I'm not absolutely certain of my facts, but I rather fancy it's Shakespeare- or, if not, it's some equally brainy lad- who says that it's always just when a chappie is feeling particularly top-hole, and more than usually braced with things in general that Fate sneaks up behind him with a bit of lead piping. There's no doubt the man's right. It's absolutely that way with me. Take, for instance, the fairly rummy matter of Lady Malvern and her son Wilmot. A moment before they turned up, I was just thinking how thoroughly all right everything was.
It was one of those topping mornings, and I had just climbed out from under the cold shower, feeling like a two-year-old. As a matter of fact, I was especially bucked just then because the day before I had asserted myself with Jeeves- absolutely asserted myself, don't you know. You see, the way things had been going on I was rapidly becoming a dashed serf. The man had jolly well oppressed me. I didn't so much mind when he made me give up one of my new suits, because, Jeeves's judgment about suits is sound. But I as near as a toucher rebelled when he wouldn't let me wear a pair of cloth-topped boots which I loved like a couple of brothers. And when he tried to tread on me like a worm in the matter of a hat, I jolly well put my foot down and showed him who was who. It's a long story, and I haven't time to tell you now, but the point is that he wanted me to wear the Longacre- as worn by John Drew- when I had set my heart on the Country Gentleman- as worn by another famous actor chappie- and the end of the matter was that, after a rather painful scene, I bought the Country Gentleman. So that's how things stood on this particular morning, and I was feeling kind of manly and independent.
Well, I was in the bathroom, wondering what there was going to be for breakfast while I massaged the good old spine with a rough towel and sang slightly, when there was a tap at the door. I stopped singing and opened the door an inch.
"What ho without there!"
"Lady Malvern wishes to see you, sir," said Jeeves.
"Lady Malvern, sir. She is waiting in the sitting-room."
"Pull yourself together, Jeeves, my man," I said, rather severely, for I bar practical jokes before breakfast. "You know perfectly well there's no one waiting for me in the sitting-room. How could there be when it's barely ten o'clock yet?"
"I gathered from her ladyship, sir, that she had landed from an ocean liner at an early hour this morning."
This made the thing a bit more plausible. I remembered that when I had arrived in America about a year before, the proceedings had begun at some ghastly hour like six, and that I had been shot out on to a foreign shore considerably before eight.
"Who the deuce is Lady Malvern, Jeeves?"
"Her ladyship did not confide in me, sir."
"Is she alone?"
"Her ladyship is accompanied by a Lord Pershore, sir. I fancy that his lordship would be her ladyship's son."
"Oh, well, put out rich raiment of sorts, and I'll be dressing."
"Our heather-mixture lounge is in readiness, sir."
"Then lead me to it."
While I was dressing I kept trying to think who on earth Lady Malvern could be. It wasn't till I had climbed through the top of my shirt and was reaching out for the studs that I remembered.
"I've placed her, Jeeves. She's a pal of my Aunt Agatha."
"Yes. I met her at lunch one Sunday before I left London. A very vicious specimen. Writes books. She wrote a book on social conditions in India when she came back from the Durbar."
"Yes, sir? Pardon me, sir, but not that tie!"
"Not that tie with the heather-mixture lounge, sir!"
It was a shock to me. I thought I had quelled the fellow. It was rather a solemn moment. What I mean is, if I weakened now, all my good work the night before would be thrown away. I braced myself.
"What's wrong with this tie? I've seen you give it a nasty look before. Speak out like a man! What's the matter with it?"
"Too ornate, sir."
"Nonsense! A cheerful pink. Nothing more."
"Jeeves, this is the tie I wear!"
"Very good, sir."
Dashed unpleasant. I could see that the man was wounded. But I was firm. I tied the tie, got into the coat and waistcoat, and went into the sitting-room.
"Halloa! Halloa! Halloa!" I said. "What?"
"Ah! How do you do, Mr. Wooster? You have never met my son, Wilmot, I think? Motty, darling, this is Mr. Wooster."
Lady Malvern was a hearty, happy, healthy, overpowering sort of dashed female, not so very tall but making up for it by measuring about six feet from the O.P. to the Prompt Side. She fitted into my biggest arm-chair as if it had been built round her by someone who knew they were wearing arm-chairs tight about the hips that season. She had bright, bulging eyes and a lot of yellow hair, and when she spoke she showed about fifty-seven front teeth. She was one of those women who kind of numb a fellow's faculties. She made me feel as if I were ten years old and had been brought into the drawing-room in my Sunday clothes to say how-d'you-do. Altogether by no means the sort of thing a chappie would wish to find in his sitting-room before breakfast.
Motty, the son, was about twenty-three, tall and thin and meek-looking. He had the same yellow hair as his mother, but he wore it plastered down and parted in the middle. His eyes bulged, too, but they weren't bright. They were a dull grey with pink rims. His chin gave up the struggle about half-way down, and he didn't appear to have any eyelashes. A mild, furtive, sheepish sort of blighter, in short.
"Awfully glad to see you," I said. "So you've popped over, eh? Making a long stay in America?"
"About a month. Your aunt gave me your address and told me to be sure
and call on you."
I was glad to hear this, as it showed that Aunt Agatha was beginning to come round a bit. There had been some unpleasantness a year before, when she had sent me over to New York to disentangle my Cousin Gussie from the clutches of a girl on the music-hall stage. When I tell you that by the time I had finished my operations, Gussie had not only married the girl but had gone on the stage himself, and was doing well, you'll understand that Aunt Agatha was upset to no small extent. I simply hadn't dared go back and face her, and it was a relief to find that time had healed the wound and all that sort of thing enough to make her tell her pals to look me up. What I mean is, much as I liked America, I didn't want to have England barred to me for the rest of my natural; and, believe me, England is a jolly sight too small for anyone to live in with Aunt Agatha, if she's really on the warpath. So I braced on hearing these kind words and smiled genially on the assemblage.
"Your aunt said that you would do anything that was in your power to be of assistance to us."
"Rather? Oh, rather! Absolutely!"
"Thank you so much. I want you to put dear Motty up for a little
I didn't get this for a moment.
"Put him up? For my clubs?"
"No, no! Darling Motty is essentially a home bird. Aren't you, Motty
Motty, who was sucking the knob of his stick, uncorked himself.
"Yes, mother," he said, and corked himself up again.
Snippet from Birds of a Lesser Paradise
- Megan Mayhew Bergman
Snippet from The Buried Giant
- Kazuo Ishiguro