Authors: P G Wodehouse
P. G. Wodehouse
BARRIE AND JENKINS
Table of Contents
and the Greasy Bird
The shades of night were falling fairly fast as I latchkeyed self and suitcase into the Wooster G.H.Q. Jeeves was in the sitting room messing about with holly, for we would soon be having Christmas at our throats and he is always a stickler for doing the right thing. I gave him a cheery greeting.
"Well, Jeeves, here I am, back again."
"Good evening, sir. Did you have a pleasant visit?"
"Not too bad. But I'm glad to be home. What was it the fellow said about home?”
"If your allusion is to the American poet John Howard Payne, sir, he compared it to its advantage with pleasures and palaces. He called it sweet and said there was no place like it."
"And he wasn't so far out. Shrewd chap, John Howard Payne."
"I believe he gave uniform satisfaction, sir."
I had just returned from a week end at the Chuffnel Regis clinic of Sir Roderick Glossop, the eminent loony doctor or nerve specialist as he prefers to call himself—not, I may add, as a patient but as a guest. My Aunt Dahlia's cousin Percy had recently put in there for repairs, and she had asked me to pop down and see how he was making out. He had got the idea, I don't know why, that he was being followed about by little men with black beards, a state of affairs which he naturally wished to have adjusted with all possible speed.
"You know, Jeeves," I said some moments later, as I sat quaffing the whisky-and-s with which he had supplied me, "life's odd, you can't say it isn't. You never know where you are with it."
"There was some particular aspect of it that you had in mind, sir?"
"I was thinking of me and Sir R. Glossop. Who would ever have thought the day would come when he and I would be hobnobbing like a couple of sailors on shore leave? There was a time, you probably remember, when he filled me with a nameless fear and I leaped like a startled grasshopper at the sound o his name. You have not forgotten?"
"No, sir, I recall that you viewed Sir Roderick with concern.
"And he me with ditto."
"Yes, sir, a stiffness certainly existed. There was no fusion between your souls."
"Yet now our relations are as cordial as they can stick. The barriers that separated us have come down with a bump, beam at him. He beams at me. He calls me Bertie. I call him Roddy. To put the thing in a nutshell, the dove of peace is in a rising market and may quite possibly go to par. Of course, like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, if I've got the names right we passed through the furnace together, and that always for a bond."
I was alluding to the time when—from motives I need not go into beyond saying that they were fundamentally sound- we had both blacked our faces, he with burned cork, I with boot polish, and had spent a night of terror wandering through Chuffnel Regis with no place to lay our heads, as the expression is. You don't remain on distant terms with somebody you've shared an experience like that with.
"But I'll tell you something about Roddy Glossop, Jeeves said, having swallowed a rather grave swallow of the strengthening fluid. "He has something on his mind. Physically I found him in excellent shape—few fiddles could have been fitter—but he was gloomy...distrait...brooding. Conversing with him, one felt that his thoughts were far away and that those thoughts were stinkers. I could hardly get a word out of him. It made me feel like that fellow in the Bible who tried to charm the deaf adder and didn't get to first base. There was a blighter named Blair Eggleston there, and it may have been this that depressed him, for this Eggleston...Ever hear of him? He writes books."
"Yes, sir. Mr. Eggleston is one of our angry young novelists. The critics describe his work as frank, forthright and fearless."
"Oh, do they? Well, whatever his literary merits he struck me as a fairly noxious-specimen. What's he angry about?"
"He disapproves of it?"
"So one would gather from his output, sir."
"Well, I disapproved of him, which makes us all square. But I don't think it was having him around that caused the Glossop gloom. I am convinced that the thing goes deeper than that. I believe it's something to do with his love life."
I must mention that while at Chuffnell Regis Pop Glossop, who was a widower with one daughter, had become betrothed to Myrtle, Lady Chuffnell, the aunt of my old crony Marmaduke ('Chuffy') Chuffnell, and that I should have found him still single more than a year later seemed strange to me. One would certainly have expected him by this time to have raised the price of a marriage licence and had the Bishop and assistant clergy getting their noses down to it. A redblooded loony doctor under the influence of the divine passion ought surely to have put the thing through months ago.
"Do you think they've had a row, Jeeves?"
"Sir Roderick and Lady Chuffnel."
"Oh no, sir. I am sure there is no diminution of affection on either side."
"Then why the snag?"
"Her ladyship refuses to take part in the wedding ceremony while Sir Roderick's daughter remains unmarried, sir. She has stated in set terms that nothing will induce her to share a home with Miss Glossop. This would naturally render Sir Roderick moody and despondent."
A bright light flashed upon me. I saw all. As usual, Jeeves had got to the very heart of the matter.
A thing that always bothers me when compiling these memoirs of mine is the problem of what steps to take when I bring on the stage a dramatis persona, as I believe the expression is, who has already appeared in some earlier instalment. Will the customers, I ask myself, remember him or her, or will they have completely forgotten her or him, in which case they will naturally want a few footnotes to put them abreast. This difficulty arises in regard to Honoria Glossop, who got into the act in what I suppose would be about Chapter Two of the Wooster Story. Some will recall her, but there may be those who will protest that they have never heard of the beazel in their lives, so perhaps better be on the safe side and risk the displeasure of the blokes with good memories.
Here, then, is what I recorded with ref to this H. Glossop at the time when owing to circumstances over which I had no control we had become engaged.
'Honoria Glossop,' I wrote, 'was one of those large, strenuous, dynamic girls with the physique of a middleweight catch-as-catch-can wrestler and a laugh resembling the sound made by the Scotch Express going under a bridge. The effect she had on me was to make me slide into a cellar and lie low there till they blew the All Clear.'
One could readily, therefore, understand the reluctance of Myrtle, Lady Chuffnell to team up with Sir Roderick while the above was still a member of the home circle. The stand she had taken reflected great credit on her sturdy commonsense, I considered.
A thought struck me, the thought I so often have when Jeeves starts dishing the dirt.
"How do you know all this, Jeeves? Did he confer with you?" I said, for I knew how wide his consulting practice was. ‘Put it up to Jeeves' is so much the slogan in my circle of acquaintance that it might be that even Sir Roderick Glossop, finding himself on a sticky wicket, had decided to place his affairs in his hands. Jeeves is like Sherlock Holmes. The highest in the land come to him with their problems. For all I know, they may give him jewelled snuff boxes. It appeared that I had guessed wrong.
"No, sir, I have not been honoured with Sir Roderick's confidence."
"Then how did you find out about his spot of trouble? By extra-whatever-it's-called?"
"Extra-sensory perception? No, sir. I happened to be glancing yesterday at the G section of the club book."
I got the gist. Jeeves belongs to a butlers and valets club in Curzon Street called the Junior Ganymede, and they have a book there in which members are required to enter information about their employers. I remember how stunned I was when he told me one day that there are eleven pages about me in it.
"The data concerning Sir Roderick and the unfortunate situation in which he finds himself were supplied by Mr. Dobson."
"Sir Roderick's butler, sir."
"Of course, yes," I said, recalling the dignified figure into whose palm I had pressed a couple of quid on leaving that morning. "But surely Sir Roderick didn't confide in him?"
"No, sir, but Dobson's hearing is very acute and it enabled him to learn the substance of conversations between Sir Roderick and her ladyship."
"He listened at the keyhole?"
"So one would be disposed to imagine, sir."
I mused awhile. So that was how the cookie crumbled. A pang of p for the toad beneath the harrow whose affairs we were discussing passed through me. It would have been plain to a far duller auditor than Bertram Wooster that poor old Roddy was in a spot. I knew how deep was his affection and esteem for Chuffy's Aunt Myrtle. Even when he was liberally coated with burned cork that night at Chuffnell Regis I had been able to detect the lovelight in his eyes as he spoke of her. And when I reflected how improbable it was that anyone would ever be ass enough to marry his daughter Honoria. thus making his path straight and ironing out the bugs in the scenario, my heart bled for him. I mentioned this to Jeeves.
"Jeeves," I said, "my heart bleeds for Sir R. Glossop."
"Does your heart bleed for him?"
"And nothing to be done about it. We are helpless to assist."
"One fears so, sir."
"Life can be very sad, Jeeves."
"I'm not surprised that Blair Eggleston has taken a dislike to it."
"Perhaps you had better bring me another whisky-and-s, to cheer me up. And after that I'll pop off to the Drones for a bite to eat."
He gave me an apologetic look. He does this by allowing one eyebrow to flicker for a moment.
"I am sorry to say I have been remiss, sir. I inadvertently forgot to mention that Mrs. Travers is expecting you to entertain her to dinner here tonight."
"But isn't she at Brinkley?"
"No, sir, she has temporarily left Brinkley Court and taken up residence at her town house in order to complete her Christmas shopping."
"And she wants me to give her dinner?"
"That was the substance of her words to me on the telephone this morning, sir."
My gloom lightened perceptibly. This Mrs. Travers is my good and deserving Aunt Dahlia, with whom it is always a privilege and pleasure to chew the fat. I would be seeing her, of course, when I went to Brinkley for Christmas, but getting this preview was an added attraction. If anyone could take my mind off the sad case of Roddy Glossop, it was she. I looked forward to the reunion with bright anticipation. I little knew that she had a bombshell up her sleeve and would be touching it off under my trouser seat while the night was yet young.