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Posts Tagged ‘Jeeves’

“I am familiar with the name Bassington-Bassington, sir. There are three branches of the Bassington-Bassington family – the Shropshire Bassington-Bassingtons, the Hampshire Bassington-Bassingtons, and the Kent Bassington-Bassingtons.”
“England seems pretty well stocked up with Bassington-Bassingtons.”
“Tolerably so, sir.”
“No chance of a sudden shortage, I mean, what?”
“Presumably not, sir.”
“And what sort of a specimen is this one?”
“I could not say, sir, on such short acquaintance.”
“Will you give me a sporting two to one, Jeeves, judging from what you have seen of him, that this chappie is not a blighter or an excrescence?”
“No, sir. I should not care to venture such liberal odds.”

P. G. Wodehouse, Jeeves and the Chump Cyril (1918).

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Now, a great many fellows think that having a rich uncle is a pretty soft snap: but, according to Corky, such is not the case. Corky’s uncle was a robust sort of cove, who looked like living for ever. He was fifty-one, and it seemed as if he might go to par. It was not this, however, that distressed poor old Corky, for he was not bigoted and had no objection to the man going on living. What Corky kicked at was the way the above Worple used to harry him.

Corky’s uncle, you see, didn’t want him to be an artist. He didn’t think he had any talent in that direction. He was always urging him to chuck Art and go into the jute business and start at the bottom and work his way up. Jute had apparently become a sort of obsession with him. He seemed to attach almost a spiritual importance to it. And what Corky said was that, while he didn’t know what they did at the bottom of the jute business, instinct told him that it was something too beastly for words. Corky, moreover, believed in his future as an artist. Some day, he said, he was going to make a hit. Meanwhile, by using the utmost tact and persuasiveness, he was inducing his uncle to cough up very grudgingly a small quarterly allowance.

He wouldn’t have got this if his uncle hadn’t had a hobby. Mr. Worple was peculiar in this respect. As a rule, from what I’ve observed, the American captain of industry doesn’t do anything out of business hours. When he has put the cat out and locked up the office for the night, he just relapses into a state of coma from which he emerges only to start being a captain of industry again. But Mr. Worple in his spare time was what is known as an ornithologist. He had written a book called American Birds, and was writing another, to be called More American Birds. When he had finished that, the presumption was that he would begin a third, and keep on till the supply of American birds gave out. Corky used to go to him about once every three months and let him talk about American birds. Apparently you could do what you liked with old Worple if you gave him his head first on his pet subject, so these little chats used to make Corky’s allowance all right for the time being. But it was pretty rotten for the poor chap. There was the frightful suspense, you see, and, apart from that, birds, except when broiled and in the society of a cold bottle, bored him stiff.

P. G. Wodehouse, Leave it to Jeeves, in My Man Jeeves (1919).

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Muriel Singer was one of those very quiet, appealing girls who have a way of looking at you with their big eyes as if they thought you were the greatest thing on earth and wondered that you hadn’t got on to it yet yourself. She sat there in a sort of shrinking way, looking at me as if she were saying to herself, “Oh, I do hope this great strong man isn’t going to hurt me.” She gave a fellow a protective kind of feeling, made him want to stroke her hand and say, “There, there, little one!” or words to that effect. She made me feel that there was nothing I wouldn’t do for her. She was rather like one of those innocent-tasting American drinks which creep imperceptibly into your system so that, before you know what you’re doing, you’re starting out to reform the world by force if necessary and pausing on your way to tell the large man in the corner that, if he looks at you like that, you will knock his head off. What I mean is, she made me feel alert and dashing, like a jolly old knight-errant or something of that kind.

P. G. Wodehouse, Leave it to Jeeves, in My Man Jeeves (1919).

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“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?”

“Yes, sir.”

“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?”

“No, sir.”

“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.”

“Roast, sir?”

“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 to that?”

“The idea is an ingenious one, sir.”

“We Woosters are ingenious, Jeeves, exceedingly ingenious.”

“Yes, sir.”

“As a matter of fact, I am not speaking without a knowledge of the form book. I have tested this theory.”

“Indeed, sir?”

“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.”

“Yes, sir.”

P. G. Wodehouse, Right Ho, Jeeves ch. xiii (1934).

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“Today,” said the bearded bloke, “we are all happy to welcome as the guest of the afternoon Mr. Fitz-Wattle——”

At the beginning of the address, Gussie had subsided into a sort of daydream, with his mouth hanging open. About half-way through, faint signs of life had begun to show. And for the last few minutes he had been trying to cross one leg over the other and failing and having another shot and failing again. But only now did he exhibit any real animation. He sat up with a jerk.

“Fink-Nottle,” he said, opening his eyes.

“Fitz-Nottle.”

“Fink-Nottle.”

“I should say Fink-Nottle.”

“Of course you should, you silly ass,” said Gussie genially. “All right, get on with it.”

And closing his eyes, he began trying to cross his legs again.

I could see that this little spot of friction had rattled the bearded bloke a bit. He stood for a moment fumbling at the fungus with a hesitating hand. But they make these head masters of tough stuff. The weakness passed. He came back nicely and carried on.

“We are all happy, I say, to welcome as the guest of the afternoon Mr. Fink-Nottle, who has kindly consented to award the prizes. This task, as you know, is one that should have devolved upon that well-beloved and vigorous member of our board of governors, the Rev. William Plomer, and we are all, I am sure, very sorry that illness at the last moment should have prevented him from being here today. But, if I may borrow a familiar metaphor from the—if I may employ a homely metaphor familiar to you all—what we lose on the swings we gain on the roundabouts.”

He paused, and beamed rather freely, to show that this was comedy. I could have told the man it was no use. Not a ripple. The corn chandler leaned against me and muttered “Whoddidesay?” but that was all.

It’s always a nasty jar to wait for the laugh and find that the gag hasn’t got across. The bearded bloke was visibly discomposed. At that, however, I think he would have got by, had he not, at this juncture, unfortunately stirred Gussie up again.

“In other words, though deprived of Mr. Plomer, we have with us this afternoon Mr. Fink-Nottle. I am sure that Mr. Fink-Nottle’s name is one that needs no introduction to you. It is, I venture to assert, a name that is familiar to us all.”

“Not to you,” said Gussie.

And the next moment I saw what Jeeves had meant when he had described him as laughing heartily. “Heartily” was absolutely the mot juste. It sounded like a gas explosion.

“You didn’t seem to know it so dashed well, what, what?” said Gussie. And, reminded apparently by the word “what” of the word “Wattle,” he repeated the latter some sixteen times with a rising inflection.

“Wattle, Wattle, Wattle,” he concluded. “Right-ho. Push on.”

But the bearded bloke had shot his bolt. He stood there, licked at last; and, watching him closely, I could see that he was now at the crossroads. I could spot what he was thinking as clearly as if he had confided it to my personal ear. He wanted to sit down and call it a day, I mean, but the thought that gave him pause was that, if he did, he must then either uncork Gussie or take the Fink-Nottle speech as read and get straight on to the actual prize-giving.

It was a dashed tricky thing, of course, to have to decide on the spur of the moment. I was reading in the paper the other day about those birds who are trying to split the atom, the nub being that they haven’t the foggiest as to what will happen if they do. It may be all right. On the other hand, it may not be all right. And pretty silly a chap would feel, no doubt, if, having split the atom, he suddenly found the house going up in smoke and himself torn limb from limb.

So with the bearded bloke. Whether he was abreast of the inside facts in Gussie’s case, I don’t know, but it was obvious to him by this time that he had run into something pretty hot. Trial gallops had shown that Gussie had his own way of doing things. Those interruptions had been enough to prove to the perspicacious that here, seated on the platform at the big binge of the season, was one who, if pushed forward to make a speech, might let himself go in a rather epoch-making manner.

On the other hand, chain him up and put a green-baize cloth over him, and where were you? The proceeding would be over about half an hour too soon.

P. G. Wodehouse, Right Ho, Jeeves ch. 17 (1934).

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“What-ho, Bertie,” he said. “What-ho, what-ho, what-ho, and again what-ho. What a beautiful world this is, Bertie. One of the nicest I ever met.”

I stared at him, speechless. We Woosters are as quick as lightning, and I saw at once that something had happened.

I mean to say, I told you about him walking round in circles. I recorded what passed between us on the lawn. And if I portrayed the scene with anything like adequate skill, the picture you will have retained of this Fink-Nottle will have been that of a nervous wreck, sagging at the knees, green about the gills, and picking feverishly at the lapels of his coat in an ecstasy of craven fear. In a word, defeatist. Gussie, during that interview, had, in fine, exhibited all the earmarks of one licked to a custard.

Vastly different was the Gussie who stood before me now. Self-confidence seemed to ooze from the fellow’s every pore. His face was flushed, there was a jovial light in his eyes, the lips were parted in a swashbuckling smile. And when with a genial hand he sloshed me on the back before I could sidestep, it was as if I had been kicked by a mule.

“Well, Bertie,” he proceeded, as blithely as a linnet without a thing on his mind, “you will be glad to hear that you were right. Your theory has been tested and proved correct. I feel like a fighting cock.”

My brain ceased to reel. I saw all.

“Have you been having a drink?”

“I have. As you advised. Unpleasant stuff. Like medicine. Burns your throat, too, and makes one as thirsty as the dickens. How anyone can mop it up, as you do, for pleasure, beats me. Still, I would be the last to deny that it tunes up the system. I could bite a tiger.”

“What did you have?”

“Whisky. At least, that was the label on the decanter, and I have no reason to suppose that a woman like your aunt—staunch, true-blue, British—would deliberately deceive the public. If she labels her decanters Whisky, then I consider that we know where we are.”

“A whisky and soda, eh? You couldn’t have done better.”

“Soda?” said Gussie thoughtfully. “I knew there was something I had forgotten.”

“Didn’t you put any soda in it?”

“It never occurred to me. I just nipped into the dining-room and drank out of the decanter.”

“How much?”

“Oh, about ten swallows. Twelve, maybe. Or fourteen. Say sixteen medium-sized gulps. Gosh, I’m thirsty.”

He moved over to the wash-stand and drank deeply out of the water bottle. I cast a covert glance at Uncle Tom’s photograph behind his back. For the first time since it had come into my life, I was glad that it was so large. It hid its secret well. If Gussie had caught sight of that jug of orange juice, he would unquestionably have been on to it like a knife.

“Well, I’m glad you’re feeling braced,” I said.

He moved buoyantly from the wash-hand stand, and endeavoured to slosh me on the back again. Foiled by my nimble footwork, he staggered to the bed and sat down upon it.

“Braced? Did I say I could bite a tiger?”

“You did.”

“Make it two tigers. I could chew holes in a steel door. What an ass you must have thought me out there in the garden. I see now you were laughing in your sleeve.”

“No, no.”

“Yes,” insisted Gussie. “That very sleeve,” he said, pointing. “And I don’t blame you. I can’t imagine why I made all that fuss about a potty job like distributing prizes at a rotten little country grammar school. Can you imagine, Bertie?”

“Exactly. Nor can I imagine. There’s simply nothing to it. I just shin up on the platform, drop a few gracious words, hand the little blighters their prizes, and hop down again, admired by all. Not a suggestion of split trousers from start to finish. I mean, why should anybody split his trousers? I can’t imagine. Can you imagine?”

“No.”

“Nor can I imagine. I shall be a riot. I know just the sort of stuff that’s needed—simple, manly, optimistic stuff straight from the shoulder. This shoulder,” said Gussie, tapping. “Why I was so nervous this morning I can’t imagine. For anything simpler than distributing a few footling books to a bunch of grimy-faced kids I can’t imagine. Still, for some reason I can’t imagine, I was feeling a little nervous, but now I feel fine, Bertie—fine, fine, fine—and I say this to you as an old friend. Because that’s what you are, old man, when all the smoke has cleared away—an old friend. I don’t think I’ve ever met an older friend. How long have you been an old friend of mine, Bertie?”

“Oh, years and years.”

“Imagine! Though, of course, there must have been a time when you were a new friend…. Hullo, the luncheon gong. Come on, old friend.”

And, rising from the bed like a performing flea, he made for the door.

I followed rather pensively. What had occurred was, of course, so much velvet, as you might say. I mean, I had wanted a braced Fink-Nottle— indeed, all my plans had had a braced Fink-Nottle as their end and aim —but I found myself wondering a little whether the Fink-Nottle now sliding down the banister wasn’t, perhaps, a shade too braced. His demeanour seemed to me that of a man who might quite easily throw bread about at lunch.

Fortunately, however, the settled gloom of those round him exercised a restraining effect upon him at the table. It would have needed a far more plastered man to have been rollicking at such a gathering.

P. G. Wodehouse, Right Ho, Jeeves ch. 16 (1934).

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