Our beloved gentleman's gentleman, Jeeves, who always comes to the rescue of the hapless Bertie Wooster whenever he falls into trouble, is back with a laconic bang. My Man Jeeves, a collection ...(more)
JEEVES AND THE HARD-BOILED EGG
Sometimes of a morning, as I've sat in bed sucking down the early cup of tea and watched my man Jeeves flitting about the room and putting out the raiment for the day, I've wondered what the deuce I should do if the fellow ever took it into his head to leave me. It's not so bad now I'm in New York, but in London the anxiety was frightful. There used to be all sorts of attempts on the part of low blighters to sneak him away from me. Young Reggie Foljambe to my certain knowledge offered him double what I was giving him, and Alistair Bingham-Reeves, who's got a valet who had been known to press his trousers sideways, used to look at him, when he came to see me, with a kind of glittering hungry eye which disturbed me deucedly. Bally pirates!
The thing, you see, is that Jeeves is so dashed competent. You can spot it even in the way he shoves studs into a shirt. I rely on him absolutely in every crisis, and he never lets me down. And, what's more, he can always be counted on to extend himself on behalf of any pal of mine who happens to be to all appearances knee-deep in the bouillon. Take the rather rummy case, for instance, of dear old Bicky and his uncle, the hard-boiled egg.
It happened after I had been in America for a few months. I got back to the flat latish one night, and when Jeeves brought me the final drink he said:
"Mr. Bickersteth called to see you this evening, sir, while you were out."
"Oh?" I said.
"Twice, sir. He appeared a trifle agitated."
"He gave that impression, sir."
I sipped the whisky. I was sorry if Bicky was in trouble, but, as a matter of fact, I was rather glad to have something I could discuss freely with Jeeves just then, because things had been a bit strained between us for some time, and it had been rather difficult to hit on anything to talk about that wasn't apt to take a personal turn. You see, I had decided--rightly or wrongly--to grow a moustache and this had cut Jeeves to the quick. He couldn't stick the thing at any price, and I had been living ever since in an atmosphere of bally disapproval till I was getting jolly well fed up with it. What I mean is, while there's no doubt that in certain matters of dress Jeeves's judgment is absolutely sound and should be followed, it seemed to me that it was getting a bit too thick if he was going to edit my face as well as my costume. No one can call me an unreasonable chappie, and many's the time I've given in like a lamb when Jeeves has voted against one of my pet suits or ties; but when it comes to a valet's staking out a claim on your upper lip you've simply got to have a bit of the good old bulldog pluck and defy the blighter.
"He said that he would call again later, sir."
"Something must be up, Jeeves."
I gave the moustache a thoughtful twirl. It seemed to hurt Jeeves a good deal, so I chucked it.
"I see by the paper, sir, that Mr. Bickersteth's uncle is arriving on the Carmantic."
"His Grace the Duke of Chiswick, sir."
This was news to me, that Bicky's uncle was a duke. Rum, how little one knows about one's pals! I had met Bicky for the first time at a species of beano or jamboree down in Washington Square, not long after my arrival in New York. I suppose I was a bit homesick at the time, and I rather took to Bicky when I found that he was an Englishman and had, in fact, been up at Oxford with me. Besides, he was a frightful chump, so we naturally drifted together; and while we were taking a quiet snort in a corner that wasn't all cluttered up with artists and sculptors and what-not, he furthermore endeared himself to me by a most extraordinarily gifted imitation of a bull-terrier chasing a cat up a tree. But, though we had subsequently become extremely pally, all I really knew about him was that he was generally hard up, and had an uncle who relieved the strain a bit from time to time by sending him monthly remittances.
"If the Duke of Chiswick is his uncle," I said, "why hasn't he a title? Why isn't he Lord What-Not?"
"Mr. Bickersteth is the son of his grace's late sister, sir, who married Captain Rollo Bickersteth of the Coldstream Guards."
Jeeves knows everything.
"Is Mr. Bickersteth's father dead, too?"
"Leave any money?"
I began to understand why poor old Bicky was always more or less on the rocks. To the casual and irreflective observer, if you know what I mean, it may sound a pretty good wheeze having a duke for an uncle, but the trouble about old Chiswick was that, though an extremely wealthy old buster, owning half London and about five counties up north, he was notoriously the most prudent spender in England. He was what American chappies would call a hard-boiled egg. If Bicky's people hadn't left him anything and he depended on what he could prise out of the old duke, he was in a pretty bad way. Not that that explained why he was hunting me like this, because he was a chap who never borrowed money. He said he wanted to keep his pals, so never bit any one's ear on principle.
At this juncture the door bell rang. Jeeves floated out to answer it.
"Yes, sir. Mr. Wooster has just returned," I heard him say.
And Bicky came trickling in, looking pretty sorry for himself.
"Halloa, Bicky!" I said. "Jeeves told me you had been trying to get me. Jeeves, bring another glass, and let the revels commence. What's the trouble, Bicky?"
"I'm in a hole, Bertie. I want your advice."
"Say on, old lad!"
"My uncle's turning up to-morrow, Bertie."
"So Jeeves told me."
"The Duke of Chiswick, you know."
"So Jeeves told me."
Bicky seemed a bit surprised.
"Jeeves seems to know everything."
"Rather rummily, that's exactly what I was thinking just now myself."
"Well, I wish," said Bicky gloomily, "that he knew a way to get me out of the hole I'm in."
Jeeves shimmered in with the glass, and stuck it competently on the table.
"Mr. Bickersteth is in a bit of a hole, Jeeves," I said, "and wants you to rally round."
"Very good, sir."
Bicky looked a bit doubtful.
"Well, of course, you know, Bertie, this thing is by way of being a bit private and all that."
"I shouldn't worry about that, old top. I bet Jeeves knows all about it already. Don't you, Jeeves?"
"Eh!" said Bicky, rattled.
"I am open to correction, sir, but is not your dilemma due to the fact that you are at a loss to explain to his grace why you are in New York instead of in Colorado?"
Bicky rocked like a jelly in a high wind.
"How the deuce do you know anything about it?"
"I chanced to meet his grace's butler before we left England. He informed me that he happened to overhear his grace speaking to you on the matter, sir, as he passed the library door."
Bicky gave a hollow sort of laugh.
"Well, as everybody seems to know all about it, there's no need to try to keep it dark. The old boy turfed me out, Bertie, because he said I was a brainless nincompoop. The idea was that he would give me a remittance on condition that I dashed out to some blighted locality of the name of Colorado and learned farming or ranching, or whatever they call it, at some bally ranch or farm or whatever it's called. I didn't fancy the idea a bit. I should have had to ride horses and pursue cows, and so forth. I hate horses. They bite at you. I was all against the scheme. At the same time, don't you know, I had to have that remittance."
"I get you absolutely, dear boy."
"Well, when I got to New York it looked a decent sort of place to me, so I thought it would be a pretty sound notion to stop here. So I cabled to my uncle telling him that I had dropped into a good business wheeze in the city and wanted to chuck the ranch idea. He wrote back that it was all right, and here I've been ever since. He thinks I'm doing well at something or other over here. I never dreamed, don't you know, that he would ever come out here. What on earth am I to do?"