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Right Ho, Jeeves

By P. G. WODEHOUSE 1922

Page 36 of 46


"Engaged to him?"

"She told me herself."

"She was kidding you."

"She was not kidding me. Shortly after the conclusion of this afternoon's
binge at Market Snodsbury Grammar School he asked her to marry him, and
she appears to have right-hoed without a murmur."

"There must be some mistake."

"There was. The snake Fink-Nottle made it, and by now I bet he realizes
it. I've been chasing him since 5.30."

"Chasing him?"

"All over the place. I want to pull his head of f."

"I see. Quite."

"You haven't seen him, by any chance?"

"No."

"Well, if you do, say goodbye to him quickly and put in your order for
lilies.... Oh, Jeeves."

"Sir?"

I hadn't heard the door open, but the man was on the spot once more. My
private belief, as I think I have mentioned before, is that Jeeves
doesn't have to open doors. He's like one of those birds in India who
bung their astral bodies about--the chaps, I mean, who having gone into
thin air in Bombay, reassemble the parts and appear two minutes later in
Calcutta. Only some such theory will account for the fact that he's not
there one moment and is there the next. He just seems to float from Spot
A to Spot B like some form of gas.

"Have you seen Mr. Fink-Nottle, Jeeves?"

"No, sir."

"I'm going to murder him."

"Very good, sir."

Tuppy withdrew, banging the door behind him, and I put Jeeves abreast.

"Jeeves," I said, "do you know what? Mr. Fink-Nottle is engaged to my
Cousin Angela."

"Indeed, sir?"

"Well, how about it? Do you grasp the psychology? Does it make sense?
Only a few hours ago he was engaged to Miss Bassett."

"Gentlemen who have been discarded by one young lady are of ten apt to
attach themselves without delay to another, sir. It is what is known as a
gesture."

I began to grasp.

"I see what you mean. Defiant stuff."

"Yes, sir."

"A sort of 'Oh, right-ho, please yourself, but if you don't want me,
there are plenty who do.'"

"Precisely, sir. My Cousin George----"

"Never mind about your Cousin George, Jeeves."

"Very good, sir."

"Keep him for the long winter evenings, what?"

"Just as you wish, sir."

"And, anyway, I bet your Cousin George wasn't a shrinking,
non-goose-bo-ing jellyfish like Gussie. That is what astounds me,
Jeeves--that it should be Gussie who has been putting in all this heavy
gesture-making stuff."

"You must remember, sir, that Mr. Fink-Nottle is in a somewhat inflamed
cerebral condition."

"That's true. A bit above par at the moment, as it were?"

"Exactly, sir."

"Well, I'll tell you one thing--he'll be in a jolly sight more inflamed
cerebral condition if Tuppy gets hold of him.... What's the time?"

"Just on eight o'clock, sir."

"Then Tuppy has been chasing him for two hours and a half. We must save
the unfortunate blighter, Jeeves."

"Yes, sir."

"A human life is a human life, what?"

"Exceedingly true, sir."

"The first thing, then, is to find him. After that we can discuss plans
and schemes. Go forth, Jeeves, and scour the neighbourhood."

"It will not be necessary, sir. If you will glance behind you, you will
see Mr. Fink-Nottle coming out from beneath your bed."

And, by Jove, he was absolutely right.

There was Gussie, emerging as stated. He was covered with fluff and
looked like a tortoise popping forth for a bit of a breather.

"Gussie!" I said.

"Jeeves," said Gussie.

"Sir?" said Jeeves.

"Is that door locked, Jeeves?"

"No, sir, but I will attend to the matter immediately."

Gussie sat down on the bed, and I thought for a moment that he was going
to be in the mode by burying his face in his hands. However, he merely
brushed a dead spider from his brow.

"Have you locked the door, Jeeves?"

"Yes, sir."

"Because you can never tell that that ghastly Glossop may not take it
into his head to come----"

The word "back" froze on his lips. He hadn't got any further than
a _b_-ish sound, when the handle of the door began to twist and rattle.
He sprang from the bed, and for an instant stood looking exactly like a
picture my Aunt Agatha has in her dining-room--The Stag at Bay--Landseer.
Then he made a dive for the cupboard and was inside it before one really
got on to it that he had started leaping. I have seen fellows late for
the 9.15 move less nippily.

I shot a glance at Jeeves. He allowed his right eyebrow to flicker
slightly, which is as near as he ever gets to a display of the emotions.

"Hullo?" I yipped.

"Let me in, blast you!" responded Tuppy's voice from without. "Who locked
this door?"

I consulted Jeeves once more in the language of the eyebrow. He raised
one of his. I raised one of mine. He raised his other. I raised my other.
Then we both raised both. Finally, there seeming no other policy to
pursue, I flung wide the gates and Tuppy came shooting in.

"Now what?" I said, as nonchalantly as I could manage.

"Why was the door locked?" demanded Tuppy.

I was in pretty good eyebrow-raising form by now, so I gave him a touch
of it.

"Is one to have no privacy, Glossop?" I said coldly. "I instructed Jeeves
to lock the door because I was about to disrobe."

"A likely story!" said Tuppy, and I'm not sure he didn't add "Forsooth!"
"You needn't try to make me believe that you're afraid people are going
to run excursion trains to see you in your underwear. You locked that
door because you've got the snake Fink-Nottle concealed in here. I
suspected it the moment I'd left, and I decided to come back and
investigate. I'm going to search this room from end to end. I believe
he's in that cupboard.... What's in this cupboard?"

"Just clothes," I said, having another stab at the nonchalant, though
extremely dubious as to whether it would come of f. "The usual wardrobe of
the English gentleman paying a country-house visit."

"You're lying!"

Well, I wouldn't have been if he had only waited a minute before
speaking, because the words were hardly out of his mouth before Gussie
was out of the cupboard. I have commented on the speed with which he had
gone in. It was as nothing to the speed with which he emerged. There was
a sort of whir and blur, and he was no longer with us.

I think Tuppy was surprised. In fact, I'm sure he was. Despite the
confidence with which he had stated his view that the cupboard contained
Fink-Nottles, it plainly disconcerted him to have the chap fizzing out at
him like this. He gargled sharply, and jumped back about five feet. The
next moment, however, he had recovered his poise and was galloping down
the corridor in pursuit. It only needed Aunt Dahlia after them, shouting
"Yoicks!" or whatever is customary on these occasions, to complete the
resemblance to a brisk run with the Quorn.

I sank into a handy chair. I am not a man whom it is easy to discourage,
but it seemed to me that things had at last begun to get too complex for
Bertram.

"Jeeves," I said, "all this is a bit thick."

"Yes, sir."

"The head rather swims."

"Yes, sir."

"I think you had better leave me, Jeeves. I shall need to devote the very
closest thought to the situation which has arisen."

"Very good, sir."

The door closed. I lit a cigarette and began to ponder.

 

-19-

Most chaps in my position, I imagine, would have pondered all the rest of
the evening without getting a bite, but we Woosters have an uncanny knack
of going straight to the heart of things, and I don't suppose it was much
more than ten minutes after I had started pondering before I saw what had
to be done.

What was needed to straighten matters out, I perceived, was a heart-to-
heart talk with Angela. She had caused all the trouble by her mutton-
headed behaviour in saying "Yes" instead of "No" when Gussie, in the
grip of mixed drinks and cerebral excitement, had suggested teaming up.
She must obviously be properly ticked off and made to return him to store.
A quarter of an hour later, I had tracked her down to the summer-house in
which she was taking a cooler and was seating myself by her side.

"Angela," I said, and if my voice was stern, well, whose wouldn't have
been, "this is all perfect drivel."

She seemed to come out of a reverie. She looked at me inquiringly.

"I'm sorry, Bertie, I didn't hear. What were you talking drivel about?"

"I was not talking drivel."

"Oh, sorry, I thought you said you were."

"Is it likely that I would come out here in order to talk drivel?"

"Very likely."

I thought it best to haul off and approach the matter from another angle.

"I've just been seeing Tuppy."

"Oh?"

"And Gussie Fink-Nottle."

"Oh, yes?"

"It appears that you have gone and got engaged to the latter."

"Quite right."

"Well, that's what I meant when I said it was all perfect drivel. You
can't possibly love a chap like Gussie."

"Why not?"

"You simply can't."

Well, I mean to say, of course she couldn't. Nobody could love a freak
like Gussie except a similar freak like the Bassett. The shot wasn't on
the board. A splendid chap, of course, in many ways--courteous, amiable,
and just the fellow to tell you what to do till the doctor came, if you
had a sick newt on your hands--but quite obviously not of Mendelssohn's
March timber. I have no doubt that you could have flung bricks by the
hour in England's most densely populated districts without endangering
the safety of a single girl capable of becoming Mrs. Augustus Fink-Nottle
without an anaesthetic.

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