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Right Ho, Jeeves

By P. G. WODEHOUSE 1922

Page 17 of 46


And presently I was sauntering towards the drawing-room with me good old
j. nestling snugly abaft the shoulder blades.

And Dahlia was in the drawing-room. She glanced up at my entrance.

"Hullo, eyesore," she said. "What do you think you're made up as?"

I did not get the purport.

"The jacket, you mean?" I queried, groping.

"I do. You look like one of the chorus of male guests at Abernethy Towers
in Act 2 of a touring musical comedy."

"You do not admire this jacket?"

"I do not."

"You did at Cannes."

"Well, this isn't Cannes."

"But, dash it----"

"Oh, never mind. Let it go. If you want to give my butler a laugh, what
does it matter? What does anything matter now?"

There was a death-where-is-thy-sting-fullness about her manner which I
found distasteful. It isn't of ten that I score off Jeeves in the
devastating fashion just described, and when I do I like to see happy,
smiling faces about me.

"Tails up, Aunt Dahlia," I urged buoyantly.

"Tails up be dashed," was her sombre response. "I've just been talking to
Tom."

"Telling him?"

"No, listening to him. I haven't had the nerve to tell him yet."

"Is he still upset about that income-tax money?"

"Upset is right. He says that Civilisation is in the melting-pot and that
all thinking men can read the writing on the wall."

"What wall?"

"Old Testament, ass. Belshazzar's feast."

"Oh, that, yes. I've of ten wondered how that gag was worked. With
mirrors, I expect."

"I wish I could use mirrors to break it to Tom about this baccarat
business."

I had a word of comfort to of fer here. I had been turning the thing over
in my mind since our last meeting, and I thought I saw where she had got
twisted. Where she made her error, it seemed to me, was in feeling she
had got to tell Uncle Tom. To my way of thinking, the matter was one on
which it would be better to continue to exercise a quiet reserve.

"I don't see why you need mention that you lost that money at baccarat."

"What do you suggest, then? Letting _Milady's Boudoir_ join Civilisation
in the melting-pot. Because that is what it will infallibly do unless I
get a cheque by next week. The printers have been showing a nasty spirit
for months."

"You don't follow. Listen. It's an understood thing, I take it, that
Uncle Tom foots the _Boudoir_ bills. If the bally sheet has been turning
the corner for two years, he must have got used to forking out by this
time. Well, simply ask him for the money to pay the printers."

"I did. Just before I went to Cannes."

"Wouldn't he give it to you?"

"Certainly he gave it to me. He brassed up like an of ficer and a
gentleman. That was the money I lost at baccarat."

"Oh? I didn't know that."

"There isn't much you do know."

A nephew's love made me overlook the slur.

"Tut!" I said.

"What did you say?"

"I said 'Tut!'"

"Say it once again, and I'll biff you where you stand. I've enough to
endure without being tutted at."

"Quite."

"Any tutting that's required, I'll attend to myself. And the same applies
to clicking the tongue, if you were thinking of doing that."

"Far from it."

"Good."

I stood awhile in thought. I was concerned to the core. My heart, if you
remember, had already bled once for Aunt Dahlia this evening. It now bled
again. I knew how deeply attached she was to this paper of hers. Seeing
it go down the drain would be for her like watching a loved child sink
for the third time in some pond or mere.

And there was no question that, unless carefully prepared for the touch,
Uncle Tom would see a hundred _Milady's Boudoirs_ go phut rather than
take the rap.

Then I saw how the thing could be handled. This aunt, I perceived, must
fall into line with my other clients. Tuppy Glossop was knocking of f
dinner to melt Angela. Gussie Fink-Nottle was knocking off dinner to
impress the Bassett. Aunt Dahlia must knock off dinner to sof ten Uncle
Tom. For the beauty of this scheme of mine was that there was no limit to
the number of entrants. Come one, come all, the more the merrier, and
satisfaction guaranteed in every case.

"I've got it," I said. "There is only one course to pursue. Eat less
meat."

She looked at me in a pleading sort of way. I wouldn't swear that her
eyes were wet with unshed tears, but I rather think they were, certainly
she clasped her hands in piteous appeal.

"Must you drivel, Bertie? Won't you stop it just this once? Just for
tonight, to please Aunt Dahlia?"

"I'm not drivelling."

"I dare say that to a man of your high standards it doesn't come under
the head of drivel, but----"

I saw what had happened. I hadn't made myself quite clear.

"It's all right," I said. "Have no misgivings. This is the real Tabasco.
When I said 'Eat less meat', what I meant was that you must refuse your
oats at dinner tonight. Just sit there, looking blistered, and wave away
each course as it comes with a weary gesture of resignation. You see what
will happen. Uncle Tom will notice your loss of appetite, and I am
prepared to bet that at the conclusion of the meal he will come to you
and say 'Dahlia, darling'--I take it he calls you 'Dahlia'--'Dahlia
darling,' he will say, 'I noticed at dinner tonight that you were a bit
off your feed. Is anything the matter, Dahlia, darling?' 'Why, yes, Tom,
darling,' you will reply. 'It is kind of you to ask, darling. The fact
is, darling, I am terribly worried.' 'My darling,' he will say----"

Aunt Dahlia interrupted at this point to observe that these Traverses
seemed to be a pretty soppy couple of blighters, to judge by their
dialogue. She also wished to know when I was going to get to the point.

I gave her a look.

"'My darling,' he will say tenderly, 'is there anything I can do?' To
which your reply will be that there jolly well is--viz. reach for his
cheque-book and start writing."

I was watching her closely as I spoke, and was pleased to note respect
suddenly dawn in her eyes.

"But, Bertie, this is positively bright."

"I told you Jeeves wasn't the only fellow with brain."

"I believe it would work."

"It's bound to work. I've recommended it to Tuppy."

"Young Glossop?"

"In order to sof ten Angela."

"Splendid!"

"And to Gussie Fink-Nottle, who wants to make a hit with the Bassett."

"Well, well, well! What a busy little brain it is."

"Always working, Aunt Dahlia, always working."

"You're not the chump I took you for, Bertie."

"When did you ever take me for a chump?"

"Oh, some time last summer. I forget what gave me the idea. Yes, Bertie,
this scheme is bright. I suppose, as a matter of fact, Jeeves suggested
it."

"Jeeves did not suggest it. I resent these implications. Jeeves had
nothing to do with it whatsoever."

"Well, all right, no need to get excited about it. Yes, I think it will
work. Tom's devoted to me."

"Who wouldn't be?"

"I'll do it."

And then the rest of the party trickled in, and we toddled down to
dinner.

Conditions being as they were at Brinkley Court--I mean to say, the place
being loaded down above the Primsoll mark with aching hearts and standing
room only as regarded tortured souls--I hadn't expected the evening meal
to be particularly effervescent. Nor was it. Silent. Sombre. The whole
thing more than a bit like Christmas dinner on Devil's Island.

I was glad when it was over.

What with having, on top of her other troubles, to rein herself back from
the trough, Aunt Dahlia was a total loss as far as anything in the shape
of brilliant badinage was concerned. The fact that he was fifty quid in
the red and expecting Civilisation to take a toss at any moment had
caused Uncle Tom, who always looked a bit like a pterodactyl with a
secret sorrow, to take on a deeper melancholy. The Bassett was a silent
bread crumbler. Angela might have been hewn from the living rock. Tuppy
had the air of a condemned murderer refusing to make the usual hearty
breakfast before tooling off to the execution shed.

And as for Gussie Fink-Nottle, many an experienced undertaker would have
been deceived by his appearance and started embalming him on sight.

This was the first glimpse I had had of Gussie since we parted at my
flat, and I must say his demeanour disappointed me. I had been expecting
something a great deal more sparkling.

At my flat, on the occasion alluded to, he had, if you recall,
practically given me a signed guarantee that all he needed to touch him
off was a rural setting. Yet in his aspect now I could detect no
indication whatsoever that he was about to round into mid-season form. He
still looked like a cat in an adage, and it did not take me long to
realise that my very first act on escaping from this morgue must be to
draw him aside and give him a pep talk.

If ever a chap wanted the clarion note, it looked as if it was this
Fink-Nottle.

In the general exodus of mourners, however, I lost sight of him, and,
owing to the fact that Aunt Dahlia roped me in for a game of backgammon,
it was not immediately that I was able to institute a search. But after
we had been playing for a while, the butler came in and asked her if she
would speak to Anatole, so I managed to get away. And some ten minutes
later, having failed to find scent in the house, I started to throw out
the drag-net through the grounds, and flushed him in the rose garden.

He was smelling a rose at the moment in a limp sort of way, but removed
the beak as I approached.

"Well, Gussie," I said.

I had beamed genially upon him as I spoke, such being my customary policy
on meeting an old pal; but instead of beaming back genially, he gave me a
most unpleasant look. His attitude perplexed me. It was as if he were not
glad to see Bertram. For a moment he stood letting this unpleasant look
play upon me, as it were, and then he spoke.

"You and your 'Well, Gussie'!"

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