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Author Biography: P.G. Wodehouse (1881 - 1975) was born in Surrey, educated in London, and spent much of his life in Southampton, Long Island, becoming an American citizen in 1955. In a literary career spanning more than seventy years, he published more than ...
Author Biography: P.G. Wodehouse (1881 - 1975) was born in Surrey, educated in London, and spent much of his life in Southampton, Long Island, becoming an American citizen in 1955. In a literary career spanning more than seventy years, he published more than ninety books, twenty film scripts, and collaborated on more than thirty plays and musical comedies.
`Within a toucher, Jeeves.'
`Unquestionably affairs had developed a certain menacing trend, sir.'
`I saw no ray of hope. It looked to me as if the blue bird had thrown in the towel and formally ceased to function. And yet here we are, all boomps-a-daisy. Makes one think a bit, that.'
`There's an expression on the tip of my tongue which seems to me to sum the whole thing up. Or, rather, when I say an expression, I mean a saying. A wheeze. A gag. What, I believe, is called a saw. Something about Joy doing something.'
`Joy cometh in the morning, sir?'
`That's the baby. Not one of your things, is it?'
`Well, it's dashed good,' I said.
And I still think that there can be no neater way of putting in a nutshell the outcome of the super-sticky affair of Nobby Hopwood, Stilton Cheesewright, Florence Craye, my Uncle Percy, J. Chichester Clam, Edwin the Boy Scout and old Boko Fittleworth — or, as my biographers will probably call it, the SteepleBumpleigh Horror.
Even before the events occurred which I am about to relate, the above hamlet had come high up on my list of places to be steered sedulously clear of. I don't know if you have ever seen one of those old maps where they mark a spot with a cross and put `Here be dragons' or `Keep ye eye skinned for hippogriffs', but I had always felt that some such kindly warning might well have been given to pedestrians and traffic with regard to this Steeple Bumpleigh.
A picturesque settlement, yes. None more so in all Hampshire. It lay embowered, as I believe the expression is, in the midst of smiling fields and leafy woods, hard by a willow-fringed river, and you couldn't have thrown a brick in it without hitting a honeysuckle-covered cottage or beaning an apple-cheeked villager. But you remember what the fellow said — it's not a bally bit of use every prospect pleasing if man is vile, and the catch about Steeple Bumpleigh was that it contained Bumpleigh Hall, which in its turn contained my Aunt Agatha and her second husband.
And when I tell you that this second h. was none other than Percival, Lord Worplesdon, and that he had with him his daughter Florence and his son Edwin, the latter as pestilential a stripling as ever wore khaki shorts and went spooring or whatever it is that these Boy Scouts do, you will understand why I had always declined my old pal Boko Fittleworth's invitations to visit him at the bijou residence he maintained in those parts.
I had also had to be similarly firm with Jeeves, who had repeatedly hinted his wish that I should take a cottage there for the summer months. There was, it appeared, admirable fishing in the river, and he is a man who dearly loves to flick the baited hook. `No, Jeeves,' I had been compelled to say, `much though it pains me to put a stopper on your simple pleasures, I cannot take the risk of running into that gang of pluguglies. Safety first.' And he had replied, `Very good, sir,' and there the matter had rested.
But all the while, unsuspected by Bertram, the shadow of Steeple Bumpleigh was creeping nearer and nearer, and came a day when it tore off its whiskers and pounced.
Oddly enough, the morning on which this major disaster occurred was one that found me completely, even exuberantly, in the pink. No inkling of the soup into which I was to be plunged came to mar my perfect bien être. I had slept well, shaved well and shower-bathed well, and it was with a merry cry that I greeted Jeeves as he brought in the coffee and kippers.
`Odd's boddikins, Jeeves,' I said, `I am in rare fettle this a.m. Talk about exulting in my youth! I feel up and doing, with a heart for any fate, as Tennyson says.'
`Or, if you prefer it, Longfellow. I am in no mood to split hairs. Well, what's the news?'
`Miss Hopwood called while you were still asleep, sir.'
`No, really? I wish I'd seen her.'
`The young lady was desirous of entering your room and rousing you with a wet sponge, but I dissuaded her. I considered it best that your repose should not be disturbed.'
I applauded this watch-dog spirit, showing as it did both the kindly heart and the feudal outlook, but continued to tut-tut a bit at having missed the young pipsqueak, with whom my relations had always been of the matiest. This Zenobia (`Nobby') Hopwood was old Worplesdon's ward, as I believe it is called. A pal of his, just before he stopped ticking over some years previously, had left him in charge of his daughter. I don't know how these things are arranged — no doubt documents have to be drawn up and dotted lines signed on — but, whatever the procedure, the upshot was as I have stated. When all the smoke had cleared away, my Uncle Percy was Nobby's guardian.
`Young Nobby, eh? When did she blow into the great city?' I asked. For, on becoming Uncle Percy's ward, she had of course joined the strength at his Steeple Bumpleigh lair, and it was only rarely nowadays that she came to London.
`Last night, sir.'
`Making a long stay?'
`Only until to-morrow, sir.'
`Hardly worth while sweating up just for a day, I should have thought.'
`I understand that she came because her ladyship desired her company, sir.'
I quailed a bit.
`You don't mean Aunt Agatha's in London?'
`Merely passing through, sir,' replied the honest fellow, calming my apprehensions. `Her ladyship is on her way to minister to Master Thomas, who has contracted mumps at his school.'
His allusion was to the old relative's son by her first marriage, one of our vilest citizens. Many good judges rank him even higher in England's Rogues' Gallery than her stepson Edwin. I was rejoiced to learn that he had got mumps, and toyed for a moment with a hope that Aunt Agatha would catch them from him.
`And what had Nobby to say for herself?'
`She was regretting that she saw so little of you nowadays, sir.'
`Quite mutual, the agony, Jeeves. There are few better eggs than this Hopwood.'
`She expressed a hope that you might shortly see your way to visiting Steeple Bumpleigh.'
I shook the head.
`Out of the q., Jeeves.'
`The young lady tells me the fish are biting well there just now.'
`No, Jeeves. I'm sorry. Not even if they bite like serpents do I go near Steeple Bumpleigh.'
`Very good, sir.'
He spoke sombrely, and I endeavoured to ease the strain by asking for another cup of coffee.
`Was Nobby alone?'
`No, sir. There was a gentleman with her, who spoke as if he were acquainted with you. Miss Hopwood addressed him as Stilton.'
`Noticeably well developed, sir.'
`With a head like a pumpkin?' `Yes, sir. There was a certain resemblance to the vegetable.'
`It must have been a companion of my earlier years named G. D'Arcy Cheesewright. In our whimsical way we used to call him Stilton. I haven't seen him for ages. He lives in the country somewhere, and to hobnob with Bertram Wooster it is imperative that you stick around the metropolis. Odd, him knowing Nobby.'
`I gathered from the young lady's remarks that Mr Cheesewright is also a resident of Steeple Bumpleigh, sir.'
`Really? It's a small world, Jeeves.'
`I don't know when I've seen a smaller,' I said, and would have gone more deeply into the subject, but at this juncture the telephone tinkled out a summons, and he shimmered off to answer it. Through the door, which he had chanced to leave ajar, the ear detected a good deal of Yes-my-lord-ing and Very-good-my-lord-ing, seeming to indicate that he had hooked one of the old nobility.
`Who was it?' I asked, as he filtered in again.
`Lord Worplesdon, sir.'
It seems almost incredible to me, looking back, that I should have received this news item with nothing more than a mildly surprised `Oh, ah?' Amazing, I mean, that I shouldn't have spotted the sinister way in which what you might call the Steeple Bumpleigh note had begun to intrude itself like some creeping fog or miasma, and trembled in every limb, asking myself what this portended. But so it was. The significance of the thing failed to penetrate and, as I say, I oh-ahed with merely a faint spot of surprise.
`The call was for me, sir. His lordship wishes me to go to his office immediately.'
`He wants to see you?'
`Such was the impression I gathered, sir.'
`Did he say why?'
`No, sir. Merely that the matter was of considerable urgency.'
I mused, thoughtfully champing a kipper. It seemed to me that there could be but one solution.
`Do you know what I think, Jeeves? He's in a spot of some kind and needs your counsel.'
`It may be so, sir.'
`I'll bet it's so. He must know all about your outstanding gifts. You can't go on as you have gone on so long, dishing out aid and comfort to all and sundry, without acquiring a certain reputation, if only in the family circle. Grab your hat and race along. I shall be all agog to learn the inside story. What sort of a day is it?'
`Extremely clement, sir.'
`Sunshine and all that?'
`I thought as much. That must be why I'm feeling so dashed fit. Then I think I'll take myself for an airing. Tell me,' I said, for I was a trifle remorseful at having had to adopt that firm attitude about going to Steeple Bumpleigh and wished to bring back into his life the joy which my refusal to allow him to get in among the local fish had excluded from it, `is there any little thing I can do for you while I'm out?'
`Any little gift you would like, I mean?'
`It is extremely kind of you, sir.'
`Not at all, Jeeves. The sky is the limit. State your desire.'
`Well, sir, there has recently been published a new and authoritatively annotated edition of the works of the philosopher Spinoza. Since you are so generous, I would appreciate that very much.'
`You shall have it. It shall be delivered at your door in a plain van without delay. You're sure you've got the name right? Spinoza?'
`It doesn't sound probable, but no doubt you know best. Spinoza, eh? Is he the Book Society's Choice of the Month?'
`I believe not, sir.'
`Well, he's the only fellow I ever heard of who wasn't. Right ho. I'll see to it instanter.'
And presently, having assembled the hat, the gloves and the neatly rolled u., I sauntered forth.
As I made my way to the bookery, I found my thoughts turning once more, as you may readily imagine, to this highly suggestive business of old Worplesdon. The thing intrigued me. I found it difficult to envisage what possible sort of a jam a man like that could have got himself into.
When, about eighteen months before, news had reached me through well-informed channels that my Aunt Agatha, for many years a widow, or derelict, as I believe it is called, was about to take another pop at matrimony, my first emotion, as was natural in the circumstances, had been a gentle pity for the unfortunate goop slated to step up the aisle with her — she, as you are aware, being my tough aunt, the one who eats broken bottles and conducts human sacrifices by the light of the full moon.
But when details began to come in, and I discovered that the bimbo who had drawn the short straw was Lord Worplesdon, the shipping magnate, this tender commiseration became sensibly diminished. The thing, I felt, would be no walkover. Even if in the fulness of time she wore him down and at length succeeded in making him jump through hoops, she would know she had been in a fight.
For he was hot stuff, this Worplesdon. I had known him all my life. It was he who at the age of fifteen — when I was fifteen, I mean, of course — found me smoking one of his special cigars in the stable yard and chased me a mile across difficult country with a hunting crop. And though with advancing years our relations had naturally grown more formal, I had never been able to think of him without getting goose pimples. Given the choice between him and a hippogriff as a companion for a walking tour, I would have picked the hippogriff every time.
It was not easy to see how such a man of blood and iron could have been reduced to sending out S O S's for Jeeves, and I was reflecting on the possibility of compromising letters in the possession of gold-digging blondes, when I reached my destination and started to lodge my order.
`Good morning, good morning,' I said. `I want a book.'
Of course, I ought to have known that it's silly to try to buy a book when you go to a book shop. It merely startles and bewilders the inmates. The motheaten old bird who had stepped forward to attend to me ran true to form.
`A book, sir?' he said, with ill-concealed astonishment.
`Spinoza,' I replied, specifying.
This had him rocking back on his heels.
`Did you say Spinoza, sir?'
`Spinoza was what I said.'
He seemed to be feeling that if we talked this thing out long enough as man to man, we might eventually hit upon a formula.
`You do not mean "The Spinning Wheel"?'
`It would not be "The Poisoned Pin"?'
`It would not.'
`Or "With Gun and Camera in Little Known Borneo"?' he queried, trying a long shot.
`Spinoza,' I repeated firmly. That was my story, and I intended to stick to it.
He sighed a bit, like one who feels that the situation has got beyond him.
`I will go and see if we have it in stock, sir. But possibly this may be what you are requiring. Said to be very clever.'
He pushed off, Spinoza-ing under his breath in a hopeless sort of way, leaving me clutching a thing called `Spindrift'.
It looked pretty foul. Its jacket showed a female with a green, oblong face sniffing at a purple lily, and I was just about to fling it from me and start a hunt for that `Poisoned Pin' of which he had spoken, when I became aware of someone Good-gracious-Berrie-ing and, turning, found that the animal cries proceeded from a tall girl of commanding aspect who had oiled up behind me.
`Good gracious, Berrie! Is it really you?'
I emitted a sharp gurgle, and shied like a startled mustang. It was old Worplesdon's daughter, Florence Craye.
And I'll tell you why, on beholding her, I shied and gurgled as described. I mean, if there's one thing I bar, it's the sort of story where people stagger to and fro, clutching their foreheads and registering strong emotion, and not a word of explanation as to what it's all about till the detective sums up in the last chapter.
Briefly, then, the reason why this girl's popping up had got in amongst me in this fashion was that we had once been engaged to be married, and not so dashed long ago, either. And though it all came out all right in the end, the thing being broken off and self saved from the scaffold at the eleventh hour, it had been an extraordinarily narrow squeak and the memory remained green. The mere mention of her name was still enough to make me call for a couple of quick ones, so you can readily appreciate my agitation at bumping into her like this absolutely in the flesh.
I swayed in the breeze, and found myself a bit stumped for the necessary dialogue.
`Oh, hullo,' I said.
Not good, of course, but the best I could do.
Excerpted from Joy in the Morning by P. G. WODEHOUSE. Copyright © 1975 by Lady Ethel Wodehouse. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Posted December 1, 2013
Posted December 14, 2009
Posted May 31, 2001
Joy in the Morning is one of those marvelous country comedies satirizing the English gentry that P.G. Wodehouse excelled at. The satire takes the familiar path of the nobility having more money and breeding than brains, while the ordinary folk are plagued by their nonsense. Wodehouse once noted that you could either do fiction starting from real life or start from the perspective of musical comedy. He chose the latter approach. Woolly-headed Bertram (Bertie) Wooster finds himself inevitably drawn into the lair he most fears, the country home of his demanding Aunt Agatha in Steeple Bumpleigh. He is ambivalent about Aunt Agatha, both fearing her, and relying on her for substantial funds. Unfortunately for him, his gentleman's gentleman, Jeeves, is the cause of the entrapment in Steeple Bumpleigh this time. So there is no escape, because Bertie would never be able to outmaneuver Jeeves. The cause of the geographic diversion on this occasion is that Jeeves would like to do a spot of fishing there, and you know how it is when Jeeves wants something. On the surface it looks like Uncle Percy merely needs a favor, but Jeeves is obviously working both sides of the street for his own benefit. Bertie has never had any good fortune in Steeple Bumpleigh. His Aunt Agatha has always been stern and strongly disapproving of him, while being very overbearing in her demands. Recently, she has remarried to Perceival, Lord Worplesdon, who once chased Bertie for a mile successfully brandishing a riding crop on Bertie's backside as a result of a youthful misunderstanding. Percy's son, Edwin, is worse than any juvenile delinquent you can imagine, because he operates under the cover of a do-gooding Boy Scout in creating his mayhem. Uncle Percy's daughter, Florence Craye, had once been engaged to Bertie, and he had barely avoided her unwanted grasp. No wonder Bertie avoids Steeple Bumpleigh like the River Styx. The potential horrors of Steeple Bumpleigh for Bertie are fortunately reduced in this story by the absence of Aunt Agatha and her son, Thos., who is suffering from the mumps. But Aunt Agatha imposes on Bertie in her absence to bring down a gift for her step-daughter, Florence Craye, and thus the complications begin. Before long, Bertie is at loggerheads with the usual suspects and at risk of wedding bells. In the meantime he does his best to secure wedding bells for the right couples, avoid them himself, and help out Aunt Agatha and Uncle Percy. And that's a big order, indeed, this time in Steeple Bumpleigh because matters become quite messy. Bertie usually makes his own trouble, but Jeeves, Edwin, and his old pal, Boko Fiddleworth, provide it in spades in this engaging story. Bertie soon feels like he has the proverbial tyre tracks on his body from being run over by misfortune at their hands. But after having satisfied his fishing yen, Jeeves saves the day with a brilliant and audacious improvisation, as he often does in these hilarious stories. I found the plot line to be even more charming and fun than the usual Bertie and Jeeves tale in this story. Bertie's character works better as an innocent dupe (his role in Joy in the Morning) th
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