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Right Ho, Jeeves

By P. G. WODEHOUSE 1922

Page 18 of 46


He said this between clenched teeth, always an unmatey thing to do, and I
found myself more fogged than ever.

"How do you mean--me and my 'Well, Gussie'?"

"I like your nerve, coming bounding about the place, saying 'Well,
Gussie.' That's about all the 'Well, Gussie' I shall require from you,
Wooster. And it's no good looking like that. You know what I mean. That
damned prize-giving! It was a dastardly act to crawl out as you did and
shove it off on to me. I will not mince my words. It was the act of a
hound and a stinker."

Now, though, as I have shown, I had devoted most of the time on the
journey down to meditating upon the case of Angela and Tuppy, I had not
neglected to give a thought or two to what I was going to say when I
encountered Gussie. I had foreseen that there might be some little
temporary unpleasantness when we met, and when a difficult interview is
in the of fing Bertram Wooster likes to have his story ready.

So now I was able to reply with a manly, disarming frankness. The sudden
introduction of the topic had given me a bit of a jolt, it is true, for
in the stress of recent happenings I had rather let that prize-giving
business slide to the back of my mind; but I had speedily recovered and,
as I say, was able to reply with a manly d.f.

"But, my dear chap," I said, "I took it for granted that you would
understand that that was all part of my schemes."

He said something about my schemes which I did not catch.

"Absolutely. 'Crawling out' is entirely the wrong way to put it. You
don't suppose I didn't want to distribute those prizes, do you? Left to
myself, there is nothing I would find a greater treat. But I saw that the
square, generous thing to do was to step aside and let you take it on, so
I did so. I felt that your need was greater than mine. You don't mean to
say you aren't looking forward to it?"

He uttered a coarse expression which I wouldn't have thought he would
have known. It just shows that you can bury yourself in the country and
still somehow acquire a vocabulary. No doubt one picks up things from the
neighbours--the vicar, the local doctor, the man who brings the milk, and
so on.

"But, dash it," I said, "can't you see what this is going to do for you?
It will send your stock up with a jump. There you will be, up on that
platform, a romantic, impressive figure, the star of the whole
proceedings, the what-d'you-call-it of all eyes. Madeline Bassett will be
all over you. She will see you in a totally new light."

"She will, will she?"

"Certainly she will. Augustus Fink-Nottle, the newts' friend, she knows.
She is acquainted with Augustus Fink-Nottle, the dogs' chiropodist. But
Augustus Fink-Nottle, the orator--that'll knock her sideways, or I know
nothing of the female heart. Girls go potty over a public man. If ever
anyone did anyone else a kindness, it was I when I gave this
extraordinary attractive assignment to you."

He seemed impressed by my eloquence. Couldn't have helped himself, of
course. The fire faded from behind his horn-rimmed spectacles, and in its
place appeared the old fish-like goggle.

"Myes," he said meditatively. "Have you ever made a speech, Bertie?"

"Dozens of times. It's pie. Nothing to it. Why, I once addressed a girls'
school."

"You weren't nervous?"

"Not a bit."

"How did you go?"

"They hung on my lips. I held them in the hollow of my hand."

"They didn't throw eggs, or anything?"

"Not a thing."

He expelled a deep breath, and for a space stood staring in silence at a
passing slug.

"Well," he said, at length, "it may be all right. Possibly I am letting
the thing prey on my mind too much. I may be wrong in supposing it the
fate that is worse than death. But I'll tell you this much: the prospect
of that prize-giving on the thirty-first of this month has been turning
my existence into a nightmare. I haven't been able to sleep or think or
eat ... By the way, that reminds me. You never explained that cipher
telegram about the sausages and ham."

"It wasn't a cipher telegram. I wanted you to go light on the food, so
that she would realize you were in love."

He laughed hollowly.

"I see. Well, I've been doing that, all right."

"Yes, I was noticing at dinner. Splendid."

"I don't see what's splendid about it. It's not going to get me anywhere.
I shall never be able to ask her to marry me. I couldn't find nerve to do
that if I lived on wafer biscuits for the rest of my life."

"But, dash it, Gussie. In these romantic surroundings. I should have
thought the whispering trees alone----"

"I don't care what you would have thought. I can't do it."

"Oh, come!"

"I can't. She seems so aloof , so remote."

"She doesn't."

"Yes, she does. Especially when you see her sideways. Have you seen her
sideways, Bertie? That cold, pure prof ile. It just takes all the heart
out of one."

"It doesn't."

"I tell you it does. I catch sight of it, and the words freeze on my
lips."

He spoke with a sort of dull despair, and so manifest was his lack of
ginger and the spirit that wins to success that for an instant, I
confess, I felt a bit stymied. It seemed hopeless to go on trying to
steam up such a human jellyfish. Then I saw the way. With that
extraordinary quickness of mine, I realized exactly what must be done if
this Fink-Nottle was to be enabled to push his nose past the judges' box.

"She must be sof tened up," I said.

"Be what?"

"Sof tened up. Sweetened. Worked on. Preliminary spadework must be put in.
Here, Gussie, is the procedure I propose to adopt: I shall now return to
the house and lug this Bassett out for a stroll. I shall talk to her of
hearts that yearn, intimating that there is one actually on the premises.
I shall pitch it strong, sparing no effort. You, meanwhile, will lurk on
the outskirts, and in about a quarter of an hour you will come along and
carry on from there. By that time, her emotions having been stirred, you
ought to be able to do the rest on your head. It will be like leaping on
to a moving bus."

I remember when I was a kid at school having to learn a poem of sorts
about a fellow named Pig-something--a sculptor he would have been, no
doubt--who made a statue of a girl, and what should happen one morning
but that the bally thing suddenly came to life. A pretty nasty shock for
the chap, of course, but the point I'm working round to is that there
were a couple of lines that went, if I remember correctly:

_She starts. She moves. She seems to feel
The stir of life along her keel._

And what I'm driving at is that you couldn't get a better description of
what happened to Gussie as I spoke these heartening words. His brow
cleared, his eyes brightened, he lost that fishy look, and he gazed at
the slug, which was still on the long, long trail with something
approaching bonhomie. A marked improvement.

"I see what you mean. You will sort of pave the way, as it were."

"That's right. Spadework."

"It's a terrific idea, Bertie. It will make all the difference."

"Quite. But don't forget that after that it will be up to you. You will
have to haul up your slacks and give her the old oil, or my efforts will
have been in vain."

Something of his former Gawd-help-us-ness seemed to return to him. He
gasped a bit.

"That's true. What the dickens shall I say?"

I restrained my impatience with an effort. The man had been at school
with me.

"Dash it, there are hundreds of things you can say. Talk about the
sunset."

"The sunset?"

"Certainly. Half the married men you meet began by talking about the
sunset."

"But what can I say about the sunset?"

"Well, Jeeves got off a good one the other day. I met him airing the dog
in the park one evening, and he said, 'Now fades the glimmering landscape
on the sight, sir, and all the air a solemn stillness holds.' You might
use that."

"What sort of landscape?"

"Glimmering. _G_ for 'gastritis,' _l_ for 'lizard'----"

"Oh, glimmering? Yes, that's not bad. Glimmering landscape ... solemn
stillness.... Yes, I call that pretty good."

"You could then say that you have of ten thought that the stars are God's
daisy chain."

"But I haven't."

"I dare say not. But she has. Hand her that one, and I don't see how she
can help feeling that you're a twin soul."

"God's daisy chain?"

"God's daisy chain. And then you go on about how twilight always makes
you sad. I know you're going to say it doesn't, but on this occasion it
has jolly well got to."

"Why?"

"That's just what she will ask, and you will then have got her going.
Because you will reply that it is because yours is such a lonely life. It
wouldn't be a bad idea to give her a brief description of a typical home
evening at your Lincolnshire residence, showing how you pace the meadows
with a heavy tread."

"I generally sit indoors and listen to the wireless."

"No, you don't. You pace the meadows with a heavy tread, wishing that you
had someone to love you. And then you speak of the day when she came into
your life."

"Like a fairy princess."

"Absolutely," I said with approval. I hadn't expected such a hot one from
such a quarter. "Like a fairy princess. Nice work, Gussie."

"And then?"

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