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Right Ho, Jeeves

By P. G. WODEHOUSE 1922

Page 19 of 46


"Well, after that it's easy. You say you have something you want to say
to her, and then you snap into it. I don't see how it can fail. If I were
you, I should do it in this rose garden. It is well established that
there is no sounder move than to steer the adored object into rose
gardens in the gloaming. And you had better have a couple of quick ones
first."

"Quick ones?"

"Snifters."

"Drinks, do you mean? But I don't drink."

"What?"

"I've never touched a drop in my life."

This made me a bit dubious, I must confess. On these occasions it is
generally conceded that a moderate skinful is of the essence.

However, if the facts were as he had stated, I supposed there was nothing
to be done about it.

"Well, you'll have to make out as best you can on ginger pop."

"I always drink orange juice."

"Orange juice, then. Tell me, Gussie, to settle a bet, do you really like
that muck?"

"Very much."

"Then there is no more to be said. Now, let's just have a run through, to
see that you've got the lay-out straight. Start off with the glimmering
landscape."

"Stars God's daisy chain."

"Twilight makes you feel sad."

"Because mine lonely life."

"Describe life."

"Talk about the day I met her."

"Add fairy-princess gag. Say there's something you want to say to her.
Heave a couple of sighs. Grab her hand. And give her the works. Right."

And confident that he had grasped the scenario and that everything might
now be expected to proceed through the proper channels, I picked up the
feet and hastened back to the house.

It was not until I had reached the drawing-room and was enabled to take a
square look at the Bassett that I found the debonair gaiety with which I
had embarked on this affair beginning to wane a trifle. Beholding her at
close range like this, I suddenly became cognisant of what I was in for.
The thought of strolling with this rummy specimen undeniably gave me a
most unpleasant sinking feeling. I could not but remember how of ten, when
in her company at Cannes, I had gazed dumbly at her, wishing that some
kindly motorist in a racing car would ease the situation by coming along
and ramming her amidships. As I have already made abundantly clear, this
girl was not one of my most congenial buddies.

However, a Wooster's word is his bond. Woosters may quail, but they do
not edge out. Only the keenest ear could have detected the tremor in the
voice as I asked her if she would care to come out for half an hour.

"Lovely evening," I said.

"Yes, lovely, isn't it?"

"Lovely. Reminds me of Cannes."

"How lovely the evenings were there!"

"Lovely," I said.

"Lovely," said the Bassett.

"Lovely," I agreed.

That completed the weather and news bulletin for the French Riviera.
Another minute, and we were out in the great open spaces, she cooing a
bit about the scenery, and self replying, "Oh, rather, quite," and
wondering how best to approach the matter in hand.

 

-10-

How different it all would have been, I could not but reflect, if this
girl had been the sort of girl one chirrups cheerily to over the
telephone and takes for spins in the old two-seater. In that case, I
would simply have said, "Listen," and she would have said, "What?" and I
would have said, "You know Gussie Fink-Nottle," and she would have said,
"Yes," and I would have said, "He loves you," and she would have said
either, "What, that mutt? Well, thank heaven for one good laugh today,"
or else, in more passionate vein, "Hot dog! Tell me more."

I mean to say, in either event the whole thing over and done with in
under a minute.

But with the Bassett something less snappy and a good deal more glutinous
was obviously indicated. What with all this daylight-saving stuff, we had
hit the great open spaces at a moment when twilight had not yet begun to
cheese it in favour of the shades of night. There was a fag-end of sunset
still functioning. Stars were beginning to peep out, bats were fooling
round, the garden was full of the aroma of those niffy white flowers
which only start to put in their heavy work at the end of the day--in
short, the glimmering landscape was fading on the sight and all the air
held a solemn stillness, and it was plain that this was having the worst
effect on her. Her eyes were enlarged, and her whole map a good deal too
suggestive of the soul's awakening for comfort.

Her aspect was that of a girl who was expecting something fairly fruity
from Bertram.

In these circs., conversation inevitably flagged a bit. I am never at my
best when the situation seems to call for a certain soupiness, and I've
heard other members of the Drones say the same thing about themselves. I
remember Pongo Twistleton telling me that he was out in a gondola with a
girl by moonlight once, and the only time he spoke was to tell her that
old story about the chap who was so good at swimming that they made him a
traffic cop in Venice.

Fell rather flat, he assured me, and it wasn't much later when the girl
said she thought it was getting a little chilly and how about pushing
back to the hotel.

So now, as I say, the talk rather hung fire. It had been all very well
for me to promise Gussie that I would cut loose to this girl about aching
hearts, but you want a cue for that sort of thing. And when, toddling
along, we reached the edge of the lake and she finally spoke, conceive my
chagrin when I discovered that what she was talking about was stars.

Not a bit of good to me.

"Oh, look," she said. She was a confirmed Oh-looker. I had noticed this
at Cannes, where she had drawn my attention in this manner on various
occasions to such diverse objects as a French actress, a Provençal
filling station, the sunset over the Estorels, Michael Arlen, a man
selling coloured spectacles, the deep velvet blue of the Mediterranean,
and the late mayor of New York in a striped one-piece bathing suit. "Oh,
look at that sweet little star up there all by itself."

I saw the one she meant, a little chap operating in a detached sort of
way above a spinney.

"Yes," I said.

"I wonder if it feels lonely."

"Oh, I shouldn't think so."

"A fairy must have been crying."

"Eh?"

"Don't you remember? 'Every time a fairy sheds a tear, a wee bit star is
born in the Milky Way.' Have you ever thought that, Mr. Wooster?"

I never had. Most improbable, I considered, and it didn't seem to me to
check up with her statement that the stars were God's daisy chain. I
mean, you can't have it both ways.

However, I was in no mood to dissect and criticize. I saw that I had been
wrong in supposing that the stars were not germane to the issue. Quite a
decent cue they had provided, and I leaped on it promptly: "Talking of
shedding tears----"

But she was now on the subject of rabbits, several of which were messing
about in the park to our right.

"Oh, look. The little bunnies!"

"Talking of shedding tears----"

"Don't you love this time of the evening, Mr. Wooster, when the sun has
gone to bed and all the bunnies come out to have their little suppers?
When I was a child, I used to think that rabbits were gnomes, and that if
I held my breath and stayed quite still, I should see the fairy queen."

Indicating with a reserved gesture that this was just the sort of loony
thing I should have expected her to think as a child, I returned to the
point.

"Talking of shedding tears," I said firmly, "it may interest you to know
that there is an aching heart in Brinkley Court."

This held her. She cheesed the rabbit theme. Her face, which had been
aglow with what I supposed was a pretty animation, clouded. She unshipped
a sigh that sounded like the wind going out of a rubber duck.

"Ah, yes. Life is very sad, isn't it?"

"It is for some people. This aching heart, for instance."

"Those wistful eyes of hers! Drenched irises. And they used to dance like
elves of delight. And all through a foolish misunderstanding about a
shark. What a tragedy misunderstandings are. That pretty romance broken
and over just because Mr. Glossop would insist that it was a flatfish."

I saw that she had got the wires crossed.

"I'm not talking about Angela."

"But her heart is aching."

"I know it's aching. But so is somebody else's."

She looked at me, perplexed.

"Somebody else? Mr. Glossop's, you mean?"

"No, I don't."

"Mrs. Travers's?"

The exquisite code of politeness of the Woosters prevented me clipping
her one on the ear-hole, but I would have given a shilling to be able to
do it. There seemed to me something deliberately fat-headed in the way
she persisted in missing the gist.

"No, not Aunt Dahlia's, either."

"I'm sure she is dreadfully upset."

"Quite. But this heart I'm talking about isn't aching because of Tuppy's
row with Angela. It's aching for a different reason altogether. I mean to
say--dash it, you know why hearts ache!"

She seemed to shimmy a bit. Her voice, when she spoke, was whispery: "You
mean--for love?"

"Absolutely. Right on the bull's-eye. For love."

"Oh, Mr. Wooster!"

"I take it you believe in love at first sight?"

"I do, indeed."

"Well, that's what happened to this aching heart. It fell in love at
first sight, and ever since it's been eating itself out, as I believe the
expression is."

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