Stiff Upper Lip Jeeves
STIFF UPPER LIP, JEEVES
by P G Wodehouse
I marmaladed a slice of toast with something of a flourish, and I don’t suppose I have ever come much closer to saying ‘Tra-la-la’ as I did the lathering, for I was feeling in mid-season form this morning. God, as I once heard Jeeves put it, was in His Heaven and all was right with the world. (He added, I remember, some guff about larks and snails, but that is a side issue and need not detain us.)
It is no secret in the circles in which he moves that Bertram Wooster, though as glamorous as one could wish when night has fallen and the revels get under way, is seldom a ball of fire at the breakfast table. Confronted with the eggs and b., he tends to pick cautiously at them, as if afraid they may leap from the plate and snap at him. Listless, about sums it up. Not much bounce to the ounce.
But today vastly different conditions had prevailed. All had been verve, if that’s the word I want, and animation. Well, when I tell you that after sailing through a couple of sausages like a tiger of the jungles tucking into its luncheon coolie I was now, as indicated, about to tackle the toast and marmalade, I fancy I need say no more.
The reason for this improved outlook on the proteins and carbohydrates is not far to seek. Jeeves was back, earning his weekly envelope once more at the old stand. Her butler having come down with an ailment of some sort, my Aunt Dahlia, my good and deserving aunt, had borrowed him for a house party she was throwing at Brinkley Court, her Worcestershire residence, and he had been away for more than a week. Jeeves, of course, is a gentleman’s gentleman, not a butler, but if the call comes, he can buttle with the best of them. It’s in the blood. His Uncle Charlie is a butler, and no doubt he has picked up many a hint on technique from him.
He came in a little later to remove the debris, and I asked him if he had had a good time at Brinkley.
‘Extremely pleasant, thank you, sir.’
‘More than I had in your absence. I felt like a child of tender years deprived of its Nannie. If you don’t mind me calling you a Nannie.’
‘Not at all, sir.’
Though, as a matter of fact, I was giving myself a slight edge, putting it that way. My Aunt Agatha, the one who eats broken bottles and turns into a werewolf at the time of the full moon, generally refers to Jeeves as my keeper.
‘Yes, I missed you sorely, and had no heart for whooping it up with the lads at the Drones. From sport to sport they … how does that gag go?’
‘I heard you pull it once with reference to Freddie Widgeon, when one of his girls had given him the bird. Something about hurrying.’
‘Ah yes, sir. From sport to sport they hurry me, to stifle my regret -‘
‘And when they win a smile from me, they think that I forget. That was it. Not your own, by any chance?’
‘No, sir. An old English drawing-room ballad.’
‘Oh? Well, that’s how it was with me. But tell me all about Brinkley. How was Aunt Dahlia?’
‘Mrs. Travers appeared to be in her customary robust health, sir.’
‘And how did the party go off?’
‘Reasonably satisfactorily, sir.’
‘The demeanour of Mr. Travers cast something of a gloom on the proceedings. He was low-spirited.’
‘He always is when Aunt Dahlia fills the house with guests. I’ve known even a single foreign substance in the woodwork to make him drain the bitter cup.’
‘Very true, sir, but on this occasion I think his despondency was due principally to the presence of Sir Watkyn Bassett.’
‘You don’t mean that old crumb was there?’ I said, Great-Scotting, for I knew that if there is one man for whose insides my Uncle Tom has the most vivid distaste, it is this Bassett. ‘You astound me, Jeeves.’
‘I, too, must confess to a certain surprise at seeing the gentleman at Brinkley Court, but no doubt Mrs. Travers felt it incumbent upon her to return his hospitality. You will recollect that Sir Watkyn recently entertained Mrs. Travers and yourself at Totleigh Towers.’
I winced. Intending, I presumed, merely to refresh my memory, he had touched an exposed nerve. There was some cold coffee left in the pot, and I took a sip to restore my equanimity.
‘The word “entertained” is not well chosen, Jeeves. If locking a fellow in his bedroom, as near as a toucher with gyves upon his wrists, and stationing the local police force on the lawn below to ensure that he
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