Part 3 out of 6
"Impossible," she repeated.
I had been so busy feeling saved from the scaffold that I didn't get on
to it for a moment that an early reply was desired.
"Oh, right ho," I said hastily.
"Quite all right."
"Sorrier than I can say."
"Don't give it another thought."
"We can still be friends."
"Then shall we just say no more about it; keep what has happened as a
tender little secret between ourselves?"
"We will. Like something lovely and fragrant laid away in lavender."
There was a longish pause. She was gazing at me in a divinely pitying
sort of way, much as if I had been a snail she had happened accidentally
to bring her short French vamp down on, and I longed to tell her that it
was all right, and that Bertram, so far from being the victim of despair,
had never felt fizzier in his life. But, of course, one can't do that
sort of thing. I simply said nothing, and stood there looking brave.
"I wish I could," she murmured.
"Could?" I said, for my attensh had been wandering.
"Feel towards you as you would like me to feel."
"But I can't. I'm sorry."
"Absolutely O.K. Faults on both sides, no doubt."
"Because I am fond of you, Mr.--no, I think I must call you Bertie. May
"Because we are real friends."
"I do like you, Bertie. And if things were different--I wonder----"
"After all, we are real friends.... We have this common memory.... You
have a right to know.... I don't want you to think----Life is such a
muddle, isn't it?"
To many men, no doubt, these broken utterances would have appeared mere
drooling and would have been dismissed as such. But the Woosters are
quicker-witted than the ordinary and can read between the lines. I
suddenly divined what it was that she was trying to get off the chest.
"You mean there's someone else?"
"You're in love with some other bloke?"
This time she shook the pumpkin.
"No, not engaged."
Well, that was something, of course. Nevertheless, from the way she
spoke, it certainly looked as if poor old Gussie might as well scratch
his name off the entry list, and I didn't at all like the prospect of
having to break the bad news to him. I had studied the man closely, and
it was my conviction that this would about be his finish.
Gussie, you see, wasn't like some of my pals--the name of Bingo Little is
one that springs to the lips--who, if turned down by a girl, would simply
say, "Well, bung-oh!" and toddle off quite happily to find another. He
was so manifestly a bird who, having failed to score in the first
chukker, would turn the thing up and spend the rest of his life brooding
over his newts and growing long grey whiskers, like one of those chaps
you read about in novels, who live in the great white house you can just
see over there through the trees and shut themselves off from the world
and have pained faces.
"I'm afraid he doesn't care for me in that way. At least, he has said
nothing. You understand that I am only telling you this because----"
"It's odd that you should have asked me if I believed in love at first
sight." She half closed her eyes. "'Who ever loved that loved not at
first sight?'" she said in a rummy voice that brought back to me--I don't
know why--the picture of my Aunt Agatha, as Boadicea, reciting at that
pageant I was speaking of. "It's a silly little story. I was staying with
some friends in the country, and I had gone for a walk with my dog, and
the poor wee mite got a nasty thorn in his little foot and I didn't know
what to do. And then suddenly this man came along----"
Harking back once again to that pageant, in sketching out for you my
emotions on that occasion, I showed you only the darker side of the
picture. There was, I should now mention, a splendid aftermath when,
having climbed out of my suit of chain mail and sneaked off to the local
pub, I entered the saloon bar and requested mine host to start pouring. A
moment later, a tankard of their special home-brewed was in my hand, and
the ecstasy of that first gollup is still green in my memory. The
recollection of the agony through which I had passed was just what was
needed to make it perfect.
It was the same now. When I realized, listening to her words, that she
must be referring to Gussie--I mean to say, there couldn't have been a
whole platoon of men taking thorns out of her dog that day; the animal
wasn't a pin-cushion--and became aware that Gussie, who an instant before
had, to all appearances, gone so far back in the betting as not to be
worth a quotation, was the big winner after all, a positive thrill
permeated the frame and there escaped my lips a "Wow!" so crisp and
hearty that the Bassett leaped a liberal inch and a half from terra
"I beg your pardon?" she said.
I waved a jaunty hand.
"Nothing," I said. "Nothing. Just remembered there's a letter I have to
write tonight without fail. If you don't mind, I think I'll be going in.
Here," I said, "comes Gussie Fink-Nottle. He will look after you."
And, as I spoke, Gussie came sidling out from behind a tree.
I passed away and left them to it. As regards these two, everything was
beyond a question absolutely in order. All Gussie had to do was keep his
head down and not press. Already, I felt, as I legged it back to the
house, the happy ending must have begun to function. I mean to say, when
you leave a girl and a man, each of whom has admitted in set terms that
she and he loves him and her, in close juxtaposition in the twilight,
there doesn't seem much more to do but start pricing fish slices.
Something attempted, something done, seemed to me to have earned
two-penn'orth of wassail in the smoking-room.
I proceeded thither.
The makings were neatly laid out on a side-table, and to pour into a
glass an inch or so of the raw spirit and shoosh some soda-water on top
of it was with me the work of a moment. This done, I retired to an
arm-chair and put my feet up, sipping the mixture with carefree enjoyment,
rather like Caesar having one in his tent the day he overcame the Nervii.
As I let the mind dwell on what must even now be taking place in that
peaceful garden, I felt bucked and uplifted. Though never for an instant
faltering in my opinion that Augustus Fink-Nottle was Nature's final word
in cloth-headed guffins, I liked the man, wished him well, and could not
have felt more deeply involved in the success of his wooing if I, and not
he, had been under the ether.
The thought that by this time he might quite easily have completed the
preliminary _pourparlers_ and be deep in an informal discussion of
honeymoon plans was very pleasant to me.
Of course, considering the sort of girl Madeline Bassett was--stars and
rabbits and all that, I mean--you might say that a sober sadness would
have been more fitting. But in these matters you have got to realize that
tastes differ. The impulse of right-thinking men might be to run a mile
when they saw the Bassett, but for some reason she appealed to the deeps
in Gussie, so that was that.
I had reached this point in my meditations, when I was aroused by the
sound of the door opening. Somebody came in and started moving like a
leopard toward the side-table and, lowering the feet, I perceived that it
was Tuppy Glossop.
The sight of him gave me a momentary twinge of remorse, reminding me, as
it did, that in the excitement of getting Gussie fixed up I had rather
forgotten about this other client. It is often that way when you're
trying to run two cases at once.
However, Gussie now being off my mind, I was prepared to devote my whole
attention to the Glossop problem.
I had been much pleased by the way he had carried out the task assigned
him at the dinner-table. No easy one, I can assure you, for the browsing
and sluicing had been of the highest quality, and there had been one dish
in particular--I allude to the _nonnettes de poulet Agnes Sorel_--which
might well have broken down the most iron resolution. But he had passed
it up like a professional fasting man, and I was proud of him.
"Oh, hullo, Tuppy," I said, "I wanted to see you."
He turned, snifter in hand, and it was easy to see that his privations
had tried him sorely. He was looking like a wolf on the steppes of Russia
which has seen its peasant shin up a high tree.
"Yes?" he said, rather unpleasantly. "Well, here I am."
"How do you mean----well?"
"Make your report."
"Have you nothing to tell me about Angela?"
"Only that she's a blister."
I was concerned.
"Hasn't she come clustering round you yet?"
"She has not."
"She must have noted your lack of appetite."
He barked raspingly, as if he were having trouble with the tonsils of the
"Lack of appetite! I'm as hollow as the Grand Canyon."
"Courage, Tuppy! Think of Gandhi."
"What about Gandhi?"
"He hasn't had a square meal for years."
"Nor have I. Or I could swear I hadn't. Gandhi, my left foot."
I saw that it might be best to let the Gandhi _motif_ slide. I went back
to where we had started.
"She's probably looking for you now."
"Who is? Angela?"
"Yes. She must have noticed your supreme sacrifice."
"I don't suppose she noticed it at all, the little fathead. I'll bet it
didn't register in any way whatsoever."
"Come, Tuppy," I urged, "this is morbid. Don't take this gloomy view. She
must at least have spotted that you refused those _nonnettes de poulet
Agnes Sorel_. It was a sensational renunciation and stuck out like a sore
thumb. And the _cepes a la Rossini_----"
A hoarse cry broke from his twisted lips:
"Will you stop it, Bertie! Do you think I am made of marble? Isn't it bad
enough to have sat watching one of Anatole's supremest dinners flit by,
course after course, without having you making a song about it? Don't
remind me of those _nonnettes_. I can't stand it."
I endeavoured to hearten and console.
"Be brave, Tuppy. Fix your thoughts on that cold steak-and-kidney pie in
the larder. As the Good Book says, it cometh in the morning."
"Yes, in the morning. And it's now about half-past nine at night. You
would bring that pie up, wouldn't you? Just when I was trying to keep my
mind off it."
I saw what he meant. Hours must pass before he could dig into that pie.
I dropped the subject, and we sat for a pretty good time in silence. Then
he rose and began to pace the room in an overwrought sort of way, like a
zoo lion who has heard the dinner-gong go and is hoping the keeper won't
forget him in the general distribution. I averted my gaze tactfully, but
I could hear him kicking chairs and things. It was plain that the man's
soul was in travail and his blood pressure high.
Presently he returned to his seat, and I saw that he was looking at me
intently. There was that about his demeanour that led me to think that he
had something to communicate.
Nor was I wrong. He tapped me significantly on the knee and spoke:
"Shall I tell you something?"
"Certainly, old bird," I said cordially. "I was just beginning to feel
that the scene could do with a bit more dialogue."
"This business of Angela and me."
"I've been putting in a lot of solid thinking about it."
"I have analysed the situation pitilessly, and one thing stands out as
clear as dammit. There has been dirty work afoot."
"I don't get you."
"All right. Let me review the facts. Up to the time she went to Cannes
Angela loved me. She was all over me. I was the blue-eyed boy in every
sense of the term. You'll admit that?"
"And directly she came back we had this bust-up."
"Oh, dash it, old man, nothing? You were a bit tactless, what, about her
"I was frank and candid about her shark. And that's my point. Do you
seriously believe that a trifling disagreement about sharks would make a
girl hand a man his hat, if her heart were really his?"
It beats me why he couldn't see it. But then poor old Tuppy has never
been very hot on the finer shades. He's one of those large, tough,
football-playing blokes who lack the more delicate sensibilities, as I've
heard Jeeves call them. Excellent at blocking a punt or walking across an
opponent's face in cleated boots, but not so good when it comes to
understanding the highly-strung female temperament. It simply wouldn't
occur to him that a girl might be prepared to give up her life's
happiness rather than waive her shark.
"Rot! It was just a pretext."
"This shark business. She wanted to get rid of me, and grabbed at the
"I tell you she did."
"But what on earth would she want to get rid of you for?"
"Exactly. That's the very question I asked myself. And here's the answer:
Because she has fallen in love with somebody else. It sticks out a mile.
There's no other possible solution. She goes to Cannes all for me, she
comes back all off me. Obviously during those two months, she must have
transferred her affections to some foul blister she met out there."
"Don't keep saying 'No, no'. She must have done. Well, I'll tell you one
thing, and you can take this as official. If ever I find this slimy,
slithery snake in the grass, he had better make all the necessary
arrangements at his favourite nursing-home without delay, because I am
going to be very rough with him. I propose, if and when found, to take
him by his beastly neck, shake him till he froths, and pull him inside
out and make him swallow himself."
With which words he biffed off; and I, having given him a minute or two
to get out of the way, rose and made for the drawing-room. The tendency
of females to roost in drawing-rooms after dinner being well marked, I
expected to find Angela there. It was my intention to have a word with
To Tuppy's theory that some insinuating bird had stolen the girl's heart
from him at Cannes I had given, as I have indicated, little credence,
considering it the mere unbalanced apple sauce of a bereaved man. It was,
of course, the shark, and nothing but the shark, that had caused love's
young dream to go temporarily off the boil, and I was convinced that a
word or two with the cousin at this juncture would set everything right.
For, frankly, I thought it incredible that a girl of her natural
sweetness and tender-heartedness should not have been moved to her
foundations by what she had seen at dinner that night. Even Seppings,
Aunt Dahlia's butler, a cold, unemotional man, had gasped and practically
reeled when Tuppy waved aside those _nonnettes de poulet Agnes Sorel_,
while the footman, standing by with the potatoes, had stared like one
seeing a vision. I simply refused to consider the possibility of the
significance of the thing having been lost on a nice girl like Angela. I
fully expected to find her in the drawing-room with her heart bleeding
freely, all ripe for an immediate reconciliation.
In the drawing-room, however, when I entered, only Aunt Dahlia met the
eye. It seemed to me that she gave me rather a jaundiced look as I hove
in sight, but this, having so recently beheld Tuppy in his agony, I
attributed to the fact that she, like him, had been going light on the
menu. You can't expect an empty aunt to beam like a full aunt.
"Oh, it's you, is it?" she said.
Well, it was, of course.
"Where's Angela?" I asked.
"Gone to bed."
"She said she had a headache."
I wasn't so sure that I liked the sound of that so much. A girl who has
observed the sundered lover sensationally off his feed does not go to bed
with headaches if love has been reborn in her heart. She sticks around
and gives him the swift, remorseful glance from beneath the drooping
eyelashes and generally endeavours to convey to him that, if he wants to
get together across a round table and try to find a formula, she is all
for it too. Yes, I am bound to say I found that going-to-bed stuff a bit
"Gone to bed, eh?" I murmured musingly.
"What did you want her for?"
"I thought she might like a stroll and a chat."
"Are you going for a stroll?" said Aunt Dahlia, with a sudden show of
"Oh, hither and thither."
"Then I wonder if you would mind doing something for me."
"Give it a name."
"It won't take you long. You know that path that runs past the
greenhouses into the kitchen garden. If you go along it, you come to a
"Well, will you get a good, stout piece of rope or cord and go down that
path till you come to the pond----"
"To the pond. Right."
"--and look about you till you find a nice, heavy stone. Or a fairly
large brick would do."
"I see," I said, though I didn't, being still fogged. "Stone or brick.
Yes. And then?"
"Then," said the relative, "I want you, like a good boy, to fasten the
rope to the brick and tie it around your damned neck and jump into the
pond and drown yourself. In a few days I will send and have you fished up
and buried because I shall need to dance on your grave."
I was more fogged than ever. And not only fogged--wounded and resentful.
I remember reading a book where a girl "suddenly fled from the room,
afraid to stay for fear dreadful things would come tumbling from her
lips; determined that she would not remain another day in this house to
be insulted and misunderstood." I felt much about the same.
Then I reminded myself that one has got to make allowances for a woman
with only about half a spoonful of soup inside her, and I checked the
red-hot crack that rose to the lips.
"What," I said gently, "is this all about? You seem pipped with Bertram."
"Noticeably pipped. Why this ill-concealed animus?"
A sudden flame shot from her eyes, singeing my hair.
"Who was the ass, who was the chump, who was the dithering idiot who
talked me, against my better judgment, into going without my dinner? I
might have guessed----"
I saw that I had divined correctly the cause of her strange mood.
"It's all right. Aunt Dahlia. I know just how you're feeling. A bit on
the hollow side, what? But the agony will pass. If I were you, I'd sneak
down and raid the larder after tie household have gone to bed. I am told
there's a pretty good steak-and-kidney pie there which will repay
inspection. Have faith, Aunt Dahlia," I urged. "Pretty soon Uncle Tom
will be along, full of sympathy and anxious inquiries."
"Will he? Do you know where he is now?"
"I haven't seen him."
"He is in the study with his face buried in his hands, muttering about
civilization and melting pots."
"Because it has just been my painful duty to inform him that Anatole has
I own that I reeled.
"Given notice. As the result of that drivelling scheme of yours. What did
you expect a sensitive, temperamental French cook to do, if you went
about urging everybody to refuse all food? I hear that when the first two
courses came back to the kitchen practically untouched, his feelings were
so hurt that he cried like a child. And when the rest of the dinner
followed, he came to the conclusion that the whole thing was a studied
and calculated insult, and decided to hand in his portfolio."
"You may well say 'Golly!' Anatole, God's gift to the gastric juices,
gone like the dew off the petal of a rose, all through your idiocy.
Perhaps you understand now why I want you to go and jump in that pond. I
might have known that some hideous disaster would strike this house like
a thunderbolt if once you wriggled your way into it and started trying to
Harsh words, of course, as from aunt to nephew, but I bore her no
resentment. No doubt, if you looked at it from a certain angle, Bertram
might be considered to have made something of a floater.
"I am sorry."
"What's the good of being sorry?"
"I acted for what I deemed the best."
"Another time try acting for the worst. Then we may possibly escape with
a mere flesh wound."
"Uncle Tom's not feeling too bucked about it all, you say?"
"He's groaning like a lost soul. And any chance I ever had of getting
that money out of him has gone."
I stroked the chin thoughtfully. There was, I had to admit, reason in
what she said. None knew better than I how terrible a blow the passing of
Anatole would be to Uncle Tom.
I have stated earlier in this chronicle that this curious object of the
seashore with whom Aunt Dahlia has linked her lot is a bloke who
habitually looks like a pterodactyl that has suffered, and the reason he
does so is that all those years he spent in making millions in the Far
East put his digestion on the blink, and the only cook that has ever been
discovered capable of pushing food into him without starting something
like Old Home Week in Moscow under the third waistcoat button is this
uniquely gifted Anatole. Deprived of Anatole's services, all he was
likely to give the wife of his b. was a dirty look. Yes, unquestionably,
things seemed to have struck a somewhat rocky patch, and I must admit
that I found myself, at moment of going to press, a little destitute of
Confident, however, that these would come ere long, I kept the stiff
"Bad," I conceded. "Quite bad, beyond a doubt. Certainly a nasty jar for
one and all. But have no fear, Aunt Dahlia, I will fix everything."
I have alluded earlier to the difficulty of staggering when you're
sitting down, showing that it is a feat of which I, personally, am not
capable. Aunt Dahlia, to my amazement, now did it apparently without an
effort. She was well wedged into a deep arm-chair, but, nevertheless, she
staggered like billy-o. A sort of spasm of horror and apprehension
contorted her face.
"If you dare to try any more of your lunatic schemes----"
I saw that it would be fruitless to try to reason with her. Quite
plainly, she was not in the vein. Contenting myself, accordingly, with a
gesture of loving sympathy, I left the room. Whether she did or did not
throw a handsomely bound volume of the Works of Alfred, Lord Tennyson, at
me, I am not in a position to say. I had seen it lying on the table
beside her, and as I closed the door I remember receiving the impression
that some blunt instrument had crashed against the woodwork, but I was
feeling too pre-occupied to note and observe.
I blame myself for not having taken into consideration the possible
effects of a sudden abstinence on the part of virtually the whole
strength of the company on one of Anatole's impulsive Provencal
temperament. These Gauls, I should have remembered, can't take it. Their
tendency to fly off the handle at the slightest provocation is well
known. No doubt the man had put his whole soul into those _nonnettes de
poulet_, and to see them come homing back to him must have gashed him
like a knife.
However, spilt milk blows nobody any good, and it is useless to dwell
upon it. The task now confronting Bertram was to put matters right, and I
was pacing the lawn, pondering to this end, when I suddenly heard a groan
so lost-soulish that I thought it must have proceeded from Uncle Tom,
escaped from captivity and come to groan in the garden.
Looking about me, however, I could discern no uncles. Puzzled, I was
about to resume my meditations, when the sound came again. And peering
into the shadows I observed a dim form seated on one of the rustic
benches which so liberally dotted this pleasance and another dim form
standing beside same. A second and more penetrating glance and I had
assembled the facts.
These dim forms were, in the order named, Gussie Fink-Nottle and Jeeves.
And what Gussie was doing, groaning all over the place like this, was
more than I could understand.
Because, I mean to say, there was no possibility of error. He wasn't
singing. As I approached, he gave an encore, and it was beyond question a
groan. Moreover, I could now see him clearly, and his whole aspect was
"Good evening, sir," said Jeeves. "Mr. Fink-Nottle is not feeling well."
Nor was I. Gussie had begun to make a low, bubbling noise, and I could no
longer disguise it from myself that something must have gone seriously
wrong with the works. I mean, I know marriage is a pretty solemn business
and the realization that he is in for it frequently churns a chap up a
bit, but I had never come across a case of a newly-engaged man taking it
on the chin so completely as this.
Gussie looked up. His eye was dull. He clutched the thatch.
"Goodbye, Bertie," he said, rising.
I seemed to spot an error.
"You mean 'Hullo,' don't you?"
"No, I don't. I mean goodbye. I'm off."
"To the kitchen garden. To drown myself."
"Don't be an ass."
"I'm not an ass.... Am I an ass, Jeeves?"
"Possibly a little injudicious, sir."
"Drowning myself, you mean?"
"You think, on the whole, not drown myself?"
"I should not advocate it, sir."
"Very well, Jeeves. I accept your ruling. After all, it would be
unpleasant for Mrs. Travers to find a swollen body floating in her pond."
"And she has been very kind to me."
"And you have been very kind to me, Jeeves."
"Thank you, sir."
"So have you, Bertie. Very kind. Everybody has been very kind to me.
Very, very kind. Very kind indeed. I have no complaints to make. All
right, I'll go for a walk instead."
I followed him with bulging eyes as he tottered off into the dark.
"Jeeves," I said, and I am free to admit that in my emotion I bleated
like a lamb drawing itself to the attention of the parent sheep, "what
the dickens is all this?"
"Mr. Fink-Nottle is not quite himself, sir. He has passed through a
I endeavoured to put together a brief synopsis of previous events.
"I left him out here with Miss Bassett."
"I had softened her up."
"He knew exactly what he had to do. I had coached him thoroughly in lines
"Yes, sir. So Mr. Fink-Nottle informed me."
"I regret to say, sir, that there was a slight hitch."
"You mean, something went wrong?"
I could not fathom. The brain seemed to be tottering on its throne.
"But how could anything go wrong? She loves him, Jeeves."
"She definitely told me so. All he had to do was propose."
"Well, didn't he?"
"Then what the dickens did he talk about?"
"But why did he want to talk about newts?"
"He did not want to talk about newts, sir. As I gather from Mr.
Fink-Nottle, nothing could have been more alien to his plans."
I simply couldn't grasp the trend.
"But you can't force a man to talk about newts."
"Mr. Fink-Nottle was the victim of a sudden unfortunate spasm of
nervousness, sir. Upon finding himself alone with the young lady, he
admits to having lost his morale. In such circumstances, gentlemen
frequently talk at random, saying the first thing that chances to enter
their heads. This, in Mr. Fink-Nottle's case, would seem to have been the
newt, its treatment in sickness and in health."
The scales fell from my eyes. I understood. I had had the same sort of
thing happen to me in moments of crisis. I remember once detaining a
dentist with the drill at one of my lower bicuspids and holding him up
for nearly ten minutes with a story about a Scotchman, an Irishman, and a
Jew. Purely automatic. The more he tried to jab, the more I said "Hoots,
mon," "Begorrah," and "Oy, oy". When one loses one's nerve, one simply
I could put myself in Gussie's place. I could envisage the scene. There
he and the Bassett were, alone together in the evening stillness. No
doubt, as I had advised, he had shot the works about sunsets and fairy
princesses, and so forth, and then had arrived at the point where he had
to say that bit about having something to say to her. At this, I take it,
she lowered her eyes and said, "Oh, yes?"
He then, I should imagine, said it was something very important; to which
her response would, one assumes, have been something on the lines of
"Really?" or "Indeed?" or possibly just the sharp intake of the breath.
And then their eyes met, just as mine met the dentist's, and something
suddenly seemed to catch him in the pit of the stomach and everything
went black and he heard his voice starting to drool about newts. Yes, I
could follow the psychology.
Nevertheless, I found myself blaming Gussie. On discovering that he was
stressing the newt note in this manner, he ought, of course, to have
tuned out, even if it had meant sitting there saying nothing. No matter
how much of a twitter he was in, he should have had sense enough to see
that he was throwing a spanner into the works. No girl, when she has been
led to expect that a man is about to pour forth his soul in a fervour of
passion, likes to find him suddenly shelving the whole topic in favour of
an address on aquatic Salamandridae.
"And how long did this nuisance continue?"
"For some not inconsiderable time, I gather, sir. According to Mr.
Fink-Nottle, he supplied Miss Bassett with very full and complete
information not only with respect to the common newt, but also the
crested and palmated varieties. He described to her how newts, during
the breeding season, live in the water, subsisting upon tadpoles, insect
larvae, and crustaceans; how, later, they make their way to the land and
eat slugs and worms; and how the newly born newt has three pairs of long,
plumlike, external gills. And he was just observing that newts differ
from salamanders in the shape of the tail, which is compressed, and that
a marked sexual dimorphism prevails in most species, when the young lady
rose and said that she thought she would go back to the house."
"She went, sir."
I stood musing. More and more, it was beginning to be borne in upon me
what a particularly difficult chap Gussie was to help. He seemed to so
marked an extent to lack snap and finish. With infinite toil, you
manoeuvred him into a position where all he had to do was charge ahead,
and he didn't charge ahead, but went off sideways, missing the objective
In happier circs., of course, I would have canvassed his views on the
matter. But after what had occurred in connection with that mess-jacket,
my lips were sealed.
"Well, I must think it over."
"Burnish the brain a bit and endeavour to find the way out."
"Well, good night, Jeeves."
"Good night, sir."
He shimmered off, leaving a pensive Bertram Wooster standing motionless
in the shadows. It seemed to me that it was hard to know what to do for
I don't know if it has happened you to at all, but a thing I've noticed
with myself is that, when I'm confronted by a problem which seems for the
moment to stump and baffle, a good sleep will often bring the solution in
It was so on the present occasion.
The nibs who study these matters claim, I believe, that this has got
something to do with the subconscious mind, and very possibly they may be
right. I wouldn't have said off-hand that I had a subconscious mind, but
I suppose I must without knowing it, and no doubt it was there, sweating
away diligently at the old stand, all the while the corporeal Wooster was
getting his eight hours.
For directly I opened my eyes on the morrow, I saw daylight. Well, I
don't mean that exactly, because naturally I did. What I mean is that I
found I had the thing all mapped out. The good old subconscious m. had
delivered the goods, and I perceived exactly what steps must be taken in
order to put Augustus Fink-Nottle among the practising Romeos.
I should like you, if you can spare me a moment of your valuable time, to
throw your mind back to that conversation he and I had had in the garden
on the previous evening. Not the glimmering landscape bit, I don't mean
that, but the concluding passages of it. Having done so, you will recall
that when he informed me that he never touched alcoholic liquor, I shook
the head a bit, feeling that this must inevitably weaken him as a force
where proposing to girls was concerned.
And events had shown that my fears were well founded.
Put to the test, with nothing but orange juice inside him, he had proved
a complete bust. In a situation calling for words of molten passion of a
nature calculated to go through Madeline Bassett like a red-hot gimlet
through half a pound of butter, he had said not a syllable that could
bring a blush to the cheek of modesty, merely delivering a well-phrased
but, in the circumstances, quite misplaced lecture on newts.
A romantic girl is not to be won by such tactics. Obviously, before
attempting to proceed further, Augustus Fink-Nottle must be induced to
throw off the shackling inhibitions of the past and fuel up. It must be a
primed, confident Fink-Nottle who squared up to the Bassett for Round No.
Only so could the _Morning Post_ make its ten bob, or whatever it is, for
printing the announcement of the forthcoming nuptials.
Having arrived at this conclusion I found the rest easy, and by the time
Jeeves brought me my tea I had evolved a plan complete in every detail.
This I was about to place before him--indeed, I had got as far as the
preliminary "I say, Jeeves"--when we were interrupted by the arrival of
He came listlessly into the room, and I was pained to observe that a
night's rest had effected no improvement in the unhappy wreck's
appearance. Indeed, I should have said, if anything, that he was looking
rather more moth-eaten than when I had seen him last. If you can
visualize a bulldog which has just been kicked in the ribs and had its
dinner sneaked by the cat, you will have Hildebrand Glossop as he now
stood before me.
"Stap my vitals, Tuppy, old corpse," I said, concerned, "you're looking
pretty blue round the rims."
Jeeves slid from the presence in that tactful, eel-like way of his, and I
motioned the remains to take a seat.
"What's the matter?" I said.
He came to anchor on the bed, and for awhile sat picking at the coverlet
"I've been through hell, Bertie."
"Oh, hell? And what took you there?"
Once more he became silent, staring before him with sombre eyes.
Following his gaze, I saw that he was looking at an enlarged photograph
of my Uncle Tom in some sort of Masonic uniform which stood on the
mantelpiece. I've tried to reason with Aunt Dahlia about this photograph
for years, placing before her two alternative suggestions: (a) To burn
the beastly thing; or (b) if she must preserve it, to shove me in
another room when I come to stay. But she declines to accede. She says
it's good for me. A useful discipline, she maintains, teaching me that
there is a darker side to life and that we were not put into this world
for pleasure only.
"Turn it to the wall, if it hurts you, Tuppy," I said gently.
"That photograph of Uncle Tom as the bandmaster."
"I didn't come here to talk about photographs. I came for sympathy."
"And you shall have it. What's the trouble? Worrying about Angela, I
suppose? Well, have no fear. I have another well-laid plan for
encompassing that young shrimp. I'll guarantee that she will be weeping
on your neck before yonder sun has set."
He barked sharply.
"A fat chance!"
"I mean 'Tush, Tuppy.' I tell you I will do it. I was just going to
describe this plan of mine to Jeeves when you came in. Care to hear it?"
"I don't want to hear any of your beastly plans. Plans are no good. She's
gone and fallen in love with this other bloke, and now hates my gizzard."
"It isn't rot."
"I tell you, Tuppy, as one who can read the female heart, that this
Angela loves you still."
"Well, it didn't look much like it in the larder last night."
"Oh, you went to the larder last night?"
"And Angela was there?"
"She was. And your aunt. Also your uncle."
I saw that I should require foot-notes. All this was new stuff to me. I
had stayed at Brinkley Court quite a lot in my time, but I had no idea
the larder was such a social vortex. More like a snack bar on a
race-course than anything else, it seemed to have become.
"Tell me the whole story in your own words," I said, "omitting no detail,
however apparently slight, for one never knows how important the most
trivial detail may be."
He inspected the photograph for a moment with growing gloom.
"All right," he said. "This is what happened. You know my views about
that steak-and-kidney pie."
"Well, round about one a.m. I thought the time was ripe. I stole from my
room and went downstairs. The pie seemed to beckon me."
I nodded. I knew how pies do.
"I got to the larder. I fished it out. I set it on the table. I found
knife and fork. I collected salt, mustard, and pepper. There were some
cold potatoes. I added those. And I was about to pitch in when I heard a
sound behind me, and there was your aunt at the door. In a blue-and-yellow
"I suppose you didn't know where to look."
"I looked at Angela."
"She came in with my aunt?"
"No. With your uncle, a minute or two later. He was wearing mauve pyjamas
and carried a pistol. Have you ever seen your uncle in pyjamas and a
"You haven't missed much."
"Tell me, Tuppy," I asked, for I was anxious to ascertain this, "about
Angela. Was there any momentary softening in her gaze as she fixed it on
"She didn't fix it on me. She fixed it on the pie."
"Did she say anything?"
"Not right away. Your uncle was the first to speak. He said to your aunt,
'God bless my soul, Dahlia, what are you doing here?' To which she
replied, 'Well, if it comes to that, my merry somnambulist, what are
you?' Your uncle then said that he thought there must be burglars in the
house, as he had heard noises."
I nodded again. I could follow the trend. Ever since the scullery window
was found open the year Shining Light was disqualified in the Cesarewitch
for boring, Uncle Tom has had a marked complex about burglars. I can
still recall my emotions when, paying my first visit after he had bars
put on all the windows and attempting to thrust the head out in order to
get a sniff of country air, I nearly fractured my skull on a sort of iron
grille, as worn by the tougher kinds of mediaeval prison.
"'What sort of noises?' said your aunt. 'Funny noises,' said your uncle.
Whereupon Angela--with a nasty, steely tinkle in her voice, the little
buzzard--observed, 'I expect it was Mr. Glossop eating.' And then she did
give me a look. It was the sort of wondering, revolted look a very
spiritual woman would give a fat man gulping soup in a restaurant. The
kind of look that makes a fellow feel he's forty-six round the waist and
has great rolls of superfluous flesh pouring down over the back of his
collar. And, still speaking in the same unpleasant tone, she added, 'I
ought to have told you, father, that Mr. Glossop always likes to have a
good meal three or four times during the night. It helps to keep him
going till breakfast. He has the most amazing appetite. See, he has
practically finished a large steak-and-kidney pie already'."
As he spoke these words, a feverish animation swept over Tuppy. His eyes
glittered with a strange light, and he thumped the bed violently with his
fist, nearly catching me a juicy one on the leg.
"That was what hurt, Bertie. That was what stung. I hadn't so much as
started on that pie. But that's a woman all over."
"The eternal feminine."
"She continued her remarks. 'You've no idea,' she said, 'how Mr. Glossop
loves food. He just lives for it. He always eats six or seven meals a
day, and then starts in again after bedtime. I think it's rather
wonderful.' Your aunt seemed interested, and said it reminded her of a
boa constrictor. Angela said, didn't she mean a python? And then they
argued as to which of the two it was. Your uncle, meanwhile, poking about
with that damned pistol of his till human life wasn't safe in the
vicinity. And the pie lying there on the table, and me unable to touch
it. You begin to understand why I said I had been through hell."
"Quite. Can't have been at all pleasant."
"Presently your aunt and Angela settled their discussion, deciding that
Angela was right and that it was a python that I reminded them of. And
shortly after that we all pushed back to bed, Angela warning me in a
motherly voice not to take the stairs too quickly. After seven or eight
solid meals, she said, a man of my build ought to be very careful,
because of the danger of apoplectic fits. She said it was the same with
dogs. When they became very fat and overfed, you had to see that they
didn't hurry upstairs, as it made them puff and pant, and that was bad
for their hearts. She asked your aunt if she remembered the late spaniel,
Ambrose; and your aunt said, 'Poor old Ambrose, you couldn't keep him
away from the garbage pail'; and Angela said, 'Exactly, so do please be
careful, Mr. Glossop.' And you tell me she loves me still!"
I did my best to encourage.
"Girlish banter, what?"
"Girlish banter be dashed. She's right off me. Once her ideal, I am now
less than the dust beneath her chariot wheels. She became infatuated with
this chap, whoever he was, at Cannes, and now she can't stand the sight
I raised my eyebrows.
"My dear Tuppy, you are not showing your usual good sense in this
Angela-chap-at-Cannes matter. If you will forgive me saying so, you have
got an _idee fixe_."
"An _idee fixe_. You know. One of those things fellows get. Like Uncle
Tom's delusion that everybody who is known even slightly to the police is
lurking in the garden, waiting for a chance to break into the house. You
keep talking about this chap at Cannes, and there never was a chap at
Cannes, and I'll tell you why I'm so sure about this. During those two
months on the Riviera, it so happens that Angela and I were practically
inseparable. If there had been somebody nosing round her, I should have
spotted it in a second."
He started. I could see that this had impressed him.
"Oh, she was with you all the time at Cannes, was she?"
"I don't suppose she said two words to anybody else, except, of course,
idle conv. at the crowded dinner table or a chance remark in a throng at
"I see. You mean that anything in the shape of mixed bathing and
moonlight strolls she conducted solely in your company?"
"That's right. It was quite a joke in the hotel."
"You must have enjoyed that."
"Oh, rather. I've always been devoted to Angela."
"When we were kids, she used to call herself my little sweetheart."
He sat plunged in thought, while I, glad to have set his mind at rest,
proceeded with my tea. And presently there came the banging of a gong
from the hall below, and he started like a war horse at the sound of the
"Breakfast!" he said, and was off to a flying start, leaving me to brood
and ponder. And the more I brooded and pondered, the more did it seem to
me that everything now looked pretty smooth. Tuppy, I could see, despite
that painful scene in the larder, still loved Angela with all the old
This meant that I could rely on that plan to which I had referred to
bring home the bacon. And as I had found the way to straighten out the
Gussie-Bassett difficulty, there seemed nothing more to worry about.
It was with an uplifted heart that I addressed Jeeves as he came in to
remove the tea tray.
"Jeeves," I said.
"I've just been having a chat with young Tuppy, Jeeves. Did you
happen to notice that he wasn't looking very roguish this morning?'
"Yes, sir. It seemed to me that Mr. Glossop's face was sicklied o'er with
the pale cast of thought."
"Quite. He met my cousin Angela in the larder last night, and a rather
painful interview ensued."
"I am sorry, sir."
"Not half so sorry as he was. She found him closeted with a
steak-and-kidney pie, and appears to have been a bit caustic about fat
men who lived for food alone."
"Most disturbing, sir."
"Very. In fact, many people would say that things had gone so far between
these two nothing now could bridge the chasm. A girl who could make
cracks about human pythons who ate nine or ten meals a day and ought to
be careful not to hurry upstairs because of the danger of apoplectic fits
is a girl, many people would say, in whose heart love is dead. Wouldn't
people say that, Jeeves?"
"They would be wrong."
"You think so, sir?"
"I am convinced of it. I know these females. You can't go by what they
"You feel that Miss Angela's strictures should not be taken too much _an
pied de la lettre_, sir?"
"In English, we should say 'literally'."
"Literally. That's exactly what I mean. You know what girls are. A tiff
occurs, and they shoot their heads off. But underneath it all the old
love still remains. Am I correct?"
"Quite correct, sir. The poet Scott----"
"Right ho, Jeeves."
"Very good, sir."
"And in order to bring that old love whizzing to the surface once more,
all that is required is the proper treatment."
"By 'proper treatment,' sir, you mean----"
"Clever handling, Jeeves. A spot of the good old snaky work. I see what
must be done to jerk my Cousin Angela back to normalcy. I'll tell you,
"If you would be so kind, sir."
I lit a cigarette, and eyed him keenly through the smoke. He waited
respectfully for me to unleash the words of wisdom. I must say for Jeeves
that--till, as he is so apt to do, he starts shoving his oar in and
cavilling and obstructing--he makes a very good audience. I don't know if
he is actually agog, but he looks agog, and that's the great thing.
"Suppose you were strolling through the illimitable jungle, Jeeves, and
happened to meet a tiger cub."
"The contingency is a remote one, sir."
"Never mind. Let us suppose it."
"Very good, sir."
"Let us now suppose that you sloshed that tiger cub, and let us suppose
further that word reached its mother that it was being put upon. What
would you expect the attitude of that mother to be? In what frame of mind
do you consider that that tigress would approach you?"
"I should anticipate a certain show of annoyance, sir."
"And rightly. Due to what is known as the maternal instinct, what?"
"Very good, Jeeves. We will now suppose that there has recently been some
little coolness between this tiger cub and this tigress. For some days,
let us say, they have not been on speaking terms. Do you think that that
would make any difference to the vim with which the latter would leap to
the former's aid?"
"Exactly. Here, then, in brief, is my plan, Jeeves. I am going to draw my
Cousin Angela aside to a secluded spot and roast Tuppy properly."
"Knock. Slam. Tick-off. Abuse. Denounce. I shall be very terse about
Tuppy, giving it as my opinion that in all essentials he is more like a
wart hog than an ex-member of a fine old English public school. What will
ensue? Hearing him attacked, my Cousin Angela's womanly heart will be as
sick as mud. The maternal tigress in her will awake. No matter what
differences they may have had, she will remember only that he is the man
she loves, and will leap to his defence. And from that to falling into
his arms and burying the dead past will be but a step. How do you react
"The idea is an ingenious one, sir."
"We Woosters are ingenious, Jeeves, exceedingly ingenious."
"As a matter of fact, I am not speaking without a knowledge of the form
book. I have tested this theory."
"Yes, in person. And it works. I was standing on the Eden rock at Antibes
last month, idly watching the bathers disport themselves in the water,
and a girl I knew slightly pointed at a male diver and asked me if I
didn't think his legs were about the silliest-looking pair of props ever
issued to human being. I replied that I did, indeed, and for the space of
perhaps two minutes was extraordinarily witty and satirical about this
bird's underpinning. At the end of that period, I suddenly felt as if I
had been caught up in the tail of a cyclone.
"Beginning with a _critique_ of my own limbs, which she said, justly
enough, were nothing to write home about, this girl went on to dissect my
manners, morals, intellect, general physique, and method of eating
asparagus with such acerbity that by the time she had finished the best
you could say of Bertram was that, so far as was known, he had never
actually committed murder or set fire to an orphan asylum. Subsequent
investigation proved that she was engaged to the fellow with the legs and
had had a slight disagreement with him the evening before on the subject
of whether she should or should not have made an original call of two
spades, having seven, but without the ace. That night I saw them dining
together with every indication of relish, their differences made up and
the lovelight once more in their eyes. That shows you, Jeeves."
"I expect precisely similar results from my Cousin Angela when I start
roasting Tuppy. By lunchtime, I should imagine, the engagement will be on
again and the diamond-and-platinum ring glittering as of yore on her
third finger. Or is it the fourth?"
"Scarcely by luncheon time, sir. Miss Angela's maid informs me that Miss
Angela drove off in her car early this morning with the intention of
spending the day with friends in the vicinity."
"Well, within half an hour of whatever time she comes back, then. These
are mere straws, Jeeves. Do not let us chop them."
"The point is that, as far as Tuppy and Angela are concerned, we may say
with confidence that everything will shortly be hotsy-totsy once more.
And what an agreeable thought that is, Jeeves."
"Very true, sir."
"If there is one thing that gives me the pip, it is two loving hearts
"I can readily appreciate the fact, sir."
I placed the stub of my gasper in the ash tray and lit another, to
indicate that that completed Chap. I.
"Right ho, then. So much for the western front. We now turn to the
"I speak in parables, Jeeves. What I mean is, we now approach the matter
of Gussie and Miss Bassett."
"Here, Jeeves, more direct methods are required. In handling the case of
Augustus Fink-Nottle, we must keep always in mind the fact that we are
dealing with a poop."
"A sensitive plant would, perhaps, be a kinder expression, sir."
"No, Jeeves, a poop. And with poops one has to employ the strong,
forceful, straightforward policy. Psychology doesn't get you anywhere.
You, if I may remind you without wounding your feelings, fell into the
error of mucking about with psychology in connection with this Fink-Nottle,
and the result was a wash-out. You attempted to push him over the line by
rigging him out in a Mephistopheles costume and sending him off to a
fancy-dress ball, your view being that scarlet tights would embolden
"The matter was never actually put to the test, sir."
"No. Because he didn't get to the ball. And that strengthens my argument.
A man who can set out in a cab for a fancy-dress ball and not get there
is manifestly a poop of no common order. I don't think I have ever known
anybody else who was such a dashed silly ass that he couldn't even get to
a fancy-dress ball. Have you, Jeeves?"
"But don't forget this, because it is the point I wish, above all, to
make: Even if Gussie had got to that ball; even if those scarlet tights,
taken in conjunction with his horn-rimmed spectacles, hadn't given the
girl a fit of some kind; even if she had rallied from the shock and he
had been able to dance and generally hobnob with her; even then your
efforts would have been fruitless, because, Mephistopheles costume or no
Mephistopheles costume, Augustus Fink-Nottle would never have been able
to summon up the courage to ask her to be his. All that would have
resulted would have been that she would have got that lecture on newts a
few days earlier. And why, Jeeves? Shall I tell you why?"
"Because he would have been attempting the hopeless task of trying to do
the thing on orange juice."
"Gussie is an orange-juice addict. He drinks nothing else."
"I was not aware of that, sir."
"I have it from his own lips. Whether from some hereditary taint, or
because he promised his mother he wouldn't, or simply because he doesn't
like the taste of the stuff, Gussie Fink-Nottle has never in the whole
course of his career pushed so much as the simplest gin and tonic over
the larynx. And he expects--this poop expects, Jeeves--this wabbling,
shrinking, diffident rabbit in human shape expects under these conditions
to propose to the girl he loves. One hardly knows whether to smile or
"You consider total abstinence a handicap to a gentleman who wishes to
make a proposal of marriage, sir?"
The question amazed me.
"Why, dash it," I said, astounded, "you must know it is. Use your
intelligence, Jeeves. Reflect what proposing means. It means that a
decent, self-respecting chap has got to listen to himself saying things
which, if spoken on the silver screen, would cause him to dash to the
box-office and demand his money back. Let him attempt to do it on orange
juice, and what ensues? Shame seals his lips, or, if it doesn't do that,
makes him lose his morale and start to babble. Gussie, for example, as we
have seen, babbles of syncopated newts."
"Palmated newts, sir."
"Palmated or syncopated, it doesn't matter which. The point is that he
babbles and is going to babble again, if he has another try at it.
Unless--and this is where I want you to follow me very closely,
Jeeves--unless steps are taken at once through the proper channels. Only
active measures, promptly applied, can provide this poor, pusillanimous
poopwith the proper pep. And that is why, Jeeves, I intend tomorrow to
secure a bottle of gin and lace his luncheon orange juice with
I clicked the tongue.
"I have already had occasion, Jeeves," I said rebukingly, "to comment on
the way you say 'Well, sir' and 'Indeed, sir?' I take this opportunity of
informing you that I object equally strongly to your 'Sir?' pure and
simple. The word seems to suggest that in your opinion I have made a
statement or mooted a scheme so bizarre that your brain reels at it. In
the present instance, there is absolutely nothing to say 'Sir?' about.
The plan I have put forward is entirely reasonable and icily logical, and
should excite no sirring whatsoever. Or don't you think so?"
"I beg your pardon, sir. The expression escaped me inadvertently. What I
intended to say, since you press me, was that the action which you
propose does seem to me somewhat injudicious."
"Injudicious? I don't follow you, Jeeves."
"A certain amount of risk would enter into it, in my opinion, sir. It is
not always a simple matter to gauge the effect of alcohol on a subject
unaccustomed to such stimulant. I have known it to have distressing
results in the case of parrots."
"I was thinking of an incident of my earlier life, sir, before I entered
your employment. I was in the service of the late Lord Brancaster at the
time, a gentleman who owned a parrot to which he was greatly devoted, and
one day the bird chanced to be lethargic, and his lordship, with the
kindly intention of restoring it to its customary animation, offered it a
portion of seed cake steeped in the '84 port. The bird accepted the
morsel gratefully and consumed it with every indication of satisfaction.
Almost immediately afterwards, however, its manner became markedly
feverish. Having bitten his lordship in the thumb and sung part of a
sea-chanty, it fell to the bottom of the cage and remained there for a
considerable period of time with its legs in the air, unable to move. I
merely mention this, sir, in order to----"
I put my finger on the flaw. I had spotted it all along.
"But Gussie isn't a parrot."
"No, sir, but----"
"It is high time, in my opinion, that this question of what young Gussie
really is was threshed out and cleared up. He seems to think he is a male
newt, and you now appear to suggest that he is a parrot. The truth of the
matter being that he is just a plain, ordinary poop and needs a snootful
as badly as ever man did. So no more discussion, Jeeves. My mind is made
up. There is only one way of handling this difficult case, and that is
the way I have outlined."
"Very good, sir."
"Right ho, Jeeves. So much for that, then. Now here's something else: You
noticed that I said I was going to put this project through tomorrow, and
no doubt you wondered why I said tomorrow. Why did I, Jeeves?"
"Because you feel that if it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well
it were done quickly, sir?"
"Partly, Jeeves, but not altogether. My chief reason for fixing the date
as specified is that tomorrow, though you have doubtless forgotten, is
the day of the distribution of prizes at Market Snodsbury Grammar School,
at which, as you know, Gussie is to be the male star and master of the
revels. So you see we shall, by lacing that juice, not only embolden him
to propose to Miss Bassett, but also put him so into shape that he will
hold that Market Snodsbury audience spellbound."
"In fact, you will be killing two birds with one stone, sir."
"Exactly. A very neat way of putting it. And now here is a minor point.
On second thoughts, I think the best plan will be for you, not me, to
lace the juice."
"I beg your pardon, sir."
"And I'll tell you why that will be the best plan. Because you are in a
position to obtain ready access to the stuff. It is served to Gussie
daily, I have noticed, in an individual jug. This jug will presumably be
lying about the kitchen or somewhere before lunch tomorrow. It will be
the simplest of tasks for you to slip a few fingers of gin in it."
"No doubt, sir, but----"
"Don't say 'but,' Jeeves."
"I fear, sir----"
"'I fear, sir' is just as bad."
"What I am endeavouring to say, sir, is that I am sorry, but I am afraid
I must enter an unequivocal _nolle prosequi_."
"The expression is a legal one, sir, signifying the resolve not to
proceed with a matter. In other words, eager though I am to carry out
your instructions, sir, as a general rule, on this occasion I must
respectfully decline to co-operate."
"You won't do it, you mean?"
I was stunned. I began to understand how a general must feel when he has
ordered a regiment to charge and has been told that it isn't in the
"Jeeves," I said, "I had not expected this of you."
"No, indeed. Naturally, I realize that lacing Gussie's orange juice is
not one of those regular duties for which you receive the monthly
stipend, and if you care to stand on the strict letter of the contract, I
suppose there is nothing to be done about it. But you will permit me to
observe that this is scarcely the feudal spirit."
"I am sorry, sir."
"It is quite all right, Jeeves, quite all right. I am not angry, only a
"Very good, sir."
"Right ho, Jeeves."
Investigation proved that the friends Angela had gone to spend the day
with were some stately-home owners of the name of Stretchley-Budd,
hanging out in a joint called Kingham Manor, about eight miles distant in
the direction of Pershore. I didn't know these birds, but their
fascination must have been considerable, for she tore herself away from
them only just in time to get back and dress for dinner. It was,
accordingly, not until coffee had been consumed that I was able to get
matters moving. I found her in the drawing-room and at once proceeded to
put things in train.
It was with very different feelings from those which had animated the
bosom when approaching the Bassett twenty-four hours before in the same
manner in this same drawing-room that I headed for where she sat. As I
had told Tuppy, I have always been devoted to Angela, and there is
nothing I like better than a ramble in her company.
And I could see by the look of her now how sorely in need she was of my
aid and comfort.
Frankly, I was shocked by the unfortunate young prune's appearance. At
Cannes she had been a happy, smiling English girl of the best type, full
of beans and buck. Her face now was pale and drawn, like that of a hockey
centre-forward at a girls' school who, in addition to getting a fruity
one on the shin, has just been penalized for "sticks". In any normal
gathering, her demeanour would have excited instant remark, but the
standard of gloom at Brinkley Court had become so high that it passed
unnoticed. Indeed, I shouldn't wonder if Uncle Tom, crouched in his
corner waiting for the end, didn't think she was looking indecently
I got down to the agenda in my debonair way.
"What ho, Angela, old girl."
"Hullo, Bertie, darling."
"Glad you're back at last. I missed you."
"Did you, darling?"
"I did, indeed. Care to come for a saunter?"
"I'd love it."
"Fine. I have much to say to you that is not for the public ear."
I think at this moment poor old Tuppy must have got a sudden touch of
cramp. He had been sitting hard by, staring at the ceiling, and he now
gave a sharp leap like a gaffed salmon and upset a small table containing
a vase, a bowl of potpourri, two china dogs, and a copy of Omar Khayyam
bound in limp leather.
Aunt Dahlia uttered a startled hunting cry. Uncle Tom, who probably
imagined from the noise that this was civilization crashing at last,
helped things along by breaking a coffee-cup.
Tuppy said he was sorry. Aunt Dahlia, with a deathbed groan, said it
didn't matter. And Angela, having stared haughtily for a moment like a
princess of the old regime confronted by some notable example of
gaucherie on the part of some particularly foul member of the underworld,
accompanied me across the threshold. And presently I had deposited her
and self on one of the rustic benches in the garden, and was ready to
snap into the business of the evening.
I considered it best, however, before doing so, to ease things along with
a little informal chitchat. You don't want to rush a delicate job like
the one I had in hand. And so for a while we spoke of neutral topics. She
said that what had kept her so long at the Stretchley-Budds was that
Hilda Stretchley-Budd had made her stop on and help with the arrangements
for their servants' ball tomorrow night, a task which she couldn't very
well decline, as all the Brinkley Court domestic staff were to be
present. I said that a jolly night's revelry might be just what was
needed to cheer Anatole up and take his mind off things. To which she
replied that Anatole wasn't going. On being urged to do so by Aunt
Dahlia, she said, he had merely shaken his head sadly and gone on talking
of returning to Provence, where he was appreciated.
It was after the sombre silence induced by this statement that Angela
said the grass was wet and she thought she would go in.
This, of course, was entirely foreign to my policy.
"No, don't do that. I haven't had a chance to talk to you since you
"I shall ruin my shoes."
"Put your feet up on my lap."
"All right. And you can tickle my ankles."
Matters were accordingly arranged on these lines, and for some minutes we
continued chatting in desultory fashion. Then the conversation petered
out. I made a few observations _in re_ the scenic effects, featuring the
twilight hush, the peeping stars, and the soft glimmer of the waters of
the lake, and she said yes. Something rustled in the bushes in front of
us, and I advanced the theory that it was possibly a weasel, and she said
it might be. But it was plain that the girl was distraite, and I
considered it best to waste no more time.
"Well, old thing," I said, "I've heard all about your little dust-up So
those wedding bells are not going to ring out, what?"
"Definitely over, is it?"
"Well, if you want my opinion, I think that's a bit of goose for you,
Angela, old girl. I think you're extremely well out of it. It's a mystery
to me how you stood this Glossop so long. Take him for all in all, he
ranks very low down among the wines and spirits. A washout, I should
describe him as. A frightful oik, and a mass of side to boot. I'd pity
the girl who was linked for life to a bargee like Tuppy Glossop."
And I emitted a hard laugh--one of the sneering kind.
"I always thought you were such friends," said Angela.
I let go another hard one, with a bit more top spin on it than the first
"Friends? Absolutely not. One was civil, of course, when one met the
fellow, but it would be absurd to say one was a friend of his. A club
acquaintance, and a mere one at that. And then one was at school with the
"Good heavens, no. We wouldn't have a fellow like that at Eton. At a
kid's school before I went there. A grubby little brute he was, I
recollect. Covered with ink and mire generally, washing only on alternate
Thursdays. In short, a notable outsider, shunned by all."
I paused. I was more than a bit perturbed. Apart from the agony of having
to talk in this fashion of one who, except when he was looping back rings
and causing me to plunge into swimming baths in correct evening costume,
had always been a very dear and esteemed crony, I didn't seem to be
getting anywhere. Business was not resulting. Staring into the bushes
without a yip, she appeared to be bearing these slurs and innuendos of
mine with an easy calm.
I had another pop at it:
"'Uncouth' about sums it up. I doubt if I've ever seen an uncouther kid
than this Glossop. Ask anyone who knew him in those days to describe him
in a word, and the word they will use is 'uncouth'. And he's just the
same today. It's the old story. The boy is the father of the man."
She appeared not to have heard.
"The boy," I repeated, not wishing her to miss that one, "is the father
of the man."
"What are you talking about?"
"I'm talking about this Glossop."
"I thought you said something about somebody's father."
"I said the boy was the father of the man."
"The boy Glossop."
"He hasn't got a father."
"I never said he had. I said he was the father of the boy--or, rather, of
I saw that the conversation had reached a point where, unless care was
taken, we should be muddled.
"The point I am trying to make," I said, "is that the boy Glossop is the
father of the man Glossop. In other words, each loathsome fault and
blemish that led the boy Glossop to be frowned upon by his fellows is
present in the man Glossop, and causes him--I am speaking now of the man
Glossop--to be a hissing and a byword at places hike the Drones, where a
certain standard of decency is demanded from the inmates. Ask anyone at
the Drones, and they will tell you that it was a black day for the dear
old club when this chap Glossop somehow wriggled into the list of
members. Here you will find a man who dislikes his face; there one who
could stand his face if it wasn't for his habits. But the universal
consensus of opinion is that the fellow is a bounder and a tick, and that
the moment he showed signs of wanting to get into the place he should
have been met with a firm _nolle prosequi_ and heartily blackballed."
I had to pause again here, partly in order to take in a spot of breath,
and partly to wrestle with the almost physical torture of saying these
frightful things about poor old Tuppy.
"There are some chaps," I resumed, forcing myself once more to the
nauseous task, "who, in spite of looking as if they had slept in their
clothes, can get by quite nicely because they are amiable and suave.
There are others who, for all that they excite adverse comment by being
fat and uncouth, find themselves on the credit side of the ledger owing
to their wit and sparkling humour. But this Glossop, I regret to say,
falls into neither class. In addition to looking like one of those things
that come out of hollow trees, he is universally admitted to be a dumb
brick of the first water. No soul. No conversation. In short, any girl
who, having been rash enough to get engaged to him, has managed at the
eleventh hour to slide out is justly entitled to consider herself dashed
I paused once more, and cocked an eye at Angela to see how the treatment
was taking. All the while I had been speaking, she had sat gazing
silently into the bushes, but it seemed to me incredible that she should
not now turn on me like a tigress, according to specifications. It beat
me why she hadn't done it already. It seemed to me that a mere tithe of
what I had said, if said to a tigress about a tiger of which she was
fond, would have made her--the tigress, I mean--hit the ceiling.
And the next moment you could have knocked me down with a toothpick.
"Yes," she said, nodding thoughtfully, "you're quite right."
"That's exactly what I've been thinking myself."
"'Dumb brick.' It just describes him. One of the six silliest asses in
England, I should think he must be."
I did not speak. I was endeavouring to adjust the faculties, which were
in urgent need of a bit of first-aid treatment.
I mean to say, all this had come as a complete surprise. In formulating
the well-laid plan which I had just been putting into effect, the one
contingency I had not budgeted for was that she might adhere to the
sentiments which I expressed. I had braced myself for a gush of stormy
emotion. I was expecting the tearful ticking off, the girlish
recriminations and all the rest of the bag of tricks along those lines.
But this cordial agreement with my remarks I had not foreseen, and it
gave me what you might call pause for thought.
She proceeded to develop her theme, speaking in ringing, enthusiastic
tones, as if she loved the topic. Jeeves could tell you the word I want.
I think it's "ecstatic", unless that's the sort of rash you get on your
face and have to use ointment for. But if that is the right word, then
that's what her manner was as she ventilated the subject of poor old
Tuppy. If you had been able to go simply by the sound of her voice, she
might have been a court poet cutting loose about an Oriental monarch, or
Gussie Fink-Nottle describing his last consignment of newts.
"It's so nice, Bertie, talking to somebody who really takes a sensible
view about this man Glossop. Mother says he's a good chap, which is
simply absurd. Anybody can see that he's absolutely impossible. He's
conceited and opinionative and argues all the time, even when he knows
perfectly well that he's talking through his hat, and he smokes too much
and eats too much and drinks too much, and I don't like the colour of his
hair. Not that he'll have any hair in a year or two, because he's pretty
thin on the top already, and before he knows where he is he'll be as bald
as an egg, and he's the last man who can afford to go bald. And I think
it's simply disgusting, the way he gorges all the time. Do you know, I
found him in the larder at one o'clock this morning, absolutely wallowing
in a steak-and-kidney pie? There was hardly any of it left. And you
remember what an enormous dinner he had. Quite disgusting, I call it. But
I can't stop out here all night, talking about men who aren't worth
wasting a word on and haven't even enough sense to tell sharks from
flatfish. I'm going in."
And gathering about her slim shoulders the shawl which she had put on as
a protection against the evening dew, she buzzed off, leaving me alone in
the silent night.
Well, as a matter of fact, not absolutely alone, because a few moments
later there was a sort of upheaval in the bushes in front of me, and
I gave him the eye. The evening had begun to draw in a bit by now and the
visibility, in consequence, was not so hot, but there still remained
ample light to enable me to see him clearly. And what I saw convinced me
that I should be a lot easier in my mind with a stout rustic bench
between us. I rose, accordingly, modelling my style on that of a
rocketing pheasant, and proceeded to deposit myself on the other side of
the object named.
My prompt agility was not without its effect. He seemed somewhat taken
aback. He came to a halt, and, for about the space of time required to
allow a bead of persp. to trickle from the top of the brow to the tip of
the nose, stood gazing at me in silence.
"So!" he said at length, and it came as a complete surprise to me that
fellows ever really do say "So!" I had always thought it was just a thing
you read in books. Like "Quotha!" I mean to say, or "Odds bodikins!" or
even "Eh, ba goom!"
Still, there it was. Quaint or not quaint, bizarre or not bizarre, he had
said "So!" and it was up to me to cope with the situation on those lines.
It would have been a duller man than Bertram Wooster who had failed to
note that the dear old chap was a bit steamed up. Whether his eyes were
actually shooting forth flame, I couldn't tell you, but there appeared to
me to be a distinct incandescence. For the rest, his fists were clenched,
his ears quivering, and the muscles of his jaw rotating rhythmically, as
if he were making an early supper off something.
His hair was full of twigs, and there was a beetle hanging to the side of
his head which would have interested Gussie Fink-Nottle. To this,
however, I paid scant attention. There is a time for studying beetles and
a time for not studying beetles.
"So!" he said again.
Now, those who know Bertram Wooster best will tell you that he is always
at his shrewdest and most level-headed in moments of peril. Who was it
who, when gripped by the arm of the law on boat-race night not so many
years ago and hauled off to Vine Street police station, assumed in a
flash the identity of Eustace H. Plimsoll, of The Laburnums, Alleyn Road,
West Dulwich, thus saving the grand old name of Wooster from being
dragged in the mire and avoiding wide publicity of the wrong sort? Who
was it ...
But I need not labour the point. My record speaks for itself. Three times
pinched, but never once sentenced under the correct label. Ask anyone at
the Drones about this.
So now, in a situation threatening to become every moment more scaly, I
did not lose my head. I preserved the old sang-froid. Smiling a genial
and affectionate smile, and hoping that it wasn't too dark for it to
register, I spoke with a jolly cordiality:
"Why, hallo, Tuppy. You here?"
He said, yes, he was here.
"Been here long?"
"Fine. I wanted to see you."
"Well, here I am. Come out from behind that bench."
"No, thanks, old man. I like leaning on it. It seems to rest the spine."
"In about two seconds," said Tuppy, "I'm going to kick your spine up
through the top of your head."
I raised the eyebrows. Not much good, of course, in that light, but it
seemed to help the general composition.
"Is this Hildebrand Glossop speaking?" I said.
He replied that it was, adding that if I wanted to make sure I might move
a few feet over in his direction. He also called me an opprobrious name.
I raised the eyebrows again.
"Come, come, Tuppy, don't let us let this little chat become acrid. Is
'acrid' the word I want?"
"I couldn't say," he replied, beginning to sidle round the bench.
I saw that anything I might wish to say must be said quickly. Already he
had sidled some six feet. And though, by dint of sidling, too, I had
managed to keep the bench between us, who could predict how long this
happy state of affairs would last?
I came to the point, therefore.
"I think I know what's on your mind, Tuppy," I said. "If you were in
those bushes during my conversation with the recent Angela, I dare say
you heard what I was saying about you."
"I see. Well, we won't go into the ethics of the thing. Eavesdropping,
some people might call it, and I can imagine stern critics drawing in the
breath to some extent. Considering it--I don't want to hurt your
feelings, Tuppy--but considering it un-English. A bit un-English, Tuppy,
old man, you must admit."
"Really?" I said. "I never knew that before. Rummy how you don't suspect
a man of being Scotch unless he's Mac-something and says 'Och, aye' and
things like that. I wonder," I went on, feeling that an academic
discussion on some neutral topic might ease the tension, "if you can tell
me something that has puzzled me a good deal. What exactly is it that
they put into haggis? I've often wondered about that."
From the fact that his only response to the question was to leap over the
bench and make a grab at me, I gathered that his mind was not on haggis.
"However," I said, leaping over the bench in my turn, "that is a side
issue. If, to come back to it, you were in those bushes and heard what I
was saying about you----"
He began to move round the bench in a nor'-nor'-easterly direction. I
followed his example, setting a course sou'-sou'-west.
"No doubt you were surprised at the way I was talking."
"Not a bit."
"What? Did nothing strike you as odd in the tone of my remarks?"
"It was just the sort of stuff I should have expected a treacherous,
sneaking hound like you to say."
"My dear chap," I protested, "this is not your usual form. A bit slow in
the uptake, surely? I should have thought you would have spotted right
away that it was all part of a well-laid plan."
"I'll get you in a jiffy," said Tuppy, recovering his balance after a
swift clutch at my neck. And so probable did this seem that I delayed no
longer, but hastened to place all the facts before him.