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As I slid into my chair at the breakfast table and started to deal with the toothsome eggs and bacon which Jeeves had given of his plenty, I was conscious of a strange exhilaration, if I've got the word right. Pretty good the setup looked to me. Here I was, back in the old familiar headquarters, and the thought that I had seen the last of Totleigh Towers, of Sir Watkyn Bassett, of his daughter Madeline and above all of the unspeakable Spode, or Lord Sidcup as he now calls himself, was like the medium dose for adult of one of those patent medicines which tone the system and impart a gentle glow.
"These eggs, Jeeves," I said. "Very good. Very tasty."
"Laid, no doubt, by contented hens. And the coffee, perfect. Nor must I omit to give a word of praise to the bacon. I wonder if you notice anything about me this morning."
"You seem in good spirits, sir."
"Yes, Jeeves, I am happy today."
"I am very glad to hear it, sir."
"You might say I'm sitting on top of the world with a rainbow round my shoulder."
"A most satisfactory state of affairs, sir."
"What's the word I've heard you use from time to time begins with eu?"
"That's the one. I've seldom had a sharper attack of euphoria. I feel full to the brim of Vitamin B. Mind you, I don't know how long it will last. Too often it is when one feels fizziest that the storm clouds begin doing their stuff."
"Very true, sir. Full many a glorious morning have I seen flatter the mountain tops with sovereign eye, kissing with golden face the meadows green, gilding pale streams with heavenly alchemy, Anon permit the basest clouds to ride with ugly rack on his celestial face and from the forlorn world his visage hide, stealing unseen to west with this disgrace."
"Exactly," I said. I couldn't have put it better myself. "One always has to budget for a change in the weather. Still, the thing to do is to keep on being happy while you can."
"Precisely, sir. Carpe diem, the Roman poet Horace advised. The English poet Herrick expressed the same sentiment when he suggested that we should gather rosebuds while we may. Your elbow is in the butter, sir."
"Oh, thank you, Jeeves."
Well, all right so far. Off to a nice start. But now we come to something which gives me pause. In recording the latest installment of the Bertram Wooster Story, a task at which I am about to have a pop, I don't see how I can avoid delving into the past a good deal, touching on events which took place in previous installments and explaining who's who and what happened when and where and why, and this will make it heavy going for those who have been with me from the start. "Old hat," they will cry, or, if French, "Déjà vu."
On the other hand, I must consider the new customers. I can't just leave the poor perishers to try to puzzle things out for themselves. If I did, the exchanges in the present case would run somewhat as follows.
SELF: The relief I felt at having escaped from Totleigh Towers was stupendous.
NEW C: What's Totleigh Towers?
SELF: For one thing, it had looked odds on that I should have to marry Madeline.
pardNEW C: Who's Madeline?
SELF: Gussie Fink-Nottle, you see, had eloped with the cook.
NEW C: Who's Gussie Fink-Nottle?
SELF: But most fortunately Spode was in the offing and he scooped her up, saving me from the scaffold.
NEW C: Who's Spode?
You see. Hopeless. Confusion would be rife, as one might put it. The only way out that I can think of is to ask the old gang to let their attention wander for a bit there are heaps of things they can be doing: washing the car, solving the crossword puzzle, taking the dog for a run while I place the facts before the newcomers.
Briefly, then, owing to circumstances I needn't go into, Madeline Bassett, daughter of Sir Watkyn Bassett of Totleigh Towers, Glos., had long been under the impression that I was hopelessly in love with her and had given me to understand that if ever she had occasion to return her betrothed, Gussie Fink-Nottle, to store, she would marry me. Which wouldn't have fitted in with my plans at all, she, though physically in the pin-up class, being as mushy a character as ever broke biscuit, convinced that the stars are God's daisy chain and that every time a fairy blows its wee nose a baby is born. The last thing, as you can well imagine, one would want about the home.
So when Gussie unexpectedly eloped with the cook, it looked as though Bertram was for it. If a girl thinks you're in love with her and says she will marry you, you can't very well voice a preference for being dead in a ditch. Not, I mean, if you want to regard yourself as a preux chevalier, as the expression is, which is always my aim.
But just as I was about to put in my order for sackcloth and ashes, up, as I say, popped Spode, now going about under the alias of Lord Sidcup. He had loved her since she was so high but had never got around to mentioning it, and when he did so now, they clicked immediately. And the thought that she was safely out of circulation and no longer a menace was possibly the prime ingredient in my current euphoria.
I think that makes everything clear to the meanest intelligence, does it not? Right ho, so we can go ahead. Where were we? Ah yes, I had just told Jeeves that I was sitting on top of the world with a rainbow round my shoulder, but expressing a doubt as to whether this state of things would last and how well founded that doubt proved to be, for scarcely a forkful of eggs and b later it was borne in upon me that life was not the grand sweet song I had supposed it to be, but, as you might say, stern and earnest and full of bumps.
"Was I mistaken, Jeeves," I said, making idle conversation as I sipped my coffee, "or as the mists of sleep shredded away this morning did I hear your typewriter going?"
"Yes, sir. I was engaged in composition."
"A dutiful letter to Charlie Silversmith?" I said, alluding to his uncle who held the post of butler at Deverill Hall, where we had once been pleasant visitors. "Or possibly a lyric in the manner of the bloke who advocates gathering rosebuds?"
"Neither, sir. I was recording the recent happenings at Totleigh Towers for the club book."
And here, dash it, I must once more ask what I may call the old sweats to let their attention wander while I put the new arrivals abreast.
Jeeves, you must know (I am addressing the new arrivals), belongs to a club for butlers and gentleman's gentlemen round Curzon Street way, and one of the rules there is that every member must contribute to the club book the latest information concerning the fellow he's working for, the idea being to inform those seeking employment of the sort of thing they will be taking on. If a member is contemplating signing up with someone, he looks him up in the club book, and if he finds that he puts out crumbs for the birdies every morning and repeatedly saves golden-haired children from being run over by automobiles, he knows he is on a good thing and has no hesitation in accepting office. Whereas if the book informs him that the fellow habitually kicks starving dogs and generally begins the day by throwing the breakfast porridge at his personal attendant, he is warned in time to steer clear of him.
Which is all very well, and one follows the train of thought, but in my opinion such a book is pure dynamite and ought not to be permitted. There are, Jeeves has informed me, eleven pages in it about me, and what will the harvest be, I ask him, if it falls into the hands of my Aunt Agatha, with whom my standing is already low? She spoke her mind freely enough some years ago when against my personal wishes I was found with twenty-three cats in my bedroom, and again when I was accused unjustly, I need hardly say of having marooned A. B. Filmer, the Cabinet Minister, on an island in her lake. To what heights of eloquence would she not soar, if informed of my vicissitudes at Totleigh Towers? The imagination boggled, Jeeves, I tell him.
To which he replies that it won't fall into the hands of my Aunt Agatha, she not being likely to drop in at the Junior Ganymede, which is what his club is called, and there the matter rests. His reasoning is specious, and although he has more or less succeeded in soothing my tremors, I still can't help feeling uneasy, and my manner, as I addressed him now, had quite a bit of agitation in it.
"Good Lord!" I ejaculated, if ejaculated is the word I want. "Are you really writing up that Totleigh business?"
"All the stuff about my being supposed to have pinched old Bassett's amber statuette?"
"And the night I spent in a prison cell? Is this necessary? Why not let the dead past bury its dead? Why not forget all about it?"
"Why impossible? Don't tell me you can't forget things. You aren't an elephant."
I thought I had him there, but no.
"It is my membership in the Junior Ganymede which restrains me from obliging you, sir. The rules with reference to the club book are very strict and the penalty for omitting to contribute to it severe. Actual expulsion has sometimes resulted."
"I see," I said. I could appreciate that this put him in quite a spot, the feudal spirit making him wish to do the square thing by the young master, while a natural disinclination to get bunged out of a well-loved club urged him to let the young master boil his head. The situation seemed to me to call for what is known as a compromise.
"Well, couldn't you water the thing down a bit? Omit one or two of the juicier episodes?"
"I fear not, sir. The full facts are required. The committee insists on this."
I suppose I ought not at this point to have expressed a hope that his blasted committee would trip over banana skins and break their ruddy necks, for I seemed to detect on his face a momentary look of pain. But he was broad-minded and condoned it.
"Your chagrin does not surprise me, sir. One can, however, understand their point of view. The Junior Ganymede club book is a historic document. It has been in existence more than eighty years."
"It must be the size of a house."
"No, sir, the records are in several volumes. The present one dates back some twelve years. And one must remember that it is not every employer who demands a great deal of space."
"I should have said 'requires.' As a rule, a few lines suffice. Your eighteen pages are quite exceptional."
"Eighteen? I thought it was eleven."
"You are omitting to take into your calculations the report of your misadventures at Totleigh Towers, which I have nearly completed. I anticipate that this will run to approximately seven. If you will permit me, sir, I will pat your back."
He made this kindly offer because I had choked on a swallow of coffee. A few pats and I was myself again and more than a little incensed, as always happens when we are discussing his literary work. Eighteen pages, I mean to say, and every page full of stuff calculated, if thrown open to the public, to give my prestige the blackest of eyes. Conscious of a strong desire to kick the responsible parties in the seat of the pants, I spoke with a generous warmth.
"Well, I call it monstrous. There's no other word for it. Do you know what that blasted committee of yours is inviting? Blackmail, that's what it's inviting. Let some man of ill will get his hooks on that book, and what'll be the upshot? Ruin, Jeeves, that's what'll be the upshot."
I don't know if he drew himself to his full height, because I was lighting a cigarette at the moment and
wasn't looking, but I think he must have done so, for his voice, when he spoke, was the chilly voice of one who has drawn himself to his full height.
"There are no men of ill will in the Junior Ganymede, sir."
I contested this statement hotly.
"That's what you think. How about Brinkley?" I said, my allusion being to a fellow the agency had sent me some years previously when Jeeves and I had parted company temporarily because he didn't like me playing the banjolele. "He's a member, isn't he?"
"A country member, sir. He rarely comes to the club. In passing, sir, his name is not Brinkley, it is Bingley."
I waved an impatient cigarette holder. I was in no mood to split straws. Or is it hairs?
"His name is not of the essence, Jeeves. What is of the e is that he went off on his afternoon out, came back in an advanced state of intoxication, set the house on fire and tried to dismember me with a carving knife."
"A most unpleasant experience, sir."
"Having heard noises down below, I emerged from my room and found him wrestling with the grandfather clock, with which he appeared to have had a difference. He then knocked over a lamp and leaped up the stairs at me, complete with cutlass. By a miracle I avoided becoming the late Bertram Wooster, but only by a miracle. And you say there are no men of ill will in the Junior Ganymede club. Tchah!" I said. It is an expression I don't often use, but the situation seemed to call for it.
Things had become difficult. Angry passions were rising and dudgeon bubbling up a bit. It was fortunate that at this juncture the telephone should have tootled, causing a diversion.
"Mrs. Travers, sir," said Jeeves, having gone to the instrument.
0 Copyright © 1971 by P. G. Wodehouse