P.G.Wodehouse. Jeeves in the offing, 1960

‘I think you may be referring to the ghost of the father of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, sir. Addressing his son, he said “I could a tale unfold whose lightest word would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood, make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their spheres, thy knotted and combined locks to part and each particular hair to stand on end like quills upon the fretful porpentine.”‘

‘That’s right. Locks, of course, not socks. Odd that he should have said porpentine when he meant porcupine. Slip of the tongue, no doubt, as so often happens with ghosts. Well, he had nothing on me, Jeeves. It’s a tale of that precise nature that I am about to unfold. Are you listening?’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘Then hold on to your hat and don’t miss a word.’

When I had finished unfolding, he said, ‘I can readily appreciate your concern, sir. The situation, as you say, is one fraught with anxiety,’ which is pitching it strong for Jeeves, he as a rule coming through with a mere ‘Most disturbing, sir.’

‘I will come to Brinkley Court immediately, sir.’

‘Will you really? I hate to interrupt your holiday.’

‘Not at all, sir.’

‘You can resume it later.’

‘Certainly, sir, if that is convenient to you.’

‘But now -‘

‘Precisely sir. Now, if I may borrow a familiar phrase -‘

‘ – is the time for all good men to come to the aid of the party?’

‘The very words I was about to employ, sir. I will call at the apartment at as early an hour tomorrow as is possible.’

‘And we’ll drive down together. Right,’ I said, and went off to my simple but wholesome dinner.

It was with … well, not quite an uplifted heart… call it a heart lifted about half way … that I started out for Brinkley on the following afternoon. The thought that Jeeves was at my side, his fish- fed brain at my disposal, caused a spot of silver lining to gleam through the storm clouds, but only a spot, for I was asking myself if even Jeeves might not fail to find a solution of the problem that had raised its ugly head. Admittedly expert though he was at joining sundered hearts, he had rarely been up against a rift within the lute so complete as that within the lute of Roberta Wickham and Reginald Herring, and as I remember hearing him say once, ’tis not in mortals to command success. And at the thought of what would ensue, were he to fall down on the assignment, I quivered like something in aspic. I could not forget that Bobbie, while handing Kipper his hat, had expressed in set terms her intention of lugging me to the altar rails and signalling to the clergyman to do his stuff. So as I drove along the heart, as I have indicated, was uplifted only to a medium extent.

When we were out of the London traffic and it was possible to converse without bumping into buses and pedestrians, I threw the meeting open for debate.

‘You have not forgotten our telephone conversation of yestreen, Jeeves?’

‘No, sir.’

‘You have the salient points docketed in your mind?’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘Have you been brooding on them?’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘Got a bite of any sort?’

‘Not yet, sir.’

‘No, I hardly expected you would. These things always take time.’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘The core of the matter is,’ I said, twiddling the wheel to avoid a passing hen, ‘that in Roberta Wickham we are dealing with a girl of high and haughty spirit.’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘And girls of high and haughty spirit need kidding along. This cannot be done by calling them carrot-topped Jezebels.’

‘No, sir.’

‘I know if anyone called me a carrot-topped Jezebel, umbrage is the first thing I’d take. Who was Jezebel, by the way? The name seems familiar, but I can’t place her.’

‘A character in the Old Testament, sir. A queen of Israel.’

‘Of course, yes. Be forgetting my own name next. Eaten by dogs, wasn’t she?’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘Can’t have been pleasant for her.’

‘No, sir.’

‘Still, that’s the way the ball rolls. Talking of being eaten by dogs, there’s a dachshund at Brinkley who when you first meet him will give you the impression that he plans to convert you into a light snack between his regular meals. Pay no attention. It’s all eyewash. His belligerent attitude is simply -‘

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Categories: Wodehouse, P G