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Right Ho, Jeeves

By P. G. WODEHOUSE 1922

Page 6 of 46


I saw his point. There is enough sadness in life without having fellows
like Gussie Fink-Nottle going about in sea boots.

"And are you emboldened?"

"Well, to be absolutely accurate, Bertie, old man, no."

A gust of compassion shook me. After all, though we had lost touch a bit
of recent years, this man and I had once thrown inked darts at each
other.

"Gussie," I said, "take an old friend's advice, and don't go within a
mile of this binge."

"But it's my last chance of seeing her. She's off tomorrow to stay with
some people in the country. Besides, you don't know."

"Don't know what?"

"That this idea of Jeeves's won't work. I feel a most frightful chump
now, yes, but who can say whether that will not pass off when I get into
a mob of other people in fancy dress. I had the same experience as a
child, one year during the Christmas festivities. They dressed me up as a
rabbit, and the shame was indescribable. Yet when I got to the party and
found myself surrounded by scores of other children, many in costumes
even ghastlier than my own, I perked up amazingly, joined freely in the
revels, and was able to eat so hearty a supper that I was sick twice in
the cab coming home. What I mean is, you can't tell in cold blood."

I weighed this. It was specious, of course.

"And you can't get away from it that, fundamentally, Jeeves's idea is
sound. In a striking costume like Mephistopheles, I might quite easily
pull off something pretty impressive. Colour does make a difference. Look
at newts. During the courting season the male newt is brilliantly
coloured. It helps him a lot."

"But you aren't a male newt."

"I wish I were. Do you know how a male newt proposes, Bertie? He just
stands in front of the female newt vibrating his tail and bending his
body in a semi-circle. I could do that on my head. No, you wouldn't find
me grousing if I were a male newt."

"But if you were a male newt, Madeline Bassett wouldn't look at you. Not
with the eye of love, I mean."

"She would, if she were a female newt."

"But she isn't a female newt."

"No, but suppose she was."

"Well, if she was, you wouldn't be in love with her."

"Yes, I would, if I were a male newt."

A slight throbbing about the temples told me that this discussion had
reached saturation point.

"Well, anyway," I said, "coming down to hard facts and cutting out all
this visionary stuff about vibrating tails and what not, the salient
point that emerges is that you are booked to appear at a fancy-dress
ball. And I tell you out of my riper knowledge of fancy-dress balls,
Gussie, that you won't enjoy yourself."

"It isn't a question of enjoying yourself."

"I wouldn't go."

"I must go. I keep telling you she's off to the country tomorrow."

I gave it up.

"So be it," I said. "Have it your own way.... Yes, Jeeves?"

"Mr. Fink-Nottle's cab, sir."

"Ah? The cab, eh?... Your cab, Gussie."

"Oh, the cab? Oh, right. of course, yes, rather.... Thanks, Jeeves ...
Well, so long, Bertie."

And giving me the sort of weak smile Roman gladiators used to give the
Emperor before entering the arena, Gussie trickled of f. And I turned to
Jeeves. The moment had arrived for putting him in his place, and I was
all for it.

It was a little difficult to know how to begin, of course. I mean to say,
while firmly resolved to tick him of f, I didn't want to gash his feelings
too deeply. Even when displaying the iron hand, we Woosters like to keep
the thing fairly matey.

However, on consideration, I saw that there was nothing to be gained by
trying to lead up to it gently. It is never any use beating about the b.

"Jeeves," I said, "may I speak frankly?"

"Certainly, sir."

"What I have to say may wound you."

"Not at all, sir."

"Well, then, I have been having a chat with Mr. Fink-Nottle, and he has
been telling me about this Mephistopheles scheme of yours."

"Yes, sir?"

"Now let me get it straight. If I follow your reasoning correctly, you
think that, stimulated by being upholstered throughout in scarlet tights,
Mr. Fink-Nottle, on encountering the adored object, will vibrate his tail
and generally let himself go with a whoop."

"I am of opinion that he will lose much of his normal diffidence, sir."

"I don't agree with you, Jeeves."

"No, sir?"

"No. In fact, not to put too fine a point upon it, I consider that of all
the dashed silly, drivelling ideas I ever heard in my puff this is the
most blithering and futile. It won't work. Not a chance. All you have
done is to subject Mr. Fink-Nottle to the nameless horrors of a
fancy-dress ball for nothing. And this is not the first time this sort
of thing has happened. To be quite candid, Jeeves, I have frequently
noticed before now a tendency or disposition on your part to
become--what's the word?"

"I could not say, sir."

"Eloquent? No, it's not eloquent. Elusive? No, it's not elusive. It's on
the tip of my tongue. Begins with an 'e' and means being a jolly sight
too clever."

"Elaborate, sir?"

"That is the exact word I was after. Too elaborate, Jeeves--that is what
you are frequently prone to become. Your methods are not simple, not
straightforward. You cloud the issue with a lot of fancy stuff that is
not of the essence. All that Gussie needs is the elder-brotherly advice
of a seasoned man of the world. So what I suggest is that from now onward
you leave this case to me."

"Very good, sir."

"You lay off and devote yourself to your duties about the home."

"Very good, sir."

"I shall no doubt think of something quite simple and straightforward yet
perfectly effective ere long. I will make a point of seeing Gussie
tomorrow."

"Very good, sir."

"Right ho, Jeeves."

But on the morrow all those telegrams started coming in, and I confess
that for twenty-four hours I didn't give the poor chap a thought, having
problems of my own to contend with.

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