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Right Ho, Jeeves

By P. G. WODEHOUSE 1922

Page 35 of 46


"Well, Jeeves," I said, "it was certainly one of those afternoons, what?"

"Yes, sir."

"I cannot recall one more packed with incident. And I left before the
finish."

"Yes, sir. I observed your departure."

"You couldn't blame me for withdrawing."

"No, sir. Mr. Fink-Nottle had undoubtedly become embarrassingly
personal."

"Was there much more of it after I went?"

"No, sir. The proceedings terminated very shortly. Mr. Fink-Nottle's
remarks with reference to Master G.G. Simmons brought about an early
closure."

"But he had finished his remarks about G.G. Simmons."

"Only temporarily, sir. He resumed them immediately after your departure.
If you recollect, sir, he had already proclaimed himself suspicious of
Master Simmons's bona fides, and he now proceeded to deliver a violent
verbal attack upon the young gentleman, asserting that it was impossible
for him to have won the Scripture-knowledge prize without systematic
cheating on an impressive scale. He went so far as to suggest that Master
Simmons was well known to the police."

"Golly, Jeeves!"

"Yes, sir. The words did create a considerable sensation. The reaction of
those present to this accusation I should describe as mixed. The young
students appeared pleased and applauded vigorously, but Master Simmons's
mother rose from her seat and addressed Mr. Fink-Nottle in terms of
strong protest."

"Did Gussie seem taken aback? Did he recede from his position?"

"No, sir. He said that he could see it all now, and hinted at a guilty
liaison between Master Simmons's mother and the head master, accusing the
latter of having cooked the marks, as his expression was, in order to
gain favour with the former."

"You don't mean that?"

"Yes, sir."

"Egad, Jeeves! And then----"

"They sang the national anthem, sir."

"Surely not?"

"Yes, sir."

"At a moment like that?"

"Yes, sir."

"Well, you were there and you know, of course, but I should have thought
the last thing Gussie and this woman would have done in the circs. would
have been to start singing duets."

"You misunderstand me, sir. It was the entire company who sang. The head
master turned to the organist and said something to him in a low tone.
Upon which the latter began to play the national anthem, and the
proceedings terminated."

"I see. About time, too."

"Yes, sir. Mrs. Simmons's attitude had become unquestionably menacing."

I pondered. What I had heard was, of course, of a nature to excite pity
and terror, not to mention alarm and despondency, and it would be
paltering with the truth to say that I was pleased about it. On the other
hand, it was all over now, and it seemed to me that the thing to do was
not to mourn over the past but to fix the mind on the bright future. I
mean to say, Gussie might have lowered the existing Worcestershire record
for goof iness and definitely forfeited all chance of becoming Market
Snodsbury's favourite son, but you couldn't get away from the fact that
he had proposed to Madeline Bassett, and you had to admit that she had
accepted him.

I put this to Jeeves.

"A frightful exhibition," I said, "and one which will very possibly ring
down history's pages. But we must not forget, Jeeves, that Gussie, though
now doubtless looked upon in the neighbourhood as the world's worst
freak, is all right otherwise."

"No, sir."

I did not get quite this.

"When you say 'No, sir,' do you mean 'Yes, sir'?"

"No, sir. I mean 'No, sir.'"

"He is not all right otherwise?"

"No, sir."

"But he's betrothed."

"No longer, sir. Miss Bassett has severed the engagement."

"You don't mean that?"

"Yes, sir."

I wonder if you have noticed a rather peculiar thing about this
chronicle. I allude to the fact that at one time or another practically
everybody playing a part in it has had occasion to bury his or her face
in his or her hands. I have participated in some pretty glutinous affairs
in my time, but I think that never before or since have I been mixed up
with such a solid body of brow clutchers.

Uncle Tom did it, if you remember. So did Gussie. So did Tuppy. So,
probably, though I have no data, did Anatole, and I wouldn't put it past
the Bassett. And Aunt Dahlia, I have no doubt, would have done it, too,
but for the risk of disarranging the carefully fixed coiffure.

Well, what I am trying to say is that at this juncture I did it myself.
Up went the hands and down went the head, and in another jiffy I was
clutching as energetically as the best of them.

And it was while I was still massaging the coconut and wondering what the
next move was that something barged up against the door like the delivery
of a ton of coals.

"I think this may very possibly be Mr. Fink-Nottle himself, sir," said
Jeeves.

His intuition, however, had led him astray. It was not Gussie but Tuppy.
He came in and stood breathing asthmatically. It was plain that he was
deeply stirred.

 

-18-

I eyed him narrowly. I didn't like his looks. Mark you, I don't say I
ever had, much, because Nature, when planning this sterling fellow,
shoved in a lot more lower jaw than was absolutely necessary and made the
eyes a bit too keen and piercing for one who was neither an Empire
builder nor a traffic policeman. But on the present occasion, in addition
to of fending the aesthetic sense, this Glossop seemed to me to be wearing
a distinct air of menace, and I found myself wishing that Jeeves wasn't
always so dashed tactful. I mean, it's all very well to remove yourself
like an eel sliding into mud when the employer has a visitor, but there
are moments--and it looked to me as if this was going to be one of
them--when the truer tact is to stick round and stand ready to lend a
hand in the free-for-all.

For Jeeves was no longer with us. I hadn't seen him go, and I hadn't
heard him go, but he had gone. As far as the eye could reach, one noted
nobody but Tuppy. And in Tuppy's demeanour, as I say, there was a certain
something that tended to disquiet. He looked to me very much like a man
who had come to reopen that matter of my tickling Angela's ankles.

However, his opening remark told me that I had been alarming myself
unduly. It was of a pacific nature, and came as a great relief.

"Bertie," he said, "I owe you an apology. I have come to make it."

My relief on hearing these words, containing as they did no reference of
any sort to tickled ankles, was, as I say, great. But I don't think it
was any greater than my surprise. Months had passed since that painful
episode at the Drones, and until now he hadn't given a sign of remorse
and contrition. Indeed, word had reached me through private sources that
he frequently told the story at dinners and other gatherings and, when
doing so, laughed his silly head of f.

I found it hard to understand, accordingly, what could have caused him to
abase himself at this later date. Presumably he had been given the elbow
by his better self, but why?

Still, there it was.

"My dear chap," I said, gentlemanly to the gills, "don't mention it."

"What's the sense of saying, 'Don't mention it'? I have mentioned it."

"I mean, don't mention it any more. Don't give the matter another
thought. We all of us forget ourselves sometimes and do things which, in
our calmer moments, we regret. No doubt you were a bit tight at the
time."

"What the devil do you think you're talking about?"

I didn't like his tone. Brusque.

"Correct me if I am wrong," I said, with a certain stiffness, "but I
assumed that you were apologizing for your foul conduct in looping back
the last ring that night in the Drones, causing me to plunge into the
swimming b. in the full soup and fish."

"Ass! Not that, at all."

"Then what?"

"This Bassett business."

"What Bassett business?"

"Bertie," said Tuppy, "when you told me last night that you were in love
with Madeline Bassett, I gave you the impression that I believed you, but
I didn't. The thing seemed too incredible. However, since then I have
made inquiries, and the facts appear to square with your statement. I
have now come to apologize for doubting you."

"Made inquiries?"

"I asked her if you had proposed to her, and she said, yes, you had."

"Tuppy! You didn't?"

"I did."

"Have you no delicacy, no proper feeling?"

"No."

"Oh? Well, right-ho, of course, but I think you ought to have."

"Delicacy be dashed. I wanted to be certain that it was not you who stole
Angela from me. I now know it wasn't."

So long as he knew that, I didn't so much mind him having no delicacy.

"Ah," I said. "Well, that's fine. Hold that thought."

"I have found out who it was."

"What?"

He stood brooding for a moment. His eyes were smouldering with a dull
fire. His jaw stuck out like the back of Jeeves's head.

"Bertie," he said, "do you remember what I swore I would do to the chap
who stole Angela from me?"

"As nearly as I recall, you planned to pull him inside out----"

"--and make him swallow himself. Correct. The programme still holds
good."

"But, Tuppy, I keep assuring you, as a competent eyewitness, that nobody
snitched Angela from you during that Cannes trip."

"No. But they did after she got back."

"What?"

"Don't keep saying, 'What?' You heard."

"But she hasn't seen anybody since she got back."

"Oh, no? How about that newt bloke?"

"Gussie?"

"Precisely. The serpent Fink-Nottle."

This seemed to me absolute gibbering.

"But Gussie loves the Bassett."

"You can't all love this blighted Bassett. What astonishes me is that
anyone can do it. He loves Angela, I tell you. And she loves him."

"But Angela handed you your hat before Gussie ever got here."

"No, she didn't. Couple of hours after."

"He couldn't have fallen in love with her in a couple of hours."

"Why not? I fell in love with her in a couple of minutes. I worshipped
her immediately we met, the popeyed little excrescence."

"But, dash it----"

"Don't argue, Bertie. The facts are all docketed. She loves this
newt-nuzzling blister."

"Quite absurd, laddie--quite absurd."

"Oh?" He ground a heel into the carpet--a thing I've of ten read about,
but had never seen done before. "Then perhaps you will explain how it is
that she happens to come to be engaged to him?"

You could have knocked me down with a f.

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