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Right Ho, Jeeves

By P. G. WODEHOUSE 1922

Page 13 of 46


In a nutshell, what had occurred was this: You know how you aquaplane. A
motor-boat nips on ahead, trailing a rope. You stand on a board, holding
the rope, and the boat tows you along. And every now and then you lose
your grip on the rope and plunge into the sea and have to swim to your
board again.

A silly process it has always seemed to me, though many find it
diverting.

Well, on the occasion referred to, Angela had just regained her board
after taking a toss, when a great beastly shark came along and cannoned
into it, flinging her into the salty once more. It took her quite a bit
of time to get on again and make the motor-boat chap realize what was up
and haul her to safety, and during that interval you can readily picture
her embarrassment.

According to Angela, the finny denizen kept snapping at her ankles
virtually without cessation, so that by the time help arrived, she was
feeling more like a salted almond at a public dinner than anything human.
Very shaken the poor child had been, I recall, and had talked of nothing
else for weeks.

"I remember the whole incident vividly," I said. "But how did that start
the trouble?"

"She was telling him the story last night."

"Well?"

"Her eyes shining and her little hands clasped in girlish excitement."

"No doubt."

"And instead of giving her the understanding and sympathy to which she
was entitled, what do you think this blasted Glossop did? He sat
listening like a lump of dough, as if she had been talking about the
weather, and when she had finished, he took his cigarette holder out of
his mouth and said, 'I expect it was only a floating log'!"

"He didn't!"

"He did. And when Angela described how the thing had jumped and snapped
at her, he took his cigarette holder out of his mouth again, and said,
'Ah! Probably a flatfish. Quite harmless. No doubt it was just trying to
play.' Well, I mean! What would you have done if you had been Angela? She
has pride, sensibility, all the natural feelings of a good woman. She
told him he was an ass and a fool and an idiot, and didn't know what he
was talking about."

I must say I saw the girl's viewpoint. It's only about once in a lifetime
that anything sensational ever happens to one, and when it does, you
don't want people taking all the colour out of it. I remember at school
having to read that stuff where that chap, Othello, tells the girl what a
hell of a time he'd been having among the cannibals and what not. Well,
imagine his feelings if, after he had described some particularly sticky
passage with a cannibal chief and was waiting for the awestruck "Oh-h!
Not really?", she had said that the whole thing had no doubt been greatly
exaggerated and that the man had probably really been a prominent local
vegetarian.

Yes, I saw Angela's point of view.

"But don't tell me that when he saw how shirty she was about it, the
chump didn't back down?"

"He didn't. He argued. And one thing led to another until, by easy
stages, they had arrived at the point where she was saying that she
didn't know if he was aware of it, but if he didn't knock off starchy
foods and do exercises every morning, he would be getting as fat as a
pig, and he was talking about this modern habit of girls putting make-up
on their faces, of which he had always disapproved. This continued for a
while, and then there was a loud pop and the air was full of mangled
fragments of their engagement. I'm distracted about it. Thank goodness
you've come, Bertie."

"Nothing could have kept me away," I replied, touched. "I felt you needed
me."

"Yes."

"Quite."

"Or, rather," she said, "not you, of course, but Jeeves. The minute all
this happened, I thought of him. The situation obviously cries out for
Jeeves. If ever in the whole history of human affairs there was a moment
when that lof ty brain was required about the home, this is it."

I think, if I had been standing up, I would have staggered. In fact, I'm
pretty sure I would. But it isn't so dashed easy to stagger when you're
sitting in an arm-chair. Only my face, therefore, showed how deeply I had
been stung by these words.

Until she spoke them, I had been all sweetness and light--the sympathetic
nephew prepared to strain every nerve to do his bit. I now froze, and the
face became hard and set.

"Jeeves!" I said, between clenched teeth.

"Oom beroof en," said Aunt Dahlia.

I saw that she had got the wrong angle.

"I was not sneezing. I was saying 'Jeeves!'"

"And well you may. What a man! I'm going to put the whole thing up to
him. There's nobody like Jeeves."

My frigidity became more marked.

"I venture to take issue with you, Aunt Dahlia."

"You take what?"

"Issue."

"You do, do you?"

"I emphatically do. Jeeves is hopeless."

"What?"

"Quite hopeless. He has lost his grip completely. Only a couple of days
ago I was compelled to take him off a case because his handling of it was
so footling. And, anyway, I resent this assumption, if assumption is the
word I want, that Jeeves is the only fellow with brain. I object to the
way everybody puts things up to him without consulting me and letting me
have a stab at them first."

She seemed about to speak, but I checked her with a gesture.

"It is true that in the past I have sometimes seen fit to seek Jeeves's
advice. It is possible that in the future I may seek it again. But I
claim the right to have a pop at these problems, as they arise, in
person, without having everybody behave as if Jeeves was the only onion
in the hash. I sometimes feel that Jeeves, though admittedly not
unsuccessful in the past, has been lucky rather than gifted."

"Have you and Jeeves had a row?"

"Nothing of the kind."

"You seem to have it in for him."

"Not at all."

And yet I must admit that there was a modicum of truth in what she said.
I had been feeling pretty austere about the man all day, and I'll tell
you why.

You remember that he caught that 12.45 train with the luggage, while I
remained on in order to keep a luncheon engagement. Well, just before I
started out to the tryst, I was pottering about the flat, and suddenly--I
don't know what put the suspicion into my head, possibly the fellow's
manner had been furtive--something seemed to whisper to me to go and have
a look in the wardrobe.

And it was as I had suspected. There was the mess-jacket still on its
hanger. The hound hadn't packed it.

Well, as anybody at the Drones will tell you, Bertram Wooster is a pretty
hard chap to outgeneral. I shoved the thing in a brown-paper parcel and
put it in the back of the car, and it was on a chair in the hall now. But
that didn't alter the fact that Jeeves had attempted to do the dirty on
me, and I suppose a certain what-d'you-call-it had crept into my manner
during the above remarks.

"There has been no breach," I said. "You might describe it as a passing
coolness, but no more. We did not happen to see eye to eye with regard to
my white mess-jacket with the brass buttons and I was compelled to assert
my personality. But----"

"Well, it doesn't matter, anyway. The thing that matters is that you are
talking piffle, you poor fish. Jeeves lost his grip? Absurd. Why, I saw
him for a moment when he arrived, and his eyes were absolutely glittering
with intelligence. I said to myself 'Trust Jeeves,' and I intend to."

"You would be far better advised to let me see what I can accomplish,
Aunt Dahlia."

"For heaven's sake, don't you start butting in. You'll only make matters
worse."

"On the contrary, it may interest you to know that while driving here I
concentrated deeply on this trouble of Angela's and was successful in
formulating a plan, based on the psychology of the individual, which I am
proposing to put into effect at an early moment."

"Oh, my God!"

"My knowledge of human nature tells me it will work."

"Bertie," said Aunt Dahlia, and her manner struck me as febrile, "lay
of f, lay of f! For pity's sake, lay of f. I know these plans of yours. I
suppose you want to shove Angela into the lake and push young Glossop in
after her to save her life, or something like that."

"Nothing of the kind."

"It's the sort of thing you would do."

"My scheme is far more subtle. Let me outline it for you."

"No, thanks."

"I say to myself----"

"But not to me."

"Do listen for a second."

"I won't."

"Right ho, then. I am dumb."

"And have been from a child."

I perceived that little good could result from continuing the discussion.
I waved a hand and shrugged a shoulder.

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