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Right Ho, Jeeves

By P. G. WODEHOUSE 1922

Page 8 of 46


-4-

It has been well said of Bertram Wooster that, while no one views his
flesh and blood with a keener and more remorselessly critical eye, he is
nevertheless a man who delights in giving credit where credit is due. And
if you have followed these memoirs of mine with the proper care, you will
be aware that I have frequently had occasion to emphasise the fact that
Aunt Dahlia is all right.

She is the one, if you remember, who married old Tom Travers _en secondes
noces_, as I believe the expression is, the year Bluebottle won the
Cambridgeshire, and once induced me to write an article on What the
Well-Dressed Man is Wearing for that paper she runs--_Milady's Boudoir_.
She is a large, genial soul, with whom it is a pleasure to hob-nob. In her
spiritual make-up there is none of that subtle gosh-awfulness which
renders such an exhibit as, say, my Aunt Agatha the curse of the Home
Counties and a menace to one and all. I have the highest esteem for Aunt
Dahlia, and have never wavered in my cordial appreciation of her
humanity, sporting qualities and general good-eggishness.

This being so, you may conceive of my astonishment at finding her at my
bedside at such an hour. I mean to say, I've stayed at her place many a
time and of t, and she knows my habits. She is well aware that until I
have had my cup of tea in the morning, I do not receive. This crashing in
at a moment when she knew that solitude and repose were of the essence
was scarcely, I could not but feel, the good old form.

Besides, what business had she being in London at all? That was what I
asked myself. When a conscientious housewife has returned to her home
after an absence of seven weeks, one does not expect her to start racing
off again the day after her arrival. One feels that she ought to be
sticking round, ministering to her husband, conferring with the cook,
feeding the cat, combing and brushing the Pomeranian--in a word, staying
put. I was more than a little bleary-eyed, but I endeavoured, as far as
the fact that my eyelids were more or less glued together would permit,
to give her an austere and censorious look.

She didn't seem to get it.

"Wake up, Bertie, you old ass!" she cried, in a voice that hit me between
the eyebrows and went out at the back of my head.

If Aunt Dahlia has a fault, it is that she is apt to address a _vis-à-vis_
as if he were somebody half a mile away whom she had observed riding
over hounds. A throwback, no doubt, to the time when she counted the day
lost that was not spent in chivvying some unfortunate fox over the
countryside.

I gave her another of the austere and censorious, and this time it
registered. All the effect it had, however, was to cause her to descend
to personalities.

"Don't blink at me in that obscene way," she said. "I wonder, Bertie,"
she proceeded, gazing at me as I should imagine Gussie would have gazed
at some newt that was not up to sample, "if you have the faintest
conception how perfectly loathsome you look? A cross between an orgy
scene in the movies and some low form of pond life. I suppose you were
out on the tiles last night?"

"I attended a social function, yes," I said coldly. "Pongo Twistleton's
birthday party. I couldn't let Pongo down. _Noblesse oblige_."

"Well, get up and dress."

I felt I could not have heard her aright.

"Get up and dress?"

"Yes."

I turned on the pillow with a little moan, and at this juncture Jeeves
entered with the vital oolong. I clutched at it like a drowning man at a
straw hat. A deep sip or two, and I felt--I won't say restored, because a
birthday party like Pongo Twistleton's isn't a thing you get restored
after with a mere mouthful of tea, but sufficiently the old Bertram to be
able to bend the mind on this awful thing which had come upon me.

And the more I bent same, the less could I grasp the trend of the
scenario.

"What is this, Aunt Dahlia?" I inquired.

"It looks to me like tea," was her response. "But you know best. You're
drinking it."

If I hadn't been afraid of spilling the healing brew, I have little doubt
that I should have given an impatient gesture. I know I felt like it.

"Not the contents of this cup. All this. Your barging in and telling me
to get up and dress, and all that rot."

"I've barged in, as you call it, because my telegrams seemed to produce
no effect. And I told you to get up and dress because I want you to get
up and dress. I've come to take you back with me. I like your crust,
wiring that you would come next year or whenever it was. You're coming
now. I've got a job for you."

"But I don't want a job."

"What you want, my lad, and what you're going to get are two very
different things. There is man's work for you to do at Brinkley Court. Be
ready to the last button in twenty minutes."

"But I can't possibly be ready to any buttons in twenty minutes. I'm
feeling awful."

She seemed to consider.

"Yes," she said. "I suppose it's only humane to give you a day or two to
recover. All right, then, I shall expect you on the thirtieth at the
latest."

"But, dash it, what is all this? How do you mean, a job? Why a job? What
sort of a job?"

"I'll tell you if you'll only stop talking for a minute. It's quite an
easy, pleasant job. You will enjoy it. Have you ever heard of Market
Snodsbury Grammar School?"

"Never."

"It's a grammar school at Market Snodsbury."

I told her a little frigidly that I had divined as much.

"Well, how was I to know that a man with a mind like yours would grasp it
so quickly?" she protested. "All right, then. Market Snodsbury Grammar
School is, as you have guessed, the grammar school at Market Snodsbury.
I'm one of the governors."

"You mean one of the governesses."

"I don't mean one of the governesses. Listen, ass. There was a board of
governors at Eton, wasn't there? Very well. So there is at Market
Snodsbury Grammar School, and I'm a member of it. And they left the
arrangements for the summer prize-giving to me. This prize-giving takes
place on the last--or thirty-first--day of this month. Have you got that
clear?"

I took another oz. of the life-saving and inclined my head. Even after a
Pongo Twistleton birthday party, I was capable of grasping simple facts
like these.

"I follow you, yes. I see the point you are trying to make, certainly.
Market ... Snodsbury ... Grammar School ... Board of governors ...
Prize-giving.... Quite. But what's it got to do with me?"

"You're going to give away the prizes."

I goggled. Her words did not appear to make sense. They seemed the mere
aimless vapouring of an aunt who has been sitting out in the sun without
a hat.

"Me?"

"You."

I goggled again.

"You don't mean me?"

"I mean you in person."

I goggled a third time.

"You're pulling my leg."

"I am not pulling your leg. Nothing would induce me to touch your beastly
leg. The vicar was to have of ficiated, but when I got home I found a
letter from him saying that he had strained a fetlock and must scratch
his nomination. You can imagine the state I was in. I telephoned all over
the place. Nobody would take it on. And then suddenly I thought of you."

I decided to check all this rot at the outset. Nobody is more eager to
oblige deserving aunts than Bertram Wooster, but there are limits, and
sharply denned limits, at that.

"So you think I'm going to strew prizes at this bally Dotheboys Hall of
yours?"

"I do."

"And make a speech?"

"Exactly."

I laughed derisively.

"For goodness' sake, don't start gargling now. This is serious."

"I was laughing."

"Oh, were you? Well, I'm glad to see you taking it in this merry spirit."

"Derisively," I explained. "I won't do it. That's final. I simply will
not do it."

"You will do it, young Bertie, or never darken my doors again. And you
know what that means. No more of Anatole's dinners for you."

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