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Right Ho, Jeeves

By P. G. WODEHOUSE 1922

Page 43 of 46


"That's fine. Because I was thinking of going in, too, and I don't
believe I could sleep knowing you were out here giving rein to that
powerful imagination of yours. The next thing that would happen would be
that you would think you saw a pink elephant sitting on the drawing-room
window-sill and start throwing bricks at it.... Well, come on, Tom, the
entertainment seems to be over.... But wait. The newt king wishes a word
with us.... Yes, Mr. Fink-Nottle?"

Gussie, as he joined our little group, seemed upset about something.

"I say!"

"Say on, Augustus."

"I say, what are we going to do?"

"Speaking for myself, I intend to return to bed."

"But the door's shut."

"What door?"

"The front door. Somebody must have shut it."

"Then I shall open it."

"But it won't open."

"Then I shall try another door."

"But all the other doors are shut."

"What? Who shut them?"

"I don't know."

I advanced a theory!

"The wind?"

Aunt Dahlia's eyes met mine.

"Don't try me too high," she begged. "Not now, precious." And, indeed,
even as I spoke, it did strike me that the night was pretty still.

Uncle Tom said we must get in through a window. Aunt Dahlia sighed a bit.

"How? Could Lloyd George do it, could Winston do it, could Baldwin do it?
No. Not since you had those bars of yours put on."

"Well, well, well. God bless my soul, ring the bell, then."

"The fire bell?"

"The door bell."

"To what end, Thomas? There's nobody in the house. The servants are all
at Kingham."

"But, confound it all, we can't stop out here all night."

"Can't we? You just watch us. There is nothing--literally nothing--which
a country house party can't do with Attila here operating on the
premises. Seppings presumably took the back-door key with him. We must
just amuse ourselves till he comes back."

Tuppy made a suggestion:

"Why not take out one of the cars and drive over to Kingham and get the
key from Seppings?"

It went well. No question about that. For the first time, a smile lit up
Aunt Dahlia's drawn face. Uncle Tom grunted approvingly. Anatole said
something in Provençal that sounded complimentary. And I thought I
detected even on Angela's map a slight sof tening.

"A very excellent idea," said Aunt Dahlia. "One of the best. Nip round to
the garage at once."

After Tuppy had gone, some extremely flattering things were said about
his intelligence and resource, and there was a disposition to draw rather
invidious comparisons between him and Bertram. Painful for me, of course,
but the ordeal didn't last long, for it couldn't have been more than five
minutes before he was with us again.

Tuppy seemed perturbed.

"I say, it's all of f."

"Why?"

"The garage is locked."

"Unlock it."

"I haven't the key."

"Shout, then, and wake Waterbury."

"Who's Waterbury?"

"The chauffeur, ass. He sleeps over the garage."

"But he's gone to the dance at Kingham."

It was the final wallop. Until this moment, Aunt Dahlia had been able to
preserve her frozen calm. The dam now burst. The years rolled away from
her, and she was once more the Dahlia Wooster of the old yoicks-and-tantivy
days--the emotional, free-speaking girl who had so of ten risen in
her stirrups to yell derogatory personalities at people who were heading
hounds.

"Curse all dancing chauffeurs! What on earth does a chauffeur want to
dance for? I mistrusted that man from the start. Something told me he was
a dancer. Well, this finishes it. We're out here till breakfast-time. If
those blasted servants come back before eight o'clock, I shall be vastly
surprised. You won't get Seppings away from a dance till you throw him
out. I know him. The jazz'll go to his head, and he'll stand clapping and
demanding encores till his hands blister. Damn all dancing butlers! What
is Brinkley Court? A respectable English country house or a crimson
dancing school? One might as well be living in the middle of the Russian
Ballet. Well, all right. If we must stay out here, we must. We shall all
be frozen stiff, except"--here she directed at me not one of her
friendliest glances----"except dear old Attila, who is, I observe, well and
warmly clad. We will resign ourselves to the prospect of freezing to
death like the Babes in the Wood, merely expressing a dying wish that our
old pal Attila will see that we are covered with leaves. No doubt he will
also toll that fire bell of his as a mark of respect--And what might you
want, my good man?"

She broke of f, and stood glaring at Jeeves. During the latter portion of
her address, he had been standing by in a respectful manner, endeavouring
to catch the speaker's eye.

"If I might make a suggestion, madam."

I am not saying that in the course of our long association I have always
found myself able to view Jeeves with approval. There are aspects of his
character which have frequently caused coldnesses to arise between us. He
is one of those fellows who, if you give them a thingummy, take a
what-d'you-call-it. His work is of ten raw, and he has been known to allude
to me as "mentally negligible". More than once, as I have shown, it has
been my painful task to squelch in him a tendency to get uppish and treat
the young master as a serf or peon.

These are grave defects.

But one thing I have never failed to hand the man. He is magnetic. There
is about him something that seems to soothe and hypnotize. To the best of
my knowledge, he has never encountered a charging rhinoceros, but should
this contingency occur, I have no doubt that the animal, meeting his eye,
would check itself in mid-stride, roll over and lie purring with its legs
in the air.

At any rate he calmed down Aunt Dahlia, the nearest thing to a charging
rhinoceros, in under five seconds. He just stood there looking
respectful, and though I didn't time the thing--not having a stop-watch
on me--I should say it wasn't more than three seconds and a quarter
before her whole manner underwent an astounding change for the better.
She melted before one's eyes.

"Jeeves! You haven't got an idea?"

"Yes, madam."

"That great brain of yours has really clicked as ever in the hour of
need?"

"Yes, madam."

"Jeeves," said Aunt Dahlia in a shaking voice, "I am sorry I spoke so
abruptly. I was not myself. I might have known that you would not come
simply trying to make conversation. Tell us this idea of yours, Jeeves.
Join our little group of thinkers and let us hear what you have to say.
Make yourself at home, Jeeves, and give us the good word. Can you really
get us out of this mess?"

"Yes, madam, if one of the gentlemen would be willing to ride a bicycle."

"A bicycle?"

"There is a bicycle in the gardener's shed in the kitchen garden, madam.
Possibly one of the gentlemen might feel disposed to ride over to Kingham
Manor and procure the back-door key from Mr. Seppings."

"Splendid, Jeeves!"

"Thank you, madam."

"Wonderful!"

"Thank you, madam."

"Attila!" said Aunt Dahlia, turning and speaking in a quiet,
authoritative manner.

I had been expecting it. From the very moment those ill-judged words had
passed the fellow's lips, I had had a presentiment that a determined
effort would be made to elect me as the goat, and I braced myself to
resist and obstruct.

And as I was about to do so, while I was in the very act of summoning up
all my eloquence to protest that I didn't know how to ride a bike and
couldn't possibly learn in the brief time at my disposal, I'm dashed if
the man didn't go and nip me in the bud.

"Yes, madam, Mr. Wooster would perform the task admirably. He is an
expert cyclist. He has of ten boasted to me of his triumphs on the wheel."

I hadn't. I hadn't done anything of the sort. It's simply monstrous how
one's words get twisted. All I had ever done was to mention to
him--casually, just as an interesting item of information, one day in New
York when we were watching the six-day bicycle race--that at the age of
fourteen, while spending my holidays with a vicar of sorts who had been
told off to teach me Latin, I had won the Choir Boys' Handicap at the
local school treat.

A different thing from boasting of one's triumphs on the wheel.

I mean, he was a man of the world and must have known that the form of
school treats is never of the hottest. And, if I'm not mistaken, I had
specifically told him that on the occasion referred to I had received
half a lap start and that Willie Punting, the odds-on favourite to whom
the race was expected to be a gift, had been forced to retire, owing to
having pinched his elder brother's machine without asking the elder
brother, and the elder brother coming along just as the pistol went and
giving him one on the side of the head and taking it away from him, thus
rendering him a scratched-at-the-post non-starter. Yet, from the way he
talked, you would have thought I was one of those chaps in sweaters with
medals all over them, whose photographs bob up from time to time in the
illustrated press on the occasion of their having ridden from Hyde Park
Corner to Glasgow in three seconds under the hour, or whatever it is.

And as if this were not bad enough, Tuppy had to shove his oar in.

"That's right," said Tuppy. "Bertie has always been a great cyclist. I
remember at Oxford he used to take all his clothes off on bump-supper
nights and ride around the quad, singing comic songs. Jolly fast he used
to go too."

"Then he can go jolly fast now," said Aunt Dahlia with animation. "He
can't go too fast for me. He may also sing comic songs, if he likes....
And if you wish to take your clothes of f, Bertie, my lamb, by all means
do so. But whether clothed or in the nude, whether singing comic songs or
not singing comic songs, get a move on."

I found speech:

"But I haven't ridden for years."

"Then it's high time you began again."

"I've probably forgotten how to ride."

"You'll soon get the knack after you've taken a toss or two. Trial and
error. The only way."

"But it's miles to Kingham."

"So the sooner you're of f, the better."

"But----"

"Bertie, dear."

"But, dash it----"

"Bertie, darling."

"Yes, but dash it----"

"Bertie, my sweet."

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