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

‘Sorry to keep you waiting, Jeeves,’ I said. ‘Hope you weren’t bored?’

‘Oh no, sir, thank you. I was quite happy with my Spinoza.’


‘The copy of Spinoza’s Ethics which you kindly gave me some time ago.’

‘Oh, ah, yes, I remember. Good stuff?’

‘Extremely, sir.’

‘I suppose it turns out in the end that the butler did it. Well, Jeeves, you’ll be glad to hear that everything’s under control.’

‘Indeed, sir?’

‘Yes, rift in lute mended and wedding bells liable to ring out at any moment. She’s changed her mind.’

‘Varium et mutabile semper femina, sir.’

‘I shouldn’t wonder. And now,’ I said, climbing in and taking the wheel, ‘I’ll unfold the tale of Wilbert and the cow-creamer, and if that doesn’t make your knotted locks do a bit of starting from their spheres, I for one shall be greatly surprised.’


Arriving at Brinkley in the quiet evenfall and putting the old machine away in the garage, I noticed that Aunt Dahlia’s car was there and gathered from this that the aged relative was around and about once more. Nor was I in error. I found her in her boudoir getting outside a dish of tea and a crumpet. She greeted me with one of those piercing view-halloos which she had picked up on the hunting field in the days when she had been an energetic chivvier of the British fox. It sounded like a gas explosion and went through me from stem to stem. I’ve never hunted myself, but I understand that half the battle is being able to make noises like some jungle animal with dyspepsia, and I believe that Aunt Dahlia in her prime could lift fellow-members of the Quorn and Pytchley out of their saddles with a single yip, though separated from them by two ploughed fields and a spinney.

‘Hullo, ugly,’ she said. ‘Turned up again, have you?’

‘Just this moment breasted the tape.’

‘Been to Herne Bay, young Herring tells me.’

‘Yes, to fetch Jeeves. How’s Bonzo?’

‘Spotty but cheerful. What did you want Jeeves for?’

‘Well, as it turns out, his presence isn’t needed, but I only discovered that when I was half-way here. I was bringing him along to meditate … no, it isn’t meditate … to mediate, that’s the word, between Bobbie Wickham and Kipper. You knew they were betrothed?’

‘Yes, she told me.’

‘Did she tell you about shoving that thing in The Times saying she was engaged to me?’

‘I was the first in whom she confided. I got a good laugh out of that.’

‘More than Kipper did, because it hadn’t occurred to the cloth- headed young nitwit to confide in him. When he read the announcement, he reeled and everything went black. It knocked his faith in woman for a loop, and after seething for a while he sat down and wrote her a letter in the Thomas Otway vein.’

‘In the who’s vein?’

‘You are not familiar with Thomas Otway? Seventeenth-century dramatist, celebrated for making bitter cracks about the other sex. Wrote a play called The Orphan, which is full of them.’

‘So you do read something beside the comics?’

‘Well, actually I haven’t steeped myself to any great extent in Thos’s output, but Kipper told me about him. He held the view that women are a mess, and Kipper passed this information on to Bobbie in this letter of which I speak. It was a snorter.’

‘And you never thought of explaining to him, I suppose?’

‘Of course I did. But by that time she’d got the letter.’

‘Why didn’t the idiot tell her not to open it?’

‘It was his first move. “I’ve found a letter from you here, precious,” she said. “On no account open it, angel,” he said. So of course she opened it.’

She pursed the lips, nodded the loaf, and ate a moody piece of crumpet.

‘So that’s why he’s been going about looking like a dead fish. I suppose Roberta broke the engagement?’

‘In a speech lasting five minutes without a pause for breath.’

‘And you brought Jeeves along to mediate?’

‘That was the idea.’

‘But if things have gone as far as that…’

‘You doubt whether even Jeeves can heal the rift?’ I patted her on the top knot. ‘Dry the starting tear, old ancestor, it’s healed. I met her at a pub on the way here, and she told me that almost immediately after she had flipped her lid in the manner described she had a change of heart. She loves him still with a passion that’s more like boiling oil than anything, and when we parted she was tooling off to tell him so. By this time they must be like ham and eggs again. It’s a great burden off my mind, because, having parted brass rags with Kipper, she announced her intention of marrying me.’

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