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Right Ho, Jeeves

By P. G. WODEHOUSE 1922

Page 28 of 46


And the next moment you could have knocked me down with a toothpick.

"Yes," she said, nodding thoughtfully, "you're quite right."

"Eh?"

"That's exactly what I've been thinking myself."

"What!"

"'Dumb brick.' It just describes him. One of the six silliest asses in
England, I should think he must be."

I did not speak. I was endeavouring to adjust the faculties, which were
in urgent need of a bit of first-aid treatment.

I mean to say, all this had come as a complete surprise. In formulating
the well-laid plan which I had just been putting into effect, the one
contingency I had not budgeted for was that she might adhere to the
sentiments which I expressed. I had braced myself for a gush of stormy
emotion. I was expecting the tearful ticking of f, the girlish
recriminations and all the rest of the bag of tricks along those lines.

But this cordial agreement with my remarks I had not foreseen, and it
gave me what you might call pause for thought.

She proceeded to develop her theme, speaking in ringing, enthusiastic
tones, as if she loved the topic. Jeeves could tell you the word I want.
I think it's "ecstatic", unless that's the sort of rash you get on your
face and have to use ointment for. But if that is the right word, then
that's what her manner was as she ventilated the subject of poor old
Tuppy. If you had been able to go simply by the sound of her voice, she
might have been a court poet cutting loose about an Oriental monarch, or
Gussie Fink-Nottle describing his last consignment of newts.

"It's so nice, Bertie, talking to somebody who really takes a sensible
view about this man Glossop. Mother says he's a good chap, which is
simply absurd. Anybody can see that he's absolutely impossible. He's
conceited and opinionative and argues all the time, even when he knows
perfectly well that he's talking through his hat, and he smokes too much
and eats too much and drinks too much, and I don't like the colour of his
hair. Not that he'll have any hair in a year or two, because he's pretty
thin on the top already, and before he knows where he is he'll be as bald
as an egg, and he's the last man who can afford to go bald. And I think
it's simply disgusting, the way he gorges all the time. Do you know, I
found him in the larder at one o'clock this morning, absolutely wallowing
in a steak-and-kidney pie? There was hardly any of it left. And you
remember what an enormous dinner he had. Quite disgusting, I call it. But
I can't stop out here all night, talking about men who aren't worth
wasting a word on and haven't even enough sense to tell sharks from
flatfish. I'm going in."

And gathering about her slim shoulders the shawl which she had put on as
a protection against the evening dew, she buzzed of f, leaving me alone in
the silent night.

Well, as a matter of fact, not absolutely alone, because a few moments
later there was a sort of upheaval in the bushes in front of me, and
Tuppy emerged.

 

-15-

I gave him the eye. The evening had begun to draw in a bit by now and the
visibility, in consequence, was not so hot, but there still remained
ample light to enable me to see him clearly. And what I saw convinced me
that I should be a lot easier in my mind with a stout rustic bench
between us. I rose, accordingly, modelling my style on that of a
rocketing pheasant, and proceeded to deposit myself on the other side of
the object named.

My prompt agility was not without its effect. He seemed somewhat taken
aback. He came to a halt, and, for about the space of time required to
allow a bead of persp. to trickle from the top of the brow to the tip of
the nose, stood gazing at me in silence.

"So!" he said at length, and it came as a complete surprise to me that
fellows ever really do say "So!" I had always thought it was just a thing
you read in books. Like "Quotha!" I mean to say, or "Odds bodikins!" or
even "Eh, ba goom!"

Still, there it was. Quaint or not quaint, bizarre or not bizarre, he had
said "So!" and it was up to me to cope with the situation on those lines.

It would have been a duller man than Bertram Wooster who had failed to
note that the dear old chap was a bit steamed up. Whether his eyes were
actually shooting forth flame, I couldn't tell you, but there appeared to
me to be a distinct incandescence. For the rest, his fists were clenched,
his ears quivering, and the muscles of his jaw rotating rhythmically, as
if he were making an early supper off something.

His hair was full of twigs, and there was a beetle hanging to the side of
his head which would have interested Gussie Fink-Nottle. To this,
however, I paid scant attention. There is a time for studying beetles and
a time for not studying beetles.

"So!" he said again.

Now, those who know Bertram Wooster best will tell you that he is always
at his shrewdest and most level-headed in moments of peril. Who was it
who, when gripped by the arm of the law on boat-race night not so many
years ago and hauled off to Vine Street police station, assumed in a
flash the identity of Eustace H. Plimsoll, of The Laburnums, Alleyn Road,
West Dulwich, thus saving the grand old name of Wooster from being
dragged in the mire and avoiding wide publicity of the wrong sort? Who
was it ...

But I need not labour the point. My record speaks for itself. Three times
pinched, but never once sentenced under the correct label. Ask anyone at
the Drones about this.

So now, in a situation threatening to become every moment more scaly, I
did not lose my head. I preserved the old sang-froid. Smiling a genial
and affectionate smile, and hoping that it wasn't too dark for it to
register, I spoke with a jolly cordiality:

"Why, hallo, Tuppy. You here?"

He said, yes, he was here.

"Been here long?"

"I have."

"Fine. I wanted to see you."

"Well, here I am. Come out from behind that bench."

"No, thanks, old man. I like leaning on it. It seems to rest the spine."

"In about two seconds," said Tuppy, "I'm going to kick your spine up
through the top of your head."

I raised the eyebrows. Not much good, of course, in that light, but it
seemed to help the general composition.

"Is this Hildebrand Glossop speaking?" I said.

He replied that it was, adding that if I wanted to make sure I might move
a few feet over in his direction. He also called me an opprobrious name.

I raised the eyebrows again.

"Come, come, Tuppy, don't let us let this little chat become acrid. Is
'acrid' the word I want?"

"I couldn't say," he replied, beginning to sidle round the bench.

I saw that anything I might wish to say must be said quickly. Already he
had sidled some six feet. And though, by dint of sidling, too, I had
managed to keep the bench between us, who could predict how long this
happy state of affairs would last?

I came to the point, therefore.

"I think I know what's on your mind, Tuppy," I said. "If you were in
those bushes during my conversation with the recent Angela, I dare say
you heard what I was saying about you."

"I did."

"I see. Well, we won't go into the ethics of the thing. Eavesdropping,
some people might call it, and I can imagine stern critics drawing in the
breath to some extent. Considering it--I don't want to hurt your
feelings, Tuppy--but considering it un-English. A bit un-English, Tuppy,
old man, you must admit."

"I'm Scotch."

"Really?" I said. "I never knew that before. Rummy how you don't suspect
a man of being Scotch unless he's Mac-something and says 'Och, aye' and
things like that. I wonder," I went on, feeling that an academic
discussion on some neutral topic might ease the tension, "if you can tell
me something that has puzzled me a good deal. What exactly is it that
they put into haggis? I've of ten wondered about that."

From the fact that his only response to the question was to leap over the
bench and make a grab at me, I gathered that his mind was not on haggis.

"However," I said, leaping over the bench in my turn, "that is a side
issue. If, to come back to it, you were in those bushes and heard what I
was saying about you----"

He began to move round the bench in a nor'-nor'-easterly direction. I
followed his example, setting a course sou'-sou'-west.

"No doubt you were surprised at the way I was talking."

"Not a bit."

"What? Did nothing strike you as odd in the tone of my remarks?"

"It was just the sort of stuff I should have expected a treacherous,
sneaking hound like you to say."

"My dear chap," I protested, "this is not your usual form. A bit slow in
the uptake, surely? I should have thought you would have spotted right
away that it was all part of a well-laid plan."

"I'll get you in a jiffy," said Tuppy, recovering his balance after a
swift clutch at my neck. And so probable did this seem that I delayed no
longer, but hastened to place all the facts before him.

Speaking rapidly and keeping moving, I related my emotions on receipt of
Aunt Dahlia's telegram, my instant rush to the scene of the disaster, my
meditations in the car, and the eventual framing of this well-laid plan
of mine. I spoke clearly and well, and it was with considerable concern,
consequently, that I heard him observe--between clenched teeth, which
made it worse--that he didn't believe a damned word of it.

"But, Tuppy," I said, "why not? To me the thing rings true to the last
drop. What makes you sceptical? Confide in me, Tuppy."

He halted and stood taking a breather. Tuppy, pungently though Angela
might have argued to the contrary, isn't really fat. During the winter
months you will find him constantly booting the football with merry
shouts, and in the summer the tennis racket is seldom out of his hand.

But at the recently concluded evening meal, feeling, no doubt, that after
that painful scene in the larder there was nothing to be gained by
further abstinence, he had rather let himself go and, as it were, made up
leeway; and after really immersing himself in one of Anatole's dinners, a
man of his sturdy build tends to lose elasticity a bit. During the
exposition of my plans for his happiness a certain animation had crept
into this round-and-round-the mulberry-bush jamboree of ours--so much so,
indeed, that for the last few minutes we might have been a rather
oversized greyhound and a somewhat slimmer electric hare doing their
stuff on a circular track for the entertainment of the many-headed.

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