.

“Halloa, Aunt Agatha!” I said

“Bertie,” she said, “you look a sight. You look perfectly dissipated.”

I was feeling like a badly wrapped brown-paper parcel. I’m never at my best in the early morning. I said so.

“Early morning! I had breakfast three hours ago, and have been walking in the park ever since, trying to compose my thoughts.”

If I ever breakfasted at half past eight I should walk on the Embankment, trying to end it all in a watery grave.

“I am extremely worried, Bertie. That is why I have come to you.”

And then I saw she was going to start something, and I bleated weakly to Jeeves to bring me tea. But she had begun before I could get it.

“What are your immediate plans, Bertie?”

“Well, I rather thought of tottering out for a bite of lunch later on, and then possibly staggering round to the club, and after that, if I felt strong enough, I might trickle off to Walton Heath for a round of golf.”

“I am not interested in your totterings and tricklings. I mean, have you any important engagements in the next week or so?”

I scented danger.

“Rather,” I said. “Heaps! Millions! Booked solid!”

“What are they?”

“I⁠—er⁠—well, I don’t quite know.”

“I thought as much. You have no engagements. Very well, then, I want you to start immediately for America.”

“America!”

Do not lose sight of the fact that all this was taking place on an empty stomach, shortly after the rising of the lark.

“Yes, America. I suppose even you have heard of America?”

“But why America?”

“Because that is where your Cousin Gussie is. He is in New York, and I can’t get at him.”

“What’s Gussie been doing?”

“Gussie is making a perfect idiot of himself.”

To one who knew young Gussie as well as I did, the words opened up a wide field for speculation.

“In what way?”

“He has lost his head over a creature.”

On past performances this rang true. Ever since he arrived at man’s estate Gussie had been losing his head over creatures. He’s that sort of chap. But, as the creatures never seemed to lose their heads over him, it had never amounted to much.

“I imagine you know perfectly well why Gussie went to America, Bertie. You know how wickedly extravagant your Uncle Cuthbert was.”

She alluded to Gussie’s governor, the late head of the family, and I am bound to say she spoke the truth. Nobody was fonder of old Uncle Cuthbert than I was, but everybody knows that, where money was concerned, he was the most complete chump in the annals of the nation. He had an expensive thirst. He never backed a horse that didn’t get housemaid’s knee in the middle of the race. He had a system of beating the bank at Monte Carlo which used to make the administration hang out the bunting and ring the joy-bells when he was sighted in the offing. Take him for all in all, dear old Uncle Cuthbert was as willing a spender as ever called the family lawyer a bloodsucking vampire because he wouldn’t let Uncle Cuthbert cut down the timber to raise another thousand.

“He left your Aunt Julia very little money for a woman in her position. Beechwood requires a great deal of keeping up, and poor dear Spencer, though he does his best to help, has not unlimited resources. It was clearly understood why Gussie went to America. He is not clever, but he is very good-looking, and, though he has no title, the Mannering-Phippses are one of the best and oldest families in England. He had some excellent letters of introduction, and when he wrote home to say that he had met the most charming and beautiful girl in the world I felt quite happy. He continued to rave about her for several mails, and then this morning a letter has come from him in which he says, quite casually as a sort of afterthought, that he knows we are broadminded enough not to think any the worse of her because she is on the vaudeville stage.”

“Oh, I say!”

“It was like a thunderbolt. The girl’s name, it seems, is Ray Denison, and according to Gussie she does something which he describes as a single on the big time. What this degraded performance may be I have not the least notion. As a further recommendation he states that she lifted them out of their seats at Mosenstein’s last week. Who she may be, and how or why, and who or what Mr. Mosenstein may be, I cannot tell you.”

“By Jove,” I said, “it’s like a sort of thingummybob, isn’t it? A sort of fate, what?”

“I fail to understand you.”

“Well, Aunt Julia, you know, don’t you know? Heredity, and so forth. What’s bred in the bone will come out in the wash, and all that kind of thing, you know.”

“Don’t be absurd, Bertie.”

That was all very well, but it was a coincidence for all that. Nobody ever mentions it, and the family have been trying to forget it for twenty-five years, but it’s a known fact that my Aunt Julia, Gussie’s mother, was a vaudeville artist once, and a very good one, too, I’m told. She was playing in pantomime at Drury Lane when Uncle Cuthbert saw her first. It was before my time, of course, and long before I was old enough to take notice the family had made the best of it, and Aunt Agatha had pulled up her socks and put in a lot of educative work, and with a microscope you couldn’t tell Aunt Julia from a genuine dyed-in-the-wool aristocrat. Women adapt themselves so quickly!

I have a pal who married Daisy Trimble of the Gaiety, and when I meet her now I feel like walking out of her presence backwards. But there the thing was, and you couldn’t get away from it. Gussie had vaudeville blood in him, and it looked as if he were reverting to type, or whatever they call it.

“By Jove,” I said, for I am interested in this heredity stuff, “perhaps the thing is going to be a regular family tradition, like you read about in books⁠—a sort of Curse of the Mannering-Phippses, as it were. Perhaps each head of the family’s going to marry into vaudeville forever and ever. Unto the what-d’you-call-it generation, don’t you know?”

“Please do not be quite idiotic, Bertie. There is one head of the family who is certainly not going to do it, and that is Gussie. And you are going to America to stop him.”

“Yes, but why me?”

“Why you? You are too vexing, Bertie. Have you no sort of feeling for the family? You are too lazy to try to be a credit to yourself, but at least you can exert yourself to prevent Gussie’s disgracing us. You are going to America because you are Gussie’s cousin, because you have always been his closest friend, because you are the only one of the family who has absolutely nothing to occupy his time except golf and night clubs.”

“I play a lot of auction.”

“And as you say, idiotic gambling in low dens. If you require another reason, you are going because I ask you as a personal favour.”

What she meant was that, if I refused, she would exert the full bent of her natural genius to make life a Hades for me. She held me with her glittering eye. I have never met anyone who can give a better imitation of the Ancient Mariner.

“So you will start at once, won’t you, Bertie?”

I didn’t hesitate.

“Rather!” I said. “Of course I will.”

Jeeves came in with the tea.

“Jeeves,” I said, “we start for America on Saturday.”

“Very good, sir,” he said; “which suit will you wear?”


New York is a large city conveniently situated on the edge of America, so that you step off the liner right on to it without an effort. You can’t lose your way. You go out of a barn and down some stairs, and there you are, right in among it. The only possible objection any reasonable chappie could find to the place is that they loose you into it from the boat at such an ungodly hour.

I left Jeeves to get my baggage safely past an aggregation of suspicious-minded pirates who were digging for buried treasures among my new shirts, and drove to Gussie’s hotel, where I requested the squad of gentlemanly clerks behind the desk to produce him.

That’s where I got my first shock. He wasn’t there. I pleaded with them to think again, and they thought again, but it was no good. No Augustus Mannering-Phipps on the premises.

I admit I was hard hit. There I was alone in a strange city and no signs of Gussie. What was the next step? I am never one of the master minds in the early morning; the old bean doesn’t somehow seem to get into its stride till pretty late in the p.m.’s, and I couldn’t think what to do. However, some instinct took me through a door at the back of the lobby, and I found myself in a large room with an enormous picture stretching across the whole of one wall, and under the picture a counter, and behind the counter divers chappies in white, serving drinks. They have barmen, don’t you know, in New York, not barmaids. Rum idea!

I put myself unreservedly into the hands of one of the white chappies. He was a friendly soul, and I told him the whole state of affairs. I asked him what he thought would meet the case.

He said that in a situation of that sort he usually prescribed a “lightning whizzer,” an invention of his own. He said this was what rabbits trained on when they were matched against grizzly bears, and there was only one instance on record of the bear having lasted three rounds. So I tried a couple, and, by Jove! the man was perfectly right. As I drained the second a great load seemed to fall from my heart, and I went out in quite a braced way to have a look at the city.

I was surprised to find the streets quite full. People were bustling along as if it were some reasonable hour and not the grey dawn. In the tramcars they were absolutely standing on each other’s necks. Going to business or something, I take it. Wonderful johnnies!

The odd part of it was that after the first shock of seeing all this frightful energy the thing didn’t seem so strange. I’ve spoken to fellows since who have been to New York, and they tell me they found it just the same. Apparently there’s something in the air, either the ozone or the phosphates or something, which makes you sit up and take notice. A kind of zip, as it were. A sort of bally freedom, if you know what I mean, that gets into your blood and bucks you up, and makes you feel that⁠—

God’s in His Heaven:
All’s right with the world,

and you don’t care if you’ve got odd socks on. I can’t express it better than by saying that the thought uppermost in my mind, as I walked about the place they call Times Square, was that there were three thousand miles of deep water between me and my Aunt Agatha.

It’s a funny thing about looking for things. If you hunt for a needle in a haystack you don’t find it. If you don’t give a darn whether you ever see the needle or not it runs into you the first time you lean against the stack. By the time I had strolled up and down once or twice, seeing the sights and letting the white chappie’s corrective permeate my system, I was feeling that I wouldn’t care if Gussie and I never met again, and I’m dashed if I didn’t suddenly catch sight of the old lad, as large as life, just turning in at a doorway down the street.

I called after him, but he didn’t hear me, so I legged it in pursuit and caught him going into an office on the first floor. The name on the door was Abe Riesbitter, Vaudeville Agent, and from the other side of the door came the sound of many voices.

He turned and stared at me.

“Bertie! What on earth are you doing? Where have you sprung from? When did you arrive?”

“Landed this morning. I went round to your hotel, but they said you weren’t there. They had never heard of you.”

“I’ve changed my name. I call myself George Wilson.”

“Why on earth?”

“Well, you try calling yourself Augustus Mannering-Phipps over here, and see how it strikes you. You feel a perfect ass. I don’t know what it is about America, but the broad fact is that it’s not a place where you can call yourself Augustus Mannering-Phipps. And there’s another reason. I’ll tell you later. Bertie, I’ve fallen in love with the dearest girl in the world.”

The poor old nut looked at me in such a deuced cat-like way, standing with his mouth open, waiting to be congratulated, that I simply hadn’t the heart to tell him that I knew all about that already, and had come over to the country for the express purpose of laying him a stymie.

So I congratulated him.

“Thanks awfully, old man,” he said. “It’s a bit premature, but I fancy it’s going to be all right. Come along in here, and I’ll tell you about it.”

“What do you want in this place? It looks a rummy spot.”

“Oh, that’s part of the story. I’ll tell you the whole thing.”

We opened the door marked “Waiting Room.” I never saw such a crowded place in my life. The room was packed till the walls bulged.

Gussie explained.

“Pros,” he said, “music hall artistes, you know, waiting to see old Abe Riesbitter. This is September the first, vaudeville’s opening day. The early fall,” said Gussie, who is a bit of a poet in his way, “is vaudeville’s springtime. All over the country, as August wanes, sparkling comediennes burst into bloom, the sap stirs in the veins of tramp cyclists, and last year’s contortionists, waking from their summer sleep, tie themselves tentatively into knots. What I mean is, this is the beginning of the new season, and everybody’s out hunting for bookings.”

“But what do you want here?”

“Oh, I’ve just got to see Abe about something. If you see a fat man with about fifty-seven chins come out of that door there grab him, for that’ll be Abe. He’s one of those fellows who advertise each step up they take in the world by growing another chin. I’m told that way back in the nineties he only had two. If you do grab Abe, remember that he knows me as George Wilson.”

“You said that you were going to explain that George Wilson business to me, Gussie, old man.”

“Well, it’s this way⁠—”

At this juncture dear old Gussie broke off short, rose from his seat, and sprang with indescribable vim at an extraordinarily stout chappie who had suddenly appeared. There was the deuce of a rush for him, but Gussie had got away to a good start, and the rest of the singers, dancers, jugglers, acrobats, and refined sketch teams seemed to recognize that he had won the trick, for they ebbed back into their places again, and Gussie and I went into the inner room.

Mr. Riesbitter lit a cigar, and looked at us solemnly over his zareba of chins.

“Now, let me tell ya something,” he said to Gussie. “You lizzun t’ me.”

Gussie registered respectful attention. Mr. Riesbitter mused for a moment and shelled the cuspidor with indirect fire over the edge of the desk.

“Lizzun t’ me,” he said again. “I seen you rehearse, as I promised Miss Denison I would. You ain’t bad for an amateur. You gotta lot to learn, but it’s in you. What it comes to is that I can fix you up in the four-a-day, if you’ll take thirty-five per. I can’t do better than that, and I wouldn’t have done that if the little lady hadn’t of kep’ after me. Take it or leave it. What do you say?”

“I’ll take it,” said Gussie, huskily. “Thank you.”

In the passage outside, Gussie gurgled with joy and slapped me on the back. “Bertie, old man, it’s all right. I’m the happiest man in New York.”

“Now what?”

“Well, you see, as I was telling you when Abe came in, Ray’s father used to be in the profession. He was before our time, but I remember hearing about him⁠—Joe Danby. He used to be well known in London before he came over to America. Well, he’s a fine old boy, but as obstinate as a mule, and he didn’t like the idea of Ray marrying me because I wasn’t in the profession. Wouldn’t hear of it. Well, you remember at Oxford I could always sing a song pretty well; so Ray got hold of old Riesbitter and made him promise to come and hear me rehearse and get me bookings if he liked my work. She stands high with him. She coached me for weeks, the darling. And now, as you heard him say, he’s booked me in the small time at thirty-five dollars a week.”

I steadied myself against the wall. The effects of the restoratives supplied by my pal at the hotel bar were beginning to work off, and I felt a little weak. Through a sort of mist I seemed to have a vision of Aunt Agatha hearing that the head of the Mannering-Phippses was about to appear on the vaudeville stage. Aunt Agatha’s worship of the family name amounts to an obsession. The Mannering-Phippses were an old-established clan when William the Conqueror was a small boy going round with bare legs and a catapult. For centuries they have called kings by their first names and helped dukes with their weekly rent; and there’s practically nothing a Mannering-Phipps can do that doesn’t blot his escutcheon. So what Aunt Agatha would say⁠—beyond saying that it was all my fault⁠—when she learned the horrid news, it was beyond me to imagine.

“Come back to the hotel, Gussie,” I said. “There’s a sportsman there who mixes things he calls lightning whizzers. Something tells me I need one now. And excuse me for one minute, Gussie. I want to send a cable.”

It was clear to me by now that Aunt Agatha had picked the wrong man for this job of disentangling Gussie from the clutches of the American vaudeville profession. What I needed was reinforcements. For a moment I thought of cabling Aunt Agatha to come over, but reason told me that this would be overdoing it. I wanted assistance, but not so badly as that. I hit what seemed to me the happy mean. I cabled to Gussie’s mother and made it urgent.

“What were you cabling about?” asked Gussie, later.

“Oh just to say I had arrived safely, and all that sort of tosh,” I answered.


Gussie opened his vaudeville career on the following Monday at a rummy sort of place uptown where they had moving pictures some of the time and, in between, one or two vaudeville acts. It had taken a lot of careful handling to bring him up to scratch. He seemed to take my sympathy and assistance for granted, and I couldn’t let him down. My only hope, which grew as I listened to him rehearsing, was that he would be such a frightful frost at his first appearance that he would never dare to perform again; and, as that would automatically squash the marriage, it seemed best to me to let the thing go on.

He wasn’t taking any chances. On the Saturday and Sunday we practically lived in a beastly little music-room at the offices of the publishers whose songs he proposed to use. A little chappie with a hooked nose sucked a cigarette and played the piano all day. Nothing could tire that lad. He seemed to take a personal interest in the thing.

Gussie would clear his throat and begin:

“There’s a great big choo-choo waiting at the deepo.”

The Chappie (playing chords): “Is that so? What’s it waiting for?”

Gussie (rather rattled at the interruption): “Waiting for me.”

The Chappie (surprised): “For you?”

Gussie (sticking to it): “Waiting for me-e-ee!”

The Chappie (sceptically): “You don’t say!”

Gussie: “For I’m off to Tennessee.”

The Chappie (conceding a point): “Now, I live at Yonkers.”

He did this all through the song. At first poor old Gussie asked him to stop, but the chappie said, No, it was always done. It helped to get pep into the thing. He appealed to me whether the thing didn’t want a bit of pep, and I said it wanted all the pep it could get. And the chappie said to Gussie, “There you are!” So Gussie had to stand it.

The other song that he intended to sing was one of those moon songs. He told me in a hushed voice that he was using it because it was one of the songs that the girl Ray sang when lifting them out of their seats at Mosenstein’s and elsewhere. The fact seemed to give it sacred associations for him.

You will scarcely believe me, but the management expected Gussie to show up and start performing at one o’clock in the afternoon. I told him they couldn’t be serious, as they must know that he would be rolling out for a bit of lunch at that hour, but Gussie said this was the usual thing in the four-a-day, and he didn’t suppose he would ever get any lunch again until he landed on the big time. I was just condoling with him, when I found that he was taking it for granted that I should be there at one o’clock, too. My idea had been that I should look in at night, when⁠—if he survived⁠—he would be coming up for the fourth time; but I’ve never deserted a pal in distress, so I said goodbye to the little lunch I’d been planning at a rather decent tavern I’d discovered on Fifth Avenue, and trailed along. They were showing pictures when I reached my seat. It was one of those Western films, where the cowboy jumps on his horse and rides across country at a hundred and fifty miles an hour to escape the sheriff, not knowing, poor chump! that he might just as well stay where he is, the sheriff having a horse of his own which can do three hundred miles an hour without coughing. I was just going to close my eyes and try to forget till they put Gussie’s name up when I discovered that I was sitting next to a deucedly pretty girl.

No, let me be honest. When I went in I had seen that there was a deucedly pretty girl sitting in that particular seat, so I had taken the next one. What happened now was that I began, as it were, to drink her in. I wished they would turn the lights up so that I could see her better. She was rather small, with great big eyes and a ripping smile. It was a shame to let all that run to seed, so to speak, in semidarkness.

Suddenly the lights did go up, and the orchestra began to play a tune which, though I haven’t much of an ear for music, seemed somehow familiar. The next instant out pranced old Gussie from the wings in a purple frock-coat and a brown top hat, grinned feebly at the audience, tripped over his feet, blushed, and began to sing the Tennessee song.

It was rotten. The poor nut had got stage fright so badly that it practically eliminated his voice. He sounded like some far-off echo of the past “yodelling” through a woollen blanket.

For the first time since I had heard that he was about to go into vaudeville I felt a faint hope creeping over me. I was sorry for the wretched chap, of course, but there was no denying that the thing had its bright side. No management on earth would go on paying thirty-five dollars a week for this sort of performance. This was going to be Gussie’s first and only. He would have to leave the profession. The old boy would say, “Unhand my daughter.” And, with decent luck, I saw myself leading Gussie on to the next England-bound liner and handing him over intact to Aunt Agatha.

He got through the song somehow and limped off amidst roars of silence from the audience. There was a brief respite, then out he came again.

He sang this time as if nobody loved him. As a song, it was not a very pathetic song, being all about coons spooning in June under the moon, and so on and so forth, but Gussie handled it in such a sad, crushed way that there was genuine anguish in every line. By the time he reached the refrain I was nearly in tears. It seemed such a rotten sort of world with all that kind of thing going on in it.

He started the refrain, and then the most frightful thing happened. The girl next to me got up in her seat, chucked her head back, and began to sing too. I say “too,” but it wasn’t really too, because her first note stopped Gussie dead, as if he had been poleaxed.

I never felt so bally conspicuous in my life. I huddled down in my seat and wished I could turn my collar up. Everybody seemed to be looking at me.

In the midst of my agony I caught sight of Gussie. A complete change had taken place in the old lad. He was looking most frightfully bucked. I must say the girl was singing most awfully well, and it seemed to act on Gussie like a tonic. When she came to the end of the refrain, he took it up, and they sang it together, and the end of it was that he went off the popular hero. The audience yelled for more, and were only quieted when they turned down the lights and put on a film.

When I had recovered I tottered round to see Gussie. I found him sitting on a box behind the stage, looking like one who had seen visions.

“Isn’t she a wonder, Bertie?” he said, devoutly. “I hadn’t a notion she was going to be there. She’s playing at the Auditorium this week, and she can only just have had time to get back to her matinee. She risked being late, just to come and see me through. She’s my good angel, Bertie. She saved me. If she hadn’t helped me out I don’t know what would have happened. I was so nervous I didn’t know what I was doing. Now that I’ve got through the first show I shall be all right.”

I was glad I had sent that cable to his mother. I was going to need her. The thing had got beyond me.


During the next week I saw a lot of old Gussie, and was introduced to the girl. I also met her father, a formidable old boy with quick eyebrows and a sort of determined expression. On the following Wednesday Aunt Julia arrived. Mrs. Mannering-Phipps, my aunt Julia, is, I think, the most dignified person I know. She lacks Aunt Agatha’s punch, but in a quiet way she has always contrived to make me feel, from boyhood up, that I was a poor worm. Not that she harries me like Aunt Agatha. The difference between the two is that Aunt Agatha conveys the impression that she considers me personally responsible for all the sin and sorrow in the world, while Aunt Julia’s manner seems to suggest that I am more to be pitied than censured.

If it wasn’t that the thing was a matter of historical fact, I should be inclined to believe that Aunt Julia had never been on the vaudeville stage. She is like a stage duchess.

She always seems to me to be in a perpetual state of being about to desire the butler to instruct the head footman to serve lunch in the blue-room overlooking the west terrace. She exudes dignity. Yet, twenty-five years ago, so I’ve been told by old boys who were lads about town in those days, she was knocking them cold at the Tivoli in a double act called “Fun in a Teashop,” in which she wore tights and sang a song with a chorus that began, “Rumpty-tiddley-umpty-ay.”

There are some things a chappie’s mind absolutely refuses to picture, and Aunt Julia singing “Rumpty-tiddley-umpty-ay” is one of them.

She got straight to the point within five minutes of our meeting.

“What is this about Gussie? Why did you cable for me, Bertie?”

“It’s rather a long story,” I said, “and complicated. If you don’t mind, I’ll let you have it in a series of motion pictures. Suppose we look in at the Auditorium for a few minutes.”

The girl, Ray, had been re-engaged for a second week at the Auditorium, owing to the big success of her first week. Her act consisted of three songs. She did herself well in the matter of costume and scenery. She had a ripping voice. She looked most awfully pretty; and altogether the act was, broadly speaking, a pippin.

Aunt Julia didn’t speak till we were in our seats. Then she gave a sort of sigh.

“It’s twenty-five years since I was in a music hall!”

She didn’t say any more, but sat there with her eyes glued on the stage.

After about half an hour the johnnies who work the card-index system at the side of the stage put up the name of Ray Denison, and there was a good deal of applause.

“Watch this act, Aunt Julia,” I said.

She didn’t seem to hear me.

“Twenty-five years! What did you say, Bertie?”

“Watch this act and tell me what you think of it.”

“Who is it? Ray. Oh!”

“Exhibit A,” I said. “The girl Gussie’s engaged to.”

The girl did her act, and the house rose at her. They didn’t want to let her go. She had to come back again and again. When she had finally disappeared I turned to Aunt Julia.

“Well?” I said.

“I like her work. She’s an artist.”

“We will now, if you don’t mind, step a goodish way uptown.”

And we took the subway to where Gussie, the human film, was earning his thirty-five per. As luck would have it, we hadn’t been in the place ten minutes when out he came.

“Exhibit B,” I said. “Gussie.”

I don’t quite know what I had expected her to do, but I certainly didn’t expect her to sit there without a word. She did not move a muscle, but just stared at Gussie as he drooled on about the moon. I was sorry for the woman, for it must have been a shock to her to see her only son in a mauve frockcoat and a brown top hat, but I thought it best to let her get a stranglehold on the intricacies of the situation as quickly as possible. If I had tried to explain the affair without the aid of illustrations I should have talked all day and left her muddled up as to who was going to marry whom, and why.

I was astonished at the improvement in dear old Gussie. He had got back his voice and was putting the stuff over well. It reminded me of the night at Oxford when, then but a lad of eighteen, he sang “Let’s All Go Down the Strand” after a bump supper, standing the while up to his knees in the college fountain. He was putting just the same zip into the thing now.

When he had gone off Aunt Julia sat perfectly still for a long time, and then she turned to me. Her eyes shone queerly.

“What does this mean, Bertie?”

She spoke quite quietly, but her voice shook a bit.

“Gussie went into the business,” I said, “because the girl’s father wouldn’t let him marry her unless he did. If you feel up to it perhaps you wouldn’t mind tottering round to One Hundred and Thirty-third Street and having a chat with him. He’s an old boy with eyebrows, and he’s Exhibit C on my list. When I’ve put you in touch with him I rather fancy my share of the business is concluded, and it’s up to you.”

The Danbys lived in one of those big apartments uptown which look as if they cost the earth and really cost about half as much as a hall-room down in the forties. We were shown into the sitting room, and presently old Danby came in.

“Good afternoon, Mr. Danby,” I began.

I had got as far as that when there was a kind of gasping cry at my elbow.

“Joe!” cried Aunt Julia, and staggered against the sofa.

For a moment old Danby stared at her, and then his mouth fell open and his eyebrows shot up like rockets.

“Julie!”

And then they had got hold of each other’s hands and were shaking them till I wondered their arms didn’t come unscrewed.

I’m not equal to this sort of thing at such short notice. The change in Aunt Julia made me feel quite dizzy. She had shed her grande dame manner completely, and was blushing and smiling. I don’t like to say such things of any aunt of mine, or I would go further and put it on record that she was giggling. And old Danby, who usually looked like a cross between a Roman emperor and Napoleon Bonaparte in a bad temper, was behaving like a small boy.

“Joe!”

“Julie!”

“Dear old Joe! Fancy meeting you again!”

“Wherever have you come from, Julie?”

Well, I didn’t know what it was all about, but I felt a bit out of it. I butted in:

“Aunt Julia wants to have a talk with you, Mr. Danby.”

“I knew you in a second, Joe!”

“It’s twenty-five years since I saw you, kid, and you don’t look a day older.”

“Oh, Joe! I’m an old woman!”

“What are you doing over here? I suppose”⁠—old Danby’s cheerfulness waned a trifle⁠—“I suppose your husband is with you?”

“My husband died a long, long while ago, Joe.”

Old Danby shook his head.

“You never ought to have married out of the profession, Julie. I’m not saying a word against the late⁠—I can’t remember his name; never could⁠—but you shouldn’t have done it, an artist like you. Shall I ever forget the way you used to knock them with ‘Rumpty-tiddley-umpty-ay’?”

“Ah! how wonderful you were in that act, Joe.” Aunt Julia sighed. “Do you remember the back-fall you used to do down the steps? I always have said that you did the best back-fall in the profession.”

“I couldn’t do it now!”

“Do you remember how we put it across at the Canterbury, Joe? Think of it! The Canterbury’s a moving-picture house now, and the old Mogul runs French revues.”

“I’m glad I’m not there to see them.”

“Joe, tell me, why did you leave England?”

“Well, I⁠—I wanted a change. No I’ll tell you the truth, kid. I wanted you, Julie. You went off and married that⁠—whatever that stage-door johnny’s name was⁠—and it broke me all up.”

Aunt Julia was staring at him. She is what they call a well-preserved woman. It’s easy to see that, twenty-five years ago, she must have been something quite extraordinary to look at. Even now she’s almost beautiful. She has very large brown eyes, a mass of soft grey hair, and the complexion of a girl of seventeen.

“Joe, you aren’t going to tell me you were fond of me yourself!”

“Of course I was fond of you. Why did I let you have all the fat in ‘Fun in a Teashop’? Why did I hang about upstage while you sang ‘Rumpty-tiddley-umpty-ay’? Do you remember my giving you a bag of buns when we were on the road at Bristol?”

“Yes, but⁠—”

“Do you remember my giving you the ham sandwiches at Portsmouth?”

“Joe!”

“Do you remember my giving you a seed-cake at Birmingham? What did you think all that meant, if not that I loved you? Why, I was working up by degrees to telling you straight out when you suddenly went off and married that cane-sucking dude. That’s why I wouldn’t let my daughter marry this young chap, Wilson, unless he went into the profession. She’s an artist⁠—”

“She certainly is, Joe.”

“You’ve seen her? Where?”

“At the Auditorium just now. But, Joe, you mustn’t stand in the way of her marrying the man she’s in love with. He’s an artist, too.”

“In the small time.”

“You were in the small time once, Joe. You mustn’t look down on him because he’s a beginner. I know you feel that your daughter is marrying beneath her, but⁠—”

“How on earth do you know anything about young Wilson?”

“He’s my son.”

“Your son?”

“Yes, Joe. And I’ve just been watching him work. Oh, Joe, you can’t think how proud I was of him! He’s got it in him. It’s fate. He’s my son and he’s in the profession! Joe, you don’t know what I’ve been through for his sake. They made a lady of me. I never worked so hard in my life as I did to become a real lady. They kept telling me I had got to put it across, no matter what it cost, so that he wouldn’t be ashamed of me. The study was something terrible. I had to watch myself every minute for years, and I never knew when I might fluff my lines or fall down on some bit of business. But I did it, because I didn’t want him to be ashamed of me, though all the time I was just aching to be back where I belonged.”

Old Danby made a jump at her, and took her by the shoulders.

“Come back where you belong, Julie!” he cried. “Your husband’s dead, your son’s a pro. Come back! It’s twenty-five years ago, but I haven’t changed. I want you still. I’ve always wanted you. You’ve got to come back, kid, where you belong.”

Aunt Julia gave a sort of gulp and looked at him.

“Joe!” she said in a kind of whisper.

“You’re here, kid,” said Old Danby, huskily. “You’ve come back.⁠ ⁠… Twenty-five years!⁠ ⁠… You’ve come back and you’re going to stay!”

She pitched forward into his arms, and he caught her.

“Oh, Joe! Joe! Joe!” she said. “Hold me. Don’t let me go. Take care of me.”

And I edged for the door and slipped from the room. I felt weak. The old bean will stand a certain amount, but this was too much. I groped my way out into the street and wailed for a taxi.

Gussie called on me at the hotel that night. He curveted into the room as if he had bought it and the rest of the city.

“Bertie,” he said, “I feel as if I were dreaming.”

“I wish I could feel like that, old top,” I said, and I took another glance at a cable that had arrived half an hour ago from Aunt Agatha. I had been looking at it at intervals ever since.

“Ray and I got back to her flat this evening. Who do you think was there? The mater! She was sitting hand in hand with old Danby.”

“Yes?”

“He was sitting hand in hand with her.”

“Really?”

“They are going to be married.”

“Exactly.”

“Ray and I are going to be married.”

“I suppose so.”

“Bertie, old man, I feel immense. I look round me, and everything seems to be absolutely corking. The change in the mater is marvellous. She is twenty-five years younger. She and old Danby are talking of reviving ‘Fun in a Teashop,’ and going out on the road with it.”

I got up.

“Gussie, old top,” I said, “leave me for a while. I would be alone. I think I’ve got brain fever or something.”

“Sorry, old man; perhaps New York doesn’t agree with you. When do you expect to go back to England?”

I looked again at Aunt Agatha’s cable.

“With luck,” I said, “in about ten years.”

When he was gone I took up the cable and read it again.

“What is happening?” it read. “Shall I come over?”

I sucked a pencil for a while, and then I wrote the reply.

It was not an easy cable to word, but I managed it.

“No,” I wrote, “stay where you are. Profession overcrowded.”

Leave It to Jeeves

Jeeves⁠—my man, you know⁠—is really a most extraordinary chap. So capable. Honestly, I shouldn’t know what to do without him. On broader lines he’s like those chappies who sit peering sadly over the marble battlements at the Pennsylvania Station in the place marked “Inquiries.” You know the Johnnies I mean. You go up to them and say: “When’s the next train for Melonsquashville, Tennessee?” and they reply, without stopping to think, “Two-forty-three, track ten, change at San Francisco.” And they’re right every time. Well, Jeeves gives you just the same impression of omniscience.

As an instance of what I mean, I remember meeting Monty Byng in Bond Street one morning, looking the last word in a grey check suit, and I felt I should never be happy till I had one like it. I dug the address of the tailors out of him, and had them working on the thing inside the hour.

“Jeeves,” I said that evening. “I’m getting a check suit like that one of Mr. Byng’s.”

“Injudicious, sir,” he said firmly. “It will not become you.”

“What absolute rot! It’s the soundest thing I’ve struck for years.”

“Unsuitable for you, sir.”

Well, the long and the short of it was that the confounded thing came home, and I put it on, and when I caught sight of myself in the glass I nearly swooned. Jeeves was perfectly right. I looked a cross between a music hall comedian and a cheap bookie. Yet Monty had looked fine in absolutely the same stuff. These things are just Life’s mysteries, and that’s all there is to it.

But it isn’t only that Jeeves’s judgment about clothes is infallible, though, of course, that’s really the main thing. The man knows everything. There was the matter of that tip on the “Lincolnshire.” I forget now how I got it, but it had the aspect of being the real, red-hot tabasco.

“Jeeves,” I said, for I’m fond of the man, and like to do him a good turn when I can, “if you want to make a bit of money have something on Wonderchild for the ‘Lincolnshire.’ ”

He shook his head.

“I’d rather not, sir.”

“But it’s the straight goods. I’m going to put my shirt on him.”

“I do not recommend it, sir. The animal is not intended to win. Second place is what the stable is after.”

Perfect piffle, I thought, of course. How the deuce could Jeeves know anything about it? Still, you know what happened. Wonderchild led till he was breathing on the wire, and then Banana Fritter came along and nosed him out. I went straight home and rang for Jeeves.

“After this,” I said, “not another step for me without your advice. From now on consider yourself the brains of the establishment.”

“Very good, sir. I shall endeavour to give satisfaction.”

And he has, by Jove! I’m a bit short on brain myself; the old bean would appear to have been constructed more for ornament than for use, don’t you know; but give me five minutes to talk the thing over with Jeeves, and I’m game to advise anyone about anything. And that’s why, when Bruce Corcoran came to me with his troubles, my first act was to ring the bell and put it up to the lad with the bulging forehead.

“Leave it to Jeeves,” I said.

I first got to know Corky when I came to New York. He was a pal of my cousin Gussie, who was in with a lot of people down Washington Square way. I don’t know if I ever told you about it, but the reason why I left England was because I was sent over by my Aunt Agatha to try to stop young Gussie marrying a girl on the vaudeville stage, and I got the whole thing so mixed up that I decided that it would be a sound scheme for me to stop on in America for a bit instead of going back and having long cosy chats about the thing with aunt. So I sent Jeeves out to find a decent apartment, and settled down for a bit of exile. I’m bound to say that New York’s a topping place to be exiled in. Everybody was awfully good to me, and there seemed to be plenty of things going on, and I’m a wealthy bird, so everything was fine. Chappies introduced me to other chappies, and so on and so forth, and it wasn’t long before I knew squads of the right sort, some who rolled in dollars in houses up by the Park, and others who lived with the gas turned down mostly around Washington Square⁠—artists and writers and so forth. Brainy coves.

Corky was one of the artists. A portrait-painter, he called himself, but he hadn’t painted any portraits. He was sitting on the sidelines with a blanket over his shoulders, waiting for a chance to get into the game. You see, the catch about portrait-painting⁠—I’ve looked into the thing a bit⁠—is that you can’t start painting portraits till people come along and ask you to, and they won’t come and ask you to until you’ve painted a lot first. This makes it kind of difficult for a chappie. Corky managed to get along by drawing an occasional picture for the comic papers⁠—he had rather a gift for funny stuff when he got a good idea⁠—and doing bedsteads and chairs and things for the advertisements. His principal source of income, however, was derived from biting the ear of a rich uncle⁠—one Alexander Worple, who was in the jute business. I’m a bit foggy as to what jute is, but it’s apparently something the populace is pretty keen on, for Mr. Worple had made quite an indecently large stack out of it.

Now, a great many fellows think that having a rich uncle is a pretty soft snap: but, according to Corky, such is not the case. Corky’s uncle was a robust sort of cove, who looked like living forever. He was fifty-one, and it seemed as if he might go to par. It was not this, however, that distressed poor old Corky, for he was not bigoted and had no objection to the man going on living. What Corky kicked at was the way the above Worple used to harry him.

Corky’s uncle, you see, didn’t want him to be an artist. He didn’t think he had any talent in that direction. He was always urging him to chuck Art and go into the jute business and start at the bottom and work his way up. Jute had apparently become a sort of obsession with him. He seemed to attach almost a spiritual importance to it. And what Corky said was that, while he didn’t know what they did at the bottom of the jute business, instinct told him that it was something too beastly for words. Corky, moreover, believed in his future as an artist. Some day, he said, he was going to make a hit. Meanwhile, by using the utmost tact and persuasiveness, he was inducing his uncle to cough up very grudgingly a small quarterly allowance.

He wouldn’t have got this if his uncle hadn’t had a hobby. Mr. Worple was peculiar in this respect. As a rule, from what I’ve observed, the American captain of industry doesn’t do anything out of business hours. When he has put the cat out and locked up the office for the night, he just relapses into a state of coma from which he emerges only to start being a captain of industry again. But Mr. Worple in his spare time was what is known as an ornithologist. He had written a book called American Birds, and was writing another, to be called More American Birds. When he had finished that, the presumption was that he would begin a third, and keep on till the supply of American birds gave out. Corky used to go to him about once every three months and let him talk about American birds. Apparently you could do what you liked with old Worple if you gave him his head first on his pet subject, so these little chats used to make Corky’s allowance all right for the time being. But it was pretty rotten for the poor chap. There was the frightful suspense, you see, and, apart from that, birds, except when broiled and in the society of a cold bottle, bored him stiff.

To complete the character-study of Mr. Worple, he was a man of extremely uncertain temper, and his general tendency was to think that Corky was a poor chump and that whatever step he took in any direction on his own account, was just another proof of his innate idiocy. I should imagine Jeeves feels very much the same about me.

So when Corky trickled into my apartment one afternoon, shooing a girl in front of him, and said, “Bertie, I want you to meet my fiancée, Miss Singer,” the aspect of the matter which hit me first was precisely the one which he had come to consult me about. The very first words I spoke were, “Corky, how about your uncle?”

The poor chap gave one of those mirthless laughs. He was looking anxious and worried, like a man who has done the murder all right but can’t think what the deuce to do with the body.

“We’re so scared, Mr. Wooster,” said the girl. “We were hoping that you might suggest a way of breaking it to him.”

Muriel Singer was one of those very quiet, appealing girls who have a way of looking at you with their big eyes as if they thought you were the greatest thing on earth and wondered that you hadn’t got on to it yet yourself. She sat there in a sort of shrinking way, looking at me as if she were saying to herself, “Oh, I do hope this great strong man isn’t going to hurt me.” She gave a fellow a protective kind of feeling, made him want to stroke her hand and say, “There, there, little one!” or words to that effect. She made me feel that there was nothing I wouldn’t do for her. She was rather like one of those innocent-tasting American drinks which creep imperceptibly into your system so that, before you know what you’re doing, you’re starting out to reform the world by force if necessary and pausing on your way to tell the large man in the corner that, if he looks at you like that, you will knock his head off. What I mean is, she made me feel alert and dashing, like a jolly old knight-errant or something of that kind. I felt that I was with her in this thing to the limit.

“I don’t see why your uncle shouldn’t be most awfully bucked,” I said to Corky. “He will think Miss Singer the ideal wife for you.”

Corky declined to cheer up.

“You don’t know him. Even if he did like Muriel he wouldn’t admit it. That’s the sort of pigheaded guy he is. It would be a matter of principle with him to kick. All he would consider would be that I had gone and taken an important step without asking his advice, and he would raise Cain automatically. He’s always done it.”

I strained the old bean to meet this emergency.

“You want to work it so that he makes Miss Singer’s acquaintance without knowing that you know her. Then you come along⁠—”

“But how can I work it that way?”

I saw his point. That was the catch.

“There’s only one thing to do,” I said.

“What’s that?”

“Leave it to Jeeves.”

And I rang the bell.

“Sir?” said Jeeves, kind of manifesting himself. One of the rummy things about Jeeves is that, unless you watch like a hawk, you very seldom see him come into a room. He’s like one of those weird chappies in India who dissolve themselves into thin air and nip through space in a sort of disembodied way and assemble the parts again just where they want them. I’ve got a cousin who’s what they call a Theosophist, and he says he’s often nearly worked the thing himself, but couldn’t quite bring it off, probably owing to having fed in his boyhood on the flesh of animals slain in anger and pie.

The moment I saw the man standing there, registering respectful attention, a weight seemed to roll off my mind. I felt like a lost child who spots his father in the offing. There was something about him that gave me confidence.

Jeeves is a tallish man, with one of those dark, shrewd faces. His eye gleams with the light of pure intelligence.

“Jeeves, we want your advice.”

“Very good, sir.”

I boiled down Corky’s painful case into a few well-chosen words.

“So you see what it amounts to, Jeeves. We want you to suggest some way by which Mr. Worple can make Miss Singer’s acquaintance without getting on to the fact that Mr. Corcoran already knows her. Understand?”

“Perfectly, sir.”

“Well, try to think of something.”

“I have thought of something already, sir.”

“You have!”

“The scheme I would suggest cannot fail of success, but it has what may seem to you a drawback, sir, in that it requires a certain financial outlay.”

“He means,” I translated to Corky, “that he has got a pippin of an idea, but it’s going to cost a bit.”

Naturally the poor chap’s face dropped, for this seemed to dish the whole thing. But I was still under the influence of the girl’s melting gaze, and I saw that this was where I started in as a knight-errant.

“You can count on me for all that sort of thing, Corky,” I said. “Only too glad. Carry on, Jeeves.”

“I would suggest, sir, that Mr. Corcoran take advantage of Mr. Worple’s attachment to ornithology.”

“How on earth did you know that he was fond of birds?”

“It is the way these New York apartments are constructed, sir. Quite unlike our London houses. The partitions between the rooms are of the flimsiest nature. With no wish to overhear, I have sometimes heard Mr. Corcoran expressing himself with a generous strength on the subject I have mentioned.”

“Oh! Well?”

“Why should not the young lady write a small volume, to be entitled⁠—let us say⁠—The Children’s Book of American Birds, and dedicate it to Mr. Worple! A limited edition could be published at your expense, sir, and a great deal of the book would, of course, be given over to eulogistic remarks concerning Mr. Worple’s own larger treatise on the same subject. I should recommend the dispatching of a presentation copy to Mr. Worple, immediately on publication, accompanied by a letter in which the young lady asks to be allowed to make the acquaintance of one to whom she owes so much. This would, I fancy, produce the desired result, but as I say, the expense involved would be considerable.”

I felt like the proprietor of a performing dog on the vaudeville stage when the tyke has just pulled off his trick without a hitch. I had betted on Jeeves all along, and I had known that he wouldn’t let me down. It beats me sometimes why a man with his genius is satisfied to hang around pressing my clothes and whatnot. If I had half Jeeves’s brain, I should have a stab at being Prime Minister or something.

“Jeeves,” I said, “that is absolutely ripping! One of your very best efforts.”

“Thank you, sir.”

The girl made an objection.

“But I’m sure I couldn’t write a book about anything. I can’t even write good letters.”

“Muriel’s talents,” said Corky, with a little cough, “lie more in the direction of the drama, Bertie. I didn’t mention it before, but one of our reasons for being a trifle nervous as to how Uncle Alexander will receive the news is that Muriel is in the chorus of that show Choose your Exit at the Manhattan. It’s absurdly unreasonable, but we both feel that that fact might increase Uncle Alexander’s natural tendency to kick like a steer.”

I saw what he meant. Goodness knows there was fuss enough in our family when I tried to marry into musical comedy a few years ago. And the recollection of my Aunt Agatha’s attitude in the matter of Gussie and the vaudeville girl was still fresh in my mind. I don’t know why it is⁠—one of these psychology sharps could explain it, I suppose⁠—but uncles and aunts, as a class, are always dead against the drama, legitimate or otherwise. They don’t seem able to stick it at any price.

But Jeeves had a solution, of course.

“I fancy it would be a simple matter, sir, to find some impecunious author who would be glad to do the actual composition of the volume for a small fee. It is only necessary that the young lady’s name should appear on the title page.”

“That’s true,” said Corky. “Sam Patterson would do it for a hundred dollars. He writes a novelette, three short stories, and ten thousand words of a serial for one of the all-fiction magazines under different names every month. A little thing like this would be nothing to him. I’ll get after him right away.”

“Fine!”

“Will that be all, sir?” said Jeeves. “Very good, sir. Thank you, sir.”


I always used to think that publishers had to be devilish intelligent fellows, loaded down with the grey matter; but I’ve got their number now. All a publisher has to do is to write cheques at intervals, while a lot of deserving and industrious chappies rally round and do the real work. I know, because I’ve been one myself. I simply sat tight in the old apartment with a fountain-pen, and in due season a topping, shiny book came along.

I happened to be down at Corky’s place when the first copies of The Children’s Book of American Birds bobbed up. Muriel Singer was there, and we were talking of things in general when there was a bang at the door and the parcel was delivered.

It was certainly some book. It had a red cover with a fowl of some species on it, and underneath the girl’s name in gold letters. I opened a copy at random.

“Often of a spring morning,” it said at the top of page twenty-one, “as you wander through the fields, you will hear the sweet-toned, carelessly flowing warble of the purple finch linnet. When you are older you must read all about him in Mr. Alexander Worple’s wonderful book⁠—American Birds.”

You see. A boost for the uncle right away. And only a few pages later there he was in the limelight again in connection with the yellow-billed cuckoo. It was great stuff. The more I read, the more I admired the chap who had written it and Jeeves’s genius in putting us on to the wheeze. I didn’t see how the uncle could fail to drop. You can’t call a chap the world’s greatest authority on the yellow-billed cuckoo without rousing a certain disposition towards chumminess in him.

“It’s a cert!” I said.

“An absolute cinch!” said Corky.

And a day or two later he meandered up the Avenue to my apartment to tell me that all was well. The uncle had written Muriel a letter so dripping with the milk of human kindness that if he hadn’t known Mr. Worple’s handwriting Corky would have refused to believe him the author of it. Any time it suited Miss Singer to call, said the uncle, he would be delighted to make her acquaintance.

Shortly after this I had to go out of town. Divers sound sportsmen had invited me to pay visits to their country places, and it wasn’t for several months that I settled down in the city again. I had been wondering a lot, of course, about Corky, whether it all turned out right, and so forth, and my first evening in New York, happening to pop into a quiet sort of little restaurant which I go to when I don’t feel inclined for the bright lights, I found Muriel Singer there, sitting by herself at a table near the door. Corky, I took it, was out telephoning. I went up and passed the time of day.

“Well, well, well, what?” I said.

“Why, Mr. Wooster! How do you do?”

“Corky around?”

“I beg your pardon?”

“You’re waiting for Corky, aren’t you?”

“Oh, I didn’t understand. No, I’m not waiting for him.”

It seemed to me that there was a sort of something in her voice, a kind of thingummy, you know.

“I say, you haven’t had a row with Corky, have you?”

“A row?”

“A spat, don’t you know⁠—little misunderstanding⁠—faults on both sides⁠—er⁠—and all that sort of thing.”

“Why, whatever makes you think that?”

“Oh, well, as it were, what? What I mean is⁠—I thought you usually dined with him before you went to the theatre.”

“I’ve left the stage now.”

Suddenly the whole thing dawned on me. I had forgotten what a long time I had been away.

“Why, of course, I see now! You’re married!”

“Yes.”

“How perfectly topping! I wish you all kinds of happiness.”

“Thank you, so much. Oh Alexander,” she said, looking past me, “this is a friend of mine⁠—Mr. Wooster.”

I spun round. A chappie with a lot of stiff grey hair and a red sort of healthy face was standing there. Rather a formidable Johnnie, he looked, though quite peaceful at the moment.

“I want you to meet my husband, Mr. Wooster. Mr. Wooster is a friend of Bruce’s, Alexander.”

The old boy grasped my hand warmly, and that was all that kept me from hitting the floor in a heap. The place was rocking. Absolutely.

“So you know my nephew, Mr. Wooster,” I heard him say. “I wish you would try to knock a little sense into him and make him quit this playing at painting. But I have an idea that he is steadying down. I noticed it first that night he came to dinner with us, my dear, to be introduced to you. He seemed altogether quieter and more serious. Something seemed to have sobered him. Perhaps you will give us the pleasure of your company at dinner tonight, Mr. Wooster? Or have you dined?”

I said I had. What I needed then was air, not dinner. I felt that I wanted to get into the open and think this thing out.

When I reached my apartment I heard Jeeves moving about in his lair. I called him.

“Jeeves,” I said, “now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of the party. A stiff b-and-s first of all, and then I’ve a bit of news for you.”

He came back with a tray and a long glass.

“Better have one yourself, Jeeves. You’ll need it.”

“Later on, perhaps, thank you, sir.”

“All right. Please yourself. But you’re going to get a shock. You remember my friend, Mr. Corcoran?”

“Yes, sir.”

“And the girl who was to slide gracefully into his uncle’s esteem by writing the book on birds?”

“Perfectly, sir.”

“Well, she’s slid. She’s married the uncle.”

He took it without blinking. You can’t rattle Jeeves.

“That was always a development to be feared, sir.”

“You don’t mean to tell me that you were expecting it?”

“It crossed my mind as a possibility.”

“Did it, by Jove! Well, I think, you might have warned us!”

“I hardly liked to take the liberty, sir.”

Of course, as I saw after I had had a bite to eat and was in a calmer frame of mind, what had happened wasn’t my fault, if you come down to it. I couldn’t be expected to foresee that the scheme, in itself a crackerjack, would skid into the ditch as it had done; but all the same I’m bound to admit that I didn’t relish the idea of meeting Corky again until time, the great healer, had been able to get in a bit of soothing work. I cut Washington Square out absolutely for the next few months. I gave it the complete miss-in-baulk. And then, just when I was beginning to think I might safely pop down in that direction and gather up the dropped threads, so to speak, time, instead of working the healing wheeze, went and pulled the most awful bone and put the lid on it. Opening the paper one morning, I read that Mrs. Alexander Worple had presented her husband with a son and heir.

I was so darned sorry for poor old Corky that I hadn’t the heart to touch my breakfast. I told Jeeves to drink it himself. I was bowled over. Absolutely. It was the limit.

I hardly knew what to do. I wanted, of course, to rush down to Washington Square and grip the poor blighter silently by the hand; and then, thinking it over, I hadn’t the nerve. Absent treatment seemed the touch. I gave it him in waves.

But after a month or so I began to hesitate again. It struck me that it was playing it a bit low-down on the poor chap, avoiding him like this just when he probably wanted his pals to surge round him most. I pictured him sitting in his lonely studio with no company but his bitter thoughts, and the pathos of it got me to such an extent that I bounded straight into a taxi and told the driver to go all out for the studio.

I rushed in, and there was Corky, hunched up at the easel, painting away, while on the model throne sat a severe-looking female of middle age, holding a baby.

A fellow has to be ready for that sort of thing.

“Oh, ah!” I said, and started to back out.

Corky looked over his shoulder.

“Halloa, Bertie. Don’t go. We’re just finishing for the day. That will be all this afternoon,” he said to the nurse, who got up with the baby and decanted it into a perambulator which was standing in the fairway.

“At the same hour tomorrow, Mr. Corcoran?”

“Yes, please.”

“Good afternoon.”

“Good afternoon.”

Corky stood there, looking at the door, and then he turned to me and began to get it off his chest. Fortunately, he seemed to take it for granted that I knew all about what had happened, so it wasn’t as awkward as it might have been.

“It’s my uncle’s idea,” he said. “Muriel doesn’t know about it yet. The portrait’s to be a surprise for her on her birthday. The nurse takes the kid out ostensibly to get a breather, and they beat it down here. If you want an instance of the irony of fate, Bertie, get acquainted with this. Here’s the first commission I have ever had to paint a portrait, and the sitter is that human poached egg that has butted in and bounced me out of my inheritance. Can you beat it! I call it rubbing the thing in to expect me to spend my afternoons gazing into the ugly face of a little brat who to all intents and purposes has hit me behind the ear with a blackjack and swiped all I possess. I can’t refuse to paint the portrait because if I did my uncle would stop my allowance; yet every time I look up and catch that kid’s vacant eye, I suffer agonies. I tell you, Bertie, sometimes when he gives me a patronizing glance and then turns away and is sick, as if it revolted him to look at me, I come within an ace of occupying the entire front page of the evening papers as the latest murder sensation. There are moments when I can almost see the headlines: ‘Promising Young Artist Beans Baby With Axe.’ ”

I patted his shoulder silently. My sympathy for the poor old scout was too deep for words.

I kept away from the studio for some time after that, because it didn’t seem right to me to intrude on the poor chappie’s sorrow. Besides, I’m bound to say that nurse intimidated me. She reminded me so infernally of Aunt Agatha. She was the same gimlet-eyed type.

But one afternoon Corky called me on the phone.

“Bertie.”

“Halloa?”

“Are you doing anything this afternoon?”

“Nothing special.”

“You couldn’t come down here, could you?”

“What’s the trouble? Anything up?”

“I’ve finished the portrait.”

“Good boy! Stout work!”

“Yes.” His voice sounded rather doubtful. “The fact is, Bertie, it doesn’t look quite right to me. There’s something about it⁠—My uncle’s coming in half an hour to inspect it, and⁠—I don’t know why it is, but I kind of feel I’d like your moral support!”

I began to see that I was letting myself in for something. The sympathetic cooperation of Jeeves seemed to me to be indicated.

“You think he’ll cut up rough?”

“He may.”

I threw my mind back to the red-faced chappie I had met at the restaurant, and tried to picture him cutting up rough. It was only too easy. I spoke to Corky firmly on the telephone.

“I’ll come,” I said.

“Good!”

“But only if I may bring Jeeves!”

“Why Jeeves? What’s Jeeves got to do with it? Who wants Jeeves? Jeeves is the fool who suggested the scheme that has led⁠—”

“Listen, Corky, old top! If you think I am going to face that uncle of yours without Jeeves’s support, you’re mistaken. I’d sooner go into a den of wild beasts and bite a lion on the back of the neck.”

“Oh, all right,” said Corky. Not cordially, but he said it; so I rang for Jeeves, and explained the situation.

“Very good, sir,” said Jeeves.

That’s the sort of chap he is. You can’t rattle him.


We found Corky near the door, looking at the picture, with one hand up in a defensive sort of way, as if he thought it might swing on him.

“Stand right where you are, Bertie,” he said, without moving. “Now, tell me honestly, how does it strike you?”

The light from the big window fell right on the picture. I took a good look at it. Then I shifted a bit nearer and took another look. Then I went back to where I had been at first, because it hadn’t seemed quite so bad from there.

“Well?” said Corky, anxiously.

I hesitated a bit.

“Of course, old man, I only saw the kid once, and then only for a moment, but⁠—but it was an ugly sort of kid, wasn’t it, if I remember rightly?”

“As ugly as that?”

I looked again, and honesty compelled me to be frank.

“I don’t see how it could have been, old chap.”

Poor old Corky ran his fingers through his hair in a temperamental sort of way. He groaned.

“You’re right quite, Bertie. Something’s gone wrong with the darned thing. My private impression is that, without knowing it, I’ve worked that stunt that Sargent and those fellows pull⁠—painting the soul of the sitter. I’ve got through the mere outward appearance, and have put the child’s soul on canvas.”

“But could a child of that age have a soul like that? I don’t see how he could have managed it in the time. What do you think, Jeeves?”

“I doubt it, sir.”

“It⁠—it sorts of leers at you, doesn’t it?”

“You’ve noticed that, too?” said Corky.

“I don’t see how one could help noticing.”

“All I tried to do was to give the little brute a cheerful expression. But, as it worked out, he looks positively dissipated.”

“Just what I was going to suggest, old man. He looks as if he were in the middle of a colossal spree, and enjoying every minute of it. Don’t you think so, Jeeves?”

“He has a decidedly inebriated air, sir.”

Corky was starting to say something when the door opened, and the uncle came in.

For about three seconds all was joy, jollity, and goodwill. The old boy shook hands with me, slapped Corky on the back, said that he didn’t think he had ever seen such a fine day, and whacked his leg with his stick. Jeeves had projected himself into the background, and he didn’t notice him.

“Well, Bruce, my boy; so the portrait is really finished, is it⁠—really finished? Well, bring it out. Let’s have a look at it. This will be a wonderful surprise for your aunt. Where is it? Let’s⁠—”

And then he got it⁠—suddenly, when he wasn’t set for the punch; and he rocked back on his heels.

“Oosh!” he exclaimed. And for perhaps a minute there was one of the scaliest silences I’ve ever run up against.

“Is this a practical joke?” he said at last, in a way that set about sixteen draughts cutting through the room at once.

I thought it was up to me to rally round old Corky.

“You want to stand a bit farther away from it,” I said.

“You’re perfectly right!” he snorted. “I do! I want to stand so far away from it that I can’t see the thing with a telescope!” He turned on Corky like an untamed tiger of the jungle who has just located a chunk of meat. “And this⁠—this⁠—is what you have been wasting your time and my money for all these years! A painter! I wouldn’t let you paint a house of mine! I gave you this commission, thinking that you were a competent worker, and this⁠—this⁠—this extract from a comic coloured supplement is the result!” He swung towards the door, lashing his tail and growling to himself. “This ends it! If you wish to continue this foolery of pretending to be an artist because you want an excuse for idleness, please yourself. But let me tell you this. Unless you report at my office on Monday morning, prepared to abandon all this idiocy and start in at the bottom of the business to work your way up, as you should have done half a dozen years ago, not another cent⁠—not another cent⁠—not another⁠—Boosh!”

Then the door closed, and he was no longer with us. And I crawled out of the bombproof shelter.

“Corky, old top!” I whispered faintly.

Corky was standing staring at the picture. His face was set. There was a hunted look in his eye.

“Well, that finishes it!” he muttered brokenly.

“What are you going to do?”

“Do? What can I do? I can’t stick on here if he cuts off supplies. You heard what he said. I shall have to go to the office on Monday.”

I couldn’t think of a thing to say. I knew exactly how he felt about the office. I don’t know when I’ve been so infernally uncomfortable. It was like hanging round trying to make conversation to a pal who’s just been sentenced to twenty years in quod.

And then a soothing voice broke the silence.

“If I might make a suggestion, sir!”

It was Jeeves. He had slid from the shadows and was gazing gravely at the picture. Upon my word, I can’t give you a better idea of the shattering effect of Corky’s uncle Alexander when in action than by saying that he had absolutely made me forget for the moment that Jeeves was there.

“I wonder if I have ever happened to mention to you, sir, a Mr. Digby Thistleton, with whom I was once in service? Perhaps you have met him? He was a financier. He is now Lord Bridgnorth. It was a favourite saying of his that there is always a way. The first time I heard him use the expression was after the failure of a patent depilatory which he promoted.”

“Jeeves,” I said, “what on earth are you talking about?”

“I mentioned Mr. Thistleton, sir, because his was in some respects a parallel case to the present one. His depilatory failed, but he did not despair. He put it on the market again under the name of Hair-o, guaranteed to produce a full crop of hair in a few months. It was advertised, if you remember, sir, by a humorous picture of a billiard-ball, before and after taking, and made such a substantial fortune that Mr. Thistleton was soon afterwards elevated to the peerage for services to his Party. It seems to me that, if Mr. Corcoran looks into the matter, he will find, like Mr. Thistleton, that there is always a way. Mr. Worple himself suggested the solution of the difficulty. In the heat of the moment he compared the portrait to an extract from a coloured comic supplement. I consider the suggestion a very valuable one, sir. Mr. Corcoran’s portrait may not have pleased Mr. Worple as a likeness of his only child, but I have no doubt that editors would gladly consider it as a foundation for a series of humorous drawings. If Mr. Corcoran will allow me to make the suggestion, his talent has always been for the humorous. There is something about this picture⁠—something bold and vigorous, which arrests the attention. I feel sure it would be highly popular.”

Corky was glaring at the picture, and making a sort of dry, sucking noise with his mouth. He seemed completely overwrought.

And then suddenly he began to laugh in a wild way.

“Corky, old man!” I said, massaging him tenderly. I feared the poor blighter was hysterical.

He began to stagger about all over the floor.

“He’s right! The man’s absolutely right! Jeeves, you’re a lifesaver! You’ve hit on the greatest idea of the age! Report at the office on Monday! Start at the bottom of the business! I’ll buy the business if I feel like it. I know the man who runs the comic section of the Sunday Star. He’ll eat this thing. He was telling me only the other day how hard it was to get a good new series. He’ll give me anything I ask for a real winner like this. I’ve got a goldmine. Where’s my hat? I’ve got an income for life! Where’s that confounded hat? Lend me a fiver, Bertie. I want to take a taxi down to Park Row!”

Jeeves smiled paternally. Or, rather, he had a kind of paternal muscular spasm about the mouth, which is the nearest he ever gets to smiling.

“If I might make the suggestion, Mr. Corcoran⁠—for a title of the series which you have in mind⁠—‘The Adventures of Baby Blobbs.’ ”

Corky and I looked at the picture, then at each other in an awed way. Jeeves was right. There could be no other title.


“Jeeves,” I said. It was a few weeks later, and I had just finished looking at the comic section of the Sunday Star. “I’m an optimist. I always have been. The older I get, the more I agree with Shakespeare and those poet Johnnies about it always being darkest before the dawn and there’s a silver lining and what you lose on the swings you make up on the roundabouts. Look at Mr. Corcoran, for instance. There was a fellow, one would have said, clear up to the eyebrows in the soup. To all appearances he had got it right in the neck. Yet look at him now. Have you seen these pictures?”

“I took the liberty of glancing at them before bringing them to you, sir. Extremely diverting.”

“They have made a big hit, you know.”

“I anticipated it, sir.”

I leaned back against the pillows.

“You know, Jeeves, you’re a genius. You ought to be drawing a commission on these things.”

“I have nothing to complain of in that respect, sir. Mr. Corcoran has been most generous. I am putting out the brown suit, sir.”

“No, I think I’ll wear the blue with the faint red stripe.”

“Not the blue with the faint red stripe, sir.”

“But I rather fancy myself in it.”

“Not the blue with the faint red stripe, sir.”

“Oh, all right, have it your own way.”

“Very good, sir. Thank you, sir.”

Of course, I know it’s as bad as being henpecked; but then Jeeves is always right. You’ve got to consider that, you know. What?

The Aunt and the Sluggard

Now that it’s all over, I may as well admit that there was a time during the rather funny affair of Rockmetteller Todd when I thought that Jeeves was going to let me down. The man had the appearance of being baffled.

Jeeves is my man, you know. Officially he pulls in his weekly wages for pressing my clothes and all that sort of thing; but actually he’s more like what the poet Johnnie called some bird of his acquaintance who was apt to rally round him in times of need⁠—a guide, don’t you know; philosopher, if I remember rightly, and⁠—I rather fancy⁠—friend. I rely on him at every turn.

So naturally, when Rocky Todd told me about his aunt, I didn’t hesitate. Jeeves was in on the thing from the start.

The affair of Rocky Todd broke loose early one morning of spring. I was in bed, restoring the good old tissues with about nine hours of the dreamless, when the door flew open and somebody prodded me in the lower ribs and began to shake the bedclothes. After blinking a bit and generally pulling myself together, I located Rocky, and my first impression was that it was some horrid dream.

Rocky, you see, lived down on Long Island somewhere, miles away from New York; and not only that, but he had told me himself more than once that he never got up before twelve, and seldom earlier than one. Constitutionally the laziest young devil in America, he had hit on a walk in life which enabled him to go the limit in that direction. He was a poet. At least, he wrote poems when he did anything; but most of his time, as far as I could make out, he spent in a sort of trance. He told me once that he could sit on a fence, watching a worm and wondering what on earth it was up to, for hours at a stretch.

He had his scheme of life worked out to a fine point. About once a month he would take three days writing a few poems; the other three hundred and twenty-nine days of the year he rested. I didn’t know there was enough money in poetry to support a chappie, even in the way in which Rocky lived; but it seems that, if you stick to exhortations to young men to lead the strenuous life and don’t shove in any rhymes, American editors fight for the stuff. Rocky showed me one of his things once. It began:

Be!
Be!
The past is dead.
Tomorrow is not born.
Be today!
Today!
Be with every nerve,
With every muscle,
With every drop of your red blood!
Be!

It was printed opposite the frontispiece of a magazine with a sort of scroll round it, and a picture in the middle of a fairly-nude chappie, with bulging muscles, giving the rising sun the glad eye. Rocky said they gave him a hundred dollars for it, and he stayed in bed till four in the afternoon for over a month.

As regarded the future he was pretty solid, owing to the fact that he had a moneyed aunt tucked away somewhere in Illinois; and, as he had been named Rockmetteller after her, and was her only nephew, his position was pretty sound. He told me that when he did come into the money he meant to do no work at all, except perhaps an occasional poem recommending the young man with life opening out before him, with all its splendid possibilities, to light a pipe and shove his feet upon the mantelpiece.

And this was the man who was prodding me in the ribs in the grey dawn!

“Read this, Bertie!” I could just see that he was waving a letter or something equally foul in my face. “Wake up and read this!”

I can’t read before I’ve had my morning tea and a cigarette. I groped for the bell.

Jeeves came in looking as fresh as a dewy violet. It’s a mystery to me how he does it.

“Tea, Jeeves.”

“Very good, sir.”

He flowed silently out of the room⁠—he always gives you the impression of being some liquid substance when he moves; and I found that Rocky was surging round with his beastly letter again.

“What is it?” I said. “What on earth’s the matter?”

“Read it!”

“I can’t. I haven’t had my tea.”

“Well, listen then.”

“Who’s it from?”

“My aunt.”

At this point I fell asleep again. I woke to hear him saying:

“So what on earth am I to do?”

Jeeves trickled in with the tray, like some silent stream meandering over its mossy bed; and I saw daylight.

“Read it again, Rocky, old top,” I said. “I want Jeeves to hear it. Mr. Todd’s aunt has written him a rather rummy letter, Jeeves, and we want your advice.”

“Very good, sir.”

He stood in the middle of the room, registering devotion to the cause, and Rocky started again:

My dear Rockmetteller⁠—I have been thinking things over for a long while, and I have come to the conclusion that I have been very thoughtless to wait so long before doing what I have made up my mind to do now.”

“What do you make of that, Jeeves?”

“It seems a little obscure at present, sir, but no doubt it becomes cleared at a later point in the communication.”

“It becomes as clear as mud!” said Rocky.

“Proceed, old scout,” I said, champing my bread and butter.

“You know how all my life I have longed to visit New York and see for myself the wonderful gay life of which I have read so much. I fear that now it will be impossible for me to fulfil my dream. I am old and worn out. I seem to have no strength left in me.”

“Sad, Jeeves, what?”

“Extremely, sir.”

“Sad nothing!” said Rocky. “It’s sheer laziness. I went to see her last Christmas and she was bursting with health. Her doctor told me himself that there was nothing wrong with her whatever. But she will insist that she’s a hopeless invalid, so he has to agree with her. She’s got a fixed idea that the trip to New York would kill her; so, though it’s been her ambition all her life to come here, she stays where she is.”

“Rather like the chappie whose heart was ‘in the Highlands a-chasing of the deer,’ Jeeves?”

“The cases are in some respects parallel, sir.”

“Carry on, Rocky, dear boy.”

“So I have decided that, if I cannot enjoy all the marvels of the city myself, I can at least enjoy them through you. I suddenly thought of this yesterday after reading a beautiful poem in the Sunday paper about a young man who had longed all his life for a certain thing and won it in the end only when he was too old to enjoy it. It was very sad, and it touched me.”

“A thing,” interpolated Rocky bitterly, “that I’ve not been able to do in ten years.”

“As you know, you will have my money when I am gone; but until now I have never been able to see my way to giving you an allowance. I have now decided to do so⁠—on one condition. I have written to a firm of lawyers in New York, giving them instructions to pay you quite a substantial sum each month. My one condition is that you live in New York and enjoy yourself as I have always wished to do. I want you to be my representative, to spend this money for me as I should do myself. I want you to plunge into the gay, prismatic life of New York. I want you to be the life and soul of brilliant supper parties.

“Above all, I want you⁠—indeed, I insist on this⁠—to write me letters at least once a week giving me a full description of all you are doing and all that is going on in the city, so that I may enjoy at secondhand what my wretched health prevents my enjoying for myself. Remember that I shall expect full details, and that no detail is too trivial to interest.

“Your affectionate Aunt,

“Isabel Rockmetteller.”

“What about it?” said Rocky.

“What about it?” I said.

“Yes. What on earth am I going to do?”

It was only then that I really got on to the extremely rummy attitude of the chappie, in view of the fact that a quite unexpected mess of the right stuff had suddenly descended on him from a blue sky. To my mind it was an occasion for the beaming smile and the joyous whoop; yet here the man was, looking and talking as if Fate had swung on his solar plexus. It amazed me.

“Aren’t you bucked?” I said.

“Bucked!”

“If I were in your place I should be frightfully braced. I consider this pretty soft for you.”

He gave a kind of yelp, stared at me for a moment, and then began to talk of New York in a way that reminded me of Jimmy Mundy, the reformer chappie. Jimmy had just come to New York on a hit-the-trail campaign, and I had popped in at the Garden a couple of days before, for half an hour or so, to hear him. He had certainly told New York some pretty straight things about itself, having apparently taken a dislike to the place, but, by Jove, you know, dear old Rocky made him look like a publicity agent for the old metrop!

“Pretty soft!” he cried. “To have to come and live in New York! To have to leave my little cottage and take a stuffy, smelly, overheated hole of an apartment in this Heaven-forsaken, festering Gehenna. To have to mix night after night with a mob who think that life is a sort of St. Vitus’s dance, and imagine that they’re having a good time because they’re making enough noise for six and drinking too much for ten. I loathe New York, Bertie. I wouldn’t come near the place if I hadn’t got to see editors occasionally. There’s a blight on it. It’s got moral delirium tremens. It’s the limit. The very thought of staying more than a day in it makes me sick. And you call this thing pretty soft for me!”

I felt rather like Lot’s friends must have done when they dropped in for a quiet chat and their genial host began to criticise the Cities of the Plain. I had no idea old Rocky could be so eloquent.

“It would kill me to have to live in New York,” he went on. “To have to share the air with six million people! To have to wear stiff collars and decent clothes all the time! To⁠—” He started. “Good Lord! I suppose I should have to dress for dinner in the evenings. What a ghastly notion!”

I was shocked, absolutely shocked.

“My dear chap!” I said reproachfully.

“Do you dress for dinner every night, Bertie?”

“Jeeves,” I said coldly. The man was still standing like a statue by the door. “How many suits of evening clothes have I?”

“We have three suits full of evening dress, sir; two dinner jackets⁠—”

“Three.”

“For practical purposes two only, sir. If you remember we cannot wear the third. We have also seven white waistcoats.”

“And shirts?”

“Four dozen, sir.”

“And white ties?”

“The first two shallow shelves in the chest of drawers are completely filled with our white ties, sir.”

I turned to Rocky.

“You see?”

The chappie writhed like an electric fan.

“I won’t do it! I can’t do it! I’ll be hanged if I’ll do it! How on earth can I dress up like that? Do you realize that most days I don’t get out of my pyjamas till five in the afternoon, and then I just put on an old sweater?”

I saw Jeeves wince, poor chap! This sort of revelation shocked his finest feelings.

“Then, what are you going to do about it?” I said.

“That’s what I want to know.”

“You might write and explain to your aunt.”

“I might⁠—if I wanted her to get round to her lawyer’s in two rapid leaps and cut me out of her will.”

I saw his point.

“What do you suggest, Jeeves?” I said.

Jeeves cleared his throat respectfully.

“The crux of the matter would appear to be, sir, that Mr. Todd is obliged by the conditions under which the money is delivered into his possession to write Miss Rockmetteller long and detailed letters relating to his movements, and the only method by which this can be accomplished, if Mr. Todd adheres to his expressed intention of remaining in the country, is for Mr. Todd to induce some second party to gather the actual experiences which Miss Rockmetteller wishes reported to her, and to convey these to him in the shape of a careful report, on which it would be possible for him, with the aid of his imagination, to base the suggested correspondence.”

Having got which off the old diaphragm, Jeeves was silent. Rocky looked at me in a helpless sort of way. He hasn’t been brought up on Jeeves as I have, and he isn’t on to his curves.

“Could he put it a little clearer, Bertie?” he said. “I thought at the start it was going to make sense, but it kind of flickered. What’s the idea?”

“My dear old man, perfectly simple. I knew we could stand on Jeeves. All you’ve got to do is to get somebody to go round the town for you and take a few notes, and then you work the notes up into letters. That’s it, isn’t it, Jeeves?”

“Precisely, sir.”

The light of hope gleamed in Rocky’s eyes. He looked at Jeeves in a startled way, dazed by the man’s vast intellect.

“But who would do it?” he said. “It would have to be a pretty smart sort of man, a man who would notice things.”

“Jeeves!” I said. “Let Jeeves do it.”

“But would he?”

“You would do it, wouldn’t you, Jeeves?”

For the first time in our long connection I observed Jeeves almost smile. The corner of his mouth curved quite a quarter of an inch, and for a moment his eye ceased to look like a meditative fish’s.

“I should be delighted to oblige, sir. As a matter of fact, I have already visited some of New York’s places of interest on my evening out, and it would be most enjoyable to make a practice of the pursuit.”

“Fine! I know exactly what your aunt wants to hear about, Rocky. She wants an earful of cabaret stuff. The place you ought to go to first, Jeeves, is Reigelheimer’s. It’s on Forty-second Street. Anybody will show you the way.”

Jeeves shook his head.

“Pardon me, sir. People are no longer going to Reigelheimer’s. The place at the moment is Frolics on the Roof.”

“You see?” I said to Rocky. “Leave it to Jeeves. He knows.”


It isn’t often that you find an entire group of your fellow-humans happy in this world; but our little circle was certainly an example of the fact that it can be done. We were all full of beans. Everything went absolutely right from the start.

Jeeves was happy, partly because he loves to exercise his giant brain, and partly because he was having a corking time among the bright lights. I saw him one night at the Midnight Revels. He was sitting at a table on the edge of the dancing floor, doing himself remarkably well with a fat cigar and a bottle of the best. I’d never imagined he could look so nearly human. His face wore an expression of austere benevolence, and he was making notes in a small book.

As for the rest of us, I was feeling pretty good, because I was fond of old Rocky and glad to be able to do him a good turn. Rocky was perfectly contented, because he was still able to sit on fences in his pyjamas and watch worms. And, as for the aunt, she seemed tickled to death. She was getting Broadway at pretty long range, but it seemed to be hitting her just right. I read one of her letters to Rocky, and it was full of life.

But then Rocky’s letters, based on Jeeves’s notes, were enough to buck anybody up. It was rummy when you came to think of it. There was I, loving the life, while the mere mention of it gave Rocky a tired feeling; yet here is a letter I wrote to a pal of mine in London:

Dear Freddie⁠—Well, here I am in New York. It’s not a bad place. I’m not having a bad time. Everything’s pretty all right. The cabarets aren’t bad. Don’t know when I shall be back. How’s everybody? Cheer-o!

—Yours,

Bertie.

P.S.⁠—Seen old Ted lately?”

Not that I cared about Ted; but if I hadn’t dragged him in I couldn’t have got the confounded thing on to the second page.

Now here’s old Rocky on exactly the same subject:

Dearest Aunt Isabel⁠—How can I ever thank you enough for giving me the opportunity to live in this astounding city! New York seems more wonderful every day.

“Fifth Avenue is at its best, of course, just now. The dresses are magnificent!”

Wads of stuff about the dresses. I didn’t know Jeeves was such an authority.

“I was out with some of the crowd at the Midnight Revels the other night. We took in a show first, after a little dinner at a new place on Forty-third Street. We were quite a gay party. Georgie Cohan looked in about midnight and got off a good one about Willie Collier. Fred Stone could only stay a minute, but Doug Fairbanks did all sorts of stunts and made us roar. Diamond Jim Brady was there, as usual, and Laurette Taylor showed up with a party. The show at the Revels is quite good. I am enclosing a programme.

“Last night a few of us went round to Frolics on the Roof⁠—”

And so on and so forth, yards of it. I suppose it’s the artistic temperament or something. What I mean is, it’s easier for a chappie who’s used to writing poems and that sort of tosh to put a bit of a punch into a letter than it is for a chappie like me. Anyway, there’s no doubt that Rocky’s correspondence was hot stuff. I called Jeeves in and congratulated him.

“Jeeves, you’re a wonder!”

“Thank you, sir.”

“How you notice everything at these places beats me. I couldn’t tell you a thing about them, except that I’ve had a good time.”

“It’s just a knack, sir.”

“Well, Mr. Todd’s letters ought to brace Miss Rockmetteller all right, what?”

“Undoubtedly, sir,” agreed Jeeves.

And, by Jove, they did! They certainly did, by George! What I mean to say is, I was sitting in the apartment one afternoon, about a month after the thing had started, smoking a cigarette and resting the old bean, when the door opened and the voice of Jeeves burst the silence like a bomb.

It wasn’t that he spoke loud. He has one of those soft, soothing voices that slide through the atmosphere like the note of a far-off sheep. It was what he said made me leap like a young gazelle.

“Miss Rockmetteller!”

And in came a large, solid female.

The situation floored me. I’m not denying it. Hamlet must have felt much as I did when his father’s ghost bobbed up in the fairway. I’d come to look on Rocky’s aunt as such a permanency at her own home that it didn’t seem possible that she could really be here in New York. I stared at her. Then I looked at Jeeves. He was standing there in an attitude of dignified detachment, the chump, when, if ever he should have been rallying round the young master, it was now.

Rocky’s aunt looked less like an invalid than anyone I’ve ever seen, except my Aunt Agatha. She had a good deal of Aunt Agatha about her, as a matter of fact. She looked as if she might be deucedly dangerous if put upon; and something seemed to tell me that she would certainly regard herself as put upon if she ever found out the game which poor old Rocky had been pulling on her.

“Good afternoon,” I managed to say.

“How do you do?” she said. “Mr. Cohan?”

“Er⁠—no.”

Mr. Fred Stone?”

“Not absolutely. As a matter of fact, my name’s Wooster⁠—Bertie Wooster.”

She seemed disappointed. The fine old name of Wooster appeared to mean nothing in her life.

“Isn’t Rockmetteller home?” she said. “Where is he?”

She had me with the first shot. I couldn’t think of anything to say. I couldn’t tell her that Rocky was down in the country, watching worms.

There was the faintest flutter of sound in the background. It was the respectful cough with which Jeeves announces that he is about to speak without having been spoken to.

“If you remember, sir, Mr. Todd went out in the automobile with a party in the afternoon.”

“So he did, Jeeves; so he did,” I said, looking at my watch. “Did he say when he would be back?”

“He gave me to understand, sir, that he would be somewhat late in returning.”

He vanished; and the aunt took the chair which I’d forgotten to offer her. She looked at me in rather a rummy way. It was a nasty look. It made me feel as if I were something the dog had brought in and intended to bury later on, when he had time. My own Aunt Agatha, back in England, has looked at me in exactly the same way many a time, and it never fails to make my spine curl.

“You seem very much at home here, young man. Are you a great friend of Rockmetteller’s?”

“Oh, yes, rather!”

She frowned as if she had expected better things of old Rocky.

“Well, you need to be,” she said, “the way you treat his flat as your own!”

I give you my word, this quite unforeseen slam simply robbed me of the power of speech. I’d been looking on myself in the light of the dashing host, and suddenly to be treated as an intruder jarred me. It wasn’t, mark you, as if she had spoken in a way to suggest that she considered my presence in the place as an ordinary social call. She obviously looked on me as a cross between a burglar and the plumber’s man come to fix the leak in the bathroom. It hurt her⁠—my being there.

At this juncture, with the conversation showing every sign of being about to die in awful agonies, an idea came to me. Tea⁠—the good old standby.

“Would you care for a cup of tea?” I said.

“Tea?”

She spoke as if she had never heard of the stuff.

“Nothing like a cup after a journey,” I said. “Bucks you up! Puts a bit of zip into you. What I mean is, restores you, and so on, don’t you know. I’ll go and tell Jeeves.”

I tottered down the passage to Jeeves’s lair. The man was reading the evening paper as if he hadn’t a care in the world.

“Jeeves,” I said, “we want some tea.”

“Very good, sir.”

“I say, Jeeves, this is a bit thick, what?”

I wanted sympathy, don’t you know⁠—sympathy and kindness. The old nerve centres had had the deuce of a shock.

“She’s got the idea this place belongs to Mr. Todd. What on earth put that into her head?”

Jeeves filled the kettle with a restrained dignity.

“No doubt because of Mr. Todd’s letters, sir,” he said. “It was my suggestion, sir, if you remember, that they should be addressed from this apartment in order that Mr. Todd should appear to possess a good central residence in the city.”

I remembered. We had thought it a brainy scheme at the time.

“Well, it’s bally awkward, you know, Jeeves. She looks on me as an intruder. By Jove! I suppose she thinks I’m someone who hangs about here, touching Mr. Todd for free meals and borrowing his shirts.”

“Yes, sir.”

“It’s pretty rotten, you know.”

“Most disturbing, sir.”

“And there’s another thing: What are we to do about Mr. Todd? We’ve got to get him up here as soon as ever we can. When you have brought the tea you had better go out and send him a telegram, telling him to come up by the next train.”

“I have already done so, sir. I took the liberty of writing the message and dispatching it by the lift attendant.”

“By Jove, you think of everything, Jeeves!”

“Thank you, sir. A little buttered toast with the tea? Just so, sir. Thank you.”

I went back to the sitting room. She hadn’t moved an inch. She was still bolt upright on the edge of her chair, gripping her umbrella like a hammer-thrower. She gave me another of those looks as I came in. There was no doubt about it; for some reason she had taken a dislike to me. I suppose because I wasn’t George M. Cohan. It was a bit hard on a chap.

“This is a surprise, what?” I said, after about five minutes’ restful silence, trying to crank the conversation up again.

“What is a surprise?”

“Your coming here, don’t you know, and so on.”

She raised her eyebrows and drank me in a bit more through her glasses.

“Why is it surprising that I should visit my only nephew?” she said.

Put like that, of course, it did seem reasonable.

“Oh, rather,” I said. “Of course! Certainly. What I mean is⁠—”

Jeeves projected himself into the room with the tea. I was jolly glad to see him. There’s nothing like having a bit of business arranged for one when one isn’t certain of one’s lines. With the teapot to fool about with I felt happier.

“Tea, tea, tea⁠—what? What?” I said.

It wasn’t what I had meant to say. My idea had been to be a good deal more formal, and so on. Still, it covered the situation. I poured her out a cup. She sipped it and put the cup down with a shudder.

“Do you mean to say, young man,” she said frostily, “that you expect me to drink this stuff?”

“Rather! Bucks you up, you know.”

“What do you mean by the expression ‘Bucks you up’?”

“Well, makes you full of beans, you know. Makes you fizz.”

“I don’t understand a word you say. You’re English, aren’t you?”

I admitted it. She didn’t say a word. And somehow she did it in a way that made it worse than if she had spoken for hours. Somehow it was brought home to me that she didn’t like Englishmen, and that if she had had to meet an Englishman, I was the one she’d have chosen last.

Conversation languished again after that.

Then I tried again. I was becoming more convinced every moment that you can’t make a real lively salon with a couple of people, especially if one of them lets it go a word at a time.

“Are you comfortable at your hotel?” I said.

“At which hotel?”

“The hotel you’re staying at.”

“I am not staying at an hotel.”

“Stopping with friends⁠—what?”

“I am naturally stopping with my nephew.”

I didn’t get it for the moment; then it hit me.

“What! Here?” I gurgled.

“Certainly! Where else should I go?”

The full horror of the situation rolled over me like a wave. I couldn’t see what on earth I was to do. I couldn’t explain that this wasn’t Rocky’s flat without giving the poor old chap away hopelessly, because she would then ask me where he did live, and then he would be right in the soup. I was trying to induce the old bean to recover from the shock and produce some results when she spoke again.

“Will you kindly tell my nephew’s manservant to prepare my room? I wish to lie down.”

“Your nephew’s manservant?”

“The man you call Jeeves. If Rockmetteller has gone for an automobile ride, there is no need for you to wait for him. He will naturally wish to be alone with me when he returns.”

I found myself tottering out of the room. The thing was too much for me. I crept into Jeeves’s den.

“Jeeves!” I whispered.

“Sir?”

“Mix me a b.-and-s., Jeeves. I feel weak.”

“Very good, sir.”

“This is getting thicker every minute, Jeeves.”

“Sir?”

“She thinks you’re Mr. Todd’s man. She thinks the whole place is his, and everything in it. I don’t see what you’re to do, except stay on and keep it up. We can’t say anything or she’ll get on to the whole thing, and I don’t want to let Mr. Todd down. By the way, Jeeves, she wants you to prepare her bed.”

He looked wounded.

“It is hardly my place, sir⁠—”

“I know⁠—I know. But do it as a personal favour to me. If you come to that, it’s hardly my place to be flung out of the flat like this and have to go to an hotel, what?”

“Is it your intention to go to an hotel, sir? What will you do for clothes?”

“Good Lord! I hadn’t thought of that. Can you put a few things in a bag when she isn’t looking, and sneak them down to me at the St. Aurea?”

“I will endeavour to do so, sir.”

“Well, I don’t think there’s anything more, is there? Tell Mr. Todd where I am when he gets here.”

“Very good, sir.”

I looked round the place. The moment of parting had come. I felt sad. The whole thing reminded me of one of those melodramas where they drive chappies out of the old homestead into the snow.

“Goodbye, Jeeves,” I said.

“Goodbye, sir.”

And I staggered out.


You know, I rather think I agree with those poet-and-philosopher Johnnies who insist that a fellow ought to be devilish pleased if he has a bit of trouble. All that stuff about being refined by suffering, you know. Suffering does give a chap a sort of broader and more sympathetic outlook. It helps you to understand other people’s misfortunes if you’ve been through the same thing yourself.

As I stood in my lonely bedroom at the hotel, trying to tie my white tie myself, it struck me for the first time that there must be whole squads of chappies in the world who had to get along without a man to look after them. I’d always thought of Jeeves as a kind of natural phenomenon; but, by Jove! of course, when you come to think of it, there must be quite a lot of fellows who have to press their own clothes themselves and haven’t got anybody to bring them tea in the morning, and so on. It was rather a solemn thought, don’t you know. I mean to say, ever since then I’ve been able to appreciate the frightful privations the poor have to stick.

I got dressed somehow. Jeeves hadn’t forgotten a thing in his packing. Everything was there, down to the final stud. I’m not sure this didn’t make me feel worse. It kind of deepened the pathos. It was like what somebody or other wrote about the touch of a vanished hand.

I had a bit of dinner somewhere and went to a show of some kind; but nothing seemed to make any difference. I simply hadn’t the heart to go on to supper anywhere. I just sucked down a whisky-and-soda in the hotel smoking room and went straight up to bed. I don’t know when I’ve felt so rotten. Somehow I found myself moving about the room softly, as if there had been a death in the family. If I had anybody to talk to I should have talked in a whisper; in fact, when the telephone-bell rang I answered in such a sad, hushed voice that the fellow at the other end of the wire said “Halloa!” five times, thinking he hadn’t got me.

It was Rocky. The poor old scout was deeply agitated.

“Bertie! Is that you, Bertie! Oh, gosh? I’m having a time!”

“Where are you speaking from?”

“The Midnight Revels. We’ve been here an hour, and I think we’re a fixture for the night. I’ve told Aunt Isabel I’ve gone out to call up a friend to join us. She’s glued to a chair, with this-is-the-life written all over her, taking it in through the pores. She loves it, and I’m nearly crazy.”

“Tell me all, old top,” I said.

“A little more of this,” he said, “and I shall sneak quietly off to the river and end it all. Do you mean to say you go through this sort of thing every night, Bertie, and enjoy it? It’s simply infernal! I was just snatching a wink of sleep behind the bill of fare just now when about a million yelling girls swooped down, with toy balloons. There are two orchestras here, each trying to see if it can’t play louder than the other. I’m a mental and physical wreck. When your telegram arrived I was just lying down for a quiet pipe, with a sense of absolute peace stealing over me. I had to get dressed and sprint two miles to catch the train. It nearly gave me heart-failure; and on top of that I almost got brain fever inventing lies to tell Aunt Isabel. And then I had to cram myself into these confounded evening clothes of yours.”

I gave a sharp wail of agony. It hadn’t struck me till then that Rocky was depending on my wardrobe to see him through.

“You’ll ruin them!”

“I hope so,” said Rocky, in the most unpleasant way. His troubles seemed to have had the worst effect on his character. “I should like to get back at them somehow; they’ve given me a bad enough time. They’re about three sizes too small, and something’s apt to give at any moment. I wish to goodness it would, and give me a chance to breathe. I haven’t breathed since half-past seven. Thank Heaven, Jeeves managed to get out and buy me a collar that fitted, or I should be a strangled corpse by now! It was touch and go till the stud broke. Bertie, this is pure Hades! Aunt Isabel keeps on urging me to dance. How on earth can I dance when I don’t know a soul to dance with? And how the deuce could I, even if I knew every girl in the place? It’s taking big chances even to move in these trousers. I had to tell her I’ve hurt my ankle. She keeps asking me when Cohan and Stone are going to turn up; and it’s simply a question of time before she discovers that Stone is sitting two tables away. Something’s got to be done, Bertie! You’ve got to think up some way of getting me out of this mess. It was you who got me into it.”

“Me! What do you mean?”

“Well, Jeeves, then. It’s all the same. It was you who suggested leaving it to Jeeves. It was those letters I wrote from his notes that did the mischief. I made them too good! My aunt’s just been telling me about it. She says she had resigned herself to ending her life where she was, and then my letters began to arrive, describing the joys of New York; and they stimulated her to such an extent that she pulled herself together and made the trip. She seems to think she’s had some miraculous kind of faith cure. I tell you I can’t stand it, Bertie! It’s got to end!”

“Can’t Jeeves think of anything?”

“No. He just hangs round saying: ‘Most disturbing, sir!’ A fat lot of help that is!”

“Well, old lad,” I said, “after all, it’s far worse for me than it is for you. You’ve got a comfortable home and Jeeves. And you’re saving a lot of money.”

“Saving money? What do you mean⁠—saving money?”

“Why, the allowance your aunt was giving you. I suppose she’s paying all the expenses now, isn’t she?”

“Certainly she is; but she’s stopped the allowance. She wrote the lawyers tonight. She says that, now she’s in New York, there is no necessity for it to go on, as we shall always be together, and it’s simpler for her to look after that end of it. I tell you, Bertie, I’ve examined the darned cloud with a microscope, and if it’s got a silver lining it’s some little dissembler!”

“But, Rocky, old top, it’s too bally awful! You’ve no notion of what I’m going through in this beastly hotel, without Jeeves. I must get back to the flat.”

“Don’t come near the flat.”

“But it’s my own flat.”

“I can’t help that. Aunt Isabel doesn’t like you. She asked me what you did for a living. And when I told her you didn’t do anything she said she thought as much, and that you were a typical specimen of a useless and decaying aristocracy. So if you think you have made a hit, forget it. Now I must be going back, or she’ll be coming out here after me. Goodbye.”


Next morning Jeeves came round. It was all so homelike when he floated noiselessly into the room that I nearly broke down.

“Good morning, sir,” he said. “I have brought a few more of your personal belongings.”

He began to unstrap the suitcase he was carrying.

“Did you have any trouble sneaking them away?”

“It was not easy, sir. I had to watch my chance. Miss Rockmetteller is a remarkably alert lady.”

“You know, Jeeves, say what you like⁠—this is a bit thick, isn’t it?”

“The situation is certainly one that has never before come under my notice, sir. I have brought the heather-mixture suit, as the climatic conditions are congenial. Tomorrow, if not prevented, I will endeavour to add the brown lounge with the faint green twill.”

“It can’t go on⁠—this sort of thing⁠—Jeeves.”

“We must hope for the best, sir.”

“Can’t you think of anything to do?”

“I have been giving the matter considerable thought, sir, but so far without success. I am placing three silk shirts⁠—the dove-coloured, the light blue, and the mauve⁠—in the first long drawer, sir.”

“You don’t mean to say you can’t think of anything, Jeeves?”

“For the moment, sir, no. You will find a dozen handkerchiefs and the tan socks in the upper drawer on the left.” He strapped the suitcase and put it on a chair. “A curious lady, Miss Rockmetteller, sir.”

“You understate it, Jeeves.”

He gazed meditatively out of the window.

“In many ways, sir, Miss Rockmetteller reminds me of an aunt of mine who resides in the southeast portion of London. Their temperaments are much alike. My aunt has the same taste for the pleasures of the great city. It is a passion with her to ride in hansom cabs, sir. Whenever the family take their eyes off her she escapes from the house and spends the day riding about in cabs. On several occasions she has broken into the children’s savings bank to secure the means to enable her to gratify this desire.”

“I love to have these little chats with you about your female relatives, Jeeves,” I said coldly, for I felt that the man had let me down, and I was fed up with him. “But I don’t see what all this has got to do with my trouble.”

“I beg your pardon, sir. I am leaving a small assortment of neckties on the mantelpiece, sir, for you to select according to your preference. I should recommend the blue with the red domino pattern, sir.”

Then he streamed imperceptibly toward the door and flowed silently out.


I’ve often heard that chappies, after some great shock or loss, have a habit, after they’ve been on the floor for a while wondering what hit them, of picking themselves up and piecing themselves together, and sort of taking a whirl at beginning a new life. Time, the great healer, and Nature, adjusting itself, and so on and so forth. There’s a lot in it. I know, because in my own case, after a day or two of what you might call prostration, I began to recover. The frightful loss of Jeeves made any thought of pleasure more or less a mockery, but at least I found that I was able to have a dash at enjoying life again. What I mean is, I was braced up to the extent of going round the cabarets once more, so as to try to forget, if only for the moment.

New York’s a small place when it comes to the part of it that wakes up just as the rest is going to bed, and it wasn’t long before my tracks began to cross old Rocky’s. I saw him once at Peale’s, and again at Frolics on the roof. There wasn’t anybody with him either time except the aunt, and, though he was trying to look as if he had struck the ideal life, it wasn’t difficult for me, knowing the circumstances, to see that beneath the mask the poor chap was suffering. My heart bled for the fellow. At least, what there was of it that wasn’t bleeding for myself bled for him. He had the air of one who was about to crack under the strain.

It seemed to me that the aunt was looking slightly upset also. I took it that she was beginning to wonder when the celebrities were going to surge round, and what had suddenly become of all those wild, careless spirits Rocky used to mix with in his letters. I didn’t blame her. I had only read a couple of his letters, but they certainly gave the impression that poor old Rocky was by way of being the hub of New York night life, and that, if by any chance he failed to show up at a cabaret, the management said: “What’s the use?” and put up the shutters.

The next two nights I didn’t come across them, but the night after that I was sitting by myself at the Maison Pierre when somebody tapped me on the shoulder-blade, and I found Rocky standing beside me, with a sort of mixed expression of wistfulness and apoplexy on his face. How the chappie had contrived to wear my evening clothes so many times without disaster was a mystery to me. He confided later that early in the proceedings he had slit the waistcoat up the back and that that had helped a bit.

For a moment I had the idea that he had managed to get away from his aunt for the evening; but, looking past him, I saw that she was in again. She was at a table over by the wall, looking at me as if I were something the management ought to be complained to about.

“Bertie, old scout,” said Rocky, in a quiet, sort of crushed voice, “we’ve always been pals, haven’t we? I mean, you know I’d do you a good turn if you asked me?”

“My dear old lad,” I said. The man had moved me.

“Then, for Heaven’s sake, come over and sit at our table for the rest of the evening.”

Well, you know, there are limits to the sacred claims of friendship.

“My dear chap,” I said, “you know I’d do anything in reason; but⁠—”

“You must come, Bertie. You’ve got to. Something’s got to be done to divert her mind. She’s brooding about something. She’s been like that for the last two days. I think she’s beginning to suspect. She can’t understand why we never seem to meet anyone I know at these joints. A few nights ago I happened to run into two newspaper men I used to know fairly well. That kept me going for a while. I introduced them to Aunt Isabel as David Belasco and Jim Corbett, and it went well. But the effect has worn off now, and she’s beginning to wonder again. Something’s got to be done, or she will find out everything, and if she does I’d take a nickel for my chance of getting a cent from her later on. So, for the love of Mike, come across to our table and help things along.”

I went along. One has to rally round a pal in distress. Aunt Isabel was sitting bolt upright, as usual. It certainly did seem as if she had lost a bit of the zest with which she had started out to explore Broadway. She looked as if she had been thinking a good deal about rather unpleasant things.

“You’ve met Bertie Wooster, Aunt Isabel?” said Rocky.

“I have.”

There was something in her eye that seemed to say:

“Out of a city of six million people, why did you pick on me?”

“Take a seat, Bertie. What’ll you have?” said Rocky.

And so the merry party began. It was one of those jolly, happy, bread-crumbling parties where you cough twice before you speak, and then decide not to say it after all. After we had had an hour of this wild dissipation, Aunt Isabel said she wanted to go home. In the light of what Rocky had been telling me, this struck me as sinister. I had gathered that at the beginning of her visit she had had to be dragged home with ropes.

It must have hit Rocky the same way, for he gave me a pleading look.

“You’ll come along, won’t you, Bertie, and have a drink at the flat?”

I had a feeling that this wasn’t in the contract, but there wasn’t anything to be done. It seemed brutal to leave the poor chap alone with the woman, so I went along.

Right from the start, from the moment we stepped into the taxi, the feeling began to grow that something was about to break loose. A massive silence prevailed in the corner where the aunt sat, and, though Rocky, balancing himself on the little seat in front, did his best to supply dialogue, we weren’t a chatty party.

I had a glimpse of Jeeves as we went into the flat, sitting in his lair, and I wished I could have called to him to rally round. Something told me that I was about to need him.

The stuff was on the table in the sitting room. Rocky took up the decanter.

“Say when, Bertie.”

“Stop!” barked the aunt, and he dropped it.

I caught Rocky’s eye as he stooped to pick up the ruins. It was the eye of one who sees it coming.

“Leave it there, Rockmetteller!” said Aunt Isabel; and Rocky left it there.

“The time has come to speak,” she said. “I cannot stand idly by and see a young man going to perdition!”

Poor old Rocky gave a sort of gurgle, a kind of sound rather like the whisky had made running out of the decanter on to my carpet.

“Eh?” he said, blinking.

The aunt proceeded.

“The fault,” she said, “was mine. I had not then seen the light. But now my eyes are open. I see the hideous mistake I have made. I shudder at the thought of the wrong I did you, Rockmetteller, by urging you into contact with this wicked city.”

I saw Rocky grope feebly for the table. His fingers touched it, and a look of relief came into the poor chappie’s face. I understood his feelings.

“But when I wrote you that letter, Rockmetteller, instructing you to go to the city and live its life, I had not had the privilege of hearing Mr. Mundy speak on the subject of New York.”

“Jimmy Mundy!” I cried.

You know how it is sometimes when everything seems all mixed up and you suddenly get a clue. When she mentioned Jimmy Mundy I began to understand more or less what had happened. I’d seen it happen before. I remember, back in England, the man I had before Jeeves sneaked off to a meeting on his evening out and came back and denounced me in front of a crowd of chappies I was giving a bit of supper to as a moral leper.

The aunt gave me a withering up and down.

“Yes; Jimmy Mundy!” she said. “I am surprised at a man of your stamp having heard of him. There is no music, there are no drunken, dancing men, no shameless, flaunting women at his meetings; so for you they would have no attraction. But for others, less dead in sin, he has his message. He has come to save New York from itself; to force it⁠—in his picturesque phrase⁠—to hit the trail. It was three days ago, Rockmetteller, that I first heard him. It was an accident that took me to his meeting. How often in this life a mere accident may shape our whole future!

“You had been called away by that telephone message from Mr. Belasco; so you could not take me to the Hippodrome, as we had arranged. I asked your manservant, Jeeves, to take me there. The man has very little intelligence. He seems to have misunderstood me. I am thankful that he did. He took me to what I subsequently learned was Madison Square Garden, where Mr. Mundy is holding his meetings. He escorted me to a seat and then left me. And it was not till the meeting had begun that I discovered the mistake which had been made. My seat was in the middle of a row. I could not leave without inconveniencing a great many people, so I remained.”

She gulped.

“Rockmetteller, I have never been so thankful for anything else. Mr. Mundy was wonderful! He was like some prophet of old, scourging the sins of the people. He leaped about in a frenzy of inspiration till I feared he would do himself an injury. Sometimes he expressed himself in a somewhat odd manner, but every word carried conviction. He showed me New York in its true colours. He showed me the vanity and wickedness of sitting in gilded haunts of vice, eating lobster when decent people should be in bed.

“He said that the tango and the foxtrot were devices of the devil to drag people down into the Bottomless Pit. He said that there was more sin in ten minutes with a negro banjo orchestra than in all the ancient revels of Nineveh and Babylon. And when he stood on one leg and pointed right at where I was sitting and shouted, ‘This means you!’ I could have sunk through the floor. I came away a changed woman. Surely you must have noticed the change in me, Rockmetteller? You must have seen that I was no longer the careless, thoughtless person who had urged you to dance in those places of wickedness?”

Rocky was holding on to the table as if it was his only friend.

“Y-yes,” he stammered; “I⁠—I thought something was wrong.”

“Wrong? Something was right! Everything was right! Rockmetteller, it is not too late for you to be saved. You have only sipped of the evil cup. You have not drained it. It will be hard at first, but you will find that you can do it if you fight with a stout heart against the glamour and fascination of this dreadful city. Won’t you, for my sake, try, Rockmetteller? Won’t you go back to the country tomorrow and begin the struggle? Little by little, if you use your will⁠—”

I can’t help thinking it must have been that word “will” that roused dear old Rocky like a trumpet call. It must have brought home to him the realisation that a miracle had come off and saved him from being cut out of Aunt Isabel’s. At any rate, as she said it he perked up, let go of the table, and faced her with gleaming eyes.

“Do you want me to go back to the country, Aunt Isabel?”

“Yes.”

“Not to live in the country?”

“Yes, Rockmetteller.”

“Stay in the country all the time, do you mean? Never come to New York?”

“Yes, Rockmetteller; I mean just that. It is the only way. Only there can you be safe from temptation. Will you do it, Rockmetteller? Will you⁠—for my sake?”

Rocky grabbed the table again. He seemed to draw a lot of encouragement from that table.

“I will!” he said.


“Jeeves,” I said. It was next day, and I was back in the old flat, lying in the old armchair, with my feet upon the good old table. I had just come from seeing dear old Rocky off to his country cottage, and an hour before he had seen his aunt off to whatever hamlet it was that she was the curse of; so we were alone at last. “Jeeves, there’s no place like home⁠—what?”

“Very true, sir.”

“The jolly old rooftree, and all that sort of thing⁠—what?”

“Precisely, sir.”

I lit another cigarette.

“Jeeves.”

“Sir?”

“Do you know, at one point in the business I really thought you were baffled.”

“Indeed, sir?”

“When did you get the idea of taking Miss Rockmetteller to the meeting? It was pure genius!”

“Thank you, sir. It came to me a little suddenly, one morning when I was thinking of my aunt, sir.”

“Your aunt? The hansom cab one?”

“Yes, sir. I recollected that, whenever we observed one of her attacks coming on, we used to send for the clergyman of the parish. We always found that if he talked to her a while of higher things it diverted her mind from hansom cabs. It occurred to me that the same treatment might prove efficacious in the case of Miss Rockmetteller.”

I was stunned by the man’s resource.

“It’s brain,” I said; “pure brain! What do you do to get like that, Jeeves? I believe you must eat a lot of fish, or something. Do you eat a lot of fish, Jeeves?”

“No, sir.”

“Oh, well, then, it’s just a gift, I take it; and if you aren’t born that way there’s no use worrying.”

“Precisely, sir,” said Jeeves. “If I might make the suggestion, sir, I should not continue to wear your present tie. The green shade gives you a slightly bilious air. I should strongly advocate the blue with the red domino pattern instead, sir.”

“All right, Jeeves.” I said humbly. “You know!”

Jeeves Takes Charge

Now, touching this business of old Jeeves⁠—my man, you know⁠—how do we stand? Lots of people think I’m much too dependent on him. My Aunt Agatha, in fact, has even gone so far as to call him my keeper. Well, what I say is: Why not? The man’s a genius. From the collar upward he stands alone. I gave up trying to run my own affairs within a week of his coming to me. That was about half a dozen years ago, directly after the rather rummy business of Florence Craye, my Uncle Willoughby’s book, and Edwin, the Boy Scout.

The thing really began when I got back to Easeby, my uncle’s place in Shropshire. I was spending a week or so there, as I generally did in the summer; and I had had to break my visit to come back to London to get a new valet. I had found Meadowes, the fellow I had taken to Easeby with me, sneaking my silk socks, a thing no bloke of spirit could stick at any price. It transpiring, moreover, that he had looted a lot of other things here and there about the place, I was reluctantly compelled to hand the misguided blighter the mitten and go to London to ask the registry office to dig up another specimen for my approval. They sent me Jeeves.

I shall always remember the morning he came. It so happened that the night before I had been present at a rather cheery little supper, and I was feeling pretty rocky. On top of this I was trying to read a book Florence Craye had given me. She had been one of the house-party at Easeby, and two or three days before I left we had got engaged. I was due back at the end of the week, and I knew she would expect me to have finished the book by then. You see, she was particularly keen on boosting me up a bit nearer her own plane of intellect. She was a girl with a wonderful profile, but steeped to the gills in serious purpose. I can’t give you a better idea of the way things stood than by telling you that the book she’d given me to read was called Types of Ethical Theory, and that when I opened it at random I struck a page beginning:⁠—

The postulate or common understanding involved in speech is certainly coextensive, in the obligation it carries, with the social organism of which language is the instrument, and the ends of which it is an effort to subserve.

All perfectly true, no doubt; but not the sort of thing to spring on a lad with a morning head.

I was doing my best to skim through this bright little volume when the bell rang. I crawled off the sofa and opened the door. A kind of darkish sort of respectful Johnnie stood without.

“I was sent by the agency, sir,” he said. “I was given to understand that you required a valet.”

I’d have preferred an undertaker; but I told him to stagger in, and he floated noiselessly through the doorway like a healing zephyr. That impressed me from the start. Meadowes had had flat feet and used to clump. This fellow didn’t seem to have any feet at all. He just streamed in. He had a grave, sympathetic face, as if he, too, knew what it was to sup with the lads.

“Excuse me, sir,” he said gently.

Then he seemed to flicker, and wasn’t there any longer. I heard him moving about in the kitchen, and presently he came back with a glass on a tray.

“If you would drink this, sir,” he said, with a kind of bedside manner, rather like the royal doctor shooting the bracer into the sick prince. “It is a little preparation of my own invention. It is the Worcester Sauce that gives it its colour. The raw egg makes it nutritious. The red pepper gives it its bite. Gentlemen have told me they have found it extremely invigorating after a late evening.”

I would have clutched at anything that looked like a lifeline that morning. I swallowed the stuff. For a moment I felt as if somebody had touched off a bomb inside the old bean and was strolling down my throat with a lighted torch, and then everything seemed suddenly to get all right. The sun shone in through the window; birds twittered in the treetops; and, generally speaking, hope dawned once more.

“You’re engaged!” I said, as soon as I could say anything.

I perceived clearly that this cove was one of the world’s wonders, the sort no home should be without.

“Thank you, sir. My name is Jeeves.”

“You can start in at once?”

“Immediately, sir.”

“Because I’m due down at Easeby, in Shropshire, the day after tomorrow.”

“Very good, sir.” He looked past me at the mantelpiece. “That is an excellent likeness of Lady Florence Craye, sir. It is two years since I saw her ladyship. I was at one time in Lord Worplesdon’s employment. I tendered my resignation because I could not see eye to eye with his lordship in his desire to dine in dress trousers, a flannel shirt, and a shooting coat.”

He couldn’t tell me anything I didn’t know about the old boy’s eccentricity. This Lord Worplesdon was Florence’s father. He was the old buster who, a few years later, came down to breakfast one morning, lifted the first cover he saw, said “Eggs! Eggs! Eggs! Damn all eggs!” in an overwrought sort of voice, and instantly legged it for France, never to return to the bosom of his family. This, mind you, being a bit of luck for the bosom of the family, for old Worplesdon had the worst temper in the county.

I had known the family ever since I was a kid, and from boyhood up this old boy had put the fear of death into me. Time, the great healer, could never remove from my memory the occasion when he found me⁠—then a stripling of fifteen⁠—smoking one of his special cigars in the stables. He got after me with a hunting-crop just at the moment when I was beginning to realise that what I wanted most on earth was solitude and repose, and chased me more than a mile across difficult country. If there was a flaw, so to speak, in the pure joy of being engaged to Florence, it was the fact that she rather took after her father, and one was never certain when she might erupt. She had a wonderful profile, though.

“Lady Florence and I are engaged, Jeeves,” I said.

“Indeed, sir?”

You know, there was a kind of rummy something about his manner. Perfectly all right and all that, but not what you’d call chirpy. It somehow gave me the impression that he wasn’t keen on Florence. Well, of course, it wasn’t my business. I supposed that while he had been valeting old Worplesdon she must have trodden on his toes in some way. Florence was a dear girl, and, seen sideways, most awfully good-looking; but if she had a fault it was a tendency to be a bit imperious with the domestic staff.

At this point in the proceedings there was another ring at the front door. Jeeves shimmered out and came back with a telegram. I opened it. It ran:

Return immediately. Extremely urgent. Catch first train.

Florence.

“Rum!” I said.

“Sir?”

“Oh, nothing!”

It shows how little I knew Jeeves in those days that I didn’t go a bit deeper into the matter with him. Nowadays I would never dream of reading a rummy communication without asking him what he thought of it. And this one was devilish odd. What I mean is, Florence knew I was going back to Easeby the day after tomorrow, anyway; so why the hurry call? Something must have happened, of course; but I couldn’t see what on earth it could be.

“Jeeves,” I said, “we shall be going down to Easeby this afternoon. Can you manage it?”

“Certainly, sir.”

“You can get your packing done and all that?”

“Without any difficulty, sir. Which suit will you wear for the journey?”

“This one.”

I had on a rather sprightly young check that morning, to which I was a good deal attached; I fancied it, in fact, more than a little. It was perhaps rather sudden till you got used to it, but, nevertheless, an extremely sound effort, which many lads at the club and elsewhere had admired unrestrainedly.

“Very good, sir.”

Again there was that kind of rummy something in his manner. It was the way he said it, don’t you know. He didn’t like the suit. I pulled myself together to assert myself. Something seemed to tell me that, unless I was jolly careful and nipped this lad in the bud, he would be starting to boss me. He had the aspect of a distinctly resolute blighter.

Well, I wasn’t going to have any of that sort of thing, by Jove! I’d seen so many cases of fellows who had become perfect slaves to their valets. I remember poor old Aubrey Fothergill telling me⁠—with absolute tears in his eyes, poor chap!⁠—one night at the club, that he had been compelled to give up a favourite pair of brown shoes simply because Meekyn, his man, disapproved of them. You have to keep these fellows in their place, don’t you know. You have to work the good old iron-hand-in-the-velvet-glove wheeze. If you give them a what’s-its-name, they take a thingummy.

“Don’t you like this suit, Jeeves?” I said coldly.

“Oh, yes, sir.”

“Well, what don’t you like about it?”

“It is a very nice suit, sir.”

“Well, what’s wrong with it? Out with it, dash it!”

“If I might make the suggestion, sir, a simple brown or blue, with a hint of some quiet twill⁠—”

“What absolute rot!”

“Very good, sir.”

“Perfectly blithering, my dear man!”

“As you say, sir.”

I felt as if I had stepped on the place where the last stair ought to have been, but wasn’t. I felt defiant, if you know what I mean, and there didn’t seem anything to defy.

“All right, then,” I said.

“Yes, sir.”

And then he went away to collect his kit, while I started in again on Types of Ethical Theory and took a stab at a chapter headed “Idiopsychological Ethics.”


Most of the way down in the train that afternoon, I was wondering what could be up at the other end. I simply couldn’t see what could have happened. Easeby wasn’t one of those country houses you read about in the society novels, where young girls are lured on to play baccarat and then skinned to the bone of their jewellery, and so on. The house-party I had left had consisted entirely of law-abiding birds like myself.

Besides, my uncle wouldn’t have let anything of that kind go on in his house. He was a rather stiff, precise sort of old boy, who liked a quiet life. He was just finishing a history of the family or something, which he had been working on for the last year, and didn’t stir much from the library. He was rather a good instance of what they say about its being a good scheme for a fellow to sow his wild oats. I’d been told that in his youth Uncle Willoughby had been a bit of a rounder. You would never have thought it to look at him now.

When I got to the house, Oakshott, the butler, told me that Florence was in her room, watching her maid pack. Apparently there was a dance on at a house about twenty miles away that night, and she was motoring over with some of the Easeby lot and would be away some nights. Oakshott said she had told him to tell her the moment I arrived; so I trickled into the smoking room and waited, and presently in she came. A glance showed me that she was perturbed, and even peeved. Her eyes had a goggly look, and altogether she appeared considerably pipped. “Darling!” I said, and attempted the good old embrace; but she sidestepped like a bantam weight.

“Don’t!”

“What’s the matter?”

“Everything’s the matter! Bertie, you remember asking me, when you left, to make myself pleasant to your uncle?”

“Yes.”

The idea being, of course, that as at that time I was more or less dependent on Uncle Willoughby I couldn’t very well marry without his approval. And though I knew he wouldn’t have any objection to Florence, having known her father since they were at Oxford together, I hadn’t wanted to take any chances; so I had told her to make an effort to fascinate the old boy.

“You told me it would please him particularly if I asked him to read me some of his history of the family.”

“Wasn’t he pleased?”

“He was delighted. He finished writing the thing yesterday afternoon, and read me nearly all of it last night. I have never had such a shock in my life. The book is an outrage. It is impossible. It is horrible!”

“But, dash it, the family weren’t so bad as all that.”

“It is not a history of the family at all. Your uncle has written his reminiscences! He calls them Recollections of a Long Life!”

I began to understand. As I say, Uncle Willoughby had been somewhat on the tabasco side as a young man, and it began to look as if he might have turned out something pretty fruity if he had started recollecting his long life.

“If half of what he has written is true,” said Florence, “your uncle’s youth must have been perfectly appalling. The moment we began to read he plunged straight into a most scandalous story of how he and my father were thrown out of a music hall in 1887!”

“Why?”

“I decline to tell you why.”

It must have been something pretty bad. It took a lot to make them chuck people out of music halls in 1887.

“Your uncle specifically states that father had drunk a quart and a half of champagne before beginning the evening,” she went on. “The book is full of stories like that. There is a dreadful one about Lord Emsworth.”

“Lord Emsworth? Not the one we know? Not the one at Blandings?”

A most respectable old Johnnie, don’t you know. Doesn’t do a thing nowadays but dig in the garden with a spud.

“The very same. That is what makes the book so unspeakable. It is full of stories about people one knows who are the essence of propriety today, but who seem to have behaved, when they were in London in the ’eighties, in a manner that would not have been tolerated in the fo’c’sle of a whaler. Your uncle seems to remember everything disgraceful that happened to anybody when he was in his early twenties. There is a story about Sir Stanley Gervase-Gervase at Rosherville Gardens which is ghastly in its perfection of detail. It seems that Sir Stanley⁠—but I can’t tell you!”

“Have a dash!”

“No!”

“Oh, well, I shouldn’t worry. No publisher will print the book if it’s as bad as all that.”

“On the contrary, your uncle told me that all negotiations are settled with Riggs and Ballinger, and he’s sending off the manuscript tomorrow for immediate publication. They make a special thing of that sort of book. They published Lady Carnaby’s Memories of Eighty Interesting Years.”

“I read ’em!”

“Well, then, when I tell you that Lady Carnaby’s Memories are simply not to be compared with your uncle’s Recollections, you will understand my state of mind. And father appears in nearly every story in the book! I am horrified at the things he did when he was a young man!”

“What’s to be done?”

“The manuscript must be intercepted before it reaches Riggs and Ballinger, and destroyed!”

I sat up.

This sounded rather sporting.

“How are you going to do it?” I enquired.

“How can I do it? Didn’t I tell you the parcel goes off tomorrow? I am going to the Murgatroyds’ dance tonight and shall not be back till Monday. You must do it. That is why I telegraphed to you.”

“What!”

She gave me a look.

“Do you mean to say you refuse to help me, Bertie?”

“No; but⁠—I say!”

“It’s quite simple.”

“But even if I⁠—What I mean is⁠—Of course, anything I can do⁠—but⁠—if you know what I mean⁠—”

“You say you want to marry me, Bertie?”

“Yes, of course; but still⁠—”

For a moment she looked exactly like her old father.

“I will never marry you if those Recollections are published.”

“But, Florence, old thing!”

“I mean it. You may look on it as a test, Bertie. If you have the resource and courage to carry this thing through, I will take it as evidence that you are not the vapid and shiftless person most people think you. If you fail, I shall know that your Aunt Agatha was right when she called you a spineless invertebrate and advised me strongly not to marry you. It will be perfectly simple for you to intercept the manuscript, Bertie. It only requires a little resolution.”

“But suppose Uncle Willoughby catches me at it? He’d cut me off with a bob.”

“If you care more for your uncle’s money than for me⁠—”

“No, no! Rather not!”

“Very well, then. The parcel containing the manuscript will, of course, be placed on the hall table tomorrow for Oakshott to take to the village with the letters. All you have to do is to take it away and destroy it. Then your uncle will think it has been lost in the post.”

It sounded thin to me.

“Hasn’t he got a copy of it?”

“No; it has not been typed. He is sending the manuscript just as he wrote it.”

“But he could write it over again.”

“As if he would have the energy!”

“But⁠—”

“If you are going to do nothing but make absurd objections, Bertie⁠—”

“I was only pointing things out.”

“Well, don’t! Once and for all, will you do me this quite simple act of kindness?”

The way she put it gave me an idea.

“Why not get Edwin to do it? Keep it in the family, kind of, don’t you know. Besides, it would be a boon to the kid.”

A jolly bright idea it seemed to me. Edwin was her young brother, who was spending his holidays at Easeby. He was a ferret-faced kid, whom I had disliked since birth. As a matter of fact, talking of Recollections and Memories, it was young blighted Edwin who, nine years before, had led his father to where I was smoking his cigar and caused all of the unpleasantness. He was fourteen now and had just joined the Boy Scouts. He was one of those thorough kids, and took his responsibilities pretty seriously. He was always in a sort of fever because he was dropping behind schedule with his daily acts of kindness. However hard he tried, he’d fall behind; and then you would find him prowling about the house, setting such a clip to try and catch up with himself that Easeby was rapidly becoming a perfect hell for man and beast.

The idea didn’t seem to strike Florence.

“I shall do nothing of the kind, Bertie. I wonder you can’t appreciate the compliment I am paying you⁠—trusting you like this.”

“Oh, I see that all right, but what I mean is, Edwin would do it so much better than I would. These Boy Scouts are up to all sorts of dodges. They spoor, don’t you know, and take cover and creep about, and whatnot.”

“Bertie, will you or will you not do this perfectly trivial thing for me? If not, say so now, and let us end this farce of pretending that you care a snap of the fingers for me.”

“Dear old soul, I love you devotedly!”

“Then will you or will you not⁠—”

“Oh, all right,” I said. “All right! All right! All right!”

And then I tottered forth to think it over. I met Jeeves in the passage just outside.

“I beg your pardon, sir. I was endeavouring to find you.”

“What’s the matter?”

“I felt that I should tell you, sir, that somebody has been putting black polish on our brown walking shoes.”

“What! Who? Why?”

“I could not say, sir.”

“Can anything be done with them?”

“Nothing, sir.”

“Damn!”

“Very good, sir.”


I’ve often wondered since then how these murderer fellows manage to keep in shape while they’re contemplating their next effort. I had a much simpler sort of job on hand, and the thought of it rattled me to such an extent in the night watches that I was a perfect wreck next day. Dark circles under the eyes⁠—I give you my word! I had to call on Jeeves to rally round with one of those lifesavers of his.

From breakfast on I felt like a bag-snatcher at a railway station. I had to hang about waiting for the parcel to be put on the hall table, and it wasn’t put. Uncle Willoughby was a fixture in the library, adding the finishing touches to the great work, I supposed, and the more I thought the thing over the less I liked it. The chances against my pulling it off seemed about three to two, and the thought of what would happen if I didn’t gave me cold shivers down the spine. Uncle Willoughby was a pretty mild sort of old boy, as a rule, but I’ve known him to cut up rough, and, by Jove, he was scheduled to extend himself if he caught me trying to get away with his life work.

It wasn’t till nearly four that he toddled out of the library with the parcel under his arm, put it on the table, and toddled off again. I was hiding a bit to the southeast at the moment, behind a suit of armour. I bounded out and legged it for the table. Then I nipped upstairs to hide the swag. I charged in like a mustang and nearly stubbed my toe on young blighted Edwin, the Boy Scout. He was standing at the chest of drawers, confound him, messing about with my ties.

“Hallo!” he said.

“What are you doing here?”

“I’m tidying your room. It’s my last Saturday’s act of kindness.”

“Last Saturday’s?”

“I’m five days behind. I was six till last night, but I polished your shoes.”

“Was it you⁠—”

“Yes. Did you see them? I just happened to think of it. I was in here, looking round. Mr. Berkeley had this room while you were away. He left this morning. I thought perhaps he might have left something in it that I could have sent on. I’ve often done acts of kindness that way.”

“You must be a comfort to one and all!”

It became more and more apparent to me that this infernal kid must somehow be turned out eftsoons or right speedily. I had hidden the parcel behind my back, and I didn’t think he had seen it; but I wanted to get at that chest of drawers quick, before anyone else came along.

“I shouldn’t bother about tidying the room,” I said.

“I like tidying it. It’s not a bit of trouble⁠—really.”

“But it’s quite tidy now.”

“Not so tidy as I shall make it.”

This was getting perfectly rotten. I didn’t want to murder the kid, and yet there didn’t seem any other way of shifting him. I pressed down the mental accelerator. The old lemon throbbed fiercely. I got an idea.

“There’s something much kinder than that which you could do,” I said. “You see that box of cigars? Take it down to the smoking room and snip off the ends for me. That would save me no end of trouble. Stagger along, laddie.”

He seemed a bit doubtful; but he staggered. I shoved the parcel into a drawer, locked it, trousered the key, and felt better. I might be a chump, but, dash it, I could outgeneral a mere kid with a face like a ferret. I went downstairs again. Just as I was passing the smoking room door, out curveted Edwin. It seemed to me that if he wanted to do a real act of kindness he would commit suicide.

“I’m snipping them,” he said.

“Snip on! Snip on!”

“Do you like them snipped much, or only a bit?”

“Medium.”

“All right. I’ll be getting on, then.”

“I should.”

And we parted.

Fellows who know all about that sort of thing⁠—detectives, and so on⁠—will tell you that the most difficult thing in the world is to get rid of the body. I remember, as a kid, having to learn by heart a poem about a bird by the name of Eugene Aram, who had the deuce of a job in this respect. All I can recall of the actual poetry is the bit that goes:

Tum-tum, tum-tum, tum-tumty-tum,
I slew him, tum-tum-tum!

But I recollect that the poor blighter spent much of his valuable time dumping the corpse into ponds and burying it, and whatnot, only to have it pop out at him again. It was about an hour after I had shoved the parcel into the drawer when I realised that I had let myself in for just the same sort of thing.

Florence had talked in an airy sort of way about destroying the manuscript; but when one came down to it, how the deuce can a chap destroy a great chunky mass of paper in somebody else’s house in the middle of summer? I couldn’t ask to have a fire in my bedroom, with the thermometer in the eighties. And if I didn’t burn the thing, how else could I get rid of it? Fellows on the battlefield eat dispatches to keep them from falling into the hands of the enemy, but it would have taken me a year to eat Uncle Willoughby’s Recollections.

I’m bound to say the problem absolutely baffled me. The only thing seemed to be to leave the parcel in the drawer and hope for the best.

I don’t know whether you have ever experienced it, but it’s a dashed unpleasant thing having a crime on one’s conscience. Towards the end of the day the mere sight of the drawer began to depress me. I found myself getting all on edge; and once when Uncle Willoughby trickled silently into the smoking room when I was alone there and spoke to me before I knew he was there, I broke the record for the sitting high jump.

I was wondering all the time when Uncle Willoughby would sit up and take notice. I didn’t think he would have time to suspect that anything had gone wrong till Saturday morning, when he would be expecting, of course, to get the acknowledgment of the manuscript from the publishers. But early on Friday evening he came out of the library as I was passing and asked me to step in. He was looking considerably rattled.

“Bertie,” he said⁠—he always spoke in a precise sort of pompous kind of way⁠—“an exceedingly disturbing thing has happened. As you know, I dispatched the manuscript of my book to Messrs. Riggs and Ballinger, the publishers, yesterday afternoon. It should have reached them by the first post this morning. Why I should have been uneasy I cannot say, but my mind was not altogether at rest respecting the safety of the parcel. I therefore telephoned to Messrs. Riggs and Ballinger a few moments back to make enquiries. To my consternation they informed me that they were not yet in receipt of my manuscript.”

“Very rum!”

“I recollect distinctly placing it myself on the hall table in good time to be taken to the village. But here is a sinister thing. I have spoken to Oakshott, who took the rest of the letters to the post office, and he cannot recall seeing it there. He is, indeed, unswerving in his assertions that when he went to the hall to collect the letters there was no parcel among them.”

“Sounds funny!”

“Bertie, shall I tell you what I suspect?”

“What’s that?”

“The suspicion will no doubt sound to you incredible, but it alone seems to fit the facts as we know them. I incline to the belief that the parcel has been stolen.”

“Oh, I say! Surely not!”

“Wait! Hear me out. Though I have said nothing to you before, or to anyone else, concerning the matter, the fact remains that during the past few weeks a number of objects⁠—some valuable, others not⁠—have disappeared in this house. The conclusion to which one is irresistibly impelled is that we have a kleptomaniac in our midst. It is a peculiarity of kleptomania, as you are no doubt aware, that the subject is unable to differentiate between the intrinsic values of objects. He will purloin an old coat as readily as a diamond ring, or a tobacco pipe costing but a few shillings with the same eagerness as a purse of gold. The fact that this manuscript of mine could be of no possible value to any outside person convinces me that⁠—”

“But, uncle, one moment; I know all about those things that were stolen. It was Meadowes, my man, who pinched them. I caught him snaffling my silk socks. Right in the act, by Jove!”

He was tremendously impressed.

“You amaze me, Bertie! Send for the man at once and question him.”

“But he isn’t here. You see, directly I found that he was a sock-sneaker I gave him the boot. That’s why I went to London⁠—to get a new man.”

“Then, if the man Meadowes is no longer in the house it could not be he who purloined my manuscript. The whole thing is inexplicable.”

After which we brooded for a bit. Uncle Willoughby pottered about the room, registering baffledness, while I sat sucking at a cigarette, feeling rather like a chappie I’d once read about in a book, who murdered another cove and hid the body under the dining room table, and then had to be the life and soul of a dinner party, with it there all the time. My guilty secret oppressed me to such an extent that after a while I couldn’t stick it any longer. I lit another cigarette and started for a stroll in the grounds, by way of cooling off.

It was one of those still evenings you get in the summer, when you can hear a snail clear its throat a mile away. The sun was sinking over the hills and the gnats were fooling about all over the place, and everything smelled rather topping⁠—what with the falling dew and so on⁠—and I was just beginning to feel a little soothed by the peace of it all when suddenly I heard my name spoken.

“It’s about Bertie.”

It was the loathsome voice of young blighted Edwin! For a moment I couldn’t locate it. Then I realised that it came from the library. My stroll had taken me within a few yards of the open window.

I had often wondered how those Johnnies in books did it⁠—I mean the fellows with whom it was the work of a moment to do about a dozen things that ought to have taken them about ten minutes. But, as a matter of fact, it was the work of a moment with me to chuck away my cigarette, swear a bit, leap about ten yards, dive into a bush that stood near the library window, and stand there with my ears flapping. I was as certain as I’ve ever been of anything that all sorts of rotten things were in the offing.

“About Bertie?” I heard Uncle Willoughby say.

“About Bertie and your parcel. I heard you talking to him just now. I believe he’s got it.”

When I tell you that just as I heard these frightful words a fairly substantial beetle of sorts dropped from the bush down the back of my neck, and I couldn’t even stir to squash the same, you will understand that I felt pretty rotten. Everything seemed against me.

“What do you mean, boy? I was discussing the disappearance of my manuscript with Bertie only a moment back, and he professed himself as perplexed by the mystery as myself.”

“Well, I was in his room yesterday afternoon, doing him an act of kindness, and he came in with a parcel. I could see it, though he tried to keep it behind his back. And then he asked me to go to the smoking room and snip some cigars for him; and about two minutes afterwards he came down⁠—and he wasn’t carrying anything. So it must be in his room.”

I understand they deliberately teach these dashed Boy Scouts to cultivate their powers of observation and deduction and whatnot. Devilish thoughtless and inconsiderate of them, I call it. Look at the trouble it causes.

“It sounds incredible,” said Uncle Willoughby, thereby bucking me up a trifle.

“Shall I go and look in his room?” asked young blighted Edwin. “I’m sure the parcel’s there.”

“But what could be his motive for perpetrating this extraordinary theft?”

“Perhaps he’s a⁠—what you said just now.”

“A kleptomaniac? Impossible!”

“It might have been Bertie who took all those things from the very start,” suggested the little brute hopefully. “He may be like Raffles.”

“Raffles?”

“He’s a chap in a book who went about pinching things.”

“I cannot believe that Bertie would⁠—ah⁠—go about pinching things.”

“Well, I’m sure he’s got the parcel. I’ll tell you what you might do. You might say that Mr. Berkeley wired that he had left something here. He had Bertie’s room, you know. You might say you wanted to look for it.”

“That would be possible. I⁠—”

I didn’t wait to hear any more. Things were getting too hot. I sneaked softly out of my bush and raced for the front door. I sprinted up to my room and made for the drawer where I had put the parcel. And then I found I hadn’t the key. It wasn’t for the deuce of a time that I recollected I had shifted it to my evening trousers the night before and must have forgotten to take it out again.

Where the dickens were my evening things? I had looked all over the place before I remembered that Jeeves must have taken them away to brush. To leap at the bell and ring it was, with me, the work of a moment. I had just rung it when there was a footstep outside, and in came Uncle Willoughby.

“Oh, Bertie,” he said, without a blush, “I have⁠—ah⁠—received a telegram from Berkeley, who occupied this room in your absence, asking me to forward him his⁠—er⁠—his cigarette-case, which, it would appear, he inadvertently omitted to take with him when he left the house. I cannot find it downstairs; and it has, therefore, occurred to me that he may have left it in this room. I will⁠—er⁠—just take a look around.”

It was one of the most disgusting spectacles I’ve ever seen⁠—this white-haired old man, who should have been thinking of the hereafter, standing there lying like an actor.

“I haven’t seen it anywhere,” I said.

“Nevertheless, I will search. I must⁠—ah⁠—spare no effort.”

“I should have seen it if it had been here⁠—what?”

“It may have escaped your notice. It is⁠—er⁠—possibly in one of the drawers.”

He began to nose about. He pulled out drawer after drawer, pottering around like an old bloodhound, and babbling from time to time about Berkeley and his cigarette-case in a way that struck me as perfectly ghastly. I just stood there, losing weight every moment.

Then he came to the drawer where the parcel was.

“This appears to be locked,” he said, rattling the handle.

“Yes; I shouldn’t bother about that one. It⁠—it’s⁠—er⁠—locked, and all that sort of thing.”

“You have not the key?”

A soft, respectful voice spoke behind me.

“I fancy, sir, that this must be the key you require. It was in the pocket of your evening trousers.”

It was Jeeves. He had shimmered in, carrying my evening things, and was standing there holding out the key. I could have massacred the man.

“Thank you,” said my uncle.

“Not at all, sir.”

The next moment Uncle Willoughby had opened the drawer. I shut my eyes.

“No,” said Uncle Willoughby, “there is nothing here. The drawer is empty. Thank you, Bertie. I hope I have not disturbed you. I fancy⁠—er⁠—Berkeley must have taken his case with him after all.”

When he had gone I shut the door carefully. Then I turned to Jeeves. The man was putting my evening things out on a chair.

“Er⁠—Jeeves!”

“Sir?”

“Oh, nothing.”

It was deuced difficult to know how to begin.

“Er⁠—Jeeves!”

“Sir?”

“Did you⁠—Was there⁠—Have you by chance⁠—”

“I removed the parcel this morning, sir.”

“Oh⁠—ah⁠—why?”

“I considered it more prudent, sir.”

I mused for a while.

“Of course, I suppose all this seems tolerably rummy to you, Jeeves?”

“Not at all, sir. I chanced to overhear you and Lady Florence speaking of the matter the other evening, sir.”

“Did you, by Jove?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Well⁠—er⁠—Jeeves, I think that, on the whole, if you were to⁠—as it were⁠—freeze on to that parcel until we get back to London⁠—”

“Exactly, sir.”

“And then we might⁠—er⁠—so to speak⁠—chuck it away somewhere⁠—what?”

“Precisely, sir.”

“I’ll leave it in your hands.”

“Entirely, sir.”

“You know, Jeeves, you’re by way of being rather a topper.”

“I endeavour to give satisfaction, sir.”

“One in a million, by Jove!”

“It is very kind of you to say so, sir.”

“Well, that’s about all, then, I think.”

“Very good, sir.”

Florence came back on Monday. I didn’t see her till we were all having tea in the hall. It wasn’t till the crowd had cleared away a bit that we got a chance of having a word together.

“Well, Bertie?” she said.

“It’s all right.”

“You have destroyed the manuscript?”

“Not exactly; but⁠—”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean I haven’t absolutely⁠—”

“Bertie, your manner is furtive!”

“It’s all right. It’s this way⁠—”

And I was just going to explain how things stood when out of the library came leaping Uncle Willoughby looking as braced as a two-year-old. The old boy was a changed man.

“A most remarkable thing, Bertie! I have just been speaking with Mr. Riggs on the telephone, and he tells me he received my manuscript by the first post this morning. I cannot imagine what can have caused the delay. Our postal facilities are extremely inadequate in the rural districts. I shall write to headquarters about it. It is insufferable if valuable parcels are to be delayed in this fashion.”

I happened to be looking at Florence’s profile at the moment, and at this juncture she swung round and gave me a look that went right through me like a knife. Uncle Willoughby meandered back to the library, and there was a silence that you could have dug bits out of with a spoon.

“I can’t understand it,” I said at last. “I can’t understand it, by Jove!”

“I can. I can understand it perfectly, Bertie. Your heart failed you. Rather than risk offending your uncle you⁠—”

“No, no! Absolutely!”

“You preferred to lose me rather than risk losing the money. Perhaps you did not think I meant what I said. I meant every word. Our engagement is ended.”

“But⁠—I say!”

“Not another word!”

“But, Florence, old thing!”

“I do not wish to hear any more. I see now that your Aunt Agatha was perfectly right. I consider that I have had a very lucky escape. There was a time when I thought that, with patience, you might be moulded into something worth while. I see now that you are impossible!”

And she popped off, leaving me to pick up the pieces. When I had collected the debris to some extent I went to my room and rang for Jeeves. He came in looking as if nothing had happened or was ever going to happen. He was the calmest thing in captivity.

“Jeeves!” I yelled. “Jeeves, that parcel has arrived in London!”

“Yes, sir?”

“Did you send it?”

“Yes, sir. I acted for the best, sir. I think that both you and Lady Florence overestimated the danger of people being offended at being mentioned in Sir Willoughby’s Recollections. It has been my experience, sir, that the normal person enjoys seeing his or her name in print, irrespective of what is said about them. I have an aunt, sir, who a few years ago was a martyr to swollen limbs. She tried Walkinshaw’s Supreme Ointment and obtained considerable relief⁠—so much so that she sent them an unsolicited testimonial. Her pride at seeing her photograph in the daily papers in connection with descriptions of her lower limbs before taking, which were nothing less than revolting, was so intense that it led me to believe that publicity, of whatever sort, is what nearly everybody desires. Moreover, if you have ever studied psychology, sir, you will know that respectable old gentlemen are by no means averse to having it advertised that they were extremely wild in their youth. I have an uncle⁠—”

I cursed his aunts and his uncles and him and all the rest of the family.

“Do you know that Lady Florence has broken off her engagement with me?”

“Indeed, sir?”

Not a bit of sympathy! I might have been telling him it was a fine day.

“You’re sacked!”

“Very good, sir.”

He coughed gently.

“As I am no longer in your employment, sir, I can speak freely without appearing to take a liberty. In my opinion you and Lady Florence were quite unsuitably matched. Her ladyship is of a highly determined and arbitrary temperament, quite opposed to your own. I was in Lord Worplesdon’s service for nearly a year, during which time I had ample opportunities of studying her ladyship. The opinion of the servants’ hall was far from favourable to her. Her ladyship’s temper caused a good deal of adverse comment among us. It was at times quite impossible. You would not have been happy, sir!”

“Get out!”

“I think you would also have found her educational methods a little trying, sir. I have glanced at the book her ladyship gave you⁠—it has been lying on your table since our arrival⁠—and it is, in my opinion, quite unsuitable. You would not have enjoyed it. And I have it from her ladyship’s own maid, who happened to overhear a conversation between her ladyship and one of the gentlemen staying here⁠—Mr. Maxwell, who is employed in an editorial capacity by one of the reviews⁠—that it was her intention to start you almost immediately upon Nietzsche. You would not enjoy Nietzsche, sir. He is fundamentally unsound.”

“Get out!”

“Very good, sir.”


It’s rummy how sleeping on a thing often makes you feel quite different about it. It’s happened to me over and over again. Somehow or other, when I woke next morning the old heart didn’t feel half so broken as it had done. It was a perfectly topping day, and there was something about the way the sun came in at the window and the row the birds were kicking up in the ivy that made me half wonder whether Jeeves wasn’t right. After all, though she had a wonderful profile, was it such a catch being engaged to Florence Craye as the casual observer might imagine? Wasn’t there something in what Jeeves had said about her character? I began to realise that my ideal wife was something quite different, something a lot more clinging and drooping and prattling, and whatnot.

I had got as far as this in thinking the thing out when that Types of Ethical Theory caught my eye. I opened it, and I give you my honest word this was what hit me:

Of the two antithetic terms in the Greek philosophy one only was real and self-subsisting; and that one was Ideal Thought as opposed to that which it has to penetrate and mould. The other, corresponding to our Nature, was in itself phenomenal, unreal, without any permanent footing, having no predicates that held true for two moments together, in short, redeemed from negation only by including indwelling realities appearing through.

Well⁠—I mean to say⁠—what? And Nietzsche, from all accounts, a lot worse than that!

“Jeeves,” I said, when he came in with my morning tea, “I’ve been thinking it over. You’re engaged again.”

“Thank you, sir.”

I sucked down a cheerful mouthful. A great respect for this bloke’s judgment began to soak through me.

“Oh, Jeeves,” I said; “about that check suit.”

“Yes, sir?”

“Is it really a frost?”

“A trifle too bizarre, sir, in my opinion.”

“But lots of fellows have asked me who my tailor is.”

“Doubtless in order to avoid him, sir.”

“He’s supposed to be one of the best men in London.”

“I am saying nothing against his moral character, sir.”

I hesitated a bit. I had a feeling that I was passing into this chappie’s clutches, and that if I gave in now I should become just like poor old Aubrey Fothergill, unable to call my soul my own. On the other hand, this was obviously a cove of rare intelligence, and it would be a comfort in a lot of ways to have him doing the thinking for me. I made up my mind.

“All right, Jeeves,” I said. “You know! Give the bally thing away to somebody!”

He looked down at me like a father gazing tenderly at the wayward child.

“Thank you, sir. I gave it to the under-gardener last night. A little more tea, sir?”

Jeeves and the Hard-Boiled Egg

Sometimes of a morning, as I’ve sat in bed sucking down the early cup of tea and watched my man Jeeves flitting about the room and putting out the raiment for the day, I’ve wondered what the deuce I should do if the fellow ever took it into his head to leave me. It’s not so bad now I’m in New York, but in London the anxiety was frightful. There used to be all sorts of attempts on the part of low blighters to sneak him away from me. Young Reggie Foljambe to my certain knowledge offered him double what I was giving him, and Alistair Bingham-Reeves, who’s got a valet who had been known to press his trousers sideways, used to look at him, when he came to see me, with a kind of glittering hungry eye which disturbed me deucedly. Bally pirates!

The thing, you see, is that Jeeves is so dashed competent. You can spot it even in the way he shoves studs into a shirt.

I rely on him absolutely in every crisis, and he never lets me down. And, what’s more, he can always be counted on to extend himself on behalf of any pal of mine who happens to be to all appearances knee-deep in the bouillon. Take the rather rummy case, for instance, of dear old Bicky and his uncle, the hard-boiled egg.

It happened after I had been in America for a few months. I got back to the flat latish one night, and when Jeeves brought me the final drink he said:

Mr. Bickersteth called to see you this evening, sir, while you were out.”

“Oh?” I said.

“Twice, sir. He appeared a trifle agitated.”

“What, pipped?”

“He gave that impression, sir.”

I sipped the whisky. I was sorry if Bicky was in trouble, but, as a matter of fact, I was rather glad to have something I could discuss freely with Jeeves just then, because things had been a bit strained between us for some time, and it had been rather difficult to hit on anything to talk about that wasn’t apt to take a personal turn. You see, I had decided⁠—rightly or wrongly⁠—to grow a moustache and this had cut Jeeves to the quick. He couldn’t stick the thing at any price, and I had been living ever since in an atmosphere of bally disapproval till I was getting jolly well fed up with it. What I mean is, while there’s no doubt that in certain matters of dress Jeeves’s judgment is absolutely sound and should be followed, it seemed to me that it was getting a bit too thick if he was going to edit my face as well as my costume. No one can call me an unreasonable chappie, and many’s the time I’ve given in like a lamb when Jeeves has voted against one of my pet suits or ties; but when it comes to a valet’s staking out a claim on your upper lip you’ve simply got to have a bit of the good old bulldog pluck and defy the blighter.

“He said that he would call again later, sir.”

“Something must be up, Jeeves.”

“Yes, sir.”

I gave the moustache a thoughtful twirl. It seemed to hurt Jeeves a good deal, so I chucked it.

“I see by the paper, sir, that Mr. Bickersteth’s uncle is arriving on the Carmantic.”

“Yes?”

“His Grace the Duke of Chiswick, sir.”

This was news to me, that Bicky’s uncle was a duke. Rum, how little one knows about one’s pals! I had met Bicky for the first time at a species of beano or jamboree down in Washington Square, not long after my arrival in New York. I suppose I was a bit homesick at the time, and I rather took to Bicky when I found that he was an Englishman and had, in fact, been up at Oxford with me. Besides, he was a frightful chump, so we naturally drifted together; and while we were taking a quiet snort in a corner that wasn’t all cluttered up with artists and sculptors and whatnot, he furthermore endeared himself to me by a most extraordinarily gifted imitation of a bull-terrier chasing a cat up a tree. But, though we had subsequently become extremely pally, all I really knew about him was that he was generally hard up, and had an uncle who relieved the strain a bit from time to time by sending him monthly remittances.

“If the Duke of Chiswick is his uncle,” I said, “why hasn’t he a title? Why isn’t he Lord Whatnot?”

Mr. Bickersteth is the son of his grace’s late sister, sir, who married Captain Rollo Bickersteth of the Coldstream Guards.”

Jeeves knows everything.

“Is Mr. Bickersteth’s father dead, too?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Leave any money?”

“No, sir.”

I began to understand why poor old Bicky was always more or less on the rocks. To the casual and irreflective observer, if you know what I mean, it may sound a pretty good wheeze having a duke for an uncle, but the trouble about old Chiswick was that, though an extremely wealthy old buster, owning half London and about five counties up north, he was notoriously the most prudent spender in England. He was what American chappies would call a hard-boiled egg. If Bicky’s people hadn’t left him anything and he depended on what he could prise out of the old duke, he was in a pretty bad way. Not that that explained why he was hunting me like this, because he was a chap who never borrowed money. He said he wanted to keep his pals, so never bit anyone’s ear on principle.

At this juncture the door bell rang. Jeeves floated out to answer it.

“Yes, sir. Mr. Wooster has just returned,” I heard him say. And Bicky came trickling in, looking pretty sorry for himself.

“Halloa, Bicky!” I said. “Jeeves told me you had been trying to get me. Jeeves, bring another glass, and let the revels commence. What’s the trouble, Bicky?”

“I’m in a hole, Bertie. I want your advice.”

“Say on, old lad!”

“My uncle’s turning up tomorrow, Bertie.”

“So Jeeves told me.”

“The Duke of Chiswick, you know.”

“So Jeeves told me.”

Bicky seemed a bit surprised.

“Jeeves seems to know everything.”

“Rather rummily, that’s exactly what I was thinking just now myself.”

“Well, I wish,” said Bicky gloomily, “that he knew a way to get me out of the hole I’m in.”

Jeeves shimmered in with the glass, and stuck it competently on the table.

Mr. Bickersteth is in a bit of a hole, Jeeves,” I said, “and wants you to rally round.”

“Very good, sir.”

Bicky looked a bit doubtful.

“Well, of course, you know, Bertie, this thing is by way of being a bit private and all that.”

“I shouldn’t worry about that, old top. I bet Jeeves knows all about it already. Don’t you, Jeeves?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Eh!” said Bicky, rattled.

“I am open to correction, sir, but is not your dilemma due to the fact that you are at a loss to explain to his grace why you are in New York instead of in Colorado?”

Bicky rocked like a jelly in a high wind.

“How the deuce do you know anything about it?”

“I chanced to meet his grace’s butler before we left England. He informed me that he happened to overhear his grace speaking to you on the matter, sir, as he passed the library door.”

Bicky gave a hollow sort of laugh.

“Well, as everybody seems to know all about it, there’s no need to try to keep it dark. The old boy turfed me out, Bertie, because he said I was a brainless nincompoop. The idea was that he would give me a remittance on condition that I dashed out to some blighted locality of the name of Colorado and learned farming or ranching, or whatever they call it, at some bally ranch or farm or whatever it’s called. I didn’t fancy the idea a bit. I should have had to ride horses and pursue cows, and so forth. I hate horses. They bite at you. I was all against the scheme. At the same time, don’t you know, I had to have that remittance.”

“I get you absolutely, dear boy.”

“Well, when I got to New York it looked a decent sort of place to me, so I thought it would be a pretty sound notion to stop here. So I cabled to my uncle telling him that I had dropped into a good business wheeze in the city and wanted to chuck the ranch idea. He wrote back that it was all right, and here I’ve been ever since. He thinks I’m doing well at something or other over here. I never dreamed, don’t you know, that he would ever come out here. What on earth am I to do?”

“Jeeves,” I said, “what on earth is Mr. Bickersteth to do?”

“You see,” said Bicky, “I had a wireless from him to say that he was coming to stay with me⁠—to save hotel bills, I suppose. I’ve always given him the impression that I was living in pretty good style. I can’t have him to stay at my boardinghouse.”

“Thought of anything, Jeeves?” I said.

“To what extent, sir, if the question is not a delicate one, are you prepared to assist Mr. Bickersteth?”

“I’ll do anything I can for you, of course, Bicky, old man.”

“Then, if I might make the suggestion, sir, you might lend Mr. Bickersteth⁠—”

“No, by Jove!” said Bicky firmly. “I never have touched you, Bertie, and I’m not going to start now. I may be a chump, but it’s my boast that I don’t owe a penny to a single soul⁠—not counting tradesmen, of course.”

“I was about to suggest, sir, that you might lend Mr. Bickersteth this flat. Mr. Bickersteth could give his grace the impression that he was the owner of it. With your permission I could convey the notion that I was in Mr. Bickersteth’s employment, and not in yours. You would be residing here temporarily as Mr. Bickersteth’s guest. His grace would occupy the second spare bedroom. I fancy that you would find this answer satisfactorily, sir.”

Bicky had stopped rocking himself and was staring at Jeeves in an awed sort of way.

“I would advocate the dispatching of a wireless message to his grace on board the vessel, notifying him of the change of address. Mr. Bickersteth could meet his grace at the dock and proceed directly here. Will that meet the situation, sir?”

“Absolutely.”

“Thank you, sir.”

Bicky followed him with his eye till the door closed.

“How does he do it, Bertie?” he said. “I’ll tell you what I think it is. I believe it’s something to do with the shape of his head. Have you ever noticed his head, Bertie, old man? It sort of sticks out at the back!”


I hopped out of bed early next morning, so as to be among those present when the old boy should arrive. I knew from experience that these ocean liners fetch up at the dock at a deucedly ungodly hour. It wasn’t much after nine by the time I’d dressed and had my morning tea and was leaning out of the window, watching the street for Bicky and his uncle. It was one of those jolly, peaceful mornings that make a chappie wish he’d got a soul or something, and I was just brooding on life in general when I became aware of the dickens of a spate in progress down below. A taxi had driven up, and an old boy in a top hat had got out and was kicking up a frightful row about the fare. As far as I could make out, he was trying to get the cab chappie to switch from New York to London prices, and the cab chappie had apparently never heard of London before, and didn’t seem to think a lot of it now. The old boy said that in London the trip would have set him back eightpence; and the cabby said he should worry. I called to Jeeves.

“The duke has arrived, Jeeves.”

“Yes, sir?”

“That’ll be him at the door now.”

Jeeves made a long arm and opened the front door, and the old boy crawled in, looking licked to a splinter.

“How do you do, sir?” I said, bustling up and being the ray of sunshine. “Your nephew went down to the dock to meet you, but you must have missed him. My name’s Wooster, don’t you know. Great pal of Bicky’s, and all that sort of thing. I’m staying with him, you know. Would you like a cup of tea? Jeeves, bring a cup of tea.”

Old Chiswick had sunk into an armchair and was looking about the room.

“Does this luxurious flat belong to my nephew Francis?”

“Absolutely.”

“It must be terribly expensive.”

“Pretty well, of course. Everything costs a lot over here, you know.”

He moaned. Jeeves filtered in with the tea. Old Chiswick took a stab at it to restore his tissues, and nodded.

“A terrible country, Mr. Wooster! A terrible country! Nearly eight shillings for a short cab drive! Iniquitous!” He took another look round the room. It seemed to fascinate him. “Have you any idea how much my nephew pays for this flat, Mr. Wooster?”

“About two hundred dollars a month, I believe.”

“What! Forty pounds a month!”

I began to see that, unless I made the thing a bit more plausible, the scheme might turn out a frost. I could guess what the old boy was thinking. He was trying to square all this prosperity with what he knew of poor old Bicky. And one had to admit that it took a lot of squaring, for dear old Bicky, though a stout fellow and absolutely unrivalled as an imitator of bull-terriers and cats, was in many ways one of the most pronounced fatheads that ever pulled on a suit of gent’s underwear.

“I suppose it seems rummy to you,” I said, “but the fact is New York often bucks chappies up and makes them show a flash of speed that you wouldn’t have imagined them capable of. It sort of develops them. Something in the air, don’t you know. I imagine that Bicky in the past, when you knew him, may have been something of a chump, but it’s quite different now. Devilish efficient sort of chappie, and looked on in commercial circles as quite the nib!”

“I am amazed! What is the nature of my nephew’s business, Mr. Wooster?”

“Oh, just business, don’t you know. The same sort of thing Carnegie and Rockefeller and all these coves do, you know.” I slid for the door. “Awfully sorry to leave you, but I’ve got to meet some of the lads elsewhere.”

Coming out of the lift I met Bicky bustling in from the street.

“Halloa, Bertie! I missed him. Has he turned up?”

“He’s upstairs now, having some tea.”

“What does he think of it all?”

“He’s absolutely rattled.”

“Ripping! I’ll be toddling up, then. Toodle-oo, Bertie, old man. See you later.”

“Pip-pip, Bicky, dear boy.”

He trotted off, full of merriment and good cheer, and I went off to the club to sit in the window and watch the traffic coming up one way and going down the other.

It was latish in the evening when I looked in at the flat to dress for dinner.

“Where’s everybody, Jeeves?” I said, finding no little feet pattering about the place. “Gone out?”

“His grace desired to see some of the sights of the city, sir. Mr. Bickersteth is acting as his escort. I fancy their immediate objective was Grant’s Tomb.”

“I suppose Mr. Bickersteth is a bit braced at the way things are going⁠—what?”

“Sir?”

“I say, I take it that Mr. Bickersteth is tolerably full of beans.”

“Not altogether, sir.”

“What’s his trouble now?”

“The scheme which I took the liberty of suggesting to Mr. Bickersteth and yourself has, unfortunately, not answered entirely satisfactorily, sir.”

“Surely the duke believes that Mr. Bickersteth is doing well in business, and all that sort of thing?”

“Exactly, sir. With the result that he has decided to cancel Mr. Bickersteth’s monthly allowance, on the ground that, as Mr. Bickersteth is doing so well on his own account, he no longer requires pecuniary assistance.”

“Great Scot, Jeeves! This is awful.”

“Somewhat disturbing, sir.”

“I never expected anything like this!”

“I confess I scarcely anticipated the contingency myself, sir.”

“I suppose it bowled the poor blighter over absolutely?”

Mr. Bickersteth appeared somewhat taken aback, sir.”

My heart bled for Bicky.

“We must do something, Jeeves.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Can you think of anything?”

“Not at the moment, sir.”

“There must be something we can do.”

“It was a maxim of one of my former employers, sir⁠—as I believe I mentioned to you once before⁠—the present Lord Bridgnorth, that there is always a way. I remember his lordship using the expression on the occasion⁠—he was then a business gentleman and had not yet received his title⁠—when a patent hair-restorer which he chanced to be promoting failed to attract the public. He put it on the market under another name as a depilatory, and amassed a substantial fortune. I have generally found his lordship’s aphorism based on sound foundations. No doubt we shall be able to discover some solution of Mr. Bickersteth’s difficulty, sir.”

“Well, have a stab at it, Jeeves!”

“I will spare no pains, sir.”

I went and dressed sadly. It will show you pretty well how pipped I was when I tell you that I near as a toucher put on a white tie with a dinner-jacket. I sallied out for a bit of food more to pass the time than because I wanted it. It seemed brutal to be wading into the bill of fare with poor old Bicky headed for the breadline.

When I got back old Chiswick had gone to bed, but Bicky was there, hunched up in an armchair, brooding pretty tensely, with a cigarette hanging out of the corner of his mouth and a more or less glassy stare in his eyes. He had the aspect of one who had been soaked with what the newspaper chappies call “some blunt instrument.”

“This is a bit thick, old thing⁠—what!” I said.

He picked up his glass and drained it feverishly, overlooking the fact that it hadn’t anything in it.

“I’m done, Bertie!” he said.

He had another go at the glass. It didn’t seem to do him any good.

“If only this had happened a week later, Bertie! My next month’s money was due to roll in on Saturday. I could have worked a wheeze I’ve been reading about in the magazine advertisements. It seems that you can make a dashed amount of money if you can only collect a few dollars and start a chicken-farm. Jolly sound scheme, Bertie! Say you buy a hen⁠—call it one hen for the sake of argument. It lays an egg every day of the week. You sell the eggs seven for twenty-five cents. Keep of hen costs nothing. Profit practically twenty-five cents on every seven eggs. Or look at it another way: Suppose you have a dozen eggs. Each of the hens has a dozen chickens. The chickens grow up and have more chickens. Why, in no time you’d have the place covered knee-deep in hens, all laying eggs, at twenty-five cents for every seven. You’d make a fortune. Jolly life, too, keeping hens!” He had begun to get quite worked up at the thought of it, but he slopped back in his chair at this juncture with a good deal of gloom. “But, of course, it’s no good,” he said, “because I haven’t the cash.”

“You’ve only to say the word, you know, Bicky, old top.”

“Thanks awfully, Bertie, but I’m not going to sponge on you.”

That’s always the way in this world. The chappies you’d like to lend money to won’t let you, whereas the chappies you don’t want to lend it to will do everything except actually stand you on your head and lift the specie out of your pockets. As a lad who has always rolled tolerably free in the right stuff, I’ve had lots of experience of the second class. Many’s the time, back in London, I’ve hurried along Piccadilly and felt the hot breath of the toucher on the back of my neck and heard his sharp, excited yapping as he closed in on me. I’ve simply spent my life scattering largesse to blighters I didn’t care a hang for; yet here was I now, dripping doubloons and pieces of eight and longing to hand them over, and Bicky, poor fish, absolutely on his uppers, not taking any at any price.

“Well, there’s only one hope, then.”

“What’s that?”

“Jeeves.”

“Sir?”

There was Jeeves, standing behind me, full of zeal. In this matter of shimmering into rooms the chappie is rummy to a degree. You’re sitting in the old armchair, thinking of this and that, and then suddenly you look up, and there he is. He moves from point to point with as little uproar as a jelly fish. The thing startled poor old Bicky considerably. He rose from his seat like a rocketing pheasant. I’m used to Jeeves now, but often in the days when he first came to me I’ve bitten my tongue freely on finding him unexpectedly in my midst.

“Did you call, sir?”

“Oh, there you are, Jeeves!”

“Precisely, sir.”

“Jeeves, Mr. Bickersteth is still up the pole. Any ideas?”

“Why, yes, sir. Since we had our recent conversation I fancy I have found what may prove a solution. I do not wish to appear to be taking a liberty, sir, but I think that we have overlooked his grace’s potentialities as a source of revenue.”

Bicky laughed, what I have sometimes seen described as a hollow, mocking laugh, a sort of bitter cackle from the back of the throat, rather like a gargle.

“I do not allude, sir,” explained Jeeves, “to the possibility of inducing his grace to part with money. I am taking the liberty of regarding his grace in the light of an at present⁠—if I may say so⁠—useless property, which is capable of being developed.”

Bicky looked at me in a helpless kind of way. I’m bound to say I didn’t get it myself.

“Couldn’t you make it a bit easier, Jeeves!”

“In a nutshell, sir, what I mean is this: His grace is, in a sense, a prominent personage. The inhabitants of this country, as no doubt you are aware, sir, are peculiarly addicted to shaking hands with prominent personages. It occurred to me that Mr. Bickersteth or yourself might know of persons who would be willing to pay a small fee⁠—let us say two dollars or three⁠—for the privilege of an introduction, including handshake, to his grace.”

Bicky didn’t seem to think much of it.

“Do you mean to say that anyone would be mug enough to part with solid cash just to shake hands with my uncle?”

“I have an aunt, sir, who paid five shillings to a young fellow for bringing a moving-picture actor to tea at her house one Sunday. It gave her social standing among the neighbours.”

Bicky wavered.

“If you think it could be done⁠—”

“I feel convinced of it, sir.”

“What do you think, Bertie?”

“I’m for it, old boy, absolutely. A very brainy wheeze.”

“Thank you, sir. Will there be anything further? Good night, sir.”

And he floated out, leaving us to discuss details.


Until we started this business of floating old Chiswick as a moneymaking proposition I had never realized what a perfectly foul time those Stock Exchange chappies must have when the public isn’t biting freely. Nowadays I read that bit they put in the financial reports about “The market opened quietly” with a sympathetic eye, for, by Jove, it certainly opened quietly for us! You’d hardly believe how difficult it was to interest the public and make them take a flutter on the old boy. By the end of the week the only name we had on our list was a delicatessen-store keeper down in Bicky’s part of the town, and as he wanted us to take it out in sliced ham instead of cash that didn’t help much. There was a gleam of light when the brother of Bicky’s pawnbroker offered ten dollars, money down, for an introduction to old Chiswick, but the deal fell through, owing to its turning out that the chap was an anarchist and intended to kick the old boy instead of shaking hands with him. At that, it took me the deuce of a time to persuade Bicky not to grab the cash and let things take their course. He seemed to regard the pawnbroker’s brother rather as a sportsman and benefactor of his species than otherwise.

The whole thing, I’m inclined to think, would have been off if it hadn’t been for Jeeves. There is no doubt that Jeeves is in a class of his own. In the matter of brain and resource I don’t think I have ever met a chappie so supremely like mother made. He trickled into my room one morning with a good old cup of tea, and intimated that there was something doing.

“Might I speak to you with regard to that matter of his grace, sir?”

“It’s all off. We’ve decided to chuck it.”

“Sir?”

“It won’t work. We can’t get anybody to come.”

“I fancy I can arrange that aspect of the matter, sir.”

“Do you mean to say you’ve managed to get anybody?”

“Yes, sir. Eighty-seven gentlemen from Birdsburg, sir.”

I sat up in bed and spilt the tea.

“Birdsburg?”

“Birdsburg, Missouri, sir.”

“How did you get them?”

“I happened last night, sir, as you had intimated that you would be absent from home, to attend a theatrical performance, and entered into conversation between the acts with the occupant of the adjoining seat. I had observed that he was wearing a somewhat ornate decoration in his buttonhole, sir⁠—a large blue button with the words ‘Boost for Birdsburg’ upon it in red letters, scarcely a judicious addition to a gentleman’s evening costume. To my surprise I noticed that the auditorium was full of persons similarly decorated. I ventured to inquire the explanation, and was informed that these gentlemen, forming a party of eighty-seven, are a convention from a town of the name if Birdsburg, in the State of Missouri. Their visit, I gathered, was purely of a social and pleasurable nature, and my informant spoke at some length of the entertainments arranged for their stay in the city. It was when he related with a considerable amount of satisfaction and pride, that a deputation of their number had been introduced to and had shaken hands with a well-known prizefighter, that it occurred to me to broach the subject of his grace. To make a long story short, sir, I have arranged, subject to your approval, that the entire convention shall be presented to his grace tomorrow afternoon.”

I was amazed. This chappie was a Napoleon.

“Eighty-seven, Jeeves. At how much a head?”

“I was obliged to agree to a reduction for quantity, sir. The terms finally arrived at were one hundred and fifty dollars for the party.”

I thought a bit.

“Payable in advance?”

“No, sir. I endeavoured to obtain payment in advance, but was not successful.”

“Well, anyway, when we get it I’ll make it up to five hundred. Bicky’ll never know. Do you suspect Mr. Bickersteth would suspect anything, Jeeves, if I made it up to five hundred?”

“I fancy not, sir. Mr. Bickersteth is an agreeable gentleman, but not bright.”

“All right, then. After breakfast run down to the bank and get me some money.”

“Yes, sir.”

“You know, you’re a bit of a marvel, Jeeves.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“Right-o!”

“Very good, sir.”

When I took dear old Bicky aside in the course of the morning and told him what had happened he nearly broke down. He tottered into the sitting room and buttonholed old Chiswick, who was reading the comic section of the morning paper with a kind of grim resolution.

“Uncle,” he said, “are you doing anything special tomorrow afternoon? I mean to say, I’ve asked a few of my pals in to meet you, don’t you know.”

The old boy cocked a speculative eye at him.

“There will be no reporters among them?”

“Reporters? Rather not! Why?”

“I refuse to be badgered by reporters. There were a number of adhesive young men who endeavoured to elicit from me my views on America while the boat was approaching the dock. I will not be subjected to this persecution again.”

“That’ll be absolutely all right, uncle. There won’t be a newspaperman in the place.”

“In that case I shall be glad to make the acquaintance of your friends.”

“You’ll shake hands with them and so forth?”

“I shall naturally order my behaviour according to the accepted rules of civilized intercourse.”

Bicky thanked him heartily and came off to lunch with me at the club, where he babbled freely of hens, incubators, and other rotten things.

After mature consideration we had decided to unleash the Birdsburg contingent on the old boy ten at a time. Jeeves brought his theatre pal round to see us, and we arranged the whole thing with him. A very decent chappie, but rather inclined to collar the conversation and turn it in the direction of his hometown’s new water-supply system. We settled that, as an hour was about all he would be likely to stand, each gang should consider itself entitled to seven minutes of the duke’s society by Jeeves’s stopwatch, and that when their time was up Jeeves should slide into the room and cough meaningly. Then we parted with what I believe are called mutual expressions of goodwill, the Birdsburg chappie extending a cordial invitation to us all to pop out some day and take a look at the new water-supply system, for which we thanked him.

Next day the deputation rolled in. The first shift consisted of the cove we had met and nine others almost exactly like him in every respect. They all looked deuced keen and businesslike, as if from youth up they had been working in the office and catching the boss’s eye and whatnot. They shook hands with the old boy with a good deal of apparent satisfaction⁠—all except one chappie, who seemed to be brooding about something⁠—and then they stood off and became chatty.

“What message have you for Birdsburg, Duke?” asked our pal.

The old boy seemed a bit rattled.

“I have never been to Birdsburg.”

The chappie seemed pained.

“You should pay it a visit,” he said. “The most rapidly-growing city in the country. Boost for Birdsburg!”

“Boost for Birdsburg!” said the other chappies reverently.

The chappie who had been brooding suddenly gave tongue.

“Say!”

He was a stout sort of well-fed cove with one of those determined chins and a cold eye.

The assemblage looked at him.

“As a matter of business,” said the chappie⁠—“mind you, I’m not questioning anybody’s good faith, but, as a matter of strict business⁠—I think this gentleman here ought to put himself on record before witnesses as stating that he really is a duke.”

“What do you mean, sir?” cried the old boy, getting purple.

“No offence, simply business. I’m not saying anything, mind you, but there’s one thing that seems kind of funny to me. This gentleman here says his name’s Mr. Bickersteth, as I understand it. Well, if you’re the Duke of Chiswick, why isn’t he Lord Percy Something? I’ve read English novels, and I know all about it.”

“This is monstrous!”

“Now don’t get hot under the collar. I’m only asking. I’ve a right to know. You’re going to take our money, so it’s only fair that we should see that we get our money’s worth.”

The water-supply cove chipped in:

“You’re quite right, Simms. I overlooked that when making the agreement. You see, gentlemen, as business men we’ve a right to reasonable guarantees of good faith. We are paying Mr. Bickersteth here a hundred and fifty dollars for this reception, and we naturally want to know⁠—”

Old Chiswick gave Bicky a searching look; then he turned to the water-supply chappie. He was frightfully calm.

“I can assure you that I know nothing of this,” he said, quite politely. “I should be grateful if you would explain.”

“Well, we arranged with Mr. Bickersteth that eighty-seven citizens of Birdsburg should have the privilege of meeting and shaking hands with you for a financial consideration mutually arranged, and what my friend Simms here means⁠—and I’m with him⁠—is that we have only Mr. Bickersteth’s word for it⁠—and he is a stranger to us⁠—that you are the Duke of Chiswick at all.”

Old Chiswick gulped.

“Allow me to assure you, sir,” he said, in a rummy kind of voice, “that I am the Duke of Chiswick.”

“Then that’s all right,” said the chappie heartily. “That was all we wanted to know. Let the thing go on.”

“I am sorry to say,” said old Chiswick, “that it cannot go on. I am feeling a little tired. I fear I must ask to be excused.”

“But there are seventy-seven of the boys waiting round the corner at this moment, Duke, to be introduced to you.”

“I fear I must disappoint them.”

“But in that case the deal would have to be off.”

“That is a matter for you and my nephew to discuss.”

The chappie seemed troubled.

“You really won’t meet the rest of them?”

“No!”

“Well, then, I guess we’ll be going.”

They went out, and there was a pretty solid silence. Then old Chiswick turned to Bicky⁠—

“Well?”

Bicky didn’t seem to have anything to say.

“Was it true what that man said?”

“Yes, uncle.”

“What do you mean by playing this trick?”

Bicky seemed pretty well knocked out, so I put in a word.

“I think you’d better explain the whole thing, Bicky, old top.”

Bicky’s Adam’s apple jumped about a bit; then he started:

“You see, you had cut off my allowance, uncle, and I wanted a bit of money to start a chicken farm. I mean to say it’s an absolute cert if you once get a bit of capital. You buy a hen, and it lays an egg every day of the week, and you sell the eggs, say, seven for twenty-five cents.”

“Keep of hens cost nothing. Profit practically⁠—”

“What is all this nonsense about hens? You led me to suppose you were a substantial business man.”

“Old Bicky rather exaggerated, sir,” I said, helping the chappie out. “The fact is, the poor old lad is absolutely dependent on that remittance of yours, and when you cut it off, don’t you know, he was pretty solidly in the soup, and had to think of some way of closing in on a bit of the ready pretty quick. That’s why we thought of this handshaking scheme.”

Old Chiswick foamed at the mouth.

“So you have lied to me! You have deliberately deceived me as to your financial status!”

“Poor old Bicky didn’t want to go to that ranch,” I explained. “He doesn’t like cows and horses, but he rather thinks he would be hot stuff among the hens. All he wants is a bit of capital. Don’t you think it would be rather a wheeze if you were to⁠—”

“After what has happened? After this⁠—this deceit and foolery? Not a penny!”

“But⁠—”

“Not a penny!”

There was a respectful cough in the background.

“If I might make a suggestion, sir?”

Jeeves was standing on the horizon, looking devilish brainy.

“Go ahead, Jeeves!” I said.

“I would merely suggest, sir, that if Mr. Bickersteth is in need of a little ready money, and is at a loss to obtain it elsewhere, he might secure the sum he requires by describing the occurrences of this afternoon for the Sunday issue of one of the more spirited and enterprising newspapers.”

“By Jove!” I said.

“By George!” said Bicky.

“Great heavens!” said old Chiswick.

“Very good, sir,” said Jeeves.

Bicky turned to old Chiswick with a gleaming eye.

“Jeeves is right. I’ll do it! The Chronicle would jump at it. They eat that sort of stuff.”

Old Chiswick gave a kind of moaning howl.

“I absolutely forbid you, Francis, to do this thing!”

“That’s all very well,” said Bicky, wonderfully braced, “but if I can’t get the money any other way⁠—”

“Wait! Er⁠—wait, my boy! You are so impetuous! We might arrange something.”

“I won’t go to that bally ranch.”

“No, no! No, no, my boy! I would not suggest it. I would not for a moment suggest it. I⁠—I think⁠—”

He seemed to have a bit of a struggle with himself. “I⁠—I think that, on the whole, it would be best if you returned with me to England. I⁠—I might⁠—in fact, I think I see my way to doing⁠—to⁠—I might be able to utilize your services in some secretarial position.”

“I shouldn’t mind that.”

“I should not be able to offer you a salary, but, as you know, in English political life the unpaid secretary is a recognized figure⁠—”

“The only figure I’ll recognize,” said Bicky firmly, “is five hundred quid a year, paid quarterly.”

“My dear boy!”

“Absolutely!”

“But your recompense, my dear Francis, would consist in the unrivalled opportunities you would have, as my secretary, to gain experience, to accustom yourself to the intricacies of political life, to⁠—in fact, you would be in an exceedingly advantageous position.”

“Five hundred a year!” said Bicky, rolling it round his tongue. “Why, that would be nothing to what I could make if I started a chicken farm. It stands to reason. Suppose you have a dozen hens. Each of the hens has a dozen chickens. After a bit the chickens grow up and have a dozen chickens each themselves, and then they all start laying eggs! There’s a fortune in it. You can get anything you like for eggs in America. Chappies keep them on ice for years and years, and don’t sell them till they fetch about a dollar a whirl. You don’t think I’m going to chuck a future like this for anything under five hundred o’ goblins a year⁠—what?”

A look of anguish passed over old Chiswick’s face, then he seemed to be resigned to it. “Very well, my boy,” he said.

“What-o!” said Bicky. “All right, then.”


“Jeeves,” I said. Bicky had taken the old boy off to dinner to celebrate, and we were alone. “Jeeves, this has been one of your best efforts.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“It beats me how you do it.”

“Yes, sir.”

“The only trouble is you haven’t got much out of it⁠—what!”

“I fancy Mr. Bickersteth intends⁠—I judge from his remarks⁠—to signify his appreciation of anything I have been fortunate enough to do to assist him, at some later date when he is in a more favourable position to do so.”

“It isn’t enough, Jeeves!”

“Sir?”

It was a wrench, but I felt it was the only possible thing to be done.

“Bring my shaving things.”

A gleam of hope shone in the chappie’s eye, mixed with doubt.

“You mean, sir?”

“And shave off my moustache.”

There was a moment’s silence. I could see the fellow was deeply moved.

“Thank you very much indeed, sir,” he said, in a low voice, and popped off.

Jeeves and the Unbidden Guest

I’m not absolutely certain of my facts, but I rather fancy it’s Shakespeare⁠—or, if not, it’s some equally brainy lad⁠—who says that it’s always just when a chappie is feeling particularly top-hole, and more than usually braced with things in general that Fate sneaks up behind him with a bit of lead piping. There’s no doubt the man’s right. It’s absolutely that way with me. Take, for instance, the fairly rummy matter of Lady Malvern and her son Wilmot. A moment before they turned up, I was just thinking how thoroughly all right everything was.

It was one of those topping mornings, and I had just climbed out from under the cold shower, feeling like a two-year-old. As a matter of fact, I was especially bucked just then because the day before I had asserted myself with Jeeves⁠—absolutely asserted myself, don’t you know. You see, the way things had been going on I was rapidly becoming a dashed serf. The man had jolly well oppressed me. I didn’t so much mind when he made me give up one of my new suits, because, Jeeves’s judgment about suits is sound. But I as near as a toucher rebelled when he wouldn’t let me wear a pair of cloth-topped boots which I loved like a couple of brothers. And when he tried to tread on me like a worm in the matter of a hat, I jolly well put my foot down and showed him who was who. It’s a long story, and I haven’t time to tell you now, but the point is that he wanted me to wear the Longacre⁠—as worn by John Drew⁠—when I had set my heart on the Country Gentleman⁠—as worn by another famous actor chappie⁠—and the end of the matter was that, after a rather painful scene, I bought the Country Gentleman. So that’s how things stood on this particular morning, and I was feeling kind of manly and independent.

Well, I was in the bathroom, wondering what there was going to be for breakfast while I massaged the good old spine with a rough towel and sang slightly, when there was a tap at the door. I stopped singing and opened the door an inch.

“What ho without there!”

“Lady Malvern wishes to see you, sir,” said Jeeves.

“Eh?”

“Lady Malvern, sir. She is waiting in the sitting room.”

“Pull yourself together, Jeeves, my man,” I said, rather severely, for I bar practical jokes before breakfast. “You know perfectly well there’s no one waiting for me in the sitting room. How could there be when it’s barely ten o’clock yet?”

“I gathered from her ladyship, sir, that she had landed from an ocean liner at an early hour this morning.”

This made the thing a bit more plausible. I remembered that when I had arrived in America about a year before, the proceedings had begun at some ghastly hour like six, and that I had been shot out on to a foreign shore considerably before eight.

“Who the deuce is Lady Malvern, Jeeves?”

“Her ladyship did not confide in me, sir.”

“Is she alone?”

“Her ladyship is accompanied by a Lord Pershore, sir. I fancy that his lordship would be her ladyship’s son.”

“Oh, well, put out rich raiment of sorts, and I’ll be dressing.”

“Our heather-mixture lounge is in readiness, sir.”

“Then lead me to it.”

While I was dressing I kept trying to think who on earth Lady Malvern could be. It wasn’t till I had climbed through the top of my shirt and was reaching out for the studs that I remembered.

“I’ve placed her, Jeeves. She’s a pal of my Aunt Agatha.”

“Indeed, sir?”

“Yes. I met her at lunch one Sunday before I left London. A very vicious specimen. Writes books. She wrote a book on social conditions in India when she came back from the Durbar.”

“Yes, sir? Pardon me, sir, but not that tie!”

“Eh?”

“Not that tie with the heather-mixture lounge, sir!”

It was a shock to me. I thought I had quelled the fellow. It was rather a solemn moment. What I mean is, if I weakened now, all my good work the night before would be thrown away. I braced myself.

“What’s wrong with this tie? I’ve seen you give it a nasty look before. Speak out like a man! What’s the matter with it?”

“Too ornate, sir.”

“Nonsense! A cheerful pink. Nothing more.”

“Unsuitable, sir.”

“Jeeves, this is the tie I wear!”

“Very good, sir.”

Dashed unpleasant. I could see that the man was wounded. But I was firm. I tied the tie, got into the coat and waistcoat, and went into the sitting room.

“Halloa! Halloa! Halloa!” I said. “What?”

“Ah! How do you do, Mr. Wooster? You have never met my son, Wilmot, I think? Motty, darling, this is Mr. Wooster.”

Lady Malvern was a hearty, happy, healthy, overpowering sort of dashed female, not so very tall but making up for it by measuring about six feet from the O.P. to the Prompt Side. She fitted into my biggest armchair as if it had been built round her by someone who knew they were wearing armchairs tight about the hips that season. She had bright, bulging eyes and a lot of yellow hair, and when she spoke she showed about fifty-seven front teeth. She was one of those women who kind of numb a fellow’s faculties. She made me feel as if I were ten years old and had been brought into the drawing-room in my Sunday clothes to say how-d’you-do. Altogether by no means the sort of thing a chappie would wish to find in his sitting room before breakfast.

Motty, the son, was about twenty-three, tall and thin and meek-looking. He had the same yellow hair as his mother, but he wore it plastered down and parted in the middle. His eyes bulged, too, but they weren’t bright. They were a dull grey with pink rims. His chin gave up the struggle about halfway down, and he didn’t appear to have any eyelashes. A mild, furtive, sheepish sort of blighter, in short.

“Awfully glad to see you,” I said. “So you’ve popped over, eh? Making a long stay in America?”

“About a month. Your aunt gave me your address and told me to be sure and call on you.”

I was glad to hear this, as it showed that Aunt Agatha was beginning to come round a bit. There had been some unpleasantness a year before, when she had sent me over to New York to disentangle my Cousin Gussie from the clutches of a girl on the music hall stage. When I tell you that by the time I had finished my operations, Gussie had not only married the girl but had gone on the stage himself, and was doing well, you’ll understand that Aunt Agatha was upset to no small extent. I simply hadn’t dared go back and face her, and it was a relief to find that time had healed the wound and all that sort of thing enough to make her tell her pals to look me up. What I mean is, much as I liked America, I didn’t want to have England barred to me for the rest of my natural; and, believe me, England is a jolly sight too small for anyone to live in with Aunt Agatha, if she’s really on the warpath. So I braced on hearing these kind words and smiled genially on the assemblage.

“Your aunt said that you would do anything that was in your power to be of assistance to us.”

“Rather? Oh, rather! Absolutely!”

“Thank you so much. I want you to put dear Motty up for a little while.”

I didn’t get this for a moment.

“Put him up? For my clubs?”

“No, no! Darling Motty is essentially a home bird. Aren’t you, Motty darling?”

Motty, who was sucking the knob of his stick, uncorked himself.

“Yes, mother,” he said, and corked himself up again.

“I should not like him to belong to clubs. I mean put him up here. Have him to live with you while I am away.”

These frightful words trickled out of her like honey. The woman simply didn’t seem to understand the ghastly nature of her proposal. I gave Motty the swift east-to-west. He was sitting with his mouth nuzzling the stick, blinking at the wall. The thought of having this planted on me for an indefinite period appalled me. Absolutely appalled me, don’t you know. I was just starting to say that the shot wasn’t on the board at any price, and that the first sign Motty gave of trying to nestle into my little home I would yell for the police, when she went on, rolling placidly over me, as it were.

There was something about this woman that sapped a chappie’s willpower.

“I am leaving New York by the midday train, as I have to pay a visit to Sing-Sing prison. I am extremely interested in prison conditions in America. After that I work my way gradually across to the coast, visiting the points of interest on the journey. You see, Mr. Wooster, I am in America principally on business. No doubt you read my book, India and the Indians? My publishers are anxious for me to write a companion volume on the United States. I shall not be able to spend more than a month in the country, as I have to get back for the season, but a month should be ample. I was less than a month in India, and my dear friend Sir Roger Cremorne wrote his America from Within after a stay of only two weeks. I should love to take dear Motty with me, but the poor boy gets so sick when he travels by train. I shall have to pick him up on my return.”

From where I sat I could see Jeeves in the dining room, laying the breakfast table. I wished I could have had a minute with him alone. I felt certain that he would have been able to think of some way of putting a stop to this woman.

“It will be such a relief to know that Motty is safe with you, Mr. Wooster. I know what the temptations of a great city are. Hitherto dear Motty has been sheltered from them. He has lived quietly with me in the country. I know that you will look after him carefully, Mr. Wooster. He will give very little trouble.” She talked about the poor blighter as if he wasn’t there. Not that Motty seemed to mind. He had stopped chewing his walking-stick and was sitting there with his mouth open. “He is a vegetarian and a teetotaller and is devoted to reading. Give him a nice book and he will be quite contented.” She got up. “Thank you so much, Mr. Wooster! I don’t know what I should have done without your help. Come, Motty! We have just time to see a few of the sights before my train goes. But I shall have to rely on you for most of my information about New York, darling. Be sure to keep your eyes open and take notes of your impressions! It will be such a help. Goodbye, Mr. Wooster. I will send Motty back early in the afternoon.”

They went out, and I howled for Jeeves.

“Jeeves! What about it?”

“Sir?”

“What’s to be done? You heard it all, didn’t you? You were in the dining room most of the time. That pill is coming to stay here.”

“Pill, sir?”

“The excrescence.”

“I beg your pardon, sir?”

I looked at Jeeves sharply. This sort of thing wasn’t like him. It was as if he were deliberately trying to give me the pip. Then I understood. The man was really upset about that tie. He was trying to get his own back.

“Lord Pershore will be staying here from tonight, Jeeves,” I said coldly.

“Very good, sir. Breakfast is ready, sir.”

I could have sobbed into the bacon and eggs. That there wasn’t any sympathy to be got out of Jeeves was what put the lid on it. For a moment I almost weakened and told him to destroy the hat and tie if he didn’t like them, but I pulled myself together again. I was dashed if I was going to let Jeeves treat me like a bally one-man chain-gang!

But, what with brooding on Jeeves and brooding on Motty, I was in a pretty reduced sort of state. The more I examined the situation, the more blighted it became. There was nothing I could do. If I slung Motty out, he would report to his mother, and she would pass it on to Aunt Agatha, and I didn’t like to think what would happen then. Sooner or later, I should be wanting to go back to England, and I didn’t want to get there and find Aunt Agatha waiting on the quay for me with a stuffed eelskin. There was absolutely nothing for it but to put the fellow up and make the best of it.

About midday Motty’s luggage arrived, and soon afterward a large parcel of what I took to be nice books. I brightened up a little when I saw it. It was one of those massive parcels and looked as if it had enough in it to keep the chappie busy for a year. I felt a trifle more cheerful, and I got my Country Gentleman hat and stuck it on my head, and gave the pink tie a twist, and reeled out to take a bite of lunch with one or two of the lads at a neighbouring hostelry; and what with excellent browsing and sluicing and cheery conversation and whatnot, the afternoon passed quite happily. By dinnertime I had almost forgotten blighted Motty’s existence.

I dined at the club and looked in at a show afterward, and it wasn’t till fairly late that I got back to the flat. There were no signs of Motty, and I took it that he had gone to bed.

It seemed rummy to me, though, that the parcel of nice books was still there with the string and paper on it. It looked as if Motty, after seeing mother off at the station, had decided to call it a day.

Jeeves came in with the nightly whisky-and-soda. I could tell by the chappie’s manner that he was still upset.

“Lord Pershore gone to bed, Jeeves?” I asked, with reserved hauteur and whatnot.

“No, sir. His lordship has not yet returned.”

“Not returned? What do you mean?”

“His lordship came in shortly after six-thirty, and, having dressed, went out again.”

At this moment there was a noise outside the front door, a sort of scrabbling noise, as if somebody were trying to paw his way through the woodwork. Then a sort of thud.

“Better go and see what that is, Jeeves.”

“Very good, sir.”

He went out and came back again.

“If you would not mind stepping this way, sir, I think we might be able to carry him in.”

“Carry him in?”

“His lordship is lying on the mat, sir.”

I went to the front door. The man was right. There was Motty huddled up outside on the floor. He was moaning a bit.

“He’s had some sort of dashed fit,” I said. I took another look. “Jeeves! Someone’s been feeding him meat!”

“Sir?”

“He’s a vegetarian, you know. He must have been digging into a steak or something. Call up a doctor!”

“I hardly think it will be necessary, sir. If you would take his lordship’s legs, while I⁠—”

“Great Scot, Jeeves! You don’t think⁠—he can’t be⁠—”

“I am inclined to think so, sir.”

And, by Jove, he was right! Once on the right track, you couldn’t mistake it. Motty was under the surface.

It was the deuce of a shock.

“You never can tell, Jeeves!”

“Very seldom, sir.”

“Remove the eye of authority and where are you?”

“Precisely, sir.”

“Where is my wandering boy tonight and all that sort of thing, what?”

“It would seem so, sir.”

“Well, we had better bring him in, eh?”

“Yes, sir.”

So we lugged him in, and Jeeves put him to bed, and I lit a cigarette and sat down to think the thing over. I had a kind of foreboding. It seemed to me that I had let myself in for something pretty rocky.

Next morning, after I had sucked down a thoughtful cup of tea, I went into Motty’s room to investigate. I expected to find the fellow a wreck, but there he was, sitting up in bed, quite chirpy, reading Gingery Stories.

“What ho!” I said.

“What ho!” said Motty.

“What ho! What ho!”

“What ho! What ho! What ho!”

After that it seemed rather difficult to go on with the conversation.

“How are you feeling this morning?” I asked.

“Topping!” replied Motty, blithely and with abandon. “I say, you know, that fellow of yours⁠—Jeeves, you know⁠—is a corker. I had a most frightful headache when I woke up, and he brought me a sort of rummy dark drink, and it put me right again at once. Said it was his own invention. I must see more of that lad. He seems to me distinctly one of the ones!”

I couldn’t believe that this was the same blighter who had sat and sucked his stick the day before.

“You ate something that disagreed with you last night, didn’t you?” I said, by way of giving him a chance to slide out of it if he wanted to. But he wouldn’t have it, at any price.

“No!” he replied firmly. “I didn’t do anything of the kind. I drank too much! Much too much. Lots and lots too much! And, what’s more, I’m going to do it again! I’m going to do it every night. If ever you see me sober, old top,” he said, with a kind of holy exaltation, “tap me on the shoulder and say, ‘Tut! Tut!’ and I’ll apologize and remedy the defect.”

“But I say, you know, what about me?”

“What about you?”

“Well, I’m so to speak, as it were, kind of responsible for you. What I mean to say is, if you go doing this sort of thing I’m apt to get in the soup somewhat.”

“I can’t help your troubles,” said Motty firmly. “Listen to me, old thing: this is the first time in my life that I’ve had a real chance to yield to the temptations of a great city. What’s the use of a great city having temptations if fellows don’t yield to them? Makes it so bally discouraging for a great city. Besides, mother told me to keep my eyes open and collect impressions.”

I sat on the edge of the bed. I felt dizzy.

“I know just how you feel, old dear,” said Motty consolingly. “And, if my principles would permit it, I would simmer down for your sake. But duty first! This is the first time I’ve been let out alone, and I mean to make the most of it. We’re only young once. Why interfere with life’s morning? Young man, rejoice in thy youth! Tra-la! What ho!”

Put like that, it did seem reasonable.

“All my bally life, dear boy,” Motty went on, “I’ve been cooped up in the ancestral home at Much Middlefold, in Shropshire, and till you’ve been cooped up in Much Middlefold you don’t know what cooping is! The only time we get any excitement is when one of the choirboys is caught sucking chocolate during the sermon. When that happens, we talk about it for days. I’ve got about a month of New York, and I mean to store up a few happy memories for the long winter evenings. This is my only chance to collect a past, and I’m going to do it. Now tell me, old sport, as man to man, how does one get in touch with that very decent chappie Jeeves? Does one ring a bell or shout a bit? I should like to discuss the subject of a good stiff b-and-s with him!”

I had had a sort of vague idea, don’t you know, that if I stuck close to Motty and went about the place with him, I might act as a bit of a damper on the gaiety. What I mean is, I thought that if, when he was being the life and soul of the party, he were to catch my reproving eye he might ease up a trifle on the revelry. So the next night I took him along to supper with me. It was the last time. I’m a quiet, peaceful sort of chappie who has lived all his life in London, and I can’t stand the pace these swift sportsmen from the rural districts set. What I mean to say is this, I’m all for rational enjoyment and so forth, but I think a chappie makes himself conspicuous when he throws soft-boiled eggs at the electric fan. And decent mirth and all that sort of thing are all right, but I do bar dancing on tables and having to dash all over the place dodging waiters, managers, and chuckers-out, just when you want to sit still and digest.

Directly I managed to tear myself away that night and get home, I made up my mind that this was jolly well the last time that I went about with Motty. The only time I met him late at night after that was once when I passed the door of a fairly low-down sort of restaurant and had to step aside to dodge him as he sailed through the air en route for the opposite pavement, with a muscular sort of looking chappie peering out after him with a kind of gloomy satisfaction.

In a way, I couldn’t help sympathizing with the fellow. He had about four weeks to have the good time that ought to have been spread over about ten years, and I didn’t wonder at his wanting to be pretty busy. I should have been just the same in his place. Still, there was no denying that it was a bit thick. If it hadn’t been for the thought of Lady Malvern and Aunt Agatha in the background, I should have regarded Motty’s rapid work with an indulgent smile. But I couldn’t get rid of the feeling that, sooner or later, I was the lad who was scheduled to get it behind the ear. And what with brooding on this prospect, and sitting up in the old flat waiting for the familiar footstep, and putting it to bed when it got there, and stealing into the sick-chamber next morning to contemplate the wreckage, I was beginning to lose weight. Absolutely becoming the good old shadow, I give you my honest word. Starting at sudden noises and whatnot.

And no sympathy from Jeeves. That was what cut me to the quick. The man was still thoroughly pipped about the hat and tie, and simply wouldn’t rally round. One morning I wanted comforting so much that I sank the pride of the Woosters and appealed to the fellow direct.

“Jeeves,” I said, “this is getting a bit thick!”

“Sir?” Business and cold respectfulness.

“You know what I mean. This lad seems to have chucked all the principles of a well-spent boyhood. He has got it up his nose!”

“Yes, sir.”

“Well, I shall get blamed, don’t you know. You know what my Aunt Agatha is!”

“Yes, sir.”

“Very well, then.”

I waited a moment, but he wouldn’t unbend.

“Jeeves,” I said, “haven’t you any scheme up your sleeve for coping with this blighter?”

“No, sir.”

And he shimmered off to his lair. Obstinate devil! So dashed absurd, don’t you know. It wasn’t as if there was anything wrong with that Country Gentleman hat. It was a remarkably priceless effort, and much admired by the lads. But, just because he preferred the Longacre, he left me flat.

It was shortly after this that young Motty got the idea of bringing pals back in the small hours to continue the gay revels in the home. This was where I began to crack under the strain. You see, the part of town where I was living wasn’t the right place for that sort of thing. I knew lots of chappies down Washington Square way who started the evening at about 2 a.m.⁠—artists and writers and whatnot, who frolicked considerably till checked by the arrival of the morning milk. That was all right. They like that sort of thing down there. The neighbours can’t get to sleep unless there’s someone dancing Hawaiian dances over their heads. But on Fifty-seventh Street the atmosphere wasn’t right, and when Motty turned up at three in the morning with a collection of hearty lads, who only stopped singing their college song when they started singing “The Old Oaken Bucket,” there was a marked peevishness among the old settlers in the flats. The management was extremely terse over the telephone at breakfast-time, and took a lot of soothing.

The next night I came home early, after a lonely dinner at a place which I’d chosen because there didn’t seem any chance of meeting Motty there. The sitting room was quite dark, and I was just moving to switch on the light, when there was a sort of explosion and something collared hold of my trouser-leg. Living with Motty had reduced me to such an extent that I was simply unable to cope with this thing. I jumped backward with a loud yell of anguish, and tumbled out into the hall just as Jeeves came out of his den to see what the matter was.

“Did you call, sir?”

“Jeeves! There’s something in there that grabs you by the leg!”

“That would be Rollo, sir.”

“Eh?”

“I would have warned you of his presence, but I did not hear you come in. His temper is a little uncertain at present, as he has not yet settled down.”

“Who the deuce is Rollo?”

“His lordship’s bull-terrier, sir. His lordship won him in a raffle, and tied him to the leg of the table. If you will allow me, sir, I will go in and switch on the light.”

There really is nobody like Jeeves. He walked straight into the sitting room, the biggest feat since Daniel and the lions’ den, without a quiver. What’s more, his magnetism or whatever they call it was such that the dashed animal, instead of pinning him by the leg, calmed down as if he had had a bromide, and rolled over on his back with all his paws in the air. If Jeeves had been his rich uncle he couldn’t have been more chummy. Yet directly he caught sight of me again, he got all worked up and seemed to have only one idea in life⁠—to start chewing me where he had left off.

“Rollo is not used to you yet, sir,” said Jeeves, regarding the bally quadruped in an admiring sort of way. “He is an excellent watchdog.”

“I don’t want a watchdog to keep me out of my rooms.”

“No, sir.”

“Well, what am I to do?”

“No doubt in time the animal will learn to discriminate, sir. He will learn to distinguish your peculiar scent.”

“What do you mean⁠—my peculiar scent? Correct the impression that I intend to hang about in the hall while life slips by, in the hope that one of these days that dashed animal will decide that I smell all right.” I thought for a bit. “Jeeves!”

“Sir?”

“I’m going away⁠—tomorrow morning by the first train. I shall go and stop with Mr. Todd in the country.”

“Do you wish me to accompany you, sir?”

“No.”

“Very good, sir.”

“I don’t know when I shall be back. Forward my letters.”

“Yes, sir.”

As a matter of fact, I was back within the week. Rocky Todd, the pal I went to stay with, is a rummy sort of a chap who lives all alone in the wilds of Long Island, and likes it; but a little of that sort of thing goes a long way with me. Dear old Rocky is one of the best, but after a few days in his cottage in the woods, miles away from anywhere, New York, even with Motty on the premises, began to look pretty good to me. The days down on Long Island have forty-eight hours in them; you can’t get to sleep at night because of the bellowing of the crickets; and you have to walk two miles for a drink and six for an evening paper. I thanked Rocky for his kind hospitality, and caught the only train they have down in those parts. It landed me in New York about dinnertime. I went straight to the old flat. Jeeves came out of his lair. I looked round cautiously for Rollo.

“Where’s that dog, Jeeves? Have you got him tied up?”

“The animal is no longer here, sir. His lordship gave him to the porter, who sold him. His lordship took a prejudice against the animal on account of being bitten by him in the calf of the leg.”

I don’t think I’ve ever been so bucked by a bit of news. I felt I had misjudged Rollo. Evidently, when you got to know him better, he had a lot of intelligence in him.

“Ripping!” I said. “Is Lord Pershore in, Jeeves?”

“No, sir.”

“Do you expect him back to dinner?”

“No, sir.”

“Where is he?”

“In prison, sir.”

Have you ever trodden on a rake and had the handle jump up and hit you? That’s how I felt then.

“In prison!”

“Yes, sir.”

“You don’t mean⁠—in prison?”

“Yes, sir.”

I lowered myself into a chair.

“Why?” I said.

“He assaulted a constable, sir.”

“Lord Pershore assaulted a constable!”

“Yes, sir.”

I digested this.

“But, Jeeves, I say! This is frightful!”

“Sir?”

“What will Lady Malvern say when she finds out?”

“I do not fancy that her ladyship will find out, sir.”

“But she’ll come back and want to know where he is.”

“I rather fancy, sir, that his lordship’s bit of time will have run out by then.”

“But supposing it hasn’t?”

“In that event, sir, it may be judicious to prevaricate a little.”

“How?”

“If I might make the suggestion, sir, I should inform her ladyship that his lordship has left for a short visit to Boston.”

“Why Boston?”

“Very interesting and respectable centre, sir.”

“Jeeves, I believe you’ve hit it.”

“I fancy so, sir.”

“Why, this is really the best thing that could have happened. If this hadn’t turned up to prevent him, young Motty would have been in a sanatorium by the time Lady Malvern got back.”

“Exactly, sir.”

The more I looked at it in that way, the sounder this prison wheeze seemed to me. There was no doubt in the world that prison was just what the doctor ordered for Motty. It was the only thing that could have pulled him up. I was sorry for the poor blighter, but, after all, I reflected, a chappie who had lived all his life with Lady Malvern, in a small village in the interior of Shropshire, wouldn’t have much to kick at in a prison. Altogether, I began to feel absolutely braced again. Life became like what the poet Johnnie says⁠—one grand, sweet song. Things went on so comfortably and peacefully for a couple of weeks that I give you my word that I’d almost forgotten such a person as Motty existed. The only flaw in the scheme of things was that Jeeves was still pained and distant. It wasn’t anything he said or did, mind you, but there was a rummy something about him all the time. Once when I was tying the pink tie I caught sight of him in the looking-glass. There was a kind of grieved look in his eye.

And then Lady Malvern came back, a good bit ahead of schedule. I hadn’t been expecting her for days. I’d forgotten how time had been slipping along. She turned up one morning while I was still in bed sipping tea and thinking of this and that. Jeeves flowed in with the announcement that he had just loosed her into the sitting room. I draped a few garments round me and went in.

There she was, sitting in the same armchair, looking as massive as ever. The only difference was that she didn’t uncover the teeth, as she had done the first time.

“Good morning,” I said. “So you’ve got back, what?”

“I have got back.”

There was something sort of bleak about her tone, rather as if she had swallowed an east wind. This I took to be due to the fact that she probably hadn’t breakfasted. It’s only after a bit of breakfast that I’m able to regard the world with that sunny cheeriness which makes a fellow the universal favourite. I’m never much of a lad till I’ve engulfed an egg or two and a beaker of coffee.

“I suppose you haven’t breakfasted?”

“I have not yet breakfasted.”

“Won’t you have an egg or something? Or a sausage or something? Or something?”

“No, thank you.”

She spoke as if she belonged to an anti-sausage society or a league for the suppression of eggs. There was a bit of a silence.

“I called on you last night,” she said, “but you were out.”

“Awfully sorry! Had a pleasant trip?”

“Extremely, thank you.”

“See everything? Niag’ra Falls, Yellowstone Park, and the jolly old Grand Canyon, and whatnot?”

“I saw a great deal.”

There was another slightly frappé silence. Jeeves floated silently into the dining room and began to lay the breakfast-table.

“I hope Wilmot was not in your way, Mr. Wooster?”

I had been wondering when she was going to mention Motty.

“Rather not! Great pals! Hit it off splendidly.”

“You were his constant companion, then?”

“Absolutely! We were always together. Saw all the sights, don’t you know. We’d take in the Museum of Art in the morning, and have a bit of lunch at some good vegetarian place, and then toddle along to a sacred concert in the afternoon, and home to an early dinner. We usually played dominoes after dinner. And then the early bed and the refreshing sleep. We had a great time. I was awfully sorry when he went away to Boston.”

“Oh! Wilmot is in Boston?”

“Yes. I ought to have let you know, but of course we didn’t know where you were. You were dodging all over the place like a snipe⁠—I mean, don’t you know, dodging all over the place, and we couldn’t get at you. Yes, Motty went off to Boston.”

“You’re sure he went to Boston?”

“Oh, absolutely.” I called out to Jeeves, who was now messing about in the next room with forks and so forth: “Jeeves, Lord Pershore didn’t change his mind about going to Boston, did he?”

“No, sir.”

“I thought I was right. Yes, Motty went to Boston.”

“Then how do you account, Mr. Wooster, for the fact that when I went yesterday afternoon to Blackwell’s Island prison, to secure material for my book, I saw poor, dear Wilmot there, dressed in a striped suit, seated beside a pile of stones with a hammer in his hands?”

I tried to think of something to say, but nothing came. A chappie has to be a lot broader about the forehead than I am to handle a jolt like this. I strained the old bean till it creaked, but between the collar and the hair parting nothing stirred. I was dumb. Which was lucky, because I wouldn’t have had a chance to get any persiflage out of my system. Lady Malvern collared the conversation. She had been bottling it up, and now it came out with a rush:

“So this is how you have looked after my poor, dear boy, Mr. Wooster! So this is how you have abused my trust! I left him in your charge, thinking that I could rely on you to shield him from evil. He came to you innocent, unversed in the ways of the world, confiding, unused to the temptations of a large city, and you led him astray!”

I hadn’t any remarks to make. All I could think of was the picture of Aunt Agatha drinking all this in and reaching out to sharpen the hatchet against my return.

“You deliberately⁠—”

Far away in the misty distance a soft voice spoke:

“If I might explain, your ladyship.”

Jeeves had projected himself in from the dining room and materialized on the rug. Lady Malvern tried to freeze him with a look, but you can’t do that sort of thing to Jeeves. He is look-proof.

“I fancy, your ladyship, that you have misunderstood Mr. Wooster, and that he may have given you the impression that he was in New York when his lordship⁠—was removed. When Mr. Wooster informed your ladyship that his lordship had gone to Boston, he was relying on the version I had given him of his lordship’s movements. Mr. Wooster was away, visiting a friend in the country, at the time, and knew nothing of the matter till your ladyship informed him.”

Lady Malvern gave a kind of grunt. It didn’t rattle Jeeves.

“I feared Mr. Wooster might be disturbed if he knew the truth, as he is so attached to his lordship and has taken such pains to look after him, so I took the liberty of telling him that his lordship had gone away for a visit. It might have been hard for Mr. Wooster to believe that his lordship had gone to prison voluntarily and from the best motives, but your ladyship, knowing him better, will readily understand.”

“What!” Lady Malvern goggled at him. “Did you say that Lord Pershore went to prison voluntarily?”

“If I might explain, your ladyship. I think that your ladyship’s parting words made a deep impression on his lordship. I have frequently heard him speak to Mr. Wooster of his desire to do something to follow your ladyship’s instructions and collect material for your ladyship’s book on America. Mr. Wooster will bear me out when I say that his lordship was frequently extremely depressed at the thought that he was doing so little to help.”

“Absolutely, by Jove! Quite pipped about it!” I said.

“The idea of making a personal examination into the prison system of the country⁠—from within⁠—occurred to his lordship very suddenly one night. He embraced it eagerly. There was no restraining him.”

Lady Malvern looked at Jeeves, then at me, then at Jeeves again. I could see her struggling with the thing.

“Surely, your ladyship,” said Jeeves, “it is more reasonable to suppose that a gentleman of his lordship’s character went to prison of his own volition than that he committed some breach of the law which necessitated his arrest?”

Lady Malvern blinked. Then she got up.

Mr. Wooster,” she said, “I apologize. I have done you an injustice. I should have known Wilmot better. I should have had more faith in his pure, fine spirit.”

“Absolutely!” I said.

“Your breakfast is ready, sir,” said Jeeves.

I sat down and dallied in a dazed sort of way with a poached egg.

“Jeeves,” I said, “you are certainly a lifesaver!”

“Thank you, sir.”

“Nothing would have convinced my Aunt Agatha that I hadn’t lured that blighter into riotous living.”

“I fancy you are right, sir.”

I champed my egg for a bit. I was most awfully moved, don’t you know, by the way Jeeves had rallied round. Something seemed to tell me that this was an occasion that called for rich rewards. For a moment I hesitated. Then I made up my mind.

“Jeeves!”

“Sir?”

“That pink tie!”

“Yes, sir?”

“Burn it!”

“Thank you, sir.”

“And, Jeeves!”

“Yes, sir?”

“Take a taxi and get me that Longacre hat, as worn by John Drew!”

“Thank you very much, sir.”

I felt most awfully braced. I felt as if the clouds had rolled away and all was as it used to be. I felt like one of those chappies in the novels who calls off the fight with his wife in the last chapter and decides to forget and forgive. I felt I wanted to do all sorts of other things to show Jeeves that I appreciated him.

“Jeeves,” I said, “it isn’t enough. Is there anything else you would like?”

“Yes, sir. If I may make the suggestion⁠—fifty dollars.”

“Fifty dollars?”

“It will enable me to pay a debt of honour, sir. I owe it to his lordship.”

“You owe Lord Pershore fifty dollars?”

“Yes, sir. I happened to meet him in the street the night his lordship was arrested. I had been thinking a good deal about the most suitable method of inducing him to abandon his mode of living, sir. His lordship was a little overexcited at the time and I fancy that he mistook me for a friend of his. At any rate when I took the liberty of wagering him fifty dollars that he would not punch a passing policeman in the eye, he accepted the bet very cordially and won it.”

I produced my pocketbook and counted out a hundred.

“Take this, Jeeves,” I said; “fifty isn’t enough. Do you know, Jeeves, you’re⁠—well, you absolutely stand alone!”

“I endeavour to give satisfaction, sir,” said Jeeves.

Jeeves in the Springtime

“Morning, Jeeves,” I said.

“Good morning, sir,” said Jeeves. He put the good old cup of tea softly on the table by my bed, and I took a refreshing sip. Just right, as usual. Not too hot, not too sweet, not too weak, not too strong, not too much milk, and not a drop spilled in the saucer. A most amazing cove, Jeeves. So dashed competent in every respect. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I mean to say, take just one small instance. Every other valet I’ve ever had used to barge into my room in the morning while I was still asleep, causing much misery: but Jeeves seems to know when I’m awake by a sort of telepathy. He always floats in with the cup exactly two minutes after I come to life. Makes a deuce of a lot of difference to a fellow’s day.

“How’s the weather, Jeeves?”

“Exceptionally clement, sir.”

“Anything in the papers?”

“Some slight friction threatening in the Balkans, sir. Otherwise, nothing.”

“I say, Jeeves, a man I met at the club last night told me to put my shirt on Privateer for the two o’clock race this afternoon. How about it?”

“I should not advocate it, sir. The stable is not sanguine.”

That was enough for me. Jeeves knows. How, I couldn’t say, but he knows. There was a time when I would laugh lightly, and go ahead, and lose my little all against his advice, but not now.

“Talking of shirts,” I said, “have those mauve ones I ordered arrived yet?”

“Yes, sir. I sent them back.”

“Sent them back?”

“Yes, sir. They would not have become you.”

Well, I must say I’d thought fairly highly of those shirtings, but I bowed to superior knowledge. Weak? I don’t know. Most fellows, no doubt, are all for having their valets confine their activities to creasing trousers and whatnot without trying to run the home; but it’s different with Jeeves. Right from the first day he came to me, I have looked on him as a sort of guide, philosopher, and friend.

Mr. Little rang up on the telephone a few moments ago, sir. I informed him that you were not yet awake.”

“Did he leave a message?”

“No, sir. He mentioned that he had a matter of importance to discuss with you, but confided no details.”

“Oh, well, I expect I shall be seeing him at the club.”

“No doubt, sir.”

I wasn’t what you might call in a fever of impatience. Bingo Little is a chap I was at school with, and we see a lot of each other still. He’s the nephew of old Mortimer Little, who retired from business recently with a goodish pile. (You’ve probably heard of Little’s Liniment⁠—It Limbers Up the Legs.) Bingo biffs about London on a pretty comfortable allowance given him by his uncle, and leads on the whole a fairly unclouded life. It wasn’t likely that anything which he described as a matter of importance would turn out to be really so frightfully important. I took it that he had discovered some new brand of cigarette which he wanted me to try, or something like that, and didn’t spoil my breakfast by worrying.

After breakfast I lit a cigarette and went to the open window to inspect the day. It certainly was one of the best and brightest.

“Jeeves,” I said.

“Sir?” said Jeeves. He had been clearing away the breakfast things, but at the sound of the young master’s voice cheesed it courteously.

“You were absolutely right about the weather. It is a juicy morning.”

“Decidedly, sir.”

“Spring and all that.”

“Yes, sir.”

“In the spring, Jeeves, a livelier iris gleams upon the burnished dove.”

“So I have been informed, sir.”

“Right ho! Then bring me my whangee, my yellowest shoes, and the old green Homburg. I’m going into the Park to do pastoral dances.”

I don’t know if you know that sort of feeling you get on these days round about the end of April and the beginning of May, when the sky’s a light blue, with cotton-wool clouds, and there’s a bit of a breeze blowing from the west? Kind of uplifted feeling. Romantic, if you know what I mean. I’m not much of a ladies’ man, but on this particular morning it seemed to me that what I really wanted was some charming girl to buzz up and ask me to save her from assassins or something. So that it was a bit of an anticlimax when I merely ran into young Bingo Little, looking perfectly foul in a crimson satin tie decorated with horseshoes.

“Hallo, Bertie,” said Bingo.

“My God, man!” I gargled. “The cravat! The gent’s neckwear! Why? For what reason?”

“Oh, the tie?” He blushed. “I⁠—er⁠—I was given it.”

He seemed embarrassed, so I dropped the subject. We toddled along a bit, and sat down on a couple of chairs by the Serpentine.

“Jeeves tells me you want to talk to me about something,” I said.

“Eh?” said Bingo, with a start. “Oh yes, yes. Yes.”

I waited for him to unleash the topic of the day, but he didn’t seem to want to get going. Conversation languished. He stared straight ahead of him in a glassy sort of manner.

“I say, Bertie,” he said, after a pause of about an hour and a quarter.

“Hallo!”

“Do you like the name Mabel?”

“No.”

“No?”

“No.”

“You don’t think there’s a kind of music in the word, like the wind rustling gently through the treetops?”

“No.”

He seemed disappointed for a moment; then cheered up.

“Of course, you wouldn’t. You always were a fatheaded worm without any soul, weren’t you?”

“Just as you say. Who is she? Tell me all.”

For I realised now that poor old Bingo was going through it once again. Ever since I have known him⁠—and we were at school together⁠—he has been perpetually falling in love with someone, generally in the spring, which seems to act on him like magic. At school he had the finest collection of actresses’ photographs of anyone of his time; and at Oxford his romantic nature was a byword.

“You’d better come along and meet her at lunch,” he said, looking at his watch.

“A ripe suggestion,” I said. “Where are you meeting her? At the Ritz?”

“Near the Ritz.”

He was geographically accurate. About fifty yards east of the Ritz there is one of those blighted tea-and-bun shops you see dotted about all over London, and into this, if you’ll believe me, young Bingo dived like a homing rabbit; and before I had time to say a word we were wedged in at a table, on the brink of a silent pool of coffee left there by an early luncher.

I’m bound to say I couldn’t quite follow the development of the scenario. Bingo, while not absolutely rolling in the stuff, has always had a fair amount of the ready. Apart from what he got from his uncle, I knew that he had finished up the jumping season well on the right side of the ledger. Why, then, was he lunching the girl at this Godforsaken eatery? It couldn’t be because he was hard up.

Just then the waitress arrived. Rather a pretty girl.

“Aren’t we going to wait⁠—?” I started to say to Bingo, thinking it somewhat thick that, in addition to asking a girl to lunch with him in a place like this, he should fling himself on the foodstuffs before she turned up, when I caught sight of his face, and stopped.

The man was goggling. His entire map was suffused with a rich blush. He looked like the Soul’s Awakening done in pink.

“Hallo, Mabel!” he said, with a sort of gulp.

“Hallo!” said the girl.

“Mabel,” said Bingo, “this is Bertie Wooster, a pal of mine.”

“Pleased to meet you,” she said. “Nice morning.”

“Fine,” I said.

“You see I’m wearing the tie,” said Bingo.

“It suits you beautiful,” said the girl.

Personally, if anyone had told me that a tie like that suited me, I should have risen and struck them on the mazzard, regardless of their age and sex; but poor old Bingo simply got all flustered with gratification, and smirked in the most gruesome manner.

“Well, what’s it going to be today?” asked the girl, introducing the business touch into the conversation.

Bingo studied the menu devoutly.

“I’ll have a cup of cocoa, cold veal and ham pie, slice of fruit cake, and a macaroon. Same for you, Bertie?”

I gazed at the man, revolted. That he could have been a pal of mine all these years and think me capable of insulting the old tum with this sort of stuff cut me to the quick.

“Or how about a bit of hot steak-pudding, with a sparkling limado to wash it down?” said Bingo.

You know, the way love can change a fellow is really frightful to contemplate. This chappie before me, who spoke in that absolutely careless way of macaroons and limado, was the man I had seen in happier days telling the headwaiter at Claridge’s exactly how he wanted the chef to prepare the sole frite au gourmet aux champignons, and saying he would jolly well sling it back if it wasn’t just right. Ghastly! Ghastly!

A roll and butter and a small coffee seemed the only things on the list that hadn’t been specially prepared by the nastier-minded members of the Borgia family for people they had a particular grudge against, so I chose them, and Mabel hopped it.

“Well?” said Bingo rapturously.

I took it that he wanted my opinion of the female poisoner who had just left us.

“Very nice,” I said.

He seemed dissatisfied.

“You don’t think she’s the most wonderful girl you ever saw?” he said wistfully.

“Oh, absolutely!” I said, to appease the blighter. “Where did you meet her?”

“At a subscription dance at Camberwell.”

“What on earth were you doing at a subscription dance at Camberwell?”

“Your man Jeeves asked me if I would buy a couple of tickets. It was in aid of some charity or other.”

“Jeeves? I didn’t know he went in for that sort of thing.”

“Well, I suppose he has to relax a bit every now and then. Anyway, he was there, swinging a dashed efficient shoe. I hadn’t meant to go at first, but I turned up for a lark. Oh, Bertie, think what I might have missed!”

“What might you have missed?” I asked, the old lemon being slightly clouded.

“Mabel, you chump. If I hadn’t gone I shouldn’t have met Mabel.”

“Oh, ah!”

At this point Bingo fell into a species of trance, and only came out of it to wrap himself round the pie and macaroon.

“Bertie,” he said, “I want your advice.”

“Carry on.”

“At least, not your advice, because that wouldn’t be much good to anybody. I mean, you’re a pretty consummate old ass, aren’t you? Not that I want to hurt your feelings, of course.”

“No, no, I see that.”

“What I wish you would do is to put the whole thing to that fellow Jeeves of yours, and see what he suggests. You’ve often told me that he has helped other pals of yours out of messes. From what you tell me, he’s by way of being the brains of the family.”

“He’s never let me down yet.”

“Then put my case to him.”

“What case?”

“My problem.”

“What problem?”

“Why, you poor fish, my uncle, of course. What do you think my uncle’s going to say to all this? If I sprang it on him cold, he’d tie himself in knots on the hearthrug.”

“One of these emotional johnnies, eh?”

“Somehow or other his mind has got to be prepared to receive the news. But how?”

“Ah!”

“That’s a lot of help, that ‘ah’! You see, I’m pretty well dependent on the old boy. If he cut off my allowance, I should be very much in the soup. So you put the whole binge to Jeeves and see if he can’t scare up a happy ending somehow. Tell him my future is in his hands, and that, if the wedding bells ring out, he can rely on me, even unto half my kingdom. Well, call it ten quid. Jeeves would exert himself with ten quid on the horizon, what?”

“Undoubtedly,” I said.

I wasn’t in the least surprised at Bingo wanting to lug Jeeves into his private affairs like this. It was the first thing I would have thought of doing myself if I had been in any hole of any description. As I have frequently had occasion to observe, he is a bird of the ripest intellect, full of bright ideas. If anybody could fix things for poor old Bingo, he could.

I stated the case to him that night after dinner.

“Jeeves.”

“Sir?”

“Are you busy just now?”

“No, sir.”

“I mean, not doing anything in particular?”

“No, sir. It is my practice at this hour to read some improving book; but, if you desire my services, this can easily be postponed, or, indeed, abandoned altogether.”

“Well, I want your advice. It’s about Mr. Little.”

“Young Mr. Little, sir, or the elder Mr. Little, his uncle, who lives in Pounceby Gardens?”

Jeeves seemed to know everything. Most amazing thing. I’d been pally with Bingo practically all my life, and yet I didn’t remember ever having heard that his uncle lived anywhere is particular.

“How did you know he lived in Pounceby Gardens?” I said.

“I am on terms of some intimacy with the elder Mr. Little’s cook, sir. In fact, there is an understanding.”

I’m bound to say that this gave me a bit of a start. Somehow I’d never thought of Jeeves going in for that sort of thing.

“Do you mean you’re engaged?”

“It may be said to amount to that, sir.”

“Well, well!”

“She is a remarkably excellent cook, sir,” said Jeeves, as though he felt called on to give some explanation. “What was it you wished to ask me about Mr. Little?”

I sprang the details on him.

“And that’s how the matter stands, Jeeves,” I said. “I think we ought to rally round a trifle and help poor old Bingo put the thing through. Tell me about old Mr. Little. What sort of a chap is he?”

“A somewhat curious character, sir. Since retiring from business he has become a great recluse, and now devotes himself almost entirely to the pleasures of the table.”

“Greedy hog, you mean?”

“I would not, perhaps, take the liberty of describing him in precisely those terms, sir. He is what is usually called a gourmet. Very particular about what he eats, and for that reason sets a high value on Miss Watson’s services.”

“The cook?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Well, it looks to me as though our best plan would be to shoot young Bingo in on him after dinner one night. Melting mood, I mean to say, and all that.”

“The difficulty is, sir, that at the moment Mr. Little is on a diet, owing to an attack of gout.”

“Things begin to look wobbly.”

“No, sir, I fancy that the elder Mr. Little’s misfortune may be turned to the younger Mr. Little’s advantage. I was speaking only the other day to Mr. Little’s valet, and he was telling me that it has become his principal duty to read to Mr. Little in the evenings. If I were in your place, sir, I should send young Mr. Little to read to his uncle.”

“Nephew’s devotion, you mean? Old man touched by kindly action, what?”

“Partly that, sir. But I would rely more on young Mr. Little’s choice of literature.”

“That’s no good. Jolly old Bingo has a kind face, but when it comes to literature he stops at the Sporting Times.”

“That difficulty may be overcome. I would be happy to select books for Mr. Little to read. Perhaps I might explain my idea further?”

“I can’t say I quite grasp it yet.”

“The method which I advocate is what, I believe, the advertisers call Direct Suggestion, sir, consisting as it does of driving an idea home by constant repetition. You may have had experience of the system?”

“You mean they keep on telling you that some soap or other is the best, and after a bit you come under the influence and charge round the corner and buy a cake?”

“Exactly, sir. The same method was the basis of all the most valuable propaganda during the recent war. I see no reason why it should not be adopted to bring about the desired result with regard to the subject’s views on class distinctions. If young Mr. Little were to read day after day to his uncle a series of narratives in which marriage with young persons of an inferior social status was held up as both feasible and admirable, I fancy it would prepare the elder Mr. Little’s mind for the reception of the information that his nephew wishes to marry a waitress in a teashop.”

Are there any books of that sort nowadays? The only ones I ever see mentioned in the papers are about married couples who find life grey, and can’t stick each other at any price.”

“Yes, sir, there are a great many, neglected by the reviewers but widely read. You have never encountered All for Love, by Rosie M. Banks?”

“No.”

“Nor A Red, Red Summer Rose, by the same author?”

“No.”

“I have an aunt, sir, who owns an almost complete set of Rosie M. Banks’. I could easily borrow as many volumes as young Mr. Little might require. They make very light, attractive reading.”

“Well, it’s worth trying.”

“I should certainly recommend the scheme, sir.”

“All right, then. Toddle round to your aunt’s tomorrow and grab a couple of the fruitiest. We can but have a dash at it.”

“Precisely, sir.”


Bingo reported three days later that Rosie M. Banks was the goods and beyond a question the stuff to give the troops. Old Little had jibbed somewhat at first at the proposed change of literary diet, he not being much of a lad for fiction and having stuck hitherto exclusively to the heavier monthly reviews; but Bingo had got chapter one of “All for Love” past his guard before he knew what was happening, and after that there was nothing to it. Since then they had finished A Red, Red Summer Rose, Madcap Myrtle and Only a Factory Girl, and were halfway through The Courtship of Lord Strathmorlick.

Bingo told me all this in a husky voice over an egg beaten up in sherry. The only blot on the thing from his point of view was that it wasn’t doing a bit of good to the old vocal cords, which were beginning to show signs of cracking under the strain. He had been looking his symptoms up in a medical dictionary, and he thought he had got “clergyman’s throat.” But against this you had to set the fact that he was making an undoubted hit in the right quarter, and also that after the evening’s reading he always stayed on to dinner; and, from what he told me, the dinners turned out by old Little’s cook had to be tasted to be believed. There were tears in the old blighter’s eyes as he got on the subject of the clear soup. I suppose to a fellow who for weeks had been tackling macaroons and limado it must have been like Heaven.

Old Little wasn’t able to give any practical assistance at these banquets, but Bingo said that he came to the table and had his whack of arrowroot, and sniffed the dishes, and told stories of entrées he had had in the past, and sketched out scenarios of what he was going to do to the bill of fare in the future, when the doctor put him in shape; so I suppose he enjoyed himself, too, in a way. Anyhow, things seemed to be buzzing along quite satisfactorily, and Bingo said he had got an idea which, he thought, was going to clinch the thing. He wouldn’t tell me what it was, but he said it was a pippin.

“We make progress, Jeeves,” I said.

“That is very satisfactory, sir.”

Mr. Little tells me that when he came to the big scene in Only a Factory Girl, his uncle gulped like a stricken bull-pup.”

“Indeed, sir?”

“Where Lord Claude takes the girl in his arms, you know, and says⁠—”

“I am familiar with the passage, sir. It is distinctly moving. It was a great favourite of my aunt’s.”

“I think we’re on the right track.”

“It would seem so, sir.”

“In fact, this looks like being another of your successes. I’ve always said, and I always shall say, that for sheer brain, Jeeves, you stand alone. All the other great thinkers of the age are simply in the crowd, watching you go by.”

“Thank you very much, sir. I endeavour to give satisfaction.”

About a week after this, Bingo blew in with the news that his uncle’s gout had ceased to trouble him, and that on the morrow he would be back at the old stand working away with knife and fork as before.

“And, by the way,” said Bingo, “he wants you to lunch with him tomorrow.”

“Me? Why me? He doesn’t know I exist.”

“Oh, yes, he does. I’ve told him about you.”

“What have you told him?”

“Oh, various things. Anyhow, he wants to meet you. And take my tip, laddie⁠—you go! I should think lunch tomorrow would be something special.”

I don’t know why it was, but even then it struck me that there was something dashed odd⁠—almost sinister, if you know what I mean⁠—about young Bingo’s manner. The old egg had the air of one who has something up his sleeve.

“There is more in this than meets the eye,” I said. “Why should your uncle ask a fellow to lunch whom he’s never seen?”

“My dear old fathead, haven’t I just said that I’ve been telling him all about you⁠—that you’re my best pal⁠—at school together, and all that sort of thing?”

“But even then⁠—and another thing. Why are you so dashed keen on my going?”

Bingo hesitated for a moment.

“Well, I told you I’d got an idea. This is it. I want you to spring the news on him. I haven’t the nerve myself.”

“What! I’m hanged if I do!”

“And you call yourself a pal of mine!”

“Yes, I know; but there are limits.”

“Bertie,” said Bingo reproachfully, “I saved your life once.”

“When?”

“Didn’t I? It must have been some other fellow, then. Well, anyway, we were boys together and all that. You can’t let me down.”

“Oh, all right,” I said. “But, when you say you haven’t nerve enough for any dashed thing in the world, you misjudge yourself. A fellow who⁠—”

“Cheerio!” said young Bingo. “One-thirty tomorrow. Don’t be late.”


I’m bound to say that the more I contemplated the binge, the less I liked it. It was all very well for Bingo to say that I was slated for a magnificent lunch; but what good is the best possible lunch to a fellow if he is slung out into the street on his ear during the soup course? However, the word of a Wooster is his bond and all that sort of rot, so at one-thirty next day I tottered up the steps of No. 16, Pounceby Gardens, and punched the bell. And half a minute later I was up in the drawing-room, shaking hands with the fattest man I have ever seen in my life.

The motto of the Little family was evidently “variety.” Young Bingo is long and thin and hasn’t had a superfluous ounce on him since we first met; but the uncle restored the average and a bit over. The hand which grasped mine wrapped it round and enfolded it till I began to wonder if I’d ever get it out without excavating machinery.

Mr. Wooster, I am gratified⁠—I am proud⁠—I am honoured.”

It seemed to me that young Bingo must have boosted me to some purpose.

“Oh, ah!” I said.

He stepped back a bit, still hanging on to the good right hand.

“You are very young to have accomplished so much!”

I couldn’t follow the train of thought. The family, especially my Aunt Agatha, who has savaged me incessantly from childhood up, have always rather made a point of the fact that mine is a wasted life, and that, since I won the prize at my first school for the best collection of wild flowers made during the summer holidays, I haven’t done a dam’ thing to land me on the nation’s scroll of fame. I was wondering if he couldn’t have got me mixed up with someone else, when the telephone-bell rang outside in the hall, and the maid came in to say that I was wanted. I buzzed down, and found it was young Bingo.

“Hallo!” said young Bingo. “So you’ve got there? Good man! I knew I could rely on you. I say, old crumpet, did my uncle seem pleased to see you?”

“Absolutely all over me. I can’t make it out.”

“Oh, that’s all right. I just rang up to explain. The fact is, old man, I know you won’t mind, but I told him that you were the author of those books I’ve been reading to him.”

“What!”

“Yes, I said that ‘Rosie M. Banks’ was your pen-name, and you didn’t want it generally known, because you were a modest, retiring sort of chap. He’ll listen to you now. Absolutely hang on your words. A brightish idea, what? I doubt if Jeeves in person could have thought up a better one than that. Well, pitch it strong, old lad, and keep steadily before you the fact that I must have my allowance raised. I can’t possibly marry on what I’ve got now. If this film is to end with the slow fade-out on the embrace, at least double is indicated. Well, that’s that. Cheerio!”

And he rang off. At that moment the gong sounded, and the genial host came tumbling downstairs like the delivery of a ton of coals.


I always look back to that lunch with a sort of aching regret. It was the lunch of a lifetime, and I wasn’t in a fit state to appreciate it. Subconsciously, if you know what I mean, I could see it was pretty special, but I had got the wind up to such a frightful extent over the ghastly situation in which young Bingo had landed me that its deeper meaning never really penetrated. Most of the time I might have been eating sawdust for all the good it did me.

Old Little struck the literary note right from the start.

“My nephew has probably told you that I have been making a close study of your books of late?” he began.

“Yes. He did mention it. How⁠—er⁠—how did you like the bally things?”

He gazed reverently at me.

Mr. Wooster, I am not ashamed to say that the tears came into my eyes as I listened to them. It amazes me that a man as young as you can have been able to plumb human nature so surely to its depths; to play with so unerring a hand on the quivering heartstrings of your reader; to write novels so true, so human, so moving, so vital!”

“Oh, it’s just a knack,” I said.

The good old persp. was bedewing my forehead by this time in a pretty lavish manner. I don’t know when I’ve been so rattled.

“Do you find the room a trifle warm?”

“Oh, no, no, rather not. Just right.”

“Then it’s the pepper. If my cook has a fault⁠—which I am not prepared to admit⁠—it is that she is inclined to stress the pepper a trifle in her made dishes. By the way, do you like her cooking?”

I was so relieved that we had got off the subject of my literary output that I shouted approval in a ringing baritone.

“I am delighted to hear it, Mr. Wooster. I may be prejudiced, but to my mind that woman is a genius.”

“Absolutely!” I said.

“She has been with me seven years, and in all that time I have not known her guilty of a single lapse from the highest standard. Except once, in the winter of 1917, when a purist might have condemned a certain mayonnaise of hers as lacking in creaminess. But one must make allowances. There had been several air raids about that time, and no doubt the poor woman was shaken. But nothing is perfect in this world, Mr. Wooster, and I have had my cross to bear. For seven years I have lived in constant apprehension lest some evilly-disposed person might lure her from my employment. To my certain knowledge she has received offers, lucrative offers, to accept service elsewhere. You may judge of my dismay, Mr. Wooster, when only this morning the bolt fell. She gave notice!”

“Good Lord!”

“Your consternation does credit, if I may say so, to the heart of the author of A Red, Red Summer Rose. But I am thankful to say the worst has not happened. The matter has been adjusted. Jane is not leaving me.”

“Good egg!”

“Good egg, indeed⁠—though the expression is not familiar to me. I do not remember having come across it in your books. And, speaking of your books, may I say that what has impressed me about them even more than the moving poignancy of the actual narrative, is your philosophy of life. If there were more men like you, Mr. Wooster, London would be a better place.”

This was dead opposite to my Aunt Agatha’s philosophy of life, she having always rather given me to understand that it is the presence in it of chappies like me that makes London more or less of a plague spot; but I let it go.

“Let me tell you, Mr. Wooster, that I appreciate your splendid defiance of the outworn fetishes of a purblind social system. I appreciate it! You are big enough to see that rank is but the guinea stamp and that, in the magnificent words of Lord Bletchmore in Only a Factory Girl, ‘Be her origin ne’er so humble, a good woman is the equal of the finest lady on earth!’ ”

I sat up.

“I say! Do you think that?”

“I do, Mr. Wooster. I am ashamed to say that there was a time when I was like other men, a slave to the idiotic convention which we call Class Distinction. But, since I read your books⁠—”

I might have known it. Jeeves had done it again.

“You think it’s all right for a chappie in what you might call a certain social position to marry a girl of what you might describe as the lower classes?”

“Most assuredly I do, Mr. Wooster.”

I took a deep breath, and slipped him the good news.

“Young Bingo⁠—your nephew, you know⁠—wants to marry a waitress,” I said.

“I honour him for it,” said old Little.

“You don’t object?”

“On the contrary.”

I took another deep breath and shifted to the sordid side of the business.

“I hope you won’t think I’m butting in, don’t you know,” I said, “but⁠—er⁠—well, how about it?”

“I fear I do not quite follow you.”

“Well, I mean to say, his allowance and all that. The money you’re good enough to give him. He was rather hoping that you might see your way to jerking up the total a bit.”

Old Little shook his head regretfully.

“I fear that can hardly be managed. You see, a man in my position is compelled to save every penny. I will gladly continue my nephew’s existing allowance, but beyond that I cannot go. It would not be fair to my wife.”

“What! But you’re not married?”

“Not yet. But I propose to enter upon that holy state almost immediately. The lady who for years has cooked so well for me honoured me by accepting my hand this very morning.” A cold gleam of triumph came into his eye. “Now let ’em try to get her away from me!” he muttered, defiantly.


“Young Mr. Little has been trying frequently during the afternoon to reach you on the telephone, sir,” said Jeeves that night, when I got home.

“I’ll bet he has,” I said. I had sent poor old Bingo an outline of the situation by messenger-boy shortly after lunch.

“He seemed a trifle agitated.”

“I don’t wonder. Jeeves,” I said, “so brace up and bite the bullet. I’m afraid I’ve bad news for you.”

“That scheme of yours⁠—reading those books to old Mr. Little and all that⁠—has blown out a fuse.”

“They did not soften him?”

“They did. That’s the whole bally trouble. Jeeves, I’m sorry to say that fiancée of yours⁠—Miss Watson, you know⁠—the cook, you know⁠—well, the long and the short of it is that she’s chosen riches instead of honest worth, if you know what I mean.”

“Sir?”

“She’s handed you the mitten and gone and got engaged to old Mr. Little!”

“Indeed, sir?”

“You don’t seem much upset.”

“The fact is, sir, I had anticipated some such outcome.”

I stared at him. “Then what on earth did you suggest the scheme for?”

“To tell you the truth, sir, I was not wholly averse from a severance of my relations with Miss Watson. In fact, I greatly desired it. I respect Miss Watson exceedingly, but I have seen for a long time that we were not suited. Now, the other young person with whom I have an understanding⁠—”

“Great Scott, Jeeves! There isn’t another?”

“Yes, sir.”

“How long has this been going on?”

“For some weeks, sir. I was greatly attracted by her when I first met her at a subscription dance at Camberwell.”

“My sainted aunt! Not⁠—”

Jeeves inclined his head gravely.

“Yes, sir. By an odd coincidence it is the same young person that young Mr. Little⁠—I have placed the cigarettes on the small table. Good night, sir.”

Aunt Agatha Makes a Bloomer

I suppose in the case of a chappie of really fine fibre and all that sort of thing, a certain amount of gloom and anguish would have followed this dishing of young Bingo’s matrimonial plans. I mean, if mine had been a noble nature, I would have been all broken up. But, what with one thing and another, I can’t say I let it weigh on me very heavily. The fact that less than a week after he had had the bad news I came on young Bingo dancing like an untamed gazelle at Ciro’s helped me to bear up.

A resilient bird, Bingo. He may be down, but he is never out. While these little love-affairs of his are actually on, nobody could be more earnest and blighted; but once the fuse has blown out and the girl has handed him his hat and begged him as a favour never to let her see him again, up he bobs as merry and bright as ever. If I’ve seen it happen once, I’ve seen it happen a dozen times.

So I didn’t worry about Bingo. Or about anything else, as a matter of fact. What with one thing and another, I can’t remember ever having been chirpier than at about this period in my career. Everything seemed to be going right. On three separate occasions horses on which I’d invested a sizeable amount won by lengths instead of sitting down to rest in the middle of the race, as horses usually do when I’ve got money on them.

Added to this, the weather continued topping to a degree; my new socks were admitted on all sides to be just the kind that mother makes; and, to round it all off, my Aunt Agatha had gone to France and wouldn’t be on hand to snooter me for at least another six weeks. And, if you knew my Aunt Agatha, you’d agree that that alone was happiness enough for anyone.

It suddenly struck me so forcibly, one morning while I was having my bath, that I hadn’t a worry on earth that I began to sing like a bally nightingale as I sploshed the sponge about. It seemed to me that everything was absolutely for the best in the best of all possible worlds.

But have you ever noticed a rummy thing about life? I mean the way something always comes along to give it you in the neck at the very moment when you’re feeling most braced about things in general. No sooner had I dried the old limbs and shoved on the suiting and toddled into the sitting room than the blow fell. There was a letter from Aunt Agatha on the mantelpiece.

“Oh gosh!” I said when I’d read it.

“Sir?” said Jeeves. He was fooling about in the background on some job or other.

“It’s from my Aunt Agatha, Jeeves. Mrs. Gregson, you know.”

“Yes, sir?”

“Ah, you wouldn’t speak in that light, careless tone if you knew what was in it,” I said with a hollow, mirthless laugh. “The curse has come upon us, Jeeves. She wants me to go and join her at⁠—what’s the name of the dashed place?⁠—at Roville-sur-mer. Oh, hang it all!”

“I had better be packing, sir?”

“I suppose so.”

To people who don’t know my Aunt Agatha I find it extraordinarily difficult to explain why it is that she has always put the wind up me to such a frightful extent. I mean, I’m not dependent on her financially or anything like that. It’s simply personality, I’ve come to the conclusion. You see, all through my childhood and when I was a kid at school she was always able to turn me inside out with a single glance, and I haven’t come out from under the ’fluence yet. We run to height a bit in our family, and there’s about five-foot-nine of Aunt Agatha, topped off with a beaky nose, an eagle eye, and a lot of grey hair, and the general effect is pretty formidable. Anyway, it never even occurred to me for a moment to give her the miss-in-baulk on this occasion. If she said I must go to Roville, it was all over except buying the tickets.

“What’s the idea, Jeeves? I wonder why she wants me.”

“I could not say, sir.”

Well, it was no good talking about it. The only gleam of consolation, the only bit of blue among the clouds, was the fact that at Roville I should at last be able to wear the rather fruity cummerbund I had bought six months ago and had never had the nerve to put on. One of those silk contrivances, you know, which you tie round your waist instead of a waistcoat, something on the order of a sash only more substantial. I had never been able to muster up the courage to put it on so far, for I knew that there would be trouble with Jeeves when I did, it being a pretty brightish scarlet. Still, at a place like Roville, presumably dripping with the gaiety and joie de vivre of France, it seemed to me that something might be done.


Roville, which I reached early in the morning after a beastly choppy crossing and a jerky night in the train, is a fairly nifty spot where a chappie without encumbrances in the shape of aunts might spend a somewhat genial week or so. It is like all these French places, mainly sands and hotels and casinos. The hotel which had had the bad luck to draw Aunt Agatha’s custom was the Splendide, and by the time I got there there wasn’t a member of the staff who didn’t seem to be feeling it deeply. I sympathised with them. I’ve had experience of Aunt Agatha at hotels before. Of course, the real rough work was all over when I arrived, but I could tell by the way everyone grovelled before her that she had started by having her first room changed because it hadn’t a southern exposure and her next because it had a creaking wardrobe and that she had said her say on the subject of the cooking, the waiting, the chambermaiding and everything else, with perfect freedom and candour. She had got the whole gang nicely under control by now. The manager, a whiskered cove who looked like a bandit, simply tied himself into knots whenever she looked at him.

All this triumph had produced a sort of grim geniality in her, and she was almost motherly when we met.

“I am so glad you were able to come, Bertie,” she said. “The air will do you so much good. Far better for you than spending your time in stuffy London night clubs.”

“Oh, ah,” I said.

“You will meet some pleasant people, too. I want to introduce you to a Miss Hemmingway and her brother, who have become great friends of mine. I am sure you will like Miss Hemmingway. A nice, quiet girl, so different from so many of the bold girls one meets in London nowadays. Her brother is curate at Chipley-in-the-Glen in Dorsetshire. He tells me they are connected with the Kent Hemmingways. A very good family. She is a charming girl.”

I had a grim foreboding of an awful doom. All this boosting was so unlike Aunt Agatha, who normally is one of the most celebrated right-and-left-hand knockers in London society. I felt a clammy suspicion. And by Jove, I was right.

“Aline Hemmingway,” said Aunt Agatha, “is just the girl I should like to see you marry, Bertie. You ought to be thinking of getting married. Marriage might make something of you. And I could not wish you a better wife than dear Aline. She would be such a good influence in your life.”

“Here, I say!” I chipped in at this juncture, chilled to the marrow.

“Bertie!” said Aunt Agatha, dropping the motherly manner for a bit and giving me the cold eye.

“Yes, but I say⁠ ⁠…”

“It is young men like you, Bertie, who make the person with the future of the race at heart despair. Cursed with too much money, you fritter away in idle selfishness a life which might have been made useful, helpful and profitable. You do nothing but waste your time on frivolous pleasures. You are simply an antisocial animal, a drone. Bertie, it is imperative that you marry.”

“But, dash it all⁠ ⁠…”

“Yes! You should be breeding children to⁠ ⁠…”

“No, really, I say, please!” I said, blushing richly. Aunt Agatha belongs to two or three of these women’s clubs, and she keeps forgetting she isn’t in the smoking room.

“Bertie,” she resumed, and would no doubt have hauled up her slacks at some length, had we not been interrupted. “Ah, here they are!” she said. “Aline, dear!”

And I perceived a girl and a chappie bearing down on me smiling in a pleased sort of manner.

“I want you to meet my nephew, Bertie Wooster,” said Aunt Agatha. “He has just arrived. Such a surprise! I had no notion that he intended coming to Roville.”

I gave the couple the wary up-and-down, feeling rather like a cat in the middle of a lot of hounds. Sort of trapped feeling, you know what I mean. An inner voice was whispering that Bertram was up against it.

The brother was a small round cove with a face rather like a sheep. He wore pince-nez, his expression was benevolent, and he had on one of those collars which button at the back.

“Welcome to Roville, Mr. Wooster,” he said.

“Oh, Sidney!” said the girl. “Doesn’t Mr. Wooster remind you of Canon Blenkinsop, who came to Chipley to preach last Easter?”

“My dear! The resemblance is most striking!”

They peered at me for a while as if I were something in a glass case, and I goggled back and had a good look at the girl. There’s no doubt about it, she was different from what Aunt Agatha had called the bold girls one meets in London nowadays. No bobbed hair and gaspers about her! I don’t know when I’ve met anybody who looked so⁠—respectable is the only word. She had on a kind of plain dress, and her hair was plain, and her face was sort of mild and saintlike. I don’t pretend to be a Sherlock Holmes or anything of that order, but the moment I looked at her I said to myself, “The girl plays the organ in a village church!”

Well, we gazed at one another for a bit, and there was a certain amount of chitchat, and then I tore myself away. But before I went I had been booked up to take brother and the girl for a nice drive that afternoon. And the thought of it depressed me to such an extent that I felt there was only one thing to be done. I went straight back to my room, dug out the cummerbund, and draped it round the old tum. I turned round and Jeeves shied like a startled mustang.

“I beg your pardon, sir,” he said in a sort of hushed voice. “You are surely not proposing to appear in public in that thing?”

“The cummerbund?” I said in a careless, debonair way, passing it off. “Oh, rather!”

“I should not advise it, sir, really I shouldn’t.”

“Why not?”

“The effect, sir, is loud in the extreme.”

I tackled the blighter squarely. I mean to say, nobody knows better than I do that Jeeves is a master mind and all that, but, dash it, a fellow must call his soul his own. You can’t be a serf to your valet. Besides, I was feeling pretty low and the cummerbund was the only thing which could cheer me up.

“You know, the trouble with you, Jeeves,” I said, “is that you’re too⁠—what’s the word I want?⁠—too bally insular. You can’t realise that you aren’t in Piccadilly all the time. In a place like this a bit of colour and touch of the poetic is expected of you. Why, I’ve just seen a fellow downstairs in a morning suit of yellow velvet.”

“Nevertheless, sir⁠—”

“Jeeves,” I said firmly, “my mind is made up. I am feeling a little low spirited and need cheering. Besides, what’s wrong with it? This cummerbund seems to me to be called for. I consider that it has rather a Spanish effect. A touch of the hidalgo. Sort of Vicente y Blasco What’s-his-name stuff. The jolly old hidalgo off to the bull fight.”

“Very good, sir,” said Jeeves coldly.

Dashed upsetting, this sort of thing. If there’s one thing that gives me the pip, it’s unpleasantness in the home; and I could see that relations were going to be pretty fairly strained for a while. And, coming on top of Aunt Agatha’s bombshell about the Hemmingway girl, I don’t mind confessing it made me feel more or less as though nobody loved me.


The drive that afternoon was about as mouldy as I had expected. The curate chappie prattled on of this and that; the girl admired the view; and I got a headache early in the proceedings which started at the soles of my feet and got worse all the way up. I tottered back to my room to dress for dinner, feeling like a toad under the harrow. If it hadn’t been for that cummerbund business earlier in the day I could have sobbed on Jeeves’s neck and poured out all my troubles to him. Even as it was, I couldn’t keep the thing entirely to myself.

“I say, Jeeves,” I said.

“Sir?”

“Mix me a stiffish brandy and soda.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Stiffish, Jeeves. Not too much soda, but splash the brandy about a bit.”

“Very good, sir.”

After imbibing, I felt a shade better.

“Jeeves,” I said.

“Sir?”

“I rather fancy I’m in the soup, Jeeves.”

“Indeed, sir?”

I eyed the man narrowly. Dashed aloof his manner was. Still brooding over the cummerbund.

“Yes. Right up to the hocks,” I said, suppressing the pride of the Woosters and trying to induce him to be a bit matier. “Have you seen a girl popping about here with a parson brother?”

“Miss Hemmingway, sir? Yes, sir.”

“Aunt Agatha wants me to marry her.”

“Indeed, sir?”

“Well, what about it?”

“Sir?”

“I mean, have you anything to suggest?”

“No, sir.”

The blighter’s manner was so cold and unchummy that I bit the bullet and had a dash at being airy.

“Oh, well, tra-la-la!” I said.

“Precisely, sir,” said Jeeves.

And that was, so to speak, that.


I remember⁠—it must have been when I was at school because I don’t go in for that sort of thing very largely nowadays⁠—reading a poem or something about something or other in which there was a line which went, if I’ve got it rightly, “Shades of the prison house begin to close upon the growing boy.” Well, what I’m driving at is that during the next two weeks that’s exactly how it was with me. I mean to say, I could hear the wedding bells chiming faintly in the distance and getting louder and louder every day, and how the deuce to slide out of it was more than I could think. Jeeves, no doubt, could have dug up a dozen brainy schemes in a couple of minutes, but he was still aloof and chilly and I couldn’t bring myself to ask him point-blank. I mean, he could see easily enough that the young master was in a bad way and, if that wasn’t enough to make him overlook the fact that I was still gleaming brightly about the waistband, well, what it amounted to was that the old feudal spirit was dead in the blighter’s bosom and there was nothing to be done about it.

It really was rummy the way the Hemmingway family had taken to me. I wouldn’t have said offhand that there was anything particularly fascinating about me⁠—in fact, most people look on me as rather an ass; but there was no getting away from the fact that I went like a breeze with this girl and her brother. They didn’t seem happy if they were away from me. I couldn’t move a step, dash it, without one of them popping out from somewhere and freezing on. In fact, I’d got into the habit now of retiring to my room when I wanted to take it easy for a bit. I had managed to get a rather decent suite on the third floor, looking down on to the promenade.

I had gone to earth in my suite one evening and for the first time that day was feeling that life wasn’t so bad after all. Right through the day from lunch time I’d had the Hemmingway girl on my hands, Aunt Agatha having shooed us off together immediately after the midday meal. The result was, as I looked down on the lighted promenade and saw all the people popping happily about on their way to dinner and the Casino and whatnot, a kind of wistful feeling came over me. I couldn’t help thinking how dashed happy I could have contrived to be in this place if only Aunt Agatha and the other blisters had been elsewhere.

I heaved a sigh, and at that moment there was a knock at the door.

“Someone at the door, Jeeves,” I said.

“Yes, sir.”

He opened the door, and in popped Aline Hemmingway and her brother. The last person I had expected. I really had thought that I could be alone for a minute in my own room.

“Oh, hallo!” I said.

“Oh, Mr. Wooster!” said the girl in a gasping sort of way. “I don’t know how to begin.”

Then I noticed that she appeared considerably rattled, and as for the brother, he looked like a sheep with a secret sorrow.

This made me sit up a bit and take notice. I had supposed that this was just a social call, but apparently something had happened to give them a jolt. Though I couldn’t see why they should come to me about it.

“Is anything up?” I said.

“Poor Sidney⁠—it was my fault⁠—I ought never to have let him go there alone,” said the girl. Dashed agitated.

At this point the brother, who after shedding a floppy overcoat and parking his hat on a chair had been standing by wrapped in the silence, gave a little cough, like a sheep caught in the mist on a mountain top.

“The fact is, Mr. Wooster,” he said, “a sad, a most deplorable thing has occurred. This afternoon, while you were so kindly escorting my sist-ah, I found the time hang a little heavy upon my hands and I was tempted to⁠—ah⁠—gamble at the Casino.”

I looked at the man in a kindlier spirit than I had been able to up to date. This evidence that he had sporting blood in his veins made him seem more human, I’m bound to say. If only I’d known earlier that he went in for that sort of thing, I felt that we might have had a better time together.

“Oh!” I said. “Did you click?”

He sighed heavily.

“If you mean was I successful, I must answer in the negative. I rashly persisted in the view that the colour red, having appeared no fewer than seven times in succession, must inevitably at no distant date give place to black. I was in error. I lost my little all, Mr. Wooster.”

“Tough luck,” I said.

“I left the Casino,” proceeded the chappie, “and returned to the hotel. There I encountered one of my parishioners, a Colonel Musgrave, who chanced to be holiday-making over here. I⁠—er⁠—induced him to cash me a cheque for one hundred pounds on my little account in my London bank.”

“Well, that was all to the good, what?” I said, hoping to induce the poor fish to look on the bright side. “I mean, bit of luck finding someone to slip it into first crack out of the box.”

“On the contrary, Mr. Wooster, it did but make matters worse. I burn with shame as I make the confession, but I immediately went back to the Casino and lost the entire sum⁠—this time under the mistaken supposition that the colour black was, as I believe the expression is, due for a run.”

“I say!” I said. “You are having a night out!”

“And,” concluded the chappie, “the most lamentable feature of the whole affair is that I have no funds in the bank to meet the cheque when presented.”

I’m free to confess that, though I realised by this time that all this was leading up to a touch and that my ear was shortly going to be bitten in no uncertain manner, my heart warmed to the poor prune. Indeed, I gazed at him with no little interest and admiration. Never before had I encountered a curate so genuinely all to the mustard. Little as he might look like one of the lads of the village, he certainly appeared to be the real tabasco, and I wished he had shown me this side of his character before.

“Colonel Musgrave,” he went on, gulping somewhat, “is not a man who would be likely to overlook the matter. He is a hard man. He will expose me to my vic-ah. My vic-ah is a hard man. In short, Mr. Wooster, if Colonel Musgrave presents that cheque I shall be ruined. And he leaves for England tonight.”

The girl, who had been standing by biting her handkerchief and gurgling at intervals while the brother got the above off his chest, now started in once more.

Mr. Wooster,” she cried, “won’t you, won’t you help us? Oh, do say you will! We must have the money to get back the cheque from Colonel Musgrave before nine o’clock⁠—he leaves on the nine-twenty. I was at my wits’ end what to do when I remembered how kind you had always been. Mr. Wooster, will you lend Sidney the money and take these as security?” And before I knew what she was doing she had dived into her bag, produced a case, and opened it. “My pearls,” she said. “I don’t know what they are worth⁠—they were a present from my poor father⁠—”

“Now, alas, no more⁠—” chipped in the brother.

“But I know they must be worth ever so much more than the amount we want.”

Dashed embarrassing. Made me feel like a pawnbroker. More than a touch of popping the watch about the whole business.

“No, I say, really,” I protested. “There’s no need of any security, you know, or any rot of that kind. Only too glad to let you have the money. I’ve got it on me, as a matter of fact. Rather luckily drew some this morning.”

And I fished it out and pushed it across. The brother shook his head.

Mr. Wooster,” he said, “we appreciate your generosity, your beautiful, heartening confidence in us, but we cannot permit this.”

“What Sidney means,” said the girl, “is that you really don’t know anything about us when you come to think of it. You mustn’t risk lending all this money without any security at all to two people who, after all, are almost strangers. If I hadn’t thought that you would be quite businesslike about this I would never have dared to come to you.”

“The idea of⁠—er⁠—pledging the pearls at the local Mont de Piété? was, you will readily understand, repugnant to us,” said the brother.

“If you will just give me a receipt, as a matter of form⁠—”

“Oh, right-o!”

I wrote out the receipt and handed it over, feeling more or less of an ass.

“Here you are,” I said.

The girl took the piece of paper, shoved it in her bag, grabbed the money and slipped it to brother Sidney, and then, before I knew what was happening, she had darted at me, kissed me, and legged it from the room.

I’m bound to say the thing rattled me. So dashed sudden and unexpected. I mean, a girl like that. Always been quiet and demure and whatnot⁠—by no means the sort of female you’d have expected to go about the place kissing fellows. Through a sort of mist I could see that Jeeves had appeared from the background and was helping the brother on with his coat; and I remember wondering idly how the dickens a man could bring himself to wear a coat like that, it being more like a sack than anything else. Then the brother came up to me and grasped my hand.

“I cannot thank you sufficiently, Mr. Wooster!”

“Oh, not at all.”

“You have saved my good name. Good name in man or woman, dear my lord,” he said, massaging the fin with some fervour, “is the immediate jewel of their souls. Who steals my purse steals trash. ’Twas mine, ’tis his, and has been slave to thousands. But he that filches from me my good name robs me of that which enriches not him and makes me poor indeed. I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Good night, Mr. Wooster.”

“Good night, old thing,” I said.

I blinked at Jeeves as the door shut. “Rather a sad affair, Jeeves,” I said.

“Yes, sir.”

“Lucky I happened to have all that money handy.”

“Well⁠—er⁠—yes, sir.”

“You speak as though you didn’t think much of it.”

“It is not my place to criticise your actions, sir, but I will venture to say that I think you behaved a little rashly.”

“What, lending that money?”

“Yes, sir. These fashionable French watering places are notoriously infested by dishonest characters.”

This was a bit too thick.

“Now look here, Jeeves,” I said, “I can stand a lot but when it comes to your casting asp-whatever-the-word-is on a bird in Holy Orders⁠—”

“Perhaps I am oversuspicious, sir. But I have seen a great deal of these resorts. When I was in the employment of Lord Frederick Ranelagh, shortly before I entered your service, his lordship was very neatly swindled by a criminal known, I believe, by the sobriquet of Soapy Sid, who scraped acquaintance with us in Monte Carlo with the assistance of a female accomplice. I have never forgotten the circumstances.”

“I don’t want to butt in on your reminiscences, Jeeves,” I said, coldly, “but you’re talking through your hat. How can there have been anything fishy about this business? They’ve left me the pearls, haven’t they? Very well, then, think before you speak. You had better be tooling down to the desk now and having these things shoved in the hotel safe.” I picked up the case and opened it. “Oh, Great Scott!”

The bally thing was empty!

“Oh, my Lord!” I said, staring. “Don’t tell me there’s been dirty work at the crossroads after all!”

“Precisely, sir. It was in exactly the same manner that Lord Frederick was swindled on the occasion to which I have alluded. While his female accomplice was gratefully embracing his lordship, Soapy Sid substituted a duplicate case for the one containing the pearls and went off with the jewels, the money and the receipt. On the strength of the receipt he subsequently demanded from his lordship the return of the pearls, and his lordship, not being able to produce them, was obliged to pay a heavy sum in compensation. It is a simple but effective ruse.”

I felt as if the bottom had dropped out of things with a jerk.

“Soapy Sid? Sid! Sidney! Brother Sidney! Why, by Jove, Jeeves, do you think that parson was Soapy Sid?”

“Yes, sir.”

“But it seems so extraordinary. Why, his collar buttoned at the back⁠—I mean, he would have deceived a bishop. Do you really think he was Soapy Sid?”

“Yes, sir. I recognised him directly he came into the room.”

I stared at the blighter.

“You recognised him?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Then, dash it all,” I said, deeply moved, “I think you might have told me.”

“I thought it would save disturbance and unpleasantness if I merely abstracted the case from the man’s pocket as I assisted him with his coat, sir. Here it is.”

He laid another case on the table beside the dud one, and, by Jove, you couldn’t tell them apart. I opened it and there were the good old pearls, as merry and bright as dammit, smiling up at me. I gazed feebly at the man. I was feeling a bit overwrought.

“Jeeves,” I said. “You’re an absolute genius!”

“Yes, sir.”

Relief was surging over me in great chunks by now. Thanks to Jeeves I was not going to be called on to cough up several thousand quid.

“It looks to me as though you had saved the old home. I mean, even a chappie endowed with the immortal rind of dear old Sid is hardly likely to have the nerve to come back and retrieve these little chaps.”

“I should imagine not, sir.”

“Well, then⁠—Oh, I say, you don’t think they are just paste or anything like that?”

“No, sir. These are genuine pearls and extremely valuable.”

“Well, then, dash it, I’m on velvet. Absolutely reclining on the good old plush! I may be down a hundred quid but I’m up a jolly good string of pearls. Am I right or wrong?”

“Hardly that, sir. I think that you will have to restore the pearls.”

“What! To Sid? Not while I have my physique!”

“No, sir. To their rightful owner.”

“But who is their rightful owner?”

Mrs. Gregson, sir.”

“What! How do you know?”

“It was all over the hotel an hour ago that Mrs. Gregson’s pearls had been abstracted. I was speaking to Mrs. Gregson’s maid shortly before you came in and she informed me that the manager of the hotel is now in Mrs. Gregson’s suite.”

“And having a devil of a time, what?”

“So I should be disposed to imagine, sir.”

The situation was beginning to unfold before me.

“I’ll go and give them back to her, eh? It’ll put me one up, what?”

“Precisely, sir. And, if I may make the suggestion, I think it might be judicious to stress the fact that they were stolen by⁠—”

“Great Scott! By the dashed girl she was hounding me on to marry, by Jove!”

“Exactly, sir.”

“Jeeves,” I said, “this is going to be the biggest score off my jolly old relative that has ever occurred in the world’s history.”

“It is not unlikely, sir.”

“Keep her quiet for a bit, what? Make her stop snootering me for a while?”

“It should have that effect, sir.”

“Golly!” I said, bounding for the door.


Long before I reached Aunt Agatha’s lair I could tell that the hunt was up. Divers chappies in hotel uniform and not a few chambermaids of sorts were hanging about in the corridor, and through the panels I could hear a mixed assortment of voices, with Aunt Agatha’s topping the lot. I knocked but no one took any notice, so I trickled in. Among those present I noticed a chambermaid in hysterics, Aunt Agatha with her hair bristling, and the whiskered cove who looked like a bandit, the hotel manager fellow.

“Oh, hallo!” I said. “Hallo-allo-allo!”

Aunt Agatha shooshed me away. No welcoming smile for Bertram.

“Don’t bother me now, Bertie,” she snapped, looking at me as if I were more or less the last straw.

“Something up?”

“Yes, yes, yes! I’ve lost my pearls.”

“Pearls? Pearls? Pearls?” I said. “No, really? Dashed annoying. Where did you see them last?”

“What does it matter where I saw them last? They have been stolen.”

Here Wilfred the Whisker King, who seemed to have been taking a rest between rounds, stepped into the ring again and began to talk rapidly in French. Cut to the quick he seemed. The chambermaid whooped in the corner.

“Sure you’ve looked everywhere?” I said.

“Of course I’ve looked everywhere.”

“Well, you know, I’ve often lost a collar stud and⁠—”

“Do try not to be so maddening, Bertie! I have enough to bear without your imbecilities. Oh, be quiet! Be quiet!” she shouted in the sort of voice used by sergeant-majors and those who call the cattle home across the Sands of Dee. And such was the magnetism of her forceful personality that Wilfred subsided as if he had run into a wall. The chambermaid continued to go strong.

“I say,” I said, “I think there’s something the matter with this girl. Isn’t she crying or something? You may not have spotted it, but I’m rather quick at noticing things.”

“She stole my pearls! I am convinced of it.”

This started the whisker specialist off again, and in about a couple of minutes Aunt Agatha had reached the frozen grande-dame stage and was putting the last of the bandits through it in the voice she usually reserves for snubbing waiters in restaurants.

“I tell you, my good man, for the hundredth time⁠—”

“I say,” I said, “don’t want to interrupt you and all that sort of thing, but these aren’t the little chaps by any chance, are they?”

I pulled the pearls out of my pocket and held them up.

“These look like pearls, what?”

I don’t know when I’ve had a more juicy moment. It was one of those occasions about which I shall prattle to my grandchildren⁠—if I ever have any, which at the moment of going to press seems more or less of a hundred-to-one shot. Aunt Agatha simply deflated before my eyes. It reminded me of when I once saw some chappies letting the gas out of a balloon.

“Where⁠—where⁠—where⁠—” she gurgled.

“I got them from your friend, Miss Hemmingway.”

Even now she didn’t get it.

“From Miss Hemmingway. Miss Hemmingway! But⁠—but how did they come into her possession?”

“How?” I said. “Because she jolly well stole them. Pinched them! Swiped them! Because that’s how she makes her living, dash it⁠—palling up to unsuspicious people in hotels and sneaking their jewellery. I don’t know what her alias is, but her bally brother, the chap whose collar buttons at the back, is known in criminal circles as Soapy Sid.”

She blinked.

“Miss Hemmingway a thief! I⁠—I⁠—” She stopped and looked feebly at me. “But how did you manage to recover the pearls, Bertie dear?”

“Never mind,” I said crisply. “I have my methods.” I dug out my entire stock of manly courage, breathed a short prayer and let her have it right in the thorax.

“I must say, Aunt Agatha, dash it all,” I said severely, “I think you have been infernally careless. There’s a printed notice in every bedroom in this place saying that there’s a safe in the manager’s office where jewellery and valuables ought to be placed, and you absolutely disregarded it. And what’s the result? The first thief who came along simply walked into your room and pinched your pearls. And instead of admitting that it was all your fault, you started biting this poor man here in the gizzard. You have been very, very unjust to this poor man.”

“Yes, yes,” moaned the poor man.

“And this unfortunate girl, what about her? Where does she get off? You’ve accused her of stealing the things on absolutely no evidence. I think she would be jolly well advised to bring an action for⁠—for whatever it is and soak you for substantial damages.”

Mais oui, mais oui, c’est trop fort!” shouted the Bandit Chief, backing me up like a good ’un. And the chambermaid looked up inquiringly, as if the sun was breaking through the clouds.

“I shall recompense her,” said Aunt Agatha feebly.

“If you take my tip you jolly well will, and that eftsoons or right speedily. She’s got a cast-iron case, and if I were her I wouldn’t take a penny under twenty quid. But what gives me the pip most is the way you’ve unjustly abused this poor man here and tried to give his hotel a bad name⁠—”

“Yes, by damn! It’s too bad!” cried the whiskered marvel. “You careless old woman! You give my hotel bad names, would you or wasn’t it? Tomorrow you leave my hotel, by great Scotland!”

And more to the same effect, all good, ripe stuff. And presently having said his say he withdrew, taking the chambermaid with him, the latter with a crisp tenner clutched in a vice-like grip. I suppose she and the bandit split it outside. A French hotel manager wouldn’t be likely to let real money wander away from him without counting himself in on the division.

I turned to Aunt Agatha, whose demeanour was now rather like that of one who, picking daisies on the railway, has just caught the down express in the small of the back.

“I don’t want to rub it in, Aunt Agatha,” I said coldly, “but I should just like to point out before I go that the girl who stole your pearls is the girl you’ve been hounding me on to marry ever since I got here. Good heavens! Do you realise that if you had brought the thing off I should probably have had children who would have sneaked my watch while I was dandling them on my knee? I’m not a complaining sort of chap as a rule, but I must say that another time I do think you might be more careful how you go about egging me on to marry females.”

I gave her one look, turned on my heel and left the room.


“Ten o’clock, a clear night, and all’s well, Jeeves,” I said, breezing back into the good old suite.

“I am gratified to hear it, sir.”

“If twenty quid would be any use to you, Jeeves⁠—”

“I am much obliged, sir.”

There was a pause. And then⁠—well, it was a wrench, but I did it. I unstripped the cummerbund and handed it over.

“Do you wish me to press this, sir?”

I gave the thing one last, longing look. It had been very dear to me.

“No,” I said, “take it away; give it to the deserving poor⁠—I shall never wear it again.”

“Thank you very much, sir,” said Jeeves.

Scoring Off Jeeves

If there’s one thing I like, it’s a quiet life. I’m not one of those fellows who get all restless and depressed if things aren’t happening to them all the time. You can’t make it too placid for me. Give me regular meals, a good show with decent music every now and then, and one or two pals to totter round with, and I ask no more.

That is why the jar, when it came, was such a particularly nasty jar. I mean, I’d returned from Roville with a sort of feeling that from now on nothing could occur to upset me. Aunt Agatha, I imagined, would require at least a year to recover from the Hemmingway affair: and apart from Aunt Agatha there isn’t anybody who really does much in the way of harrying me. It seemed to me that the skies were blue, so to speak, and no clouds in sight.

I little thought.⁠ ⁠… Well, look here, what happened was this, and I ask you if it wasn’t enough to rattle anybody.

Once a year Jeeves takes a couple of weeks’ vacation and biffs off to the sea or somewhere to restore his tissues. Pretty rotten for me, of course, while he’s away. But it has to be stuck, so I stick it; and I must admit that he usually manages to get hold of a fairly decent fellow to look after me in his absence.

Well, the time had come round again, and Jeeves was in the kitchen giving the understudy a few tips about his duties. I happened to want a stamp or something, and I toddled down the passage to ask him for it. The silly ass had left the kitchen door open, and I hadn’t gone two steps when his voice caught me squarely in the eardrum.

“You will find Mr. Wooster,” he was saying to the substitute chappie, “an exceedingly pleasant and amiable young gentleman, but not intelligent. By no means intelligent. Mentally he is negligible⁠—quite negligible.”

Well, I mean to say, what!

I suppose, strictly speaking, I ought to have charged in and ticked the blighter off properly in no uncertain voice. But I doubt whether it’s humanly possible to tick Jeeves off. Personally, I didn’t even have a dash at it. I merely called for my hat and stick in a marked manner and legged it. But the memory rankled, if you know what I mean. We Woosters do not lightly forget. At least, we do⁠—some things⁠—appointments, and people’s birthdays, and letters to post, and all that⁠—but not an absolute bally insult like the above. I brooded like the dickens.

I was still brooding when I dropped in at the oyster-bar at Buck’s for a quick bracer. I needed a bracer rather particularly at the moment, because I was on my way to lunch with Aunt Agatha. A pretty frightful ordeal, believe me or believe me not, even though I took it that after what had happened at Roville she would be in a fairly subdued and amiable mood. I had just had one quick and another rather slower, and was feeling about as cheerio as was possible under the circs, when a muffled voice hailed me from the northeast, and, turning round, I saw young Bingo Little propped up in a corner, wrapping himself round a sizable chunk of bread and cheese.

“Hallo-allo-allo!” I said. “Haven’t seen you for ages. You’ve not been in here lately, have you?”

“No. I’ve been living out in the country.”

“Eh?” I said, for Bingo’s loathing for the country was well known. “Whereabouts?”

“Down in Hampshire, at a place called Ditteredge.”

“No, really? I know some people who’ve got a house there. The Glossops. Have you met them?”

“Why, that’s where I’m staying!” said young Bingo. “I’m tutoring the Glossop kid.”

“What for?” I said. I couldn’t seem to see young Bingo as a tutor. Though, of course, he did get a degree of sorts at Oxford, and I suppose you can always fool some of the people some of the time.

“What for? For money, of course! An absolute sitter came unstitched in the second race at Haydock Park,” said young Bingo, with some bitterness, “and I dropped my entire month’s allowance. I hadn’t the nerve to touch my uncle for any more, so it was a case of buzzing round to the agents and getting a job. I’ve been down there three weeks.”

“I haven’t met the Glossop kid.”

“Don’t!” advised Bingo, briefly.

“The only one of the family I really know is the girl.” I had hardly spoken these words when the most extraordinary change came over young Bingo’s face. His eyes bulged, his cheeks flushed, and his Adam’s apple hopped about like one of those india-rubber balls on the top of the fountain in a shooting-gallery.

“Oh, Bertie!” he said, in a strangled sort of voice.

I looked at the poor fish anxiously. I knew that he was always falling in love with someone, but it didn’t seem possible that even he could have fallen in love with Honoria Glossop. To me the girl was simply nothing more nor less than a pot of poison. One of those dashed large, brainy, strenuous, dynamic girls you see so many of these days. She had been at Girton, where, in addition to enlarging her brain to the most frightful extent, she had gone in for every kind of sport and developed the physique of a middleweight catch-as-catch-can wrestler. I’m not sure she didn’t box for the Varsity while she was up. The effect she had on me whenever she appeared was to make me want to slide into a cellar and lie low till they blew the All-Clear.

Yet here was young Bingo obviously all for her. There was no mistaking it. The love-light was in the blighter’s eyes.

“I worship her, Bertie! I worship the very ground she treads on!” continued the patient, in a loud, penetrating voice. Fred Thompson and one or two fellows had come in, and McGarry, the chappie behind the bar, was listening with his ears flapping. But there’s no reticence about Bingo. He always reminds me of the hero of a musical comedy who takes the centre of the stage, gathers the boys round him in a circle, and tells them all about his love at the top of his voice.

“Have you told her?”

“No. I haven’t had the nerve. But we walk together in the garden most evenings, and it sometimes seems to me that there is a look in her eyes.”

“I know that look. Like a sergeant-major.”

“Nothing of the kind! Like a tender goddess.”

“Half a second, old thing,” I said. “Are you sure we’re talking about the same girl? The one I mean is Honoria. Perhaps there’s a younger sister or something I’ve not heard of?”

“Her name is Honoria,” bawled Bingo reverently.

“And she strikes you as a tender goddess?”

“She does.”

“God bless you!” I said.

“She walks in beauty like the night of cloudless climes and starry skies; and all that’s best of dark and bright meet in her aspect and her eyes. Another bit of bread and cheese,” he said to the lad behind the bar.

“You’re keeping your strength up,” I said.

“This is my lunch. I’ve got to meet Oswald at Waterloo at one-fifteen, to catch the train back. I brought him up to town to see the dentist.”

“Oswald? Is that the kid?”

“Yes. Pestilential to a degree.”

“Pestilential! That reminds me, I’m lunching with my Aunt Agatha. I’ll have to pop off now, or I’ll be late.”

I hadn’t seen Aunt Agatha since that little affair of the pearls; and, while I didn’t anticipate any great pleasure from gnawing a bone in her society, I must say that there was one topic of conversation I felt pretty confident she wouldn’t touch on, and that was the subject of my matrimonial future. I mean, when a woman’s made a bloomer like the one Aunt Agatha made at Roville, you’d naturally think that a decent shame would keep her off it for, at any rate, a month or two.

But women beat me. I mean to say, as regards nerve. You’ll hardly credit it, but she actually started in on me with the fish. Absolutely with the fish, I give you my solemn word. We’d hardly exchanged a word about the weather, when she let me have it without a blush.

“Bertie,” she said, “I’ve been thinking again about you and how necessary it is that you should get married. I quite admit that I was dreadfully mistaken in my opinion of that terrible, hypocritical girl at Roville, but this time there is no danger of an error. By great good luck I have found the very wife for you, a girl whom I have only recently met, but whose family is above suspicion. She has plenty of money, too, though that does not matter in your case. The great point is that she is strong, self-reliant and sensible, and will counterbalance the deficiencies and weaknesses of your character. She has met you; and, while there is naturally much in you of which she disapproves, she does not dislike you. I know this, for I have sounded her⁠—guardedly, of course⁠—and I am sure that you have only to make the first advances⁠—”

“Who is it?” I would have said it long before, but the shock had made me swallow a bit of roll the wrong way, and I had only just finished turning purple and trying to get a bit of air back into the old windpipe. “Who is it?”

“Sir Roderick Glossop’s daughter, Honoria.”

“No, no!” I cried, paling beneath the tan.

“Don’t be silly, Bertie. She is just the wife for you.”

“Yes, but look here⁠—”

“She will mould you.”

“But I don’t want to be moulded.”

Aunt Agatha gave me the kind of look she used to give me when I was a kid and had been found in the jam cupboard.

“Bertie! I hope you are not going to be troublesome.”

“Well, but I mean⁠—”

“Lady Glossop has very kindly invited you to Ditteredge Hall for a few days. I told her you would be delighted to come down tomorrow.”

“I’m sorry, but I’ve got a dashed important engagement tomorrow.”

“What engagement?”

“Well⁠—er⁠—”

“You have no engagement. And, even if you had, you must put it off. I shall be very seriously annoyed, Bertie, if you do not go to Ditteredge Hall tomorrow.”

“Oh, right-o!” I said.

It wasn’t two minutes after I had parted from Aunt Agatha before the old fighting spirit of the Woosters reasserted itself. Ghastly as the peril was which loomed before me, I was conscious of a rummy sort of exhilaration. It was a tight corner, but the tighter the corner, I felt, the more juicily should I score off Jeeves when I got myself out of it without a bit of help from him. Ordinarily, of course, I should have consulted him and trusted to him to solve the difficulty; but after what I had heard him saying in the kitchen, I was dashed if I was going to demean myself. When I got home I addressed the man with light abandon.

“Jeeves,” I said, “I’m in a bit of a difficulty.”

“I’m sorry to hear that, sir.”

“Yes, quite a bad hole. In fact, you might say on the brink of a precipice, and faced by an awful doom.”

“If I could be of any assistance, sir⁠—”

“Oh, no. No, no. Thanks very much, but no, no. I won’t trouble you. I’ve no doubt I shall be able to get out of it all right by myself.”

“Very good, sir.”

So that was that. I’m bound to say I’d have welcomed a bit more curiosity from the fellow, but that is Jeeves all over. Cloaks his emotions, if you know what I mean.

Honoria was away when I got to Ditteredge on the following afternoon. Her mother told me that she was staying with some people named Braythwayt in the neighbourhood, and would be back next day, bringing the daughter of the house with her for a visit. She said I would find Oswald out in the grounds, and such is a mother’s love that she spoke as if that were a bit of a boost for the grounds and an inducement to go there.

Rather decent, the grounds at Ditteredge. A couple of terraces, a bit of lawn with a cedar on it, a bit of shrubbery, and finally a small but goodish lake with a stone bridge running across it. Directly I’d worked my way round the shrubbery I spotted young Bingo leaning against the bridge smoking a cigarette. Sitting on the stonework, fishing, was a species of kid whom I took to be Oswald the Plague-Spot.

Bingo was both surprised and delighted to see me, and introduced me to the kid. If the latter was surprised and delighted too, he concealed it like a diplomat. He just looked at me, raised his eyebrows slightly, and went on fishing. He was one of those supercilious striplings who give you the impression that you went to the wrong school and that your clothes don’t fit.

“This is Oswald,” said Bingo.

“What,” I replied cordially, “could be sweeter? How are you?”

“Oh, all right,” said the kid.

“Nice place, this.”

“Oh, all right,” said the kid.

“Having a good time fishing?”

“Oh, all right,” said the kid.

Young Bingo led me off to commune apart.

“Doesn’t jolly old Oswald’s incessant flow of prattle make your head ache sometimes?” I asked.

Bingo sighed.

“It’s a hard job.”

“What’s a hard job?”

“Loving him.”

“Do you love him?” I asked, surprised. I shouldn’t have thought it could be done.

“I try to,” said young Bingo, “for Her sake. She’s coming back tomorrow, Bertie.”

“So I heard.”

“She is coming, my love, my own⁠—”

“Absolutely,” I said. “But touching on young Oswald once more. Do you have to be with him all day? How do you manage to stick it?”

“Oh, he doesn’t give much trouble. When we aren’t working he sits on that bridge all the time, trying to catch tiddlers.”

“Why don’t you shove him in?”

“Shove him in?”

“It seems to me distinctly the thing to do,” I said, regarding the stripling’s back with a good deal of dislike. “It would wake him up a bit, and make him take an interest in things.”

Bingo shook his head a bit wistfully.

“Your proposition attracts me,” he said, “but I’m afraid it can’t be done. You see, She would never forgive me. She is devoted to the little brute.”

“Great Scott!” I cried. “I’ve got it!” I don’t know if you know that feeling when you get an inspiration, and tingle all down your spine from the soft collar as now worn to the very soles of the old Waukeesis? Jeeves, I suppose, feels that way more or less all the time, but it isn’t often it comes to me. But now all Nature seemed to be shouting at me “You’ve clicked!” and I grabbed young Bingo by the arm in a way that must have made him feel as if a horse had bitten him. His finely-chiselled features were twisted with agony and whatnot, and he asked me what the dickens I thought I was playing at.

“Bingo,” I said, “what would Jeeves have done?”

“How do you mean, what would Jeeves have done?”

“I mean what would he have advised in a case like yours? I mean you wanting to make a hit with Honoria Glossop and all that. Why, take it from me, laddie, he would have shoved you behind that clump of bushes over there; he would have got me to lure Honoria on to the bridge somehow; then, at the proper time, he would have told me to give the kid a pretty hefty jab in the small of the back, so as to shoot him into the water; and then you would have dived in and hauled him out. How about it?”

“You didn’t think that out by yourself, Bertie?” said young Bingo, in a hushed sort of voice.

“Yes, I did. Jeeves isn’t the only fellow with ideas.”

“But it’s absolutely wonderful.”

“Just a suggestion.”

“The only objection I can see is that it would be so dashed awkward for you. I mean to say, suppose the kid turned round and said you had shoved him in, that would make you frightfully unpopular with Her.”

“I don’t mind risking that.”

The man was deeply moved.

“Bertie, this is noble.”

“No, no.”

He clasped my hand silently, then chuckled like the last drop of water going down the waste-pipe in a bath.

“Now what?” I said.

“I was only thinking,” said young Bingo, “how fearfully wet Oswald will get. Oh, happy day!”


I don’t know if you’ve noticed it, but it’s rummy how nothing in this world ever seems to be absolutely perfect. The drawback to this otherwise singularly fruity binge was, of course, the fact that Jeeves wouldn’t be on the spot to watch me in action. Still, apart from that there wasn’t a flaw. The beauty of the thing was, you see, that nothing could possibly go wrong. You know how it is, as a rule, when you want to get Chappie A on Spot B at exactly the same moment when Chappie C is on Spot D. There’s always a chance of a hitch. Take the case of a general, I mean to say, who’s planning out a big movement. He tells one regiment to capture the hill with the windmill on it at the exact moment when another regiment is taking the bridgehead or something down in the valley; and everything gets all messed up. And then, when they’re chatting the thing over in camp that night, the colonel of the first regiment says, “Oh, sorry! Did you say the hill with the windmill? I thought you said the one with the flock of sheep.” And there you are! But in this case, nothing like that could happen, because Oswald and Bingo would be on the spot right along, so that all I had to worry about was getting Honoria there in due season. And I managed that all right, first shot, by asking her if she would come for a stroll in the grounds with me, as I had something particular to say to her.

She had arrived shortly after lunch in the car with the Braythwayt girl. I was introduced to the latter, a tallish girl with blue eyes and fair hair. I rather took to her⁠—she was so unlike Honoria⁠—and, if I had been able to spare the time, I shouldn’t have minded talking to her for a bit. But business was business⁠—I had fixed it up with Bingo to be behind the bushes at three sharp, so I got hold of Honoria and steered her out through the grounds in the direction of the lake.

“You’re very quiet, Mr. Wooster,” she said.

Made me jump a bit. I was concentrating pretty tensely at the moment. We had just come in sight of the lake, and I was casting a keen eye over the ground to see that everything was in order. Everything appeared to be as arranged. The kid Oswald was hunched up on the bridge; and, as Bingo wasn’t visible, I took it that he had got into position. My watch made it two minutes after the hour.

“Eh?” I said. “Oh, ah, yes. I was just thinking.”

“You said you had something important to say to me.”

“Absolutely!” I had decided to open the proceedings by sort of paving the way for young Bingo. I mean to say, without actually mentioning his name, I wanted to prepare the girl’s mind for the fact that, surprising as it might seem, there was someone who had long loved her from afar and all that sort of rot. “It’s like this,” I said. “It may sound rummy and all that, but there’s somebody who’s frightfully in love with you and so forth⁠—a friend of mine, you know.”

“Oh, a friend of yours?”

“Yes.”

She gave a kind of a laugh.

“Well, why doesn’t he tell me so?”

“Well, you see, that’s the sort of chap he is. Kind of shrinking, diffident kind of fellow. Hasn’t got the nerve. Thinks you so much above him, don’t you know. Looks on you as a sort of goddess. Worships the ground you tread on, but can’t whack up the ginger to tell you so.”

“This is very interesting.”

“Yes. He’s not a bad chap, you know, in his way. Rather an ass, perhaps, but well-meaning. Well, that’s the posish. You might just bear it in mind, what?”

“How funny you are!”

She chucked back her head and laughed with considerable vim. She had a penetrating sort of laugh. Rather like a train going into a tunnel. It didn’t sound over-musical to me, and on the kid Oswald it appeared to jar not a little. He gazed at us with a good deal of dislike.

“I wish the dickens you wouldn’t make that row,” he said. “Scaring all the fish away.”

It broke the spell a bit. Honoria changed the subject.

“I do wish Oswald wouldn’t sit on the bridge like that,” she said. “I’m sure it isn’t safe. He might easily fall in.”

“I’ll go and tell him,” I said.


I suppose the distance between the kid and me at this juncture was about five yards, but I got the impression that it was nearer a hundred. And, as I started to toddle across the intervening space, I had a rummy feeling that I’d done this very thing before. Then I remembered. Years ago, at a country-house party, I had been roped in to play the part of a butler in some amateur theatricals in aid of some ghastly charity or other; and I had had to open the proceedings by walking across the empty stage from left upper entrance and shoving a tray on a table down right. They had impressed it on me at rehearsals that I mustn’t take the course at a quick heel-and-toe, like a chappie finishing strongly in a walking-race; and the result was that I kept the brakes on to such an extent that it seemed to me as if I was never going to get to the bally table at all. The stage seemed to stretch out in front of me like a trackless desert, and there was a kind of breathless hush as if all Nature had paused to concentrate its attention on me personally. Well, I felt just like that now. I had a kind of dry gulping in my throat, and the more I walked the farther away the kid seemed to get, till suddenly I found myself standing just behind him without quite knowing how I’d got there.

“Hallo!” I said, with a sickly sort of grin⁠—wasted on the kid, because he didn’t bother to turn round and look at me. He merely wiggled his left ear in a rather peevish manner. I don’t know when I’ve met anybody in whose life I appeared to mean so little.

“Hallo!” I said. “Fishing?”

I laid my hand in a sort of elder-brotherly way on his shoulder.

“Here, look out!” said the kid, wobbling on his foundations.

It was one of those things that want doing quickly or not at all. I shut my eyes and pushed. Something seemed to give. There was a scrambling sound, a kind of yelp, a scream in the offing, and a splash. And so the long day wore on, so to speak.

I opened my eyes. The kid was just coming to the surface.

“Help!” I shouted, cocking an eye on the bush from which young Bingo was scheduled to emerge.

Nothing happened. Young Bingo didn’t emerge to the slightest extent whatever.

“I say! Help!” I shouted again.

I don’t want to bore you with reminiscences of my theatrical career, but I must just touch once more on that appearance of mine as the butler. The scheme on that occasion had been that when I put the tray on the table the heroine would come on and say a few words to get me off. Well, on the night the misguided female forgot to stand by, and it was a full minute before the search-party located her and shot her on to the stage. And all that time I had to stand there, waiting. A rotten sensation, believe me, and this was just the same, only worse. I understood what these writer-chappies mean when they talk about time standing still.

Meanwhile, the kid Oswald was presumably being cut off in his prime, and it began to seem to me that some sort of steps ought to be taken about it. What I had seen of the lad hadn’t particularly endeared him to me, but it was undoubtedly a bit thick to let him pass away. I don’t know when I have seen anything more grubby and unpleasant than the lake as viewed from the bridge; but the thing apparently had to be done. I chucked off my coat and vaulted over.

It seems rummy that water should be so much wetter when you go into it with your clothes on than when you’re just bathing, but take it from me that it is. I was only under about three seconds, I suppose, but I came up feeling like the bodies you read of in the paper which “had evidently been in the water several days.” I felt clammy and bloated.

At this point the scenario struck another snag. I had assumed that directly I came to the surface I should get hold of the kid and steer him courageously to shore. But he hadn’t waited to be steered. When I had finished getting the water out of my eyes and had time to take a look round, I saw him about ten yards away, going strongly and using, I think, the Australian crawl. The spectacle took all the heart out of me. I mean to say, the whole essence of a rescue, if you know what I mean, is that the party of the second part shall keep fairly still and in one spot. If he starts swimming off on his own account and can obviously give you at least forty yards in the hundred, where are you? The whole thing falls through. It didn’t seem to me that there was much to be done except get ashore, so I got ashore. By the time I had landed, the kid was halfway to the house. Look at it from whatever angle you like, the thing was a washout.

I was interrupted in my meditations by a noise like the Scotch express going under a bridge. It was Honoria Glossop laughing. She was standing at my elbow, looking at me in a rummy manner.

“Oh, Bertie, you are funny!” she said. And even in that moment there seemed to me something sinister in the words. She had never called me anything except “Mr. Wooster” before. “How wet you are!”

“Yes, I am wet.”

“You had better hurry into the house and change.”

“Yes.”

I wrung a gallon or two of water out of my clothes.

“You are funny!” she said again. “First proposing in that extraordinary roundabout way, and then pushing poor little Oswald into the lake so as to impress me by saving him.”

I managed to get the water out of my throat sufficiently to try to correct this fearful impression.

“No, no!”

“He said you pushed him in, and I saw you do it. Oh, I’m not angry, Bertie. I think it was too sweet of you. But I’m quite sure it’s time that I took you in hand. You certainly want someone to look after you. You’ve been seeing too many moving-pictures. I suppose the next thing you would have done would have been to set the house on fire so as to rescue me.” She looked at me in a proprietary sort of way. “I think,” she said, “I shall be able to make something of you, Bertie. It is true yours has been a wasted life up to the present, but you are still young, and there is a lot of good in you.”

“No, really there isn’t.”

“Oh, yes, there is. It simply wants bringing out. Now you run straight up to the house and change your wet clothes, or you will catch cold.”

And, if you know what I mean, there was a sort of motherly note in her voice which seemed to tell me, even more than her actual words, that I was for it.


As I was coming downstairs after changing, I ran into young Bingo, looking festive to a degree.

“Bertie!” he said. “Just the man I wanted to see. Bertie, a wonderful thing has happened.”

“You blighter!” I cried. “What became of you? Do you know⁠—?”

“Oh, you mean about being in those bushes? I hadn’t time to tell you about that. It’s all off.”

“All off?”

“Bertie, I was actually starting to hide in those bushes when the most extraordinary thing happened. Walking across the lawn I saw the most radiant, the most beautiful girl in the world. There is none like her, none. Bertie, do you believe in love at first sight? You do believe in love at first sight, don’t you, Bertie, old man? Directly I saw her, she seemed to draw me like a magnet. I seemed to forget everything. We two were alone in a world of music and sunshine. I joined her. I got into conversation. She is a Miss Braythwayt, Bertie⁠—Daphne Braythwayt. Directly our eyes met, I realised that what I had imagined to be my love for Honoria Glossop had been a mere passing whim. Bertie, you do believe in love at first sight, don’t you? She is so wonderful, so sympathetic. Like a tender goddess⁠—”

At this point I left the blighter.


Two days later I got a letter from Jeeves.

“… The weather,” it ended, “continues fine. I have had one exceedingly enjoyable bathe.”

I gave one of those hollow, mirthless laughs, and went downstairs to join Honoria. I had an appointment with her in the drawing-room. She was going to read Ruskin to me.

Sir Roderick Comes to Lunch

The blow fell precisely at one forty-five (summer time). Spenser, Aunt Agatha’s butler, was offering me the fried potatoes at the moment, and such was my emotion that I lofted six of them on to the sideboard with the spoon. Shaken to the core, if you know what I mean.

Mark you, I was in a pretty enfeebled condition already. I had been engaged to Honoria Glossop nearly two weeks, and during all that time not a day had passed without her putting in some heavy work in the direction of what Aunt Agatha had called “moulding” me. I had read solid literature till my eyes bubbled; we had legged it together through miles of picture-galleries; and I had been compelled to undergo classical concerts to an extent you would hardly believe. All in all, therefore, I was in no fit state to receive shocks, especially shocks like this. Honoria had lugged me round to lunch at Aunt Agatha’s, and I had just been saying to myself, “Death, where is thy jolly old sting?” when she hove the bomb.

“Bertie,” she said, suddenly, as if she had just remembered it, “what is the name of that man of yours⁠—your valet?”

“Eh? Oh, Jeeves.”

“I think he’s a bad influence for you,” said Honoria. “When we are married, you must get rid of Jeeves.”

It was at this point that I jerked the spoon and sent six of the best and crispest sailing on to the sideboard, with Spenser gambolling after them like a dignified old retriever.

“Get rid of Jeeves!” I gasped.

“Yes. I don’t like him.”

I don’t like him,” said Aunt Agatha.

“But I can’t. I mean⁠—why, I couldn’t carry on for a day without Jeeves.”

“You will have to,” said Honoria. “I don’t like him at all.”

I don’t like him at all,” said Aunt Agatha. “I never did.”

Ghastly, what? I’d always had an idea that marriage was a bit of a washout, but I’d never dreamed that it demanded such frightful sacrifices from a fellow. I passed the rest of the meal in a sort of stupor.

The scheme had been, if I remember, that after lunch I should go off and caddy for Honoria on a shopping tour down Regent Street; but when she got up and started collecting me and the rest of her things, Aunt Agatha stopped her.

“You run along, dear,” she said. “I want to say a few words to Bertie.”

So Honoria legged it, and Aunt Agatha drew up her chair and started in.

“Bertie,” she said, “dear Honoria does not know it, but a little difficulty has arisen about your marriage.”

“By Jove! not really?” I said, hope starting to dawn.

“Oh, it’s nothing at all, of course. It is only a little exasperating. The fact is, Sir Roderick is being rather troublesome.”

“Thinks I’m not a good bet? Wants to scratch the fixture? Well, perhaps he’s right.”

“Pray do not be so absurd, Bertie. It is nothing so serious as that. But the nature of Sir Roderick’s profession unfortunately makes him⁠—overcautious.”

I didn’t get it.

“Overcautious?”

“Yes. I suppose it is inevitable. A nerve specialist with his extensive practice can hardly help taking a rather warped view of humanity.”

I got what she was driving at now. Sir Roderick Glossop, Honoria’s father, is always called a nerve specialist, because it sounds better, but everybody knows that he’s really a sort of janitor to the looney-bin. I mean to say, when your uncle the Duke begins to feel the strain a bit and you find him in the blue drawing-room sticking straws in his hair, old Glossop is the first person you send for. He toddles round, gives the patient the once-over, talks about overexcited nervous systems, and recommends complete rest and seclusion and all that sort of thing. Practically every posh family in the country has called him in at one time or another, and I suppose that, being in that position⁠—I mean constantly having to sit on people’s heads while their nearest and dearest phone to the asylum to send round the wagon⁠—does tend to make a chappie take what you might call a warped view of humanity.

“You mean he thinks I may be a looney, and he doesn’t want a looney son-in-law?” I said.

Aunt Agatha seemed rather peeved than otherwise at my ready intelligence.

“Of course, he does not think anything so ridiculous. I told you he was simply exceedingly cautious. He wants to satisfy himself that you are perfectly normal.” Here she paused, for Spenser had come in with the coffee. When he had gone, she went on: “He appears to have got hold of some extraordinary story about your having pushed his son Oswald into the lake at Ditteredge Hall. Incredible, of course. Even you would hardly do a thing like that.”

“Well, I did sort of lean against him, you know, and he shot off the bridge.”

“Oswald definitely accuses you of having pushed him into the water. That has disturbed Sir Roderick, and unfortunately it has caused him to make inquiries, and he has heard about your poor Uncle Henry.”

She eyed me with a good deal of solemnity, and I took a grave sip of coffee. We were peeping into the family cupboard and having a look at the good old skeleton. My late Uncle Henry, you see, was by way of being the blot on the Wooster escutcheon. An extremely decent chappie personally, and one who had always endeared himself to me by tipping me with considerable lavishness when I was at school; but there’s no doubt he did at times do rather rummy things, notably keeping eleven pet rabbits in his bedroom; and I suppose a purist might have considered him more or less off his onion. In fact, to be perfectly frank, he wound up his career, happy to the last and completely surrounded by rabbits, in some sort of a home.

“It is very absurd, of course,” continued Aunt Agatha. “If any of the family had inherited poor Henry’s eccentricity⁠—and it was nothing more⁠—it would have been Claude and Eustace, and there could not be two brighter boys.”

Claude and Eustace were twins, and had been kids at school with me in my last summer term. Casting my mind back, it seemed to me that “bright” just about described them. The whole of that term, as I remembered it, had been spent in getting them out of a series of frightful rows.

“Look how well they are doing at Oxford. Your Aunt Emily had a letter from Claude only the other day saying that they hoped to be elected shortly to a very important college club, called The Seekers.”

“Seekers?” I couldn’t recall any club of the name in my time at Oxford. “What do they seek?”

“Claude did not say. Truth or knowledge, I should imagine. It is evidently a very desirable club to belong to, for Claude added that Lord Rainsby, the Earl of Datchet’s son, was one of his fellow-candidates. However, we are wandering from the point, which is that Sir Roderick wants to have a quiet talk with you quite alone. Now I rely on you, Bertie, to be⁠—I won’t say intelligent, but at least sensible. Don’t giggle nervously: try to keep that horrible glassy expression out of your eyes: don’t yawn or fidget; and remember that Sir Roderick is the president of the West London branch of the anti-gambling league, so please do not talk about horse-racing. He will lunch with you at your flat tomorrow at one-thirty. Please remember that he drinks no wine, strongly disapproves of smoking, and can only eat the simplest food, owing to an impaired digestion. Do not offer him coffee, for he considers it the root of half the nerve-trouble in the world.”

“I should think a dog biscuit and a glass of water would about meet the case, what?”

“Bertie!”

“Oh, all right. Merely persiflage.”

“Now it is precisely that sort of idiotic remark that would be calculated to arouse Sir Roderick’s worst suspicions. Do please try to refrain from any misguided flippancy when you are with him. He is a very serious-minded man.⁠ ⁠… Are you going? Well, please remember all I have said. I rely on you, and, if anything goes wrong, I shall never forgive you.”

“Right-o!” I said.

And so home, with a jolly day to look forward to.


I breakfasted pretty late next morning and went for a stroll afterwards. It seemed to me that anything I could do to clear the old lemon ought to be done, and a bit of fresh air generally relieves that rather foggy feeling that comes over a fellow early in the day. I had taken a stroll in the park, and got back as far as Hyde Park Corner, when some blighter sloshed me between the shoulder-blades. It was young Eustace, my cousin. He was arm-in-arm with two other fellows, the one on the outside being my cousin Claude and the one in the middle a pink-faced chappie with light hair and an apologetic sort of look.

“Bertie, old egg!” said young Eustace affably.

“Hallo!” I said, not frightfully chirpily.

“Fancy running into you, the one man in London who can support us in the style we are accustomed to! By the way, you’ve never met old Dog-Face, have you? Dog-Face, this is my cousin Bertie. Lord Rainsby⁠—Mr. Wooster. We’ve just been round to your flat, Bertie. Bitterly disappointed that you were out, but were hospitably entertained by old Jeeves. That man’s a corker, Bertie. Stick to him.”

“What are you doing in London?” I asked.

“Oh, buzzing round. We’re just up for the day. Flying visit, strictly unofficial. We oil back on the three-ten. And now, touching that lunch you very decently volunteered to stand us, which shall it be? Ritz? Savoy? Carlton? Or, if you’re a member of Ciro’s or the Embassy, that would do just as well.”

“I can’t give you lunch. I’ve got an engagement myself. And, by Jove,” I said, taking a look at my watch, “I’m late.” I hailed a taxi. “Sorry.”

“As man to man, then,” said Eustace, “lend us a fiver.”

I hadn’t time to stop and argue. I unbelted the fiver and hopped into the cab. It was twenty to two when I got to the flat. I bounded into the sitting room, but it was empty.

Jeeves shimmied in.

“Sir Roderick has not yet arrived, sir.”

“Good egg!” I said. “I thought I should find him smashing up the furniture.” My experience is that the less you want a fellow, the more punctual he’s bound to be, and I had had a vision of the old lad pacing the rug in my sitting room, saying “He cometh not!” and generally hotting up. “Is everything in order?”

“I fancy you will find the arrangements quite satisfactory, sir.”

“What are you giving us?”

“Cold consommé, a cutlet, and a savoury, sir. With lemon-squash, iced.”

“Well, I don’t see how that can hurt him. Don’t go getting carried away by the excitement of the thing and start bringing in coffee.”

“No, sir.”

“And don’t let your eyes get glassy, because, if you do, you’re apt to find yourself in a padded cell before you know where you are.”

“Very good, sir.”

There was a ring at the bell.

“Stand by, Jeeves,” I said. “We’re off!”


I had met Sir Roderick Glossop before, of course, but only when I was with Honoria; and there is something about Honoria which makes almost anybody you meet in the same room seem sort of undersized and trivial by comparison. I had never realised till this moment what an extraordinarily formidable old bird he was. He had a pair of shaggy eyebrows which gave his eyes a piercing look which was not at all the sort of thing a fellow wanted to encounter on an empty stomach. He was fairly tall and fairly broad, and he had the most enormous head, with practically no hair on it, which made it seem bigger and much more like the dome of St. Paul’s. I suppose he must have taken about a nine or something in hats. Shows what a rotten thing it is to let your brain develop too much.

“What ho! What ho! What ho!” I said, trying to strike the genial note, and then had a sudden feeling that that was just the sort of thing I had been warned not to say. Dashed difficult it is to start things going properly on an occasion like this. A fellow living in a London flat is so handicapped. I mean to say, if I had been the young squire greeting the visitor in the country, I could have said, “Welcome to Meadowsweet Hall!” or something zippy like that. It sounds silly to say “Welcome to Number 6A, Crichton Mansions, Berkeley Street, W.

“I am afraid I am a little late,” he said, as we sat down. “I was detained at my club by Lord Alastair Hungerford, the Duke of Ramfurline’s son. His Grace, he informed me, had exhibited a renewal of the symptoms which have been causing the family so much concern. I could not leave him immediately. Hence my unpunctuality, which I trust has not discommoded you.”

“Oh, not at all. So the Duke is off his rocker, what?”

“The expression which you use is not precisely the one I should have employed myself with reference to the head of perhaps the noblest family in England, but there is no doubt that cerebral excitement does, as you suggest, exist in no small degree.” He sighed as well as he could with his mouth full of cutlet. “A profession like mine is a great strain, a great strain.”

“Must be.”

“Sometimes I am appalled at what I see around me.” He stopped suddenly and sort of stiffened. “Do you keep a cat, Mr. Wooster?”

“Eh? What? Cat? No, no cat.”

“I was conscious of a distinct impression that I had heard a cat mewing either in the room or very near to where we are sitting.”

“Probably a taxi or something in the street.”

“I fear I do not follow you.”

“I mean to say, taxis squawk, you know. Rather like cats in a sort of way.”

“I had not observed the resemblance,” he said, rather coldly.

“Have some lemon-squash,” I said. The conversation seemed to be getting rather difficult.

“Thank you. Half a glassful, if I may.” The hell-brew appeared to buck him up, for he resumed in a slightly more pally manner. “I have a particular dislike for cats. But I was saying⁠—Oh, yes. Sometimes I am positively appalled at what I see around me. It is not only the cases which come under my professional notice, painful as many of those are. It is what I see as I go about London. Sometimes it seems to me that the whole world is mentally unbalanced. This very morning, for example, a most singular and distressing occurrence took place as I was driving from my house to the club. The day being clement, I had instructed my chauffeur to open my landaulette, and I was leaning back, deriving no little pleasure from the sunshine, when our progress was arrested in the middle of the thoroughfare by one of those blocks in the traffic which are inevitable in so congested a system as that of London.”

I suppose I had been letting my mind wander a bit, for when he stopped and took a sip of lemon-squash I had a feeling that I was listening to a lecture and was expected to say something.

“Hear, hear!” I said.

“I beg your pardon?”

“Nothing, nothing. You were saying⁠—”

“The vehicles proceeding in the opposite direction had also been temporarily arrested, but after a moment they were permitted to proceed. I had fallen into a meditation, when suddenly the most extraordinary thing took place. My hat was snatched abruptly from my head! And as I looked back I perceived it being waved in a kind of feverish triumph from the interior of a taxicab, which, even as I looked, disappeared through a gap in the traffic and was lost to sight.”

I didn’t laugh, but I distinctly heard a couple of my floating ribs part from their moorings under the strain.

“Must have been meant for a practical joke,” I said. “What?”

This suggestion didn’t seem to please the old boy.

“I trust,” he said, “I am not deficient in an appreciation of the humorous, but I confess that I am at a loss to detect anything akin to pleasantry in the outrage. The action was beyond all question that of a mentally unbalanced subject. These mental lesions may express themselves in almost any form. The Duke of Ramfurline, to whom I had occasion to allude just now, is under the impression⁠—this is in the strictest confidence⁠—that he is a canary; and his seizure today, which so perturbed Lord Alastair, was due to the fact that a careless footman had neglected to bring him his morning lump of sugar. Cases are common, again, of men waylaying women and cutting off portions of their hair. It is from a branch of this latter form of mania that I should be disposed to imagine that my assailant was suffering. I can only trust that he will be placed under proper control before he⁠—Mr. Wooster, there is a cat close at hand! It is not in the street! The mewing appears to come from the adjoining room.”


This time I had to admit there was no doubt about it. There was a distinct sound of mewing coming from the next room. I punched the bell for Jeeves, who drifted in and stood waiting with an air of respectful devotion.

“Sir?”

“Oh, Jeeves,” I said. “Cats! What about it? Are there any cats in the flat?”

“Only the three in your bedroom, sir.”

“What!”

“Cats in his bedroom!” I heard Sir Roderick whisper in a kind of stricken way, and his eyes hit me amidships like a couple of bullets.

“What do you mean,” I said, “only the three in my bedroom?”

“The black one, the tabby and the small lemon-coloured animal, sir.”

“What on earth?⁠—”

I charged round the table in the direction of the door. Unfortunately, Sir Roderick had just decided to edge in that direction himself, with the result that we collided in the doorway with a good deal of force, and staggered out into the hall together. He came smartly out of the clinch and grabbed an umbrella from the rack.

“Stand back!” he shouted, waving it overhead. “Stand back, sir! I am armed!”

It seemed to me that the moment had come to be soothing.

“Awfully sorry I barged into you,” I said. “Wouldn’t have had it happen for worlds. I was just dashing out to have a look into things.”

He appeared a trifle reassured, and lowered the umbrella. But just then the most frightful shindy started in the bedroom. It sounded as though all the cats in London, assisted by delegates from outlying suburbs, had got together to settle their differences once for all. A sort of augmented orchestra of cats.

“This noise is unendurable,” yelled Sir Roderick. “I cannot hear myself speak.”

“I fancy, sir,” said Jeeves respectfully, “that the animals may have become somewhat exhilarated as the result of having discovered the fish under Mr. Wooster’s bed.”

The old boy tottered.

“Fish! Did I hear you rightly?”

“Sir?”

“Did you say that there was a fish under Mr. Wooster’s bed?”

“Yes, sir.”

Sir Roderick gave a low moan, and reached for his hat and stick.

“You aren’t going?” I said.

Mr. Wooster, I am going! I prefer to spend my leisure time in less eccentric society.”

“But I say. Here, I must come with you. I’m sure the whole business can be explained. Jeeves, my hat.”

Jeeves rallied round. I took the hat from him and shoved it on my head.

“Good heavens!”

Beastly shock it was! The bally thing had absolutely engulfed me, if you know what I mean. Even as I was putting it on I got a sort of impression that it was a trifle roomy; and no sooner had I let go of it than it settled down over my ears like a kind of extinguisher.

“I say! This isn’t my hat!”

“It is my hat!” said Sir Roderick in about the coldest, nastiest voice I’d ever heard. “The hat which was stolen from me this morning as I drove in my car.”

“But⁠—”

I suppose Napoleon or somebody like that would have been equal to the situation, but I’m bound to say it was too much for me. I just stood there goggling in a sort of coma, while the old boy lifted the hat off me and turned to Jeeves.

“I should be glad, my man,” he said, “if you would accompany me a few yards down the street. I wish to ask you some questions.”

“Very good, sir.”

“Here, but, I say⁠—!” I began, but he left me standing. He stalked out, followed by Jeeves. And at that moment the row in the bedroom started again, louder than ever.

I was about fed up with the whole thing. I mean, cats in your bedroom⁠—a bit thick, what? I didn’t know how the dickens they had got in, but I was jolly well resolved that they weren’t going to stay picknicking there any longer. I flung open the door. I got a momentary flash of about a hundred and fifteen cats of all sizes and colours scrapping in the middle of the room, and then they all shot past me with a rush and out of the front door; and all that was left of the mob-scene was the head of a whacking big fish, lying on the carpet and staring up at me in a rather austere sort of way, as if it wanted a written explanation and apology.

There was something about the thing’s expression that absolutely chilled me, and I withdrew on tiptoe and shut the door. And, as I did so, I bumped into someone.

“Oh, sorry!” he said.

I spun round. It was the pink-faced chappie, Lord Something or other, the fellow I had met with Claude and Eustace.

“I say,” he said apologetically, “awfully sorry to bother you, but those weren’t my cats I met just now legging it downstairs, were they? They looked like my cats.”

“They came out of my bedroom.”

“Then they were my cats!” he said sadly. “Oh, dash it!”

“Did you put cats in my bedroom?”

“Your man, what’s-his-name, did. He rather decently said I could keep them there till my train went. I’d just come to fetch them. And now they’ve gone! Oh, well, it can’t be helped, I suppose. I’ll take the hat and the fish, anyway.”

I was beginning to dislike this chappie.

“Did you put that bally fish there, too?”

“No, that was Eustace’s. The hat was Claude’s.”

I sank limply into a chair.

“I say, you couldn’t explain this, could you?” I said. The chappie gazed at me in mild surprise.

“Why, don’t you know all about it? I say!” He blushed profusely. “Why, if you don’t know about it, I shouldn’t wonder if the whole thing didn’t seem rummy to you.”

“Rummy is the word.”

“It was for The Seekers, you know.”

“The Seekers?”

“Rather a blood club, you know, up at Oxford, which your cousins and I are rather keen on getting into. You have to pinch something, you know, to get elected. Some sort of a souvenir, you know. A policeman’s helmet, you know, or a doorknocker or something, you know. The room’s decorated with the things at the annual dinner, and everybody makes speeches and all that sort of thing. Rather jolly! Well, we wanted rather to make a sort of special effort and do the thing in style, if you understand, so we came up to London to see if we couldn’t pick up something here that would be a bit out of the ordinary. And we had the most amazing luck right from the start. Your cousin Claude managed to collect a quite decent top hat out of a passing car, and your cousin Eustace got away with a really goodish salmon or something from Harrods, and I snaffled three excellent cats all in the first hour. We were fearfully braced, I can tell you. And then the difficulty was to know where to park the things till our train went. You look so beastly conspicuous, you know, tooling about London with a fish and a lot of cats. And then Eustace remembered you, and we all came on here in a cab. You were out, but your man said it would be all right. When we met you, you were in such a hurry that we hadn’t time to explain. Well, I think I’ll be taking the hat, if you don’t mind.”

“It’s gone.”

“Gone?”

“The fellow you pinched it from happened to be the man who was lunching here. He took it away with him.”

“Oh, I say! Poor old Claude will be upset. Well, how about the goodish salmon or something?”

“Would you care to view the remains?” He seemed all broken up when he saw the wreckage.

“I doubt if the committee would accept that,” he said sadly. “There isn’t a frightful lot of it left, what?”

“The cats ate the rest.”

He sighed deeply.

“No cats, no fish, no hat. We’ve had all our trouble for nothing. I do call that hard! And on top of that⁠—I say, I hate to ask you, but you couldn’t lend me a tenner, could you?”

“A tenner? What for?”

“Well, the fact is, I’ve got to pop round and bail Claude and Eustace out. They’ve been arrested.”

“Arrested!”

“Yes. You see, what with the excitement of collaring the hat and the salmon or something, added to the fact that we had rather a festive lunch, they got a bit above themselves, poor chaps, and tried to pinch a motor-lorry. Silly, of course, because I don’t see how they could have got the thing to Oxford and shown it to the committee. Still, there wasn’t any reasoning with them, and when the driver started making a fuss, there was a bit of a mix-up, and Claude and Eustace are more or less languishing in Vine Street police station till I pop round and bail them out. So if you could manage a tenner⁠—Oh, thanks, that’s fearfully good of you. It would have been too bad to leave them there, what? I mean, they’re both such frightfully good chaps, you know. Everybody likes them up at the ’Varsity. They’re fearfully popular.”

“I bet they are!” I said.


When Jeeves came back, I was waiting for him on the mat. I wanted speech with the blighter.

“Well?” I said.

“Sir Roderick asked me a number of questions, sir, respecting your habits and mode of life, to which I replied guardedly.”

“I don’t care about that. What I want to know is why you didn’t explain the whole thing to him right at the start? A word from you would have put everything clear.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Now he’s gone off thinking me a looney.”

“I should not be surprised, from his conversation with me, sir, if some such idea had not entered his head.”

I was just starting in to speak, when the telephone bell rang. Jeeves answered it.

“No, madam, Mr. Wooster is not in. No, madam, I do not know when he will return, No, madam, he left no message. Yes, madam, I will inform him.” He put back the receiver. “Mrs. Gregson, sir.”

Aunt Agatha! I had been expecting it. Ever since the luncheon-party had blown out a fuse, her shadow had been hanging over me, so to speak.

“Does she know? Already?”

“I gather that Sir Roderick has been speaking to her on the telephone, sir, and⁠—”

“No wedding bells for me, what?”

Jeeves coughed.

Mrs. Gregson did not actually confide in me, sir, but I fancy that some such thing may have occurred. She seemed decidedly agitated, sir.”

It’s a rummy thing, but I’d been so snootered by the old boy and the cats and the fish and the hat and the pink-faced chappie and all the rest of it that the bright side simply hadn’t occurred to me till now. By Jove, it was like a bally weight rolling off my chest! I gave a yelp of pure relief.

“Jeeves!” I said, “I believe you worked the whole thing!”

“Sir?”

“I believe you had the jolly old situation in hand right from the start.”

“Well, sir, Spenser, Mrs. Gregson’s butler, who inadvertently chanced to overhear something of your conversation when you were lunching at the house, did mention certain of the details to me; and I confess that, though it may be a liberty to say so, I entertained hopes that something might occur to prevent the match. I doubt if the young lady was entirely suitable to you, sir.”

“And she would have shot you out on your ear five minutes after the ceremony.”

“Yes, sir. Spenser informed me that she had expressed some such intention. Mrs. Gregson wishes you to call upon her immediately, sir.”

“She does, eh? What do you advise, Jeeves?”

“I think a trip abroad might prove enjoyable, sir.”

I shook my head. “She’d come after me.”

“Not if you went far enough afield, sir. There are excellent boats leaving every Wednesday and Saturday for New York.”

“Jeeves,” I said, “you are right, as always. Book the tickets.”

Jeeves and the Chump Cyril

You know, the longer I live, the more clearly I see that half the trouble in this bally world is caused by the lighthearted and thoughtless way in which chappies dash off letters of introduction and hand them to other chappies to deliver to chappies of the third part. It’s one of those things that make you wish you were living in the Stone Age. What I mean to say is, if a fellow in those days wanted to give anyone a letter of introduction, he had to spend a month or so carving it on a large-sized boulder, and the chances were that the other chappie got so sick of lugging the thing round in the hot sun that he dropped it after the first mile. But nowadays it’s so easy to write letters of introduction that everybody does it without a second thought, with the result that some perfectly harmless cove like myself gets in the soup.

Mark you, all the above is what you might call the result of my riper experience. I don’t mind admitting that in the first flush of the thing, so, to speak, when Jeeves told me⁠—this would be about three weeks after I’d landed in America⁠—that a blighter called Cyril Bassington-Bassington had arrived and I found that he had brought a letter of introduction to me from Aunt Agatha⁠ ⁠… where was I? Oh, yes⁠ ⁠… I don’t mind admitting, I was saying, that just at first I was rather bucked. You see, after the painful events which had resulted in my leaving England I hadn’t expected to get any sort of letter from Aunt Agatha which would pass the censor, so to speak. And it was a pleasant surprise to open this one and find it almost civil. Chilly, perhaps, in parts, but on the whole quite tolerably polite. I looked on the thing as a hopeful sign. Sort of olive-branch, you know. Or do I mean orange blossom? What I’m getting at is that the fact that Aunt Agatha was writing to me without calling me names seemed, more or less, like a step in the direction of peace.

And I was all for peace, and that right speedily. I’m not saying a word against New York, mind you. I liked the place, and was having quite a ripe time there. But the fact remains that a fellow who’s been used to London all his life does get a trifle homesick on a foreign strand, and I wanted to pop back to the cosy old flat in Berkeley Street⁠—which could only be done when Aunt Agatha had simmered down and got over the Glossop episode. I know that London is a biggish city, but, believe me, it isn’t half big enough for any fellow to live in with Aunt Agatha when she’s after him with the old hatchet. And so I’m bound to say I looked on this chump Bassington-Bassington, when he arrived, more or less as a Dove of Peace, and was all for him.

He would seem from contemporary accounts to have blown in one morning at seven-forty-five, that being the ghastly sort of hour they shoot you off the liner in New York. He was given the respectful raspberry by Jeeves, and told to try again about three hours later, when there would be a sporting chance of my having sprung from my bed with a glad cry to welcome another day and all that sort of thing. Which was rather decent of Jeeves, by the way, for it so happened that there was a slight estrangement, a touch of coldness, a bit of a row in other words, between us at the moment because of some rather priceless purple socks which I was wearing against his wishes: and a lesser man might easily have snatched at the chance of getting back at me a bit by loosing Cyril into my bedchamber at a moment when I couldn’t have stood a two-minutes’ conversation with my dearest pal. For until I have had my early cup of tea and have brooded on life for a bit absolutely undisturbed, I’m not much of a lad for the merry chitchat.

So Jeeves very sportingly shot Cyril out into the crisp morning air, and didn’t let me know of his existence till he brought his card in with the Bohea.

“And what might all this be, Jeeves?” I said, giving the thing the glassy gaze.

“The gentleman has arrived from England, I understand, sir. He called to see you earlier in the day.”

“Good Lord, Jeeves! You don’t mean to say the day starts earlier than this?”

“He desired me to say he would return later, sir.”

“I’ve never heard of him. Have you ever heard of him, Jeeves?”

“I am familiar with the name Bassington-Bassington, sir. There are three branches of the Bassington-Bassington family⁠—the Shropshire Bassington-Bassingtons, the Hampshire Bassington-Bassingtons, and the Kent Bassington-Bassingtons.”

“England seems pretty well stocked up with Bassington-Bassingtons.”

“Tolerably so, sir.”

“No chance of a sudden shortage, I mean, what?”

“Presumably not, sir.”

“And what sort of a specimen is this one?”

“I could not say, sir, on such short acquaintance.”

“Will you give me a sporting two to one, Jeeves, judging from what you have seen of him, that this chappie is not a blighter or an excrescence?”

“No, sir. I should not care to venture such liberal odds.”

“I knew it. Well, the only thing that remains to be discovered is what kind of a blighter he is.”

“Time will tell, sir. The gentleman brought a letter for you, sir.”

“Oh, he did, did he?” I said, and grasped the communication. And then I recognised the handwriting. “I say, Jeeves, this is from my Aunt Agatha!”

“Indeed, sir?”

“Don’t dismiss it in that light way. Don’t you see what this means? She says she wants me to look after this excrescence while he’s in New York. By Jove, Jeeves, if I only fawn on him a bit, so that he sends back a favourable report to headquarters, I may yet be able to get back to England in time for Goodwood. Now is certainly the time for all good men to come to the aid of the party, Jeeves. We must rally round and cosset this cove in no uncertain manner.”

“Yes, sir.”

“He isn’t going to stay in New York long,” I said, taking another look at the letter. “He’s headed for Washington. Going to give the nibs there the once-over, apparently, before taking a whirl at the Diplomatic Service. I should say that we can win this lad’s esteem and affection with a lunch and a couple of dinners, what?”

“I fancy that should be entirely adequate, sir.”

“This is the jolliest thing that’s happened since we left England. It looks to me as if the sun were breaking through the clouds.”

“Very possibly, sir.”

He started to put out my things, and there was an awkward sort of silence.

“Not those socks, Jeeves,” I said, gulping a bit but having a dash at the careless, offhand tone. “Give me the purple ones.”

“I beg your pardon, sir?”

“Those jolly purple ones.”

“Very good, sir.”

He lugged them out of the drawer as if he were a vegetarian fishing a caterpillar out of the salad. You could see he was feeling deeply. Deuced painful and all that, this sort of thing, but a chappie has got to assert himself every now and then. Absolutely.


I was looking for Cyril to show up again any time after breakfast, but he didn’t appear: so towards one o’clock I trickled out to the Lambs Club, where I had an appointment to feed the Wooster face with a cove of the name of Caffyn I’d got pally with since my arrival⁠—George Caffyn, a fellow who wrote plays and whatnot. I’d made a lot of friends during my stay in New York, the city being crammed with bonhomous lads who one and all extended a welcoming hand to the stranger in their midst.

Caffyn was a bit late, but bobbed up finally, saying that he had been kept at a rehearsal of his new musical comedy, Ask Dad; and we started in. We had just reached the coffee, when the waiter came up and said that Jeeves wanted to see me.

Jeeves was in the waiting-room. He gave the socks one pained look as I came in, then averted his eyes.

Mr. Bassington-Bassington has just telephoned, sir.”

“Oh?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Where is he?”

“In prison, sir.”

I reeled against the wallpaper. A nice thing to happen to Aunt Agatha’s nominee on his first morning under my wing, I did not think!

“In prison!”

“Yes, sir. He said on the telephone that he had been arrested and would be glad if you could step round and bail him out.”

“Arrested! What for?”

“He did not favour me with his confidence in that respect, sir.”

“This is a bit thick, Jeeves.”

“Precisely, sir.”

I collected old George, who very decently volunteered to stagger along with me, and we hopped into a taxi. We sat around at the police station for a bit on a wooden bench in a sort of anteroom, and presently a policeman appeared, leading in Cyril.

“Halloa! Halloa! Halloa!” I said. “What?”

My experience is that a fellow never really looks his best just after he’s come out of a cell. When I was up at Oxford, I used to have a regular job bailing out a pal of mine who never failed to get pinched every Boat-Race night, and he always looked like something that had been dug up by the roots. Cyril was in pretty much the same sort of shape. He had a black eye and a torn collar, and altogether was nothing to write home about⁠—especially if one was writing to Aunt Agatha. He was a thin, tall chappie with a lot of light hair and pale-blue goggly eyes which made him look like one of the rarer kinds of fish.

“I got your message,” I said.

“Oh, are you Bertie Wooster?”

“Absolutely. And this is my pal George Caffyn. Writes plays and whatnot, don’t you know.”

We all shook hands, and the policeman, having retrieved a piece of chewing-gum from the underside of a chair, where he had parked it against a rainy day, went off into a corner and began to contemplate the infinite.

“This is a rotten country,” said Cyril.

“Oh, I don’t know, you know, don’t you know!” I said.

“We do our best,” said George.

“Old George is an American,” I explained. “Writes plays, don’t you know, and whatnot.”

“Of course, I didn’t invent the country,” said George. “That was Columbus. But I shall be delighted to consider any improvements you may suggest and lay them before the proper authorities.”

“Well, why don’t the policemen in New York dress properly?”

George took a look at the chewing officer across the room.

“I don’t see anything missing,” he said.

“I mean to say, why don’t they wear helmets like they do in London? Why do they look like postmen? It isn’t fair on a fellow. Makes it dashed confusing. I was simply standing on the pavement, looking at things, when a fellow who looked like a postman prodded me in the ribs with a club. I didn’t see why I should have postmen prodding me. Why the dickens should a fellow come three thousand miles to be prodded by postmen?”

“The point is well taken,” said George. “What did you do?”

“I gave him a shove, you know. I’ve got a frightfully hasty temper, you know. All the Bassington-Bassingtons have got frightfully hasty tempers, don’t you know! And then he biffed me in the eye and lugged me off to this beastly place.”

“I’ll fix it, old son,” I said. And I hauled out the bankroll and went off to open negotiations, leaving Cyril to talk to George. I don’t mind admitting that I was a bit perturbed. There were furrows in the old brow, and I had a kind of foreboding feeling. As long as this chump stayed in New York, I was responsible for him: and he didn’t give me the impression of being the species of cove a reasonable chappie would care to be responsible for for more than about three minutes.

I mused with a considerable amount of tensity over Cyril that night, when I had got home and Jeeves had brought me the final whisky. I couldn’t help feeling that this visit of his to America was going to be one of those times that try men’s souls and whatnot. I hauled out Aunt Agatha’s letter of introduction and reread it, and there was no getting away from the fact that she undoubtedly appeared to be somewhat wrapped up in this blighter and to consider it my mission in life to shield him from harm while on the premises. I was deuced thankful that he had taken such a liking for George Caffyn, old George being a steady sort of cove. After I had got him out of his dungeon-cell, he and old George had gone off together, as chummy as brothers, to watch the afternoon rehearsal of Ask Dad. There was some talk, I gathered, of their dining together. I felt pretty easy in my mind while George had his eye on him.

I had got about as far as this in my meditations, when Jeeves came in with a telegram. At least, it wasn’t a telegram: it was a cable⁠—from Aunt Agatha, and this is what it said:⁠—

Has Cyril Bassington-Bassington called yet? On no account introduce him into theatrical circles. Vitally important. Letter follows.

I read it a couple of times.

“This is rummy, Jeeves!”

“Yes, sir?”

“Very rummy and dashed disturbing!”

“Will there be anything further tonight, sir?”

Of course, if he was going to be as bally unsympathetic as that there was nothing to be done. My idea had been to show him the cable and ask his advice. But if he was letting those purple socks rankle to that extent, the good old noblesse oblige of the Woosters couldn’t lower itself to the extent of pleading with the man. Absolutely not. So I gave it a miss.

“Nothing more, thanks.”

“Good night, sir.”

“Good night.”

He floated away, and I sat down to think the thing over. I had been directing the best efforts of the old bean to the problem for a matter of half an hour, when there was a ring at the bell. I went to the door, and there was Cyril, looking pretty festive.

“I’ll come in for a bit if I may,” he said. “Got something rather priceless to tell you.”

He curveted past me into the sitting room, and when I got there after shutting the front door I found him reading Aunt Agatha’s cable and giggling in a rummy sort of manner. “Oughtn’t to have looked at this, I suppose. Caught sight of my name and read it without thinking. I say, Wooster, old friend of my youth, this is rather funny. Do you mind if I have a drink? Thanks awfully and all that sort of rot. Yes, it’s rather funny, considering what I came to tell you. Jolly old Caffyn has given me a small part in that musical comedy of his, Ask Dad. Only a bit, you know, but quite tolerably ripe. I’m feeling frightfully braced, don’t you know!”

He drank his drink, and went on. He didn’t seem to notice that I wasn’t jumping about the room, yapping with joy.

“You know, I’ve always wanted to go on the stage, you know,” he said. “But my jolly old guv’nor wouldn’t stick it at any price. Put the old Waukeesi down with a bang, and turned bright purple whenever the subject was mentioned. That’s the real reason why I came over here, if you want to know. I knew there wasn’t a chance of my being able to work this stage wheeze in London without somebody getting on to it and tipping off the guv’nor, so I rather brainily sprang the scheme of popping over to Washington to broaden my mind. There’s nobody to interfere on this side, you see, so I can go right ahead!”

I tried to reason with the poor chump.

“But your guv’nor will have to know some time.”

“That’ll be all right. I shall be the jolly old star by then, and he won’t have a leg to stand on.”

“It seems to me he’ll have one leg to stand on while he kicks me with the other.”

“Why, where do you come in? What have you got to do with it?”

“I introduced you to George Caffyn.”

“So you did, old top, so you did. I’d quite forgotten. I ought to have thanked you before. Well, so long. There’s an early rehearsal of Ask Dad tomorrow morning, and I must be toddling. Rummy the thing should be called Ask Dad, when that’s just what I’m not going to do. See what I mean, what, what? Well, pip-pip!”

“Toodle-oo!” I said sadly, and the blighter scudded off. I dived for the phone and called up George Caffyn.

“I say, George, what’s all this about Cyril Bassington-Bassington?”

“What about him?”

“He tells me you’ve given him a part in your show.”

“Oh, yes. Just a few lines.”

“But I’ve just had fifty-seven cables from home telling me on no account to let him go on the stage.”

“I’m sorry. But Cyril is just the type I need for that part. He’s simply got to be himself.”

“It’s pretty tough on me, George, old man. My Aunt Agatha sent this blighter over with a letter of introduction to me, and she will hold me responsible.”

“She’ll cut you out of her will?”

“It isn’t a question of money. But⁠—of course, you’ve never met my Aunt Agatha, so it’s rather hard to explain. But she’s a sort of human vampire-bat, and she’ll make things most fearfully unpleasant for me when I go back to England. She’s the kind of woman who comes and rags you before breakfast, don’t you know.”

“Well, don’t go back to England, then. Stick here and become President.”

“But, George, old top⁠—!”

“Good night!”

“But, I say, George, old man!”

“You didn’t get my last remark. It was ‘Good night!’ You Idle Rich may not need any sleep, but I’ve got to be bright and fresh in the morning. God bless you!”

I felt as if I hadn’t a friend in the world. I was so jolly well worked up that I went and banged on Jeeves’s door. It wasn’t a thing I’d have cared to do as a rule, but it seemed to me that now was the time for all good men to come to the aid of the party, so to speak, and that it was up to Jeeves to rally round the young master, even if it broke up his beauty-sleep.

Jeeves emerged in a brown dressing-gown.

“Sir?”

“Deuced sorry to wake you up, Jeeves, and whatnot, but all sorts of dashed disturbing things have been happening.”

“I was not asleep. It is my practice, on retiring, to read a few pages of some instructive book.”

“That’s good! What I mean to say is, if you’ve just finished exercising the old bean, it’s probably in mid-season form for tackling problems. Jeeves, Mr. Bassington-Bassington is going on the stage!”

“Indeed, sir?”

“Ah! The thing doesn’t hit you! You don’t get it properly! Here’s the point. All his family are most fearfully dead against his going on the stage. There’s going to be no end of trouble if he isn’t headed off. And, what’s worse, my Aunt Agatha will blame me, you see.”

“I see, sir.”

“Well, can’t you think of some way of stopping him?”

“Not, I confess, at the moment, sir.”

“Well, have a stab at it.”

“I will give the matter my best consideration, sir. Will there be anything further tonight?”

“I hope not! I’ve had all I can stand already.”

“Very good, sir.”

He popped off.


The part which old George had written for the chump Cyril took up about two pages of typescript; but it might have been Hamlet, the way that poor, misguided pinhead worked himself to the bone over it. I suppose, if I heard him his lines once, I did it a dozen times in the first couple of days. He seemed to think that my only feeling about the whole affair was one of enthusiastic admiration, and that he could rely on my support and sympathy. What with trying to imagine how Aunt Agatha was going to take this thing, and being woken up out of the dreamless in the small hours every other night to give my opinion of some new bit of business which Cyril had invented, I became more or less the good old shadow. And all the time Jeeves remained still pretty cold and distant about the purple socks. It’s this sort of thing that ages a chappie, don’t you know, and makes his youthful joie de vivre go a bit groggy at the knees.

In the middle of it Aunt Agatha’s letter arrived. It took her about six pages to do justice to Cyril’s father’s feelings in regard to his going on the stage and about six more to give me a kind of sketch of what she would say, think, and do if I didn’t keep him clear of injurious influences while he was in America. The letter came by the afternoon mail, and left me with a pretty firm conviction that it wasn’t a thing I ought to keep to myself. I didn’t even wait to ring the bell: I whizzed for the kitchen, bleating for Jeeves, and butted into the middle of a regular tea-party of sorts. Seated at the table were a depressed-looking cove who might have been a valet or something, and a boy in a Norfolk suit. The valet-chappie was drinking a whisky and soda, and the boy was being tolerably rough with some jam and cake.

“Oh, I say, Jeeves!” I said. “Sorry to interrupt the feast of reason and flow of soul and so forth, but⁠—”

At this juncture the small boy’s eye hit me like a bullet and stopped me in my tracks. It was one of those cold, clammy, accusing sort of eyes⁠—the kind that makes you reach up to see if your tie is straight: and he looked at me as if I were some sort of unnecessary product which Cuthbert the Cat had brought in after a ramble among the local ashcans. He was a stoutish infant with a lot of freckles and a good deal of jam on his face.

“Hallo! Hallo! Hallo!” I said. “What?” There didn’t seem much else to say.

The stripling stared at me in a nasty sort of way through the jam. He may have loved me at first sight, but the impression he gave me was that he didn’t think a lot of me and wasn’t betting much that I would improve a great deal on acquaintance. I had a kind of feeling that I was about as popular with him as a cold Welsh rabbit.

“What’s your name?” he asked.

“My name? Oh, Wooster, don’t you know, and whatnot.”

“My pop’s richer than you are!”

That seemed to be all about me. The child having said his say, started in on the jam again. I turned to Jeeves.

“I say, Jeeves, can you spare a moment? I want to show you something.”

“Very good, sir.” We toddled into the sitting room.

“Who is your little friend, Sidney the Sunbeam, Jeeves?”

“The young gentleman, sir?”

“It’s a loose way of describing him, but I know what you mean.”

“I trust I was not taking a liberty in entertaining him, sir?”

“Not a bit. If that’s your idea of a large afternoon, go ahead.”

“I happened to meet the young gentleman taking a walk with his father’s valet, sir, whom I used to know somewhat intimately in London, and I ventured to invite them both to join me here.”

“Well, never mind about him, Jeeves. Read this letter.”

He gave it the up-and-down.

“Very disturbing, sir!” was all he could find to say.

“What are we going to do about it?”

“Time may provide a solution, sir.”

“On the other hand, it mayn’t, what?”

“Extremely true, sir.”

We’d got as far as this, when there was a ring at the door. Jeeves shimmered off, and Cyril blew in, full of good cheer and blitheringness.

“I say, Wooster, old thing,” he said, “I want your advice. You know this jolly old part of mine. How ought I to dress it? What I mean is, the first act scene is laid in an hotel of sorts, at about three in the afternoon. What ought I to wear, do you think?”

I wasn’t feeling fit for a discussion of gent’s suitings.

“You’d better consult Jeeves,” I said.

“A hot and by no means unripe idea! Where is he?”

“Gone back to the kitchen, I suppose.”

“I’ll smite the good old bell, shall I? Yes. No?”

“Right-o!”

Jeeves poured silently in.

“Oh, I say, Jeeves,” began Cyril, “I just wanted to have a syllable or two with you. It’s this way⁠—Hallo, who’s this?”

I then perceived that the stout stripling had trickled into the room after Jeeves. He was standing near the door looking at Cyril as if his worst fears had been realised. There was a bit of a silence. The child remained there, drinking Cyril in for about half a minute; then he gave his verdict:

“Fish-face!”

“Eh? What?” said Cyril.

The child, who had evidently been taught at his mother’s knee to speak the truth, made his meaning a trifle clearer.

“You’ve a face like a fish!”

He spoke as if Cyril was more to be pitied than censured, which I am bound to say I thought rather decent and broad-minded of him. I don’t mind admitting that, whenever I looked at Cyril’s face, I always had a feeling that he couldn’t have got that way without its being mostly his own fault. I found myself warming to this child. Absolutely, don’t you know. I liked his conversation.

It seemed to take Cyril a moment or two really to grasp the thing, and then you could hear the blood of the Bassington-Bassingtons begin to sizzle.

“Well, I’m dashed!” he said. “I’m dashed if I’m not!”

“I wouldn’t have a face like that,” proceeded the child, with a good deal of earnestness, “not if you gave me a million dollars.” He thought for a moment, then corrected himself. “Two million dollars!” he added.

Just what occurred then I couldn’t exactly say, but the next few minutes were a bit exciting. I take it that Cyril must have made a dive for the infant. Anyway, the air seemed pretty well congested with arms and legs and things. Something bumped into the Wooster waistcoat just around the third button, and I collapsed on to the settee and rather lost interest in things for the moment. When I had unscrambled myself, I found that Jeeves and the child had retired and Cyril was standing in the middle of the room snorting a bit.

“Who’s that frightful little brute, Wooster?”

“I don’t know. I never saw him before today.”

“I gave him a couple of tolerably juicy buffets before he legged it. I say, Wooster, that kid said a dashed odd thing. He yelled out something about Jeeves promising him a dollar if he called me⁠—er⁠—what he said.”

It sounded pretty unlikely to me.

“What would Jeeves do that for?”

“It struck me as rummy, too.”

“Where would be the sense of it?”

“That’s what I can’t see.”

“I mean to say, it’s nothing to Jeeves what sort of a face you have!”

“No!” said Cyril. He spoke a little coldly, I fancied. I don’t know why. “Well, I’ll be popping. Toodle-oo!”

“Pip-pip!”

It must have been about a week after this rummy little episode that George Caffyn called me up and asked me if I would care to go and see a run-through of his show. Ask Dad, it seemed, was to open out of town in Schenectady on the following Monday, and this was to be a sort of preliminary dress-rehearsal. A preliminary dress-rehearsal, old George explained, was the same as a regular dress-rehearsal inasmuch as it was apt to look like nothing on earth and last into the small hours, but more exciting because they wouldn’t be timing the piece and consequently all the blighters who on these occasions let their angry passions rise would have plenty of scope for interruptions, with the result that a pleasant time would be had by all.

The thing was billed to start at eight o’clock, so I rolled up at ten-fifteen, so as not to have too long to wait before they began. The dress-parade was still going on. George was on the stage, talking to a cove in shirtsleeves and an absolutely round chappie with big spectacles and a practically hairless dome. I had seen George with the latter merchant once or twice at the club, and I knew that he was Blumenfield, the manager. I waved to George, and slid into a seat at the back of the house, so as to be out of the way when the fighting started. Presently George hopped down off the stage and came and joined me, and fairly soon after that the curtain went down. The chappie at the piano whacked out a well-meant bar or two, and the curtain went up again.

I can’t quite recall what the plot of Ask Dad was about, but I do know that it seemed able to jog along all right without much help from Cyril. I was rather puzzled at first. What I mean is, through brooding on Cyril and hearing him in his part and listening to his views on what ought and what ought not to be done, I suppose I had got a sort of impression rooted in the old bean that he was pretty well the backbone of the show, and that the rest of the company didn’t do much except go on and fill in when he happened to be off the stage. I sat there for nearly half an hour, waiting for him to make his entrance, until I suddenly discovered he had been on from the start. He was, in fact, the rummy-looking plug-ugly who was now leaning against a potted palm a couple of feet from the O.P. side, trying to appear intelligent while the heroine sang a song about Love being like something which for the moment has slipped my memory. After the second refrain he began to dance in company with a dozen other equally weird birds. A painful spectacle for one who could see a vision of Aunt Agatha reaching for the hatchet and old Bassington-Bassington senior putting on his strongest pair of hobnailed boots. Absolutely!

The dance had just finished, and Cyril and his pals had shuffled off into the wings when a voice spoke from the darkness on my right.

“Pop!”

Old Blumenfield clapped his hands, and the hero, who had just been about to get the next line off his diaphragm, cheesed it. I peered into the shadows. Who should it be but Jeeves’s little playmate with the freckles! He was now strolling down the aisle with his hands in his pockets as if the place belonged to him. An air of respectful attention seemed to pervade the building.

“Pop,” said the stripling, “that number’s no good.” Old Blumenfield beamed over his shoulder.

“Don’t you like it, darling?”

“It gives me a pain.”

“You’re dead right.”

“You want something zippy there. Something with a bit of jazz to it!”

“Quite right, my boy. I’ll make a note of it. All right. Go on!”

I turned to George, who was muttering to himself in rather an overwrought way.

“I say, George, old man, who the dickens is that kid?”

Old George groaned a bit hollowly, as if things were a trifle thick.

“I didn’t know he had crawled in! It’s Blumenfield’s son. Now we’re going to have a Hades of a time!”

“Does he always run things like this?”

“Always!”

“But why does old Blumenfield listen to him?”

“Nobody seems to know. It may be pure fatherly love, or he may regard him as a mascot. My own idea is that he thinks the kid has exactly the amount of intelligence of the average member of the audience, and that what makes a hit with him will please the general public. While, conversely, what he doesn’t like will be too rotten for anyone. The kid is a pest, a wart, and a pot of poison, and should be strangled!”

The rehearsal went on. The hero got off his line. There was a slight outburst of frightfulness between the stage-manager and a Voice named Bill that came from somewhere near the roof, the subject under discussion being where the devil Bill’s “ambers” were at that particular juncture. Then things went on again until the moment arrived for Cyril’s big scene.

I was still a trifle hazy about the plot, but I had got on to the fact that Cyril was some sort of an English peer who had come over to America doubtless for the best reasons. So far he had only had two lines to say. One was “Oh, I say!” and the other was “Yes, by Jove!”; but I seemed to recollect, from hearing him read his part, that pretty soon he was due rather to spread himself. I sat back in my chair and waited for him to bob up.

He bobbed up about five minutes later. Things had got a bit stormy by that time. The Voice and the stage-director had had another of their love-feasts⁠—this time something to do with why Bill’s “blues” weren’t on the job or something. And, almost as soon as that was over, there was a bit of unpleasantness because a flowerpot fell off a window-ledge and nearly brained the hero. The atmosphere was consequently more or less hotted up when Cyril, who had been hanging about at the back of the stage, breezed down centre and toed the mark for his most substantial chunk of entertainment. The heroine had been saying something⁠—I forget what⁠—and all the chorus, with Cyril at their head, had begun to surge round her in the restless sort of way those chappies always do when there’s a number coming along.

Cyril’s first line was, “Oh, I say, you know, you mustn’t say that, really!” and it seemed to me he passed it over the larynx with a goodish deal of vim and je-ne-sais-quoi. But, by Jove, before the heroine had time for the comeback, our little friend with the freckles had risen to lodge a protest.

“Pop!”

“Yes, darling?”

“That one’s no good!”

“Which one, darling?”

“The one with a face like a fish.”

“But they all have faces like fish, darling.”

The child seemed to see the justice of this objection. He became more definite.

“The ugly one.”

“Which ugly one? That one?” said old Blumenfield, pointing to Cyril.

“Yep! He’s rotten!”

“I thought so myself.”

“He’s a pill!”

“You’re dead right, my boy. I’ve noticed it for some time.”

Cyril had been gaping a bit while these few remarks were in progress. He now shot down to the footlights. Even from where I was sitting, I could see that these harsh words had hit the old Bassington-Bassington family pride a frightful wallop. He started to get pink in the ears, and then in the nose, and then in the cheeks, till in about a quarter of a minute he looked pretty much like an explosion in a tomato cannery on a sunset evening.

“What the deuce do you mean?”

“What the deuce do you mean?” shouted old Blumenfield. “Don’t yell at me across the footlights!”

“I’ve a dashed good mind to come down and spank that little brute!”

“What!”

“A dashed good mind!”

Old Blumenfield swelled like a pumped-up tyre. He got rounder than ever.

“See here, mister⁠—I don’t know your darn name⁠—!”

“My name’s Bassington-Bassington, and the jolly old Bassington-Bassingtons⁠—I mean the Bassington-Bassingtons aren’t accustomed⁠—”

Old Blumenfield told him in a few brief words pretty much what he thought of the Bassington-Bassingtons and what they weren’t accustomed to. The whole strength of the company rallied round to enjoy his remarks. You could see them jutting out from the wings and protruding from behind trees.

“You got to work good for my pop!” said the stout child, waggling his head reprovingly at Cyril.

“I don’t want any bally cheek from you!” said Cyril, gurgling a bit.

“What’s that?” barked old Blumenfield. “Do you understand that this boy is my son?”

“Yes, I do,” said Cyril. “And you both have my sympathy!”

“You’re fired!” bellowed old Blumenfield, swelling a good bit more. “Get out of my theatre!”


About half-past ten next morning, just after I had finished lubricating the good old interior with a soothing cup of Oolong, Jeeves filtered into my bedroom, and said that Cyril was waiting to see me in the sitting room.

“How does he look, Jeeves?”

“Sir?”

“What does Mr. Bassington-Bassington look like?”

“It is hardly my place, sir, to criticise the facial peculiarities of your friends.”

“I don’t mean that. I mean, does he appear peeved and whatnot?”

“Not noticeably, sir. His manner is tranquil.”

“That’s rum!”

“Sir?”

“Nothing. Show him in, will you?”

I’m bound to say I had expected to see Cyril showing a few more traces of last night’s battle. I was looking for a bit of the overwrought soul and the quivering ganglions, if you know what I mean. He seemed pretty ordinary and quite fairly cheerful.

“Hallo, Wooster, old thing!”

“Cheero!”

“I just looked in to say goodbye.”

“Goodbye?”

“Yes. I’m off to Washington in an hour.” He sat down on the bed. “You know, Wooster, old top,” he went on, “I’ve been thinking it all over, and really it doesn’t seem quite fair to the jolly old guv’nor, my going on the stage and so forth. What do you think?”

“I see what you mean.”

“I mean to say, he sent me over here to broaden my jolly old mind and words to that effect, don’t you know, and I can’t help thinking it would be a bit of a jar for the old boy if I gave him the bird and went on the stage instead. I don’t know if you understand me, but what I mean to say is, it’s a sort of question of conscience.”

“Can you leave the show without upsetting everything?”

“Oh, that’s all right. I’ve explained everything to old Blumenfield, and he quite sees my position. Of course, he’s sorry to lose me⁠—said he didn’t see how he could fill my place and all that sort of thing⁠—but, after all, even if it does land him in a bit of a hole, I think I’m right in resigning my part, don’t you?”

“Oh, absolutely.”

“I thought you’d agree with me. Well, I ought to be shifting. Awfully glad to have seen something of you, and all that sort of rot. Pip-pip!”

“Toodle-oo!”

He sallied forth, having told all those bally lies with the clear, blue, popeyed gaze of a young child. I rang for Jeeves. You know, ever since last night I had been exercising the old bean to some extent, and a good deal of light had dawned upon me.

“Jeeves!”

“Sir?”

“Did you put that pie-faced infant up to ballyragging Mr. Bassington-Bassington?”

“Sir?”

“Oh, you know what I mean. Did you tell him to get Mr. Bassington-Bassington sacked from the Ask Dad company?”

“I would not take such a liberty, sir.” He started to put out my clothes. “It is possible that young Master Blumenfield may have gathered from casual remarks of mine that I did not consider the stage altogether a suitable sphere for Mr. Bassington-Bassington.”

“I say, Jeeves, you know, you’re a bit of a marvel.”

“I endeavour to give satisfaction, sir.”

“And I’m frightfully obliged, if you know what I mean. Aunt Agatha would have had sixteen or seventeen fits if you hadn’t headed him off.”

“I fancy there might have been some little friction and unpleasantness, sir. I am laying out the blue suit with the thin red stripe, sir. I fancy the effect will be pleasing.”


It’s a rummy thing, but I had finished breakfast and gone out and got as far as the lift before I remembered what it was that I had meant to do to reward Jeeves for his really sporting behaviour in this matter of the chump Cyril. It cut me to the heart to do it, but I had decided to give him his way and let those purple socks pass out of my life. After all, there are times when a cove must make sacrifices. I was just going to nip back and break the glad news to him, when the lift came up, so I thought I would leave it till I got home.

The coloured chappie in charge of the lift looked at me, as I hopped in, with a good deal of quiet devotion and whatnot.

“I wish to thank yo’, suh,” he said, “for yo’ kindness.”

“Eh? What?”

“Misto’ Jeeves done give me them purple socks, as you told him. Thank yo’ very much, suh!”

I looked down. The blighter was a blaze of mauve from the anklebone southward. I don’t know when I’ve seen anything so dressy.

“Oh, ah! Not at all! Right-o! Glad you like them!” I said.

Well, I mean to say, what? Absolutely!

Comrade Bingo

The thing really started in the Park⁠—at the Marble Arch end⁠—where weird birds of every description collect on Sunday afternoons and stand on soapboxes and make speeches. It isn’t often you’ll find me there, but it so happened that on the Sabbath after my return to the good old Metrop. I had a call to pay in Manchester Square, and, taking a stroll round in that direction so as not to arrive too early, I found myself right in the middle of it.

Now that the Empire isn’t the place it was, I always think the Park on a Sunday is the centre of London, if you know what I mean. I mean to say, that’s the spot that makes the returned exile really sure he’s back again. After what you might call my enforced sojourn in New York I’m bound to say that I stood there fairly lapping it all up. It did me good to listen to the lads giving tongue and realise that all had ended happily and Bertram was home again.

On the edge of the mob farthest away from me a gang of top-hatted chappies were starting an open-air missionary service; nearer at hand an atheist was letting himself go with a good deal of vim, though handicapped a bit by having no roof to his mouth; while in front of me there stood a little group of serious thinkers with a banner labelled “Heralds of the Red Dawn”; and as I came up, one of the heralds, a bearded egg in a slouch hat and a tweed suit, was slipping it into the Idle Rich with such breadth and vigour that I paused for a moment to get an earful. While I was standing there somebody spoke to me.

Mr. Wooster, surely?”

Stout chappie. Couldn’t place him for a second. Then I got him. Bingo Little’s uncle, the one I had lunch with at the time when young Bingo was in love with that waitress at the Piccadilly bun-shop. No wonder I hadn’t recognised him at first. When I had seen him last he had been a rather sloppy old gentleman⁠—coming down to lunch, I remember, in carpet slippers and a velvet smoking-jacket; whereas now dapper simply wasn’t the word. He absolutely gleamed in the sunlight in a silk hat, morning coat, lavender spats and sponge-bag trousers, as now worn. Dressy to a degree.

“Oh, hallo!” I said. “Going strong?”

“I am in excellent health, I thank you. And you?”

“In the pink. Just been over to America.”

“Ah! Collecting local colour for one of your delightful romances?”

“Eh?” I had to think a bit before I got on to what he meant. Then I remembered the Rosie M. Banks business. “Oh, no,” I said. “Just felt I needed a change. Seen anything of Bingo lately?” I asked quickly, being desirous of heading the old thing off what you might call the literary side of my life.

“Bingo?”

“Your nephew.”

“Oh, Richard? No, not very recently. Since my marriage a little coolness seems to have sprung up.”

“Sorry to hear that. So you’ve married since I saw you, what? Mrs. Little all right?”

“My wife is happily robust. But⁠—er⁠—not Mrs. Little. Since we last met a gracious Sovereign has been pleased to bestow on me a signal mark of his favour in the shape of⁠—ah⁠—a peerage. On the publication of the last Honours List I became Lord Bittlesham.”

“By Jove! Really? I say, heartiest congratulations. That’s the stuff to give the troops, what? Lord Bittlesham?” I said. “Why, you’re the owner of Ocean Breeze.”

“Yes. Marriage has enlarged my horizon in many directions. My wife is interested in horse-racing, and I now maintain a small stable. I understand that Ocean Breeze is fancied, as I am told the expression is, for a race which will take place at the end of the month at Goodwood, the Duke of Richmond’s seat in Sussex.”

“The Goodwood Cup. Rather! I’ve got my chemise on it for one.”

“Indeed? Well, I trust the animal will justify your confidence. I know little of these matters myself, but my wife tells me that it is regarded in knowledgeable circles as what I believe is termed a snip.”

At this moment I suddenly noticed that the audience was gazing in our direction with a good deal of interest, and I saw that the bearded chappie was pointing at us.

“Yes, look at them! Drink them in!” he was yelling, his voice rising above the perpetual-motion fellow’s and beating the missionary service all to nothing. “There you see two typical members of the class which has downtrodden the poor for centuries. Idlers! Non-producers! Look at the tall thin one with the face like a motor-mascot. Has he ever done an honest day’s work in his life? No! A prowler, a trifler, and a bloodsucker! And I bet he still owes his tailor for those trousers!”

He seemed to me to be verging on the personal, and I didn’t think a lot of it. Old Bittlesham, on the other hand, was pleased and amused.

“A great gift of expression these fellows have,” he chuckled. “Very trenchant.”

“And the fat one!” proceeded the chappie. “Don’t miss him. Do you know who that is? That’s Lord Bittlesham! One of the worst. What has he ever done except eat four square meals a day? His god is his belly, and he sacrifices burnt-offerings to it. If you opened that man now you would find enough lunch to support ten working-class families for a week.”

“You know, that’s rather well put,” I said, but the old boy didn’t seem to see it. He had turned a brightish magenta and was bubbling like a kettle on the boil.

“Come away, Mr. Wooster,” he said. “I am the last man to oppose the right of free speech, but I refuse to listen to this vulgar abuse any longer.”

We legged it with quiet dignity, the chappie pursuing us with his foul innuendoes to the last. Dashed embarrassing.


Next day I looked in at the club, and found young Bingo in the smoking room.

“Hallo, Bingo,” I said, toddling over to his corner full of bonhomie, for I was glad to see the chump, “How’s the boy?”

“Jogging along.”

“I saw your uncle yesterday.”

Young Bingo unleashed a grin that split his face in half.

“I know you did, you trifler. Well, sit down, old thing, and suck a bit of blood. How’s the prowling these days?”

“Good Lord! You weren’t there!”

“Yes, I was.”

“I didn’t see you.”

“Yes, you did. But perhaps you didn’t recognise me in the shrubbery.”

“The shrubbery?”

“The beard, my boy. Worth every penny I paid for it. Defies detection. Of course, it’s a nuisance having people shouting ‘Beaver!’ at you all the time, but one’s got to put up with that.”

I goggled at him.

“I don’t understand.”

“It’s a long story. Have a martini or a small gore-and-soda, and I’ll tell you all about it. Before we start, give me your honest opinion. Isn’t she the most wonderful girl you ever saw in your puff?”

He had produced a photograph from somewhere, like a conjurer taking a rabbit out of a hat, and was waving it in front of me. It appeared to be a female of sorts, all eyes and teeth.

“Oh, Great Scott!” I said. “Don’t tell me you’re in love again.”

He seemed aggrieved.

“What do you mean⁠—again?”

“Well, to my certain knowledge you’ve been in love with at least half a dozen girls since the spring, and it’s only July now. There was that waitress and Honoria Glossop and⁠—”

“Oh, tush! Not to say pish! Those girls? Mere passing fancies. This is the real thing.”

“Where did you meet her?”

“On top of a bus. Her name is Charlotte Corday Rowbotham.”

“My God!”

“It’s not her fault, poor child. Her father had her christened that because he’s all for the Revolution, and it seems that the original Charlotte Corday used to go about stabbing oppressors in their baths, which entitles her to consideration and respect. You must meet old Rowbotham, Bertie. A delightful chap. Wants to massacre the bourgeoisie, sack Park Lane, and disembowel the hereditary aristocracy. Well, nothing could be fairer than that, what? But about Charlotte. We were on top of the bus, and it started to rain. I offered her my umbrella, and we chatted of this and that. I fell in love and got her address, and a couple of days later I bought the beard and toddled round and met the family.”

“But why the beard?”

“Well, she had told me all about her father on the bus, and I saw that to get any footing at all in the home I should have to join these Red Dawn blighters; and naturally, if I was to make speeches in the Park, where at any moment I might run into a dozen people I knew, something in the nature of a disguise was indicated. So I bought the beard, and, by Jove, old boy, I’ve become dashed attached to the thing. When I take it off to come in here, for instance, I feel absolutely nude. It’s done me a lot of good with old Rowbotham. He thinks I’m a Bolshevist of sorts who has to go about disguised because of the police. You really must meet old Rowbotham, Bertie. I tell you what, are you doing anything tomorrow afternoon?”

“Nothing special. Why?”

“Good! Then you can have us all to tea at your flat. I had promised to take the crowd to Lyons’ Popular Café after a meeting we’re holding down in Lambeth, but I can save money this way; and, believe me, laddie, nowadays, as far as I’m concerned, a penny saved is a penny earned. My uncle told you he’d got married?”

“Yes. And he said there was a coolness between you.”

“Coolness? I’m down to zero. Ever since he married he’s been launching out in every direction and economising on me. I suppose that peerage cost the old devil the deuce of a sum. Even baronetcies have gone up frightfully nowadays, I’m told. And he’s started a racing-stable. By the way, put your last collar-stud on Ocean Breeze for the Goodwood Cup. It’s a cert.”

“I’m going to.”

“It can’t lose. I mean to win enough on it to marry Charlotte with. You’re going to Goodwood, of course?”

“Rather!”

“So are we. We’re holding a meeting on Cup day just outside the paddock.”

“But, I say, aren’t you taking frightful risks? Your uncle’s sure to be at Goodwood. Suppose he spots you? He’ll be fed to the gills if he finds out that you’re the fellow who ragged him in the Park.”

“How the deuce is he to find out? Use your intelligence, you prowling inhaler of red corpuscles. If he didn’t spot me yesterday, why should he spot me at Goodwood? Well, thanks for your cordial invitation for tomorrow, old thing. We shall be delighted to accept. Do us well, laddie, and blessings shall reward you. By the way, I may have misled you by using the word ‘tea.’ None of your wafer slices of bread-and-butter. We’re good trenchermen, we of the Revolution. What we shall require will be something on the order of scrambled eggs, muffins, jam, ham, cake and sardines. Expect us at five sharp.”

“But, I say, I’m not quite sure⁠—”

“Yes, you are. Silly ass, don’t you see that this is going to do you a bit of good when the Revolution breaks loose? When you see old Rowbotham sprinting up Piccadilly with a dripping knife in each hand, you’ll be jolly thankful to be able to remind him that he once ate your tea and shrimps. There will be four of us⁠—Charlotte, self, the old man, and Comrade Butt. I suppose he will insist on coming along.”

“Who the devil’s Comrade Butt?”

“Did you notice a fellow standing on my left in our little troupe yesterday? Small, shrivelled chap. Looks like a haddock with lung-trouble. That’s Butt. My rival, dash him. He’s sort of semi-engaged to Charlotte at the moment. Till I came along he was the blue-eyed boy. He’s got a voice like a foghorn, and old Rowbotham thinks a lot of him. But, hang it, if I can’t thoroughly encompass this Butt and cut him out and put him where he belongs among the discards⁠—well, I’m not the man I was, that’s all. He may have a big voice, but he hasn’t my gift of expression. Thank heaven I was once cox of my college boat. Well, I must be pushing now. I say, you don’t know how I could raise fifty quid somehow, do you?”

“Why don’t you work?”

“Work?” said young Bingo, surprised. “What, me? No, I shall have to think of some way. I must put at least fifty on Ocean Breeze. Well, see you tomorrow. God bless you, old sort, and don’t forget the muffins.”


I don’t know why, ever since I first knew him at school, I should have felt a rummy feeling of responsibility for young Bingo. I mean to say, he’s not my son (thank goodness) or my brother or anything like that. He’s got absolutely no claim on me at all, and yet a large-sized chunk of my existence seems to be spent in fussing over him like a bally old hen and hauling him out of the soup. I suppose it must be some rare beauty in my nature or something. At any rate, this latest affair of his worried me. He seemed to be doing his best to marry into a family of pronounced loonies, and how the deuce he thought he was going to support even a mentally afflicted wife on nothing a year beat me. Old Bittlesham was bound to knock off his allowance if he did anything of the sort; and, with a fellow like young Bingo, if you knocked off his allowance, you might just as well hit him on the head with an axe and make a clean job of it.

“Jeeves,” I said, when I got home, “I’m worried.”

“Sir?”

“About Mr. Little. I won’t tell you about it now, because he’s bringing some friends of his to tea tomorrow, and then you will be able to judge for yourself. I want you to observe closely, Jeeves, and form your decision.”

“Very good, sir.”

“And about the tea. Get in some muffins.”

“Yes, sir.”

“And some jam, ham, cake, scrambled eggs, and five or six wagonloads of sardines.”

“Sardines, sir?” said Jeeves, with a shudder.

“Sardines.”

There was an awkward pause.

“Don’t blame me, Jeeves,” I said. “It isn’t my fault.”

“No, sir.”

“Well, that’s that.”

“Yes, sir.”

I could see the man was brooding tensely.


I’ve found, as a general rule in life, that the things you think are going to be the scaliest nearly always turn out not so bad after all; but it wasn’t that way with Bingo’s tea-party. From the moment he invited himself I felt that the thing was going to be blue round the edges, and it was. And I think the most gruesome part of the whole affair was the fact that, for the first time since I’d known him, I saw Jeeves come very near to being rattled. I suppose there’s a chink in everyone’s armour, and young Bingo found Jeeves’s right at the drop of the flag when he breezed in with six inches or so of brown beard hanging on to his chin. I had forgotten to warn Jeeves about the beard, and it came on him absolutely out of a blue sky. I saw the man’s jaw drop, and he clutched at the table for support. I don’t blame him, mind you. Few people have ever looked fouler than young Bingo in the fungus. Jeeves paled a little; then the weakness passed and he was himself again. But I could see that he had been shaken.

Young Bingo was too busy introducing the mob to take much notice. They were a very C3 collection. Comrade Butt looked like one of the things that come out of dead trees after the rain; moth-eaten was the word I should have used to describe old Rowbotham; and as for Charlotte, she seemed to take me straight into another and a dreadful world. It wasn’t that she was exactly bad-looking. In fact, if she had knocked off starchy foods and done Swedish exercises for a bit, she might have been quite tolerable. But there was too much of her. Billowy curves. Well-nourished, perhaps, expresses it best. And, while she may have had a heart of gold, the thing you noticed about her first was that she had a tooth of gold. I knew that young Bingo, when in form, could fall in love with practically anything of the other sex; but this time I couldn’t see any excuse for him at all.

“My friend, Mr. Wooster,” said Bingo, completing the ceremonial.

Old Rowbotham looked at me and then he looked round the room, and I could see he wasn’t particularly braced. There’s nothing of absolutely Oriental luxury about the old flat, but I have managed to make myself fairly comfortable, and I suppose the surroundings jarred him a bit.

Mr. Wooster?” said old Rowbotham. “May I say Comrade Wooster?”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Are you of the movement?”

“Well⁠—er⁠—”

“Do you yearn for the Revolution?”

“Well, I don’t know that I exactly yearn. I mean to say, as far as I can make out, the whole hub of the scheme seems to be to massacre coves like me; and I don’t mind owning I’m not frightfully keen on the idea.”

“But I’m talking him round,” said Bingo. “I’m wrestling with him. A few more treatments ought to do the trick.”

Old Rowbotham looked at me a bit doubtfully.

“Comrade Little has great eloquence,” he admitted.

“I think he talks something wonderful,” said the girl, and young Bingo shot a glance of such succulent devotion at her that I reeled in my tracks. It seemed to depress Comrade Butt a good deal too. He scowled at the carpet and said something about dancing on volcanoes.

“Tea is served, sir,” said Jeeves.

“Tea, pa!” said Charlotte, starting at the word like the old warhorse who hears the bugle; and we got down to it.

Funny how one changes as the years roll on. At school, I remember, I would cheerfully have sold my soul for scrambled eggs and sardines at five in the afternoon; but somehow, since reaching man’s estate, I had rather dropped out of the habit; and I’m bound to admit I was appalled to a goodish extent at the way the sons and daughter of the Revolution shoved their heads down and went for the foodstuffs. Even Comrade Butt cast off his gloom for a space and immersed his whole being in scrambled eggs, only coming to the surface at intervals to grab another cup of tea. Presently the hot water gave out, and I turned to Jeeves.

“More hot water.”

“Very good, sir.”

“Hey! what’s this? What’s this?” Old Rowbotham had lowered his cup and was eyeing us sternly. He tapped Jeeves on the shoulder. “No servility, my lad; no servility!”

“I beg your pardon, sir?”

“Don’t call me ‘sir.’ Call me Comrade. Do you know what you are, my lad? You’re an obsolete relic of an exploded feudal system.”

“Very good, sir.”

“If there’s one thing that makes the blood boil in my veins⁠—”

“Have another sardine,” chipped in young Bingo⁠—the first sensible thing he’d done since I had known him. Old Rowbotham took three and dropped the subject, and Jeeves drifted away. I could see by the look of his back what he felt.

At last, just as I was beginning to feel that it was going on forever, the thing finished. I woke up to find the party getting ready to leave.

Sardines and about three quarts of tea had mellowed old Rowbotham. There was quite a genial look in his eye as he shook my hand.

“I must thank you for your hospitality, Comrade Wooster,” he said.

“Oh, not at all! Only too glad⁠—”

“Hospitality?” snorted the man Butt, going off in my ear like a depth-charge. He was scowling in a morose sort of manner at young Bingo and the girl, who were giggling together by the window. “I wonder the food didn’t turn to ashes in our mouths! Eggs! Muffins! Sardines! All wrung from the bleeding lips of the starving poor!”

“Oh, I say! What a beastly idea!”

“I will send you some literature on the subject of the Cause,” said old Rowbotham. “And soon, I hope, we shall see you at one of our little meetings.”

Jeeves came in to clear away, and found me sitting among the ruins. It was all very well for Comrade Butt to knock the food, but he had pretty well finished the ham; and if you had shoved the remainder of the jam into the bleeding lips of the starving poor it would hardly have made them sticky.

“Well, Jeeves,” I said, “how about it?”

“I would prefer to express no opinion, sir.”

“Jeeves, Mr. Little is in love with that female.”

“So I gathered, sir. She was slapping him in the passage.”

I clutched my brow.

“Slapping him?”

“Yes, sir. Roguishly.”

“Great Scott! I didn’t know it had got as far as that. How did Comrade Butt seem to be taking it? Or perhaps he didn’t see?”

“Yes, sir, he observed the entire proceedings. He struck me as extremely jealous.”

“I don’t blame him. Jeeves, what are we to do?”

“I could not say, sir.”

“It’s a bit thick.”

“Very much so, sir.”

And that was all the consolation I got from Jeeves.


I had promised to meet young Bingo next day, to tell him what I thought of his infernal Charlotte, and I was mooching slowly up St. James’s Street, trying to think how the dickens I could explain to him, without hurting his feelings, that I considered her one of the world’s foulest, when who should come toddling out of the Devonshire Club but old Bittlesham and Bingo himself. I hurried on and overtook them.

“What-ho!” I said.

The result of this simple greeting was a bit of a shock. Old Bittlesham quivered from head to foot like a poleaxed blancmange. His eyes were popping and his face had gone sort of greenish.

Mr. Wooster!” He seemed to recover somewhat, as if I wasn’t the worst thing that could have happened to him. “You gave me a severe start.”

“Oh, sorry!”

“My uncle,” said young Bingo in a hushed, bedside sort of voice, “isn’t feeling quite himself this morning. He’s had a threatening letter.”

“I go in fear of my life,” said old Bittlesham.

“Threatening letter?”

“Written,” said old Bittlesham, “in an uneducated hand and couched in terms of uncompromising menace. Mr. Wooster, do you recall a sinister, bearded man who assailed me in no measured terms in Hyde Park last Sunday?”

I jumped, and shot a look at young Bingo. The only expression on his face was one of grave, kindly concern.

“Why⁠—ah⁠—yes,” I said. “Bearded man. Chap with a beard.”

“Could you identify him, if necessary?”

“Well, I⁠—er⁠—how do you mean?”

“The fact is, Bertie,” said Bingo, “we think this man with the beard is at the bottom of all this business. I happened to be walking late last night through Pounceby Gardens, where Uncle Mortimer lives, and as I was passing the house a fellow came hurrying down the steps in a furtive sort of way. Probably he had just been shoving the letter in at the front door. I noticed that he had a beard. I didn’t think any more of it, however, until this morning, when Uncle Mortimer showed me the letter he had received and told me about the chap in the Park. I’m going to make inquiries.”

“The police should be informed,” said Lord Bittlesham.

“No,” said young Bingo firmly, “not at this stage of the proceedings. It would hamper me. Don’t you worry, uncle; I think I can track this fellow down. You leave it all to me. I’ll pop you into a taxi now, and go and talk it over with Bertie.”

“You’re a good boy, Richard,” said old Bittlesham, and we put him in a passing cab and pushed off. I turned and looked young Bingo squarely in the eyeball.

“Did you send that letter?” I said.

“Rather! You ought to have seen it, Bertie! One of the best gent’s ordinary threatening letters I ever wrote.”

“But where’s the sense of it?”

“Bertie, my lad,” said Bingo, taking me earnestly by the coat-sleeve, “I had an excellent reason. Posterity may say of me what it will, but one thing it can never say⁠—that I have not a good solid business head. Look here!” He waved a bit of paper in front of my eyes.

“Great Scott!” It was a cheque⁠—an absolute, dashed cheque for fifty of the best, signed Bittlesham, and made out to the order of R. Little.

“What’s that for?”

“Expenses,” said Bingo, pouching it. “You don’t suppose an investigation like this can be carried on for nothing, do you? I now proceed to the bank and startle them into a fit with it. Later I edge round to my bookie and put the entire sum on Ocean Breeze. What you want in situations of this kind, Bertie, is tact. If I had gone to my uncle and asked him for fifty quid, would I have got it? No! But by exercising tact⁠—Oh! by the way, what do you think of Charlotte?”

“Well⁠—er⁠—”

Young Bingo massaged my sleeve affectionately.

“I know, old man, I know. Don’t try to find words. She bowled you over, eh? Left you speechless, what? I know! That’s the effect she has on everybody. Well, I leave you here, laddie. Oh, before we part⁠—Butt! What of Butt? Nature’s worst blunder, don’t you think?”

“I must say I’ve seen cheerier souls.”

“I think I’ve got him licked, Bertie. Charlotte is coming to the Zoo with me this afternoon. Alone. And later on to the pictures. That looks like the beginning of the end, what? Well, toodle-oo, friend of my youth. If you’ve nothing better to do this morning, you might take a stroll along Bond Street and be picking out a wedding present.”

I lost sight of Bingo after that. I left messages a couple of times at the club, asking him to ring me up, but they didn’t have any effect. I took it that he was too busy to respond. The Sons of the Red Dawn also passed out of my life, though Jeeves told me he had met Comrade Butt one evening and had a brief chat with him. He reported Butt as gloomier than ever. In the competition for the bulging Charlotte, Butt had apparently gone right back in the betting.

Mr. Little would appear to have eclipsed him entirely, sir,” said Jeeves.

“Bad news, Jeeves; bad news!”

“Yes, sir.”

“I suppose what it amounts to, Jeeves, is that, when young Bingo really takes his coat off and starts in, there is no power of God or man that can prevent him making a chump of himself.”

“It would seem so, sir,” said Jeeves.

Then Goodwood came along, and I dug out the best suit and popped down.

I never know, when I’m telling a story, whether to cut the thing down to plain facts or whether to drool on and shove in a lot of atmosphere, and all that. I mean, many a cove would no doubt edge into the final spasm of this narrative with a long description of Goodwood, featuring the blue sky, the rolling prospect, the joyous crowds of pickpockets, and the parties of the second part who were having their pockets picked, and⁠—in a word, what not. But better give it a miss, I think. Even if I wanted to go into details about the bally meeting I don’t think I’d have the heart to. The thing’s too recent. The anguish hasn’t had time to pass. You see, what happened was that Ocean Breeze (curse him!) finished absolutely nowhere for the Cup. Believe me, nowhere.

These are the times that try men’s souls. It’s never pleasant to be caught in the machinery when a favourite comes unstitched, and in the case of this particular dashed animal, one had come to look on the running of the race as a pure formality, a sort of quaint, old-world ceremony to be gone through before one sauntered up to the bookie and collected. I had wandered out of the paddock to try and forget, when I bumped into old Bittlesham: and he looked so rattled and purple, and his eyes were standing out of his head at such an angle, that I simply pushed my hand out and shook his in silence.

“Me, too,” I said. “Me, too. How much did you drop?”

“Drop?”

“On Ocean Breeze.”

“I did not bet on Ocean Breeze.”

“What! You owned the favourite for the Cup, and didn’t back it!”

“I never bet on horse-racing. It is against my principles. I am told that the animal failed to win the contest.”

“Failed to win! Why, he was so far behind that he nearly came in first in the next race.”

“Tut!” said old Bittlesham.

“Tut is right,” I agreed. Then the rumminess of the thing struck me. “But if you haven’t dropped a parcel over the race,” I said, “why are you looking so rattled?”

“That fellow is here!”

“What fellow?”

“That bearded man.”

It will show you to what an extent the iron had entered into my soul when I say that this was the first time I had given a thought to young Bingo. I suddenly remembered now that he had told me he would be at Goodwood.

“He is making an inflammatory speech at this very moment, specifically directed at me. Come! Where that crowd is.” He lugged me along and, by using his weight scientifically, got us into the front rank. “Look! Listen!”


Young Bingo was certainly tearing off some ripe stuff. Inspired by the agony of having put his little all on a stumer that hadn’t finished in the first six, he was fairly letting himself go on the subject of the blackness of the hearts of plutocratic owners who allowed a trusting public to imagine a horse was the real goods when it couldn’t trot the length of its stable without getting its legs crossed and sitting down to rest. He then went on to draw what I’m bound to say was a most moving picture of the ruin of a working man’s home, due to this dishonesty. He showed us the working man, all optimism and simple trust, believing every word he read in the papers about Ocean Breeze’s form; depriving his wife and children of food in order to back the brute; going without beer so as to be able to cram an extra bob on; robbing the baby’s money-box with a hatpin on the eve of the race; and finally getting let down with a thud. Dashed impressive it was. I could see old Rowbotham nodding his head gently, while poor old Butt glowered at the speaker with ill-concealed jealousy. The audience ate it.

“But what does Lord Bittlesham care,” shouted Bingo, “if the poor working man loses his hard-earned savings? I tell you, friends and comrades, you may talk, and you may argue, and you may cheer, and you may pass resolutions, but what you need is Action! Action! The world won’t be a fit place for honest men to live in till the blood of Lord Bittlesham and his kind flows in rivers down the gutters of Park Lane!”

Roars of approval from the populace, most of whom, I suppose, had had their little bit on blighted Ocean Breeze, and were feeling it deeply. Old Bittlesham bounded over to a large, sad policeman who was watching the proceedings, and appeared to be urging him to rally round. The policeman pulled at his moustache, and smiled gently, but that was as far as he seemed inclined to go; and old Bittlesham came back to me, puffing not a little.

“It’s monstrous! The man definitely threatens my personal safety, and that policeman declines to interfere. Said it was just talk. Talk! It’s monstrous!”

“Absolutely,” I said, but I can’t say it seemed to cheer him up much.

Comrade Butt had taken the centre of the stage now. He had a voice like the Last Trump, and you could hear every word he said, but somehow he didn’t seem to be clicking. I suppose the fact was he was too impersonal, if that’s the word I want. After Bingo’s speech the audience was in the mood for something a good deal snappier than just general remarks about the Cause. They had started to heckle the poor blighter pretty freely when he stopped in the middle of a sentence, and I saw that he was staring at old Bittlesham.

The crowd thought he had dried up.

“Suck a lozenge,” shouted someone.

Comrade Butt pulled himself together with a jerk, and even from where I stood I could see the nasty gleam in his eye.

“Ah,” he yelled, “you may mock, comrades; you may jeer and sneer; and you may scoff; but let me tell you that the movement is spreading every day and every hour. Yes, even amongst the so-called upper classes it’s spreading. Perhaps you’ll believe me when I tell you that here, today, on this very spot, we have in our little band one of our most earnest workers, the nephew of that very Lord Bittlesham whose name you were hooting but a moment ago.”

And before poor old Bingo had a notion of what was up, he had reached out a hand and grabbed the beard. It came off all in one piece, and, well as Bingo’s speech had gone, it was simply nothing compared with the hit made by this bit of business. I heard old Bittlesham give one short, sharp snort of amazement at my side, and then any remarks he may have made were drowned in thunders of applause.

I’m bound to say that in this crisis young Bingo acted with a good deal of decision and character. To grab Comrade Butt by the neck and try to twist his head off was with him the work of a moment. But before he could get any results the sad policeman, brightening up like magic, had charged in, and the next minute he was shoving his way back through the crowd, with Bingo in his right hand and Comrade Butt in his left.

“Let me pass, sir, please,” he said, civilly, as he came up against old Bittlesham, who was blocking the gangway.

“Eh?” said old Bittlesham, still dazed.

At the sound of his voice young Bingo looked up quickly from under the shadow of the policeman’s right hand, and as he did so all the stuffing seemed to go out of him with a rush. For an instant he drooped like a bally lily, and then shuffled brokenly on. His air was the air of a man who has got it in the neck properly.

Sometimes when Jeeves has brought in my morning tea and shoved it on the table beside my bed, he drifts silently from the room and leaves me to go to it: at other times he sort of shimmies respectfully in the middle of the carpet, and then I know that he wants a word or two. On the day after I had got back from Goodwood I was lying on my back, staring at the ceiling, when I noticed that he was still in my midst.

“Oh, hallo,” I said. “Yes?”

Mr. Little called earlier in the morning, sir.”

“Oh, by Jove, what? Did he tell you about what happened?”

“Yes, sir. It was in connection with that that he wished to see you. He proposes to retire to the country and remain there for some little while.”

“Dashed sensible.”

“That was my opinion, also, sir. There was, however, a slight financial difficulty to be overcome. I took the liberty of advancing him ten pounds on your behalf to meet current expenses. I trust that meets with your approval, sir?”

“Oh, of course. Take a tenner off the dressing-table.”

“Very good, sir.”

“Jeeves,” I said.

“Sir?”

“What beats me is how the dickens the thing happened. I mean, how did the chappie Butt ever get to know who he was?”

Jeeves coughed.

“There, sir, I fear I may have been somewhat to blame.”

“You? How?”

“I fear I may carelessly have disclosed Mr. Little’s identity to Mr. Butt on the occasion when I had that conversation with him.”

I sat up.

“What!”

“Indeed, now that I recall the incident, sir, I distinctly remember saying that Mr. Little’s work for the Cause really seemed to me to deserve something in the nature of public recognition. I greatly regret having been the means of bringing about a temporary estrangement between Mr. Little and his lordship. And I am afraid there is another aspect to the matter. I am also responsible for the breaking off of relations between Mr. Little and the young lady who came to tea here.”

I sat up again. It’s a rummy thing, but the silver lining had absolutely escaped my notice till then.

“Do you mean to say it’s off?”

“Completely, sir. I gathered from Mr. Little’s remarks that his hopes in the direction may now be looked on as definitely quenched. If there were no other obstacle, the young lady’s father, I am informed by Mr. Little, now regards him as a spy and a deceiver.”

“Well, I’m dashed!”

“I appear inadvertently to have caused much trouble, sir.”

“Jeeves!” I said.

“Sir?”

“How much money is there on the dressing-table?”

“In addition to the ten-pound note which you instructed me to take, sir, there are two five-pound notes, three one-pounds, a ten-shillings, two half-crowns, a florin, four shillings, a sixpence, and a halfpenny, sir.”

“Collar it all,” I said. “You’ve earned it.”

The Great Sermon Handicap

After Goodwood’s over, I generally find that I get a bit restless. I’m not much of a lad for the birds and the trees and the great open spaces as a rule, but there’s no doubt that London’s not at its best in August, and rather tends to give me the pip and make me think of popping down into the country till things have bucked up a trifle. London, about a couple of weeks after that spectacular finish of young Bingo’s which I’ve just been telling you about, was empty and smelled of burning asphalt. All my pals were away, most of the theatres were shut, and they were taking up Piccadilly in large spadefuls.

It was most infernally hot. As I sat in the old flat one night trying to muster up energy enough to go to bed, I felt I couldn’t stand it much longer: and when Jeeves came in with the tissue-restorers on a tray I put the thing to him squarely.

“Jeeves,” I said, wiping the brow and gasping like a stranded goldfish, “it’s beastly hot.”

“The weather is oppressive, sir.”

“Not all the soda, Jeeves.”

“No, sir.”

“I think we’ve had about enough of the metrop. for the time being, and require a change. Shift-ho, I think, Jeeves, what?”

“Just as you say, sir. There is a letter on the tray, sir.”

“By Jove, Jeeves, that was practically poetry. Rhymed, did you notice?” I opened the letter. “I say, this is rather extraordinary.”

“Sir?”

“You know Twing Hall?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Well, Mr. Little is there.”

“Indeed, sir?”

“Absolutely in the flesh. He’s had to take another of those tutoring jobs.”

After that fearful mix-up at Goodwood, when young Bingo Little, a broken man, had touched me for a tenner and whizzed silently off into the unknown, I had been all over the place, asking mutual friends if they had heard anything of him, but nobody had. And all the time he had been at Twing Hall. Rummy. And I’ll tell you why it was rummy. Twing Hall belongs to old Lord Wickhammersley, a great pal of my guv’nor’s when he was alive, and I have a standing invitation to pop down there when I like. I generally put in a week or two some time in the summer, and I was thinking of going there before I read the letter.

“And, what’s more, Jeeves, my cousin Claude, and my cousin Eustace⁠—you remember them?”

“Very vividly, sir.”

“Well, they’re down there, too, reading for some exam, or other with the vicar. I used to read with him myself at one time. He’s known far and wide as a pretty hot coach for those of fairly feeble intellect. Well, when I tell you he got me through Smalls, you’ll gather that he’s a bit of a hummer. I call this most extraordinary.”

I read the letter again. It was from Eustace. Claude and Eustace are twins, and more or less generally admitted to be the curse of the human race.

The Vicarage,
Twing, Glos.

Dear Bertie⁠—Do you want to make a bit of money? I hear you had a bad Goodwood, so you probably do. Well, come down here quick and get in on the biggest sporting event of the season. I’ll explain when I see you, but you can take it from me it’s all right.

Claude and I are with a reading-party at old Heppenstall’s. There are nine of us, not counting your pal Bingo Little, who is tutoring the kid up at the Hall.

Don’t miss this golden opportunity, which may never occur again. Come and join us.

Yours,

Eustace

I handed this to Jeeves. He studied it thoughtfully.

“What do you make of it? A rummy communication, what?”

“Very high-spirited young gentlemen, sir, Mr. Claude and Mr. Eustace. Up to some game, I should be disposed to imagine.”

“Yes. But what game, do you think?”

“It is impossible to say, sir. Did you observe that the letter continues over the page?”

“Eh, what?” I grabbed the thing. This was what was on the other side of the last page:

Sermon Handicap
Runners and Betting
Probable Starters

(The above have arrived.)

Prices.⁠—5⁠–⁠2, Tucker, Starkie; 3⁠–⁠1, Jones; 9⁠–⁠2, Dix; 6⁠–⁠1, Heppenstall, Dibble, Hough; 100⁠–⁠8 any other.

It baffled me.

“Do you understand it, Jeeves?”

“No, sir.”

“Well, I think we ought to have a look into it, anyway, what?”

“Undoubtedly, sir.”

“Right-o, then. Pack our spare dickey and a toothbrush in a neat brown-paper parcel, send a wire to Lord Wickhammersley to say we’re coming, and buy two tickets on the five-ten at Paddington tomorrow.”


The five-ten was late as usual, and everybody was dressing for dinner when I arrived at the Hall. It was only by getting into my evening things in record time and taking the stairs to the dining room in a couple of bounds that I managed to dead-heat with the soup. I slid into the vacant chair, and found that I was sitting next to old Wickhammersley’s youngest daughter, Cynthia.

“Oh, hallo, old thing,” I said.

Great pals we’ve always been. In fact, there was a time when I had an idea I was in love with Cynthia. However, it blew over. A dashed pretty and lively and attractive girl, mind you, but full of ideals and all that. I may be wronging her, but I have an idea that she’s the sort of girl who would want a fellow to carve out a career and whatnot. I know I’ve heard her speak favourably of Napoleon. So what with one thing and another the jolly old frenzy sort of petered out, and now we’re just pals. I think she’s a topper, and she thinks me next door to a looney, so everything’s nice and matey.

“Well, Bertie, so you’ve arrived?”

“Oh, yes, I’ve arrived. Yes, here I am. I say, I seem to have plunged into the middle of quite a young dinner-party. Who are all these coves?”

“Oh, just people from round about. You know most of them. You remember Colonel Willis, and the Spencers⁠—”

“Of course, yes. And there’s old Heppenstall. Who’s the other clergyman next to Mrs. Spencer?”

Mr. Hayward, from Lower Bingley.”

“What an amazing lot of clergymen there are round here. Why, there’s another, next to Mrs. Willis.”

“That’s Mr. Bates, Mr. Heppenstall’s nephew. He’s an assistant-master at Eton. He’s down here during the summer holidays, acting as locum tenens for Mr. Spettigue, the rector of Gandle-by-the-Hill.”

“I thought I knew his face. He was in his fourth year at Oxford when I was a fresher. Rather a blood. Got his rowing-blue and all that.” I took another look round the table, and spotted young Bingo. “Ah, there he is,” I said. “There’s the old egg.”

“There’s who?”

“Young Bingo Little. Great pal of mine. He’s tutoring your brother, you know.”

“Good gracious! Is he a friend of yours?”

“Rather! Known him all my life.”

“Then tell me, Bertie, is he at all weak in the head?”

“Weak in the head?”

“I don’t mean simply because he’s a friend of yours. But he’s so strange in his manner.”

“How do you mean?”

“Well, he keeps looking at me so oddly.”

“Oddly? How? Give an imitation.”

“I can’t in front of all these people.”

“Yes, you can. I’ll hold my napkin up.”

“All right, then. Quick. There!”

Considering that she had only about a second and a half to do it in, I must say it was a jolly fine exhibition. She opened her mouth and eyes pretty wide and let her jaw drop sideways, and managed to look so like a dyspeptic calf that I recognised the symptoms immediately.

“Oh, that’s all right,” I said. “No need to be alarmed. He’s simply in love with you.”

“In love with me. Don’t be absurd.”

“My dear old thing, you don’t know young Bingo. He can fall in love with anybody.”

“Thank you!”

“Oh, I didn’t mean it that way, you know. I don’t wonder at his taking to you. Why, I was in love with you myself once.”

“Once? Ah! And all that remains now are the cold ashes? This isn’t one of your tactful evenings, Bertie.”

“Well, my dear sweet thing, dash it all, considering that you gave me the bird and nearly laughed yourself into a permanent state of hiccups when I asked you⁠—”

“Oh, I’m not reproaching you. No doubt there were faults on both sides. He’s very good-looking, isn’t he?”

“Good-looking? Bingo? Bingo good-looking? No, I say, come now, really!”

“I mean, compared with some people,” said Cynthia.

Some time after this, Lady Wickhammersley gave the signal for the females of the species to leg it, and they duly stampeded. I didn’t get a chance of talking to young Bingo when they’d gone, and later, in the drawing-room, he didn’t show up. I found him eventually in his room, lying on the bed with his feet on the rail, smoking a toofah. There was a notebook on the counterpane beside him.

“Hallo, old scream,” I said.

“Hallo, Bertie,” he replied, in what seemed to me rather a moody, distrait sort of manner.

“Rummy finding you down here. I take it your uncle cut off your allowance after that Goodwood binge and you had to take this tutoring job to keep the wolf from the door?”

“Correct,” said young Bingo tersely.

“Well, you might have let your pals know where you were.”

He frowned darkly.

“I didn’t want them to know where I was. I wanted to creep away and hide myself. I’ve been through a bad time, Bertie, these last weeks. The sun ceased to shine⁠—”

“That’s curious. We’ve had gorgeous weather in London.”

“The birds ceased to sing⁠—”

“What birds?”

“What the devil does it matter what birds?” said young Bingo, with some asperity. “Any birds. The birds round about here. You don’t expect me to specify them by their pet names, do you? I tell you, Bertie, it hit me hard at first, very hard.”

“What hit you?” I simply couldn’t follow the blighter.

“Charlotte’s calculated callousness.”

“Oh, ah!” I’ve seen poor old Bingo through so many unsuccessful love-affairs that I’d almost forgotten there was a girl mixed up with that Goodwood business. Of course! Charlotte Corday Rowbotham. And she had given him the raspberry, I remembered, and gone off with Comrade Butt.

“I went through torments. Recently, however, I’ve⁠—er⁠—bucked up a bit. Tell me, Bertie, what are you doing down here? I didn’t know you knew these people.”

“Me? Why, I’ve known them since I was a kid.”

Young Bingo put his feet down with a thud.

“Do you mean to say you’ve known Lady Cynthia all that time?”

“Rather! She can’t have been seven when I met her first.”

“Good Lord!” said young Bingo. He looked at me for the first time as though I amounted to something, and swallowed a mouthful of smoke the wrong way. “I love that girl, Bertie,” he went on, when he’d finished coughing.

“Yes. Nice girl, of course.”

He eyed me with pretty deep loathing.

“Don’t speak of her in that horrible casual way. She’s an angel. An angel! Was she talking about me at all at dinner, Bertie?”

“Oh, yes.”

“What did she say?”

“I remember one thing. She said she thought you good-looking.”

Young Bingo closed his eyes in a sort of ecstasy. Then he picked up the notebook.

“Pop off now, old man, there’s a good chap,” he said, in a hushed, faraway voice. “I’ve got a bit of writing to do.”

“Writing?”

“Poetry, if you must know. I wish the dickens,” said young Bingo, not without some bitterness, “she had been christened something except Cynthia. There isn’t a dam’ word in the language it rhymes with. Ye gods, how I could have spread myself if she had only been called Jane!”


Bright and early next morning, as I lay in bed blinking at the sunlight on the dressing-table and wondering when Jeeves was going to show up with a cup of tea, a heavy weight descended on my toes, and the voice of young Bingo polluted the air. The blighter had apparently risen with the lark.

“Leave me,” I said, “I would be alone. I can’t see anybody till I’ve had my tea.”

“When Cynthia smiles,” said young Bingo, “the skies are blue; the world takes on a roseate hue: birds in the garden trill and sing, and Joy is king of everything, when Cynthia smiles.” He coughed, changing gears. “When Cynthia frowns⁠—”

“What the devil are you talking about?”

“I’m reading you my poem. The one I wrote to Cynthia last night. I’ll go on, shall I?”

“No!”

“No?”

“No. I haven’t had my tea.”

At this moment Jeeves came in with the good old beverage, and I sprang on it with a glad cry. After a couple of sips things looked a bit brighter. Even young Bingo didn’t offend the eye to quite such an extent. By the time I’d finished the first cup I was a new man, so much so that I not only permitted but encouraged the poor fish to read the rest of the bally thing, and even went so far as to criticise the scansion of the fourth line of the fifth verse. We were still arguing the point when the door burst open and in blew Claude and Eustace. One of the things which discourage me about rural life is the frightful earliness with which events begin to break loose. I’ve stayed at places in the country where they’ve jerked me out of the dreamless at about six-thirty to go for a jolly swim in the lake. At Twing, thank heaven, they know me, and let me breakfast in bed.

The twins seemed pleased to see me.

“Good old Bertie!” said Claude.

“Stout fellow!” said Eustace. “The Rev. told us you had arrived. I thought that letter of mine would fetch you.”

“You can always bank on Bertie,” said Claude. “A sportsman to the fingertips. Well, has Bingo told you about it?”

“Not a word. He’s been⁠—”

“We’ve been talking,” said Bingo hastily, “of other matters.”

Claude pinched the last slice of thin bread-and-butter, and Eustace poured himself out a cup of tea.

“It’s like this, Bertie,” said Eustace, settling down cosily. “As I told you in my letter, there are nine of us marooned in this desert spot, reading with old Heppenstall. Well, of course, nothing is jollier than sweating up the Classics when it’s a hundred in the shade, but there does come a time when you begin to feel the need of a little relaxation; and, by Jove, there are absolutely no facilities for relaxation in this place whatever. And then Steggles got this idea. Steggles is one of our reading-party, and, between ourselves, rather a worm as a general thing. Still, you have to give him credit for getting this idea.”

“What idea?”

“Well, you know how many parsons there are round about here. There are about a dozen hamlets within a radius of six miles, and each hamlet has a church and each church has a parson and each parson preaches a sermon every Sunday. Tomorrow week⁠—Sunday the twenty-third⁠—we’re running off the great Sermon Handicap. Steggles is making the book. Each parson is to be clocked by a reliable steward of the course, and the one that preaches the longest sermon wins. Did you study the race-card I sent you?”

“I couldn’t understand what it was all about.”

“Why, you chump, it gives the handicaps and the current odds on each starter. I’ve got another one here, in case you’ve lost yours. Take a careful look at it. It gives you the thing in a nutshell. Jeeves, old son, do you want a sporting flutter?”

“Sir?” said Jeeves, who had just meandered in with my breakfast.

Claude explained the scheme. Amazing the way Jeeves grasped it right off. But he merely smiled in a paternal sort of way.

“Thank you, sir, I think not.”

“Well, you’re with us, Bertie, aren’t you?” said Claude, sneaking a roll and a slice of bacon. “Have you studied that card? Well, tell me, does anything strike you about it?”

Of course it did. It had struck me the moment I looked at it.

“Why, it’s a sitter for old Heppenstall,” I said. “He’s got the event sewed up in a parcel. There isn’t a parson in the land who could give him eight minutes. Your pal Steggles must be an ass, giving him a handicap like that. Why, in the days when I was with him, old Heppenstall never used to preach under half an hour, and there was one sermon of his on Brotherly Love which lasted forty-five minutes if it lasted a second. Has he lost his vim lately, or what is it?”

“Not a bit of it,” said Eustace. “Tell him what happened, Claude.”

“Why,” said Claude, “the first Sunday we were here, we all went to Twing church, and old Heppenstall preached a sermon that was well under twenty minutes. This is what happened. Steggles didn’t notice it, and the Rev. didn’t notice it himself, but Eustace and I both spotted that he had dropped a chunk of at least half a dozen pages out of his sermon-case as he was walking up to the pulpit. He sort of flickered when he got to the gap in the manuscript, but carried on all right, and Steggles went away with the impression that twenty minutes or a bit under was his usual form. The next Sunday we heard Tucker and Starkie, and they both went well over the thirty-five minutes, so Steggles arranged the handicapping as you see on the card. You must come into this, Bertie. You see, the trouble is that I haven’t a bean, and Eustace hasn’t a bean, and Bingo Little hasn’t a bean, so you’ll have to finance the syndicate. Don’t weaken! It’s just putting money in all our pockets. Well, we’ll have to be getting back now. Think the thing over, and phone me later in the day. And, if you let us down, Bertie, may a cousin’s curse⁠—Come on, Claude, old thing.”

The more I studied the scheme, the better it looked.

“How about it, Jeeves?” I said.

Jeeves smiled gently, and drifted out.

“Jeeves has no sporting blood,” said Bingo.

“Well, I have. I’m coming into this. Claude’s quite right. It’s like finding money by the wayside.”

“Good man!” said Bingo. “Now I can see daylight. Say I have a tenner on Heppenstall, and cop; that’ll give me a bit in hand to back Pink Pill with in the two o’clock at Gatwick the week after next: cop on that, put the pile on Muskrat for the one-thirty at Lewes, and there I am with a nice little sum to take to Alexandra Park on September the tenth, when I’ve got a tip straight from the stable.”

It sounded like a bit out of Smiles’s Self-Help.

“And then,” said young Bingo, “I’ll be in a position to go to my uncle and beard him in his lair somewhat. He’s quite a bit of a snob, you know, and when he hears that I’m going to marry the daughter of an earl⁠—”

“I say, old man,” I couldn’t help saying, “aren’t you looking ahead rather far?”

“Oh, that’s all right. It’s true nothing’s actually settled yet, but she practically told me the other day she was fond of me.”

“What!”

“Well, she said that the sort of man she liked was the self-reliant, manly man with strength, good looks, character, ambition, and initiative.”

“Leave me, laddie,” I said. “Leave me to my fried egg.”


Directly I’d got up I went to the phone, snatched Eustace away from his morning’s work, and instructed him to put a tenner on the Twing flier at current odds for each of the syndicate; and after lunch Eustace rang me up to say that he had done business at a snappy seven-to-one, the odds having lengthened owing to a rumour in knowledgeable circles that the Rev. was subject to hay-fever, and was taking big chances strolling in the paddock behind the Vicarage in the early mornings. And it was dashed lucky, I thought next day, that we had managed to get the money on in time, for on the Sunday morning old Heppenstall fairly took the bit between his teeth, and gave us thirty-six solid minutes on Certain Popular Superstitions. I was sitting next to Steggles in the pew, and I saw him blench visibly. He was a little, rat-faced fellow, with shifty eyes and a suspicious nature. The first thing he did when we emerged into the open air was to announce, formally, that anyone who fancied the Rev. could now be accommodated at fifteen-to-eight on, and he added, in a rather nasty manner, that if he had his way, this sort of in-and-out running would be brought to the attention of the Jockey Club, but that he supposed that there was nothing to be done about it. This ruinous price checked the punters at once, and there was little money in sight. And so matters stood till just after lunch on Tuesday afternoon, when, as I was strolling up and down in front of the house with a cigarette, Claude and Eustace came bursting up the drive on bicycles, dripping with momentous news.

“Bertie,” said Claude, deeply agitated, “unless we take immediate action and do a bit of quick thinking, we’re in the cart.”

“What’s the matter?”

G. Hayward’s the matter,” said Eustace morosely. “The Lower Bingley starter.”

“We never even considered him,” said Claude. “Somehow or other, he got overlooked. It’s always the way. Steggles overlooked him. We all overlooked him. But Eustace and I happened by the merest fluke to be riding through Lower Bingley this morning, and there was a wedding on at the church, and it suddenly struck us that it wouldn’t be a bad move to get a line on G. Hayward’s form, in case he might be a dark horse.”

“And it was jolly lucky we did,” said Eustace. “He delivered an address of twenty-six minutes by Claude’s stopwatch. At a village wedding, mark you! What’ll he do when he really extends himself!”

“There’s only one thing to be done, Bertie,” said Claude. “You must spring some more funds, so that we can hedge on Hayward and save ourselves.”

“But⁠—”

“Well, it’s the only way out.”

“But I say, you know, I hate the idea of all that money we put on Heppenstall being chucked away.”

“What else can you suggest? You don’t suppose the Rev. can give this absolute marvel a handicap and win, do you?”

“I’ve got it!” I said.

“What?”

“I see a way by which we can make it safe for our nominee. I’ll pop over this afternoon, and ask him as a personal favour to preach that sermon of his on Brotherly Love on Sunday.”

Claude and Eustace looked at each other, like those chappies in the poem, with a wild surmise.

“It’s a scheme,” said Claude.

“A jolly brainy scheme,” said Eustace. “I didn’t think you had it in you, Bertie.”

“But even so,” said Claude, “fizzer as that sermon no doubt is, will it be good enough in the face of a four-minute handicap?”

“Rather!” I said. “When I told you it lasted forty-five minutes, I was probably understating it. I should call it⁠—from my recollection of the thing⁠—nearer fifty.”

“Then carry on,” said Claude.

I toddled over in the evening and fixed the thing up. Old Heppenstall was most decent about the whole affair. He seemed pleased and touched that I should have remembered the sermon all these years, and said he had once or twice had an idea of preaching it again, only it had seemed to him, on reflection, that it was perhaps a trifle long for a rustic congregation.

“And in these restless times, my dear Wooster,” he said, “I fear that brevity in the pulpit is becoming more and more desiderated by even the bucolic churchgoer, who one might have supposed would be less afflicted with the spirit of hurry and impatience than his metropolitan brother. I have had many arguments on the subject with my nephew, young Bates, who is taking my old friend Spettigue’s cure over at Gandle-by-the-Hill. His view is that a sermon nowadays should be a bright, brisk, straight-from-the-shoulder address, never lasting more than ten or twelve minutes.”

“Long?” I said. “Why, my goodness! you don’t call that Brotherly Love sermon of yours long, do you?”

“It takes fully fifty minutes to deliver.”

“Surely not?”

“Your incredulity, my dear Wooster, is extremely flattering⁠—far more flattering, of course, than I deserve. Nevertheless, the facts are as I have stated. You are sure that I would not be well advised to make certain excisions and eliminations? You do not think it would be a good thing to cut, to prune? I might, for example, delete the rather exhaustive excursus into the family life of the early Assyrians?”

“Don’t touch a word of it, or you’ll spoil the whole thing,” I said earnestly.

“I am delighted to hear you say so, and I shall preach the sermon without fail next Sunday morning.”


What I have always said, and what I always shall say, is, that this ante-post betting is a mistake, an error, and a mug’s game. You never can tell what’s going to happen. If fellows would only stick to the good old S.P. there would be fewer young men go wrong. I’d hardly finished my breakfast on the Saturday morning, when Jeeves came to my bedside to say that Eustace wanted me on the telephone.

“Good Lord, Jeeves, what’s the matter, do you think?”

I’m bound to say I was beginning to get a bit jumpy by this time.

Mr. Eustace did not confide in me, sir.”

“Has he got the wind up?”

“Somewhat vertically, sir, to judge by his voice.”

“Do you know what I think, Jeeves? Something’s gone wrong with the favourite.”

“Which is the favourite, sir?”

Mr. Heppenstall. He’s gone to odds on. He was intending to preach a sermon on Brotherly Love which would have brought him home by lengths. I wonder if anything’s happened to him.”

“You could ascertain, sir, by speaking to Mr. Eustace on the telephone. He is holding the wire.”

“By Jove, yes!”

I shoved on a dressing-gown, and flew downstairs like a mighty, rushing wind. The moment I heard Eustace’s voice I knew we were for it. It had a croak of agony in it.

“Bertie?”

“Here I am.”

“Deuce of a time you’ve been. Bertie, we’re sunk. The favourite’s blown up.”

“No!”

“Yes. Coughing in his stable all last night.”

“What!”

“Absolutely! Hay-fever.”

“Oh, my sainted aunt!”

“The doctor is with him now, and it’s only a question of minutes before he’s officially scratched. That means the curate will show up at the post instead, and he’s no good at all. He is being offered at a hundred-to-six, but no takers. What shall we do?”

I had to grapple with the thing for a moment in silence.

“Eustace.”

“Hallo?”

“What can you get on G. Hayward?”

“Only four-to-one now. I think there’s been a leak, and Steggles has heard something. The odds shortened late last night in a significant manner.”

“Well, four-to-one will clear us. Put another fiver all round on G. Hayward for the syndicate. That’ll bring us out on the right side of the ledger.”

“If he wins.”

“What do you mean? I thought you considered him a cert. bar Heppenstall.”

“I’m beginning to wonder,” said Eustace gloomily, “if there’s such a thing as a cert. in this world. I’m told the Rev. Joseph Tucker did an extraordinarily fine trial gallop at a mothers’ meeting over at Badgwick yesterday. However, it seems our only chance. So long.”

Not being one of the official stewards, I had my choice of churches next morning, and naturally I didn’t hesitate. The only drawback to going to Lower Bingley was that it was ten miles away, which meant an early start, but I borrowed a bicycle from one of the grooms and tooled off. I had only Eustace’s word for it that G. Hayward was such a stayer, and it might have been that he had showed too flattering form at that wedding where the twins had heard him preach; but any misgivings I may have had disappeared the moment he got into the pulpit. Eustace had been right. The man was a trier. He was a tall, rangy-looking greybeard, and he went off from the start with a nice, easy action, pausing and clearing his throat at the end of each sentence, and it wasn’t five minutes before I realised that here was the winner. His habit of stopping dead and looking round the church at intervals was worth minutes to us, and in the home stretch we gained no little advantage owing to his dropping his pince-nez and having to grope for them. At the twenty-minute mark he had merely settled down. Twenty-five minutes saw him going strong. And when he finally finished with a good burst, the clock showed thirty-five minutes fourteen seconds. With the handicap which he had been given, this seemed to me to make the event easy for him, and it was with much bonhomie and goodwill to all men that I hopped on to the old bike and started back to the Hall for lunch.

Bingo was talking on the phone when I arrived.

“Fine! Splendid! Topping!” he was saying. “Eh? Oh, we needn’t worry about him. Right-o, I’ll tell Bertie.” He hung up the receiver and caught sight of me. “Oh, hallo, Bertie; I was just talking to Eustace. It’s all right, old man. The report from Lower Bingley has just got in. G. Hayward romps home.”

“I knew he would. I’ve just come from there.”

“Oh, were you there? I went to Badgwick. Tucker ran a splendid race, but the handicap was too much for him. Starkie had a sore throat and was nowhere. Roberts, of Fale-by-the-Water, ran third. Good old G. Hayward!” said Bingo affectionately, and we strolled out on to the terrace.

“Are all the returns in, then?” I asked.

“All except Gandle-by-the-Hill. But we needn’t worry about Bates. He never had a chance. By the way, poor old Jeeves loses his tenner. Silly ass!”

“Jeeves? How do you mean?”

“He came to me this morning, just after you had left, and asked me to put a tenner on Bates for him. I told him he was a chump and begged him not to throw his money away, but he would do it.”

“I beg your pardon, sir. This note arrived for you just after you had left the house this morning.”

Jeeves had materialised from nowhere, and was standing at my elbow.

“Eh? What? Note?”

“The Reverend Mr. Heppenstall’s butler brought it over from the Vicarage, sir. It came too late to be delivered to you at the moment.”

Young Bingo was talking to Jeeves like a father on the subject of betting against the form-book. The yell I gave made him bite his tongue in the middle of a sentence.

“What the dickens is the matter?” he asked, not a little peeved.

“We’re dished! Listen to this!”

I read him the note:

The Vicarage,
Twing, Glos.

My Dear Wooster⁠—As you may have heard, circumstances over which I have no control will prevent my preaching the sermon on Brotherly Love for which you made such a flattering request. I am unwilling, however, that you shall be disappointed, so, if you will attend divine service at Gandle-by-the-Hill this morning, you will hear my sermon preached by young Bates, my nephew. I have lent him the manuscript at his urgent desire, for, between ourselves, there are wheels within wheels. My nephew is one of the candidates for the headmastership of a well-known public school, and the choice has narrowed down between him and one rival.

Late yesterday evening James received private information that the head of the Board of Governors of the school proposed to sit under him this Sunday in order to judge of the merits of his preaching, a most important item in swaying the Board’s choice. I acceded to his plea that I lend him my sermon on Brotherly Love, of which, like you, he apparently retains a vivid recollection. It would have been too late for him to compose a sermon of suitable length in place of the brief address which⁠—mistakenly, in my opinion⁠—he had designed to deliver to his rustic flock, and I wished to help the boy.

Trusting that his preaching of the sermon will supply you with as pleasant memories as you say you have of mine, I remain,

Cordially yours,

F. Heppenstall

P.S.⁠—The hay-fever has rendered my eyes unpleasantly weak for the time being, so I am dictating this letter to my butler, Brookfield, who will convey it to you.

I don’t know when I’ve experienced a more massive silence than the one that followed my reading of this cheery epistle. Young Bingo gulped once or twice, and practically every known emotion came and went on his face. Jeeves coughed one soft, low, gentle cough like a sheep with a blade of grass stuck in its throat, and then stood gazing serenely at the landscape. Finally young Bingo spoke.

“Great Scott!” he whispered hoarsely. “An S.P. job!”

“I believe that is the technical term, sir,” said Jeeves.

“So you had inside information, dash it!” said young Bingo.

“Why, yes, sir,” said Jeeves. “Brookfield happened to mention the contents of the note to me when he brought it. We are old friends.”

Bingo registered grief, anguish, rage, despair and resentment.

“Well, all I can say,” he cried, “is that it’s a bit thick! Preaching another man’s sermon! Do you call that honest? Do you call that playing the game?”

“Well, my dear old thing,” I said, “be fair. It’s quite within the rules. Clergymen do it all the time. They aren’t expected always to make up the sermons they preach.”

Jeeves coughed again, and fixed me with an expressionless eye.

“And in the present case, sir, if I may be permitted to take the liberty of making the observation, I think we should make allowances. We should remember that the securing of this headmastership meant everything to the young couple.”

“Young couple! What young couple?”

“The Reverend James Bates, sir, and Lady Cynthia. I am informed by her ladyship’s maid that they have been engaged to be married for some weeks⁠—provisionally, so to speak; and his lordship made his consent conditional on Mr. Bates securing a really important and remunerative position.”

Young Bingo turned a light green.

“Engaged to be married!”

“Yes, sir.”

There was a silence.

“I think I’ll go for a walk,” said Bingo.

“But, my dear old thing,” I said, “it’s just lunchtime. The gong will be going any minute now.”

“I don’t want any lunch!” said Bingo.

The Purity of the Turf

After that, life at Twing jogged along pretty peacefully for a bit. Twing is one of those places where there isn’t a frightful lot to do nor any very hectic excitement to look forward to. In fact, the only event of any importance on the horizon, as far as I could ascertain, was the annual village school treat. One simply filled in the time by loafing about the grounds, playing a bit of tennis, and avoiding young Bingo as far as was humanly possible.

This last was a very necessary move if you wanted a happy life, for the Cynthia affair had jarred the unfortunate mutt to such an extent that he was always waylaying one and decanting his anguished soul. And when, one morning, he blew into my bedroom while I was toying with a bit of breakfast, I decided to take a firm line from the start. I could stand having him moaning all over me after dinner, and even after lunch; but at breakfast, no. We Woosters are amiability itself, but there is a limit.

“Now look here, old friend,” I said. “I know your bally heart is broken and all that, and at some future time I shall be delighted to hear all about it, but⁠—”

“I didn’t come to talk about that.”

“No? Good egg!”

“The past,” said young Bingo, “is dead. Let us say no more about it.”

“Right-o!”

“I have been wounded to the very depths of my soul, but don’t speak about it.”

“I won’t.”

“Ignore it. Forget it.”

“Absolutely!”

I hadn’t seen him so dashed reasonable for days.

“What I came to see you about this morning, Bertie,” he said, fishing a sheet of paper out of his pocket, “was to ask if you would care to come in on another little flutter.”

If there is one thing we Woosters are simply dripping with, it is sporting blood. I bolted the rest of my sausage, and sat up and took notice.

“Proceed,” I said. “You interest me strangely, old bird.”

Bingo laid the paper on the bed.

“On Monday week,” he said, “you may or may not know, the annual village school treat takes place. Lord Wickhammersley lends the Hall grounds for the purpose. There will be games, and a conjurer, and cokernut shies, and tea in a tent. And also sports.”

“I know. Cynthia was telling me.”

Young Bingo winced.

“Would you mind not mentioning that name? I am not made of marble.”

“Sorry!”

“Well, as I was saying, this jamboree is slated for Monday week. The question is, Are we on?”

“How do you mean, ‘Are we on’?”

“I am referring to the sports. Steggles did so well out of the Sermon Handicap that he has decided to make a book on these sports. Punters can be accommodated at ante-post odds or starting price, according to their preference. I think we ought to look into it,” said young Bingo.

I pressed the bell.

“I’ll consult Jeeves. I don’t touch any sporting proposition without his advice. Jeeves,” I said, as he drifted in, “rally round.”

“Sir?”

“Stand by. We want your advice.”

“Very good, sir.”

“State your case, Bingo.”

Bingo stated his case.

“What about it, Jeeves?” I said. “Do we go in?”

Jeeves pondered to some extent.

“I am inclined to favour the idea, sir.”

That was good enough for me. “Right,” I said. “Then we will form a syndicate and bust the Ring. I supply the money, you supply the brains, and Bingo⁠—what do you supply, Bingo?”

“If you will carry me, and let me settle up later,” said young Bingo, “I think I can put you in the way of winning a parcel on the Mothers’ Sack Race.”

“All right. We will put you down as Inside Information. Now, what are the events?”


Bingo reached for his paper and consulted it.

“Girls’ Under Fourteen Fifty-Yard Dash seems to open the proceedings.”

“Anything to say about that, Jeeves?”

“No, sir. I have no information.”

“What’s the next?”

“Boys’ and Girls’ Mixed Animal Potato Race, All Ages.”

This was a new one to me. I had never heard of it at any of the big meetings.

“What’s that?”

“Rather sporting,” said young Bingo. “The competitors enter in couples, each couple being assigned an animal cry and a potato. For instance, let’s suppose that you and Jeeves entered. Jeeves would stand at a fixed point holding a potato. You would have your head in a sack, and you would grope about trying to find Jeeves and making a noise like a cat; Jeeves also making a noise like a cat. Other competitors would be making noises like cows and pigs and dogs, and so on, and groping about for their potato-holders, who would also be making noises like cows and pigs and dogs and so on⁠—”

I stopped the poor fish.

“Jolly if you’re fond of animals,” I said, “but on the whole⁠—”

“Precisely, sir,” said Jeeves. “I wouldn’t touch it.”

“Too open, what?”

“Exactly, sir. Very hard to estimate form.”

“Carry on, Bingo. Where do we go from there?”

“Mothers’ Sack Race.”

“Ah! that’s better. This is where you know something.”

“A gift for Mrs. Penworthy, the tobacconist’s wife,” said Bingo confidently. “I was in at her shop yesterday, buying cigarettes, and she told me she had won three times at fairs in Worcestershire. She only moved to these parts a short time ago, so nobody knows about her. She promised me she would keep herself dark, and I think we could get a good price.”

“Risk a tenner each way, Jeeves, what?”

“I think so, sir.”

“Girls’ Open Egg and Spoon Race,” read Bingo.

“How about that?”

“I doubt if it would be worth while to invest, sir,” said Jeeves. “I am told it is a certainty for last year’s winner, Sarah Mills, who will doubtless start an odds-on favourite.”

“Good, is she?”

“They tell me in the village that she carries a beautiful egg, sir.”

“Then there’s the Obstacle Race,” said Bingo. “Risky, in my opinion. Like betting on the Grand National. Fathers’ Hat-Trimming Contest⁠—another speculative event. That’s all, except for the Choir Boys’ Hundred Yards Handicap, for a pewter mug presented by the vicar⁠—open to all whose voices have not broken before the second Sunday in Epiphany. Willie Chambers won last year, in a canter, receiving fifteen yards. This time he will probably be handicapped out of the race. I don’t know what to advise.”

“If I might make a suggestion, sir.”

I eyed Jeeves with interest. I don’t know that I’d ever seen him look so nearly excited.

“You’ve got something up your sleeve?”

“I have, sir.”

“Red-hot?”

“That precisely describes it, sir. I think I may confidently assert that we have the winner of the Choir Boys’ Handicap under this very roof, sir. Harold, the pageboy.”

“Pageboy? Do you mean the tubby little chap in buttons one sees bobbing about here and there? Why, dash it, Jeeves, nobody has a greater respect for your knowledge of form than I have, but I’m hanged if I can see Harold catching the judge’s eye. He’s practically circular, and every time I’ve seen him he’s been leaning up against something, half asleep.”

“He receives thirty yards, sir, and could win from scratch. The boy is a flier.”

“How do you know?”

Jeeves coughed, and there was a dreamy look in his eye.

“I was as much astonished as yourself, sir, when I first became aware of the lad’s capabilities. I happened to pursue him one morning with the intention of fetching him a clip on the side of the head⁠—”

“Great Scott, Jeeves! You!”

“Yes, sir. The boy is of an outspoken disposition, and had made an opprobrious remark respecting my personal appearance.”

“What did he say about your appearance?”

“I have forgotten, sir,” said Jeeves, with a touch of austerity. “But it was opprobrious. I endeavoured to correct him, but he outdistanced me by yards and made good his escape.”

“But, I say, Jeeves, this is sensational. And yet⁠—if he’s such a sprinter, why hasn’t anybody in the village found it out? Surely he plays with the other boys?”

“No, sir. As his lordship’s pageboy, Harold does not mix with the village lads.”

“Bit of a snob, what?”

“He is somewhat acutely alive to the existence of class distinctions, sir.”

“You’re absolutely certain he’s such a wonder?” said Bingo. “I mean, it wouldn’t do to plunge unless you’re sure.”

“If you desire to ascertain the boy’s form by personal inspection, sir, it will be a simple matter to arrange a secret trial.”

“I’m bound to say I should feel easier in my mind,” I said.

“Then if I may take a shilling from the money on your dressing-table⁠—”

“What for?”

“I propose to bribe the lad to speak slightingly of the second footman’s squint, sir. Charles is somewhat sensitive on the point, and should undoubtedly make the lad extend himself. If you will be at the first-floor passage-window, overlooking the backdoor, in half an hour’s time⁠—”

I don’t know when I’ve dressed in such a hurry. As a rule, I’m what you might call a slow and careful dresser: I like to linger over the tie and see that the trousers are just so; but this morning I was all worked up. I just shoved on my things anyhow, and joined Bingo at the window with a quarter of an hour to spare.

The passage-window looked down on to a broad sort of paved courtyard, which ended after about twenty yards in an archway through a high wall. Beyond this archway you got on to a strip of the drive, which curved round for another thirty yards or so, till it was lost behind a thick shrubbery. I put myself in the stripling’s place and thought what steps I would take with a second footman after me. There was only one thing to do⁠—leg it for the shrubbery and take cover; which meant that at least fifty yards would have to be covered⁠—an excellent test. If good old Harold could fight off the second footman’s challenge long enough to allow him to reach the bushes, there wasn’t a choirboy in England who could give him thirty yards in the hundred. I waited, all of a twitter, for what seemed hours, and then suddenly there was a confused noise without, and something round and blue and buttony shot through the backdoor and buzzed for the archway like a mustang. And about two seconds later out came the second footman, going his hardest.

There was nothing to it. Absolutely nothing. The field never had a chance. Long before the footman reached the halfway mark, Harold was in the bushes, throwing stones. I came away from the window thrilled to the marrow; and when I met Jeeves on the stairs I was so moved that I nearly grasped his hand.

“Jeeves,” I said, “no discussion! The Wooster shirt goes on this boy!”

“Very good, sir,” said Jeeves.


The worst of these country meetings is that you can’t plunge as heavily as you would like when you get a good thing, because it alarms the Ring. Steggles, though pimpled, was, as I have indicated, no chump, and if I had invested all I wanted to he would have put two and two together. I managed to get a good solid bet down for the syndicate, however, though it did make him look thoughtful. I heard in the next few days that he had been making searching inquiries in the village concerning Harold; but nobody could tell him anything, and eventually he came to the conclusion, I suppose, that I must be having a long shot on the strength of that thirty-yards start. Public opinion wavered between Jimmy Goode, receiving ten yards, at seven-to-two, and Alexander Bartlett, with six yards start, at eleven-to-four. Willie Chambers, scratch, was offered to the public at two-to-one, but found no takers.

We were taking no chances on the big event, and directly we had got our money on at a nice hundred-to-twelve Harold was put into strict training. It was a wearing business, and I can understand now why most of the big trainers are grim, silent men, who look as though they had suffered. The kid wanted constant watching. It was no good talking to him about honour and glory and how proud his mother would be when he wrote and told her he had won a real cup⁠—the moment blighted Harold discovered that training meant knocking off pastry, taking exercise, and keeping away from the cigarettes, he was all against it, and it was only by unceasing vigilance that we managed to keep him in any shape at all. It was the diet that was the stumbling-block. As far as exercise went, we could generally arrange for a sharp dash every morning with the assistance of the second footman. It ran into money, of course, but that couldn’t be helped. Still, when a kid has simply to wait till the butler’s back is turned to have the run of the pantry, and has only to nip into the smoking room to collect a handful of the best Turkish, training becomes a rocky job. We could only hope that on the day his natural stamina would pull him through.

And then one evening young Bingo came back from the links with a disturbing story. He had been in the habit of giving Harold mild exercise in the afternoons by taking him out as a caddie.

At first he seemed to think it humorous, the poor chump! He bubbled over with merry mirth as he began his tale.

“I say, rather funny this afternoon,” he said. “You ought to have seen Steggles’s face!”

“Seen Steggles’s face? What for?”

“When he saw young Harold sprint, I mean.”

I was filled with a grim foreboding of an awful doom.

“Good heavens! You didn’t let Harold sprint in front of Steggles?”

Young Bingo’s jaw dropped.

“I never thought of that,” he said, gloomily. “It wasn’t my fault. I was playing a round with Steggles, and after we’d finished we went into the clubhouse for a drink, leaving Harold with the clubs outside. In about five minutes we came out, and there was the kid on the gravel practising swings with Steggles’s driver and a stone. When he saw us coming, the kid dropped the club and was over the horizon like a streak. Steggles was absolutely dumbfounded. And I must say it was a revelation even to me. The kid certainly gave of his best. Of course, it’s a nuisance in a way; but I don’t see, on second thoughts,” said Bingo, brightening up, “what it matters. We’re on at a good price. We’ve nothing to lose by the kid’s form becoming known. I take it he will start odds-on, but that doesn’t affect us.”

I looked at Jeeves. Jeeves looked at me.

“It affects us all right if he doesn’t start at all.”

“Precisely, sir.”

“What do you mean?” asked Bingo.

“If you ask me,” I said, “I think Steggles will try to nobble him before the race.”

“Good Lord! I never thought of that.” Bingo blenched. “You don’t think he would really do it?”

“I think he would have a jolly good try. Steggles is a bad man. From now on, Jeeves, we must watch Harold like hawks.”

“Undoubtedly, sir.”

“Ceaseless vigilance, what?”

“Precisely, sir.”

“You wouldn’t care to sleep in his room, Jeeves?”

“No, sir, I should not.”

“No, nor would I, if it comes to that. But dash it all,” I said, “we’re letting ourselves get rattled! We’re losing our nerve. This won’t do. How can Steggles possibly get at Harold, even if he wants to?”

There was no cheering young Bingo up. He’s one of those birds who simply leap at the morbid view, if you give them half a chance.

“There are all sorts of ways of nobbling favourites,” he said, in a sort of deathbed voice. “You ought to read some of these racing novels. In Pipped on the Post, Lord Jasper Mauleverer as near as a toucher outed Bonny Betsy by bribing the head lad to slip a cobra into her stable the night before the Derby!”

“What are the chances of a cobra biting Harold, Jeeves?”

“Slight, I should imagine, sir. And in such an event, knowing the boy as intimately as I do, my anxiety would be entirely for the snake.”

“Still, unceasing vigilance, Jeeves.”

“Most certainly, sir.”


I must say I got a bit fed with young Bingo in the next few days. It’s all very well for a fellow with a big winner in his stable to exercise proper care, but in my opinion Bingo overdid it. The blighter’s mind appeared to be absolutely saturated with racing fiction; and in stories of that kind, as far as I could make out, no horse is ever allowed to start in a race without at least a dozen attempts to put it out of action. He stuck to Harold like a plaster. Never let the unfortunate kid out of his sight. Of course, it meant a lot to the poor old egg if he could collect on this race, because it would give him enough money to chuck his tutoring job and get back to London; but all the same, he needn’t have woken me up at three in the morning twice running⁠—once to tell me we ought to cook Harold’s food ourselves to prevent doping: the other time to say that he had heard mysterious noises in the shrubbery. But he reached the limit, in my opinion, when he insisted on my going to evening service on Sunday, the day before the sports.

“Why on earth?” I said, never being much of a lad for evensong.

“Well, I can’t go myself. I shan’t be here. I’ve got to go to London today with young Egbert.” Egbert was Lord Wickhammersley’s son, the one Bingo was tutoring. “He’s going for a visit down in Kent, and I’ve got to see him off at Charing Cross. It’s an infernal nuisance. I shan’t be back till Monday afternoon. In fact, I shall miss most of the sports, I expect. Everything, therefore, depends on you, Bertie.”

“But why should either of us go to evening service?”

“Ass! Harold sings in the choir, doesn’t he?”

“What about it? I can’t stop him dislocating his neck over a high note, if that’s what you’re afraid of.”

“Fool! Steggles sings in the choir, too. There may be dirty work after the service.”

“What absolute rot!”

“Is it?” said young Bingo. “Well, let me tell you that in Jenny, the Girl Jockey, the villain kidnapped the boy who was to ride the favourite the night before the big race, and he was the only one who understood and could control the horse, and if the heroine hadn’t dressed up in riding things and⁠—”

“Oh, all right, all right. But, if there’s any danger, it seems to me the simplest thing would be for Harold not to turn out on Sunday evening.”

“He must turn out. You seem to think the infernal kid is a monument of rectitude, beloved by all. He’s got the shakiest reputation of any kid in the village. His name is as near being mud as it can jolly well stick. He’s played hookey from the choir so often that the vicar told him, if one more thing happened, he would fire him out. Nice chumps we should look if he was scratched the night before the race!”

Well, of course, that being so, there was nothing for it but to toddle along.


There’s something about evening service in a country church that makes a fellow feel drowsy and peaceful. Sort of end-of-a-perfect-day feeling. Old Heppenstall was up in the pulpit, and he has a kind of regular, bleating delivery that assists thought. They had left the door open, and the air was full of a mixed scent of trees and honeysuckle and mildew and villagers’ Sunday clothes. As far as the eye could reach, you could see farmers propped up in restful attitudes, breathing heavily; and the children in the congregation who had fidgeted during the earlier part of the proceedings were now lying back in a surfeited sort of coma. The last rays of the setting sun shone through the stained-glass windows, birds were twittering in the trees, the women’s dresses crackled gently in the stillness. Peaceful. That’s what I’m driving at. I felt peaceful. Everybody felt peaceful. And that is why the explosion, when it came, sounded like the end of all things.

I call it an explosion, because that was what it seemed like when it broke loose. One moment a dreamy hush was all over the place, broken only by old Heppenstall talking about our duty to our neighbours; and then, suddenly, a sort of piercing, shrieking squeal that got you right between the eyes and ran all the way down your spine and out at the soles of the feet.

Ee-ee-ee-ee-ee! Oo-ee! Ee-ee-ee-ee!”

It sounded like about six hundred pigs having their tails twisted simultaneously, but it was simply the kid Harold, who appeared to be having some species of fit. He was jumping up and down and slapping at the back of his neck. And about every other second he would take a deep breath and give out another of the squeals.

Well, I mean, you can’t do that sort of thing in the middle of the sermon during evening service without exciting remark. The congregation came out of its trance with a jerk, and climbed on the pews to get a better view. Old Heppenstall stopped in the middle of a sentence and spun round. And a couple of vergers with great presence of mind bounded up the aisle like leopards, collected Harold, still squealing, and marched him out. They disappeared into the vestry, and I grabbed my hat and legged it round to the stage-door, full of apprehension and whatnot. I couldn’t think what the deuce could have happened, but somewhere dimly behind the proceedings there seemed to me to lurk the hand of the blighter Steggles.


By the time I got there and managed to get someone to open the door, which was locked, the service seemed to be over. Old Heppenstall was standing in the middle of a crowd of choirboys and vergers and sextons and whatnot, putting the wretched Harold through it with no little vim. I had come in at the tail-end of what must have been a fairly fruity oration.

“Wretched boy! How dare you⁠—”

“I got a sensitive skin!”

“This is no time to talk about your skin⁠—”

“Somebody put a beetle down my back!”

“Absurd!”

“I felt it wriggling⁠—”

“Nonsense!”

“Sounds pretty thin, doesn’t it?” said someone at my side.

It was Steggles, dash him. Clad in a snowy surplice or cassock, or whatever they call it, and wearing an expression of grave concern, the blighter had the cold, cynical crust to look me in the eyeball without a blink.

“Did you put a beetle down his neck?” I cried.

“Me!” said Steggles. “Me!”

Old Heppenstall was putting on the black cap.

“I do not credit a word of your story, wretched boy! I have warned you before, and now the time has come to act. You cease from this moment to be a member of my choir. Go, miserable child!”

Steggles plucked at my sleeve.

“In that case,” he said, “those bets, you know⁠—I’m afraid you lose your money, dear old boy. It’s a pity you didn’t put it on S.P. I always think S.P.’s the only safe way.”

I gave him one look. Not a bit of good, of course.

“And they talk about the Purity of the Turf!” I said. And I meant it to sting, by Jove!


Jeeves received the news bravely, but I think the man was a bit rattled beneath the surface.

“An ingenious young gentleman, Mr. Steggles, sir.”

“A bally swindler, you mean.”

“Perhaps that would be a more exact description. However, these things will happen on the Turf, and it is useless to complain.”

“I wish I had your sunny disposition, Jeeves!”

Jeeves bowed.

“We now rely, then, it would seem, sir, almost entirely on Mrs. Penworthy. Should she justify Mr. Little’s encomiums and show real class in the Mothers’ Sack Race, our gains will just balance our losses.”

“Yes; but that’s not much consolation when you’ve been looking forward to a big win.”

“It is just possible that we may still find ourselves on the right side of the ledger after all, sir. Before Mr. Little left, I persuaded him to invest a small sum for the syndicate of which you were kind enough to make me a member, sir, on the Girls’ Egg and Spoon Race.”

“On Sarah Mills?”

“No, sir. On a long-priced outsider. Little Prudence Baxter, sir, the child of his lordship’s head gardener. Her father assures me she has a very steady hand. She is accustomed to bring him his mug of beer from the cottage each afternoon, and he informs me she has never spilled a drop.”

Well, that sounded as though young Prudence’s control was good. But how about speed? With seasoned performers like Sarah Mills entered, the thing practically amounted to a classic race, and in these big events you must have speed.

“I am aware that it is what is termed a long shot, sir. Still, I thought it judicious.”

“You backed her for a place, too, of course?”

“Yes, sir. Each way.”

“Well, I suppose it’s all right. I’ve never known you make a bloomer yet.”

“Thank you very much, sir.”


I’m bound to say that, as a general rule, my idea of a large afternoon would be to keep as far away from a village school-treat as possible. A sticky business. But with such grave issues toward, if you know what I mean, I sank my prejudices on this occasion and rolled up. I found the proceedings about as scaly as I had expected. It was a warm day, and the hall grounds were a dense, practically liquid mass of peasantry. Kids seethed to and fro. One of them, a small girl of sorts, grabbed my hand and hung on to it as I clove my way through the jam to where the Mothers’ Sack Race was to finish. We hadn’t been introduced, but she seemed to think I would do as well as anyone else to talk to about the rag-doll she had won in the Lucky Dip, and she rather spread herself on the topic.

“I’m going to call it Gertrude,” she said. “And I shall undress it every night and put it to bed, and wake it up in the morning and dress it, and put it to bed at night, and wake it up next morning and dress it⁠—”

“I say, old thing,” I said, “I don’t want to hurry you and all that, but you couldn’t condense it a bit, could you? I’m rather anxious to see the finish of this race. The Wooster fortunes are by way of hanging on it.”

“I’m going to run in a race soon,” she said, shelving the doll for the nonce and descending to ordinary chitchat.

“Yes?” I said. Distrait, if you know what I mean, and trying to peer through the chinks in the crowd. “What race is that?”

“Egg ’n Spoon.”

“No, really? Are you Sarah Mills?”

“Na-ow!” Registering scorn. “I’m Prudence Baxter.”

Naturally this put our relations on a different footing. I gazed at her with considerable interest. One of the stable. I must say she didn’t look much of a flier. She was short and round. Bit out of condition, I thought.

“I say,” I said, “that being so, you mustn’t dash about in the hot sun and take the edge off yourself. You must conserve your energies, old friend. Sit down here in the shade.”

“Don’t want to sit down.”

“Well, take it easy, anyhow.”

The kid flitted to another topic like a butterfly hovering from flower to flower.

“I’m a good girl,” she said.

“I bet you are. I hope you’re a good egg-and-spoon racer, too.”

“Harold’s a bad boy. Harold squealed in church and isn’t allowed to come to the treat. I’m glad,” continued this ornament of her sex, wrinkling her nose virtuously, “because he’s a bad boy. He pulled my hair Friday. Harold isn’t coming to the treat! Harold isn’t coming to the treat! Harold isn’t coming to the treat!” she chanted, making a regular song of it.

“Don’t rub it in, my dear old gardener’s daughter,” I pleaded. “You don’t know it, but you’ve hit on rather a painful subject.”

“Ah, Wooster, my dear fellow! So you have made friends with this little lady?”

It was old Heppenstall, beaming pretty profusely. Life and soul of the party.

“I am delighted, my dear Wooster,” he went on, “quite delighted at the way you young men are throwing yourselves into the spirit of this little festivity of ours.”

“Oh, yes?” I said.

“Oh, yes! Even Rupert Steggles. I must confess that my opinion of Rupert Steggles has materially altered for the better this afternoon.”

Mine hadn’t. But I didn’t say so.

“I have always considered Rupert Steggles, between ourselves, a rather self-centred youth, by no means the kind who would put himself out to further the enjoyment of his fellows. And yet twice within the last half-hour I have observed him escorting Mrs. Penworthy, our worthy tobacconist’s wife, to the refreshment-tent.”

I left him standing. I shook off the clutching hand of the Baxter kid and hared it rapidly to the spot where the Mothers’ Sack Race was just finishing. I had a horrid presentiment that there had been more dirty work at the crossroads. The first person I ran into was young Bingo. I grabbed him by the arm.

“Who won?”

“I don’t know. I didn’t notice.” There was bitterness in the chappie’s voice. “It wasn’t Mrs. Penworthy, dash her! Bertie, that hound Steggles is nothing more nor less than one of our leading snakes. I don’t know how he heard about her, but he must have got on to it that she was dangerous. Do you know what he did? He lured that miserable woman into the refreshment-tent five minutes before the race, and brought her out so weighed down with cake and tea that she blew up in the first twenty yards. Just rolled over and lay there! Well, thank goodness, we still have Harold!”

I gaped at the poor chump.

“Harold? Haven’t you heard?”

“Heard?” Bingo turned a delicate green. “Heard what? I haven’t heard anything. I only arrived five minutes ago. Came here straight from the station. What has happened? Tell me!”

I slipped him the information. He stared at me for a moment in a ghastly sort of way, then with a hollow groan tottered away and was lost in the crowd. A nasty knock, poor chap. I didn’t blame him for being upset.

They were clearing the decks now for the Egg and Spoon Race, and I thought I might as well stay where I was and watch the finish. Not that I had much hope. Young Prudence was a good conversationalist, but she didn’t seem to me to be the build for a winner.

As far as I could see through the mob, they got off to a good start. A short, red-haired child was making the running with a freckled blonde second, and Sarah Mills lying up an easy third. Our nominee was straggling along with the field, well behind the leaders. It was not hard even as early as this to spot the winner. There was a grace, a practised precision, in the way Sarah Mills held her spoon that told its own story. She was cutting out a good pace, but her egg didn’t even wobble. A natural egg-and-spooner, if ever there was one.

Class will tell. Thirty yards from the tape, the red-haired kid tripped over her feet and shot her egg on to the turf. The freckled blonde fought gamely, but she had run herself out halfway down the straight, and Sarah Mills came past and home on a tight rein by several lengths, a popular winner. The blonde was second. A sniffing female in blue gingham beat a pie-faced kid in pink for the place-money, and Prudence Baxter, Jeeves’s long shot, was either fifth or sixth, I couldn’t see which.

And then I was carried along with the crowd to where old Heppenstall was going to present the prizes. I found myself standing next to the man Steggles.

“Hallo, old chap!” he said, very bright and cheery. “You’ve had a bad day, I’m afraid.”

I looked at him with silent scorn. Lost on the blighter, of course.

“It’s not been a good meeting for any of the big punters,” he went on. “Poor old Bingo Little went down badly over that Egg and Spoon Race.”

I hadn’t been meaning to chat with the fellow, but I was startled.

“How do you mean badly?” I said. “We⁠—he only had a small bet on.”

“I don’t know what you call small. He had thirty quid each way on the Baxter kid.”

The landscape reeled before me.

“What!”

“Thirty quid at ten to one. I thought he must have heard something, but apparently not. The race went by the form-book all right.”

I was trying to do sums in my head. I was just in the middle of working out the syndicate’s losses, when old Heppenstall’s voice came sort of faintly to me out of the distance. He had been pretty fatherly and debonair when ladling out the prizes for the other events, but now he had suddenly grown all pained and grieved. He peered sorrowfully at the multitude.


“With regard to the Girls’ Egg and Spoon Race, which has just concluded,” he said, “I have a painful duty to perform. Circumstances have arisen which it is impossible to ignore. It is not too much to say that I am stunned.”

He gave the populace about five seconds to wonder why he was stunned, then went on.

“Three years ago, as you are aware, I was compelled to expunge from the list of events at this annual festival the Fathers’ Quarter-Mile, owing to reports coming to my ears of wagers taken and given on the result at the village inn and a strong suspicion that on at least one occasion the race had actually been sold by the speediest runner. That unfortunate occurrence shook my faith in human nature, I admit⁠—but still there was one event at least which I confidently expected to remain untainted by the miasma of professionalism. I allude to the Girls’ Egg and Spoon Race. It seems, alas, that I was too sanguine.”

He stopped again, and wrestled with his feelings.

“I will not weary you with the unpleasant details. I will merely say that before the race was run a stranger in our midst, the manservant of one of the guests at the Hall⁠—I will not specify with more particularity⁠—approached several of the competitors and presented each of them with five shillings on condition that they⁠—er⁠—finished. A belated sense of remorse has led him to confess to me what he did, but it is too late. The evil is accomplished, and retribution must take its course. It is no time for half-measures. I must be firm. I rule that Sarah Mills, Jane Parker, Bessie Clay, and Rosie Jukes, the first four to pass the winning-post, have forfeited their amateur status and are disqualified, and this handsome workbag, presented by Lord Wickhammersley, goes, in consequence, to Prudence Baxter. Prudence, step forward!”

The Metropolitan Touch

Nobody is more alive than I am to the fact that young Bingo Little is in many respects a sound old egg. In one way and another he has made life pretty interesting for me at intervals ever since we were at school. As a companion for a cheery hour I think I would choose him before anybody. On the other hand, I’m bound to say that there are things about him that could be improved. His habit of falling in love with every second girl he sees is one of them; and another is his way of letting the world in on the secrets of his heart. If you want shrinking reticence, don’t go to Bingo, because he’s got about as much of it as a soap-advertisement.

I mean to say⁠—well, here’s the telegram I got from him one evening in November, about a month after I’d got back to town from my visit to Twing Hall:

I say Bertie old man I am in love at last. She is the most wonderful girl Bertie old man. This is the real thing at last Bertie. Come here at once and bring Jeeves. Oh I say you know that tobacco shop in Bond Street on the left side as you go up. Will you get me a hundred of their special cigarettes and send them to me here. I have run out. I know when you see her you will think she is the most wonderful girl. Mind you bring Jeeves. Don’t forget the cigarettes. —Bingo.

It had been handed in at Twing Post Office. In other words, he had submitted that frightful rot to the goggling eye of a village postmistress who was probably the main spring of local gossip and would have the place ringing with the news before nightfall. He couldn’t have given himself away more completely if he had hired the town-crier. When I was a kid, I used to read stories about knights and vikings and that species of chappie who would get up without a blush in the middle of a crowded banquet and loose off a song about how perfectly priceless they thought their best girl. I’ve often felt that those days would have suited young Bingo down to the ground.

Jeeves had brought the thing in with the evening drink, and I slung it over to him.

“It’s about due, of course,” I said. “Young Bingo hasn’t been in love for at least a couple of months. I wonder who it is this time?”

“Miss Mary Burgess, sir,” said Jeeves, “the niece of the Reverend Mr. Heppenstall. She is staying at Twing Vicarage.”

“Great Scott!” I knew that Jeeves knew practically everything in the world, but this sounded like second-sight. “How do you know that?”

“When we were visiting Twing Hall in the summer, sir, I formed a somewhat close friendship with Mr. Heppenstall’s butler. He is good enough to keep me abreast of the local news from time to time. From his account, sir, the young lady appears to be a very estimable young lady. Of a somewhat serious nature, I understand. Mr. Little is very épris, sir. Brookfield, my correspondent, writes that last week he observed him in the moonlight at an advanced hour gazing up at his window.”

“Whose window! Brookfield’s?”

“Yes, sir. Presumably under the impression that it was the young lady’s.”

“But what the deuce is he doing at Twing at all?”

Mr. Little was compelled to resume his old position as tutor to Lord Wickhammersley’s son at Twing Hall, sir. Owing to having been unsuccessful in some speculations at Hurst Park at the end of October.”

“Good Lord, Jeeves! Is there anything you don’t know?”

“I could not say, sir.”

I picked up the telegram.

“I suppose he wants us to go down and help him out a bit?”

“That would appear to be his motive in dispatching the message, sir.”

“Well, what shall we do? Go?”

“I would advocate it, sir. If I may say so, I think that Mr. Little should be encouraged in this particular matter.”

“You think he’s picked a winner this time?”

“I hear nothing but excellent reports of the young lady, sir. I think it is beyond question that she would be an admirable influence for Mr. Little, should the affair come to a happy conclusion. Such a union would also, I fancy, go far to restore Mr. Little to the good graces of his uncle, the young lady being well connected and possessing private means. In short, sir, I think that if there is anything that we can do we should do it.”

“Well, with you behind him,” I said, “I don’t see how he can fail to click.”

“You are very good, sir,” said Jeeves. “The tribute is much appreciated.”

Bingo met us at Twing station next day, and insisted on my sending Jeeves on in the car with the bags while he and I walked. He started in about the female the moment we had begun to hoof it.

“She is very wonderful, Bertie. She is not one of these flippant, shallow-minded modern girls. She is sweetly grave and beautifully earnest. She reminds me of⁠—what is the name I want?”

“Marie Lloyd?”

“Saint Cecilia,” said young Bingo, eyeing me with a good deal of loathing. “She reminds me of Saint Cecilia. She makes me yearn to be a better, nobler, deeper, broader man.”

“What beats me,” I said, following up a train of thought, “is what principle you pick them on. The girls you fall in love with, I mean. I mean to say, what’s your system? As far as I can see, no two of them are alike. First it was Mabel the waitress, then Honoria Glossop, then that fearful blister Charlotte Corday Rowbotham⁠—”

I own that Bingo had the decency to shudder. Thinking of Charlotte always made me shudder, too.

“You don’t seriously mean, Bertie, that you are intending to compare the feeling I have for Mary Burgess, the holy devotion, the spiritual⁠—”

“Oh, all right, let it go,” I said. “I say, old lad, aren’t we going rather a long way round?”

Considering that we were supposed to be heading for Twing Hall, it seemed to me that we were making a longish job of it. The Hall is about two miles from the station by the main road, and we had cut off down a lane, gone across country for a bit, climbed a stile or two, and were now working our way across a field that ended in another lane.

“She sometimes takes her little brother for a walk round this way,” explained Bingo. “I thought we would meet her and bow, and you could see her, you know, and then we would walk on.”

“Of course,” I said, “that’s enough excitement for anyone, and undoubtedly a corking reward for tramping three miles out of one’s way over ploughed fields with tight boots, but don’t we do anything else? Don’t we tack on to the girl and buzz along with her?”

“Good Lord!” said Bingo, honestly amazed. “You don’t suppose I’ve got nerve enough for that, do you? I just look at her from afar off and all that sort of thing. Quick! Here she comes! No, I’m wrong!”

It was like that song of Harry Lauder’s where he’s waiting for the girl and says “This is her-r-r. No, it’s a rabbut.” Young Bingo made me stand there in the teeth of a nor’east half-gale for ten minutes, keeping me on my toes with a series of false alarms, and I was just thinking of suggesting that we should lay off and give the rest of the proceedings a miss, when round the corner there came a fox-terrier, and Bingo quivered like an aspen. Then there hove in sight a small boy, and he shook like a jelly. Finally, like a star whose entrance has been worked up by the personnel of the ensemble, a girl appeared, and his emotion was painful to witness. His face got so red that, what with his white collar and the fact that the wind had turned his nose blue, he looked more like a French flag than anything else. He sagged from the waist upwards, as if he had been filleted.

He was just raising his fingers limply to his cap when he suddenly saw that the girl wasn’t alone. A chappie in clerical costume was also among those present, and the sight of him didn’t seem to do Bingo a bit of good. His face got redder and his nose bluer, and it wasn’t till they had nearly passed that he managed to get hold of his cap.

The girl bowed, the curate said, “Ah, Little. Rough weather,” the dog barked, and then they toddled on and the entertainment was over.


The curate was a new factor in the situation to me. I reported his movements to Jeeves when I got to the hall. Of course, Jeeves knew all about it already.

“That is the Reverend Mr. Wingham, Mr. Heppenstall’s new curate, sir. I gather from Brookfield that he is Mr. Little’s rival, and at the moment the young lady appears to favour him. Mr. Wingham has the advantage of being on the premises. He and the young lady play duets after dinner, which acts as a bond. Mr. Little on these occasions, I understand, prowls about in the road, chafing visibly.”

“That seems to be all the poor fish is able to do, dash it. He can chafe all right, but there he stops. He’s lost his pep. He’s got no dash. Why, when we met her just now, he hadn’t even the common manly courage to say ‘Good evening’!”

“I gather that Mr. Little’s affection is not unmingled with awe, sir.”

“Well, how are we to help a man when he’s such a rabbit as that? Have you anything to suggest? I shall be seeing him after dinner, and he’s sure to ask first thing what you advise.”

“In my opinion, sir, the most judicious course for Mr. Little to pursue would be to concentrate on the young gentleman.”

“The small brother? How do you mean?”

“Make a friend of him, sir⁠—take him for walks and so forth.”

“It doesn’t sound one of your red-hottest ideas. I must say I expected something fruitier than that.”

“It would be a beginning, sir, and might lead to better things.”

“Well, I’ll tell him. I liked the look of her, Jeeves.”

“A thoroughly estimable young lady, sir.”

I slipped Bingo the tip from the stable that night, and was glad to observe that it seemed to cheer him up.

“Jeeves is always right,” he said. “I ought to have thought of it myself. I’ll start in tomorrow.”

It was amazing how the chappie bucked up. Long before I left for town it had become a mere commonplace for him to speak to the girl. I mean he didn’t simply look stuffed when they met. The brother was forming a bond that was a dashed sight stronger than the curate’s duets. She and Bingo used to take him for walks together. I asked Bingo what they talked about on these occasions, and he said Wilfred’s future. The girl hoped that Wilfred would one day become a curate, but Bingo said no, there was something about curates he didn’t quite like.

The day we left, Bingo came to see us off with Wilfred frisking about him like an old college chum. The last I saw of them, Bingo was standing him chocolates out of the slot-machine. A scene of peace and cheery goodwill. Dashed promising, I thought.


Which made it all the more of a jar, about a fortnight later, when his telegram arrived. As follows:⁠—

Bertie old man I say Bertie could you possibly come down here at once. Everything gone wrong hang it all. Dash it Bertie you simply must come. I am in a state of absolute despair and heartbroken. Would you mind sending another hundred of those cigarettes. Bring Jeeves when you come Bertie. You simply must come Bertie. I rely on you. Don’t forget to bring Jeeves. Bingo.

For a chap who’s perpetually hard-up, I must say that young Bingo is the most wasteful telegraphist I ever struck. He’s got no notion of condensing. The silly ass simply pours out his wounded soul at twopence a word, or whatever it is, without a thought.

“How about it, Jeeves?” I said. “I’m getting a bit fed up. I can’t go chucking all my engagements every second week in order to biff down to Twing and rally round young Bingo. Send him a wire telling him to end it all in the village pond.”

“If you could spare me for the night, sir, I should be glad to run down and investigate.”

“Oh, dash it! Well, I suppose there’s nothing else to be done. After all, you’re the fellow he wants. All right, carry on.”

Jeeves got back late the next day.

“Well?” I said.

Jeeves appeared perturbed. He allowed his left eyebrow to flicker upwards in a concerned sort of manner.

“I have done what I could, sir,” he said, “but I fear Mr. Little’s chances do not appear bright. Since our last visit, sir, there has been a decidedly sinister and disquieting development.”

“Oh, what’s that?”

“You may remember Mr. Steggles, sir⁠—the young gentleman who was studying for an examination with Mr. Heppenstall at the Vicarage?”

“What’s Steggles got to do with it?” I asked.

“I gather from Brookfield, sir, who chanced to overhear a conversation, that Mr. Steggles is interesting himself in the affair.”

“Good Lord! What, making a book on it?”

“I understand that he is accepting wagers from those in his immediate circle, sir. Against Mr. Little, whose chances he does not seem to fancy.”

“I don’t like that, Jeeves.”

“No, sir. It is sinister.”

“From what I know of Steggles there will be dirty work.”

“It has already occurred, sir.”

“Already?”

“Yes, sir. It seems that, in pursuance of the policy which he had been good enough to allow me to suggest to him, Mr. Little escorted Master Burgess to the church bazaar, and there met Mr. Steggles, who was in the company of young Master Heppenstall, the Reverend Mr. Heppenstall’s second son, who is home from Rugby just now, having recently recovered from an attack of mumps. The encounter took place in the refreshment-room, where Mr. Steggles was at that moment entertaining Master Heppenstall. To cut a long story short, sir, the two gentlemen became extremely interested in the hearty manner in which the lads were fortifying themselves; and Mr. Steggles offered to back his nominee in a weight-for-age eating contest against Master Burgess for a pound a side. Mr. Little admitted to me that he was conscious of a certain hesitation as to what the upshot might be, should Miss Burgess get to hear of the matter, but his sporting blood was too much for him and he agreed to the contest. This was duly carried out, both lads exhibiting the utmost willingness and enthusiasm, and eventually Master Burgess justified Mr. Little’s confidence by winning, but only after a bitter struggle. Next day both contestants were in considerable pain; inquiries were made and confessions extorted, and Mr. Little⁠—I learn from Brookfield, who happened to be near the door of the drawing-room at the moment⁠—had an extremely unpleasant interview with the young lady, which ended in her desiring him never to speak to her again.”

There’s no getting away from the fact that, if ever a man required watching, it’s Steggles. Machiavelli could have taken his correspondence course.

“It was a put-up job, Jeeves!” I said. “I mean, Steggles worked the whole thing on purpose. It’s his old nobbling game.”

“There would seem to be no doubt about that, sir.”

“Well, he seems to have dished poor old Bingo all right.”

“That is the prevalent opinion, sir. Brookfield tells me that down in the village at the Cow and Horses seven to one is being freely offered on Mr. Wingham and finding no takers.”

“Good Lord! Are they betting about it down in the village, too?”

“Yes, sir. And in adjoining hamlets also. The affair has caused widespread interest. I am told that there is a certain sporting reaction in even so distant a spot as Lower Bingley.”

“Well, I don’t see what there is to do. If Bingo is such a chump⁠—”

“One is fighting a losing battle, I fear, sir, but I did venture to indicate to Mr. Little a course of action which might prove of advantage. I recommended him to busy himself with good works.”

“Good works?”

“About the village, sir. Reading to the bedridden⁠—chatting with the sick⁠—that sort of thing, sir. We can but trust that good results will ensue.”

“Yes, I suppose so,” I said doubtfully. “But, by gosh, if I was a sick man I’d hate to have a looney like young Bingo coming and gibbering at my bedside.”

“There is that aspect of the matter, sir,” said Jeeves.


I didn’t hear a word from Bingo for a couple of weeks, and I took it after a while that he had found the going too hard and had chucked in the towel. And then, one night not long before Christmas, I came back to the flat pretty latish, having been out dancing at the Embassy. I was fairly tired, having swung a practically nonstop shoe from shortly after dinner till two a.m., and bed seemed to be indicated. Judge of my chagrin and all that sort of thing, therefore, when, tottering to my room and switching on the light, I observed the foul features of young Bingo all over the pillow. The blighter had appeared from nowhere and was in my bed, sleeping like an infant with a sort of happy, dreamy smile on his map.

A bit thick I mean to say! We Woosters are all for the good old medieval hosp. and all that, but when it comes to finding chappies collaring your bed, the thing becomes a trifle too mouldy. I hove a shoe, and Bingo sat up, gurgling.

“ ’s matter? ’s matter?” said young Bingo.

“What the deuce are you doing in my bed?” I said.

“Oh, hallo, Bertie! So there you are!”

“Yes, here I am. What are you doing in my bed?”

“I came up to town for the night on business.”

“Yes, but what are you doing in my bed?”

“Dash it all, Bertie,” said young Bingo querulously, “don’t keep harping on your beastly bed. There’s another made up in the spare room. I saw Jeeves make it with my own eyes. I believe he meant it for me, but I knew what a perfect host you were, so I just turned in here. I say, Bertie, old man,” said Bingo, apparently fed up with the discussion about sleeping-quarters, “I see daylight.”

“Well, it’s getting on for three in the morning.”

“I was speaking figuratively, you ass. I meant that hope has begun to dawn. About Mary Burgess, you know. Sit down and I’ll tell you all about it.”

“I won’t. I’m going to sleep.”

“To begin with,” said young Bingo, settling himself comfortably against the pillows and helping himself to a cigarette from my special private box, “I must once again pay a marked tribute to good old Jeeves. A modern Solomon. I was badly up against it when I came to him for advice, but he rolled up with a tip which has put me⁠—I use the term advisedly and in a conservative spirit⁠—on velvet. He may have told you that he recommended me to win back the lost ground by busying myself with good works? Bertie, old man,” said young Bingo earnestly, “for the last two weeks I’ve been comforting the sick to such an extent that, if I had a brother and you brought him to me on a sickbed at this moment, by Jove, old man, I’d heave a brick at him. However, though it took it out of me like the deuce, the scheme worked splendidly. She softened visibly before I’d been at it a week. Started to bow again when we met in the street, and so forth. About a couple of days ago she distinctly smiled⁠—in a sort of faint, saintlike kind of way, you know⁠—when I ran into her outside the Vicarage. And yesterday⁠—I say, you remember that curate chap, Wingham? Fellow with a long nose.”

“Of course I remember him. Your rival.”

“Rival?” Bingo raised his eyebrows. “Oh, well, I suppose you could have called him that at one time. Though it sounds a little farfetched.”

“Does it?” I said, stung by the sickening complacency of the chump’s manner. “Well, let me tell you that the last I heard was that at the Cow and Horses in Twing village and all over the place as far as Lower Bingley they were offering seven to one on the curate and finding no takers.”

Bingo started violently, and sprayed cigarette-ash all over my bed.

“Betting!” he gargled. “Betting! You don’t mean that they’re betting on this holy, sacred⁠—Oh, I say, dash it all! Haven’t people any sense of decency and reverence? Is nothing safe from their beastly, sordid graspingness? I wonder,” said young Bingo thoughtfully, “if there’s a chance of my getting any of that seven-to-one money? Seven to one! What a price! Who’s offering it, do you know? Oh, well, I suppose it wouldn’t do. No, I suppose it wouldn’t be quite the thing.”

“You seem dashed confident,” I said. “I’d always thought that Wingham⁠—”

“Oh, I’m not worried about him,” said Bingo. “I was just going to tell you. Wingham’s got the mumps, and won’t be out and about for weeks. And, jolly as that is in itself, it’s not all. You see, he was producing the Village School Christmas Entertainment, and now I’ve taken over the job. I went to old Heppenstall last night and clinched the contract. Well, you see what that means. It means that I shall be absolutely the centre of the village life and thought for three solid weeks, with a terrific triumph to wind up with. Everybody looking up to me and fawning on me, don’t you see, and all that. It’s bound to have a powerful effect on Mary’s mind. It will show her that I am capable of serious effort; that there is a solid foundation of worth in me; that, mere butterfly as she may once have thought me, I am in reality⁠—”

“Oh, all right, let it go!”

“It’s a big thing, you know, this Christmas Entertainment. Old Heppenstall is very much wrapped up in it. Nibs from all over the countryside rolling up. The Squire present, with family. A big chance for me, Bertie, my boy, and I mean to make the most of it. Of course, I’m handicapped a bit by not having been in on the thing from the start. Will you credit it that that uninspired doughnut of a curate wanted to give the public some rotten little fairy play out of a book for children published about fifty years ago without one good laugh or the semblance of a gag in it? It’s too late to alter the thing entirely, but at least I can jazz it up. I’m going to write them in something zippy to brighten the thing up a bit.”

“You can’t write.”

“Well, when I say write, I mean pinch. That’s why I’ve popped up to town. I’ve been to see that revue, Cuddle Up! at the Palladium, tonight. Full of good stuff. Of course, it’s rather hard to get anything in the nature of a big spectacular effect in the Twing Village Hall, with no scenery to speak of and a chorus of practically imbecile kids of ages ranging from nine to fourteen, but I think I see my way. Have you seen Cuddle Up?”

“Yes. Twice.”

“Well, there’s some good stuff in the first act, and I can lift practically all the numbers. Then there’s that show at the Palace. I can see the matinée of that tomorrow before I leave. There’s sure to be some decent bits in that. Don’t you worry about my not being able to write a hit. Leave it to me, laddie, leave it to me. And now, my dear old chap,” said young Bingo, snuggling down cosily, “you mustn’t keep me up talking all night. It’s all right for you fellows who have nothing to do, but I’m a busy man. Good night, old thing. Close the door quietly after you and switch out the light. Breakfast about ten tomorrow, I suppose, what? Right-o. Good night.”


For the next three weeks I didn’t see Bingo. He became a sort of Voice Heard Off, developing a habit of ringing me up on long-distance and consulting me on various points arising at rehearsal, until the day when he got me out of bed at eight in the morning to ask whether I thought Merry Christmas! was a good title. I told him then that this nuisance must now cease, and after that he cheesed it, and practically passed out of my life, till one afternoon when I got back to the flat to dress for dinner and found Jeeves inspecting a whacking big poster sort of thing which he had draped over the back of an armchair.

“Good Lord, Jeeves!” I said. I was feeling rather weak that day, and the thing shook me. “What on earth’s that?”

Mr. Little sent it to me, sir, and desired me to bring it to your notice.”

“Well, you’ve certainly done it!”

I took another look at the object. There was no doubt about it, he caught the eye. It was about seven feet long, and most of the lettering in about as bright red ink as I ever struck.

This was how it ran:

Twing Village Hall,
Friday, December 23rd,
Richard Little
presents
A New and Original Revue
Entitled
What Ho, Twing!!
Book by
Richard Little
Lyrics by
Richard Little
Music by
Richard Little.
With the Full Twing Juvenile
Company and Chorus.
Scenic Effects by
Richard Little
Produced by
Richard Little.

“What do you make of it, Jeeves?” I said.

“I confess I am a little doubtful, sir. I think Mr. Little would have done better to follow my advice and confine himself to good works about the village.”

“You think the things will be a frost?”

“I could not hazard a conjecture, sir. But my experience has been that what pleases the London public is not always so acceptable to the rural mind. The metropolitan touch sometimes proves a trifle too exotic for the provinces.”

“I suppose I ought to go down and see the dashed thing?”

“I think Mr. Little would be wounded were you not present, sir.”


The Village Hall at Twing is a smallish building, smelling of apples. It was full when I turned up on the evening of the twenty-third, for I had purposely timed myself to arrive not long before the kickoff. I had had experience of one or two of these binges, and didn’t want to run any risk of coming early and finding myself shoved into a seat in one of the front rows where I wouldn’t be able to execute a quiet sneak into the open air halfway through the proceedings, if the occasion seemed to demand it. I secured a nice strategic position near the door at the back of the hall.

From where I stood I had a good view of the audience. As always on these occasions, the first few rows were occupied by the Nibs⁠—consisting of the Squire, a fairly mauve old sportsman with white whiskers, his family, a platoon of local parsons and perhaps a couple of dozen of prominent pew-holders. Then came a dense squash of what you might call the lower middle classes. And at the back, where I was, we came down with a jerk in the social scale, this end of the hall being given up almost entirely to a collection of frankly Tough Eggs, who had rolled up not so much for any love of the drama as because there was a free tea after the show. Take it for all in all, a representative gathering of Twing life and thought. The Nibs were whispering in a pleased manner to each other, the Lower Middles were sitting up very straight, as if they’d been bleached, and the Tough Eggs whiled away the time by cracking nuts and exchanging low rustic wheezes. The girl, Mary Burgess, was at the piano playing a waltz. Beside her stood the curate, Wingham, apparently recovered. The temperature, I should think, was about a hundred and twenty-seven.

Somebody jabbed me heartily in the lower ribs, and I perceived the man Steggles.

“Hallo!” he said. “I didn’t know you were coming down.”

I didn’t like the chap, but we Woosters can wear the mask. I beamed a bit.

“Oh, yes,” I said. “Bingo wanted me to roll up and see his show.”

“I hear he’s giving us something pretty ambitious,” said the man Steggles. “Big effects and all that sort of thing.”

“I believe so.”

“Of course, it means a lot to him, doesn’t it? He’s told you about the girl, of course?”

“Yes. And I hear you’re laying seven to one against him,” I said, eyeing the blighter a trifle austerely.

He didn’t even quiver.

“Just a little flutter to relieve the monotony of country life,” he said. “But you’ve got the facts a bit wrong. It’s down in the village that they’re laying seven to one. I can do you better than that, if you feel in a speculative mood. How about a tenner at a hundred to eight?”

“Good Lord! Are you giving that?”

“Yes. Somehow,” said Steggles meditatively, “I have a sort of feeling, a kind of premonition that something’s going to go wrong tonight. You know what Little is. A bungler, if ever there was one. Something tells me that this show of his is going to be a frost. And if it is, of course, I should think it would prejudice the girl against him pretty badly. His standing always was rather shaky.”

“Are you going to try and smash up the show?” I said sternly.

“Me!” said Steggles. “Why, what could I do? Half a minute, I want to go and speak to a man.”

He buzzed off, leaving me distinctly disturbed. I could see from the fellow’s eye that he was meditating some of his customary rough stuff, and I thought Bingo ought to be warned. But there wasn’t time and I couldn’t get at him. Almost immediately after Steggles had left me the curtain went up.

Except as a prompter, Bingo wasn’t much in evidence in the early part of the performance. The thing at the outset was merely one of those weird dramas which you dig out of books published around Christmas time and entitled Twelve Little Plays for the Tots, or something like that. The kids drooled on in the usual manner, the booming voice of Bingo ringing out from time to time behind the scenes when the fatheads forgot their lines; and the audience was settling down into the sort of torpor usual on these occasions, when the first of Bingo’s interpolated bits occurred. It was that number which What’s-her-name sings in that revue at the Palace⁠—you would recognise the tune if I hummed it, but I can never get hold of the dashed thing. It always got three encores at the Palace, and it went well now, even with a squeaky-voiced child jumping on and off the key like a chamois of the Alps leaping from crag to crag. Even the Tough Eggs liked it. At the end of the second refrain the entire house was shouting for an encore, and the kid with the voice like a slate-pencil took a deep breath and started to let it go once more.

At this point all the lights went out.


I don’t know when I’ve had anything so sudden and devastating happen to me before. They didn’t flicker. They just went out. The hall was in complete darkness.

Well, of course, that sort of broke the spell, as you might put it. People started to shout directions, and the Tough Eggs stamped their feet and settled down for a pleasant time. And, of course, young Bingo had to make an ass of himself. His voice suddenly shot at us out of the darkness.

“Ladies and gentlemen, something has gone wrong with the lights⁠—”

The Tough Eggs were tickled by this bit of information straight from the stable. They took it up as a sort of battle-cry. Then, after about five minutes, the lights went up again, and the show was resumed.

It took ten minutes after that to get the audience back into its state of coma, but eventually they began to settle down, and everything was going nicely when a small boy with a face like a turbot edged out in front of the curtain, which had been lowered after a pretty painful scene about a wishing-ring or a fairy’s curse or something of that sort, and started to sing that song of George Thingummy’s out of Cuddle Up. You know the one I mean. “Always Listen to Mother, Girls!” it’s called, and he gets the audience to join in and sing the refrain. Quite a ripeish ballad, and one which I myself have frequently sung in my bath with not a little vim; but by no means⁠—as anyone but a perfect sapheaded prune like young Bingo would have known⁠—by no means the sort of thing for a children’s Christmas entertainment in the old village hall. Right from the start of the first refrain the bulk of the audience had begun to stiffen in their seats and fan themselves, and the Burgess girl at the piano was accompanying in a stunned, mechanical sort of way, while the curate at her side averted his gaze in a pained manner. The Tough Eggs, however, were all for it.

At the end of the second refrain the kid stopped and began to sidle towards the wings. Upon which the following brief duologue took place:

Young Bingo (Voice heard off, ringing against the rafters): “Go on!”

The Kid (coyly): “I don’t like to.”

Young Bingo (still louder): “Go on, you little blighter, or I’ll slay you!”

I suppose the kid thought it over swiftly and realised that Bingo, being in a position to get at him, had better be conciliated, whatever the harvest might be; for he shuffled down to the front and, having shut his eyes and giggled hysterically, said: “Ladies and gentlemen, I will now call upon Squire Tressidder to oblige by singing the refrain!”

You know, with the most charitable feelings towards him, there are moments when you can’t help thinking that young Bingo ought to be in some sort of a home. I suppose, poor fish, he had pictured this as the big punch of the evening. He had imagined, I take it, that the Squire would spring jovially to his feet, rip the song off his chest, and all would be gaiety and mirth. Well, what happened was simply that old Tressidder⁠—and, mark you, I’m not blaming him⁠—just sat where he was, swelling and turning a brighter purple every second. The lower middle classes remained in frozen silence, waiting for the roof to fall. The only section of the audience that really seemed to enjoy the idea was the Tough Eggs, who yelled with enthusiasm. It was jam for the Tough Eggs.

And then the lights went out again.


When they went up, some minutes later, they disclosed the Squire marching stiffly out at the head of his family, fed up to the eyebrows; the Burgess girl at the piano with a pale, set look; and the curate gazing at her with something in his expression that seemed to suggest that, although all this was no doubt deplorable, he had spotted the silver fining.

The show went on once more. There were great chunks of Plays-for-the-Tots dialogue, and then the girl at the piano struck up the prelude to that Orange-Girl number that’s the big hit of the Palace revue. I took it that this was to be Bingo’s smashing act one finale. The entire company was on the stage, and a clutching hand had appeared round the edge of the curtain, ready to pull at the right moment. It looked like the finale all right. It wasn’t long before I realised that it was something more. It was the finish.

I take it you know that Orange number at the Palace? It goes:

Oh, won’t you something something oranges,
My something oranges,
My something oranges;
Oh, won’t you something something something I forget,
Something something something tumty tumty yet:
Oh⁠—

or words to that effect. It’s a dashed clever lyric, and the tune’s good, too; but the thing that made the number was the business where the girls take oranges out of their baskets, you know, and toss them lightly to the audience. I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed it, but it always seems to tickle an audience to bits when they get things thrown at them from the stage. Every time I’ve been to the Palace the customers have simply gone wild over this number.

But at the Palace, of course, the oranges are made of yellow wool, and the girls don’t so much chuck them as drop them limply into the first and second rows. I began to gather that the business was going to be treated rather differently tonight when a dashed great chunk of pips and mildew sailed past my ear and burst on the wall behind me. Another landed with a squelch on the neck of one of the Nibs in the third row. And then a third took me right on the tip of the nose, and I kind of lost interest in the proceedings for awhile.

When I had scrubbed my face and got my eye to stop watering for a moment, I saw that the evening’s entertainment had begun to resemble one of Belfast’s livelier nights. The air was thick with shrieks and fruit. The kids on the stage, with Bingo buzzing distractedly to and fro in their midst, were having the time of their lives. I suppose they realised that this couldn’t go on forever, and were making the most of their chances. The Tough Eggs had begun to pick up all the oranges that hadn’t burst and were shooting them back, so that the audience got it both coming and going. In fact, take it all round, there was a certain amount of confusion; and, just as things had begun really to hot up, out went the lights again.

It seemed to me about my time for leaving, so I slid for the door. I was hardly outside when the audience began to stream out. They surged about me in twos and threes, and I’ve never seen a public body so dashed unanimous on any point. To a man⁠—and to a woman⁠—they were cursing poor old Bingo; and there was a large and rapidly growing school of thought which held that the best thing to do would be to waylay him as he emerged and splash him about in the village pond a bit.

There were such a dickens of a lot of these enthusiasts and they looked so jolly determined that it seemed to me that the only matey thing to do was to go behind and warn young Bingo to turn his coat-collar up and breeze off snakily by some side exit. I went behind, and found him sitting on a box in the wings, perspiring pretty freely and looking more or less like the spot marked with a cross where the accident happened. His hair was standing up and his ears were hanging down, and one harsh word would undoubtedly have made him burst into tears.

“Bertie,” he said hollowly, as he saw me, “it was that blighter Steggles! I caught one of the kids before he could get away and got it all out of him. Steggles substituted real oranges for the balls of wool which with infinite sweat and at a cost of nearly a quid I had specially prepared. Well, I will now proceed to tear him limb from limb. It’ll be something to do.”

I hated to spoil his daydreams, but it had to be.

“Good heavens, man,” I said, “you haven’t time for frivolous amusements now. You’ve got to get out. And quick!”

“Bertie,” said Bingo in a dull voice, “she was here just now. She said it was all my fault and that she would never speak to me again. She said she had always suspected me of being a heartless practical joker, and now she knew. She said⁠—Oh, well, she ticked me off properly.”

“That’s the least of your troubles,” I said. It seemed impossible to rouse the poor zib to a sense of his position. “Do you realise that about two hundred of Twing’s heftiest are waiting for you outside to chuck you into the pond?”

“No!”

“Absolutely!”

For a moment the poor chap seemed crushed. But only for a moment. There has always been something of the good old English bulldog breed about Bingo. A strange, sweet smile flickered for an instant over his face.

“It’s all right,” he said. “I can sneak out through the cellar and climb over the wall at the back. They can’t intimidate me!”


It couldn’t have been more than a week later when Jeeves, after he had brought me my tea, gently steered me away from the sporting page of the Morning Post and directed my attention to an announcement in the engagements and marriages column.

It was a brief statement that a marriage had been arranged and would shortly take place between the Hon. and Rev. Hubert Wingham, third son of the Right Hon. the Earl of Sturridge, and Mary, only daughter of the late Matthew Burgess, of Weatherly Court, Hants.

“Of course,” I said, after I had given it the east-to-west, “I expected this, Jeeves.”

“Yes, sir.”

“She would never forgive him what happened that night.”

“No, sir.”

“Well,” I said, as I took a sip of the fragrant and steaming, “I don’t suppose it will take old Bingo long to get over it. It’s about the hundred and eleventh time this sort of thing has happened to him. You’re the man I’m sorry for.”

“Me, sir?”

“Well, dash it all, you can’t have forgotten what a deuce of a lot of trouble you took to bring the thing off for Bingo. It’s too bad that all your work should have been wasted.”

“Not entirely wasted, sir.”

“Eh?”

“It is true that my efforts to bring about the match between Mr. Little and the young lady were not successful, but still I look back upon the matter with a certain satisfaction.”

“Because you did your best, you mean?”

“Not entirely, sir, though of course that thought also gives me pleasure. I was alluding more particularly to the fact that I found the affair financially remunerative.”

“Financially remunerative? What do you mean?”

“When I learned that Mr. Steggles had interested himself in the contest, sir, I went shares with my friend Brookfield and bought the book which had been made on the issue by the Cow and Horses. It has proved a highly profitable investment. Your breakfast will be ready almost immediately, sir. Kidneys on toast and mushrooms. I will bring it when you ring.”

The Delayed Exit of Claude and Eustace

The feeling I had when Aunt Agatha trapped me in my lair that morning and spilled the bad news was that my luck had broken at last. As a rule, you see, I’m not lugged into Family Rows. On the occasions when Aunt is calling to Aunt like mastodons bellowing across primeval swamps and Uncle James’s letter about Cousin Mabel’s peculiar behaviour is being shot round the family circle (“Please read this carefully and send it on to Jane”), the clan has a tendency to ignore me. It’s one of the advantages I get from being a bachelor⁠—and, according to my nearest and dearest, practically a half-witted bachelor at that. “It’s no good trying to get Bertie to take the slightest interest” is more or less the slogan, and I’m bound to say I’m all for it. A quiet life is what I like. And that’s why I felt that the Curse had come upon me, so to speak, when Aunt Agatha sailed into my sitting room while I was having a placid cigarette and started to tell me about Claude and Eustace.

“Thank goodness,” said Aunt Agatha, “arrangements have at last been made about Eustace and Claude.”

“Arrangements?” I said, not having the foggiest.

“They sail on Friday for South Africa. Mr. Van Alstyne, a friend of poor Emily’s, has given them berths in his firm at Johannesburg, and we are hoping that they will settle down there and do well.”

I didn’t get the thing at all.

“Friday? The day after tomorrow, do you mean?”

“Yes.”

“For South Africa?”

“Yes. They leave on the Edinburgh Castle.”

“But what’s the idea? I mean, aren’t they in the middle of their term at Oxford?”

Aunt Agatha looked at me coldly.

“Do you positively mean to tell me, Bertie, that you take so little interest in the affairs of your nearest relatives that you are not aware that Claude and Eustace were expelled from Oxford over a fortnight ago?”

“No, really?”

“You are hopeless, Bertie. I should have thought that even you⁠—”

“Why were they sent down?”

“They poured lemonade on the Junior Dean of their college⁠ ⁠… I see nothing amusing in the outrage, Bertie.”

“No, no, rather not,” I said hurriedly. “I wasn’t laughing. Choking. Got something stuck in my throat, you know.”

“Poor Emily,” went on Aunt Agatha, “being one of those doting mothers who are the ruin of their children, wished to keep the boys in London. She suggested that they might cram for the Army. But I was firm. The Colonies are the only place for wild youths like Eustace and Claude. So they sail on Friday. They have been staying for the last two weeks with your Uncle Clive in Worcestershire. They will spend tomorrow night in London and catch the boat-train on Friday morning.”

“Bit risky, isn’t it? I mean, aren’t they apt to cut loose a bit tomorrow night if they’re left all alone in London?”

“They will not be alone. They will be in your charge.”

“Mine!”

“Yes. I wish you to put them up in your flat for the night, and see that they do not miss the train in the morning.”

“Oh, I say, no!”

“Bertie!”

“Well, I mean, quite jolly coves both of them, but I don’t know. They’re rather nuts, you know⁠—Always glad to see them, of course, but when it comes to putting them up for the night⁠—”

“Bertie, if you are so sunk in callous self-indulgence that you cannot even put yourself to this trifling inconvenience for the sake of⁠—”

“Oh, all right,” I said. “All right.”

It was no good arguing, of course. Aunt Agatha always makes me feel as if I had gelatine where my spine ought to be. She’s one of those forceful females. I should think Queen Elizabeth must have been something like her. When she holds me with her glittering eye and says, “Jump to it, my lad,” or words to that effect, I make it so without further discussion.

When she had gone, I rang for Jeeves to break the news to him.

“Oh, Jeeves,” I said, “Mr. Claude and Mr. Eustace will be staying here tomorrow night.”

“Very good, sir.”

“I’m glad you think so. To me the outlook seems black and scaly. You know what those two lads are!”

“Very high-spirited young gentlemen, sir.”

“Blisters, Jeeves. Undeniable blisters. It’s a bit thick!”

“Would there be anything further, sir?”

At that, I’m bound to say, I drew myself up a trifle haughtily. We Woosters freeze like the dickens when we seek sympathy and meet with cold reserve. I knew what was up, of course. For the last day or so there had been a certain amount of coolness in the home over a pair of jazz spats which I had dug up while exploring in the Burlington Arcade. Some dashed brainy cove, probably the chap who invented those coloured cigarette-cases, had recently had the rather topping idea of putting out a line of spats on the same system. I mean to say, instead of the ordinary grey and white, you can now get them in your regimental or school colours. And, believe me, it would have taken a chappie of stronger fibre than I am to resist the pair of Old Etonian spats which had smiled up at me from inside the window. I was inside the shop, opening negotiations, before it had even occurred to me that Jeeves might not approve. And I must say he had taken the thing a bit hardly. The fact of the matter is, Jeeves, though in many ways the best valet in London, is too conservative. Hidebound, if you know what I mean, and an enemy to Progress.

“Nothing further, Jeeves,” I said, with quiet dignity.

“Very good, sir.”

He gave one frosty look at the spats and biffed off. Dash him!


Anything merrier and brighter than the Twins, when they curveted into the old flat while I was dressing for dinner the next night, I have never struck in my whole puff. I’m only about half a dozen years older than Claude and Eustace, but in some rummy manner they always make me feel as if I were well on in the grandfather class and just waiting for the end. Almost before I realised they were in the place, they had collared the best chairs, pinched a couple of my special cigarettes, poured themselves out a whisky-and-soda apiece, and started to prattle with the gaiety and abandon of two birds who had achieved their life’s ambition instead of having come a most frightful purler and being under sentence of exile.

“Hallo, Bertie, old thing,” said Claude. “Jolly decent of you to put us up.”

“Oh, no,” I said. “Only wish you were staying a good long time.”

“Hear that, Eustace? He wishes we were staying a good long time.”

“I expect it will seem a good long time,” said Eustace, philosophically.

“You heard about the binge, Bertie? Our little bit of trouble, I mean?”

“Oh, yes. Aunt Agatha was telling me.”

“We leave our country for our country’s good,” said Eustace.

“And let there be no moaning at the bar,” said Claude, “when I put out to sea. What did Aunt Agatha tell you?”

“She said you poured lemonade on the Junior Dean.”

“I wish the deuce,” said Claude, annoyed, “that people would get these things right. It wasn’t the Junior Dean. It was the Senior Tutor.”

“And it wasn’t lemonade,” said Eustace. “It was soda-water. The dear old thing happened to be standing just under our window while I was leaning out with a siphon in my hand. He looked up, and⁠—well, it would have been chucking away the opportunity of a lifetime if I hadn’t let him have it in the eyeball.”

“Simply chucking it away,” agreed Claude.

“Might never have occurred again,” said Eustace.

“Hundred to one against it,” said Claude.

“Now what,” said Eustace, “do you propose to do, Bertie, in the way of entertaining the handsome guests tonight?”

“My idea was to have a bite of dinner in the flat,” I said. “Jeeves is getting it ready now.”

“And afterwards?”

“Well, I thought we might chat of this and that, and then it struck me that you would probably like to turn in early, as your train goes about ten or something, doesn’t it?”

The twins looked at each other in a pitying sort of way.

“Bertie,” said Eustace, “you’ve got the programme nearly right, but not quite. I envisage the evening’s events thus: We will toddle along to Ciro’s after dinner. It’s an extension night, isn’t it? Well, that will see us through till about two-thirty or three.”

“After which, no doubt,” said Claude, “the Lord will provide.”

“But I thought you would want to get a good night’s rest.”

“Good night’s rest!” said Eustace. “My dear old chap, you don’t for a moment imagine that we are dreaming of going to bed tonight, do you?”

I suppose the fact of the matter is, I’m not the man I was. I mean, these all-night vigils don’t seem to fascinate me as they used to a few years ago. I can remember the time, when I was up at Oxford, when a Covent Garden ball till six in the morning, with breakfast at the Hammams and probably a free fight with a few selected costermongers to follow, seemed to me what the doctor ordered. But nowadays two o’clock is about my limit; and by two o’clock the twins were just settling down and beginning to go nicely.

As far as I can remember, we went on from Ciro’s to play chemmy with some fellows I don’t recall having met before, and it must have been about nine in the morning when we fetched up again at the flat. By which time, I’m bound to admit, as far as I was concerned the first careless freshness was beginning to wear off a bit. In fact, I’d got just enough strength to say goodbye to the twins, wish them a pleasant voyage and a happy and successful career in South Africa, and stagger into bed. The last I remember was hearing the blighters chanting like larks under the cold shower, breaking off from time to time to shout to Jeeves to rush along the eggs and bacon.

It must have been about one in the afternoon when I woke. I was feeling more or less like something the Pure Food Committee had rejected, but there was one bright thought which cheered me up, and that was that about now the twins would be leaning on the rail of the liner, taking their last glimpse of the dear old homeland. Which made it all the more of a shock when the door opened and Claude walked in.

“Hallo, Bertie!” said Claude. “Had a nice refreshing sleep? Now, what about a good old bite of lunch?”

I’d been having so many distorted nightmares since I had dropped off to sleep that for half a minute I thought this was simply one more of them, and the worst of the lot. It was only when Claude sat down on my feet that I got on to the fact that this was stern reality.

“Great Scott! What on earth are you doing here?” I gurgled.

Claude looked at me reproachfully.

“Hardly the tone I like to hear in a host, Bertie,” he said reprovingly. “Why, it was only last night that you were saying you wished I was stopping a good long time. Your dream has come true. I am!”

“But why aren’t you on your way to South Africa?”

“Now that,” said Claude, “is a point I rather thought you would want to have explained. It’s like this, old man. You remember that girl you introduced me to at Ciro’s last night?”

“Which girl?”

“There was only one,” said Claude coldly. “Only one that counted, that is to say. Her name was Marion Wardour. I danced with her a good deal, if you remember.”

I began to recollect in a hazy sort of way. Marion Wardour has been a pal of mine for some time. A very good sort. She’s playing in that show at the Apollo at the moment. I remembered now that she had been at Ciro’s with a party the night before, and the twins had insisted on being introduced.

“We are soul mates, Bertie,” said Claude. “I found it out quite early in the p.m., and the more thought I’ve given to the matter the more convinced I’ve become. It happens like that now and then, you know. Two hearts that beat as one, I mean, and all that sort of thing. So the long and the short of it is that I gave old Eustace the slip at Waterloo and slid back here. The idea of going to South Africa and leaving a girl like that in England doesn’t appeal to me a bit. I’m all for thinking imperially and giving the Colonies a leg-up and all that sort of thing; but it can’t be done. After all,” said Claude reasonably, “South Africa has got along all right without me up till now, so why shouldn’t it stick it?”

“But what about Van Alstyne, or whatever his name is? He’ll be expecting you to turn up.”

“Oh, he’ll have Eustace. That’ll satisfy him. Very sound fellow, Eustace. Probably end up by being a magnate of some kind. I shall watch his future progress with considerable interest. And now you must excuse me for a moment, Bertie. I want to go and hunt up Jeeves and get him to mix me one of those pick-me-ups of his. For some reason which I can’t explain, I’ve got a slight headache this morning.”

And, believe me or believe me not, the door had hardly closed behind him when in blew Eustace with a shining morning face that made me ill to look at.

“Oh, my aunt!” I said.

Eustace started to giggle pretty freely.

“Smooth work, Bertie, smooth work!” he said. “I’m sorry for poor old Claude, but there was no alternative. I eluded his vigilance at Waterloo and snaked off in a taxi. I suppose the poor old ass is wondering where the deuce I’ve got to. But it couldn’t be helped. If you really seriously expected me to go slogging off to South Africa, you shouldn’t have introduced me to Miss Wardour last night. I want to tell you all about that, Bertie. I’m not a man,” said Eustace, sitting down on the bed, “who falls in love with every girl he sees. I suppose ‘strong, silent,’ would be the best description you could find for me. But when I do meet my affinity I don’t waste time. I⁠—”

“Oh, heaven! Are you in love with Marion Wardour, too?”

“Too? What do you mean, ‘too’?”

I was going to tell him about Claude, when the blighter came in in person, looking like a giant refreshed. There’s no doubt that Jeeves’s pick-me-ups will produce immediate results in anything short of an Egyptian mummy. It’s something he puts in them⁠—the Worcester sauce or something. Claude had revived like a watered flower, but he nearly had a relapse when he saw his bally brother goggling at him over the bed-rail.

“What on earth are you doing here?” he said.

“What on earth are you doing here?” said Eustace.

“Have you come back to inflict your beastly society upon Miss Wardour?”

“Is that why you’ve come back?”

They thrashed the subject out a bit further.

“Well,” said Claude at last. “I suppose it can’t be helped. If you’re here, you’re here. May the best man win!”

“Yes, but dash it all!” I managed to put in at this point. “What’s the idea? Where do you think you’re going to stay if you stick on in London?”

“Why, here,” said Eustace, surprised.

“Where else?” said Claude, raising his eyebrows.

“You won’t object to putting us up, Bertie?” said Eustace.

“Not a sportsman like you,” said Claude.

“But, you silly asses, suppose Aunt Agatha finds out that I’m hiding you when you ought to be in South Africa? Where do I get off?”

“Where does he get off?” Claude asked Eustace.

“Oh, I expect he’ll manage somehow,” said Eustace to Claude.

“Of course,” said Claude, quite cheered up. “He’ll manage.”

“Rather!” said Eustace. “A resourceful chap like Bertie! Of course he will.”

“And now,” said Claude, shelving the subject, “what about that bite of lunch we were discussing a moment ago, Bertie? That stuff good old Jeeves slipped into me just now has given me what you might call an appetite. Something in the nature of six chops and a batter pudding would about meet the case, I think.”

I suppose every chappie in the world has black periods in his life to which he can’t look back without the smouldering eye and the silent shudder. Some coves, if you can judge by the novels you read nowadays, have them practically all the time; but, what with enjoying a sizable private income and a topping digestion, I’m bound to say it isn’t very often I find my own existence getting a flat tyre. That’s why this particular epoch is one that I don’t think about more often than I can help. For the days that followed the unexpected resurrection of the blighted twins were so absolutely foul that the old nerves began to stick out of my body a foot long and curling at the ends. All of a twitter, believe me. I imagine the fact of the matter is that we Woosters are so frightfully honest and open and all that, that it gives us the pip to have to deceive.

All was quiet along the Potomac for about twenty-four hours, and then Aunt Agatha trickled in to have a chat. Twenty minutes earlier and she would have found the twins gaily shoving themselves outside a couple of rashers and an egg. She sank into a chair, and I could see that she was not in her usual sunny spirits.

“Bertie,” she said, “I am uneasy.”

So was I. I didn’t know how long she intended to stop, or when the twins were coming back.

“I wonder,” she said, “if I took too harsh a view towards Claude and Eustace.”

“You couldn’t.”

“What do you mean?”

“I⁠—er⁠—mean it would be so unlike you to be harsh to anybody, Aunt Agatha.” And not bad, either. I mean, quick⁠—like that⁠—without thinking. It pleased the old relative, and she looked at me with slightly less loathing than she usually does.

“It is nice of you to say that, Bertie, but what I was thinking was, are they safe?”

“Are they what?”

It seemed such a rummy adjective to apply to the twins, they being about as innocuous as a couple of sprightly young tarantulas.

“Do you think all is well with them?”

“How do you mean?”

Aunt Agatha eyed me almost wistfully.

“Has it ever occurred to you, Bertie,” she said, “that your Uncle George may be psychic?”

She seemed to me to be changing the subject.

“Psychic?”

“Do you think it is possible that he could see things not visible to the normal eye?”

I thought it dashed possible, if not probable. I don’t know if you’ve ever met my Uncle George. He’s a festive old egg who wanders from club to club continually having a couple with other festive old eggs. When he heaves in sight, waiters brace themselves up and the wine steward toys with his corkscrew. It was my Uncle George who discovered that alcohol was a food well in advance of modern medical thought.

“Your Uncle George was dining with me last night, and he was quite shaken. He declares that, while on his way from the Devonshire Club to Boodle’s he suddenly saw the phantasm of Eustace.”

“The what of Eustace?”

“The phantasm. The wraith. It was so clear that he thought for an instant that it was Eustace himself. The figure vanished round a corner, and when Uncle George got there nothing was to be seen. It is all very queer and disturbing. It had a marked effect on poor George. All through dinner he touched nothing but barley-water, and his manner was quite disturbed. You do think those poor, dear boys are safe, Bertie? They have not met with some horrible accident?”

It made my mouth water to think of it, but I said no, I didn’t think they had met with any horrible accident. I thought Eustace was a horrible accident, and Claude about the same, but I didn’t say so. And presently she biffed off, still worried.

When the twins came in, I put it squarely to the blighters. Jolly as it was to give Uncle George shocks, they must not wander at large about the metrop.

“But, my dear old soul,” said Claude. “Be reasonable. We can’t have our movements hampered.”

“Out of the question,” said Eustace.

“The whole essence of the thing, if you understand me,” said Claude, “is that we should be at liberty to flit hither and thither.”

“Exactly,” said Eustace. “Now hither, now thither.”

“But, damn it⁠—”

“Bertie!” said Eustace reprovingly. “Not before the boy!”

“Of course, in a way I see his point,” said Claude. “I suppose the solution of the problem would be to buy a couple of disguises.”

“My dear old chap!” said Eustace, looking at him with admiration. “The brightest idea on record. Not your own, surely?”

“Well, as a matter of fact, it was Bertie who put it into my head.”

“Me!”

“You were telling me the other day about old Bingo Little and the beard he bought when he didn’t want his uncle to recognise him.”

“If you think I’m going to have you two excrescences popping in and out of my flat in beards⁠—”

“Something in that,” agreed Eustace. “We’ll make it whiskers, then.”

“And false noses,” said Claude.

“And, as you say, false noses. Right-o, then, Bertie, old chap, that’s a load off your mind. We don’t want to be any trouble to you while we’re paying you this little visit.”

And, when I went buzzing round to Jeeves for consolation, all he would say was something about Young Blood. No sympathy.

“Very good, Jeeves,” I said. “I shall go for a walk in the Park. Kindly put me out the Old Etonian spats.”

“Very good, sir.”


It must have been a couple of days after that that Marion Wardour rolled in at about the hour of tea. She looked warily round the room before sitting down.

“Your cousins not at home, Bertie?” she said.

“No, thank goodness!”

“Then I’ll tell you where they are. They’re in my sitting room, glaring at each other from opposite corners, waiting for me to come in. Bertie, this has got to stop.”

“You’re seeing a good deal of them, are you?”

Jeeves came in with the tea, but the poor girl was so worked up that she didn’t wait for him to pop off before going on with her complaint. She had an absolutely hunted air, poor thing.

“I can’t move a step without tripping over one or both of them,” she said. “Generally both. They’ve taken to calling together, and they just settle down grimly and try to sit each other out. It’s wearing me to a shadow.”

“I know,” I said sympathetically. “I know.”

“Well, what’s to be done?”

“It beats me. Couldn’t you tell your maid to say you are not at home?”

She shuddered slightly.

“I tried that once. They camped on the stairs, and I couldn’t get out all the afternoon. And I had a lot of particularly important engagements. I wish you would persuade them to go to South Africa, where they seem to be wanted.”

“You must have made the dickens of an impression on them.”

“I should say I have. They’ve started giving me presents now. At least, Claude has. He insisted on my accepting this cigarette-case last night. Came round to the theatre and wouldn’t go away till I took it. It’s not a bad one, I must say.”

It wasn’t. It was a distinctly fruity concern in gold with a diamond stuck in the middle. And the rummy thing was that I had a notion I’d seen something very like it before somewhere. How the deuce Claude had been able to dig up the cash to buy a thing like that was more than I could imagine.

Next day was a Wednesday, and as the object of their devotion had a matinée, the twins were, so to speak, off duty. Claude had gone with his whiskers on to Hurst Park, and Eustace and I were in the flat, talking. At least, he was talking and I was wishing he would go.

“The love of a good woman, Bertie,” he was saying, “must be a wonderful thing. Sometimes⁠—Good Lord! what’s that?”

The front door had opened, and from out in the hall there came the sound of Aunt Agatha’s voice asking if I was in. Aunt Agatha has one of those high, penetrating voices, but this was the first time I’d ever been thankful for it. There was just about two seconds to clear the way for her, but it was long enough for Eustace to dive under the sofa. His last shoe had just disappeared when she came in.

She had a worried look. It seemed to me about this time that everybody had.

“Bertie,” she said, “what are your immediate plans?”

“How do you mean? I’m dining tonight with⁠—”

“No, no, I don’t mean tonight. Are you busy for the next few days? But, of course you are not,” she went on, not waiting for me to answer. “You never have anything to do. Your whole life is spent in idle⁠—but we can go into that later. What I came for this afternoon was to tell you that I wish you to go with your poor Uncle George to Harrogate for a few weeks. The sooner you can start, the better.”

This appeared to me to approximate so closely to the frozen limit that I uttered a yelp of protest. Uncle George is all right, but he won’t do. I was trying to say as much when she waved me down.

“If you are not entirely heartless, Bertie, you will do as I ask you. Your poor Uncle George has had a severe shock.”

“What, another!”

“He feels that only complete rest and careful medical attendance can restore his nervous system to its normal poise. It seems that in the past he has derived benefit from taking the waters at Harrogate, and he wishes to go there now. We do not think he ought to be alone, so I wish you to accompany him.”

“But, I say!”

“Bertie!”

There was a lull in the conversation.

“What shock has he had?” I asked.

“Between ourselves,” said Aunt Agatha, lowering her voice in an impressive manner, “I incline to think that the whole affair was the outcome of an overexcited imagination. You are one of the family, Bertie, and I can speak freely to you. You know as well as I do that your poor Uncle George has for many years not been a⁠—he has⁠—er⁠—developed a habit of⁠—how shall I put it?”

“Shifting it a bit?”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Mopping up the stuff to some extent?”

“I dislike your way of putting it exceedingly, but I must confess that he has not been, perhaps, as temperate as he should. He is highly-strung, and⁠—Well, the fact is, that he has had a shock.”

“Yes, but what?”

“That is what it is so hard to induce him to explain with any precision. With all his good points, your poor Uncle George is apt to become incoherent when strongly moved. As far as I could gather, he appears to have been the victim of a burglary.”

“Burglary!”

“He says that a strange man with whiskers and a peculiar nose entered his rooms in Jermyn Street during his absence and stole some of his property. He says that he came back and found the man in his sitting room. He immediately rushed out of the room and disappeared.”

“Uncle George?”

“No, the man. And, according to your Uncle George, he had stolen a valuable cigarette-case. But, as I say, I am inclined to think that the whole thing was imagination. He has not been himself since the day when he fancied that he saw Eustace in the street. So I should like you, Bertie, to be prepared to start for Harrogate with him not later than Saturday.”

She popped off, and Eustace crawled out from under the sofa. The blighter was strongly moved. So was I, for the matter of that. The idea of several weeks with Uncle George at Harrogate seemed to make everything go black.

“So that’s where he got that cigarette-case, dash him!” said Eustace bitterly. “Of all the dirty tricks! Robbing his own flesh and blood! The fellow ought to be in chokey.”

“He ought to be in South Africa,” I said. “And so ought you.”

And with an eloquence which rather surprised me, I hauled up my slacks for perhaps ten minutes on the subject of his duty to his family and whatnot. I appealed to his sense of decency. I boosted South Africa with vim. I said everything I could think of, much of it twice over. But all the blighter did was to babble about his dashed brother’s baseness in putting one over on him in the matter of the cigarette-case. He seemed to think that Claude, by slinging in the handsome gift, had got right ahead of him; and there was a painful scene when the latter came back from Hurst Park. I could hear them talking half the night, long after I had tottered off to bed. I don’t know when I’ve met fellows who could do with less sleep than those two.


After this, things became a bit strained at the flat owing to Claude and Eustace not being on speaking terms. I’m all for a certain chumminess in the home, and it was wearing to have to live with two fellows who wouldn’t admit that the other one was on the map at all.

One felt the thing couldn’t go on like that for long, and, by Jove, it didn’t. But, if anyone had come to me the day before and told me what was going to happen, I should simply have smiled wanly. I mean, I’d got so accustomed to thinking that nothing short of a dynamite explosion could ever dislodge those two nestlers from my midst that, when Claude sidled up to me on the Friday morning and told me his bit of news, I could hardly believe I was hearing right.

“Bertie,” he said, “I’ve been thinking it over.”

“What over?” I said.

“The whole thing. This business of staying in London when I ought to be in South Africa. It isn’t fair,” said Claude warmly. “It isn’t right. And the long and the short of it is, Bertie, old man, I’m leaving tomorrow.”

I reeled in my tracks.

“You are?” I gasped.

“Yes. If,” said Claude, “you won’t mind sending old Jeeves out to buy a ticket for me. I’m afraid I’ll have to stick you for the passage money, old man. You don’t mind?”

“Mind!” I said, clutching his hand fervently.

“That’s all right, then. Oh, I say, you won’t say a word to Eustace about this, will you?”

“But isn’t he going, too?”

Claude shuddered.

“No, thank heaven! The idea of being cooped up on board a ship with that blighter gives me the pip just to think of it. No, not a word to Eustace. I say, I suppose you can get me a berth all right at such short notice?”

“Rather!” I said. Sooner than let this opportunity slip, I would have bought the bally boat.

“Jeeves,” I said, breezing into the kitchen. “Go out on first speed to the Union-Castle offices and book a berth on tomorrow’s boat for Mr. Claude. He is leaving us, Jeeves.”

“Yes, sir.”

Mr. Claude does not wish any mention of this to be made to Mr. Eustace.”

“No, sir. Mr. Eustace made the same proviso when he desired me to obtain a berth on tomorrow’s boat for himself.”

I gaped at the man.

“Is he going, too?”

“Yes, sir.”

“This is rummy.”

“Yes, sir.”

Had circumstances been other than they were, I would at this juncture have unbent considerably towards Jeeves. Frisked round him a bit and whooped to a certain extent, and whatnot. But those spats still formed a barrier, and I regret to say that I took the opportunity of rather rubbing it in a bit on the man. I mean, he’d been so dashed aloof and unsympathetic, though perfectly aware that the young master was in the soup and that it was up to him to rally round, that I couldn’t help pointing out how the happy ending had been snaffled without any help from him.

“So that’s that, Jeeves,” I said. “The episode is concluded. I knew things would sort themselves out if one gave them time and didn’t get rattled. Many chaps in my place would have got rattled, Jeeves.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Gone rushing about, I mean, asking people for help and advice and so forth.”

“Very possibly, sir.”

“But not me, Jeeves.”

“No, sir.”

I left him to brood on it.


Even the thought that I’d got to go to Harrogate with Uncle George couldn’t depress me that Saturday when I gazed about the old flat and realised that Claude and Eustace weren’t in it. They had slunk off stealthily and separately immediately after breakfast, Eustace to catch the boat-train at Waterloo, Claude to go round to the garage where I kept my car. I didn’t want any chance of the two meeting at Waterloo and changing their minds, so I had suggested to Claude that he might find it pleasanter to drive down to Southampton.

I was lying back on the old settee, gazing peacefully up at the flies on the ceiling and feeling what a wonderful world this was, when Jeeves came in with a letter.

“A messenger-boy has brought this, sir.”

I opened the envelope, and the first thing that fell out was a five-pound note.

“Great Scott!” I said. “What’s all this?”

The letter was scribbled in pencil, and was quite brief:

Dear Bertie⁠—Will you give enclosed to your man, and tell him I wish I could make it more. He has saved my life. This is the first happy day I’ve had for a week.

Yours,

M. W.

Jeeves was standing holding out the fiver, which had fluttered to the floor.

“You’d better stick to it,” I said. “It seems to be for you.”

“Sir?”

“I say that fiver is for you, apparently. Miss Wardour sent it.”

“That was extremely kind of her, sir.”

“What the dickens is she sending you fivers for? She says you saved her life.”

Jeeves smiled gently.

“She overestimates my services, sir.”

“But what were your services, dash it?”

“It was in the matter of Mr. Claude and Mr. Eustace, sir. I was hoping that she would not refer to the matter, as I did not wish you to think that I had been taking a liberty.”

“What do you mean?”

“I chanced to be in the room while Miss Wardour was complaining with some warmth of the manner in which Mr. Claude and Mr. Eustace were thrusting their society upon her. I felt that in the circumstances it might be excusable if I suggested a slight ruse to enable her to dispense with their attentions.”

“Good Lord! You don’t mean to say you were at the bottom of their popping off, after all!”

Silly ass it made me feel. I mean, after rubbing it in to him like that about having clicked without his assistance.

“It occurred to me that, were Miss Wardour to inform Mr. Claude and Mr. Eustace independently that she proposed sailing for South Africa to take up a theatrical engagement, the desired effect might be produced. It appears that my anticipations were correct, sir. The young gentlemen ate it, if I may use the expression.”

“Jeeves,” I said⁠—we Woosters may make bloomers, but we are never too proud to admit it⁠—“you stand alone!”

“Thank you very much, sir.”

“Oh, but I say!” A ghastly thought had struck me. “When they get on the boat and find she isn’t there, won’t they come buzzing back?”

“I anticipated that possibility, sir. At my suggestion, Miss Wardour informed the young gentlemen that she proposed to travel overland to Madeira and join the vessel there.”

“And where do they touch after Madeira?”

“Nowhere, sir.”

For a moment I just lay back, letting the idea of the thing soak in. There seemed to me to be only one flaw.

“The only pity is,” I said, “that on a large boat like that they will be able to avoid each other. I mean, I should have liked to feel that Claude was having a good deal of Eustace’s society and vice versa.”

“I fancy that that will be so, sir. I secured a two-berth stateroom. Mr. Claude will occupy one berth, Mr. Eustace the other.”

I sighed with pure ecstasy. It seemed a dashed shame that on this joyful occasion I should have to go off to Harrogate with my Uncle George.

“Have you started packing yet, Jeeves?” I asked.

“Packing, sir?”

“For Harrogate. I’ve got to go there today with Sir George.”

“Of course, yes, sir. I forgot to mention it. Sir George rang up on the telephone this morning while you were still asleep, and said that he had changed his plans. He does not intend to go to Harrogate.”

“Oh, I say, how absolutely topping!”

“I thought you might be pleased, sir.”

“What made him change his plans? Did he say?”

“No, sir. But I gather from his man, Stevens, that he is feeling much better and does not now require a rest-cure. I took the liberty of giving Stevens the recipe for that pick-me-up of mine, of which you have always approved so much. Stevens tells me that Sir George informed him this morning that he is feeling a new man.”

Well, there was only one thing to do, and I did it. I’m not saying it didn’t hurt, but there was no alternative.

“Jeeves,” I said, “those spats.”

“Yes, sir?”

“You really dislike them?”

“Intensely, sir.”

“You don’t think time might induce you to change your views?”

“No, sir.”

“All right, then. Very well. Say no more. You may burn them.”

“Thank you very much, sir. I have already done so. Before breakfast this morning. A quiet grey is far more suitable, sir. Thank you, sir.”

Bingo and the Little Woman

It must have been a week or so after the departure of Claude and Eustace that I ran into young Bingo Little in the smoking room of the Senior Liberal Club. He was lying back in an armchair with his mouth open and a sort of goofy expression in his eyes, while a grey-bearded cove in the middle distance watched him with so much dislike that I concluded that Bingo had pinched his favourite seat. That’s the worst of being in a strange club⁠—absolutely without intending it, you find yourself constantly trampling upon the vested interests of the Oldest Inhabitants.

“Hallo, face,” I said.

“Cheerio, ugly,” said young Bingo, and we settled down to have a small one before lunch.

Once a year the committee of the Drones decides that the old club could do with a wash and brush-up, so they shoo us out and dump us down for a few weeks at some other institution. This time we were roosting at the Senior Liberal, and personally I had found the strain pretty fearful. I mean, when you’ve got used to a club where everything’s nice and cheery, and where, if you want to attract a chappie’s attention, you heave a bit of bread at him, it kind of damps you to come to a place where the youngest member is about eighty-seven and it isn’t considered good form to talk to anyone unless you and he were through the Peninsular War together. It was a relief to come across Bingo. We started to talk in hushed voices.

“This club,” I said, “is the limit.”

“It is the eel’s eyebrows,” agreed young Bingo. “I believe that old boy over by the window has been dead three days, but I don’t like to mention it to anyone.”

“Have you lunched here yet?”

“No. Why?”

“They have waitresses instead of waiters.”

“Good Lord! I thought that went out with the armistice.” Bingo mused a moment, straightening his tie absently. “Er⁠—pretty girls?” he said.

“No.”

He seemed disappointed, but pulled round.

“Well, I’ve heard that the cooking’s the best in London.”

“So they say. Shall we be going in?”

“All right. I expect,” said young Bingo, “that at the end of the meal⁠—or possibly at the beginning⁠—the waitress will say, ‘Both together, sir?’ Reply in the affirmative. I haven’t a bean.”

“Hasn’t your uncle forgiven you yet?”

“Not yet, confound him!”

I was sorry to hear the row was still on. I resolved to do the poor old thing well at the festive board, and I scanned the menu with some intentness when the girl rolled up with it.

“How would this do you, Bingo?” I said at length. “A few plovers’ eggs to weigh in with, a cup of soup, a touch of cold salmon, some cold curry, and a splash of gooseberry tart and cream with a bite of cheese to finish?”

I don’t know that I had expected the man actually to scream with delight, though I had picked the items from my knowledge of his pet dishes, but I had expected him to say something. I looked up, and found that his attention was elsewhere. He was gazing at the waitress with the look of a dog that’s just remembered where its bone was buried.

She was a tallish girl with sort of soft, soulful brown eyes. Nice figure and all that. Rather decent hands, too. I didn’t remember having seen her about before, and I must say she raised the standard of the place quite a bit.

“How about it, laddie?” I said, being all for getting the order booked and going on to the serious knife-and-fork work.

“Eh?” said young Bingo absently.

I recited the programme once more.

“Oh, yes, fine!” said Bingo. “Anything, anything.” The girl pushed off, and he turned to me with protruding eyes. “I thought you said they weren’t pretty, Bertie!” he said reproachfully.

“Oh, my heavens!” I said. “You surely haven’t fallen in love again⁠—and with a girl you’ve only just seen?”

“There are times, Bertie,” said young Bingo, “when a look is enough⁠—when, passing through a crowd, we meet somebody’s eye and something seems to whisper.⁠ ⁠…”

At this point the plovers’ eggs arrived, and he suspended his remarks in order to swoop on them with some vigour.

“Jeeves,” I said that night when I got home, “stand by.”

“Sir?”

“Burnish the old brain and be alert and vigilant. I suspect that Mr. Little will be calling round shortly for sympathy and assistance.”

“Is Mr. Little in trouble, sir?”

“Well, you might call it that. He’s in love. For about the fifty-third time. I ask you, Jeeves, as man to man, did you ever see such a chap?”

Mr. Little is certainly warmhearted, sir.”

“Warmhearted! I should think he has to wear asbestos vests. Well, stand by, Jeeves.”

“Very good, sir.”

And sure enough, it wasn’t ten days before in rolled the old ass, bleating for volunteers to step one pace forward and come to the aid of the party.

“Bertie,” he said, “if you are a pal of mine, now is the time to show it.”

“Proceed, old gargoyle,” I replied. “You have our ear.”

“You remember giving me lunch at the Senior Liberal some days ago. We were waited on by a⁠—”

“I remember. Tall, lissom female.”

He shuddered somewhat.

“I wish you wouldn’t talk of her like that, dash it all. She’s an angel.”

“All right. Carry on.”

“I love her.”

“Right-o! Push along.”

“For goodness sake don’t bustle me. Let me tell the story in my own way. I love her, as I was saying, and I want you, Bertie, old boy, to pop round to my uncle and do a bit of diplomatic work. That allowance of mine must be restored, and dashed quick, too. What’s more, it must be increased.”

“But look here,” I said, being far from keen on the bally business, “why not wait awhile?”

“Wait? What’s the good of waiting?”

“Well, you know what generally happens when you fall in love. Something goes wrong with the works and you get left. Much better tackle your uncle after the whole thing’s fixed and settled.”

“It is fixed and settled. She accepted me this morning.”

“Good Lord! That’s quick work. You haven’t known her two weeks.”

“Not in this life, no,” said young Bingo. “But she has a sort of idea that we must have met in some previous existence. She thinks I must have been a king in Babylon when she was a Christian slave. I can’t say I remember it myself, but there may be something in it.”

“Great Scott!” I said. “Do waitresses really talk like that?”

“How should I know how waitresses talk?”

“Well, you ought to by now. The first time I ever met your uncle was when you hounded me on to ask him if he would rally round to help you marry that girl Mabel in the Piccadilly bun-shop.”

Bingo started violently. A wild gleam came into his eyes. And before I knew what he was up to he had brought down his hand with a most frightful whack on my summer trousering, causing me to leap like a young ram.

“Here!” I said.

“Sorry,” said Bingo. “Excited. Carried away. You’ve given me an idea, Bertie.” He waited till I had finished massaging the limb, and resumed his remarks. “Can you throw your mind back to that occasion, Bertie? Do you remember the frightfully subtle scheme I worked? Telling him you were what’s-her-name, the woman who wrote those books, I mean?”

It wasn’t likely I’d forget. The ghastly thing was absolutely seared into my memory.

“That is the line of attack,” said Bingo. “That is the scheme. Rosie M. Banks forward once more.”

“It can’t be done, old thing. Sorry, but it’s out of the question. I couldn’t go through all that again.”

“Not for me?”

“Not for a dozen more like you.”

“I never thought,” said Bingo sorrowfully, “to hear those words from Bertie Wooster!”

“Well, you’ve heard them now,” I said. “Paste them in your hat.”

“Bertie, we were at school together.”

“It wasn’t my fault.”

“We’ve been pals for fifteen years.”

“I know. It’s going to take me the rest of my life to live it down.”

“Bertie, old man,” said Bingo, drawing up his chair closer and starting to knead my shoulder-blade, “listen! Be reasonable!”

And of course, dash it, at the end of ten minutes I’d allowed the blighter to talk me round. It’s always the way. Anyone can talk me round. If I were in a Trappist monastery, the first thing that would happen would be that some smooth performer would lure me into some frightful idiocy against my better judgment by means of the deaf-and-dumb language.

“Well, what do you want me to do?” I said, realising that it was hopeless to struggle.

“Start off by sending the old boy an autographed copy of your latest effort with a flattering inscription. That will tickle him to death. Then you pop round and put it across.”

“What is my latest?”

The Woman Who Braved All,” said young Bingo. “I’ve seen it all over the place. The shop windows and bookstalls are full of nothing but it. It looks to me from the picture on the jacket the sort of book any chappie would be proud to have written. Of course, he will want to discuss it with you.”

“Ah!” I said, cheering up. “That dishes the scheme, doesn’t it? I don’t know what the bally thing is about.”

“You will have to read it, naturally.”

“Read it! No, I say.⁠ ⁠…”

“Bertie, we were at school together.”

“Oh, right-o! Right-o!” I said.

“I knew I could rely on you. You have a heart of gold. Jeeves,” said young Bingo, as the faithful servitor rolled in, “Mr. Wooster has a heart of gold.”

“Very good, sir,” said Jeeves.

Bar a weekly wrestle with the Pink ’Un and an occasional dip into the form book I’m not much of a lad for reading, and my sufferings as I tackled The Woman (curse her!) Who Braved All were pretty fearful. But I managed to get through it, and only just in time, as it happened, for I’d hardly reached the bit where their lips met in one long, slow kiss and everything was still but for the gentle sighing of the breeze in the laburnum, when a messenger boy brought a note from old Bittlesham asking me to trickle round to lunch.

I found the old boy in a mood you could only describe as melting. He had a copy of the book on the table beside him and kept turning the pages in the intervals of dealing with things in aspic and whatnot.

Mr. Wooster,” he said, swallowing a chunk of trout, “I wish to congratulate you. I wish to thank you. You go from strength to strength. I have read All For Love; I have read Only a Factory Girl; I know Madcap Myrtle by heart. But this⁠—this is your bravest and best. It tears the heartstrings.”

“Yes?”

“Indeed yes! I have read it three times since you most kindly sent me the volume⁠—I wish to thank you once more for the charming inscription⁠—and I think I may say that I am a better, sweeter, deeper man. I am full of human charity and kindliness toward my species.”

“No, really?”

“Indeed, indeed I am.”

“Towards the whole species?”

“Towards the whole species.”

“Even young Bingo?” I said, trying him pretty high.

“My nephew? Richard?” He looked a bit thoughtful, but stuck it like a man and refused to hedge. “Yes, even towards Richard. Well⁠ ⁠… that is to say⁠ ⁠… perhaps⁠ ⁠… yes, even towards Richard.”

“That’s good, because I wanted to talk about him. He’s pretty hard up, you know.”

“In straitened circumstances?”

“Stoney. And he could use a bit of the right stuff paid every quarter, if you felt like unbelting.”

He mused awhile and got through a slab of cold guinea hen before replying. He toyed with the book, and it fell open at page two hundred and fifteen. I couldn’t remember what was on page two hundred and fifteen, but it must have been something tolerably zippy, for his expression changed and he gazed up at me with misty eyes, as if he’d taken a shade too much mustard with his last bite of ham.

“Very well, Mr. Wooster,” he said. “Fresh from a perusal of this noble work of yours, I cannot harden my heart. Richard shall have his allowance.”

“Stout fellow!” I said. Then it occurred to me that the expression might strike a chappie who weighed seventeen stone as a bit personal. “Good egg, I mean. That’ll take a weight off his mind. He wants to get married, you know.”

“I did not know. And I am not sure that I altogether approve. Who is the lady?”

“Well, as a matter of fact, she’s a waitress.”

He leaped in his seat.

“You don’t say so, Mr. Wooster! This is remarkable. This is most cheering. I had not given the boy credit for such tenacity of purpose. An excellent trait in him which I had not hitherto suspected. I recollect clearly that, on the occasion when I first had the pleasure of making your acquaintance, nearly eighteen months ago, Richard was desirous of marrying this same waitress.”

I had to break it to him.

“Well, not absolutely this same waitress. In fact, quite a different waitress. Still, a waitress, you know.”

The light of avuncular affection died out of the old boy’s eyes.

“H’m!” he said a bit dubiously. “I had supposed that Richard was displaying the quality of constancy which is so rare in the modern young man. I⁠—I must think it over.”

So we left it at that, and I came away and told Bingo the position of affairs.

“Allowance OK,” I said. “Uncle blessing a trifle wobbly.”

“Doesn’t he seem to want the wedding bells to ring out?”

“I left him thinking it over. If I were a bookie, I should feel justified in offering a hundred to eight against.”

“You can’t have approached him properly. I might have known you would muck it up,” said young Bingo. Which, considering what I had been through for his sake, struck me as a good bit sharper than a serpent’s tooth.

“It’s awkward,” said young Bingo. “It’s infernally awkward. I can’t tell you all the details at the moment, but⁠ ⁠… yes, it’s awkward.”

He helped himself absently to a handful of my cigars and pushed off.

I didn’t see him again for three days. Early in the afternoon of the third day he blew in with a flower in his buttonhole and a look on his face as if someone had hit him behind the ear with a stuffed eel skin.

“Hallo, Bertie.”

“Hallo, old turnip. Where have you been all this while?”

“Oh, here and there! Ripping weather we’re having, Bertie.”

“Not bad.”

“I see the Bank Rate is down again.”

“No, really?”

“Disturbing news from Lower Silesia, what?”

“Oh, dashed!”

He pottered about the room for a bit, babbling at intervals. The boy seemed cuckoo.

“Oh, I say, Bertie!” he said suddenly, dropping a vase which he had picked off the mantelpiece and was fiddling with. “I know what it was I wanted to tell you. I’m married.”


I stared at him. That flower in his buttonhole.⁠ ⁠… That dazed look.⁠ ⁠… Yes, he had all the symptoms; and yet the thing seemed incredible. The fact is, I suppose, I’d seen so many of young Bingo’s love affairs start off with a whoop and a rattle and poof themselves out halfway down the straight that I couldn’t believe he had actually brought it off at last.

“Married!”

“Yes. This morning at a registrar’s in Holburn. I’ve just come from the wedding breakfast.”

I sat up in my chair. Alert. The man of affairs. It seemed to me that this thing wanted threshing out in all its aspects.

“Let’s get this straight,” I said. “You’re really married?”

“Yes.”

“The same girl you were in love with the day before yesterday?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, you know what you’re like. Tell me, what made you commit this rash act?”

“I wish the deuce you wouldn’t talk like that. I married her because I love her, dash it. The best little woman,” said young Bingo, “in the world.”

“That’s all right, and deuced creditable, I’m sure. But have you reflected what your uncle’s going to say? The last I saw of him, he was by no means in a confetti-scattering mood.”

“Bertie,” said Bingo, “I’ll be frank with you. The little woman rather put it up to me, if you know what I mean. I told her how my uncle felt about it, and she said that we must part unless I loved her enough to brave the old boy’s wrath and marry her right away. So I had no alternative. I bought a buttonhole and went to it.”

“And what do you propose to do now?”

“Oh, I’ve got it all planned out! After you’ve seen my uncle and broken the news.⁠ ⁠…”

“What!”

“After you’ve.⁠ ⁠…”

“You don’t mean to say you think you’re going to lug me into it?”

He looked at me like Lilian Gish coming out of a swoon.

“Is this Bertie Wooster talking?” he said, pained.

“Yes, it jolly well is.”

“Bertie, old man,” said Bingo, patting me gently here and there, “reflect! We were at school⁠—”

“Oh, all right!”

“Good man! I knew I could rely on you. She’s waiting down below in the hall. We’ll pick her up and dash round to Pounceby Gardens right away.”

I had only seen the bride before in her waitress kit, and I was rather expecting that on her wedding day she would have launched out into something fairly zippy in the way of upholstery. The first gleam of hope I had felt since the start of this black business came to me when I saw that, instead of being all velvet and scent and flowery hat, she was dressed in dashed good taste. Quiet. Nothing loud. So far as looks went, she might have stepped straight out of Berkeley Square.

“This is my old pal, Bertie Wooster, darling,” said Bingo. “We were at school together, weren’t we, Bertie?”

“We were!” I said. “How do you do? I think we⁠—er⁠—met at lunch the other day, didn’t we?”

“Oh, yes! How do you do?”

“My uncle eats out of Bertie’s hand,” explained Bingo. “So he’s coming round with us to start things off and kind of pave the way. Hi, taxi!”

We didn’t talk much on the journey. Kind of tense feeling. I was glad when the cab stopped at old Bittlesham’s wigwam and we all hopped out. I left Bingo and wife in the hall while I went upstairs to the drawing-room, and the butler toddled off to dig out the big chief.

While I was prowling about the room waiting for him to show up, I suddenly caught sight of that bally Woman Who Braved All lying on one of the tables. It was open at page two hundred and fifteen, and a passage heavily marked in pencil caught my eye. And directly I read it I saw that it was all to the mustard and was going to help me in my business.

This was the passage:

“What can prevail”⁠—Millicent’s eyes flashed as she faced the stern old man⁠—“what can prevail against a pure and all-consuming love? Neither principalities nor powers, my lord, nor all the puny prohibitions of guardians and parents. I love your son, Lord Windermere, and nothing can keep us apart. Since time first began this love of ours was fated, and who are you to pit yourself against the decrees of Fate?”

The earl looked at her keenly from beneath his bushy eyebrows.

“Humph!” he said.

Before I had time to refresh my memory as to what Millicent’s comeback had been to that remark, the door opened and old Bittlesham rolled in. All over me, as usual.

“My dear Mr. Wooster, this is an unexpected pleasure. Pray take a seat. What can I do for you?”

“Well, the fact is, I’m more or less in the capacity of a jolly old ambassador at the moment. Representing young Bingo, you know.”

His geniality sagged a trifle, I thought, but he didn’t heave me out, so I pushed on.

“The way I always look at it,” I said, “is that it’s dashed difficult for anything to prevail against what you might call a pure and all-consuming love. I mean, can it be done? I doubt it.”

My eyes didn’t exactly flash as I faced the stern old man, but I sort of waggled my eyebrows. He puffed a bit and looked doubtful.

“We discussed this matter at our last meeting, Mr. Wooster. And on that occasion.⁠ ⁠…”

“Yes. But there have been developments, as it were, since then. The fact of the matter is,” I said, coming to the point, “this morning young Bingo went and jumped off the dock.”

“Good heavens!” He jerked himself to his feet with his mouth open. “Why? Where? Which dock?”

I saw that he wasn’t quite on.

“I was speaking metaphorically,” I explained, “if that’s the word I want. I mean he got married.”

“Married!”

“Absolutely hitched up. I hope you aren’t ratty about it, what? Young blood, you know. Two loving hearts, and all that.”

He panted in a rather overwrought way.

“I am greatly disturbed by your news. I⁠—I consider that I have been⁠—er⁠—defied. Yes, defied.”

“But who are you to pit yourself against the decrees of Fate?” I said, taking a look at the prompt book out of the corner of my eye.

“Eh?”

“You see, this love of theirs was fated. Since time began, you know.”

I’m bound to admit that if he’d said “Humph!” at this juncture, he would have had me stymied. Luckily it didn’t occur to him. There was a silence, during which he appeared to brood a bit. Then his eye fell on the book and he gave a sort of start.

“Why, bless my soul, Mr. Wooster, you have been quoting!”

“More or less.”

“I thought your words sounded familiar.” His whole appearance changed and he gave a sort of gurgling chuckle. “Dear me, dear me, you know my weak spot!” He picked up the book and buried himself in it for quite a while. I began to think he had forgotten I was there. After a bit, however, he put it down again, and wiped his eyes. “Ah, well!” he said.

I shuffled my feet and hoped for the best.

“Ah, well,” he said again. “I must not be like Lord Windermere, must I, Mr. Wooster? Tell me, did you draw that haughty old man from a living model?”

“Oh, no! Just thought of him and bunged him down, you know.”

“Genius!” murmured old Bittlesham. “Genius! Well, Mr. Wooster, you have won me over. Who, as you say, am I to pit myself against the decrees of Fate? I will write to Richard tonight and inform him of my consent to his marriage.”

“You can slip him the glad news in person,” I said. “He’s waiting downstairs, with wife complete. I’ll pop down and send them up. Cheerio, and thanks very much. Bingo will be most awfully bucked.”

I shot out and went downstairs. Bingo and Mrs. were sitting on a couple of chairs like patients in a dentist’s waiting-room.

“Well?” said Bingo eagerly.

“All over except the hand-clasping,” I replied, slapping the old crumpet on the back. “Charge up and get matey. Toodle-oo, old things. You know where to find me, if wanted. A thousand congratulations, and all that sort of rot.”

And I pipped, not wishing to be fawned upon.


You never can tell in this world. If ever I felt that something attempted, something done had earned a night’s repose, it was when I got back to the flat and shoved my feet up on the mantelpiece and started to absorb the cup of tea which Jeeves had brought in. Used as I am to seeing Life’s sitters blow up in the home stretch and finish nowhere, I couldn’t see any cause for alarm in this affair of young Bingo’s. All he had to do when I left him in Pounceby Gardens was to walk upstairs with the little missus and collect the blessing. I was so convinced of this that when, about half an hour later, he came galloping into my sitting room, all I thought was that he wanted to thank me in broken accents and tell me what a good chap I had been. I merely beamed benevolently on the old creature as he entered, and was just going to offer him a cigarette when I observed that he seemed to have something on his mind. In fact, he looked as if something solid had hit him in the solar plexus.

“My dear old soul,” I said, “what’s up?”

Bingo plunged about the room.

“I will be calm!” he said, knocking over an occasional table. “Calm, dammit!” He upset a chair.

“Surely nothing has gone wrong?”

Bingo uttered one of those hollow, mirthless yelps.

“Only every bally thing that could go wrong. What do you think happened after you left us? You know that beastly book you insisted on sending my uncle?”

It wasn’t the way I should have put it myself, but I saw the poor old bean was upset for some reason or other, so I didn’t correct him.

The Woman Who Braved All?” I said. “It came in dashed useful. It was by quoting bits out of it that I managed to talk him round.”

“Well, it didn’t come in useful when we got into the room. It was lying on the table, and after we had started to chat a bit and everything was going along nicely the little woman spotted it. ‘Oh, have you read this, Lord Bittlesham?’ she said. ‘Three times already,’ said my uncle. ‘I’m so glad,’ said the little woman. ‘Why, are you also an admirer of Rosie M. Banks?’ asked the old boy, beaming. ‘I am Rosie M. Banks!’ said the little woman.”

“Oh, my aunt! Not really?”

“Yes.”

“But how could she be? I mean, dash it, she was slinging the foodstuffs at the Senior Liberal Club.”

Bingo gave the settee a moody kick.

“She took the job to collect material for a book she’s writing called Mervyn Keene, Clubman.”

“She might have told you.”

“It made such a hit with her when she found that I loved her for herself alone, despite her humble station, that she kept it under her hat. She meant to spring it on me later on, she said.”

“Well, what happened then?”

“There was the dickens of a painful scene. The old boy nearly got apoplexy. Called her an impostor. They both started talking at once at the top of their voices, and the thing ended with the little woman buzzing off to her publishers to collect proofs as a preliminary to getting a written apology from the old boy. What’s going to happen now, I don’t know. Apart from the fact that my uncle will be as mad as a wet hen when he finds out that he has been fooled, there’s going to be a lot of trouble when the little woman discovers that we worked the Rosie M. Banks wheeze with a view to trying to get me married to somebody else. You see, one of the things that first attracted her to me was the fact that I had never been in love before.”

“Did you tell her that?”

“Yes.”

“Great Scott!”

“Well, I hadn’t been⁠ ⁠… not really in love. There’s all the difference in the world between.⁠ ⁠… Well, never mind that. What am I going to do? That’s the point.”

“I don’t know.”

“Thanks,” said young Bingo. “That’s a lot of help.”


Next morning he rang me up on the phone just after I’d got the bacon and eggs into my system⁠—the one moment of the day, in short, when a chappie wishes to muse on life absolutely undisturbed.

“Bertie!”

“Hallo?”

“Things are hotting up.”

“What’s happened now?”

“My uncle has given the little woman’s proofs the once-over and admits her claim. I’ve just been having five snappy minutes with him on the telephone. He says that you and I made a fool of him, and he could hardly speak, he was so shirty. Still, he made it clear all right that my allowance has gone phut again.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t waste time being sorry for me,” said young Bingo grimly. “He’s coming to call on you today to demand a personal explanation.”

“Great Scott!”

“And the little woman is coming to call on you to demand a personal explanation.”

“Good Lord!”

“I shall watch your future career with some considerable interest,” said young Bingo.

I bellowed for Jeeves.

“Jeeves!”

“Sir?”

“I’m in the soup.”

“Indeed, sir?”

I sketched out the scenario for him.

“What would you advise?”

“I think if I were you, sir, I would accept Mr. Pitt-Waley’s invitation immediately. If you remember, sir, he invited you to shoot with him in Norfolk this week.”

“So he did! By Jove, Jeeves, you’re always right. Meet me at the station with my things the first train after lunch. I’ll go and lie low at the club for the rest of the morning.”

“Would you require my company on this visit, sir?”

“Do you want to come?”

“If I might suggest it, sir, I think it would be better if I remained here and kept in touch with Mr. Little. I might possibly hit upon some method of pacifying the various parties, sir.”

“Right-o! But, if you do, you’re a marvel.”


I didn’t enjoy myself much in Norfolk. It rained most of the time, and when it wasn’t raining I was so dashed jumpy I couldn’t hit a thing. By the end of the week I couldn’t stand it any longer. Too bally absurd, I mean, being marooned miles away in the country just because young Bingo’s uncle and wife wanted to have a few words with me. I made up my mind that I would pop back and do the strong, manly thing by lying low in my flat and telling Jeeves to inform everybody who called that I wasn’t at home.

I sent Jeeves a telegram saying I was coming, and drove straight to Bingo’s place when I reached town. I wanted to find out the general posish of affairs. But apparently the man was out. I rang a couple of times but nothing happened, and I was just going to leg it when I heard the sound of footsteps inside and the door opened. It wasn’t one of the cheeriest moments of my career when I found myself peering into the globular face of Lord Bittlesham.

“Oh, er, hallo!” I said. And there was a bit of a pause.

I don’t quite know what I had been expecting the old boy to do if, by bad luck, we should ever meet again, but I had a sort of general idea that he would turn fairly purple and start almost immediately to let me have it in the gizzard. It struck me as somewhat rummy, therefore, when he simply smiled weakly. A sort of frozen smile it was. His eyes kind of bulged and he swallowed once or twice.

“Er.⁠ ⁠…” he said.

I waited for him to continue, but apparently that was all there was.

“Bingo in?” I said, after a rather embarrassing pause.

He shook his head and smiled again. And then, suddenly, just as the flow of conversation had begun to slacken once more, I’m dashed if he didn’t make a sort of lumbering leap back into the flat and bang the door.

I couldn’t understand it. But, as it seemed that the interview, such as it was, was over, I thought I might as well be shifting. I had just started down the stairs when I met young Bingo, charging up three steps at a time.

“Hallo, Bertie!” he said. “Where did you spring from? I thought you were out of town.”

“I’ve just got back. I looked in on you to see how the land lay.”

“How do you mean?”

“Why, all that business, you know.”

“Oh, that!” said young Bingo airily. “That was all settled days ago. The dove of peace is flapping its wings all over the place. Everything’s as right as it can be. Jeeves fixed it all up. He’s a marvel, that man, Bertie, I’ve always said so. Put the whole thing straight in half a minute with one of those brilliant ideas of his.”

“This is topping!”

“I knew you’d be pleased.”

“Congratulate you.”

“Thanks.”

“What did Jeeves do? I couldn’t think of any solution of the bally thing myself.”

“Oh, he took the matter in hand and smoothed it all out in a second! My uncle and the little woman are tremendous pals now. They gas away by the hour together about literature and all that. He’s always dropping in for a chat.”

This reminded me.

“He’s in there now,” I said. “I say, Bingo, how is your uncle these days?”

“Much as usual. How do you mean?”

“I mean he hasn’t been feeling the strain of things a bit, has he? He seemed rather strange in his manner just now.”

“Why, have you met him?”

“He opened the door when I rang. And then, after he had stood goggling at me for a bit, he suddenly banged the door in my face. Puzzled me, you know. I mean, I could have understood it if he’d ticked me off and all that, but dash it, the man seemed absolutely scared.”

Young Bingo laughed a carefree laugh.

“Oh, that’s all right!” he said. “I forgot to tell you about that. Meant to write, but kept putting it off. He thinks you’re a looney.”

“He⁠—what!”

“Yes. That was Jeeves’s idea, you know. It’s solved the whole problem splendidly. He suggested that I should tell my uncle that I had acted in perfectly good faith in introducing you to him as Rosie M. Banks; that I had repeatedly had it from your own lips that you were, and that I didn’t see any reason why you shouldn’t be. The idea being that you were subject to hallucinations and generally potty. And then we got hold of Sir Roderick Glossop⁠—you remember, the old boy whose kid you pushed into the lake that day down at Ditteredge Hall⁠—and he rallied round with his story of how he had come to lunch with you and found your bedroom full up with cats and fish, and how you had pinched his hat while you were driving past his car in a taxi, and all that, you know. It just rounded the whole thing off nicely. I always say, and I always shall say, that you’ve only got to stand on Jeeves, and fate can’t touch you.”

I can stand a good deal, but there are limits.

“Well, of all the dashed bits of nerve I ever.⁠ ⁠…”

Bingo looked at me astonished.

“You aren’t annoyed?” he said.

“Annoyed! At having half London going about under the impression that I’m off my chump? Dash it all.⁠ ⁠…”

“Bertie,” said Bingo, “you amaze and wound me. If I had dreamed that you would object to doing a trifling good turn to a fellow who’s been a pal of yours for fifteen years.⁠ ⁠…”

“Yes, but, look here.⁠ ⁠…”

“Have you forgotten,” said young Bingo, “that we were at school together?”


I pushed on to the old flat, seething like the dickens. One thing I was jolly certain of, and that was that this was where Jeeves and I parted company. A topping valet, of course, none better in London, but I wasn’t going to allow that to weaken me. I buzzed into the flat like an east wind⁠ ⁠… and there was the box of cigarettes on the small table and the illustrated weekly papers on the big table and my slippers on the floor, and every dashed thing so bally right, if you know what I mean, that I started to calm down in the first two seconds. It was like one of those moments in a play where the chappie, about to steep himself in crime, suddenly hears the soft, appealing strains of the old melody he learned at his mother’s knee. Softened, I mean to say. That’s the word I want. I was softened.

And then through the doorway there shimmered good old Jeeves in the wake of a tray full of the necessary ingredients, and there was something about the mere look of the man.⁠ ⁠…

However, I steeled the old heart and had a stab at it.

“I have just met Mr. Little, Jeeves,” I said.

“Indeed, sir?”

“He⁠—er⁠—he told me you had been helping him.”

“I did my best, sir. And I am happy to say that matters now appear to be proceeding smoothly. Whisky, sir?”

“Thanks. Er⁠—Jeeves.”

“Sir?”

“Another time.⁠ ⁠…”

“Sir?”

“Oh, nothing.⁠ ⁠… Not all the soda, Jeeves.”

“Very good, sir.”

He started to drift out.

“Oh, Jeeves!”

“Sir?”

“I wish⁠ ⁠… that is⁠ ⁠… I think⁠ ⁠… I mean.⁠ ⁠… Oh, nothing!”

“Very good, sir. The cigarettes are at your elbow, sir. Dinner will be ready at a quarter to eight precisely, unless you desire to dine out?”

“No. I’ll dine in.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Jeeves!”

“Sir?”

“Oh, nothing!” I said.

“Very good, sir,” said Jeeves.

The Rummy Affair of Old Biffy

“Jeeves,” I said, emerging from the old tub, “rally round.”

“Yes, sir.”

I beamed on the man with no little geniality. I was putting in a week or two in Paris at the moment, and there’s something about Paris that always makes me feel fairly full of espièglerie and joie de vivre.

“Lay out our gent’s medium-smart raiment, suitable for Bohemian revels,” I said. “I am lunching with an artist bloke on the other side of the river.”

“Very good, sir.”

“And if anybody calls for me, Jeeves, say that I shall be back towards the quiet evenfall.”

“Yes, sir. Mr. Biffen rang up on the telephone while you were in your bath.”

Mr. Biffen? Good heavens!”

Amazing how one’s always running across fellows in foreign cities⁠—birds, I mean, whom you haven’t seen for ages and would have betted weren’t anywhere in the neighbourhood. Paris was the last place where I should have expected to find old Biffy popping up. There was a time when he and I had been lads about town together, lunching and dining together practically every day; but some eighteen months back his old godmother had died and left him that place in Herefordshire, and he had retired there to wear gaiters and prod cows in the ribs and generally be the country gentleman and landed proprietor. Since then I had hardly seen him.

“Old Biffy in Paris? What’s he doing here?”

“He did not confide in me, sir,” said Jeeves⁠—a trifle frostily, I thought. It sounded somehow as if he didn’t like Biffy. And yet they had always been matey enough in the old days.

“Where’s he staying?”

“At the Hotel Avenida, Rue du Colisée, sir. He informed me that he was about to take a walk and would call this afternoon.”

“Well, if he comes when I’m out, tell him to wait. And now, Jeeves, mes gants, mon chapeau, et le whangee de monsieur. I must be popping.”

It was such a corking day and I had so much time in hand that near the Sorbonne I stopped my cab, deciding to walk the rest of the way. And I had hardly gone three steps and a half when there on the pavement before me stood old Biffy in person. If I had completed the last step I should have rammed him.

“Biffy!” I cried. “Well, well, well!”

He peered at me in a blinking kind of way, rather like one of his Herefordshire cows prodded unexpectedly while lunching.

“Bertie!” he gurgled, in a devout sort of tone. “Thank God!” He clutched my arm. “Don’t leave me, Bertie. I’m lost.”

“What do you mean, lost?”

“I came out for a walk and suddenly discovered after a mile or two that I didn’t know where on earth I was. I’ve been wandering round in circles for hours.”

“Why didn’t you ask the way?”

“I can’t speak a word of French.”

“Well, why didn’t you call a taxi?”

“I suddenly discovered I’d left all my money at my hotel.”

“You could have taken a cab and paid it when you got to the hotel.”

“Yes, but suddenly I discovered, dash it, that I’d forgotten its name.”

And there in a nutshell you have Charles Edward Biffen. As vague and woolen-headed a blighter as ever bit a sandwich. Goodness knows⁠—and my Aunt Agatha will bear me out in this⁠—I’m no mastermind myself; but compared with Biffy I’m one of the great thinkers of all time.

“I’d give a shilling,” said Biffy, wistfully, “to know the name of that hotel.”

“You can owe it me. Hotel Avenida, Rue du Colisée.”

“Bertie! This is uncanny. How the deuce did you know?”

“That was the address you left with Jeeves this morning.”

“So it was. I had forgotten.”

“Well, come along and have a drink, and then I’ll put you in a cab and send you home. I’m engaged for lunch, but I’ve plenty of time.”

We drifted to one of the eleven cafés which jostled each other along the street and I ordered restoratives.

“What on earth are you doing in Paris?” I asked.

“Bertie, old man,” said Biffy, solemnly, “I came here to try and forget.”

“Well, you’ve certainly succeeded.”

“You don’t understand. The fact is, Bertie, old lad, my heart is broken. I’ll tell you the whole story.”

“No, I say!” I protested. But he was off.

“Last year,” said Biffy, “I buzzed over to Canada to do a bit of salmon fishing.”

I ordered another. If this was going to be a fish-story, I needed stimulants.

“On the liner going to New York I met a girl.” Biffy made a sort of curious gulping noise not unlike a bulldog trying to swallow half a cutlet in a hurry so as to be ready for the other half. “Bertie, old man, I can’t describe her. I simply can’t describe her.”

This was all to the good.

“She was wonderful! We used to walk on the boat-deck after dinner. She was on the stage. At least, sort of.”

“How do you mean, sort of?”

“Well, she had worked with a concert party and posed for artists and been a mannequin in a big dressmaker’s and all that sort of thing, don’t you know,” said Biffy, vaguely. “Anyway, she had saved up a few pounds and was on her way to see if she could get a job in New York. She told me all about herself. Her father ran a milk-walk in Clapham. Or it may have been Cricklewood. At least, it was either a milk-walk or a boot-shop.”

“Easily confused.”

“What I’m trying to make you understand,” said Biffy, “is that she came of good, sturdy, respectable middle-class stock. Nothing flashy about her. The sort of wife any man might have been proud of.”

“Well, whose wife was she?”

“Nobody’s. That’s the whole point of the story. I wanted her to be mine, and I lost her.”

“Had a quarrel, you mean?”

“No, I don’t mean we had a quarrel. I mean I literally lost her. The last I ever saw of her was in the Customs sheds at New York. We were behind a pile of trunks, and I had just asked her to be my wife, and she had just said she would and everything was perfectly splendid, when a most offensive blighter in a peaked cap came up to talk about some cigarettes which he had found at the bottom of my trunk and which I had forgotten to declare. It was getting pretty late by then, for we hadn’t docked till about ten-thirty, so I told Mabel to go on to her hotel and I would come round next day and take her to lunch. And since then I haven’t set eyes on her.”

“You mean she wasn’t at the hotel?”

“Probably she was. But⁠—”

“You don’t mean you never turned up?”

“Bertie, old man,” said Biffy, in an overwrought kind of way, “for Heaven’s sake don’t keep trying to tell me what I mean and what I don’t mean! Let me tell this my own way, or I shall get all mixed up and have to go back to the beginning.”

“Tell it your own way,” I said, hastily.

“Well, then, to put it in a word, Bertie, I forgot the name of the hotel. By the time I’d done half an hour’s heavy explaining about those cigarettes my mind was a blank. I had an idea I had written the name down somewhere, but I couldn’t have done, for it wasn’t on any of the papers in my pocket. No, it was no good. She was gone.”

“Why didn’t you make inquiries?”

“Well, the fact is, Bertie, I had forgotten her name.”

“Oh, no, dash it!” I said. This seemed a bit too thick even for Biffy. “How could you forget her name? Besides, you told it me a moment ago. Muriel or something.”

“Mabel,” corrected Biffy, coldly. “It was her surname I’d forgotten. So I gave it up and went to Canada.”

“But half a second,” I said. “You must have told her your name. I mean, if you couldn’t trace her, she could trace you.”

“Exactly. That’s what makes it all seem so infernally hopeless. She knows my name and where I live and everything, but I haven’t heard a word from her. I suppose, when I didn’t turn up at the hotel, she took it that that was my way of hinting delicately that I had changed my mind and wanted to call the thing off.”

“I suppose so,” I said. There didn’t seem anything else to suppose. “Well, the only thing to do is to whizz around and try to heal the wound, what? How about dinner tonight, winding up at the Abbaye, or one of those places?”

Biffy shook his head.

“It wouldn’t be any good. I’ve tried it. Besides, I’m leaving on the four o’clock train. I have a dinner engagement tomorrow with a man who’s nibbling at that house of mine in Herefordshire.”

“Oh, are you trying to sell that place? I thought you liked it.”

“I did. But the idea of going on living in that great, lonely barn of a house after what has happened appals me, Bertie. So when Sir Roderick Glossop came along⁠—”

“Sir Roderick Glossop! You don’t mean the loony-doctor?”

“The great nerve specialist, yes. Why, do you know him?”

It was a warm day, but I shivered.

“I was engaged to his daughter for a week or two,” I said, in a hushed voice. The memory of that narrow squeak always made me feel faint.

“Has he a daughter?” said Biffy, absently.

“He has. Let me tell you all about⁠—”

“Not just now, old man,” said Biffy, getting up. “I ought to be going back to my hotel to see about my packing.”

Which, after I had listened to his story, struck me as pretty low-down. However, the longer you live, the more you realize that the good old sporting spirit of give-and-take has practically died out in our midst. So I boosted him into a cab and went off to lunch.


It can’t have been more than ten days after this that I received a nasty shock while getting outside my morning tea and toast. The English papers had arrived, and Jeeves was just drifting out of the room after depositing The Times by my bedside, when, as I idly turned the pages in search of the sporting section, a paragraph leaped out and hit me squarely in the eyeball.

As follows⁠—

Forthcoming Marriages

Mr. C. E. Biffen and Miss Glossop

The engagement is announced between Charles Edward, only son of the late Mr. E. C. Biffen, and Mrs. Biffen, of 11, Penslow Square, Mayfair, and Honoria Jane Louise, only daughter of Sir Roderick and Lady Glossop, of 6b, Harley Street, W.

“Great Scott!” I exclaimed.

“Sir?” said Jeeves, turning at the door.

“Jeeves, you remember Miss Glossop?”

“Very vividly, sir.”

“She’s engaged to Mr. Biffen!”

“Indeed, sir?” said Jeeves. And, with not another word, he slid out. The blighter’s calm amazed and shocked me. It seemed to indicate that there must be a horrible streak of callousness in him. I mean to say, it wasn’t as if he didn’t know Honoria Glossop.

I read the paragraph again. A peculiar feeling it gave me. I don’t know if you have ever experienced the sensation of seeing the announcement of the engagement of a pal of yours to a girl whom you were only saved from marrying yourself by the skin of your teeth. It induces a sort of⁠—well, it’s difficult to describe it exactly; but I should imagine a fellow would feel much the same if he happened to be strolling through the jungle with a boyhood chum and met a tigress or a jaguar, or whatnot, and managed to shin up a tree, and looked down and saw the friend of his youth vanishing into the undergrowth in the animal’s slavering jaws. A sort of profound, prayerful relief, if you know what I mean, blended at the same time with a pang of pity. What I’m driving at is that, thankful as I was that I hadn’t had to marry Honoria myself, I was sorry to see a real good chap like old Biffy copping it. I sucked down a spot of tea and began to brood over the business.

Of course, there are probably fellows in the world⁠—tough, hardy blokes with strong chins and glittering eyes⁠—who could get engaged to this Glossop menace and like it; but I knew perfectly well that Biffy was not one of them. Honoria, you see, is one of those robust, dynamic girls with the muscles of a welterweight and a laugh like a squadron of cavalry charging over a tin bridge. A beastly thing to have to face over the breakfast table. Brainy, moreover. The sort of girl who reduces you to pulp with sixteen sets of tennis and a few rounds of golf and then comes down to dinner as fresh as a daisy, expecting you to take an intelligent interest in Freud. If I had been engaged to her another week, her old father would have had one more patient on his books; and Biffy is much the same quiet sort of peaceful, inoffensive bird as me. I was shocked, I tell you, shocked.

And, as I was saying, the thing that shocked me most was Jeeves’s frightful lack of proper emotion. The man happening to trickle in at this juncture, I gave him one more chance to show some human sympathy.

“You got the name correctly, didn’t you, Jeeves?” I said. “Mr. Biffen is going to marry Honoria Glossop, the daughter of the old boy with the egg-like head and the eyebrows.”

“Yes, sir. Which suit would you wish me to lay out this morning?”

And this, mark you, from the man who, when I was engaged to the Glossop, strained every fibre in his brain to extricate me. It beat me. I couldn’t understand it.

“The blue with the red twill,” I said, coldly. My manner was marked, and I meant him to see that he had disappointed me sorely.

About a week later I went back to London, and scarcely had I got settled in the old flat when Biffy blew in. One glance was enough to tell me that the poisoned wound had begun to fester. The man did not look bright. No, there was no getting away from it, not bright. He had that kind of stunned, glassy expression which I used to see on my own face in the shaving-mirror during my brief engagement to the Glossop pestilence. However, if you don’t want to be one of the What Is Wrong With This Picture brigade, you must observe the conventions, so I shook his hand as warmly as I could.

“Well, well, old man,” I said. “Congratulations.”

“Thanks,” said Biffy, wanly, and there was rather a weighty silence.

“Bertie,” said Biffy, after the silence had lasted about three minutes.

“Hullo?”

“Is it really true⁠—?”

“What?”

“Oh, nothing,” said Biffy, and conversation languished again. After about a minute and a half he came to the surface once more.

“Bertie.”

“Still here, old thing. What is it?”

“I say, Bertie, is it really true that you were once engaged to Honoria?”

“It is.”

Biffy coughed.

“How did you get out⁠—I mean, what was the nature of the tragedy that prevented the marriage?”

“Jeeves worked it. He thought out the entire scheme.”

“I think, before I go,” said Biffy, thoughtfully, “I’ll just step into the kitchen and have a word with Jeeves.”

I felt that the situation called for complete candour.

“Biffy, old egg,” I said, “as man to man, do you want to oil out of this thing?”

“Bertie, old cork,” said Biffy, earnestly, “as one friend to another, I do.”

“Then why the dickens did you ever get into it?”

“I don’t know. Why did you?”

“I⁠—well, it sort of happened.”

“And it sort of happened with me. You know how it is when your heart’s broken. A kind of lethargy comes over you. You get absentminded and cease to exercise proper precautions, and the first thing you know you’re for it. I don’t know how it happened, old man, but there it is. And what I want you to tell me is, what’s the procedure?”

“You mean, how does a fellow edge out?”

“Exactly. I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings, Bertie, but I can’t go through with this thing. The shot is not on the board. For about a day and a half I thought it might be all right, but now⁠—You remember that laugh of hers?”

“I do.”

“Well, there’s that, and then all this business of never letting a fellow alone⁠—improving his mind and so forth⁠—”

“I know. I know.”

“Very well, then. What do you recommend? What did you mean when you said that Jeeves worked a scheme?”

“Well, you see, old Sir Roderick, who’s a loony-doctor and nothing but a loony-doctor, however much you may call him a nerve specialist, discovered that there was a modicum of insanity in my family. Nothing serious. Just one of my uncles. Used to keep rabbits in his bedroom. And the old boy came to lunch here to give me the once-over, and Jeeves arranged matters so that he went away firmly convinced that I was off my onion.”

“I see,” said Biffy, thoughtfully. “The trouble is there isn’t any insanity in my family.”

“None?”

It seemed to me almost incredible that a fellow could be such a perfect chump as dear old Biffy without a bit of assistance.

“Not a loony on the list,” he said, gloomily. “It’s just like my luck. The old boy’s coming to lunch with me tomorrow, no doubt to test me as he did you. And I never felt saner in my life.”

I thought for a moment. The idea of meeting Sir Roderick again gave me a cold shivery feeling; but when there is a chance of helping a pal we Woosters have no thought of self.

“Look here, Biffy,” I said, “I’ll tell you what. I’ll roll up for that lunch. It may easily happen that when he finds you are a pal of mine he will forbid the banns right away and no more questions asked.”

“Something in that,” said Biffy, brightening. “Awfully sporting of you, Bertie.”

“Oh, not at all,” I said. “And meanwhile I’ll consult Jeeves. Put the whole thing up to him and ask his advice. He’s never failed me yet.”

Biffy pushed off, a good deal braced, and I went into the kitchen.

“Jeeves,” I said, “I want your help once more. I’ve just been having a painful interview with Mr. Biffen.”

“Indeed, sir?”

“It’s like this,” I said, and told him the whole thing.

It was rummy, but I could feel him freezing from the start. As a rule, when I call Jeeves into conference on one of these little problems, he’s all sympathy and bright ideas; but not today.

“I fear, sir,” he said, when I had finished, “it is hardly my place to intervene in a private matter affecting⁠—”

“Oh, come!”

“No, sir. It would be taking a liberty.”

“Jeeves,” I said, tackling the blighter squarely, “what have you got against old Biffy?”

“I, sir?”

“Yes, you.”

“I assure you, sir!”

“Oh, well, if you don’t want to chip in and save a fellow-creature, I suppose I can’t make you. But let me tell you this. I am now going back to the sitting-room, and I am going to put in some very tense thinking. You’ll look pretty silly when I come and tell you that I’ve got Mr. Biffen out of the soup without your assistance. Extremely silly you’ll look.”

“Yes, sir. Shall I bring you a whisky-and-soda, sir?”

“No. Coffee! Strong and black. And if anybody wants to see me, tell ’em that I’m busy and can’t be disturbed.”

An hour later I rang the bell.

“Jeeves,” I said with hauteur.

“Yes, sir?”

“Kindly ring Mr. Biffen up on the phone and say that Mr. Wooster presents his compliments and that he has got it.”


I was feeling more than a little pleased with myself next morning as I strolled round to Biffy’s. As a rule the bright ideas you get overnight have a trick of not seeming quite so frightfully fruity when you examine them by the light of day; but this one looked as good at breakfast as it had done before dinner. I examined it narrowly from every angle, and I didn’t see how it could fail.

A few days before, my Aunt Emily’s son Harold had celebrated his sixth birthday; and, being up against the necessity of weighing in with a present of some kind, I had happened to see in a shop in the Strand a rather sprightly little gadget, well calculated in my opinion to amuse the child and endear him to one and all. It was a bunch of flowers in a sort of holder ending in an ingenious bulb attachment which, when pressed, shot about a pint and a half of pure spring water into the face of anyone who was ass enough to sniff at it. It seemed to me just the thing to please the growing mind of a kid of six, and I had rolled round with it.

But when I got to the house I found Harold sitting in the midst of a mass of gifts so luxurious and costly that I simply hadn’t the crust to contribute a thing that had set me back a mere elevenpence-ha’penny; so with rare presence of mind⁠—for we Woosters can think quick on occasion⁠—I wrenched my Uncle James’s card off a toy aeroplane, substituted my own, and trousered the squirt, which I took away with me. It had been lying around in my flat ever since, and it seemed to me that the time had come to send it into action.

“Well?” said Biffy, anxiously, as I curveted into his sitting-room.

The poor old bird was looking pretty green about the gills. I recognized the symptoms. I had felt much the same myself when waiting for Sir Roderick to turn up and lunch with me. How the deuce people who have anything wrong with their nerves can bring themselves to chat with that man, I can’t imagine; and yet he has the largest practice in London. Scarcely a day passes without his having to sit on somebody’s head and ring for the attendant to bring the strait-waistcoat: and his outlook on life has become so jaundiced through constant association with coves who are picking straws out of their hair that I was convinced that Biffy had merely got to press the bulb and nature would do the rest.

So I patted him on the shoulder and said: “It’s all right, old man!”

“What does Jeeves suggest?” asked Biffy, eagerly.

“Jeeves doesn’t suggest anything.”

“But you said it was all right.”

“Jeeves isn’t the only thinker in the Wooster home, my lad. I have taken over your little problem, and I can tell you at once that I have the situation well in hand.”

“You?” said Biffy.

His tone was far from flattering. It suggested a lack of faith in my abilities, and my view was that an ounce of demonstration would be worth a ton of explanation. I shoved the bouquet at him.

“Are you fond of flowers, Biffy?” I said.

“Eh?”

“Smell these.”

Biffy extended the old beak in a careworn sort of way, and I pressed the bulb as per printed instructions on the label.

I do like getting my money’s-worth. Elevenpence-ha’penny the thing had cost me, and it would have been cheap at double. The advertisement on the outside of the box had said that its effects were “indescribably ludicrous,” and I can testify that it was no overstatement. Poor old Biffy leaped three feet in the air and smashed a small table.

“There!” I said.

The old egg was a trifle incoherent at first, but he found words fairly soon and began to express himself with a good deal of warmth.

“Calm yourself, laddie,” I said, as he paused for breath. “It was no mere jest to pass an idle hour. It was a demonstration. Take this, Biffy, with an old friend’s blessing, refill the bulb, shove it into Sir Roderick’s face, press firmly, and leave the rest to him. I’ll guarantee that in something under three seconds the idea will have dawned on him that you are not required in his family.”

Biffy stared at me.

“Are you suggesting that I squirt Sir Roderick?”

“Absolutely. Squirt him good. Squirt as you have never squirted before.”

“But⁠—”

He was still yammering at me in a feverish sort of way when there was a ring at the front-door bell.

“Good Lord!” cried Biffy, quivering like a jelly. “There he is. Talk to him while I go and change my shirt.”

I had just time to refill the bulb and shove it beside Biffy’s plate, when the door opened and Sir Roderick came in. I was picking up the fallen table at the moment, and he started talking brightly to my back.

“Good afternoon. I trust I am not⁠—Mr. Wooster!”

I’m bound to say I was not feeling entirely at my ease. There is something about the man that is calculated to strike terror into the stoutest heart. If ever there was a bloke at the very mention of whose name it would be excusable for people to tremble like aspens, that bloke is Sir Roderick Glossop. He has an enormous bald head, all the hair which ought to be on it seeming to have run into his eyebrows, and his eyes go through you like a couple of Death Rays.

“How are you, how are you, how are you?” I said, overcoming a slight desire to leap backwards out of the window. “Long time since we met, what?”

“Nevertheless, I remember you most distinctly, Mr. Wooster.”

“That’s fine,” I said. “Old Biffy asked me to come and join you in mangling a bit of lunch.”

He waggled the eyebrows at me.

“Are you a friend of Charles Biffen?”

“Oh, rather. Been friends for years and years.”

He drew in his breath sharply, and I could see that Biffy’s stock had dropped several points. His eye fell on the floor, which was strewn with things that had tumbled off the upset table.

“Have you had an accident?” he said.

“Nothing serious,” I explained. “Old Biffy had some sort of fit or seizure just now and knocked over the table.”

“A fit!”

“Or seizure.”

“Is he subject to fits?”

I was about to answer, when Biffy hurried in. He had forgotten to brush his hair, which gave him a wild look, and I saw the old boy direct a keen glance at him. It seemed to me that what you might call the preliminary spadework had been most satisfactorily attended to and that the success of the good old bulb could be in no doubt whatever.

Biffy’s man came in with the nosebags and we sat down to lunch.


It looked at first as though the meal was going to be one of those complete frosts which occur from time to time in the career of a constant luncher-out. Biffy, a very C-3 host, contributed nothing to the feast of reason and flow of soul beyond an occasional hiccup, and every time I started to pull a nifty, Sir Roderick swung round on me with such a piercing stare that it stopped me in my tracks. Fortunately, however, the second course consisted of a chicken fricassee of such outstanding excellence that the old boy, after wolfing a plateful, handed up his dinner-pail for a second instalment and became almost genial.

“I am here this afternoon, Charles,” he said, with what practically amounted to bonhomie, “on what I might describe as a mission. Yes, a mission. This is most excellent chicken.”

“Glad you like it,” mumbled old Biffy.

“Singularly toothsome,” said Sir Roderick, pronging another half ounce. “Yes, as I was saying, a mission. You young fellows nowadays are, I know, content to live in the centre of the most wonderful metropolis the world has seen, blind and indifferent to its many marvels. I should be prepared⁠—were I a betting man, which I am not⁠—to wager a considerable sum that you have never in your life visited even so historic a spot as Westminster Abbey. Am I right?”

Biffy gurgled something about always having meant to.

“Nor the Tower of London?”

No, nor the Tower of London.

“And there exists at this very moment, not twenty minutes by cab from Hyde Park Corner, the most supremely absorbing and educational collection of objects, both animate and inanimate, gathered from the four corners of the Empire, that has ever been assembled in England’s history. I allude to the British Empire Exhibition now situated at Wembley.”

“A fellow told me one about Wembley yesterday,” I said, to help on the cheery flow of conversation. “Stop me if you’ve heard it before. Chap goes up to deaf chap outside the exhibition and says, ‘Is this Wembley?’ ‘Hey?’ says deaf chap. ‘Is this Wembley?’ says chap. ‘Hey?’ says deaf chap. ‘Is this Wembley?’ says chap. ‘No, Thursday,’ says deaf chap. Ha, ha, I mean, what?”

The merry laughter froze on my lips. Sir Roderick sort of just waggled an eyebrow in my direction and I saw that it was back to the basket for Bertram. I never met a man who had such a knack of making a fellow feel like a waste-product.

“Have you yet paid a visit to Wembley, Charles?” he asked. “No? Precisely as I suspected. Well, that is the mission on which I am here this afternoon. Honoria wishes me to take you to Wembley. She says it will broaden your mind, in which view I am at one with her. We will start immediately after luncheon.”

Biffy cast an imploring look at me.

“You’ll come too, Bertie?”

There was such agony in his eyes that I only hesitated for a second. A pal is a pal. Besides, I felt that, if only the bulb fulfilled the high expectations I had formed of it, the merry expedition would be cancelled in no uncertain manner.

“Oh, rather,” I said.

“We must not trespass on Mr. Wooster’s good nature,” said Sir Roderick, looking pretty puff-faced.

“Oh, that’s all right,” I said. “I’ve been meaning to go to the good old exhibish for a long time. I’ll slip home and change my clothes and pick you up here in my car.”

There was a silence. Biffy seemed too relieved at the thought of not having to spend the afternoon alone with Sir Roderick to be capable of speech, and Sir Roderick was registering silent disapproval. And then he caught sight of the bouquet by Biffy’s plate.

“Ah, flowers,” he said. “Sweet peas, if I am not in error. A charming plant, pleasing alike to the eye and the nose.”

I caught Biffy’s eye across the table. It was bulging, and a strange light shone in it.

“Are you fond of flowers, Sir Roderick?” he croaked.

“Extremely.”

“Smell these.”

Sir Roderick dipped his head and sniffed. Biffy’s fingers closed slowly over the bulb. I shut my eyes and clutched the table.

“Very pleasant,” I heard Sir Roderick say. “Very pleasant indeed.”

I opened my eyes, and there was Biffy leaning back in his chair with a ghastly look, and the bouquet on the cloth beside him. I realized what had happened. In that supreme crisis of his life, with his whole happiness depending on a mere pressure of the fingers, Biffy, the poor spineless fish, had lost his nerve. My closely-reasoned scheme had gone phut.

Jeeves was fooling about with the geraniums in the sitting-room window-box when I got home.

“They make a very nice display, sir,” he said, cocking a paternal eye at the things.

“Don’t talk to me about flowers,” I said. “Jeeves, I know now how a general feels when he plans out some great scientific movement and his troops let him down at the eleventh hour.”

“Indeed, sir?”

“Yes,” I said, and told him what had happened.

He listened thoughtfully.

“A somewhat vacillating and changeable young gentleman, Mr. Biffen,” was his comment when I had finished. “Would you be requiring me for the remainder of the afternoon, sir?”

“No. I’m going to Wembley. I just came back to change and get the car. Produce some fairly durable garments which can stand getting squashed by the many-headed, Jeeves, and then phone to the garage.”

“Very good, sir. The grey cheviot will, I fancy, be suitable. Would it be too much if I asked you to give me a seat in the car, sir? I had thought of going to Wembley myself this afternoon.”

“Eh? Oh, all right.”

“Thank you very much, sir.”

I got dressed, and we drove round to Biffy’s flat. Biffy and Sir Roderick got in at the back and Jeeves climbed into the front seat next to me. Biffy looked so ill-attuned to an afternoon’s pleasure that my heart bled for the blighter and I made one last attempt to appeal to Jeeves’s better feelings.

“I must say, Jeeves,” I said, “I’m dashed disappointed in you.”

“I am sorry to hear that, sir.”

“Well, I am. Dashed disappointed. I do think you might rally round. Did you see Mr. Biffen’s face?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Well, then.”

“If you will pardon my saying so, sir, Mr. Biffen has surely only himself to thank if he has entered upon matrimonial obligations which do not please him.”

“You’re talking absolute rot, Jeeves. You know as well as I do that Honoria Glossop is an Act of God. You might just as well blame a fellow for getting run over by a truck.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Absolutely yes. Besides, the poor ass wasn’t in a condition to resist. He told me all about it. He had lost the only girl he had ever loved, and you know what a man’s like when that happens to him.”

“How was that, sir?”

“Apparently he fell in love with some girl on the boat going over to New York, and they parted at the Customs sheds, arranging to meet next day at her hotel. Well, you know what Biffy’s like. He forgets his own name half the time. He never made a note of the address, and it passed clean out of his mind. He went about in a sort of trance, and suddenly woke up to find that he was engaged to Honoria Glossop.”

“I did not know of this, sir.”

“I don’t suppose anybody knows of it except me. He told me when I was in Paris.”

“I should have supposed it would have been feasible to make inquiries, sir.”

“That’s what I said. But he had forgotten her name.”

“That sounds remarkable, sir.”

“I said that, too. But it’s a fact. All he remembered was that her Christian name was Mabel. Well, you can’t go scouring New York for a girl named Mabel, what?”

“I appreciate the difficulty, sir.”

“Well, there it is, then.”

“I see, sir.”

We had got into a mob of vehicles outside the Exhibition by this time, and, some tricky driving being indicated, I had to suspend the conversation. We parked ourselves eventually and went in. Jeeves drifted away, and Sir Roderick took charge of the expedition. He headed for the Palace of Industry, with Biffy and myself trailing behind.

Well, you know, I have never been much of a lad for exhibitions. The citizenry in the mass always rather puts me off, and after I have been shuffling along with the multitude for a quarter of an hour or so I feel as if I were walking on hot bricks. About this particular binge, too, there seemed to me a lack of what you might call human interest. I mean to say, millions of people, no doubt, are so constituted that they scream with joy and excitement at the spectacle of a stuffed porcupine-fish or a glass jar of seeds from Western Australia⁠—but not Bertram. No; if you will take the word of one who would not deceive you, not Bertram. By the time we had tottered out of the Gold Coast village and were working towards the Palace of Machinery, everything pointed to my shortly executing a quiet sneak in the direction of that rather jolly Planters’ Bar in the West Indian section. Sir Roderick had whizzed us past this at a high rate of speed, it touching no chord in him; but I had been able to observe that there was a sprightly sportsman behind the counter mixing things out of bottles and stirring them up with a stick in long glasses that seemed to have ice in them, and the urge came upon me to see more of this man. I was about to drop away from the main body and become a straggler, when something pawed at my coat-sleeve. It was Biffy, and he had the air of one who has had about sufficient.

There are certain moments in life when words are not needed. I looked at Biffy, Biffy looked at me. A perfect understanding linked our two souls.

“?”

“!”

Three minutes later we had joined the Planters.


I have never been in the West Indies, but I am in a position to state that in certain of the fundamentals of life they are streets ahead of our European civilization. The man behind the counter, as kindly a bloke as I ever wish to meet, seemed to guess our requirements the moment we hove in view. Scarcely had our elbows touched the wood before he was leaping to and fro, bringing down a new bottle with each leap. A planter, apparently, does not consider he has had a drink unless it contains at least seven ingredients, and I’m not saying, mind you, that he isn’t right. The man behind the bar told us the things were called Green Swizzles; and, if ever I marry and have a son, Green Swizzle Wooster is the name that will go down on the register, in memory of the day his father’s life was saved at Wembley.

After the third, Biffy breathed a contented sigh.

“Where do you think Sir Roderick is?” he said.

“Biffy, old thing,” I replied, frankly, “I’m not worrying.”

“Bertie, old bird,” said Biffy, “nor am I.”

He sighed again, and broke a long silence by asking the man for a straw.

“Bertie,” he said, “I’ve just remembered something rather rummy. You know Jeeves?”

I said I knew Jeeves.

“Well, a rather rummy incident occurred as we were going into this place. Old Jeeves sidled up to me and said something rather rummy. You’ll never guess what it was.”

“No. I don’t believe I ever shall.”

“Jeeves said,” proceeded Biffy, earnestly, “and I am quoting his very words⁠—Jeeves said, ‘Mr. Biffen’⁠—addressing me, you understand⁠—”

“I understand.”

“ ‘Mr. Biffen,’ he said, ‘I strongly advise you to visit the⁠—’ ”

“The what?” I asked, as he paused.

“Bertie, old man,” said Biffy, deeply concerned, “I’ve absolutely forgotten!”

I stared at the man.

“What I can’t understand,” I said, “is how you manage to run that Herefordshire place of yours for a day. How on earth do you remember to milk the cows and give the pigs their dinner?”

“Oh, that’s all right! There are divers blokes about the places⁠—hirelings and menials, you know⁠—who look after all that.”

“Ah!” I said. “Well, that being so, let us have one more Green Swizzle, and then hey for the Amusement Park.”


When I indulged in those few rather bitter words about exhibitions, it must be distinctly understood that I was not alluding to what you might call the more earthy portion of these curious places. I yield to no man in my approval of those institutions where on payment of a shilling you are permitted to slide down a slippery runway sitting on a mat. I love the Jiggle-Joggle, and I am prepared to take on all and sundry at Skee Ball for money, stamps, or Brazil nuts.

But, joyous reveller as I am on these occasions, I was simply not in it with old Biffy. Whether it was the Green Swizzles or merely the relief of being parted from Sir Roderick, I don’t know, but Biffy flung himself into the pastimes of the proletariat with a zest that was almost frightening. I could hardly drag him away from the Whip, and as for the Switchback, he looked like spending the rest of his life on it. I managed to remove him at last, and he was wandering through the crowd at my side with gleaming eyes, hesitating between having his fortune told and taking a whirl at the Wheel of Joy, when he suddenly grabbed my arm and uttered a sharp animal cry.

“Bertie!”

“Now what?”

He was pointing at a large sign over a building.

“Look! Palace of Beauty!”

I tried to choke him off. I was getting a bit weary by this time. Not so young as I was.

“You don’t want to go in there,” I said. “A fellow at the club was telling me about that. It’s only a lot of girls. You don’t want to see a lot of girls.”

“I do want to see a lot of girls,” said Biffy, firmly. “Dozens of girls, and the more unlike Honoria they are, the better. Besides, I’ve suddenly remembered that that’s the place Jeeves told me to be sure and visit. It all comes back to me. ‘Mr. Biffen,’ he said, ‘I strongly advise you to visit the Palace of Beauty.’ Now, what the man was driving at or what his motive was, I don’t know; but I ask you, Bertie, is it wise, is it safe, is it judicious ever to ignore Jeeves’s lightest word? We enter by the door on the left.”

I don’t know if you know this Palace of Beauty place? It’s a sort of aquarium full of the delicately-nurtured instead of fishes. You go in, and there is a kind of cage with a female goggling out at you through a sheet of plate glass. She’s dressed in some weird kind of costume, and over the cage is written “Helen of Troy.” You pass on to the next, and there’s another one doing jiujitsu with a snake. Subtitle, Cleopatra. You get the idea⁠—Famous Women Through the Ages and all that. I can’t say it fascinated me to any great extent. I maintain that lovely woman loses a lot of her charm if you have to stare at her in a tank. Moreover, it gave me a rummy sort of feeling of having wandered into the wrong bedroom at a country house, and I was flying past at a fair rate of speed, anxious to get it over, when Biffy suddenly went off his rocker.

At least, it looked like that. He let out a piercing yell, grabbed my arm with a sudden clutch that felt like the bite of a crocodile, and stood there gibbering.

“Wuk!” ejaculated Biffy, or words to that general import.

A large and interested crowd had gathered round. I think they thought the girls were going to be fed or something. But Biffy paid no attention to them. He was pointing in a loony manner at one of the cages. I forget which it was, but the female inside wore a ruff, so it may have been Queen Elizabeth or Boadicea or someone of that period. She was rather a nice-looking girl, and she was staring at Biffy in much the same pop-eyed way as he was staring at her.

“Mabel!” yelled Biffy, going off in my ear like a bomb.

I can’t say I was feeling my chirpiest. Drama is all very well, but I hate getting mixed up in it in a public spot; and I had not realized before how dashed public this spot was. The crowd seemed to have doubled itself in the last five seconds, and, while most of them had their eye on Biffy, quite a goodish few were looking at me as if they thought I was an important principal in the scene and might be expected at any moment to give of my best in the way of wholesome entertainment for the masses.

Biffy was jumping about like a lamb in the springtime⁠—and, what is more, a feebleminded lamb.

“Bertie! It’s her! It’s she!” He looked about him wildly. “Where the deuce is the stage-door?” he cried. “Where’s the manager? I want to see the house-manager immediately.”

And then he suddenly bounded forward and began hammering on the glass with his stick.

“I say, old lad!” I began, but he shook me off.

These fellows who live in the country are apt to go in for fairly sizeable clubs instead of the light canes which your well-dressed man about town considers suitable for metropolitan use; and down in Herefordshire, apparently, something in the nature of a knobkerrie is de rigueur. Biffy’s first slosh smashed the glass all to hash. Three more cleared the way for him to go into the cage without cutting himself. And, before the crowd had time to realize what a wonderful bob’s-worth it was getting in exchange for its entrance-fee, he was inside, engaging the girl in earnest conversation. And at the same moment two large policemen rolled up.

You can’t make policemen take the romantic view. Not a tear did these two blighters stop to brush away. They were inside the cage and out of it and marching Biffy through the crowd before you had time to blink. I hurried after them, to do what I could in the way of soothing Biffy’s last moments, and the poor old lad turned a glowing face in my direction.

“Chiswick, 60873,” he bellowed in a voice charged with emotion. “Write it down, Bertie, or I shall forget it. Chiswick, 60873. Her telephone number.”

And then he disappeared, accompanied by about eleven thousand sightseers, and a voice spoke at my elbow.

Mr. Wooster! What⁠—what⁠—what is the meaning of this?”

Sir Roderick, with bigger eyebrows than ever, was standing at my side.

“It’s all right,” I said. “Poor old Biffy’s only gone off his crumpet.”

He tottered.

“What?”

“Had a sort of fit or seizure, you know.”

“Another!” Sir Roderick drew a deep breath. “And this is the man I was about to allow my daughter to marry!” I heard him mutter.

I tapped him in a kindly spirit on the shoulder. It took some doing, mark you, but I did it.

“If I were you,” I said, “I should call that off. Scratch the fixture. Wash it out absolutely, is my advice.”

He gave me a nasty look.

“I do not require your advice, Mr. Wooster! I had already arrived independently at the decision of which you speak. Mr. Wooster, you are a friend of this man⁠—a fact which should in itself have been sufficient warning to me. You will⁠—unlike myself⁠—be seeing him again. Kindly inform him, when you do see him, that he may consider his engagement at an end.”

“Right-ho,” I said, and hurried off after the crowd. It seemed to me that a little bailing-out might be in order.


It was about an hour later that I shoved my way out to where I had parked the car. Jeeves was sitting in the front seat, brooding over the cosmos. He rose courteously as I approached.

“You are leaving, sir?”

“I am.”

“And Sir Roderick, sir?”

“Not coming. I am revealing no secrets, Jeeves, when I inform you that he and I have parted brass-rags. Not on speaking terms now.”

“Indeed, sir? And Mr. Biffen? Will you wait for him?”

“No. He’s in prison.”

“Really, sir?”

“Yes. Laden down with chains in the deepest dungeon beneath the castle moat. I tried to bail him out, but they decided on second thoughts to coop him up for the night.”

“What was his offence, sir?”

“You remember that girl of his I was telling you about? He found her in a tank at the Palace of Beauty and went after her by the quickest route, which was via a plate-glass window. He was then scooped up and borne off in irons by the constabulary.” I gazed sideways at him. It is difficult to bring off a penetrating glance out of the corner of your eye, but I managed it. “Jeeves,” I said, “there is more in this than the casual observer would suppose. You told Mr. Biffen to go to the Palace of Beauty. Did you know the girl would be there?”

“Yes, sir.”

This was most remarkable and rummy to a degree.

“Dash it, do you know everything?”

“Oh, no, sir,” said Jeeves, with an indulgent smile. Humouring the young master.

“Well, how did you know that?”

“I happen to be acquainted with the future Mrs. Biffen, sir.”

“I see. Then you knew all about that business in New York?”

“Yes, sir. And it was for that reason that I was not altogether favourably disposed towards Mr. Biffen when you were first kind enough to suggest that I might be able to offer some slight assistance. I mistakenly supposed that he had been trifling with the girl’s affections, sir. But when you told me the true facts of the case I appreciated the injustice I had done to Mr. Biffen and endeavoured to make amends.”

“Well, he certainly owes you a lot. He’s crazy about her.”

“That is very gratifying, sir.”

“And she ought to be pretty grateful to you, too. Old Biffy’s got fifteen thousand a year, not to mention more cows, pigs, hens, and ducks than he knows what to do with. A dashed useful bird to have in any family.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Tell me, Jeeves,” I said, “how did you happen to know the girl in the first place?”

Jeeves looked dreamily out into the traffic.

“She is my niece, sir. If I might make the suggestion, sir, I should not jerk the steering-wheel with quite such suddenness. We very nearly collided with that omnibus.”

Without the Option

The evidence was all in. The machinery of the Law had worked without a hitch. And the beak, having adjusted a pair of pince-nez which looked as though they were going to do a nosedive any moment, coughed like a pained sheep and slipped us the bad news.

“The prisoner Wooster,” he said⁠—and who can paint the shame and agony of Bertram at hearing himself so described?⁠—“will pay a fine of five pounds.”

“Oh, rather,” I said. “Absolutely. Like a shot.”

I was dashed glad to get the thing settled at such a reasonable figure. I gazed across what they call the sea of faces till I picked up Jeeves, sitting at the back. Stout fellow, he had come to see the young master through his hour of trial.

“I say, Jeeves,” I sang out, “have you got a fiver? I’m a bit short.”

“Silence!” bellowed some officious blighter.

“It’s all right,” I said; “just arranging the financial details. Got the stuff, Jeeves?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Good egg!”

“Are you a friend of the prisoner?” asked the beak.

“I am in Mr. Wooster’s employment, your worship, in the capacity of gentleman’s personal gentleman.”

“Then pay the fine to the clerk.”

“Very good, your worship.”

The beak gave a coldish nod in my direction, as much as to say that they might now strike the fetters from my wrists; and, having hitched up the pince-nez once more, proceeded to hand poor old Sippy one of the nastiest looks ever seen in Bosher Street Police Court.

“The case of the prisoner Leon Trotsky⁠—which,” he said, giving Sippy the eye again, “I am strongly inclined to think an assumed and fictitious name⁠—is more serious. He has been convicted of a wanton and violent assault upon the police. The evidence of the officer has proved that the prisoner struck him in the abdomen, causing severe internal pain, and in other ways interfered with him in the execution of his duties. I am aware that on the night following the annual aquatic contest between the universities of Oxford and Cambridge a certain licence is traditionally granted by the authorities, but aggravated acts of ruffianly hooliganism like that of the prisoner Trotsky cannot be overlooked or palliated. He will serve a sentence of thirty days in the second division without the option of a fine.”

“No, I say⁠—here!⁠—hi!⁠—dash it all!” protested poor old Sippy.

“Silence!” bellowed the officious blighter.

“Next case,” said the beak.

And that was that.


The whole affair was most unfortunate. Memory is a trifle blurred; but, as far as I can piece together the facts, what happened was more or less this.

Abstemious cove though I am as a general thing, there is one night in the year when, putting all other engagements aside, I am rather apt to let myself go a bit and renew my lost youth, as it were. The night to which I allude is the one following the annual aquatic contest between the universities of Oxford and Cambridge⁠—or, putting it another way, Boat-Race Night. Then, if ever, you will see Bertram under the influence. And on this occasion, I freely admit, I had been doing myself rather juicily, with the result that when I ran into old Sippy opposite the Empire I was in quite fairly bonhomous mood. This being so, it cut me to the quick to perceive that Sippy, generally the brightest of revellers, was far from being his usual sunny self. He had the air of a man with a secret sorrow.

“Bertie,” he said, as we strolled along towards Piccadilly Circus, “the heart bowed down by weight of woe to weakest hope will cling.” Sippy is by way of being an author, though mainly dependent for the necessaries of life on subsidies from an old aunt who lives in the country, and his conversation often takes a literary turn. “But the trouble is that I have no hope to cling to, weak or otherwise. I am up against it, Bertie.”

“In what way, laddie?”

“I’ve got to go tomorrow and spend three weeks with some absolutely dud⁠—I will go further, some positively scaly friends of my Aunt Vera. She has fixed the thing up, and may a nephew’s curse blister every bulb in her garden.”

“Who are these hounds of hell?” I asked sympathetically.

“Some people named Pringle. I haven’t seen them since I was ten, but I remember them at that time striking me as England’s premier warts.”

“Tough luck. No wonder you’ve lost your morale.”

“The world,” said Sippy, “is very grey. How can I shake off this awful depression?”

It was then that I got one of those bright ideas one does get round about eleven-thirty on Boat-Race night.

“What you want, old man,” I said, “is a policeman’s helmet.”

“Do I, Bertie?”

“If I were you, I’d just step straight across the street and get that one over there.”

“But there’s a policeman inside it. You can see him distinctly.”

“What does that matter?” I said. I simply couldn’t follow his reasoning.

Sippy stood for a moment in thought.

“I believe you’re absolutely right,” he said at last. “Funny I never thought of it before. You really recommend me to get that helmet?”

“I do indeed.”

“Then I will,” said Sippy, brightening up in the most remarkable manner.

So there you have the posish, and you can see why, as I left the dock, a free man, remorse gnawed at my vitals. In his twenty-fifth year, with life opening out before him and all that sort of thing, Oliver Randolph Sipperley had become a jailbird, and it was all my fault. It was I who had dragged that fine spirit down into the mire, so to speak, and the question now arose, What could I do to atone?

Obviously, the first move must be to get in touch with Sippy and see if he had any last messages, and whatnot. I pushed about a bit, making inquiries, and presently found myself in a little dark room with whitewashed walls and a wooden bench. Sippy was sitting on the bench with his head in his hands.

“How are you, old lad?” I asked in a hushed, bedside voice.

“I’m a ruined man,” said Sippy, looking like a poached egg.

“Oh, come,” I said, “it’s not so bad as all that. I mean to say, you had the swift intelligence to give a false name. There won’t be anything about you in the papers.”

“I’m not worrying about the papers. What’s bothering me is, How can I go and spend three spend three weeks with the Pringles, starting today, when I’ve got to sit in a prison cell with a ball and chain on my ankle?”

“But you said you didn’t want to go.”

“It isn’t a question of wanting, fathead. I’ve got to go. If I don’t, my aunt will find out where I am. And if she finds out that I am doing thirty days without the option in the lowest dungeon beneath the castle moat⁠—well, where shall I get off?”

I saw his point.

“This is not a thing we can settle for ourselves,” I said, gravely. “We must put our trust in a higher power. Jeeves is the man we must consult.”

And, having collected a few of the necessary data, I shook his hand, patted him on the back, and tooled off home.

“Jeeves,” I said, when I had climbed outside the pick-me-up which he had thoughtfully prepared against my coming, “I’ve got something to tell you. Something important. Something that vitally affects one whom you have always regarded with⁠—one whom you have always looked upon⁠—one whom you have⁠—well, to cut a long story short, as I’m not feeling quite myself⁠—Mr. Sipperley.”

“Yes, sir?”

“Jeeves, Mr. Souperley is in the sip.”

“Sir?”

“I mean, Mr. Sipperley is in the soup.”

“Indeed, sir?”

“And all owing to me. It was I who, in a moment of mistaken kindness, wishing only to cheer him up and give him something to occupy his mind, recommended him to pinch that policeman’s helmet.”

“Is that so, sir?”

“Do you mind not intoning the responses, Jeeves?” I said. “This is a most complicated story for a man with a headache to have to tell, and if you interrupt you’ll make me lose the thread. As a favour to me, therefore, don’t do it. Just nod every now and then to show you’re following.”

I closed my eyes and marshalled the facts.

“To start with, then, Jeeves, you may or may not know that Mr. Sipperley is practically dependent on his Aunt Vera.”

“Would that be Miss Sipperley of the Paddock, Beckley-on-the-Moor, in Yorkshire, sir?”

“Yes. Don’t tell me you know her?”

“Not personally, sir. But I have a cousin residing in the village who has some slight acquaintance with Miss Sipperley. He has described her to me as an imperious and quick-tempered old lady⁠ ⁠… But I beg your pardon, sir, I should have nodded.”

“Quite right, you should have nodded. Yes, Jeeves, you should have nodded. But it’s too late now.”

I nodded myself. I hadn’t had my eight hours the night before, and what you might call a lethargy was showing a tendency to steal over me from time to time.

“Yes, sir?” said Jeeves.

“Oh⁠—ah⁠—yes,” I said, giving myself a bit of a hitch up. “Where had I got to?”

“You were saying that Mr. Sipperley is practically dependent upon Miss Sipperley, sir.”

“Was I?”

“You were, sir.”

“You’re perfectly right. So I was. Well, then, you can readily understand, Jeeves, that he has got to take jolly good care to keep in with her. You get that?”

Jeeves nodded.

“Now mark this closely: The other day she wrote to old Sippy, telling him to come down and sing at her village concert. It was equivalent to a royal command, if you see what I mean, so Sippy couldn’t refuse in so many words. But he had sung at her village concert once before and had got the bird in no uncertain manner, so he wasn’t playing any return dates. You follow so far, Jeeves?”

Jeeves nodded.

“So what did he do, Jeeves? He did what seemed to him at the moment a rather brainy thing. He told her that, while he would have been delighted to sing at her village concert, by a most unfortunate chance an editor had commissioned him to write a series of articles on the Colleges of Cambridge, and he was obliged to pop down there at once and would be away for quite three weeks. All clear up to now?”

Jeeves inclined the coconut.

“Whereupon, Jeeves, Miss Sipperley wrote back saying that she quite realized that work must come before pleasure⁠—pleasure being her loose way of describing the act of singing songs at the Beckley-on-the-Moor concert and getting the laugh from the local toughs; but that, if he was going to Cambridge, he must certainly stay with her friends, the Pringles, at their house just outside the town. And she dropped them a line telling them to expect him on the twenty-eighth, and they dropped another line saying right-ho, and the thing was settled. And now, Mr. Sipperley is in the jug, and what will be the ultimate outcome or upshot? Jeeves, it is a problem worthy of your great intellect. I rely on you.”

“I will do my best to justify your confidence, sir.”

“Carry on, then. And, meanwhile, pull down the blinds and bring a couple more cushions and heave that small chair this way so that I can put my feet up, and then go away and brood and let me hear from you in⁠—say⁠—a couple of hours. Or, maybe, three. And if anybody calls and wants to see me, inform them that I am dead.”

“Dead, sir?”

“Dead. You won’t be so far wrong.”


It must have been well towards evening when I woke up with a crick in my neck, but otherwise somewhat refreshed. I pressed the bell.

“I looked in twice, sir,” said Jeeves, “but on each occasion you were asleep and I did not like to disturb you.”

“The right spirit, Jeeves.⁠ ⁠… Well?”

“I have been giving close thought to the little problem which you indicated, sir, and I can see only one solution.”

“One is enough. What do you suggest?”

“That you go to Cambridge in Mr. Sipperley’s place, sir.”

I stared at the man. Certainly I was feeling a good deal better than I had been a few hours before, but I was far from being in a fit condition to have rot like this talked to me.

“Jeeves,” I said, sternly, “pull yourself together. This is mere babble from the sickbed.”

“I fear I can suggest no other plan of action, sir, which will extricate Mr. Sipperley from his dilemma.”

“But think! Reflect! Why, even I, in spite of having had a disturbed night and a most painful morning with the minions of the Law, can see that the scheme is a loony one. To put the finger on only one leak in the thing, it isn’t me these people want to see, it’s Mr. Sipperley. They don’t know me from Adam.”

“So much the better, sir. For what I am suggesting is that you go to Cambridge affecting actually to be Mr. Sipperley.”

This was too much.

“Jeeves,” I said, and I’m not half sure there weren’t tears in my eyes, “surely you can see for yourself that this is pure banana-oil. It is not like you to come into the presence of a sick man and gibber.”

“I think the plan I have suggested would be practicable, sir. While you were sleeping I was able to have a few words with Mr. Sipperley, and he informed me that Professor and Mrs. Pringle have not set eyes upon him since he was a lad of ten.”

“No, that’s true. He told me that. But, even so, they would be sure to ask him questions about my aunt⁠—or, rather, his aunt. Where would I be then?”

Mr. Sipperley was kind enough to give me a few facts respecting Miss Sipperley, sir, which I jotted down. With these, added to what my cousin has told me of the lady’s habits, I think you would be in a position to answer any ordinary question.”

There is something dashed insidious about Jeeves. Time and again since we first came together he has stunned me with some apparently drivelling suggestion or scheme or ruse or plan of campaign, and after about five minutes has convinced me that it is not only sound, but fruity. It took nearly a quarter of an hour to reason me into this particular one, it being considerably the weirdest to date; but he did it. I was holding out pretty firmly, when he suddenly clinched the thing.

“I would certainly suggest, sir,” he said, “that you left London as soon as possible and remained hid for some little time in some retreat where you would not be likely to be found.”

“Eh? Why?”

“During the last hour Mrs. Spencer has been on the telephone three times, sir, endeavouring to get into communication with you.”

“Aunt Agatha!” I cried, paling beneath my tan.

“Yes, sir. I gathered from her remarks that she had been reading in the evening paper a report of this morning’s proceedings in the police court.”

I hopped from the chair like a jackrabbit of the prairie. If Aunt Agatha was out with her hatchet, a move was most certainly indicated.

“Jeeves,” I said, “this is a time for deeds, not words. Pack⁠—and that right speedily.”

“I have packed, sir.”

“Find out when there is a train for Cambridge.”

“There is one in forty minutes, sir.”

“Call a taxi.”

“A taxi is at the door, sir.”

“Good!” I said. “Then lead me to it.”


The Maison Pringle was quite a bit of a way out of Cambridge, a mile or two down the Trumpington Road; and when I arrived everybody was dressing for dinner. So it wasn’t till I had shoved on the evening raiment and got down to the drawing-room that I met the gang.

“Hullo-ullo!” I said, taking a deep breath and floating in.

I tried to speak in a clear and ringing voice, but I wasn’t feeling my chirpiest. It is always a nervous job for a diffident and unassuming bloke to visit a strange house for the first time; and it doesn’t make the thing any better when he goes there pretending to be another fellow. I was conscious of a rather pronounced sinking feeling, which the appearance of the Pringles did nothing to allay.

Sippy had described them as England’s premier warts, and it looked to me as if he might be about right. Professor Pringle was a thinnish, baldish, dyspeptic-lookingish cove with an eye like a haddock, while Mrs. Pringle’s aspect was that of one who had had bad news round about the year 1900 and never really got over it. And I was just staggering under the impact of these two when I found myself being introduced to a couple of ancient females with shawls all over them.

“No doubt you remember my mother?” said Professor Pringle, mournfully, indicating Exhibit A.

“Oh, ah!” I said, achieving a bit of a beam.

“And my aunt,” sighed the prof, as if things were getting worse and worse.

“Well, well, well!” I said, shooting another beam in the direction of Exhibit B.

“They were saying only this morning that they remembered you,” groaned the prof, abandoning all hope.

There was a pause. The whole strength of the company gazed at me like a family group out of one of Edgar Allan Poe’s less cheery yarns, and I felt my joie de vivre dying at the roots.

“I remember Oliver,” said Exhibit A. She heaved a sigh. “He was such a pretty child. What a pity! What a pity!”

Tactful, of course, and calculated to put the guest completely at his ease.

“I remember Oliver,” said Exhibit B, looking at me in much the same way the Bosher Street beak had looked at Sippy before putting on the black cap. “Nasty little boy! He teased my cat.”

“Aunt Jane’s memory is wonderful, considering that she will be eighty-seven next birthday,” whispered Mrs. Pringle with mournful pride.

“What did you say?” asked the Exhibit suspiciously.

“I said your memory was wonderful.”

“Ah!” The dear old creature gave me another glare. I could see that no beautiful friendship was to be looked for by Bertram in this quarter. “He chased my Tibby all over the garden, shooting arrows at her from a bow.”

At this moment a cat strolled out from under the sofa and made for me with its tail up. Cats always do take to me, which made it all the sadder that I should be saddled with Sippy’s criminal record. I stooped to tickle it under the ear, such being my invariable policy, and the Exhibit uttered a piercing cry.

“Stop him! Stop him!”

She moved forward, moving uncommonly well for one of her years, and, having scooped up the cat, stood eyeing me with bitter defiance, as if daring me to start anything. Most unpleasant.

“I like cats,” I said feebly.

It didn’t go. The sympathy of the audience was not with me. And conversation was at what you might call a low ebb, when the door opened and a girl came in.

“My daughter Heloise,” said the prof moodily, as if he hated to admit it.

I turned to mitt the female, and stood there with my hand out, gaping. I can’t remember when I’ve had such a nasty shock.

I suppose everybody has had the experience of suddenly meeting somebody who reminded them frightfully of some fearful person. I mean to say, by way of an example, once when I was golfing in Scotland I saw a woman come into the hotel who was the living image of my Aunt Agatha. Probably a very decent sort, if I had only waited to see, but I didn’t wait. I legged it that evening, utterly unable to stand the spectacle. And on another occasion I was driven out of a thoroughly festive nightclub because the head waiter reminded me of my Uncle Percy.

Well, Heloise Pringle in the most ghastly way resembled Honoria Glossop.

I think I may have told you before about this Glossop scourge. She was the daughter of Sir Roderick Glossop, the loony doctor, and I had been engaged to her for about three weeks, much against my wishes, when the old boy most fortunately got the idea that I was off my rocker and put the bee on the proceedings. Since then the mere thought of her had been enough to make me start out of my sleep with a loud cry. And this girl was exactly like her.

“Er⁠—how are you?” I said.

“How do you do?”

Her voice put the lid on it. It might have been Honoria herself talking. Honoria Glossop has a voice like a lion tamer making some authoritative announcement to one of the troupe, and so had this girl. I backed away convulsively and sprang upwards as my foot stubbed itself against something squashy. A sharp yowl rent the air, followed by an indignant cry, and I turned to Aunt Jane, on all fours, trying to put things right with the cat, which had gone to earth under the sofa. She gave me a look, and I could see that her worst fears had been realized.

At this juncture dinner was announced⁠—not before I was ready for it.


“Jeeves,” I said, when I got him alone that night, “I am no faint-heart, but I am inclined to think that this binge is going to prove a shade above the odds.”

“You are not enjoying your visit, sir?”

“I am not, Jeeves. Have you seen Miss Pringle?”

“Yes, sir. From a distance.”

“The best way to see her. Did you observe her keenly?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Did she remind you of anybody?”

“She appeared to me to bear a remarkable likeness to her cousin, Miss Glossop, sir.”

“Her cousin! You don’t mean to say she’s Honoria Glossop’s cousin?”

“Yes, sir. Mrs. Pringle was a Miss Blatherwick⁠—the younger of two sisters, the elder of whom married Sir Roderick Glossop.”

“Great Scott! That accounts for the resemblance.”

“Yes, sir.”

“And what a resemblance, Jeeves! She even talks like Miss Glossop.”

“Indeed, sir? I have not yet heard Miss Pringle speak.”

“You have missed little. And what it amounts to, Jeeves, is that, while nothing will induce me to let old Sippy down, I can see that this visit is going to try me high. At a pinch I could stand the prof and wife. I could even make the effort of a lifetime and bear up against Aunt Jane. But to expect a man to mix daily with the girl Heloise⁠—and to do it, what is more, on lemonade, which is all there was to drink at dinner⁠—is to ask too much of him. What shall I do, Jeeves?”

“I think that you should avoid Miss Pringle’s society as much as possible.”

“The same great thought had occurred to me,” I said.

It is all very well, though, to talk airily about avoiding a female’s society; but when you are living in the same house with her and she doesn’t want to avoid you, it takes a bit of doing. It is a peculiar thing in life that the people you most particularly want to edge away from always seem to cluster round like a poultice. I hadn’t been twenty-four hours in the place before I perceived that I was going to see a lot of this pestilence.

She was one of those girls you’re always meeting on the stairs and in passages. I couldn’t go into a room without seeing her drift in a minute later. And if I walked in the garden, she was sure to leap out at me from a laurel bush or the onion bed or something. By about the tenth day I had begun to feel absolutely haunted.

“Jeeves,” I said, “I have begun to feel absolutely haunted.”

“Sir?”

“This woman dogs me. I never seem to get a moment to myself. Old Sippy was supposed to come here to make a study of the Cambridge colleges, and she took me round about fifty-seven this morning. This afternoon I went to sit in the garden, and she popped up through a trap and was in my midst. This evening she cornered me in the morning-room. It’s getting so that when I have a bath I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to find her nestling in the soap dish.”

“Extremely trying, sir.”

“Dashed so! Have you any remedy to suggest?”

“Not at the moment, sir. Miss Pringle does appear to be distinctly interested in you, sir. She was asking me questions this morning respecting your mode of life in London.”

“What!”

“Yes, sir.”

I stared at the man in horror. A ghastly thought had struck me. I quivered like an aspen.

At lunch that day a curious thing had happened. We had just finished mangling the cutlets, and I was sitting back in my chair, taking a bit of an easy before being allotted my slab of boiled pudding, when, happening to look up, I caught the girl Heloise’s eye fixed on me in what seemed to me a rather rummy manner. I didn’t think much about it at the time, because boiled pudding is a thing you have to give your undivided attention to if you want to do yourself justice; but now, recalling the episode in the light of Jeeves’s words, the full sinister meaning of the thing seemed to come home to me.

Even at the moment, something about that look had struck me as oddly familiar, and now I suddenly saw why. It had been the identical look which I had observed in the eye of Honoria Glossop in the days immediately preceding our engagement⁠—the look of a tigress that has marked down its prey.

“Jeeves, do you know what I think?”

“Sir?”

I gulped slightly.

“Jeeves,” I said, “listen attentively. I don’t want to give the impression that I consider myself one of those deadly coves who exercise an irresistible fascination over one and all, and can’t meet a girl without wrecking her peace of mind in the first half-minute. As a matter of fact, it’s rather the other way with me, for girls on entering my presence are mostly inclined to give me the raised eyebrow and the twitching upper lip. Nobody, therefore, can say that I am a cove who’s likely to take alarm unnecessarily. You admit that, don’t you?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Nevertheless, Jeeves, it is a known scientific fact that there is a particular type of female that does seem strangely attracted to the sort of fellow I am.”

“Very true, sir.”

“I mean to say, I know perfectly well that I’ve got, roughly speaking, half the amount of brain a normal bloke ought to possess. And when a girl comes along who has about twice the regular allowance she too often makes a beeline for me with the love-light in her eyes. I don’t know how to account for it, but it is so.”

“It may be Nature’s provision for maintaining the balance of the species, sir.”

“Very possibly. Anyway, it has happened to me over and over again. It was what happened in the case of Honoria Glossop. She was notoriously one of the brainiest women of her year at Girton and she just gathered me in like a bull pup swallowing a piece of steak.”

“Miss Pringle, I am informed, sir, was an even more brilliant scholar than Miss Glossop.”

“Well, there you are! Jeeves, she looks at me.”

“Yes, sir?”

“I keep meeting her on the stairs and in passages.”

“Indeed, sir?”

“She recommends me books to read, to improve my mind.”

“Highly suggestive, sir.”

“And at breakfast this morning, when I was eating a sausage, she told me I shouldn’t, as modern medical science held that a four-inch sausage contained as many germs as a dead rat. The maternal touch, you understand; fussing over my health.”

“I think we may regard that, sir, as practically conclusive!”

I sank into a chair, thoroughly pipped.

“What’s to be done, Jeeves?”

“We must think, sir.”

“You think. I haven’t the machinery.”

“I will most certainly devote my very best attention to the matter, sir, and will endeavour to give satisfaction.”

Well, that was something. But I was ill at ease. Yes, there is no getting away from it. Bertram was ill at ease.


Next morning we visited sixty-three more Cambridge colleges, and after lunch I said I was going to my room to lie down. After staying there for half an hour to give the coast time to clear, I shoved a book and smoking materials in my pocket and, climbing out of window, shinned down a convenient water-pipe into the garden. My objective was the summer-house, where it seemed to me that a man might put in a quiet hour or so without interruption.

It was extremely jolly in the garden. The sun was shining, the crocuses were all to the mustard, and there wasn’t a sign of Heloise Pringle anywhere. The cat was fooling about on the lawn, so I chirruped to it and it gave a low gargle and came trotting up. I had just got it in my arms and was scratching it under the ear when there was a loud shriek from above, and there was Aunt Jane half out of a window. Dashed disturbing.

“Oh, right-ho,” I said.

I dropped the cat, which galloped off into the bushes, and, dismissing the idea of bunging a brick at the aged relative, went on my way, heading for the shrubbery. Once safely hidden there, I worked round till I got to the summer-house. And, believe me, I had hardly got my first cigarette nicely under way, when a shadow fell on my book and there was young Sticketh-Closer-Than-A-Brother in person.

“So there you are,” she said.

She seated herself by my side, and with a sort of gruesome playfulness jerked the gasper out of the holder and heaved it out of the door.

“You’re always smoking,” she said, a lot too much like a lovingly chiding young bride for my comfort. “I wish you wouldn’t. It’s so bad for you. And you ought not to be sitting out here without your light overcoat. You want someone to look after you.”

“I’ve got Jeeves.”

She frowned a bit.

“I don’t like him,” she said.

“Eh? Why not?”

“I don’t know. I wish you would get rid of him.”

My flesh absolutely crept. And I’ll tell you why. One of the first things Honoria Glossop had done after we had become engaged was to tell me she didn’t like Jeeves and wanted him shot out. The realization that this girl resembled Honoria not only in body but blackness of soul made me go all faint.

“What are you reading?”

She picked up my book, and frowned again. The thing was one I had brought down from the old flat in London, to glance at in the train⁠—a fairly zippy effort in the detective line called The Trail of Blood. She turned the pages with a nasty sneer.

“I can’t understand you liking nonsense of this⁠—” she stopped suddenly. “Good gracious!”

“What’s the matter?”

“Do you know Bertie Wooster?”

And then I saw that my name was scrawled right across the title-page, and my heart did three back somersaults.

“Oh⁠—er⁠—well⁠—that is to say⁠—well, slightly.”

“He must be a perfect horror. I’m surprised that you can make a friend of him. Apart from anything else, the man is practically an imbecile. He was engaged to my cousin Honoria at one time, and it was broken off because he was next door to insane. You should hear my Uncle Roderick talk about him.”

I wasn’t keen.

“Do you see much of him?”

“A goodish bit.”

“I saw in the paper the other day that he was fined for making a disgraceful disturbance in the street.”

“Yes, I saw that.”

She gazed at me in a fond, motherly way.

“He can’t be a good influence for you,” she said. “I do wish you would drop him. Will you?”

“Well⁠—” I began. And at this point old Cuthbert the cat, having presumably found it a bit slow by himself in the bushes, wandered in with a matey expression on his face and jumped on my lap.

I welcomed him with a good deal of cordiality. Though but a cat, he did make a sort of third at this party; and he afforded a good excuse for changing the conversation.

“Jolly birds, cats,” I said.

She wasn’t having any.

“Will you drop Bertie Wooster?” she said, absolutely ignoring the cat motif.

“It would be so difficult.”

“Nonsense. It only needs a little willpower. The man surely can’t be as interesting a companion as all that. Uncle Roderick says he is an invertebrate waster.”

I could have mentioned a few things that I thought Uncle Roderick was, but my lips were sealed, so to speak.

“You have changed a great deal since we last met,” said the Pringle disease reproachfully. She bent forward and began to scratch the cat under the other ear. “Do you remember, when we were children together, you used to say that you would do anything for me?”

“Did I?”

“I remember once you cried because I was cross and wouldn’t let you kiss me.”

I didn’t believe it at the time, and I don’t believe it now. Sippy is in many ways a good deal of a chump, but surely even at the age of ten he cannot have been such a priceless ass as that. I think the girl was lying, but that didn’t make the position of affairs any better. I edged away a couple of inches, and sat staring before me, the old brow beginning to get slightly bedewed.

And then suddenly⁠—well, you know how it is, I mean. I suppose everyone has had that ghastly feeling at one time or another of being urged by some overwhelming force to do some absolutely blithering act. You get it every now and then when you’re in a crowded theatre and something seems to be egging you on to shout “Fire!” and see what happens. Or you’re talking to someone and all at once you feel “Now, suppose I suddenly biffed this bird in the eye!”

Well, what I’m driving at is that at this juncture, with her shoulder squashing against mine and her back-hair tickling my nose, a perfectly loony impulse came sweeping over me to kiss her.

“No, really?” I croaked.

“Have you forgotten?”

She lifted the old onion and her eyes looked straight into mine. I could feel myself skidding. I shut my eyes. And then from the doorway there spoke the most beautiful voice I had ever heard in my life.

“Give me that cat!”

I opened my eyes. There was good old Aunt Jane, that queen of her sex, standing before me, glaring at me as if I were a vivisectionist and she had surprised me in the middle of an experiment. How this pearl among women had tracked me down I don’t know, but there she stood, bless her dear, intelligent old soul, like the rescue party in the last reel of a motion picture.

I didn’t wait. The spell was broken, and I legged it. As I went, I heard that lovely voice again.

“He shot arrows at my Tibby from a bow,” said this most deserving and excellent octogenarian.


For the next few days all was peace. I saw comparatively little of Heloise. I found the strategic value of that water-pipe outside my window beyond praise. I seldom left the house now by any other route. It seemed to me that, if only the luck held like this, I might after all be able to stick this visit out for the full term of the sentence.

But meanwhile⁠—as they say in the movies⁠—

The whole family appeared to be present and correct as I came down to the drawing-room a couple of nights later. The Prof, Mrs. Prof, the two Exhibits, and the girl Heloise were scattered about at intervals. The cat slept on the rug, the canary in its cage. There was nothing, in short, to indicate that this was not just one of our ordinary evenings.

“Well, well, well!” I said, cheerily. “Hullo-ullo-ullo!”

I always like to make something in the nature of an entrance speech, it seeming to me to lend a chummy tone to the proceedings.

The girl Heloise looked at me reproachfully.

“Where have you been all day?” she asked.

“I went to my room after lunch.”

“You weren’t there at five.”

“No. After putting in a spell of work on the good old colleges, I went for a stroll. Fellow must have exercise if he means to keep fit.”

Mens sana in corpore sano,” observed the prof.

“I shouldn’t wonder,” I said cordially.

At this point, when everything was going as sweet as a nut and I was feeling on top of my form, Mrs. Pringle suddenly soaked me on the base of the skull with a sandbag.

Not actually, I don’t mean. No, no. I speak figuratively, as it were.

“Roderick is very late,” she said.

You may think it strange that the sound of that name should have sloshed into my nerve-centres like a half-brick. But, take it from me, to a man who has had any dealings with Sir Roderick Glossop there is only one Roderick in the world. And that is one too many.

“Roderick?” I gurgled.

“My brother-in-law, Sir Roderick Glossop, comes to Cambridge tonight,” said the prof. “He lectures at St. Luke’s tomorrow. He is coming here to dinner.”

And while I stood there, feeling like the hero when he discovers that he is trapped in the den of the Secret Nine, the door opened.

“Sir Roderick Glossop,” announced the maid or some such person. And in he came.

One of the things that get this old crumb so generally disliked among the better element of the community is the fact that he has a head like the dome of St. Paul’s and eyebrows that want bobbing or shingling to reduce them to anything like reasonable size. It is a nasty experience to see this bald and bushy bloke advancing on you when you haven’t prepared the strategic railways in your rear. As he came into the room, I backed behind a sofa and commended my soul to God. I didn’t need to have my hand read to know that trouble was coming to me through a dark man.

He didn’t spot me at first. He shook hands with the prof and wife, kissed Heloise, and waggled his head at the Exhibits.

“I fear I am somewhat late,” he said. “A slight accident on the road, affecting what my chauffeur termed the⁠—”

And then he saw me lurking on the outskirts, and gave a startled grunt, as if I hurt him a good deal internally.

“This⁠—” began the prof, waving in my direction.

“I am already acquainted with Mr. Wooster.”

“This,” went on the prof, “is Miss Sipperley’s nephew Oliver. You remember Miss Sipperley?”

“What do you mean?” barked Sir Roderick. Having had so much to do with loonies has given him a rather sharp and authoritative manner on occasion. “This is that wretched young man, Bertram Wooster. What is all this nonsense about Olivers and Sipperleys?”

The prof was eyeing me with some natural surprise. So were the others. I beamed a bit weakly.

“Well, as a matter of fact⁠—” I said.

The prof was wrestling with the situation. You could hear his brain buzzing.

“He said he was Oliver Sipperley,” he moaned.

“Come here!” bellowed Sir Roderick. “Am I to understand that you have inflicted yourself on this household under the pretence of being the nephew of an old friend?”

It seemed a pretty accurate description of the facts.

“Well⁠—er⁠—yes,” I said.

Sir Roderick shot an eye at me. It entered the body somewhere about the top stud, roamed around inside for a bit, and went out at the back.

“Insane! Quite insane, as I knew from the first moment I saw him.”

“What did he say?” asked Aunt Jane.

“Roderick says this young man is insane,” roared the Prof.

“Ah!” said Aunt Jane, nodding, “I thought as much. He climbs down water-pipes.”

“Does what?”

“I’ve seen him⁠—ah, many a time.”

Sir Roderick snorted violently.

“He ought to be under proper restraint. It is abominable that a person in his mental condition should be permitted to roam the at large. The next stage may quite easily be homicidal.”

It seemed to me that, even at the expense of giving old Sippy away, I must be cleared of this frightful charge. After all, Sippy’s number was up, anyway.

“Let me explain,” I said. “Sippy asked me to come here.”

“What do you mean?”

“He couldn’t come himself, because he was jugged for biffing a cop on Boat Race Night.”

Well, it wasn’t easy to make them get the hang of the story, and even when I’d done it, it didn’t seem to make them any chummier towards me. A certain coldness about expresses it, and when dinner was announced I counted myself out and pushed off rapidly to my room. I could have done with a bit of dinner, but the atmosphere didn’t seem just right.

“Jeeves,” I said, having shot in and pressed the bell, “we’re sunk.”

“Sir?”

“Hell’s foundations are quivering and the game is up.”

He listened attentively.

“The contingency was one always to have been anticipated as a possibility, sir. It only remains to take the obvious step.”

“What’s that?”

“Go and see Miss Sipperley, sir.”

“What on earth for?”

“I think it would be judicious to apprise her of the facts yourself, sir, instead of allowing her to hear of them through the medium of a letter from Professor Pringle. That is to say, if you are still anxious to do all that is in your power to assist Mr. Sipperley.”

“I can’t let old Sippy down. If you think it’s any good⁠—”

“We can but try it, sir. I have an idea, sir, that we may find Miss Sipperley disposed to look leniently upon Mr. Sipperley’s misdemeanour.”

“What makes you think that?”

“It is just a feeling that I have, sir.”

“Well, if you think it would be worth trying⁠—How do we get there?”

“The distance is about a hundred and fifty miles, sir. Our best plan would be to hire a car.”

“Get it at once,” I said.

The idea of being a hundred and fifty miles away from Heloise Pringle, not to mention Aunt Jane and Sir Roderick Glossop, sounded about as good to me as anything I had ever heard.


The Paddock, Beckley-on-the-Moor, was about a couple of parasangs from the village, and I set out for it next morning, after partaking of a hearty breakfast at the local inn, practically without a tremor. I suppose when a fellow has been through it as I had in the last two weeks, his system becomes hardened. After all, I felt, whatever this aunt of Sippy’s might be like, she wasn’t Sir Roderick Glossop, so I was that much on velvet from the start.

The Paddock was one of those medium-sized houses with a goodish bit of very tidy garden and a carefully-rolled gravel drive curving past a shrubbery that looked as if it had just come back from the dry-cleaner⁠—the sort of a house you take one look at and say to yourself, “Somebody’s aunt lives there.” I pushed on up the drive, and as I turned the bend I observed in the middle distance a woman messing about by a flowerbed with a trowel in her hand. If this wasn’t the female I was after, I was very much mistaken, so I halted, cleared the throat, and gave tongue.

“Miss Sipperley?”

She had had her back to me, and at the sound of my voice she executed a sort of leap or bound, not unlike a barefoot dancer who steps on a tin-tack halfway through the Vision of Salome. She came to earth and goggled at me in a rather goofy manner. A large, stout female with a reddish face.

“Hope I didn’t startle you?” I said.

“Who are you?”

“My name’s Wooster. I’m a pal of your nephew Oliver.” Her breathing had become more regular.

“Oh?” she said. “When I heard your voice, I thought you were someone else.”

“No, that’s who I am. I came up here to tell you about Oliver.”

“What about him?”

I hesitated. Now that we were approaching what you might call the nub or crux of the situation a good deal of my breezy confidence seemed to have slipped from me.

“Well, it’s rather a painful tale, I must warn you.”

“Oliver isn’t ill? He hasn’t had an accident?”

She spoke anxiously, and I was pleased at this evidence of human feeling. I decided to shoot the works with no more delay.

“Oh, no, he isn’t ill,” I said, “and, as regards having accidents, it depends what you call an accident. He’s in chokey.”

“In what?”

“In prison.”

“In prison!”

“It was entirely my fault. We were strolling along on Boat Race Night, and I advised him to pinch a policeman’s helmet.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Well, he seemed depressed, don’t you know, and rightly or wrongly I thought it might cheer him up if he stepped across the street and collared a policeman’s helmet. He thought it a good idea, too, so he started doing it, and the man made a fuss, and Oliver sloshed him.”

“Sloshed him?”

“Biffed him⁠—smote him a blow⁠—in the stomach.”

“My nephew Oliver hit a policeman in the stomach?”

“Absolutely in the stomach. And next morning the beak sent him to the Bastille for thirty days without the option.”

I was looking at her a bit anxiously all this while, to see how she was taking the thing, and at this moment her face seemed suddenly to split in half. For an instant she appeared to be all mouth, and then she was staggering about the grass, shouting with happy laughter and waving the trowel madly.

It seemed to me a bit of luck for her that Sir Roderick Glossop wasn’t on the spot. He would have been sitting on her head and calling for the strait-waistcoat in the first half-minute.

“You aren’t annoyed?” I said.

“Annoyed?” She chuckled happily. “I’ve never heard such a splendid thing in my life.”

I was pleased and relieved. I had hoped the news wouldn’t upset her too much, but I had never expected it to go with such a roar as this.

“I’m proud of him,” she said.

“That’s fine.”

“If every young man in England went about hitting policemen in the stomach, it would be a better country to live in.”

I couldn’t follow her reasoning, but everything seemed to be all right; so after a few more cheery words I said goodbye and legged it.


“Jeeves,” I said, when I got back to the inn, “everything’s fine. But I am far from understanding why.”

“What actually occurred when you met Miss Sipperley, sir?”

“I told her Sippy was in the jug for assaulting the police. Upon which, she burst into hearty laughter, waved her trowel in a pleased manner, and said she was proud of him.”

“I think I can explain her apparently eccentric behaviour, sir. I am informed that Miss Sipperley has had a good deal of annoyance at the hands of the local constable during the past two weeks. This has doubtless resulted in a prejudice on her part against the force as a whole.”

“Really? How was that?”

“The constable has been somewhat overzealous in the performance of his duties, sir. On no fewer than three occasions in the last ten days he has served summonses upon Miss Sipperley⁠—for exceeding the speed limit in her car; for allowing her dog to appear in public without a collar; and for failing to abate a smoky chimney. Being in the nature of an autocrat, if I may use the term, in the village, Miss Sipperley has been accustomed to do these things in the past with impunity, and the constable’s unexpected zeal has made her somewhat ill-disposed to policemen as a class and, consequently, disposed to look upon such assaults as Mr. Sipperley’s in a kindly and broad-minded spirit.”

I saw his point.

“What an amazing bit of luck, Jeeves!”

“Yes, sir.”

“Where did you hear all this?”

“My informant was the constable himself, sir. He is my cousin.”

I gaped at the man. I saw, so to speak, all.

“Good Lord, Jeeves! You didn’t bribe him?”

“Oh, no, sir. But it was his birthday last week, and I gave him a little present. I have always been fond of Egbert.”

“How much?”

“A matter of five pounds, sir.”

I felt in my pocket.

“Here you are,” I said. “And another fiver for luck.”

“Thank you very much, sir.”

“Jeeves,” I said, “you move in a mysterious way your wonders to perform. You don’t mind if I sing a bit, do you?”

“Not at all, sir,” said Jeeves.

Clustering Round Young Bingo

I blotted the last page of my manuscript and sank back, feeling more or less of a spent force. After incredible sweat of the old brow the thing seemed to be in pretty fair shape, and I was just reading it through and debating whether to bung in another paragraph at the end, when there was a tap at the door and Jeeves appeared.

Mrs. Travers, sir, on the telephone.”

“Oh?” I said. Preoccupied, don’t you know.

“Yes, sir. She presents her compliments and would be glad to know what progress you have made with the article which you are writing for her.”

“Jeeves, can I mention men’s knee-length underclothing in a woman’s paper?”

“No, sir.”

“Then tell her it’s finished.”

“Very good, sir.”

“And, Jeeves, when you’re through, come back. I want you to cast your eye over this effort and give it the OK”

My Aunt Dahlia, who runs a woman’s paper called Milady’s Boudoir, had recently backed me into a corner and made me promise to write her a few authoritative words for her “Husbands and Brothers” page on “What the Well-Dressed Man is Wearing.” I believe in encouraging aunts, when deserving; and, as there are many worse eggs than her knocking about the metrop. I had consented blithely. But I give you my honest word that if I had had the foggiest notion of what I was letting myself in for, not even a nephew’s devotion would have kept me from giving her the raspberry. A deuce of a job it had been, taxing the physique to the utmost. I don’t wonder now that all these author blokes have bald heads and faces like birds who have suffered.

“Jeeves,” I said, when he came back, “you don’t read a paper called Milady’s Boudoir by any chance, do you?”

“No, sir. The periodical has not come to my notice.”

“Well, spring sixpence on it next week, because this article will appear in it. Wooster on the well-dressed man, don’t you know.”

“Indeed, sir?”

“Yes, indeed, Jeeves. I’ve rather extended myself over this little bijou. There’s a bit about socks that I think you will like.”

He took the manuscript, brooded over it, and smiled a gentle, approving smile.

“The sock passage is quite in the proper vein, sir,” he said.

“Well expressed, what?”

“Extremely, sir.”

I watched him narrowly as he read on, and, as I was expecting, what you might call the love-light suddenly died out of his eyes. I braced myself for an unpleasant scene.

“Come to the bit about soft silk shirts for evening wear?” I asked, carelessly.

“Yes, sir,” said Jeeves, in a low, cold voice, as if he had been bitten in the leg by a personal friend. “And if I may be pardoned for saying so⁠—”

“You don’t like it?”

“No, sir. I do not. Soft silk shirts with evening costume are not worn, sir.”

“Jeeves,” I said, looking the blighter diametrically in the centre of the eyeball, “they’re dashed well going to be. I may as well tell you now that I have ordered a dozen of those shirtings from Peabody and Simms, and it’s no good looking like that, because I am jolly well adamant.”

“If I might⁠—”

“No, Jeeves,” I said, raising my hand, “argument is useless. Nobody has a greater respect than I have for your judgment in socks, in ties, and⁠—I will go farther⁠—in spats; but when it comes to evening shirts your nerve seems to fail you. You have no vision. You are prejudiced and reactionary. Hidebound is the word that suggests itself. It may interest you to learn that when I was at Le Touquet the Prince of Wales buzzed into the Casino one night with soft silk shirt complete.”

“His Royal Highness, sir, may permit himself a certain licence which in your own case⁠—”

“No, Jeeves,” I said, firmly, “it’s no use. When we Woosters are adamant, we are⁠—well, adamant, if you know what I mean.”

“Very good, sir.”

I could see the man was wounded, and, of course, the whole episode had been extremely jarring and unpleasant; but these things have to be gone through. Is one a serf or isn’t one? That’s what it all boils down to. Having made my point, I changed the subject.

“Well, that’s that,” I said. “We now approach another topic. Do you know any housemaids, Jeeves?”

“Housemaids, sir?”

“Come, come, Jeeves, you know what housemaids are. Females who get housemaid’s knee.”

“Are you requiring a housemaid, sir?”

“No, but Mr. Little is. I met him at the club a couple of days ago, and he told me that Mrs. Little is offering rich rewards to anybody who will find her one guaranteed to go light on the china.”

“Indeed, sir?”

“Yes. The one now in office apparently runs through the objets d’art like a typhoon, simoom, or sirocco. So if you know any⁠—”

“I know a great many, sir. Some intimately, others mere acquaintances.”

“Well, start digging round among the old pals. And now the hat, the stick, and other necessaries. I must be getting along and handing in this article.”


The offices of Milady’s Boudoir were in one of those rummy streets in the Covent Garden neighbourhood; and I had just got to the door, after wading through a deep topdressing of old cabbages and tomatoes, when who should come out but Mrs. Little. She greeted me with the warmth due to the old family friend, in spite of the fact that I hadn’t been round to the house for a goodish while.

“Whatever are you doing in these parts, Bertie? I thought you never came east of Leicester Square.”

“I’ve come to deliver an article of sorts which my Aunt Dahlia asked me to write. She edits a species of journal up those stairs. Milady’s Boudoir.”

“What a coincidence! I have just promised to write an article for her, too.”

“Don’t you do it,” I said, earnestly. “You’ve simply no notion what a ghastly labour⁠—Oh, but, of course, I was forgetting. You’re used to it, what?”

Silly of me to have talked like that. Young Bingo Little, if you remember, had married the famous female novelist, Rosie M. Banks, author of some of the most pronounced and widely-read tripe ever put on the market. Naturally a mere article would be pie for her.

“No, I don’t think it will give me much trouble,” she said. “Your aunt has suggested a most delightful subject.”

“That’s good. By the way, I spoke to my man Jeeves about getting you a housemaid. He knows all the hummers.”

“Thank you so much. Oh, are you doing anything tomorrow night?”

“Not a thing.”

“Then do come and dine with us. Your aunt is coming, and hopes to bring your uncle. I am looking forward to meeting him.”

“Thanks. Delighted.”

I meant it, too. The Little household may be weak on housemaids, but it is right there when it comes to cooks. Somewhere or other some time ago Bingo’s missus managed to dig up a Frenchman of the most extraordinary vim and skill. A most amazing Johnnie who dishes a wicked ragoût. Old Bingo has put on at least ten pounds in weight since this fellow Anatole arrived in the home.

“At eight, then.”

“Right. Thanks ever so much.”

She popped off, and I went upstairs to hand in my copy, as we boys of the Press call it. I found Aunt Dahlia immersed to the gills in papers of all descriptions.

I am not much of a lad for my relatives as a general thing, but I’ve always been very pally with Aunt Dahlia. She married my Uncle Thomas⁠—between ourselves a bit of a squirt⁠—the year Bluebottle won the Cambridgeshire; and they hadn’t got halfway down the aisle before I was saying to myself, “That woman is much too good for the old bird.” Aunt Dahlia is a large, genial soul, the sort you see in dozens on the hunting-field. As a matter of fact, until she married Uncle Thomas, she put in most of her time on horseback; but he won’t live in the country, so nowadays she expends her energy on this paper of hers.

She came to the surface as I entered, and flung a cheery book at my head.

“Hullo, Bertle! I say, have you really finished that article?”

“To the last comma.”

“Good boy! My gosh, I’ll bet it’s rotten.”

“On the contrary, it is extremely hot stuff, and most of it approved by Jeeves, what’s more. The bit about soft silk shirts got in amongst him a trifle; but you can take it from me, Aunt Dahlia, that they are the latest yodel and will be much seen at first nights and other occasions where Society assembles.”

“Your man Jeeves,” said Aunt Dahlia, flinging the article into a basket and skewering a few loose pieces of paper on a sort of meat-hook, “is a washout, and you can tell him I said so.”

“Oh, come,” I said. “He may not be sound on shirtings⁠—”

“I’m not referring to that. As long as a week ago I asked him to get me a cook, and he hasn’t found one yet.”

“Great Scott! Is Jeeves a domestic employment agency? Mrs. Little wants him to find her a housemaid. I met her outside. She tells me she’s doing something for you.”

“Yes, thank goodness. I’m relying on it to bump the circulation up a bit. I can’t read her stuff myself, but women love it. Her name on the cover will mean a lot. And we need it.”

“Paper not doing well?”

“It’s doing all right really, but it’s got to be a slow job building up a circulation.”

“I suppose so.”

“I can get Tom to see that in his lucid moments,” said Aunt Dahlia, skewering a few more papers. “But just at present the poor fathead has got one of his pessimistic spells. It’s entirely due to that mechanic who calls herself a cook. A few more of her alleged dinners, and Tom will refuse to go on paying the printers’ bills.”

“You don’t mean that!”

“I do mean it. There was what she called a ris de veau à la financière last night which made him talk for three-quarters of an hour about good money going to waste and nothing to show for it.”

I quite understood, and I was dashed sorry for her. My Uncle Thomas is a cove who made a colossal pile of money out in the East, but in doing so put his digestion on the blink. This has made him a tricky proposition to handle. Many a time I’ve lunched with him and found him perfectly chirpy up to the fish, only to have him turn blue on me well before the cheese.

Who was that lad they used to try to make me read at Oxford? Ship⁠—Shop⁠—Schopenhauer. That’s the name. A grouch of the most pronounced description. Well, Uncle Thomas, when his gastric juices have been giving him the elbow, can make Schopenhauer look like Pollyanna. And the worst of it is, from Aunt Dahlia’s point of view, that on these occasions he always seems to think he’s on the brink of ruin and wants to start to economize.

“Pretty tough,” I said. “Well, anyway, he’ll get one good dinner tomorrow night at the Littles’.”

“Can you guarantee that, Bertie?” asked Aunt Dahlia, earnestly. “I simply daren’t risk unleashing him on anything at all wonky.”

“They’ve got a marvellous cook. I haven’t been round there for some time, but unless he’s lost his form of two months ago Uncle Thomas is going to have the treat of a lifetime.”

“It’ll only make it all the worse for him, coming back to our steak-incinerator,” said Aunt Dahlia, a bit on the Schopenhauer side herself.


The little nest where Bingo and his bride had settled themselves was up in St. John’s Wood; one of those rather jolly houses with a bit of garden. When I got there on the following night, I found that I was the last to weigh in. Aunt Dahlia was chatting with Rosie in a corner, while Uncle Thomas, standing by the mantelpiece with Bingo, sucked down a cocktail in a frowning, suspicious sort of manner, rather like a chappie having a short snort before dining with the Borgias; as if he were saying to himself that, even if this particular cocktail wasn’t poisoned, he was bound to cop it later on.

Well, I hadn’t expected anything in the nature of beaming joie de vivre from Uncle Thomas, so I didn’t pay much attention to him. What did surprise me was the extraordinary gloom of young Bingo. You may say what you like against Bingo, but nobody has ever found him a depressing host. Why, many a time in the days of his bachelorhood I’ve known him to start throwing bread before the soup course. Yet now he and Uncle Thomas were a pair. He looked haggard and careworn, like a Borgia who had suddenly remembered that he had forgotten to shove cyanide in the consommé, and the dinner-gong due any moment.

And the mystery wasn’t helped at all by the one remark he made to me before conversation became general. As he poured out my cocktail, he suddenly bent forward.

“Bertie,” he whispered, in a nasty, feverish manner, “I want to see you. Life and death matter. Be in tomorrow morning.”

That was all. Immediately after that the starting-gun went and we toddled down to the festive. And from that moment, I’m bound to say, in the superior interest of the proceedings he rather faded out of my mind. For good old Anatole, braced presumably by the fact of there being guests, had absolutely surpassed himself.

I am not a man who speaks hastily in these matters. I weigh my words. And I say again that Anatole had surpassed himself. It was as good a dinner as I have ever absorbed, and it revived Uncle Thomas like a watered flower. As we sat down he was saying some things about the Government which they wouldn’t have cared to hear. With the consommé pâté d’Italie he said but what could you expect nowadays? With the paupiettes de sole à la princesse he admitted rather decently that the Government couldn’t be held responsible for the rotten weather, anyway. And shortly after the caneton Aylesbury à la broche he was practically giving the lads the benefit of his wholehearted support.

And all the time young Bingo looking like an owl with a secret sorrow. Rummy!

I thought about it a good deal as I walked home, and I was hoping he wouldn’t roll round with his hard-luck story too early in the morning. He had the air of one who intends to charge in at about six-thirty.

Jeeves was waiting up for me when I got back.

“A pleasant dinner, sir?” he said.

“Magnificent, Jeeves.”

“I am glad to hear that, sir. Mr. George Travers rang up on the telephone shortly after you had left. He was extremely desirous that you should join him at Harrogate, sir. He leaves for that town by an early train tomorrow.”

My Uncle George is a festive old bird who has made a habit for years of doing himself a dashed sight too well, with the result that he’s always got Harrogate or Buxton hanging over him like the sword of what’s-his-name. And he hates going there alone.

“It can’t be done,” I said. Uncle George is bad enough in London, and I wasn’t going to let myself be cooped up with him in one of these cure-places.

“He was extremely urgent, sir.”

“No, Jeeves,” I said, firmly. “I am always anxious to oblige, but Uncle George⁠—no, no! I mean to say, what?”

“Very good, sir,” said Jeeves.

It was a pleasure to hear the way he said it. Docile the man was becoming, absolutely docile. It just showed that I had been right in putting my foot down about those shirts.


When Bingo showed up next morning, I had had breakfast and was all ready for him. Jeeves shot him into the presence, and he sat down on the bed.

“Good morning, Bertie,” said young Bingo.

“Good morning, old thing,” I replied, courteously.

“Don’t go, Jeeves,” said young Bingo hollowly. “Wait.”

“Sir?”

“Remain. Stay. Cluster round. I shall need you.”

“Very good, sir.”

Bingo lit a cigarette and frowned bleakly at the wallpaper.

“Bertie,” he said, “the most frightful calamity has occurred. Unless something is done, and done right speedily, my social prestige is doomed, my self-respect will be obliterated, my name will be mud, and I shall not dare to show my face in the West-end of London again.”

“My aunt!” I cried, deeply impressed.

“Exactly,” said young Bingo, with a hollow laugh. “You have put it in a nutshell. The whole trouble is due to your blasted aunt.”

“Which blasted aunt? Specify, old thing. I have so many.”

Mrs. Travers. The one who runs that infernal paper.”

“Oh, no, dash it, old man,” I protested. “She’s the only decent aunt I’ve got. Jeeves, you will bear me out in this?”

“Such has always been my impression, I must confess, sir.”

“Well, get rid of it, then,” said young Bingo. “The woman is a menace to society, a home-wrecker, and a pest. Do you know what she’s done? She’s got Rosie to write an article for that rag of hers.”

“I know that.”

“Yes, but you don’t know what it’s about.”

“No. She only told me Aunt Dahlia had given her a splendid idea for the thing.”

“It’s about me!”

“You?”

“Yes, me! Me! And do you know what it’s called? It is called ‘How I Keep the Love of My Husband-Baby.’ ”

“My what?”

“Husband-baby!”

“What’s a husband-baby?”

“I am, apparently,” said young Bingo, with much bitterness. “I am also, according to this article, a lot of other things which I have too much sense of decency to repeat even to an old friend. This beastly composition, in short, is one of those things they call ‘human interest stories’; one of those intimate revelations of married life over which the female public loves to gloat; all about Rosie and me and what she does when I come home cross, and so on. I tell you, Bertie, I am still blushing all over at the recollection of something she says in paragraph two.”

“What?”

“I decline to tell you. But you can take it from me that it’s the edge. Nobody could be fonder of Rosie than I am, but⁠—dear, sensible girl as she is in ordinary life⁠—the moment she gets in front of a dictating-machine she becomes absolutely maudlin. Bertie, that article must not appear!”

“But⁠—”

“If it does I shall have to resign from my clubs, grow a beard, and become a hermit. I shall not be able to face the world.”

“Aren’t you pitching it a bit strong, old lad?” I said. “Jeeves, don’t you think he’s pitching it a bit strong?”

“Well, sir⁠—”

“I am pitching it feebly,” said young Bingo, earnestly. “You haven’t heard the thing. I have. Rosie shoved the cylinder on the dictating-machine last night before dinner, and it was grisly to hear the instrument croaking out those awful sentences. If that article appears I shall be kidded to death by every pal I’ve got. Bertie,” he said, his voice sinking to a hoarse whisper, “you have about as much imagination as a warthog, but surely even you can picture to yourself what Jimmy Bowles and Tuppy Rogers, to name only two, will say when they see me referred to in print as ‘half god, half prattling, mischievous child’?”

I jolly well could.

“She doesn’t say that?” I gasped.

“She certainly does. And when I tell you that I selected that particular quotation because it’s about the only one I can stand hearing spoken, you will realize what I’m up against.”


I picked at the coverlet. I had been a pal of Bingo’s for many years, and we Woosters stand by our pals.

“Jeeves,” I said, “you have heard?”

“Yes, sir.”

“The position is serious.”

“Yes, sir.”

“We must cluster round.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Does anything suggest itself to you?”

“Yes, sir.”

“What! You don’t really mean that?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Bingo,” I said, “the sun is still shining. Something suggests itself to Jeeves.”

“Jeeves,” said young Bingo in a quivering voice, “if you see me through this fearful crisis, ask of me what you will even unto half my kingdom.”

“The matter,” said Jeeves, “fits in very nicely, sir, with another mission which was entrusted to me this morning.”

“What do you mean?”

Mrs. Travers rang me up on the telephone shortly before I brought you your tea, sir, and was most urgent that I should endeavour to persuade Mr. Little’s cook to leave Mr. Little’s service and join her staff. It appears that Mr. Travers was fascinated by the man’s ability, sir, and talked far into the night of his astonishing gifts.”

Young Bingo uttered a frightful cry of agony.

“What! Is that⁠—that buzzard trying to pinch our cook?”

“Yes, sir.”

“After eating our bread and salt, dammit?”

“I fear, sir,” sighed Jeeves, “that when it comes to a matter of cooks ladies have but a rudimentary sense of morality.”

“Half a second, Bingo,” I said, as the fellow seemed about to plunge into something of an oration. “How does this fit in with the other thing, Jeeves?”

“Well, sir, it has been my experience that no lady can ever forgive another lady for taking a really good cook away from her. I am convinced that, if I am able to accomplish the mission which Mrs. Travers entrusted to me, an instant breach of cordial relations must inevitably ensue. Mrs. Little will, I feel certain, be so aggrieved with Mrs. Travers that she will decline to contribute to her paper. We shall therefore not only bring happiness to Mr. Travers, but also suppress the article. Thus killing two birds with one stone, if I may use the expression, sir.”

“Certainly you may use the expression, Jeeves,” I said, cordially. “And I may add that in my opinion this is one of your best and ripest.”

“Yes, but I say, you know,” bleated young Bingo. “I mean to say⁠—old Anatole, I mean⁠—what I’m driving at is that he’s a cook in a million.”

“You poor chump, if he wasn’t there would be no point in the scheme.”

“Yes, but what I mean⁠—I shall miss him, you know. Miss him fearfully.”

“Good heavens!” I cried. “Don’t tell me that you are thinking of your tummy in a crisis like this?”

Bingo sighed heavily.

“Oh, all right,” he said. “I suppose it’s a case of the surgeon’s knife. All right, Jeeves, you may carry on. Yes, carry on, Jeeves. Yes, yes, Jeeves, carry on. I’ll look in tomorrow morning and hear what you have to report.”

And with bowed head young Bingo biffed off.


He was bright and early next morning. In fact, he turned up at such an indecent hour that Jeeves very properly refused to allow him to break in on my slumbers.

By the time I was awake and receiving, he and Jeeves had had a heart-to-heart chat in the kitchen; and when Bingo eventually crept into my room I could see by the look on his face that something had gone wrong.

“It’s all off,” he said, slumping down on the bed.

“Off?”

“Yes; that cook-pinching business. Jeeves tells me he saw Anatole last night, and Anatole refused to leave.”

“But surely Aunt Dahlia had the sense to offer him more than he was getting with you?”

“The sky was the limit, as far as she was concerned. Nevertheless, he refused to skid. It seems he’s in love with our parlourmaid.”

“But you haven’t got a parlourmaid.”

“We have got a parlourmaid.”

“I’ve never seen her. A sort of bloke who looked like a provincial undertaker waited at table the night before last.”

“That was the local greengrocer, who comes to help out when desired. The parlourmaid is away on her holiday⁠—or was till last night. She returned about ten minutes before Jeeves made his call, and Anatole, I take it, was in such a state of elation and devotion and whatnot on seeing her again that the contents of the Mint wouldn’t have bribed him to part from her.”

“But look here, Bingo,” I said, “this is all rot. I see the solution right off. I’m surprised that a bloke of Jeeves’s mentality overlooked it. Aunt Dahlia must engage the parlourmaid as well as Anatole. Then they won’t be parted.”

“I thought of that, too. Naturally.”

“I bet you didn’t.”

“I certainly did.”

“Well, what’s wrong with the scheme?”

“It can’t be worked. If your aunt engaged our parlourmaid she would have to sack her own, wouldn’t she?”

“Well?”

“Well, if she sacks her parlourmaid, it will mean that the chauffeur will quit. He’s in love with her.”

“With my aunt?”

“No, with the parlourmaid. And apparently he’s the only chauffeur your uncle has ever found who drives carefully enough for him.”

I gave it up. I had never imagined before that life below stairs was so frightfully mixed up with what these coves call the sex complex. The personnel of domestic staffs seemed to pair off like characters in a musical comedy.

“Oh!” I said. “Well, that being so, we do seem to be more or less stymied. That article will have to appear after all, what?”

“No, it won’t.”

“Has Jeeves thought of another scheme?”

“No, but I have.” Bingo bent forward and patted my knee affectionately. “Look here, Bertie,” he said, “you and I were at school together. You’ll admit that?”

“Yes, but⁠—”

“And you’re a fellow who never lets a pal down. That’s well known, isn’t it?”

“Yes, but listen, Bingo⁠—”

“You’ll cluster round. Of course you will. As if,” said Bingo with a scornful laugh, “I ever doubted it! You won’t let an old schoolfriend down in his hour of need. Not you. Not Bertie Wooster. No, no!”

“Yes, but just one moment⁠—”

Bingo massaged my shoulder soothingly.

“It’s all settled, Bertie, old man. Nothing for you to worry about. Nothing whatever. I see now that we made a mistake in ever trying to tackle this job in Jeeves’s silly, roundabout way. Much better to charge straight ahead without any of that finesse and fooling about. This afternoon I’m going to take Rosie to a matinée. I shall leave the window of her study open, and when we have got well away you will climb in, pinch the cylinder, and pop off again. It’s absurdly simple.”

“Yes, but half a second⁠—”

“I know what you’re going to say,” said Bingo, raising his hand. “How are you to find the cylinder? That’s what’s bothering you, isn’t it? Well, it’ll be quite easy. Not a chance of a mistake. The thing is in the top left-hand drawer of the desk, and the drawer will be left unlocked because Rosie’s stenographer is to come round at four o’clock and type the thing.”

“Now listen, Bingo,” I said. “I’m frightfully sorry for you and all that, but I must firmly draw the line at burglary. I⁠—”

He gazed at me, astonished and hurt.

“Is this Bertie Wooster speaking?” he said in a low voice.

“Yes, it is!”

“But, Bertie,” he said gently, “we agreed that you were at school with me.”

“I don’t care.”

“At school, Bertie. The dear old school.”

“I don’t care. I will not⁠—”

“Bertie!”

“I will not⁠—”

“Bertie!”

“No!”

“Bertie!”

“Oh, all right,” I said.

“There,” said young Bingo, patting me on the shoulder, “spoke the true Bertram Wooster!”


I don’t know if it has ever occurred to you, but to the thoughtful cove there is something dashed reassuring in all the reports of burglaries you read in the papers. I mean, if you’re keen on Great Britain maintaining her prestige and all that. I mean, there can’t be much wrong with the morale of a country whose sons go in to such a large extent for housebreaking, because you can take it from me that the job requires a nerve of the most cast-iron description. I suppose I was walking up and down in front of that house for half an hour before I could bring myself to dash in at the front gate and slide round to the side where the study-window was. And even then I stood for about ten minutes cowering against the wall and listening for police-whistles.

Eventually, however, I braced myself up and got to business. The study was on the ground floor and the window was nice and large, and, what is more, wide open. I got the old knee over the sill, gave a jerk which took an inch of skin off my ankle, and hopped down into the room. And there I was, if you follow me.

I stood for a moment, listening. Everything seemed to be all right. I was apparently alone in the world.

In fact, I was so much alone that the atmosphere seemed positively creepy. You know how it is on these occasions. There was a clock on the mantelpiece that ticked in a slow, shocked sort of way that was dashed unpleasant. And over the clock a large portrait stared at me with a good deal of dislike and suspicion. It was a portrait of somebody’s grandfather. Whether he was Rosie’s or Bingo’s I didn’t know, but he was certainly a grandfather. In fact, I wouldn’t be prepared to swear that he wasn’t a great-grandfather. He was a big, stout old buffer in a high collar that seemed to hurt his neck, for he had drawn his chin back a goodish way and was looking down his nose as much as to say, “You made me put this dam’ thing on!”

Well, it was only a step to the desk, and nothing between me and it but a brown shaggy rug; so I avoided grandfather’s eye and, summoning up the good old bulldog courage of the Woosters, moved forward and started to navigate the rug. And I had hardly taken a step when the southeast corner of it suddenly detached itself from the rest and sat up with a snuffle.

Well, I mean to say, to bear yourself fittingly in the face of an occurrence of this sort you want to be one of those strong, silent, phlegmatic birds who are ready for anything. This type of bloke, I imagine, would simply have cocked an eye at the rug, said to himself, “Ah, a Pekingese dog, and quite a good one, too!” and started at once to make cordial overtures to the animal in order to win its sympathy and moral support. I suppose I must be one of the neurotic younger generation you read about in the papers nowadays, because it was pretty plain within half a second that I wasn’t strong and I wasn’t phlegmatic. This wouldn’t have mattered so much, but I wasn’t silent either. In the emotion of the moment I let out a sort of sharp yowl and leaped about four feet in a northwesterly direction. And there was a crash that sounded as though somebody had touched off a bomb.

What a female novelist wants with an occasional table in her study containing a vase, two framed photographs, a saucer, a lacquer box, and a jar of potpourri, I don’t know; but that was what Bingo’s Rosie had, and I caught it squarely with my right hip and knocked it endways. It seemed to me for a moment as if the whole world had dissolved into a kind of cataract of glass and china. A few years ago, when I legged it to America to elude my Aunt Agatha, who was out with her hatchet, I remember going to Niagara and listening to the Falls. They made much the same sort of row, but not so loud.

And at the same instant the dog began to bark.

It was a small dog⁠—the sort of animal from which you would have expected a noise like a squeaking slate-pencil: but it was simply baying. It had retired into a corner, and was leaning against the wall with bulging eyes; and every two seconds it chucked its head back in a kind of pained way and let out another terrific bellow.

Well, I know when I’m licked. I was sorry for Bingo and regretted the necessity of having to let him down; but the time had come, I felt, to shift. “Outside for Bertram!” was the slogan, and I took a running leap at the window and scrambled through.

And there on the path, as if they had been waiting for me by appointment, stood a policeman and a parlourmaid.

It was an embarrassing moment.

“Oh⁠—er⁠—there you are!” I said. And there was what you might call a contemplative silence for a moment.

“I told you I heard something,” said the parlourmaid.

The policeman was regarding me in a boiled way.

“What’s all this?” he asked.

I smiled in a sort of saintlike manner.

“It’s a little hard to explain,” I said.

“Yes, it is!” said the policeman.

“I was just⁠—er⁠—just having a look round, you know. Old friend of the family, you understand.”

“How did you get in?”

“Through the window. Being an old friend of the family, if you follow me.”

“Old friend of the family, are you?”

“Oh, very. Very. Very old. Oh, a very old friend of the family.”

“I’ve never seen him before,” said the parlourmaid.


I looked at the girl with positive loathing. How she could have inspired affection in anyone, even a French cook, beat me. Not that she was a bad looking girl, mind you. Not at all. On another and happier occasion I might even have thought her rather pretty. But now she seemed one of the most unpleasant females I had ever encountered.

“No,” I said. “You have never seen me before. But I’m an old friend of the family.”

“Then why didn’t you ring at the front door?”

“I didn’t want to give any trouble.”

“It’s no trouble answering front doors, that being what you’re paid for,” said the parlourmaid, virtuously. “I’ve never seen him before in my life,” she added, perfectly gratuitously. A horrid girl.

“Well, look here,” I said, with an inspiration, “the undertaker knows me.”

“What undertaker?”

“The cove who was waiting at table when I dined here the night before last.”

“Did the undertaker wait at table on the sixteenth instant?” asked the policeman.

“Of course he didn’t,” said the parlourmaid.

“Well, he looked like⁠—By Jove, no. I remember now. He was the greengrocer.”

“On the sixteenth instant,” said the policeman⁠—pompous ass!⁠—“did the greengrocer⁠—?”

“Yes, he did, if you want to know,” said the parlourmaid. She seemed disappointed and baffled, like a tigress that sees its prey being sneaked away from it. Then she brightened. “But this fellow could easily have found that out by asking round about.”

A perfectly poisonous girl.

“What’s your name?” asked the policeman.

“Well, I say, do you mind awfully if I don’t give my name, because⁠—”

“Suit yourself. You’ll have to tell it to the magistrate.”

“Oh, no, I say, dash it!”

“I think you’d better come along.”

“But I say, really, you know, I am an old friend of the family. Why, by Jove, now I remember, there’s a photograph of me in the drawing-room. Well, I mean, that shows you!”

“If there is,” said the policeman.

“I’ve never seen it,” said the parlourmaid.

I absolutely hated this girl.

“You would have seen it if you had done your dusting more conscientiously,” I said, severely. And I meant it to sting, by Jove!

“It is not a parlourmaid’s place to dust the drawing-room,” she sniffed, haughtily.

“No,” I said, bitterly. “It seems to be a parlourmaid’s place to lurk about and hang about and⁠—er⁠—waste her time fooling about in the garden with policemen who ought to be busy about their duties elsewhere.”

“It’s a parlourmaid’s place to open the front door to visitors. Them that don’t come in through windows.”

I perceived that I was getting the loser’s end of the thing. I tried to be conciliatory.

“My dear old parlourmaid,” I said, “don’t let us descend to vulgar wrangling. All I’m driving at is that there is a photograph of me in the drawing-room, cared for and dusted by whom I know not; and this photograph will, I think, prove to you that I am an old friend of the family. I fancy so, officer?”

“If it’s there,” said the man, in a grudging way.

“Oh, it’s there all right. Oh, yes, it’s there.”

“Well, we’ll go to the drawing-room and see.”

“Spoken like a man, my dear old policeman,” I said.


The drawing-room was on the first floor, and the photograph was on the table by the fireplace. Only, if you understand me, it wasn’t. What I mean is, there was the fireplace, and there was the table by the fireplace, but, by Jove, not a sign of any photograph of me whatsoever. A photograph of Bingo, yes. A photograph of Bingo’s uncle, Lord Bittlesham, right. A photograph of Mrs. Bingo, three-quarter face, with a tender smile on her lips, all present and correct. But of anything resembling Bertram Wooster, not a trace.

“Ho!” said the policeman.

“But, dash it, it was there the night before last.”

“Ho!” he said again. “Ho! Ho!” As if he were starting a drinking-chorus in a comic opera, confound him.

Then I got what amounted to the brainwave of a lifetime.

“Who dusts these things?” I said, turning on the parlourmaid.

“I don’t.”

“I didn’t say you did. I said who did.”

“Mary. The housemaid, of course.”

“Exactly. As I suspected. As I foresaw. Mary, officer, is notoriously the worst smasher in London. There have been complaints about her on all sides. You see what has happened? The wretched girl has broken the glass of my photograph and, not being willing to come forward and admit it in an honest, manly way, has taken the thing off and concealed it somewhere.”

“Ho!” said the policeman, still working through the drinking-chorus.

“Well, ask her. Go down and ask her.”

“You go down and ask her,” said the policeman to the parlourmaid. “If it’s going to make him any happier.”

The parlourmaid left the room, casting a pestilential glance at me over her shoulder as she went. I’m not sure she didn’t say “Ho!” too. And then there was a bit of a lull. The policeman took up a position with a large beefy back against the door, and I wandered to and fro and hither and yonder.

“What are you playing at?” demanded the policeman.

“Just looking round. They may have moved the thing.”

“Ho!”

And then there was another bit of a lull. And suddenly I found myself by the window, and, by Jove, it was six inches open at the bottom. And the world beyond looked so bright and sunny and⁠—Well, I don’t claim that I am a particularly swift thinker, but once more something seemed to whisper “Outside for Bertram!” I slid my fingers nonchalantly under the sash, gave a hefty heave, and up she came. And the next moment I was in a laurel bush, feeling like the cross which marks the spot where the accident occurred.

A large red face appeared in the window. I got up and skipped lightly to the gate.

“Hi!” shouted the policeman.

“Ho!” I replied, and went forth, moving well.

“This,” I said to myself, as I hailed a passing cab and sank back on the cushions, “is the last time I try to do anything for young Bingo!”


These sentiments I expressed in no guarded language to Jeeves when I was back in the old flat with my feet on the mantelpiece, pushing down a soothing whisky-and.

“Never again, Jeeves!” I said. “Never again!”

“Well, sir⁠—”

“No, never again!”

“Well, sir⁠—”

“What do you mean, ‘Well, sir’? What are you driving at?”

“Well, sir, Mr. Little is an extremely persistent young gentleman, and yours, if I may say so, sir, is a yielding and obliging nature⁠—”

“You don’t think that young Bingo would have the immortal rind to try to get me into some other foul enterprise?

“I should say that it was more than probable, sir.”

I removed the dogs swiftly from the mantelpiece, and jumped up, all of a twitter.

“Jeeves, what would you advise?”

“Well, sir, I think a little change of scene would be judicious.”

“Do a bolt?”

“Precisely, sir. If I might suggest it, sir, why not change your mind and join Mr. George Travers at Harrogate?”

“Oh, I say, Jeeves!”

“You would be out of what I might describe as the danger zone there, sir.”

“Perhaps you’re right, Jeeves,” I said, thoughtfully. “Yes, possibly you’re right. How far is Harrogate from London?”

“Two hundred and six miles, sir.”

“Yes, I think you’re right. Is there a train this afternoon?”

“Yes, sir. You could catch it quite easily.”

“All right, then. Bung a few necessaries in a bag.”

“I have already done so, sir.”

“Ho!” I said.


It’s a rummy thing, but when you come down to it Jeeves is always right. He had tried to cheer me up at the station by saying that I would not find Harrogate unpleasant, and, by Jove, he was perfectly correct. What I had overlooked, when examining the project, was the fact that I should be in the middle of a bevy of blokes who were taking the cure and I shouldn’t be taking it myself. You’ve no notion what a dashed cosy, satisfying feeling that gives a fellow.

I mean to say, there was old Uncle George, for instance. The medicine-man, having given him the once-over, had ordered him to abstain from all alcoholic liquids, and in addition to tool down the hill to the Royal Pump-Room each morning at eight-thirty and imbibe twelve ounces of warm crescent saline and magnesia. It doesn’t sound much, put that way, but I gather from contemporary accounts that it’s practically equivalent to getting outside a couple of little old last year’s eggs beaten up in seawater. And the thought of Uncle George, who had oppressed me sorely in my childhood, sucking down that stuff and having to hop out of bed at eight-fifteen to do so was extremely grateful and comforting of a morning.

At four in the afternoon he would toddle down the hill again and repeat the process, and at night we would dine together and I would loll back in my chair, sipping my wine, and listen to him telling me what the stuff had tasted like. In many ways the ideal existence.

I generally managed to fit it in with my engagements to go down and watch him tackle his afternoon dose, for we Woosters are as fond of a laugh as anyone. And it was while I was enjoying the performance in the middle of the second week that I heard my name spoken. And there was Aunt Dahlia.

“Hullo!” I said. “What are you doing here?”

“I came down yesterday with Tom.”

“Is Tom taking the cure?” asked Uncle George, looking up hopefully from the hell-brew.

“Yes.”

“Are you taking the cure?”

“Yes.”

“Ah!” said Uncle George, looking happier than I had seen him for days. He swallowed the last drops, and then, the programme calling for a brisk walk before his massage, left us.

“I shouldn’t have thought you would have been able to get away from the paper,” I said. “I say,” I went on, struck by a pleasing idea. “It hasn’t bust up, has it?”

“Bust up? I should say not. A pal of mine is looking after it for me while I’m here. It’s right on its feet now. Tom has given me a couple of thousand and says there’s more if I want it, and I’ve been able to buy the serial rights of Lady Bablockhythe’s Frank Recollections of a Long Life. The hottest stuff, Bertie. Certain to double the circulation and send half the best-known people in London into hysterics for a year.”

“Oh!” I said. “Then you’re pretty well fixed, what? I mean, what with the Frank Recollections and that article of Mrs. Little’s.”

Aunt Dahlia was drinking something that smelled like a leak in the gas-pipe, and I thought for a moment that it was that that made her twist up a face. But I was wrong.

“Don’t mention that woman to me, Bertie!” she said. “One of the worst.”

“But I thought you were rather pally.”

“No longer. Will you credit it that she positively refuses to let me have that article⁠—”

“What!”

“⁠—purely and simply on account of some fancied grievance she thinks she has against me because her cook left her and came to me.”

I couldn’t follow this at all.

“Anatole left her?” I said. “But what about the parlourmaid?”

“Pull yourself together, Bertie. You’re babbling. What do you mean?”

“Why, I understood⁠—”

“I’ll bet you never understood anything in your life.” She laid down her empty glass. “Well, that’s done!” she said, with relief. “Thank goodness, I’ll be able to watch Tom drinking his in a few minutes. It’s the only thing that enables me to bear up. Poor old chap, he does hate it so! But I cheer him by telling him it’s going to put him in shape for Anatole’s cooking. And that, Bertie, is something worth going into training for. A master of his art, that man. Sometimes I’m not altogether surprised that Mrs. Little made such a fuss when he went. But, really, you know, she ought not to mix sentiment with business. She has no right to refuse to let me have that article just because of a private difference. Well, she jolly well can’t use it anywhere else, because it was my idea and I have witnesses to prove it. If she tries to sell it to another paper, I’ll sue her. And, talking of sewers, it’s high time Tom was here to drink his sulphur-water.”

“But look here⁠—”

“Oh, by the way, Bertie,” said Aunt Dahlia, “I withdraw any harsh expressions I may have used about your man Jeeves. A most capable feller!”

“Jeeves?”

“Yes, he attended to the negotiations. And very well he did it, too. And he hasn’t lost by it, you can bet. I saw to that. I’m grateful to him. Why, if Tom gives up a couple of thousand now, practically without a murmur, the imagination reels at what he’ll do with Anatole cooking regularly for him. He’ll be signing cheques in his sleep.”

I got up. Aunt Dahlia pleaded with me to stick around and watch Uncle Tom in action, claiming it to be a sight nobody should miss, but I couldn’t wait. I rushed up the hill, left a farewell note for Uncle George, and caught the next train for London.


“Jeeves,” I said, when I had washed off the stains of travel, “tell me frankly all about it. Be as frank as Lady Bablockhythe.”

“Sir?”

“Never mind if you’ve not heard of her. Tell me how you worked this binge. The last I heard was that Anatole loved that parlourmaid⁠—goodness knows why!⁠—so much that he refused to leave her. Well, then?”

“I was somewhat baffled for awhile, I must confess, sir. Then I was materially assisted by a fortunate discovery.”

“What was that?”

“I chanced to be chatting with Mrs. Travers’s housemaid, sir, and, remembering that Mrs. Little was anxious to obtain a domestic of that description, I asked her if she would consent to leave Mrs. Travers and go at an advanced wage to Mrs. Little. To this she assented, and I saw Mrs. Little and arranged the matter.”

“Well? What was the fortunate discovery?”

“That the girl, in a previous situation some little time back, had been a colleague of Anatole, sir. And Anatole, as is the too frequent practice of these Frenchmen, had made love to her. In fact, they were, so I understood it, sir, formally affianced until Anatole disappeared one morning, leaving no address, and passed out of the poor girl’s life. You will readily appreciate that this discovery simplified matters considerably. The girl no longer had any affection for Anatole, but the prospect of being under the same roof with two young persons, both of whom he had led to assume⁠—”

“Great Scott! Yes, I see! It was rather like putting in a ferret to start a rabbit.”

“The principle was much the same, sir. Anatole was out of the house and in Mrs. Travers’s service within half an hour of the receipt of the information that the young person was about to arrive. A volatile man, sir. Like so many of these Frenchmen.”

“Jeeves,” I said, “this is genius of a high order.”

“It is very good of you to say so, sir.”

“What did Mr. Little say about it?”

“He appeared gratified, sir.”

“To go into sordid figures, did he⁠—”

“Yes, sir. Twenty pounds. Having been fortunate in his selections at Hurst Park on the previous Saturday.”

“My aunt told me that she⁠—”

“Yes, sir. Most generous. Twenty-five pounds.”

“Good Lord, Jeeves! You’ve been coining the stuff!”

“I have added appreciably to my savings, yes, sir. Mrs. Little was good enough to present me with ten pounds for finding her such a satisfactory housemaid. And then there was Mr. Travers⁠—”

“Uncle Thomas?”

“Yes, sir. He also behaved most handsomely, quite independently of Mrs. Travers. Another twenty-five pounds. And Mr. George Travers⁠—”

“Don’t tell me that Uncle George gave you something, too! What on earth for?”

“Well, really, sir, I do not quite understand myself. But I received a cheque for ten pounds from him. He seemed to be under the impression that I had been in some way responsible for your joining him at Harrogate, sir.”

I gaped at the fellow.

“Well, everybody seems to be doing it,” I said, “so I suppose I had better make the thing unanimous. Here’s a fiver.”

“Why, thank you, sir. This is extremely⁠—”

“It won’t seem much compared with these vast sums you’ve been acquiring.”

“Oh, I assure you, sir.”

“And I don’t know why I’m giving it to you.”

“No, sir.”

“Still, there it is.”

“Thank you very much, sir.”

I got up.

“It’s pretty late,” I said, “but I think I’ll dress and go out and have a bite somewhere. I feel like having a whirl of some kind after two weeks at Harrogate.”

“Yes, sir. I will unpack your clothes.”

“Oh, Jeeves,” I said, “did Peabody and Simms send those soft silk shirts?”

“Yes, sir. I sent them back.”

“Sent them back!”

“Yes, sir.”

I eyed him for a moment. But I mean to say. I mean, what’s the use?

“Oh, all right,” I said. “Then lay out one of the gents’ stiff-bosomed.”

“Very good, sir,” said Jeeves.

Bertie Changes His Mind

It has happened so frequently in the past few years that young fellows starting in my profession have come to me for a word of advice, that I’ve found it convenient now to condense my system into a brief formula. “Resource and Tact”⁠—that is my motto. Tact, of course, has always been with me a sine qua non: while as for resource, I think I may say that I have usually contrived to show a certain modicum of what I might call finesse in handling those little contretemps which inevitably arise from time to time in the daily life of a gentleman’s personal gentleman. I am reminded, just by way of an instance, of the Episode of the School for Young Ladies down Brighton⁠—an affair which I think it may be said to have commenced one evening at the moment when I brought Mr. Wooster his whisky and siphon and he burst out at me with such remarkable petulance.

Not a little moody Mr. Wooster had been for some days⁠—far from his usual bright self This I had attributed to the natural reaction from a slight attack of influenza from which he had been suffering; and, of course, took no notice, merely performing my duties as usual, until on the evening of which I speak he exhibited this remarkable petulance when I brought him his whisky and siphon .

“Oh, dash it, Jeeves!” he said, manifestly overwrought. “I wish at least you’d put it on another table for a change.”

“Sir?” I said.

“Every night, dash it all,” proceeded Mr. Wooster morosely, “you come in at exactly the same old time with the same old tray and put it on the same old table. I’m fed up, I tell you. It’s the bally monotony of it that makes it all seem so frightfully bally.”

I confess that his words filled me with a certain apprehension. I had heard gentlemen in whose employment I’ve been talk in very much the same way before, and it had almost invariably meant that they were contemplating matrimony. It disturbed me, therefore, I’m free to admit, when Mr. Wooster addressed me in this fashion. I had no desire to sever a connection so pleasant in every respect as his and mine had been, and my experience is that when the wife comes in at the front door the valet of bachelor days goes out at the back.

“It’s not your fault, of course,” went on Mr. Wooster, regaining a certain degree of composure “I’m not blaming you But, by Jove, I mean, you must acknowledge⁠—I mean to say, I’ve been thinking pretty deeply these last few days, Jeeves, and I’ve come to the conclusion fame is an empty life I’m lonely, Jeeves.”

“You have a great many friends, sir.”

“What’s the good of friends?”

“Emerson,” I reminded him, “says a friend may well be reckoned the masterpiece of Nature, sir.”

“Well, you can tell Emerson from me next time you see him that he’s an ass.”

“Very good, sir.”

“What I want⁠—Jeeves, have you seen that play called I-forget-its-dashed-name?”

“No, sir.”

“It’s on at the What-d’you-call-it. I went last night. The hero’s a chap who’s buzzing along, you know, quite merry and bright, and suddenly a kid turns up and says she’s his daughter. Left over from act one, you know⁠—absolutely the first he’d heard of it. Well, of course, there’s a bit of a fuss and they say to him, ‘What-ho?’ and he says, ‘Well, what about it?’ and they say, ‘Well, what about it?’ and he says, ‘Oh, all right, then, if that’s the way you feel!’ and he takes the kid and goes off with her out into the world together, you know. Well, what I’m driving at, Jeeves, is that I envied that chappie. Most awfully jolly little girl, you know, clinging to him trustingly and what-not. Something to look after, if you know what I mean. Jeeves, I wish I had a daughter. I wonder what the procedure is?”

“Marriage is, I believe, considered the preliminary step, sir.”

“No, I mean about adopting a kid. You can adopt kids, you know, Jeeves. But what I want to know is how you start about it.”

“The process, I should imagine, would be highly complicated and laborious, sir. It would cut into your spare time.”

“Well, I’ll tell you what I could do, then. My sister will be back from India next week with her three little girls. I’ll give up this flat and take a house and have them all to live with me. By Jove, Jeeves, I think that’s rather a scheme, what? Prattle of childish voices, eh? Little feet pattering hither and thither, yes?”

I concealed my perturbation, but the effort to preserve my sang-froid tested my powers to the utmost. The course of action outlined by Mr. Wooster meant the finish of our cosy bachelor establishment if it came into being as a practical proposition; and no doubt some men in my place would at this juncture have voiced their disapproval. I avoided this blunder.

“If you will pardon my saying so, sir,” I suggested, “I think you are not quite yourself after your influenza. If I might express the opinion, what you require is a few days by the sea. Brighton is very handy, sir.”

“Are you suggesting that I’m talking through my hat?”

“By no means, sir. I merely advocate a short stay at Brighton as a physical recuperative.”

Mr. Wooster considered.

“Well, I’m not sure you’re not right,” he said at length. “I am feeling more or less of an onion You might shove a few things in a suitcase and drive me down in the car tomorrow.”

“Very good, sir.”

“And when we get back I’ll be in the pink and ready to tackle this pattering-feet wheeze.”

“Exactly, sir.”

Well, it was a respite, and I welcomed it. But I began to see that a crisis had arisen which would require adroit handling. Rarely had I observed Mr. Wooster more set on a thing. Indeed, I could recall no such exhibition of determination on his part since the time when he had insisted, against my obvious disapproval, on wearing purple socks. However, I had coped successfully with that outbreak, and I was by no means unsanguine that I should eventually be able to bring the present affair to a happy issue. Employers are like horses. They require managing. Some gentlemen’s personal gentlemen have the knack of managing them, some have not. I, I am happy to say, have no cause for complaint.


For myself, I found our stay at Brighton highly enjoyable, and should have been willing to extend it but Mr. Wooster, still restless, wearied of the place by the end of two days, and on the third afternoon he instructed me to pack up and bring the car round to the hotel. We started back along the London road at about five of a fine summer’s day, and had travelled perhaps two miles when I perceived in the road before us a young lady, gesticulating with no little animation. I applied the brake and brought the vehicle to a standstill.

“What,” inquired Mr. Wooster, waking from a reverie, “is the big thought at the back of this, Jeeves?”

“I observed a young lady endeavouring to attract our attention with signals a little way down the road, sir,” I explained. “She is now making her way towards us.”

Mr. Wooster peered.

“I see her. I expect she wants a lift, Jeeves.”

“That was the interpretation which I placed upon her actions, sir.”

“A jolly-looking kid,” said Mr. Wooster. “I wonder what she’s doing, biffing about the high road.”

“She has the air to me, sir, of one who has been absenting herself without leave from her school, sir.”

“Hallo-allo-allo!” said Mr. Wooster, as the child reached us. “Do you want a lift?”

“Oh, I say, can you?” said the child, with marked pleasure.

“Where do you want to go?”

“There’s a turning to the left about a mile farther on. If you’ll put me down there, I’ll walk the rest of the way. I say, thanks awfully. I’ve got a nail in my shoe.”

She climbed in at the back. A red-haired young person with a snub nose and an extremely large grin. Her age, I should imagine, would be about twelve. She let down one of the spare seats, and knelt on it to facilitate conversation.

“I’m going to get into a frightful row,” she began. “Miss Tomlinson will be perfectly furious.”

“No, really?” said Mr. Wooster.

“It’s a half-holiday, you know, and I sneaked away to Brighton, because I wanted to go on the pier and put pennies in the slot-machines. I thought I could get back in time so that nobody would notice I’d gone, but I got this nail in my shoe, and now there’ll be a fearful row. Oh, well,” she said, with a philosophy which, I confess, I admired, “it can’t be helped. What’s your car? A Sunbeam, isn’t it? We’ve got a Wolseley at home.”

Mr. Wooster was visibly perturbed. As I have indicated, he was at this time in a highly malleable frame of mind, tenderhearted to a degree where the young of the female sex were concerned. Her sad case touched him deeply.

“Oh, I say, this is rather rotten,” he observed. “Isn’t there anything to be done? I say, Jeeves, don’t you think something could be done?”

“It was not my place to make the suggestion, sir,” I replied, “but, as you yourself have brought the matter up, I fancy the trouble is susceptible of adjustment. I think it would be a legitimate subterfuge were you to inform the young lady’s schoolmistress that you are an old friend of the young lady’s father. In this case you could inform Miss Tomlinson that you had been passing the school and had seen the young lady at the gate and taken her for a drive. Miss Tomlinson’s chagrin would no doubt in these circumstances be sensibly diminished if not altogether dispersed.”

“Well, you are a sportsman!” observed the young person, with great enthusiasm. And she proceeded to kiss me⁠—in connection with which I have only to say that I was sorry she had just been devouring some sticky species of sweetmeat.

“Jeeves, you’ve hit it!” said Mr. Wooster. “A sound, even fruity, scheme. I say, I suppose I’d better know your name and all that, if I’m a friend of your father’s.”

“My name’s Peggy Mainwaring, thanks awfully,” said the young person. “And my father’s Professor Mainwaring. He’s written a lot of books. You’ll be expected to know that.”

“Author of the well-known series of philosophical treatises, sir,” I said. “They have a great vogue, though, if the young lady will pardon my saying so, many of the Professor’s opinions strike me personally as somewhat empirical. Shall I drive on to the school, sir?”

“Yes, carry on. I say, Jeeves, it’s a rummy thing. Do you know, I’ve never been inside a girls’ school in my life.”

“Indeed, sir?”

“Ought to be a dashed interesting experience, Jeeves, what?”

“I fancy that you may find it so, sir,” I said.

We drove on a matter of half a mile down a lane, and, directed by the young person, I turned in at the gates of a house of imposing dimensions, bringing the car to a halt at the front door. Mr. Wooster and the child went in, and presently a parlourmaid came out.

“You’re to take the car round to the stables, please,” she said.

“Ah! Then everything is satisfactory, eh? Where has Mr. Wooster gone?”

“Miss Peggy has taken him off to meet her friends. And cook says she hopes you’ll step round to the kitchen later and have a cup of tea.”

“Inform her that I shall be delighted. Before I take the car to the stables, would it be possible for me to have a word with Miss Tomlinson?”

A moment later I was following her into the drawing-room.


Handsome but strong-minded⁠—that was how I summed up Miss Tomlinson at first glance. In some ways she recalled to my mind Mr. Wooster’s Aunt Agatha. She had the same penetrating gaze and that indefinable air of being reluctant to stand any nonsense.

“I fear I am possibly taking a liberty, madam,” I began, “but I am hoping that you will allow me to say a word with respect to my employer. I fancy I am correct in supposing that Mr. Wooster did not tell you a great deal about himself?”

“He told me nothing about himself, except that he was a friend of Professor Mainwaring.”

“He did not inform you, then, that he was the Mr. Wooster?”

The Mr. Wooster?”

“Bertram Wooster, madam.”

I will say for Mr. Wooster that, mentally negligible though he no doubt is, he has a name that suggests almost infinite possibilities. He sounds, if I may elucidate my meaning, like Someone⁠—especially if you’ve just been told he’s an intimate friend of Professor Mainwaring. You might not, no doubt, be able to say offhand whether he was Bertram Wooster the novelist, or Bertram Wooster the founder of a new school of thought, but you would have an uneasy feeling that you were exposing your ignorance if you did not give the impression of familiarity with the name. Miss Tomlinson, as I had rather foreseen, nodded brightly.

“Oh, Bertram Wooster!” she said.

“He is an extremely retiring gentleman, madam, and would be the last to suggest it himself, but, knowing him as I do, I am sure that he would take it as a graceful compliment if you were to ask him to address the young ladies. He is an excellent extempore speaker.”

“A very good idea,” said Miss Tomlinson, decidedly. “I am very much obliged to you for suggesting it. I will certainly ask him to talk to the girls.”

“And should he make a pretence⁠—through modesty⁠—of not wishing⁠—”

“I shall insist!”

“Thank you, madam. I am obliged. You will not mention my share in the matter? Mr. Wooster might think that I had exceeded my duties.”

I drove round to the stables and halted the car in the yard. As I got out, I looked at it somewhat intently. It was a good car, and appeared to be in excellent condition, but somehow I seemed to feel that something was going to go wrong with it⁠—something pretty serious⁠—something that wouldn’t be able to be put right again for at least a couple of hours.

One gets these presentiments.


It may have been some half-hour later that Mr. Wooster came into the stable-yard as I was leaning against the car and enjoying a quiet cigarette.

“No, don’t chuck it away, Jeeves,” he said, as I withdrew the cigarette from my mouth. “As a matter of fact, I’ve come to touch you for a smoke. Got one to spare?”

“Only gaspers, I fear, sir.”

“They’ll do,” responded Mr. Wooster, with no little eagerness. I observed that his manner was a trifle fatigued and his eye somewhat wild. “It’s a rummy thing, Jeeves, I seem to have lost my cigarette-case. Can’t find it anywhere.”

“I am sorry to hear that, sir. It is not in the car.”

“No? Must have dropped it somewhere, then.” He drew at his gasper with relish. “Jolly creatures, small girls, Jeeves,” he remarked, after a pause.

“Extremely so, sir.”

“Of course, I can imagine some fellows finding them a bit exhausting in⁠—er⁠—”

“En masse, sir?”

“That’s the word. A bit exhausting en masse.”

“I must confess, sir, that that is how they used to strike me. In my younger days, at the outset of my career, sir, I was at one time pageboy in a school for young ladies.”

“No, really? I never knew that before. I say, Jeeves⁠—er⁠—did the⁠—er⁠—dear little souls giggle much in your day?”

“Practically without cessation, sir.”

“Makes a fellow feel a bit of an ass, what? I shouldn’t wonder if they usedn’t to stare at you from time to time, too, eh?”

“At the school where I was employed, sir, the young ladies had a regular game which they were accustomed to play when a male visitor arrived. They would stare fixedly at him and giggle, and there was a small prize for the one who made him blush first.”

“Oh, no, I say, Jeeves, not really?”

“Yes, sir. They derived great enjoyment from the pastime.”

“I’d no idea small girls were such demons.”

“More deadly than the male, sir.”

Mr. Wooster passed a handkerchief over his brow.

“Well, we’re going to have tea in a few minutes, Jeeves. I expect I shall feel better after tea.”

“We will hope so, sir.”

But I was by no means sanguine.


I had an agreeable tea in the kitchen. The buttered toast was good and the maids nice girls, though with little conversation. The parlourmaid, who joined us towards the end of the meal, after performing her duties in the school dining-room, reported that Mr. Wooster was sticking it pluckily, but seemed feverish. I went back to the stable-yard, and I was just giving the car another look-over when the small Mainwaring child appeared.

“Oh, I say,” she said, “will you give this to Mr. Wooster when you see him?” She held out Mr. Wooster’s cigarette-case. “He must have dropped it somewhere. I say,” she proceeded, “it’s an awful lark. He’s going to give a lecture to the school.”

“Indeed, miss?”

“We love it when there are lectures. We sit and stare at the poor dears, and try to make them dry up. There was a man last term who got hiccups. Oh, do you think Mr. Wooster will get hiccups?”

“We can but hope for the best, miss.”

“It would be such a lark, wouldn’t it?”

“Highly enjoyable, miss.”

“Well, I must be getting back. I want to get a front seat.”

And she scampered off. An engaging child. Full of spirits.

She had hardly gone when there was an agitated noise, and round the corner came Mr. Wooster. Perturbed. Deeply so.

“Jeeves!”

“Sir?”

“Start the car!”

“Sir?”

“I’m off!”

“Sir?”

Mr. Wooster danced a few steps.

“Don’t stand there saying ‘sir?’ I tell you I’m off. Bally off! There’s not a moment to waste. The situation’s desperate. Dash it, Jeeves, do you know what’s happened? The Tomlinson female has just sprung it on me that I’m expected to make a speech to the girls! Got to stand up there in front of the whole dashed collection and talk! I can just see myself! Get that car going, Jeeves, dash it all. A little speed, a little speed!”

“Impossible, I fear, sir. The car is out of order.”

Mr. Wooster gaped at me. Very glassily he gaped.

“Out of order!”

“Yes, sir. Something is wrong. Trivial, perhaps, but possibly a matter of some little time to repair.” Mr. Wooster being one of those easygoing young gentlemen who’ll drive a car but never take the trouble to learn anything about its mechanism, I felt justified in becoming technical. “I think it is the differential gear, sir. Either that or the exhaust.”

I’m fond of Mr. Wooster, and I admit I came very near to melting as I looked at his face. He was staring at me in a sort of dumb despair that would have touched anybody.

“Then I’m sunk! Or”⁠—a slight gleam of hope flickered across his drawn features⁠—“do you think I could sneak out and leg it across country, Jeeves?”

“Too late, I fear, sir.” I indicated with a slight gesture the approaching figure of Miss Tomlinson, who was advancing with a serene determination in his immediate rear.

“Ah, there you are, Mr. Wooster.”

He smiled a sickly smile.

“Yes⁠—er⁠—here I am!”

“We are all waiting for you in the large schoolroom.”

“But, I say, look here,” said Mr. Wooster, “I⁠—I don’t know a bit what to talk about.”

“Why, anything, Mr. Wooster. Anything that comes into your head. Be bright,” said Miss Tomlinson. “Bright and amusing.”

“Oh, bright and amusing?”

“Possibly tell them a few entertaining stories. But, at the same time, do not neglect the graver note. Remember that my girls are on the threshold of life, and will be eager to hear something brave and helpful and stimulating⁠—something which they can remember in after years. But, of course, you know the sort of thing, Mr. Wooster. Come. The young people are waiting.”


I have spoken earlier of resource and the part it plays in the life of a gentleman’s personal gentleman. It is a quality peculiarly necessary if one is to share in scenes not primarily designed for one’s cooperation. So much that is interesting in life goes on apart behind closed doors that your gentleman’s gentleman, if he is not to remain hopelessly behind the march of events, should exercise his wits in order to enable himself to be⁠—if not a spectator⁠—at least an auditor when there is anything of interest toward. I deprecate as both vulgar and undignified the practice of listening at keyholes, but without lowering myself to that, I have generally contrived to find a way.

In the present case it was simple. The large schoolroom was situated on the ground floor, with commodious French windows, which, as the weather was clement, remained open throughout the proceedings. By stationing myself behind a pillar on the porch or veranda which adjoined the room, I was enabled to see and hear all. It was an experience which I should be sorry to have missed. Mr. Wooster, I may say at once, indubitably excelled himself.

Mr. Wooster is a young gentleman with practically every desirable quality except one. I do not mean brains, for in an employer brains are not desirable. The quality to which I allude is hard to define, but perhaps I might call it the gift of dealing with the Unusual Situation. In the presence of the Unusual, Mr. Wooster is too prone to smile weakly and allow his eyes to protrude. He lacks Presence. I have often wished that I had the power to bestow upon him some of the savoir-faire of a former employer of mine, Mr. Montague-Todd, the well-known financier, now in the second year of his sentence. I have known men call upon Mr. Todd with the express intention of horsewhipping him and go away half an hour later laughing heartily and smoking one of his cigars. To Mr. Todd it would have been child’s play to speak a few impromptu words to a schoolroom full of young ladies; in fact, before he had finished, he would probably have induced them to invest all their pocket-money in one of his numerous companies, but to Mr. Wooster it was plainly an ordeal of the worst description. He gave one look at the young ladies, who were all staring at him in an extremely unwinking manner, blinked, and started to pick feebly at his coat-sleeve. His aspect reminded me of that of a bashful young man who has been persuaded against his better judgment to go on the platform and assist a conjurer in his entertainment, suddenly discovers rabbits and hard-boiled eggs are being taken out of the top of his head.

The proceeding opened with a short but graceful speech of introduction from Miss Tomlinson.

“Girls, some of you have already met Mr. Wooster⁠—Mr. Bertram Wooster, and you all, I hope, know him by reputation.” Here Mr. Wooster gave a hideous, gurgling laugh and, catching Miss Tomlinson’s eye, turned a bright scarlet. Miss Tomlinson resumed. “He has very kindly consented to say a few words to you before he leaves, and I am sure that you will all give him your very earnest attention. Now, please.”

She gave a spacious gesture with her right hand as she said the last two words, and Mr. Wooster, under the impression that they were addressed to him, cleared his throat and began to speak. But it appeared that her remark was directed to the young ladies, and was in the nature of a cue or signal, for she had no sooner spoken them than the whole school rose to its feet in a body and burst into a species of chant, of which I am glad to say I can remember the words, though the tune eludes me. The words ran as follows⁠—

“Many greetings to you!
Many greetings to you!
Many greetings, dear stranger,
Many greetings,
Many greetings,
Many greetings to you!
Many greetings to you!
To you!”

Considerable latitude of choice was given to the singers in the matter of key, and there was little of what I might call cooperative effort. Each child went on till she had reached the end, then stopped and waited for the stragglers to come up. It was an unusual performance, and I, personally, found it extremely exhilarating. It seemed to smite Mr. Wooster, however, like a blow. He recoiled a couple of steps and flung up an arm defensively. Then the uproar died away, and an air of expectancy fell upon the room. Miss Tomlinson directed a brightly authoritative gaze upon Mr. Wooster, and he blinked, gulped once or twice, and tottered forward.

“Well, you know⁠—” said Mr. Wooster.

Then it seemed to strike him that this opening lacked the proper formal dignity.

“Ladies⁠—”

A silvery peal of laughter from the front row stopped him again.

“Girls!” said Miss Tomlinson. She spoke in a low, soft voice, but the effect was immediate. Perfect stillness instantly descended upon all present. I am bound to say that, brief as my acquaintance with Miss Tomlinson had been, I could recall few women I had admired more. She had grip.

I fancy that Miss Tomlinson had gauged Mr. Wooster’s oratorical capabilities pretty correctly by this time, and had come to the conclusion that nothing much in the way of a stirring address was to be expected from him.

“Perhaps,” she said, “as it is getting late, and he has not very much time to spare, Mr. Wooster will just give you some little word of advice which may be helpful to you in after-life, and then we will sing the school song and disperse to our evening lessons.”

She looked at Mr. Wooster. Mr. Wooster passed a finger round the inside of his collar.

“Advice? After-life? What? Well, I don’t know⁠—”

“Just some brief word of counsel, Mr. Wooster,” said Miss Tomlinson, firmly.

“Oh, well⁠—Well, yes⁠—Well⁠—” It was painful to see Mr. Wooster’s brain endeavouring to work. “Well, I’ll tell you something that’s often done me a bit of good, and it’s a thing not many people know. My old Uncle Henry gave me the tip when I first came to London. ‘Never forget, my boy,’ he said, ‘that, if you stand outside Romano’s in the Strand, you can see the clock on the wall of the Law Courts down in Fleet Street. Most people who don’t know don’t believe it’s possible, because there are a couple of churches in the middle of the road, and you would think they would be in the way. But you can, and it’s worth knowing. You can win a lot of money betting on it with fellows who haven’t found it out.’ And, by Jove, he was perfectly right, and it’s a thing to remember. Many a quid have I⁠—”

Miss Tomlinson gave a hard, dry cough, and Mr. Wooster stopped in the middle of a sentence.

“Perhaps it will be better, Mr. Wooster,” she said, in a cold, even voice, “if you were to tell my girls some little story. What you say is, no doubt, extremely interesting, but perhaps a little⁠—”

“Oh, ah, yes,” said Mr. Wooster. “Story? Story?” He appeared completely distraught, poor young gentleman. “I wonder if you’ve heard the one about the stockbroker and the chorus-girl?”

“We will now sing the school song,” said Miss Tomlinson, rising like an iceberg.

I decided not to remain for the singing of the school song. It seemed probable to me that Mr. Wooster would shortly be requiring the car, so I made my way back to the stable-yard, to be in readiness.

I had not long to wait. In a very few moments Mr. Wooster came tottering up. Mr. Wooster’s is not one of those inscrutable faces which it is impossible to read. On the contrary, it is a limpid pool in which is mirrored each passing emotion. I could read it now like a book, and his first words were very much on the lines I had anticipated.

“Jeeves,” he said, hoarsely, “is that damned car mended yet?”

“Just this moment, sir. I have been working on it assiduously.”

“Then, for heaven’s sake, let’s go!”

“But I understood that you were to address the young ladies, sir.”

“Oh, I’ve done that!” responded Mr. Wooster, blinking twice with extraordinary rapidity. “Yes, I’ve done that.”

“It was a success, I hope, sir?”

“Oh, yes. Oh, yes. Most extraordinarily successful. Went like a breeze. But⁠—er⁠—I think I may as well be going. No use outstaying one’s welcome, what?”

“Assuredly not, sir.”

I had climbed into my seat and was about to start the engine, when voices made themselves heard; and at the first sound of them Mr. Wooster sprang with almost incredible nimbleness into the tonneau, and when I glanced round he was on the floor covering himself with a rug. The last I saw of him was a pleading eye.

“Have you seen Mr. Wooster, my man?” Miss Tomlinson had entered the stable-yard, accompanied by a lady of, I should say, judging from her accent, French origin.

“No, madam.”

The French lady uttered some exclamation in her native tongue.

“Is anything wrong, madam?” I inquired.

Miss Tomlinson in normal mood was, I should be disposed to imagine, a lady who would not readily confide her troubles to the ear of a gentleman’s gentleman, however sympathetic his aspect. That she did so now was sufficient indication of the depth to which she was stirred.

“Yes, there is! Mademoiselle has just found several of the girls smoking cigarettes in the shrubbery. When questioned, they stated that Mr. Wooster had given them the horrid things.” She turned. “He must be in the garden somewhere, or in the house. I think the man is out of his senses. Come, mademoiselle!”

It must have been about a minute later that Mr. Wooster poked his head out of the rug like a tortoise.

“Jeeves!”

“Sir?”

“Get a move on! Start her up! Get going and keep going!”

I trod on the self-starter.

“It would perhaps be safest to drive carefully until we are out of the school grounds, sir,” I said. “I might run over one of the young ladies, sir.”

“Well, what’s the objection to that?” demanded Mr. Wooster, with extraordinary bitterness.

“Or even Miss Tomlinson, sir.”

“Don’t!” said Mr. Wooster, wistfully. “You make my mouth water!”


“Jeeves,” said Mr. Wooster, when I brought him his whisky and siphon one night about a week later, “this is dashed jolly.”

“Sir?”

“Jolly. Cosy and pleasant, you know. I mean, looking at the clock and wondering if you’re going to be late with the good old drinks, and then you coming in with the tray always exactly on time, never a minute late, and shoving it down on the table and biffing off, and the next night coming in and shoving it down and biffing off, and the next night⁠—I mean, gives you a sort of safe, restful feeling. Soothing! That’s the word. Soothing!”

“Yes, sir. Oh, by the way, sir⁠—”

“Well?”

“Have you succeeded in finding a suitable house yet, sir?”

“House? What do you mean, house?”

“I understood, sir, that it was your intention to give up the flat and take a house of sufficient size to enable you to have your sister, Mrs. Scholfield, and her three young ladies to live with you.”

Mr. Wooster shuddered strongly.

“That’s off, Jeeves,” he said.

“Very good, sir,” I replied.

Colophon

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Jeeves Stories
was compiled from short stories published between 1915 and 1925 by
P. G. Wodehouse.