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Right Ho, Jeeves

By P. G. WODEHOUSE 1922

Page 26 of 46


"Beginning with a _critique_ of my own limbs, which she said, justly
enough, were nothing to write home about, this girl went on to dissect my
manners, morals, intellect, general physique, and method of eating
asparagus with such acerbity that by the time she had finished the best
you could say of Bertram was that, so far as was known, he had never
actually committed murder or set fire to an orphan asylum. Subsequent
investigation proved that she was engaged to the fellow with the legs and
had had a slight disagreement with him the evening before on the subject
of whether she should or should not have made an original call of two
spades, having seven, but without the ace. That night I saw them dining
together with every indication of relish, their differences made up and
the lovelight once more in their eyes. That shows you, Jeeves."

"Yes, sir."

"I expect precisely similar results from my Cousin Angela when I start
roasting Tuppy. By lunchtime, I should imagine, the engagement will be on
again and the diamond-and-platinum ring glittering as of yore on her
third finger. Or is it the fourth?"

"Scarcely by luncheon time, sir. Miss Angela's maid informs me that Miss
Angela drove off in her car early this morning with the intention of
spending the day with friends in the vicinity."

"Well, within half an hour of whatever time she comes back, then. These
are mere straws, Jeeves. Do not let us chop them."

"No, sir."

"The point is that, as far as Tuppy and Angela are concerned, we may say
with confidence that everything will shortly be hotsy-totsy once more.
And what an agreeable thought that is, Jeeves."

"Very true, sir."

"If there is one thing that gives me the pip, it is two loving hearts
being estranged."

"I can readily appreciate the fact, sir."

I placed the stub of my gasper in the ash tray and lit another, to
indicate that that completed Chap. I.

"Right ho, then. So much for the western front. We now turn to the
eastern."

"Sir?"

"I speak in parables, Jeeves. What I mean is, we now approach the matter
of Gussie and Miss Bassett."

"Yes, sir."

"Here, Jeeves, more direct methods are required. In handling the case of
Augustus Fink-Nottle, we must keep always in mind the fact that we are
dealing with a poop."

"A sensitive plant would, perhaps, be a kinder expression, sir."

"No, Jeeves, a poop. And with poops one has to employ the strong,
forceful, straightforward policy. Psychology doesn't get you anywhere.
You, if I may remind you without wounding your feelings, fell into the
error of mucking about with psychology in connection with this Fink-Nottle,
and the result was a wash-out. You attempted to push him over the line by
rigging him out in a Mephistopheles costume and sending him off to a
fancy-dress ball, your view being that scarlet tights would embolden
him. Futile."

"The matter was never actually put to the test, sir."

"No. Because he didn't get to the ball. And that strengthens my argument.
A man who can set out in a cab for a fancy-dress ball and not get there
is manifestly a poop of no common order. I don't think I have ever known
anybody else who was such a dashed silly ass that he couldn't even get to
a fancy-dress ball. Have you, Jeeves?"

"No, sir."

"But don't forget this, because it is the point I wish, above all, to
make: Even if Gussie had got to that ball; even if those scarlet tights,
taken in conjunction with his horn-rimmed spectacles, hadn't given the
girl a fit of some kind; even if she had rallied from the shock and he
had been able to dance and generally hobnob with her; even then your
efforts would have been fruitless, because, Mephistopheles costume or no
Mephistopheles costume, Augustus Fink-Nottle would never have been able
to summon up the courage to ask her to be his. All that would have
resulted would have been that she would have got that lecture on newts a
few days earlier. And why, Jeeves? Shall I tell you why?"

"Yes, sir."

"Because he would have been attempting the hopeless task of trying to do
the thing on orange juice."

"Sir?"

"Gussie is an orange-juice addict. He drinks nothing else."

"I was not aware of that, sir."

"I have it from his own lips. Whether from some hereditary taint, or
because he promised his mother he wouldn't, or simply because he doesn't
like the taste of the stuff, Gussie Fink-Nottle has never in the whole
course of his career pushed so much as the simplest gin and tonic over
the larynx. And he expects--this poop expects, Jeeves--this wabbling,
shrinking, diffident rabbit in human shape expects under these conditions
to propose to the girl he loves. One hardly knows whether to smile or
weep, what?"

"You consider total abstinence a handicap to a gentleman who wishes to
make a proposal of marriage, sir?"

The question amazed me.

"Why, dash it," I said, astounded, "you must know it is. Use your
intelligence, Jeeves. Reflect what proposing means. It means that a
decent, self-respecting chap has got to listen to himself saying things
which, if spoken on the silver screen, would cause him to dash to the
box-of fice and demand his money back. Let him attempt to do it on orange
juice, and what ensues? Shame seals his lips, or, if it doesn't do that,
makes him lose his morale and start to babble. Gussie, for example, as we
have seen, babbles of syncopated newts."

"Palmated newts, sir."

"Palmated or syncopated, it doesn't matter which. The point is that he
babbles and is going to babble again, if he has another try at it.
Unless--and this is where I want you to follow me very closely,
Jeeves--unless steps are taken at once through the proper channels. Only
active measures, promptly applied, can provide this poor, pusillanimous
poop with the proper pep. And that is why, Jeeves, I intend tomorrow to
secure a bottle of gin and lace his luncheon orange juice with
it liberally."

"Sir?"

I clicked the tongue.

"I have already had occasion, Jeeves," I said rebukingly, "to comment on
the way you say 'Well, sir' and 'Indeed, sir?' I take this opportunity of
informing you that I object equally strongly to your 'Sir?' pure and
simple. The word seems to suggest that in your opinion I have made a
statement or mooted a scheme so bizarre that your brain reels at it. In
the present instance, there is absolutely nothing to say 'Sir?' about.
The plan I have put forward is entirely reasonable and icily logical, and
should excite no sirring whatsoever. Or don't you think so?"

"Well, sir----"

"Jeeves!"

"I beg your pardon, sir. The expression escaped me inadvertently. What I
intended to say, since you press me, was that the action which you
propose does seem to me somewhat injudicious."

"Injudicious? I don't follow you, Jeeves."

"A certain amount of risk would enter into it, in my opinion, sir. It is
not always a simple matter to gauge the effect of alcohol on a subject
unaccustomed to such stimulant. I have known it to have distressing
results in the case of parrots."

"Parrots?"

"I was thinking of an incident of my earlier life, sir, before I entered
your employment. I was in the service of the late Lord Brancaster at the
time, a gentleman who owned a parrot to which he was greatly devoted, and
one day the bird chanced to be lethargic, and his lordship, with the
kindly intention of restoring it to its customary animation, of fered it a
portion of seed cake steeped in the '84 port. The bird accepted the
morsel gratefully and consumed it with every indication of satisfaction.
Almost immediately afterwards, however, its manner became markedly
feverish. Having bitten his lordship in the thumb and sung part of a
sea-chanty, it fell to the bottom of the cage and remained there for a
considerable period of time with its legs in the air, unable to move. I
merely mention this, sir, in order to----"

I put my finger on the flaw. I had spotted it all along.

"But Gussie isn't a parrot."

"No, sir, but----"

"It is high time, in my opinion, that this question of what young Gussie
really is was threshed out and cleared up. He seems to think he is a male
newt, and you now appear to suggest that he is a parrot. The truth of the
matter being that he is just a plain, ordinary poop and needs a snootful
as badly as ever man did. So no more discussion, Jeeves. My mind is made
up. There is only one way of handling this difficult case, and that is
the way I have outlined."

"Very good, sir."

"Right ho, Jeeves. So much for that, then. Now here's something else: You
noticed that I said I was going to put this project through tomorrow, and
no doubt you wondered why I said tomorrow. Why did I, Jeeves?"

"Because you feel that if it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well
it were done quickly, sir?"

"Partly, Jeeves, but not altogether. My chief reason for fixing the date
as specified is that tomorrow, though you have doubtless forgotten, is
the day of the distribution of prizes at Market Snodsbury Grammar School,
at which, as you know, Gussie is to be the male star and master of the
revels. So you see we shall, by lacing that juice, not only embolden him
to propose to Miss Bassett, but also put him so into shape that he will
hold that Market Snodsbury audience spellbound."

"In fact, you will be killing two birds with one stone, sir."

"Exactly. A very neat way of putting it. And now here is a minor point.
On second thoughts, I think the best plan will be for you, not me, to
lace the juice."

"Sir?"

"Jeeves!"

"I beg your pardon, sir."

"And I'll tell you why that will be the best plan. Because you are in a
position to obtain ready access to the stuff. It is served to Gussie
daily, I have noticed, in an individual jug. This jug will presumably be
lying about the kitchen or somewhere before lunch tomorrow. It will be
the simplest of tasks for you to slip a few fingers of gin in it."

"No doubt, sir, but----"

"Don't say 'but,' Jeeves."

"I fear, sir----"

"'I fear, sir' is just as bad."

"What I am endeavouring to say, sir, is that I am sorry, but I am afraid
I must enter an unequivocal _nolle prosequi_."

"Do what?"

"The expression is a legal one, sir, signifying the resolve not to
proceed with a matter. In other words, eager though I am to carry out
your instructions, sir, as a general rule, on this occasion I must
respectfully decline to co-operate."

"You won't do it, you mean?"

"Precisely, sir."

I was stunned. I began to understand how a general must feel when he has
ordered a regiment to charge and has been told that it isn't in the
mood.

"Jeeves," I said, "I had not expected this of you."

"No, sir?"

"No, indeed. Naturally, I realize that lacing Gussie's orange juice is
not one of those regular duties for which you receive the monthly
stipend, and if you care to stand on the strict letter of the contract, I
suppose there is nothing to be done about it. But you will permit me to
observe that this is scarcely the feudal spirit."

"I am sorry, sir."

"It is quite all right, Jeeves, quite all right. I am not angry, only a
little hurt."

"Very good, sir."

"Right ho, Jeeves."

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