The Strand Magazine, November 1922
I RAN into young Bingo Little in the smoking-room of the Senior Liberal Club. He was lying back in an arm-chair with his mouth open and a sort of goofy expression in his eyes, while a grey-bearded cove in the middle distance watched him with so much dislike that I concluded that Bingo had pinched his favourite seat. That’s the worst of being in a strange club—absolutely without intending it, you find yourself constantly trampling upon the vested interests of the Oldest Inhabitants.
“Hallo, face!” I said.
“Cheerio, ugly!” said young Bingo, and we settled down to have a small one before lunch.
Once a year the committee of the Drones decides that the old club could do with a wash and brush-up, so they shoo us out, and dump us down for a few weeks at some other institution. This time we were roosting at the Senior Liberal, and, personally, I had found the strain pretty fearful. I mean, when you’ve got used to a club where everything’s nice and cheery, and where, if you want to attract a chappie’s attention, you heave a bit of bread at him, it kind of damps you to come to a place where the youngest member is about eighty-seven, and it isn’t considered good form to talk to anyone unless you and he were through the Peninsular War together. It was a relief to come across Bingo. We started to talk in hushed voices.
“This club,” I said, “is the limit.”
“It is the eel’s eyebrows,” agreed young Bingo. “I believe that old boy over by the window has been dead three days, but I don’t like to mention it to anyone.”
“Have you lunched here yet?”
“They have waitresses instead of waiters.”
“Good Lord! I thought that went out with the Armistice.” Bingo mused a moment, straightening his tie absently. “Er—pretty girls?” he said.
He seemed disappointed, but pulled round.
“Well, I’ve heard that the cooking’s the best in London.”
“So they say. Shall we be going in?”
“All right. I expect,” said young Bingo, “that at the end of the meal—or possibly at the beginning—the waitress will say: ‘Both together, sir?’ Reply in the affirmative. I haven’t a bean.”
“Hasn’t your uncle forgiven you yet?”
“Not yet, confound him!”
You see, young Bingo had had a bit of a dust-up with Lord Bittlesham, his uncle, some time earlier, resulting in his allowance being knocked off. I was sorry to hear the row was still on. I resolved to do the poor old thing well at the festive board, and I scanned the menu with some intentness when the girl rolled up with it.
“How would this do you, Bingo?” I said at length. “A few plovers’ eggs to weigh in with, a cup of soup, a touch of cold salmon, some cold curry, and a splash of gooseberry tart and cream, with a bite of cheese to finish?”
I don’t know that I had expected the man actually to scream with delight, though I had picked the items from my knowledge of his pet dishes, but I had expected him to say something. I looked up, and found that his attention was elsewhere. He was gazing at the waitress with the look of a dog that’s just remembered where its bone was buried.
She was a tallish girl with sort of soft, soulful brown eyes. Nice figure and all that. Rather decent hands, too. I didn’t remember having seen her about before, and I must say she raised the standard of the place quite a bit.
“How about it, laddie?” I said, being all for getting the order booked and going on to the serious knife-and-fork work.
“Eh?” said young Bingo, absently.
I recited the programme once more.
“Oh, yes, fine,” said Bingo. “Anything, anything!” The girl pushed off, and he turned to me with protruding eyes. “I thought you said they weren’t pretty, Bertie?” he said, reproachfully.
“Oh, my heavens!” I said. “You surely haven’t fallen in love again—and with a girl you’ve only just seen?”
“There are times, Bertie,” said young Bingo, “when a look is enough—when, passing through a crowd, we meet somebody’s eye and something seems to whisper——”
At this point the plovers’ eggs arrived, and he suspended his remarks in order to swoop on them with some vigour.
“JEEVES,” I said that night when I got home, “stand by.”
“Burnish the old brain, and be alert and vigilant. I suspect that Mr. Little will be calling round shortly for sympathy and assistance.”
“Is Mr. Little in trouble, sir?”
“Well, you might call it that. He’s in love. For about the fifty-third time. I ask you, Jeeves, as man to man, did you ever see such a chap?”
“Mr. Little is certainly warm-hearted, sir.”
“Warm-hearted! I should think he has to wear asbestos vests. Well, stand by, Jeeves.”
“Very good, sir.”
And, sure enough, it wasn’t ten days before in rolled the old ass, bleating for volunteers to step one pace forward and come to the aid of the party.
“Bertie,” he said, “if you are a pal of mine, now is the time to show it.”
“Proceed, old gargoyle,” I replied. “You have our ear.”
“You remember giving me lunch at the Senior Liberal some days ago. We were waited on by a——”
“I remember. Tall, lissom female.”
He shuddered somewhat.
“I wish you wouldn’t talk of her like that, dash it all! She’s an angel.”
“All right. Carry on.”
“I love her.”
“Right-o! Push along.”
“For goodness’ sake don’t bustle me. Let me tell the story in my own way. I love her, as I was saying, and I want you, Bertie, old boy, to pop round to my uncle and do a bit of diplomatic work. That allowance of mine must be restored, and dashed quick, too. What’s more, it must be increased.”
“But look here,” I said, being far from keen on the bally business, “why not wait a while?”
“Wait? What’s the good of waiting?”
“Well, you know what generally happens when you fall in love. Something goes wrong with the works and you get left. Much better tackle your uncle after the whole thing’s fixed and settled.”
“It is fixed and settled. She accepted me this morning.”
“Good Lord! That’s quick work. You haven’t known her two weeks!”
“Not in this life, no,” said young Bingo. “But she has a sort of idea that we must have met in some previous existence. She thinks I must have been a king in Babylon when she was a Christian slave. I can’t say I remember it myself, but there may be something in it.”
“Great Scott!” I said. “Do waitresses really talk like that?”
“How should I know how waitresses talk?”
“Well, you ought to by now. The first time I ever met your uncle was when you hounded me on to ask him if he would rally round to help you marry that girl Mabel in the Piccadilly bunshop.”
Bingo started violently. A wild gleam came into his eyes. And before I knew what he was up to he had brought down his hand with a most frightful whack on my summer trousering, causing me to leap like a young ram.
“Here!” I said.
“Sorry,” said Bingo. “Excited. Carried away. You’ve given me an idea, Bertie.” He waited till I had finished massaging the limb, and resumed his remarks. “Can you throw your mind back to that occasion, Bertie? Do you remember the frightfully subtle scheme I worked? Telling him you were what’s-her-name—the woman who wrote those books, I mean?”
It wasn’t likely I’d forget. The ghastly thing was absolutely seared into my memory. What had happened—stop me if I’ve told you this before—was that, in order to induce his dashed uncle to look on me as a chum and hang upon my words, and all that, the ass Bingo had told him that I was the author of a lot of mushy novels of which he was particularly fond. All that series by Rosie M. Banks, you know. Said that I had written them, and that Rosie’s name on the title-page was simply my what-d’you-call-it. Lord Bittlesham, the uncle, had lapped it up without the slightest hesitation, and had treated me both then and on the other occasions on which we had met with the dickens of a lot of reverence.
“That is the line of attack,” said Bingo. “That is the scheme. Rosie M. Banks forward once more.”
“It can’t be done, old thing. Sorry, but it’s out of the ques. I couldn’t go through all that again.”
“Not for me?”
“Not for a dozen more like you.”
“I never thought,” said Bingo, sorrowfully, “to hear those words from Bertie Wooster!”
“Well, you’ve heard them now,” I said. “Paste them in your hat.”
“Bertie, we were at school together.”
“It wasn’t my fault.”
“We’ve been pals for fifteen years.”
“I know. It’s going to take me the rest of my life to live it down.”
“Bertie, old man,” said Bingo, drawing up his chair closer and starting to knead my shoulder-blade, “listen. Be reasonable!”
And, of course, dash it! at the end of ten minutes I’d allowed the blighter to talk me round. It’s always the way. Anyone can talk me round. If I were in a Trappist monastery, the first thing that would happen would be that some smooth performer would lure me into some frightful idiocy against my better judgment by means of the deaf-and-dumb language.
“Well, what do you want me to do?” I said, realizing that it was hopeless to struggle.
“Start off by sending the old boy an autographed copy of your latest effort, with a flattering inscription. That will tickle him to death. Then you pop round and put it across him.”
“What is my latest?”
“ ‘The Woman Who Braved All,’ ” said young Bingo. “I’ve seen it all over the place. The shop windows and bookstalls are full of nothing but. It looks to me from the picture on the jacket the sort of book any chappie would be proud to have written. Of course, he will want to discuss it with you.”
“Ah!” I said, cheering up. “That dishes the scheme, doesn’t it? I don’t know what the bally thing is about.”
“You will have to read it, naturally.”
“Read it! No, I say——”
“Bertie, we were at school together.”
“Oh, right-o! Right-o!” I said.
“I knew I could rely on you. You have a heart of gold. Jeeves,” said young Bingo, as the faithful servitor rolled in, “Mr. Wooster has a heart of gold.”
“Very good, sir,” said Jeeves.
BAR a weekly wrestle with the Pink ’Un and an occasional dip into the form-book, I’m not much of a lad for reading, and my sufferings as I tackled “The Woman”—curse her!—“Who Braved All” were pretty fearful. But I managed to get through it, and only just in time, as it happened, for I’d hardly reached the bit where their lips met in one long, slow kiss, and everything was still but for the gentle sighing of the breeze in the laburnum, when a messenger-boy brought a note from old Bittlesham asking me to trickle round to lunch.
I found the old boy in a mood you could only describe as melting. He had a copy of the book on the table beside him, and kept turning the pages in the intervals of dealing with things in aspic and what not.
“Mr. Wooster,” he said, swallowing a chunk of trout, “I wish to congratulate you. I wish to thank you. You go from strength to strength. I have read ‘All for Love,’ I have read ‘Only a Factory Girl,’ I know ‘Madcap Myrtle’ by heart. But this—this is your bravest and best. It tears the heart-strings.”
“Indeed yes! I have read it three times since you most kindly sent me the volume—I wish to thank you once more for the charming inscription—and I think I may say that I am a better, sweeter, deeper man. I am full of human charity and kindliness towards my species.”
“Indeed, indeed I am.”
“Towards the whole species?”
“Towards the whole species.”
“Even young Bingo?” I said, trying him pretty high.
“My nephew? Richard?” He looked a bit thoughtful, but stuck it like a man and refused to hedge. “Yes, even towards Richard. Well—that is to say—perhaps—yes, even towards Richard.”
“That’s good, because I wanted to talk about him. He’s pretty hard up, you know.”
“In straitened circumstances?”
“Stoney. And he could use a bit of the right stuff paid every quarter, if you felt like unbelting.”
He mused awhile, and got through a slab of cold guinea-hen before replying. He toyed with the book, and it fell open at page two hundred and fifteen. I couldn’t remember what was on page two hundred and fifteen, but it must have been something tolerably zippy, for his expression changed and he gazed up at me with misty eyes, as if he’d taken a shade too much mustard with his last bite of ham.
“Very well, Mr. Wooster,” he said. “Fresh from a perusal of this noble work of yours, I cannot harden my heart. Richard shall have his allowance.”
“Stout fellow!” I said. Then it occurred to me that the expression might strike a chappie who weighed seventeen stone as a bit personal. “Good egg, I mean. That’ll take a weight off his mind. He wants to get married, you know.”
“I did not know. And I am not sure that I altogether approve. Who is the lady?”
“Well, as a matter of fact, she’s a waitress.”
He leaped in his seat.
“You don’t say so, Mr. Wooster! This is remarkable. This is most cheering. I had not given the boy credit for such tenacity of purpose. An excellent trait in him which I had not hitherto suspected. I recollect clearly that, on the occasion when I first had the pleasure of making your acquaintance, nearly eighteen months ago, Richard was desirous of marrying this same waitress.”
I had to break it to him.
“Well, not absolutely this same waitress. In fact, quite a different waitress. Still, a waitress, you know.”
The light of avuncular affection died out of the old boy’s eyes.
“H’m!” he said, a bit dubiously. “I had supposed that Richard was displaying the quality of constancy which is so rare in the modern young man. I—I must think it over.”
So we left it at that, and I came away and told Bingo the position of affairs.
“Allowance O.K.,” I said. “Uncle blessing a trifle wobbly.”
“Doesn’t he seem to want the wedding-bells to ring out?”
“I left him thinking it over. If I were a bookie, I should feel justified in offering a hundred to eight against.”
“You can’t have approached him properly. I might have known you would muck it up,” said young Bingo. Which, considering what I had been through for his sake, struck me as a good bit sharper than a serpent’s tooth.
“It’s awkward,” said young Bingo. “It’s infernally awkward. I can’t tell you all the details at the moment, but—yes, it’s awkward.”
He helped himself absently to a handful of my cigars, and pushed off.
I DIDN’T see him again for three days. Early in the afternoon of the third day he blew in with a flower in his buttonhole and a look on his face as if someone had hit him behind the ear with a stuffed eel-skin.
“Hallo, old turnip! Where have you been all this while?”
“Oh, here and there. Ripping weather we’re having, Bertie.”
“I see the Bank Rate is down again.”
“Disturbing news from Lower Silesia, what?”
He pottered about the room for a bit, babbling at intervals. The boy seemed cuckoo.
“Oh, I say, Bertie,” he said, suddenly, dropping a vase which he had picked off the mantelpiece and was fiddling with. “I know what it was I wanted to tell you. I’m married.”
I stared at him. That flower in his buttonhole. That dazed look. Yes, he had all the symptoms; and yet the thing seemed incredible. The fact is, I suppose, I’d seen so many of young Bingo’s love-affairs start off with a whoop and a rattle and poof themselves out half-way down the straight that I couldn’t believe he had actually brought it off at last.
“Yes. This morning, at a registrar’s in Holborn. I’ve just come from the wedding-breakfast.”
I sat up in my chair. Alert. The man of affairs. It seemed to me that this thing wanted threshing out in all its aspects.
“Let’s get this straight,” I said. “You’re really married?”
“The same girl you were in love with the day before yesterday?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, you know what you’re like. Tell me, what made you commit this rash act?”
“I wish the deuce you wouldn’t talk like that. I married her because I love her, dash it. The best little woman,” said young Bingo, “in the world.”
“That’s all right, and deuced creditable, I’m sure. But have you reflected what your uncle’s going to say? The last I saw of him, he was by no means in a confetti-scattering mood.”
“Bertie,” said Bingo, “I’ll be frank with you. The little woman rather put it up to me, if you know what I mean. I told her how my uncle felt about it, and she said that we must part unless I loved her enough to brave the old boy’s wrath and marry her right away. So I had no alternative. I bought a buttonhole and went to it.”
“And what do you propose to do now?”
“Oh, I’ve got it all planned out. After you’ve seen my uncle and broken the news—”
“You don’t mean to say you think you’re going to lug me into it?”
He looked at me like Lilian Gish coming out of a swoon.
“Is this Bertie Wooster talking?” he said, pained.
“Yes, it jolly well is.”
“Bertie, old man,” said Bingo, patting me gently here and there, “reflect! We were at sch——”
“Oh, all right!”
“Good man! I knew I could rely on you. She’s waiting down below in the hall. We’ll pick her up and dash round to Pounceby Gardens right away.”
I HAD only seen the bride before in her waitress kit, and I was rather expecting that on her wedding day she would have launched out into something fairly zippy in the way of upholstery. The first gleam of hope I had felt since the start of this black business came to me when I saw that, instead of being all velvet and scent and flowery hat, she was dressed in dashed good taste. Quiet. Nothing loud. As far as looks went she might have stepped straight out of Berkeley Square.
“This is my old pal Bertie Wooster, darling,” said Bingo. “We were at school together, weren’t we, Bertie?”
“We were!” I said. “How do you do? I think we—er—met at lunch the other day, didn’t we?”
“Oh, yes. How do you do?”
“My uncle eats out of Bertie’s hand,” explained Bingo. “So he’s coming round with us to start things off and kind of pave the way. Hi, taxi!”
We didn’t talk much on the journey. Kind of tense feeling. I was glad when the cab stopped at old Bittlesham’s wigwam and we all hopped out. I left Bingo and wife in the hall, while I went upstairs to the drawing-room, and the butler toddled off to dig out the big chief.
While I was prowling about the room, waiting for him to show up, I suddenly caught sight of that bally “Woman Who Braved All” lying on one of the tables. It was open at page two hundred and fifteen, and a passage heavily marked in pencil caught my eye. And directly I read it, I saw that it was all to the mustard and was going to help me in my business.
This was the passage:—
“What can prevail”—Millicent’s eyes flashed as she faced the stern old man—“what can prevail against a pure and all-consuming love? Neither principalities nor powers, my lord, nor all the puny prohibitions of guardians and parents. I love your son, Lord Windermere, and nothing can keep us apart. Since time first began, this love of ours was fated, and who are you to pit yourself against the decrees of Fate?”
The earl looked at her keenly from beneath his bushy eyebrows.
“Humph!” he said.
Before I had time to refresh my memory as to what Millicent’s come-back had been to that remark, the door opened and old Bittlesham rolled in. All over me, as usual.
“My dear Mr. Wooster, this is an unexpected pleasure. Pray take a seat. What can I do for you?”
“Well, the fact is, I’m more or less in the capacity of a jolly old ambassador at the moment. Representing young Bingo, you know.”
His geniality sagged a trifle, I thought, but he didn’t heave me out, so I pushed on.
“The way I always look at it,” I said, “is that it’s dashed difficult for anything to prevail against what you might call a pure and all-consuming love. I mean, can it be done? I doubt it.”
My eyes didn’t exactly flash as I faced the stern old man, but I sort of waggled my eyebrows. He puffed a bit, and looked doubtful.
“We discussed this matter at our last meeting, Mr. Wooster. And on that occasion——”
“Yes. But there have been developments, as it were, since then. The fact of the matter is,” I said, coming to the point, “this morning young Bingo went and jumped off the dock.”
“Good heavens!” He jerked himself to his feet with his mouth open. “Why? Where? Which dock?”
I saw that he wasn’t quite on.
“I was speaking metaphorically,” I explained, “if that’s the word I want. I mean he got married.”
“Absolutely hitched up. I hope you aren’t ratty about it, what? Young blood, you know. Two loving hearts, and all that.”
He panted in a rather overwrought way.
“I am greatly disturbed by your news. I—I consider that I have been—er—defied. Yes, defied.”
“But who are you to pit yourself against the decrees of Fate?” I said, taking a look at the prompt-book out of the corner of my eye.
“You see, this love of theirs was fated. Since time began, you know.”
I’m bound to admit that if he’d said “Humph!” at this juncture, he would have had me stymied. Luckily, it didn’t occur to him. There was a silence, during which he appeared to brood a bit. Then his eye fell on the book, and he gave a sort of start.
“Why, bless my soul, Mr. Wooster, you have been quoting!”
“More or less.”
“I thought your words sounded familiar.” His whole appearance changed, and he gave a sort of gurgling chuckle. “Dear me, dear me, you know my weak spot!” He picked up the book, and buried himself in it for quite a while. I began to think he had forgotten I was there. After a bit, however, he put it down again, and wiped his eyes. “Ah, well!” he said.
I shuffled my feet and hoped for the best.
“Ah, well!” he said again. “I must not be like Lord Windermere, must I, Mr. Wooster? Tell me, did you draw that haughty old man from a living model?”
“Oh, no. Just thought of him and bunged him down, you know.”
“Genius!” murmured old Bittlesham. “Genius! Well, Mr. Wooster, you have won me over. Who, as you say, am I to pit myself against the decrees of Fate? I will write to Richard to-night and inform him of my consent to his marriage.”
“You can slip him the glad news in person,” I said. “He’s waiting downstairs, with wife complete. I’ll pop down and send them up. Cheerio, and thanks very much. Bingo will be most awfully bucked.”
I shot out and went downstairs. Bingo and Mrs. were sitting on a couple of chairs like patients in a dentist’s waiting-room.
“Well?” said Bingo, eagerly.
“All over except the hand-clasping,” I replied, slapping the old crumpet on the back. “Charge up and get matey. Toodle-oo, old things. You know where to find me, if wanted. A thousand congratulations, and all that sort of rot.”
And I pipped, not wishing to be fawned upon.
YOU never can tell in this world. If ever I felt that something attempted, something done, had earned a night’s repose, it was when I got back to the flat and shoved my feet up on the mantelpiece and started to absorb the cup of tea which Jeeves had brought in. Used as I am to seeing Life’s sitters blow up in the home-stretch and finish nowhere, I couldn’t see any cause for alarm in this affair of young Bingo’s. All he had to do when I left him in Pounceby Gardens was to walk upstairs with the little missus and collect the blessing. I was so convinced of this that when, about half an hour later, he came galloping into my sitting-room, all I thought was that he wanted to thank me in broken accents and tell me what a good chap I had been. I merely beamed benevolently on the old creature as he entered, and was just going to offer him a cigarette when I observed that he seemed to have something on his mind. In fact, he looked as if something solid had hit him in the solar plexus.
“My dear old soul,” I said, “what’s up?”
Bingo plunged about the room.
“I will be calm!” he said, knocking over an occasional table. “Calm, dammit!” He upset a chair.
“Surely nothing has gone wrong?”
Bingo uttered one of those hollow, mirthless yelps.
“Only every bally thing that could go wrong. What do you think happened after you left us? You know that beastly book you insisted on sending my uncle?”
It wasn’t the way I should have put it myself, but I saw the poor old bean was upset for some reason or other, so I didn’t correct him.
“ ‘The Woman Who Braved All’?” I said. “It came in dashed useful. It was by quoting bits out of it that I managed to talk him round.”
“Well, it didn’t come in useful when we got into the room. It was lying on the table, and, after we had started to chat a bit, and everything was going along nicely, the little woman spotted it. ‘Oh, have you read this, Lord Bittlesham?’ she said. ‘Three times already,’ said my uncle. ‘I’m so glad,’ said the little woman. ‘Why, are you also an admirer of Rosie M. Banks?’ asked the old boy, beaming. ‘I am Rosie M. Banks!’ said the little woman.”
“Oh, my aunt! Not really?”
“But how could she be? I mean, dash it, she was slinging the foodstuffs at the Senior Liberal Club.”
Bingo gave the settee a moody kick.
“She took the job to collect material for a book she’s writing called ‘Mervyn Keene, Clubman.’ ”
“She might have told you.”
“It made such a hit with her when she found that I loved her for herself alone, despite her humble station, that she kept it under her hat. She meant to spring it on me later on, she said.”
“Well, what happened then?”
“There was the dickens of a painful scene. The old boy nearly got apoplexy. Called her an impostor. They both started talking at once at the top of their voices, and the thing ended with the little woman buzzing off to her publishers to collect proofs as a preliminary to getting a written apology from the old boy. What’s going to happen now, I don’t know. Apart from the fact that my uncle will be as mad as a wet hen when he finds out that he has been fooled, there’s going to be a lot of trouble when the little woman discovers that we worked the Rosie M. Banks wheeze with a view to trying to get me married to somebody else. You see, one of the things that first attracted her to me was the fact that I had never been in love before.”
“Did you tell her that?”
“Well, I hadn’t been—not really in love. There’s all the difference in the world between—— Well, never mind that. What am I going to do? That’s the point.”
“I don’t know.”
“Thanks,” said young Bingo. “That’s a lot of help.”
NEXT morning he rang me up on the ’phone just after I’d got the bacon and eggs into my system—the one moment of the day, in short, when a chappie wishes to muse on life absolutely undisturbed.
“Things are hotting up.”
“What’s happened now?”
“My uncle has given the little woman’s proofs the once-over, and admits her claim. I’ve just been having five snappy minutes with him on the telephone. He says that you and I made a fool of him, and he could hardly speak, he was so shirty. Still, he made it clear all right that my allowance has gone phut again.”
“Don’t waste time being sorry for me,” said young Bingo, grimly. “He’s coming to call on you to-day to demand a personal explanation.”
“And the little woman is coming to call on you to demand a personal explanation.”
“I shall watch your future career with some considerable interest,” said young Bingo.
I bellowed for Jeeves.
“I’m in the soup.”
I sketched out the scenario for him.
“What would you advise?”
“I think, if I were you, sir, I would accept Mr. Pitt-Waley’s invitation immediately. If you remember, sir, he invited you to shoot with him in Norfolk this week.”
“So he did! By Jove, Jeeves, you’re always right. Meet me at the station with my things the first train after lunch. I’ll go and lie low at the club for the rest of the morning.”
“Would you require my company on this visit, sir?”
“Do you want to come?”
“If I might suggest it, sir, I think it would be better if I remained here and kept in touch with Mr. Little. I might possibly hit upon some method of pacifying the various parties, sir.”
“Right-o! But, if you do, you’re a marvel.”
I DIDN’T enjoy myself much in Norfolk. It rained most of the time, and, when it wasn’t raining, I was so dashed jumpy I couldn’t hit a thing. By the end of the week I couldn’t stand it any longer. Too bally absurd, I mean, being marooned miles away in the country just because young Bingo’s uncle and wife wanted to have a few words with me. I made up my mind that I would pop back and do the strong, manly thing, by lying low in my flat and telling Jeeves to inform everybody who called that I wasn’t at home.
I sent Jeeves a telegram, saying I was coming, and drove straight to Bingo’s place when I reached town. I wanted to find out the general posish of affairs. But apparently the man was out. I rang a couple of times, but nothing happened, and I was just going to leg it when I heard the sound of footsteps inside, and the door opened. It wasn’t one of the cheeriest moments of my career when I found myself peering into the globular face of Lord Bittlesham.
“Oh, er—hallo!” I said. And there was a bit of a pause.
I don’t quite know what I had been expecting the old boy to do if by bad luck we should ever meet again, but I had a sort of general idea that he would turn fairly purple and start almost immediately to let me have it in the gizzard. It struck me as somewhat rummy, therefore, when he simply smiled weakly. A sort of frozen smile it was. His eyes kind of bulged, and he swallowed once or twice.
“Er——” he said.
I waited for him to continue, but apparently that was all there was.
“Bingo in?” I said, after a rather embarrassing pause.
HE shook his head, and smiled again. And then, suddenly, just as the flow of conversation had begun to slacken once more, I’m dashed if he didn’t make a sort of lumbering leap back into the flat and bang the door.
I couldn’t understand it. But, as it seemed that the interview, such as it was, was over, I thought I might as well be shifting. I had just started down the stairs when I met young Bingo, charging up three steps at a time.
“Hallo, Bertie!” he said. “Where did you spring from? I thought you were out of town.”
“I’ve just got back. I looked in on you to see how the land lay.”
“How do you mean?”
“Why, all that business, you know.”
“Oh, that,” said young Bingo, airily. “That was all settled days ago. The dove of peace is flapping its wings all over the place. Everything’s as right as it can be. Jeeves fixed it all up. He’s a marvel, that man, Bertie, I’ve always said so. Put the whole thing straight in half a minute with one of those brilliant ideas of his.”
“This is topping!”
“I knew you’d be pleased.”
“What did Jeeves do? I couldn’t think of any solution of the bally thing myself.”
“Oh, he took the matter in hand and smoothed it all out in a second. My uncle and the little woman are tremendous pals now. They gas away by the hour together about literature and all that. He’s always dropping in for a chat.”
This reminded me.
“He’s in there now,” I said. “I say, Bingo, how is your uncle these days?”
“Much as usual. How do you mean?”
“I mean he hasn’t been feeling the strain of things a bit, has he? He seemed rather strange in his manner just now.”
“Why, have you met him?”
“He opened the door when I rang. And then, after he had stood goggling at me for a bit, he suddenly banged the door in my face. Puzzled me, you know. I mean, I could have understood it if he’d ticked me off and all that, but, dash it, the man seemed absolutely scared.”
Young Bingo laughed a care-free laugh. “Oh, that’s all right,” he said. “I forgot to tell you about that. Meant to write, but kept putting it off. He thinks you’re a looney.”
“Yes. That was Jeeves’s idea, you know. It’s solved the whole problem splendidly. He suggested that I should tell my uncle that I had acted in perfect good faith in introducing you to him as Rosie M. Banks; that I had repeatedly had it from your own lips that you were, and that I didn’t see any reason why you shouldn’t be. The idea being that you were subject to hallucinations and generally potty. And then we got hold of Sir Roderick Glossop—you remember, the old boy whose kid you pushed into the lake that day down at Ditteredge Hall—and he rallied round with his story of how he had come to lunch with you once and found your bedroom full up with cats and fish, and how you had pinched his hat while you were driving past his car in a taxi, and all that, you know. It just rounded the whole thing off nicely. I always say, and I always shall say, that you’ve only got to stand on Jeeves and Fate can’t touch you.”
I can put up with a good deal, but there are limits.
“Well, of all the dashed bits of nerve I ever——”
Bingo looked at me, astonished.
“You aren’t annoyed?” he said.
“Annoyed! At having half London going about under the impression that I’m off my chump? Dash it all——”
“Bertie,” said Bingo, “you amaze and wound me. If I had dreamed that you would object to doing a trifling good turn to a fellow who’s been a pal of yours for fifteen years——”
“Yes, but look here——”
“Have you forgotten,” said young Bingo, “that we were at school together?”
I PUSHED on to the old flat, seething like the dickens. One thing I was jolly certain of, and that was that this was where Jeeves and I parted company. A topping valet, of course, none better in London, but I wasn’t going to allow that to weaken me. I buzzed into the flat like an east wind—and there was the box of cigarettes on the small table and the illustrated weekly papers on the big table, and my slippers on the floor, and every dashed thing so bally right, if you know what I mean, that I started to calm down in the first two seconds. It was like one of those moments in a play where the chappie, about to steep himself in crime, suddenly hears the soft, appealing strains of the old melody he learned at his mother’s knee. Softened, I mean to say. That’s the word I want. I was softened.
And then through the doorway there shimmered good old Jeeves in the wake of a tray full of the necessary ingredients, and there was something about the mere look of the man——
However, I steeled the old heart and had a stab at it.
“I have just met Mr. Little, Jeeves,” I said.
“He—er—he told me you had been helping him.”
“I did my best, sir. And I am happy to say that matters now appear to be proceeding smoothly. Whisky, sir?”
“Oh, nothing—— Not all the soda, Jeeves.”
“Very good, sir.”
He started to drift out.
“I wish—that is—I think—I mean — oh, nothing.”
“Very good, sir. The cigarettes are at your elbow, sir. Dinner will be ready at a quarter to eight precisely, unless you desire to dine out?”
“No. I’ll dine in.”
“Oh, nothing,” I said.
“Very good, sir,” said Jeeves.
Note: Thanks to Neil Midkiff for providing the transcription and images for this story.