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Right Ho, Jeeves

By P. G. WODEHOUSE 1922

Page 32 of 46


I followed rather pensively. What had occurred was, of course, so much
velvet, as you might say. I mean, I had wanted a braced Fink-Nottle--
indeed, all my plans had had a braced Fink-Nottle as their end and aim
--but I found myself wondering a little whether the Fink-Nottle now
sliding down the banister wasn't, perhaps, a shade too braced. His
demeanour seemed to me that of a man who might quite easily throw bread
about at lunch.

Fortunately, however, the settled gloom of those round him exercised a
restraining effect upon him at the table. It would have needed a far more
plastered man to have been rollicking at such a gathering. I had told the
Bassett that there were aching hearts in Brinkley Court, and it now
looked probable that there would shortly be aching tummies. Anatole, I
learned, had retired to his bed with a fit of the vapours, and the meal
now before us had been cooked by the kitchen maid--as C3 a performer as
ever wielded a skillet.

This, coming on top of their other troubles, induced in the company a
pretty unanimous silence--a solemn stillness, as you might say--which
even Gussie did not seem prepared to break. Except, therefore, for one
short snatch of song on his part, nothing untoward marked the occasion,
and presently we rose, with instructions from Aunt Dahlia to put on
festal raiment and be at Market Snodsbury not later than 3.30. This
leaving me ample time to smoke a gasper or two in a shady bower beside
the lake, I did so, repairing to my room round about the hour of three.

Jeeves was on the job, adding the final polish to the old topper, and I
was about to apprise him of the latest developments in the matter of
Gussie, when he forestalled me by observing that the latter had only just
concluded an agreeable visit to the Wooster bedchamber.

"I found Mr. Fink-Nottle seated here when I arrived to lay out your
clothes, sir."

"Indeed, Jeeves? Gussie was in here, was he?"

"Yes, sir. He left only a few moments ago. He is driving to the school
with Mr. and Mrs. Travers in the large car."

"Did you give him your story of the two Irishmen?"

"Yes, sir. He laughed heartily."

"Good. Had you any other contributions for him?"

"I ventured to suggest that he might mention to the young gentlemen that
education is a drawing out, not a putting in. The late Lord Brancaster
was much addicted to presenting prizes at schools, and he invariably
employed this dictum."

"And how did he react to that?"

"He laughed heartily, sir."

"This surprised you, no doubt? This practically incessant merriment, I
mean."

"Yes, sir."

"You thought it odd in one who, when you last saw him, was well up in
Group A of the defeatists."

"Yes, sir."

"There is a ready explanation, Jeeves. Since you last saw him, Gussie has
been on a bender. He's as tight as an owl."

"Indeed, sir?"

"Absolutely. His nerve cracked under the strain, and he sneaked into the
dining-room and started mopping the stuff up like a vacuum cleaner.
Whisky would seem to be what he filled the radiator with. I gather that
he used up most of the decanter. Golly, Jeeves, it's lucky he didn't get
at that laced orange juice on top of that, what?"

"Extremely, sir."

I eyed the jug. Uncle Tom's photograph had fallen into the fender, and it
was standing there right out in the open, where Gussie couldn't have
helped seeing it. Mercifully, it was empty now.

"It was a most prudent act on your part, if I may say so, sir, to dispose
of the orange juice."

I stared at the man.

"What? Didn't you?"

"No, sir."

"Jeeves, let us get this clear. Was it not you who threw away that o.j.?"

"No, sir. I assumed, when I entered the room and found the pitcher empty,
that you had done so."

We looked at each other, awed. Two minds with but a single thought.

"I very much fear, sir----"

"So do I, Jeeves."

"It would seem almost certain----"

"Quite certain. Weigh the facts. Sift the evidence. The jug was standing
on the mantelpiece, for all eyes to behold. Gussie had been complaining
of thirst. You found him in here, laughing heartily. I think that there
can be little doubt, Jeeves, that the entire contents of that jug are at
this moment reposing on top of the existing cargo in that already
brilliantly lit man's interior. Disturbing, Jeeves."

"Most disturbing, sir."

"Let us face the position, forcing ourselves to be calm. You inserted in
that jug--shall we say a tumblerful of the right stuff?"

"Fully a tumblerful, sir."

"And I added of my plenty about the same amount."

"Yes, sir."

"And in two shakes of a duck's tail Gussie, with all that lapping about
inside him, will be distributing the prizes at Market Snodsbury Grammar
School before an audience of all that is fairest and most refined in the
county."

"Yes, sir."

"It seems to me, Jeeves, that the ceremony may be one fraught with
considerable interest."

"Yes, sir."

"What, in your opinion, will the harvest be?"

"One finds it difficult to hazard a conjecture, sir."

"You mean imagination boggles?"

"Yes, sir."

I inspected my imagination. He was right. It boggled.

 

-17-

"And yet, Jeeves," I said, twiddling a thoughtful steering wheel, "there
is always the bright side."

Some twenty minutes had elapsed, and having picked the honest fellow up
outside the front door, I was driving in the two-seater to the
picturesque town of Market Snodsbury. Since we had parted--he to go to
his lair and fetch his hat, I to remain in my room and complete the
formal costume--I had been doing some close thinking.

The results of this I now proceeded to hand on to him.

"However dark the prospect may be, Jeeves, however murkily the storm
clouds may seem to gather, a keen eye can usually discern the blue bird.
It is bad, no doubt, that Gussie should be going, some ten minutes from
now, to distribute prizes in a state of advanced intoxication, but we
must never forget that these things cut both ways."

"You imply, sir----"

"Precisely. I am thinking of him in his capacity of wooer. All this ought
to have put him in rare shape for of fering his hand in marriage. I shall
be vastly surprised if it won't turn him into a sort of caveman. Have you
ever seen James Cagney in the movies?"

"Yes, sir."

"Something on those lines."

I heard him cough, and sniped him with a sideways glance. He was wearing
that informative look of his.

"Then you have not heard, sir?"

"Eh?"

"You are not aware that a marriage has been arranged and will shortly
take place between Mr. Fink-Nottle and Miss Bassett?"

"What?"

"Yes, sir."

"When did this happen?"

"Shortly after Mr. Fink-Nottle had left your room, sir."

"Ah! In the post-orange-juice era?"

"Yes, sir."

"But are you sure of your facts? How do you know?"

"My informant was Mr. Fink-Nottle himself, sir. He appeared anxious to
confide in me. His story was somewhat incoherent, but I had no difficulty
in apprehending its substance. Prefacing his remarks with the statement
that this was a beautiful world, he laughed heartily and said that he had
become formally engaged."

"No details?"

"No, sir."

"But one can picture the scene."

"Yes, sir."

"I mean, imagination doesn't boggle."

"No, sir."

And it didn't. I could see exactly what must have happened. Insert a
liberal dose of mixed spirits in a normally abstemious man, and he
becomes a force. He does not stand around, twiddling his fingers and
stammering. He acts. I had no doubt that Gussie must have reached for the
Bassett and clasped her to him like a stevedore handling a sack of coals.
And one could readily envisage the effect of that sort of thing on a girl
of romantic mind.

"Well, well, well, Jeeves."

"Yes, sir."

"This is splendid news."

"Yes, sir."

"You see now how right I was."

"Yes, sir."

"It must have been rather an eye-opener for you, watching me handle this
case."

"Yes, sir."

"The simple, direct method never fails."

"No, sir."

"Whereas the elaborate does."

"Yes, sir."

"Right ho, Jeeves."

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