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Right Ho, Jeeves

By P. G. WODEHOUSE 1922

Page 31 of 46


He made a weary gesture.

"You expect me to work that in, do you, into a speech to be delivered to
an audience of boys, every one of whom is probably riddled with adenoids?
Damn it, they'd rush the platform. Leave me, Bertie. Push of f. That's all
I ask you to do. Push of f.... Ladies and gentlemen," said Gussie, in a
low, soliloquizing sort of way, "I do not propose to detain this
auspicious occasion long----"

It was a thoughtful Wooster who walked away and left him at it. More than
ever I was congratulating myself on having had the sterling good sense to
make all my arrangements so that I could press a button and set things
moving at an instant's notice.

Until now, you see, I had rather entertained a sort of hope that when I
had revealed to him the Bassett's mental attitude, Nature would have done
the rest, bracing him up to such an extent that artificial stimulants
would not be required. Because, naturally, a chap doesn't want to have to
sprint about country houses lugging jugs of orange juice, unless it is
absolutely essential.

But now I saw that I must carry on as planned. The total absence of pep,
ginger, and the right spirit which the man had displayed during these
conversational exchanges convinced me that the strongest measures would
be necessary. Immediately upon leaving him, therefore, I proceeded to the
pantry, waited till the butler had removed himself elsewhere, and nipped
in and secured the vital jug. A few moments later, after a wary passage
of the stairs, I was in my room. And the first thing I saw there was
Jeeves, fooling about with trousers.

He gave the jug a look which--wrongly, as it was to turn out--I diagnosed
as censorious. I drew myself up a bit. I intended to have no rot from the
fellow.

"Yes, Jeeves?"

"Sir?"

"You have the air of one about to make a remark, Jeeves."

"Oh, no, sir. I note that you are in possession of Mr. Fink-Nottle's
orange juice. I was merely about to observe that in my opinion it would
be injudicious to add spirit to it."

"That is a remark, Jeeves, and it is precisely----"

"Because I have already attended to the matter, sir."

"What?"

"Yes, sir. I decided, after all, to acquiesce in your wishes."

I stared at the man, astounded. I was deeply moved. Well, I mean,
wouldn't any chap who had been going about thinking that the old feudal
spirit was dead and then suddenly found it wasn't have been deeply moved?

"Jeeves," I said, "I am touched."

"Thank you, sir."

"Touched and gratified."

"Thank you very much, sir."

"But what caused this change of heart?"

"I chanced to encounter Mr. Fink-Nottle in the garden, sir, while you
were still in bed, and we had a brief conversation."

"And you came away feeling that he needed a bracer?"

"Very much so, sir. His attitude struck me as defeatist."

I nodded.

"I felt the same. 'Defeatist' sums it up to a nicety. Did you tell him
his attitude struck you as defeatist?"

"Yes, sir."

"But it didn't do any good?"

"No, sir."

"Very well, then, Jeeves. We must act. How much gin did you put in the
jug?"

"A liberal tumblerful, sir."

"Would that be a normal dose for an adult defeatist, do you think?"

"I fancy it should prove adequate, sir."

"I wonder. We must not spoil the ship for a ha'porth of tar. I think I'll
add just another fluid ounce or so."

"I would not advocate it, sir. In the case of Lord Brancaster's
parrot----"

"You are falling into your old error, Jeeves, of thinking that Gussie is
a parrot. Fight against this. I shall add the oz."

"Very good, sir."

"And, by the way, Jeeves, Mr. Fink-Nottle is in the market for bright,
clean stories to use in his speech. Do you know any?"

"I know a story about two Irishmen, sir."

"Pat and Mike?"

"Yes, sir."

"Who were walking along Broadway?"

"Yes, sir."

"Just what he wants. Any more?"

"No, sir."

"Well, every little helps. You had better go and tell it to him."

"Very good, sir."

He passed from the room, and I unscrewed the flask and tilted into the
jug a generous modicum of its contents. And scarcely had I done so, when
there came to my ears the sound of footsteps without. I had only just
time to shove the jug behind the photograph of Uncle Tom on the
mantelpiece before the door opened and in came Gussie, curveting like a
circus horse.

"What-ho, Bertie," he said. "What-ho, what-ho, what-ho, and again
what-ho. What a beautiful world this is, Bertie. One of the nicest I
ever met."

I stared at him, speechless. We Woosters are as quick as lightning, and I
saw at once that something had happened.

I mean to say, I told you about him walking round in circles. I recorded
what passed between us on the lawn. And if I portrayed the scene with
anything like adequate skill, the picture you will have retained of this
Fink-Nottle will have been that of a nervous wreck, sagging at the knees,
green about the gills, and picking feverishly at the lapels of his coat
in an ecstasy of craven fear. In a word, defeatist. Gussie, during that
interview, had, in fine, exhibited all the earmarks of one licked to a
custard.

Vastly different was the Gussie who stood before me now. Self-confidence
seemed to ooze from the fellow's every pore. His face was flushed, there
was a jovial light in his eyes, the lips were parted in a swashbuckling
smile. And when with a genial hand he sloshed me on the back before I
could sidestep, it was as if I had been kicked by a mule.

"Well, Bertie," he proceeded, as blithely as a linnet without a thing on
his mind, "you will be glad to hear that you were right. Your theory has
been tested and proved correct. I feel like a fighting cock."

My brain ceased to reel. I saw all.

"Have you been having a drink?"

"I have. As you advised. Unpleasant stuff. Like medicine. Burns your
throat, too, and makes one as thirsty as the dickens. How anyone can mop
it up, as you do, for pleasure, beats me. Still, I would be the last to
deny that it tunes up the system. I could bite a tiger."

"What did you have?"

"Whisky. At least, that was the label on the decanter, and I have no
reason to suppose that a woman like your aunt--staunch, true-blue,
British--would deliberately deceive the public. If she labels her
decanters Whisky, then I consider that we know where we are."

"A whisky and soda, eh? You couldn't have done better."

"Soda?" said Gussie thoughtfully. "I knew there was something I had
forgotten."

"Didn't you put any soda in it?"

"It never occurred to me. I just nipped into the dining-room and drank
out of the decanter."

"How much?"

"Oh, about ten swallows. Twelve, maybe. Or fourteen. Say sixteen
medium-sized gulps. Gosh, I'm thirsty."

He moved over to the wash-stand and drank deeply out of the water bottle.
I cast a covert glance at Uncle Tom's photograph behind his back. For the
first time since it had come into my life, I was glad that it was so
large. It hid its secret well. If Gussie had caught sight of that jug of
orange juice, he would unquestionably have been on to it like a knife.

"Well, I'm glad you're feeling braced," I said.

He moved buoyantly from the wash-hand stand, and endeavoured to slosh me
on the back again. Foiled by my nimble footwork, he staggered to the bed
and sat down upon it.

"Braced? Did I say I could bite a tiger?"

"You did."

"Make it two tigers. I could chew holes in a steel door. What an ass you
must have thought me out there in the garden. I see now you were laughing
in your sleeve."

"No, no."

"Yes," insisted Gussie. "That very sleeve," he said, pointing. "And I
don't blame you. I can't imagine why I made all that fuss about a potty
job like distributing prizes at a rotten little country grammar school.
Can you imagine, Bertie?"

"Exactly. Nor can I imagine. There's simply nothing to it. I just shin up
on the platform, drop a few gracious words, hand the little blighters
their prizes, and hop down again, admired by all. Not a suggestion of
split trousers from start to finish. I mean, why should anybody split his
trousers? I can't imagine. Can you imagine?"

"No."

"Nor can I imagine. I shall be a riot. I know just the sort of stuff
that's needed--simple, manly, optimistic stuff straight from the
shoulder. This shoulder," said Gussie, tapping. "Why I was so nervous
this morning I can't imagine. For anything simpler than distributing a
few footling books to a bunch of grimy-faced kids I can't imagine. Still,
for some reason I can't imagine, I was feeling a little nervous, but now
I feel fine, Bertie--fine, fine, fine--and I say this to you as an old
friend. Because that's what you are, old man, when all the smoke has
cleared away--an old friend. I don't think I've ever met an older friend.
How long have you been an old friend of mine, Bertie?"

"Oh, years and years."

"Imagine! Though, of course, there must have been a time when you were a
new friend.... Hullo, the luncheon gong. Come on, old friend."

And, rising from the bed like a performing flea, he made for the door.

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