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Authors: P G Wodehouse

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BOOK: Plum Pie
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"Not if one of them is solid ivory from the neck up," said the aged relative, reverting to something more like her customary form.

I slept fitfully that night, my slumbers much disturbed by dreams of being chased across country by a pack of Fairy Queens with Jas Waterbury galloping after them shouting Yoicks and Tally ho. It was past eleven when I presented myself at the breakfast table.

"I take it, Jeeves," I said as I started to pick at a moody fried egg, "that Aunt Dahlia has told you all?"

"Yes, sir, Mrs. Travers was most informative."

Well, that was a relief in a way, because all that secrecy and A-and-B stuff is always a strain

"Disaster looms, wouldn't you say?"

"Certainly your predicament is one of some gravity, sir."

"I can't face a breach of promise action with a crowded court giving me the horse's laugh and the jury mulcting...Is it mulcting?"

"Yes, sir, you are quite correct."

"And the jury mulcting me in heavy damages. I wouldn't be able to show my face in the Drones again."

"The publicity would certainly not be agreeable, sir."

"On the other hand, I thoroughly dislike the idea of paying Jas Waterbury two thousand pounds."

"I can appreciate your dilemma, sir."

"But perhaps you have already thought of some terrific scheme for foiling Jas and bringing his greasy hairs in sorrow to the grave. What do you plan to do when he calls?"

"I shall attempt to reason with him, sir."

The heart turned to lead in the bosom. I suppose I've become so used to having Jeeves wave his magic wand and knock the stuffing out of the stickiest crises that I expect him to produce something brilliant from the hat every time, and though never at ray brightest at breakfast I could see that what he was proposing to do was far from being what Jas Waterbury would have called box office. Reason with him, forsooth! To reason successfully with that king of the twisters one would need brass knuckles and a stocking full of sand. There was reproach in my voice as I asked him if that was the best he could do.

"You do not think highly of the idea, sir?"

"Well, I don't want to hurt your feelings---"

"Not at all, sir."

"---but I wouldn't call it one of your top thoughts."

"I am sorry, sir. Nevertheless---"

I leaped from the table, the fried egg frozen on my lips. The front door bell had given tongue. I don't know if my eyes actually rolled as I gazed at Jeeves, but I should think it extremely likely, for the sound had got in amongst me like the touching off an ounce or so of trinitrotoluol.

"There he is!"

"Presumably, sir."

"I can't face him as early in the morning as this."

"One appreciates your emotion, sir. It might be advisable if you were to conceal yourself while I conduct the negotiations. Behind the piano suggests itself as a suitable locale."

"How right you are, Jeeves!"

To say that I found it comfortable behind the piano would be to give my public a totally erroneous impression, but I secured privacy, and privacy was just what I was after. The facilities, too, for keeping in touch with what was going on in the great world outside were excellent. I heard the door opening and then Jas Waterbury's voice.

"Morning, cocky."

"Good morning, sir."

"Wooster in?"

"No, sir, he has just stepped out."

"That's odd. He was expecting me."

"You are Mr. Waterbury?"

"That's me. Where's he gone?"

"I think it was Mr. Wooster's intention to visit his pawnbroker, sir."


"He mentioned something to me about doing so. He said he hoped to raise, as he expressed it, a few pounds on his watch."

"You're kidding! What's he want to pop his watch for?"

"His means are extremely straightened."

There was what I've heard called a pregnant silence. I took it that Jas Waterbury was taking time off to allow this to sink in. I wished I could have joined in the conversation, for I would have liked to say 'Jeeves, you are on the right lines' and offer him an apology for ever having doubted him. I might have known that when he said he was going to reason with Jas he had the ace up his sleeve which makes all the difference.

It was some little time before Jas Waterbury spoke, and when he did his voice had a sort of tremolo in it, as if he'd begun to realize that life wasn't the thing of roses and sunshine he'd been thinking it. I knew how he must be feeling. There is no anguish like that of the man who, supposing that he has found the pot of gold behind the rainbow, suddenly learns from an authoritative source that he hasn't, if you know what I mean. To him until now Bertram Wooster had been a careless scatterer of fifteen quids, a thing you can't do if you haven't a solid bank balance behind you, and to have him presented to him as a popper of watches must have made the iron enter into his soul, if he had one. He spoke as if stunned.

"But what about this place of his?"


"You don't get a Park Lane flat for nothing."

"No, indeed, sir."

"Let alone a vally."


"You're a vally, aren't you?"

"No, sir. I was at one time a gentleman's personal gentleman, but at the moment I am not employed in that capacity. I represent Messrs. Alsopp and Wilson, wine merchants, goods supplied to the value of three hundred and four pounds, fifteen shillings and eightpence, a bill which Mr. Wooster finds it far beyond his fiscal means to settle. I am what is technically known as the man in possession."

A hoarse 'Gorblimey' burst from Jas's lips. I thought it rather creditable of him that he did not say anything stronger.

"You mean you're a broker's man?"

"Precisely, sir. I am sorry to say I have come down in the world and my present situation was the only one I could secure. But while not what I have been accustomed to, it has its compensations. Mr. Wooster is a very agreeable young gentleman and takes my intrusion in an amiable spirit. We have long and interesting conversations, and in the course of these he has confided his financial position to me. It appears that he is entirely dependent on the bounty of his aunt, a Mrs. Travers, a lady of uncertain temper who has several times threatened unless he curbs his extravagance to cancel his allowance and send him to Canada to subsist on a small monthly remittance. She is of course under the impression that I am Mr. Wooster's personal attendant. Should she learn of my official status, I do not like to envisage the outcome, though if I may venture on a pleasantry, it would be a case of outgo rather than outcome for Mr. Wooster.

There was another pregnant s, occupied. I should imagine, by Jas Waterbury in wiping his brow, which one presumes had by this time become wet with honest sweat.

Finally he once more said 'Gorblimey'.

Whether or not he would have amplified the remark I cannot say, for his words, if he had intended uttering any, were dashed from his lips. There was a sound like a mighty rushing wind and a loud snort informed me that Aunt Dahlia was with us. In letting Jas Waterbury in, Jeeves must have omitted to close the front door.

"Jeeves," she boomed, "can you look me in the face?"

"Certainly, madam, if you wish."

"Well, I'm surprised you can. You must have the gall of an Army mule. I've just found out that you're a broker's man in valet's clothing. Can you deny it?"

"No, madam. I represent Messrs. Alsopp and Wilson, wines, spirits and liqueurs supplied to the value of three hundred and four pounds fifteen shillings and eightpence."

The piano behind which I cowered hummed like a dynamo as the aged relative unshipped a second snort.

"Good God! What does young Bertie do—bathe in the stuff? Three hundred and four pounds fifteen shillings and eightpence! Probably owes as much, too, in a dozen other places. And in the red to that extent he's planning, I hear, to marry the fat woman in a circus."

"A portrayer of Fairy Queens in pantomime, madam."

"Just as bad. Blair Eggleston says she looks like a hippopotamus."

I couldn't see him, of course, but I imagine Jas Waterbury drew himself to his full height at this description of a loved niece, for his voice when he spoke was stiff and offended.

"That's my Trixie you're talking about, and he's going to marry her or else get sued for breach of promise."

It's just a guess, but I think Aunt Dahlia must have drawn herself to her full height, too.

"Well, she'll have to go to Canada to bring her action," she thundered, "because that's where Bertie Wooster'll be off to on the next boat, and when he's there he won't have money to fritter away on breach of promise cases. It'll be as much as he can manage to keep body and soul together on what I'm going to allow him. If he gets a meat meal every third day, he'll be lucky. You tell that Trixie of yours to forget Bertie and go and marry the Demon King."

Experience has taught me that except in vital matters like playing Santa Claus at children's parties it's impossible to defy Aunt Dahlia, and apparently Jas Waterbury realized this, for a moment later I heard the front door slam. He had gone without a cry.

"So that's that," said Aunt Dahlia. "These emotional scenes take it out of one, Jeeves. Can you get me a drop of something sustaining?"

"Certainly, madam."

"How was I? All right?"

"Superb, madam."

"I think I was in good voice."

"Very sonorous, madam."

"Well, it's nice to think our efforts were crowned with success. This will relieve young Bertie's mind. I use the word mind loosely. When do you expect him back?"

"Mr. Wooster is in residence, madam. Shrinking from confronting Mr. Waterbury, he prudently concealed himself. You will find him behind the piano."

I was already emerging, and my first act was to pay them both a marked tribute. Jeeves accepted it gracefully, Aunt Dahlia with another of those snorts. Having snorted, she spoke as follows.

"Easy enough for you to hand out the soft soap, but what I'd like to see is less guff and more action. If you were really grateful, you would play Santa Claus at my Christmas party."

I could see her point. It was well taken. I clenched the hands. I set the jaw. I made the great decision.

"Very well, aged relative."

"You will?"

"I will."

"That's my boy. What's there to be afraid of? The worst those kids will do is rub chocolate eclairs on your whiskers."

"Chocolate eclairs?" I said in a low voice.

"Or strawberry jam. It's a tribal custom. Pay no attention, by the way, to stories you may have heard of them setting fire to the curate's beard last year. It was purely accidental."

I had begun to go into my aspen act, when Jeeves spoke.

"Pardon me, madam."

"Yes, Jeeves?"

"If I might offer the suggestion, I think that perhaps a maturer artist than Mr. Wooster would give a more convincing performance."

"Don't tell me you're thinking of volunteering?"

"No, madam. The artist I had in mind was Sir Roderick Glossop. Sir Roderick has a fine presence and a somewhat deeper voice than Mr. Wooster. His Ho-ho-ho would be more dramatically effective, and I am sure that if you approached him, you could persuade him to undertake the role."

"Considering," I said, putting in my oar, "that he is always blacking up his face with burned cork."

"Precisely, sir. This will make a nice change."

Aunt Dahlia pondered.

"I believe you're right, Jeeves," she said at length. "It's tough on those children, for it means robbing them of the biggest laugh they've ever had, but they can't expect life to be one round of pleasure. Well, I don't think I'll have that drink after all. It's a bit early."

She buzzed off, and I turned to Jeeves, deeply moved. He had saved me from an ordeal at the thought of which the flesh crept, for I hadn't believed for a moment the aged r's story of the blaze in the curate's beard having been an accident. The younger element had probably sat up nights planning it out.

"Jeeves," I said, "you were saying something not long ago about going to Florida after Christmas."

"It was merely a suggestion, sir."

"You want to catch a tarpon, do you not?"

"I confess that it is my ambition, sir."

I sighed. It wasn't so much that it pained me to think of some tarpon, perhaps a wife and mother, being jerked from the society of its loved ones on the end of a hook. What gashed me like a knife was the thought of missing the Drones Club Darts Tournament, for which I would have been a snip this year. But what would you? I fought down my regret.

"Then will you be booking the tickets."

"Very good, sir."

I struck a graver note.

"Heaven help the tarpon that tries to pit its feeble cunning against you, Jeeves," I said. "Its efforts will be bootless."


Our Man in America








"Not guilty!" spectators pouring out of a Denver, Colorado, courtroom shouted to the waiting crowds in the street, and a great cheer, went up, for public sympathy during the trial had been solidly with the prisoner in the dock, a parrot charged with using obscene language in a public spot.

The bird, it seems, had been accustomed to sit outside its owner's house watching the passers-by, and one of these, a woman of strict views, had it arrested, claiming that every time she passed by it used what she delicately described as 'Waterfront language'.

The jury would have liked to hear a few samples, but the parrot was too smart for that. Throughout the proceedings, no doubt on advice of counsel, it maintained a dignified silence, with the result that the rap could not be pinned on it. Later, when talking to reporters, it is said to have expressed itself with a good deal of frankness, being particularly candid about the ancestry of the deputy district attorney, who had conducted the prosecution.




Talking of reporters, considerable anxiety is being caused just now by the new trend which is creeping into the Presidential Press conferences, if creeping is what trends do. Until recently the gentlemen of the Press just sat around and asked questions, and everything was fine, but now that these conferences are televised it has become the practice to switch the camera off the President and turn it on to the reporter as he speaks, and this has brought out all the ham in the young fellows. As nice a bunch of modest, unassuming chaps as you could wish to meet they used to be, but today you find them out in the corridors peering into pocket mirrors and practising the quick, keen glance with which they hope to slay their public. They call each other 'Laddie' and ask friends if they caught them on the screen last Friday when they jumped in and saved the show.

BOOK: Plum Pie
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