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Right Ho, Jeeves

By P. G. WODEHOUSE 1922

Page 16 of 46


-9-

Tuppy's fatheaded words were still rankling in my bosom as I went up to
my room. They continued rankling as I shed the form-fitting, and had not
ceased to rankle when, clad in the old dressing-gown, I made my way along
the corridor to the _salle de bain_.

It is not too much to say that I was piqued to the tonsils.

I mean to say, one does not court praise. The adulation of the multitude
means very little to one. But, all the same, when one has taken the
trouble to whack out a highly juicy scheme to benefit an in-the-soup
friend in his hour of travail, it's pretty foul to find him giving the
credit to one's personal attendant, particularly if that personal
attendant is a man who goes about the place not packing mess-jackets.

But after I had been splashing about in the porcelain for a bit,
composure began to return. I have always found that in moments of
heart-bowed-downness there is nothing that calms the bruised spirit like
a good go at the soap and water. I don't say I actually sang in the tub,
but there were times when it was a mere spin of the coin whether I would
do so or not.

The spiritual anguish induced by that tactless speech had become
noticeably lessened.

The discovery of a toy duck in the soap dish, presumably the property of
some former juvenile visitor, contributed not a little to this new and
happier frame of mind. What with one thing and another, I hadn't played
with toy ducks in my bath for years, and I found the novel experience
most invigorating. For the benefit of those interested, I may mention
that if you shove the thing under the surface with the sponge and then
let it go, it shoots out of the water in a manner calculated to divert
the most careworn. Ten minutes of this and I was enabled to return to the
bedchamber much more the old merry Bertram.

Jeeves was there, laying out the dinner disguise. He greeted the young
master with his customary suavity.

"Good evening, sir."

I responded in the same affable key.

"Good evening, Jeeves."

"I trust you had a pleasant drive, sir."

"Very pleasant, thank you, Jeeves. Hand me a sock or two, will you?"

He did so, and I commenced to don.

"Well, Jeeves," I said, reaching for the underlinen, "here we are again
at Brinkley Court in the county of Worcestershire."

"Yes, sir."

"A nice mess things seem to have gone and got themselves into in this
rustic joint."

"Yes, sir."

"The rift between Tuppy Glossop and my cousin Angela would appear to be
serious."

"Yes, sir. Opinion in the servants' hall is inclined to take a grave view
of the situation."

"And the thought that springs to your mind, no doubt, is that I shall
have my work cut out to fix things up?"

"Yes, sir."

"You are wrong, Jeeves. I have the thing well in hand."

"You surprise me, sir."

"I thought I should. Yes, Jeeves, I pondered on the matter most of the
way down here, and with the happiest results. I have just been in
conference with Mr. Glossop, and everything is taped out."

"Indeed, sir? Might I inquire----"

"You know my methods, Jeeves. Apply them. Have you," I asked, slipping
into the shirt and starting to adjust the cravat, "been gnawing on the
thing at all?"

"Oh, yes, sir. I have always been much attached to Miss Angela, and I
felt that it would afford me great pleasure were I to be able to be of
service to her."

"A laudable sentiment. But I suppose you drew blank?"

"No, sir. I was rewarded with an idea."

"What was it?"

"It occurred to me that a reconciliation might be effected between Mr.
Glossop and Miss Angela by appealing to that instinct which prompts
gentlemen in time of peril to hasten to the rescue of ----"

I had to let go of the cravat in order to raise a hand. I was shocked.

"Don't tell me you were contemplating descending to that old
he-saved-her-from-drowning gag? I am surprised, Jeeves. Surprised and
pained. When I was discussing the matter with Aunt Dahlia on my arrival,
she said in a sniffy sort of way that she supposed I was going to shove
my Cousin Angela into the lake and push Tuppy in to haul her out, and I
let her see pretty clearly that I considered the suggestion an insult to
my intelligence. And now, if your words have the meaning I read into them,
you are mooting precisely the same drivelling scheme. Really, Jeeves!"

"No, sir. Not that. But the thought did cross my mind, as I walked in the
grounds and passed the building where the fire-bell hangs, that a sudden
alarm of fire in the night might result in Mr. Glossop endeavouring to
assist Miss Angela to safety."

I shivered.

"Rotten, Jeeves."

"Well, sir----"

"No good. Not a bit like it."

"I fancy, sir----"

"No, Jeeves. No more. Enough has been said. Let us drop the subj."

I finished tying the tie in silence. My emotions were too deep for
speech. I knew, of course, that this man had for the time being lost his
grip, but I had never suspected that he had gone absolutely to pieces
like this. Remembering some of the swift ones he had pulled in the past,
I shrank with horror from the spectacle of his present ineptitude. Or is
it ineptness? I mean this frightful disposition of his to stick straws in
his hair and talk like a perfect ass. It was the old, old story, I
supposed. A man's brain whizzes along for years exceeding the speed
limit, and something suddenly goes wrong with the steering-gear and it
skids and comes a smeller in the ditch.

"A bit elaborate," I said, trying to put the thing in as kindly a light
as possible. "Your old failing. You can see that it's a bit elaborate?"

"Possibly the plan I suggested might be considered open to that
criticism, sir, but _faute de mieux_----"

"I don't get you, Jeeves."

"A French expression, sir, signifying 'for want of anything better'."

A moment before, I had been feeling for this wreck of a once fine thinker
nothing but a gentle pity. These words jarred the Wooster pride, inducing
asperity.

"I understand perfectly well what _faute de mieux_ means, Jeeves. I did
not recently spend two months among our Gallic neighbours for nothing.
Besides, I remember that one from school. What caused my bewilderment was
that you should be employing the expression, well knowing that there is
no bally _faute de mieux_ about it at all. Where do you get that
_faute-de-mieux_ stuff? Didn't I tell you I had everything taped out?"

"Yes, sir, but----"

"What do you mean--but?"

"Well, sir----"

"Push on, Jeeves. I am ready, even anxious, to hear your views."

"Well, sir, if I may take the liberty of reminding you of it, your plans
in the past have not always been uniformly successful."

There was a silence--rather a throbbing one--during which I put on my
waistcoat in a marked manner. Not till I had got the buckle at the back
satisfactorily adjusted did I speak.

"It is true, Jeeves," I said formally, "that once or twice in the past I
may have missed the bus. This, however, I attribute purely to bad luck."

"Indeed, sir?"

"On the present occasion I shall not fail, and I'll tell you why I shall
not fail. Because my scheme is rooted in human nature."

"Indeed, sir?"

"It is simple. Not elaborate. And, furthermore, based on the psychology
of the individual."

"Indeed, sir?"

"Jeeves," I said, "don't keep saying 'Indeed, sir?' No doubt nothing is
further from your mind than to convey such a suggestion, but you have a
way of stressing the 'in' and then coming down with a thud on the 'deed'
which makes it virtually tantamount to 'Oh, yeah?' Correct this, Jeeves."

"Very good, sir."

"I tell you I have everything nicely lined up. Would you care to hear
what steps I have taken?"

"Very much, sir."

"Then listen. Tonight at dinner I have recommended Tuppy to lay off the
food."

"Sir?"

"Tut, Jeeves, surely you can follow the idea, even though it is one that
would never have occurred to yourself. Have you forgotten that telegram I
sent to Gussie Fink-Nottle, steering him away from the sausages and ham?
This is the same thing. Pushing the food away untasted is a universally
recognized sign of love. It cannot fail to bring home the gravy. You must
see that?"

"Well, sir----"

I frowned.

"I don't want to seem always to be criticizing your methods of voice
production, Jeeves," I said, "but I must inform you that that 'Well, sir'
of yours is in many respects fully as unpleasant as your 'Indeed, sir?'
Like the latter, it seems to be tinged with a definite scepticism. It
suggests a lack of faith in my vision. The impression I retain after
hearing you shoot it at me a couple of times is that you consider me to
be talking through the back of my neck, and that only a feudal sense of
what is fitting restrains you from substituting for it the words 'Says
you!'"

"Oh, no, sir."

"Well, that's what it sounds like. Why don't you think this scheme will
work?"

"I fear Miss Angela will merely attribute Mr. Glossop's abstinence to
indigestion, sir."

I hadn't thought of that, and I must confess it shook me for a moment.
Then I recovered myself. I saw what was at the bottom of all this.
Mortified by the consciousness of his own ineptness--or ineptitude--the
fellow was simply trying to hamper and obstruct. I decided to knock the
stuffing out of him without further preamble.

"Oh?" I said. "You do, do you? Well, be that as it may, it doesn't alter
the fact that you've put out the wrong coat. Be so good, Jeeves," I said,
indicating with a gesture the gent's ordinary dinner jacket or _smoking_,
as we call it on the Côte d'Azur, which was suspended from the hanger on
the knob of the wardrobe, "as to shove that bally black thing in the
cupboard and bring out my white mess-jacket with the brass buttons."

He looked at me in a meaning manner. And when I say a meaning manner, I
mean there was a respectful but at the same time uppish glint in his eye
and a sort of muscular spasm flickered across his face which wasn't quite
a quiet smile and yet wasn't quite not a quiet smile. Also the sof t
cough.

"I regret to say, sir, that I inadvertently omitted to pack the garment
to which you refer."

The vision of that parcel in the hall seemed to rise before my eyes, and
I exchanged a merry wink with it. I may even have hummed a bar or two.
I'm not quite sure.

"I know you did, Jeeves," I said, laughing down from lazy eyelids and
nicking a speck of dust from the irreproachable Mechlin lace at my
wrists. "But I didn't. You will find it on a chair in the hall in a
brown-paper parcel."

The information that his low manoeuvres had been rendered null and void
and that the thing was on the strength after all, must have been the
nastiest of jars, but there was no play of expression on his finely
chiselled to indicate it. There very seldom is on Jeeves's f-c. In
moments of discomfort, as I had told Tuppy, he wears a mask, preserving
throughout the quiet stolidity of a stuffed moose.

"You might just slide down and fetch it, will you?"

"Very good, sir."

"Right ho, Jeeves."

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