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Right Ho, Jeeves

By P. G. WODEHOUSE 1922

Page 29 of 46


This, it appeared, had taken it out of him a bit, and I was not
displeased. I was feeling the strain myself, and welcomed a lull.

"It absolutely beats me why you don't believe it," I said. "You know
we've been pals for years. You must be aware that, except at the moment
when you caused me to do a nose dive into the Drones' swimming bath, an
incident which I long since decided to put out of my mind and let the
dead past bury its dead about, if you follow what I mean--except on that
one occasion, as I say, I have always regarded you with the utmost
esteem. Why, then, if not for the motives I have outlined, should I knock
you to Angela? Answer me that. Be very careful."

"What do you mean, be very careful?"

Well, as a matter of fact, I didn't quite know myself. It was what the
magistrate had said to me on the occasion when I stood in the dock as
Eustace Plimsoll, of The Laburnums: and as it had impressed me a good
deal at the time, I just bunged it in now by way of giving the
conversation a tone.

"All right. Never mind about being careful, then. Just answer me that
question. Why, if I had not your interests sincerely at heart, should I
have ticked you of f, as stated?"

A sharp spasm shook him from base to apex. The beetle, which, during the
recent exchanges, had been clinging to his head, hoping for the best,
gave it up at this and resigned of fice. It shot off and was swallowed in
the night.

"Ah!" I said. "Your beetle," I explained. "No doubt you were unaware of
it, but all this while there has been a beetle of sorts parked on the
side of your head. You have now dislodged it."

He snorted.

"Beetles!"

"Not beetles. One beetle only."

"I like your crust!" cried Tuppy, vibrating like one of Gussie's newts
during the courting season. "Talking of beetles, when all the time you
know you're a treacherous, sneaking hound."

It was a debatable point, of course, why treacherous, sneaking hounds
should be considered ineligible to talk about beetles, and I dare say a
good cross-examining counsel would have made quite a lot of it.

But I let it go.

"That's the second time you've called me that. And," I said firmly, "I
insist on an explanation. I have told you that I acted throughout from
the best and kindliest motives in roasting you to Angela. It cut me to
the quick to have to speak like that, and only the recollection of our
lifelong friendship would have made me do it. And now you say you don't
believe me and call me names for which I am not sure I couldn't have you
up before a beak and jury and mulct you in very substantial damages. I
should have to consult my solicitor, of course, but it would surprise me
very much if an action did not lie. Be reasonable, Tuppy. Suggest another
motive I could have had. Just one."

"I will. Do you think I don't know? You're in love with Angela yourself."

"What?"

"And you knocked me in order to poison her mind against me and finally
remove me from your path."

I had never heard anything so absolutely loopy in my life. Why, dash it,
I've known Angela since she was so high. You don't fall in love with
close relations you've known since they were so high. Besides, isn't
there something in the book of rules about a man may not marry his
cousin? Or am I thinking of grandmothers?

"Tuppy, my dear old ass," I cried, "this is pure banana oil! You've come
unscrewed."

"Oh, yes?"

"Me in love with Angela? Ha-ha!"

"You can't get out of it with ha-ha's. She called you 'darling'."

"I know. And I disapproved. This habit of the younger g. of scattering
'darlings' about like birdseed is one that I deprecate. Lax, is how I
should describe it."

"You tickled her ankles."

"In a purely cousinly spirit. It didn't mean a thing. Why, dash it, you
must know that in the deeper and truer sense I wouldn't touch Angela with
a barge pole."

"Oh? And why not? Not good enough for you?"

"You misunderstand me," I hastened to reply. "When I say I wouldn't touch
Angela with a barge pole, I intend merely to convey that my feelings
towards her are those of distant, though cordial, esteem. In other words,
you may rest assured that between this young prune and myself there never
has been and never could be any sentiment warmer and stronger than that
of ordinary friendship."

"I believe it was you who tipped her off that I was in the larder last
night, so that she could find me there with that pie, thus damaging my
prestige."

"My dear Tuppy! A Wooster?" I was shocked. "You think a Wooster would do
that?"

He breathed heavily.

"Listen," he said. "It's no good your standing there arguing. You can't
get away from the facts. Somebody stole her from me at Cannes. You told
me yourself that she was with you all the time at Cannes and hardly saw
anybody else. You gloated over the mixed bathing, and those moonlight
walks you had together----"

"Not gloated. Just mentioned them."

"So now you understand why, as soon as I can get you clear of this damned
bench, I am going to tear you limb from limb. Why they have these bally
benches in gardens," said Tuppy discontentedly, "is more than I can see.
They only get in the way."

He ceased, and, grabbing out, missed me by a hair's breadth.

It was a moment for swift thinking, and it is at such moments, as I have
already indicated, that Bertram Wooster is at his best. I suddenly
remembered the recent misunderstanding with the Bassett, and with a flash
of clear vision saw that this was where it was going to come in handy.

"You've got it all wrong, Tuppy," I said, moving to the left. "True, I
saw a lot of Angela, but my dealings with her were on a basis from start
to finish of the purest and most wholesome camaraderie. I can prove it.
During that sojourn in Cannes my affections were engaged elsewhere."

"What?"

"Engaged elsewhere. My affections. During that sojourn."

I had struck the right note. He stopped sidling. His clutching hand fell
to his side.

"Is that true?"

"Quite of ficial."

"Who was she?"

"My dear Tuppy, does one bandy a woman's name?"

"One does if one doesn't want one's ruddy head pulled of f."

I saw that it was a special case.

"Madeline Bassett," I said.

"Who?"

"Madeline Bassett."

He seemed stunned.

"You stand there and tell me you were in love with that Bassett
disaster?"

"I wouldn't call her 'that Bassett disaster', Tuppy. Not respectful."

"Dash being respectful. I want the facts. You deliberately assert that
you loved that weird Gawd-help-us?"

"I don't see why you should call her a weird Gawd-help-us, either. A very
charming and beautiful girl. Odd in some of her views perhaps--one does
not quite see eye to eye with her in the matter of stars and rabbits--but
not a weird Gawd-help-us."

"Anyway, you stick to it that you were in love with her?"

"I do."

"It sounds thin to me, Wooster, very thin."

I saw that it would be necessary to apply the finishing touch.

"I must ask you to treat this as entirely confidential, Glossop, but I
may as well inform you that it is not twenty-four hours since she turned
me down."

"Turned you down?"

"Like a bedspread. In this very garden."

"Twenty-four hours?"

"Call it twenty-five. So you will readily see that I can't be the chap,
if any, who stole Angela from you at Cannes."

And I was on the brink of adding that I wouldn't touch Angela with a
barge pole, when I remembered I had said it already and it hadn't gone
frightfully well. I desisted, therefore.

My manly frankness seemed to be producing good results. The homicidal
glare was dying out of Tuppy's eyes. He had the aspect of a hired
assassin who had paused to think things over.

"I see," he said, at length. "All right, then. Sorry you were troubled."

"Don't mention it, old man," I responded courteously.

For the first time since the bushes had begun to pour forth Glossops,
Bertram Wooster could be said to have breathed freely. I don't say I
actually came out from behind the bench, but I did let go of it, and with
something of the relief which those three chaps in the Old Testament must
have experienced after sliding out of the burning fiery furnace, I even
groped tentatively for my cigarette case.

The next moment a sudden snort made me take my fingers off it as if it
had bitten me. I was distressed to note in the old friend a return of the
recent frenzy.

"What the hell did you mean by telling her that I used to be covered with
ink when I was a kid?"

"My dear Tuppy----"

"I was almost finickingly careful about my personal cleanliness as a boy.
You could have eaten your dinner off me."

"Quite. But----"

"And all that stuff about having no soul. I'm crawling with soul. And
being looked on as an outsider at the Drones----"

"But, my dear old chap, I explained that. It was all part of my ruse or
scheme."

"It was, was it? Well, in future do me a favour and leave me out of your
foul ruses."

"Just as you say, old boy."

"All right, then. That's understood."

He relapsed into silence, standing with folded arms, staring before him
rather like a strong, silent man in a novel when he's just been given the
bird by the girl and is thinking of looking in at the Rocky Mountains and
bumping off a few bears. His manifest pippedness excited my compash, and
I ventured a kindly word.

"I don't suppose you know what _au pied de la lettre_ means, Tuppy, but
that's how I don't think you ought to take all that stuff Angela was
saying just now too much."

He seemed interested.

"What the devil," he asked, "are you talking about?"

I saw that I should have to make myself clearer.

"Don't take all that guff of hers too literally, old man. You know what
girls are like."

"I do," he said, with another snort that came straight up from his
insteps. "And I wish I'd never met one."

"I mean to say, it's obvious that she must have spotted you in those
bushes and was simply talking to score off you. There you were, I mean,
if you follow the psychology, and she saw you, and in that impulsive way
girls have, she seized the opportunity of ribbing you a bit--just told
you a few home truths, I mean to say."

"Home truths?"

"That's right."

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