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Thank You, Jeeves, Page 1

P. G. Wodehouse

  Thank You, Jeeves

  P.G. Wodehouse

  When Bertie insists upon playing the banjolele, to the distress of his neighbors and his impeccable valet Jeeves, Jeeves is forced to take drastic action. He leaves B.'s service. But Bertie is entirely dedicated to his art, and decides to rent one of his friend Lord Chuffnell's cottages so as to pursue his banjolele studies away from the madding (and maddened) crowd... only to learn that Jeeves has taken employment as Chuffy's valet at Chuffnell Hall. Right-ho, then. There is the usual romantic imbroglio; a former fiancée of Bertie's, Pauline Stoker, enters the picture as Chuffy's guest while her father, the American millionaire J. Washburn Stoker, considers the purchase of Chuffnell Hall. Of course Pauline and Chuffy proceed to fall madly in love, and when they fall out, it's up to Bertie to set things to rights again.


  Thank you, Jeeves


  I was a shade perturbed. Nothing to signify, really, but still just a spot concerned. As I sat in the old flat, idly touching the strings of my banjolele, an instrument to which I had become greatly addicted of late, you couldn't have said that the brow was actually furrowed, and yet, on the other hand, you couldn't have stated absolutely that it wasn't. Perhaps the word 'pensive' about covers it. It seemed to me that a situation fraught with embarrassing potentialities had arisen.

  'Jeeves,' I said, 'do you know what?'

  'No, sir.'

  'Do you know whom I saw last night?'

  'No, sir.'

  'J. Washburn Stoker and his daughter, Pauline.'

  'Indeed, sir?'

  'They must be over here.'

  'It would seem so, sir.'

  'Awkward, what?'

  'I can conceive that after what occurred in New York it might be distressing for you to encounter Miss Stoker, sir. But I fancy the contingency need scarcely arise.'

  I weighed this.

  'When you start talking about contingencies arising, Jeeves, the brain seems to flicker and I rather miss the gist. Do you mean that I ought to be able to keep out of her way?'

  'Yes, sir.'

  'Avoid her?'

  'Yes, sir.'

  I played five bars of 'Old Man River' with something of abandon. His pronouncement had eased my mind. I followed his reasoning. After all, London's a large place. Quite simple not to run into people, if you don't want to.

  'It gave me rather a shock, though.'

  'I can readily imagine so, sir.'

  'Accentuated by the fact that they were accompanied by Sir Roderick Glossop.'

  'Indeed, sir?'

  'Yes. It was at the Savoy Grill. They were putting on the nosebag together at a table by the window. And here's rather a rummy thing, Jeeves. The fourth member of the party was Lord Chuffnell's aunt, Myrtle. What would she be doing in that gang?'

  'Possibly her ladyship is an acquaintance either of Mr Stoker, Miss Stoker, or Sir Roderick, sir.'

  'Yes, that may be so. Yes, that might account for it. But it surprised me, I confess.'

  'Did you enter into conversation with them, sir?'

  'Who, me? No, Jeeves. I was out of the room like a streak. Apart from wishing to dodge the Stokers, can you see me wantonly and deliberately going and chatting with old Glossop?'

  'Certainly he has never proved a very congenial companion in the past, sir.'

  'If there is one man in the world I hope never to exchange speech with again, it is that old crumb.'

  'I forgot to mention, sir, that Sir Roderick called to see you this morning.'


  'Yes, sir.'

  'He called to see me?'

  'Yes, sir.'

  'After what has passed between us?'

  'Yes, sir.'

  'Well, I'm dashed!'

  'Yes, sir. I informed him that you had not yet risen, and he said that he would return later.'

  'He did, did he?' I laughed. One of those sardonic ones. 'Well, when he does, set the dog on him.'

  'We have no dog, sir.'

  'Then step down to the flat below and borrow Mrs Tinkler-Moulke's Pomeranian. Paying social calls after the way he behaved in New York! I never heard of such a thing. Did you ever hear of such a thing, Jeeves?'

  'I confess that in the circumstances his advent occasioned me surprise, sir.'

  'I should think it did. Good Lord! Good heavens! Good gosh! The man must have the crust of a rhinoceros.'

  And when I have given you the inside story, I think you will agree with me that my heat was justified. Let me marshal my facts and go to it.

  About three months before, noting a certain liveliness in my Aunt Agatha, I had deemed it prudent to pop across to New York for a space to give her time to blow over. And about half-way through my first week there, in the course of a beano of some description at the Sherry-Netherland, I made the acquaintance of Pauline Stoker.

  She got right in among me. Her beauty maddened me like wine.

  'Jeeves,' I recollect saying, on returning to the apartment, 'who was the fellow who on looking at something felt like somebody looking at something? I learned the passage at school, but it has escaped me.'

  'I fancy the individual you have in mind, sir, is the poet Keats, who compared his emotions on first reading Chapman's Homer to those of stout Cortez when with eagle eyes he stared at the Pacific'

  'The Pacific, eh?'

  'Yes, sir. And all his men looked at each other with a wild surmise, silent upon a peak in Darien.'

  'Of course. It all comes back to me. Well, that's how I felt this afternoon on being introduced to Miss Pauline Stoker. Press the trousers with special care to-night, Jeeves. I am dining with her.'

  In New York, I have always found, one gets off the mark quickly in matters of the heart. This, I believe, is due to something in the air. Two weeks later I proposed to Pauline. She accepted me. So far, so good. But mark the sequel. Scarcely forty-eight hours after that a monkey wrench was bunged into the machinery and the whole thing was off.

  The hand that flung that monkey wrench was the hand of Sir Roderick Glossop.

  In these memoirs of mine, as you may recall, I have had occasion to make somewhat frequent mention of this old pot of poison. A bald-domed, bushy-browed blighter, ostensibly a nerve specialist, but in reality, as everybody knows, nothing more nor less than a high-priced loony-doctor, he has been cropping up in my path for years, always with the most momentous results. And it so happened that he was in New York when the announcement of my engagement appeared in the papers.

  What brought him there was one of his periodical visits to J. Washburn Stoker's second cousin, George. This George was a man who, after a lifetime of doing down the widow and orphan, had begun to feel the strain a bit. His conversation was odd, and he had a tendency to walk on his hands. He had been a patient of Sir Roderick's for some years, and it was the latter's practice to dash over to New York every once in a while to take a look at him. He arrived on the present occasion just in time to read over the morning coffee and egg the news that Bertram Wooster and Pauline Stoker were planning to do the Wedding Glide. And, as far as I can ascertain, he was at the telephone, ringing up the father of the bride-to-be, without so much as stopping to wipe his mouth.

  Well, what he told J. Washburn about me I cannot, of course, say: but, at a venture, I imagine, he informed him that I had once been engaged to his daughter, Honoria, and that he had broken off the match because he had decided that I was barmy to the core. He would have touched, no doubt, on the incident of the cats and the fish in my bedroom: possibly, also, on the episode of the stolen hat and my habit of climbing down waterspouts: winding up, it may be, with a description of the unfortunate affair of the punctured hot-water bottle at Lady Wickham's.

A close friend of J. Washburn's and a man on whose judgment J. W. relied, I take it that he had little difficulty in persuading the latter that I was not the ideal son-in-law. At any rate, as I say, within a mere forty-eight hours of the holy moment I was notified that it would be unnecessary for me to order the new sponge-bag trousers and gardenia, because my nomination had been cancelled.

  And it was this man who was having the cool what's-the-word to come calling at the Wooster home. I mean, I ask you!

  I resolved to be pretty terse with him.

  I was still playing the banjolele when he arrived. Those who know Bertram Wooster best are aware that he is a man of sudden, strong enthusiasms and that, when in the grip of one of these, he becomes a remorseless machine – tense, absorbed, single-minded. It was so in the matter of this banjolele-playing of mine. Since the night at the Alhambra when the supreme virtuosity of Ben Bloom and his Sixteen Baltimore Buddies had fired me to take up the study of the instrument, not a day had passed without its couple of hours' assiduous practice. And I was twanging the strings like one inspired when the door opened and Jeeves shovelled in the foul strait-waistcoat specialist to whom I have just been alluding.

  In the interval which had elapsed since I had first been apprised of the man's desire to have speech with me, I had been thinking things over: and the only conclusion to which I could come was that he must have had a change of heart of some nature and decided that an apology was due me for the way he had behaved. It was, therefore, a somewhat softened Bertram Wooster who now rose to do the honours.

  'Ah, Sir Roderick,' I said. 'Good morning.'

  Nothing could have exceeded the courtesy with which I had spoken. Conceive of my astonishment, therefore, when his only reply was a grunt, and an indubitably unpleasant grunt, at that. I felt that my diagnosis of the situation had been wrong. Right off the bull's-eye I had been. Here was no square-shooting apologizer. He couldn't have been glaring at me with more obvious distaste if I had been the germ of dementia praecox.

  Well, if that was the attitude he was proposing to adopt, well, I mean to say. My geniality waned. I drew myself up coldly, at the same time raising a stiff eyebrow. And I was just about to work off the old To-what-am-I-indebted-for-this-visit gag, when he chipped in ahead of me.

  'You ought to be certified!'

  'I beg your pardon?'

  'You're a public menace. For weeks, it appears, you have been making life a hell for all your neighbours with some hideous musical instrument. I see you have it with you now. How dare you play that thing in a respectable block of flats? Infernal din!'

  I remained cool and dignified.

  'Did you say "infernal din"?'

  'I did.'

  'Oh? Well, let me tell you that the man that hath no music in himself...' I stepped to the door. 'Jeeves,' I called down the passage, 'what was it Shakespeare said the man who hadn't music in himself was fit for?'

  'Treasons, stratagems, and spoils, sir.'

  'Thank you, Jeeves. Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils,' I said, returning.

  He danced a step or two.

  'Are you aware that the occupant of the flat below, Mrs Tinkler-Moulke, is one of my patients, a woman in a highly nervous condition. I have had to give her a sedative.'

  I raised a hand.

  'Spare me the gossip from the loony-bin,' I said distantly. 'Might I inquire, on my side, if you are aware that Mrs Tinkler-Moulke owns a Pomeranian?'

  'Don't drivel.'

  'I am not drivelling. This animal yaps all day and not infrequently far into the night. So Mrs Tinkler-Moulke has had the nerve to complain of my banjolele, has she? Ha! Let her first pluck out the Pom which is in her own eye,' I said, becoming a bit scriptural.

  He chafed visibly.

  'I am not here to talk about dogs. I wish for your assurance that you will immediately cease annoying this unfortunate woman.'

  I shook the head.

  'I am sorry she is a cold audience, but my art must come first.'

  'That is your final word, is it?'

  'It is.'

  'Very good. You will hear more of this.'

  'And Mrs Tinkler-Moulke will hear more of this,' I replied, brandishing the banjolele.

  I touched the buzzer.

  'Jeeves,' I said, 'show Sir R. Glossop out!'

  I confess that I was well pleased with the manner in which I had comported myself during this clash of wills. There was a time, you must remember, when the sudden appearance of old Glossop in my sitting-room would have been enough to send me bolting for cover like a rabbit. But since then I had passed through the furnace, and the sight of him no longer filled me with a nameless dread. With a good deal of quiet self-satisfaction I proceeded to play 'The Wedding of the Painted Doll', 'Singin' In the Rain', 'Three Little Words', 'Good-Night, Sweetheart', 'My Love Parade', 'Spring Is Here', 'Whose Baby Are You', and part of 'I Want an Automobile With a Horn That Goes Toot-Toot', in the order named: and it was as I was approaching the end of this last number that the telephone rang.

  I went to the instrument and stood listening. And, as I listened, my face grew hard and set.

  'Very good, Mr Manglehoffer,' I said coldly. 'You may inform Mrs Tinkler-Moulke and her associates that I choose the latter alternative.'

  I touched the bell.

  'Jeeves,' I said, 'there has been a spot of trouble.'

  'Indeed, sir?'

  'Unpleasantness is rearing its ugly head in Berkeley Mansions, WI. I note also a lack of give-and-take and an absence of the neighbourly spirit. I have just been talking to the manager of this building on the telephone, and he has delivered an ultimatum. He says I must either chuck playing the banjolele or clear out.'

  'Indeed, sir?'

  'Complaints, it would seem, have been lodged by the Honourable Mrs Tinkler-Moulke, of C.6; by Lieutenant-Colonel J. J. Bustard, DSO, of B.5; and by Sir Everard and Lady Blennerhassett, of B.7. All right. So be it. I don't care. We shall be well rid of these Tinkler-Moulkes, these Bustards, and these Blennerhassetts. I leave them without a pang.'

  'You are proposing to move, sir?'

  I raised the eyebrows.

  'Surely, Jeeves, you cannot imagine that I ever considered any other course?'

  'But I fear you will encounter a similar hostility elsewhere, sir.'

  'Not where I am going. It is my intention to retire to the depths of the country. In some old world, sequestered nook I shall find a cottage, and there resume my studies.'

  'A cottage, sir?'

  'A cottage, Jeeves. If possible, honeysuckle-covered.'

  The next moment, you could have knocked me down with a toothpick. There was a brief pause, and then Jeeves, whom I have nurtured in my bosom, so to speak, for years and years and years, gave a sort of cough and there proceeded from his lips these incredible words:

  'In that case, I fear I must give my notice.'

  There was a tense silence. I stared at the man.

  'Jeeves,' I said, and you wouldn't be far out in describing me as stunned, 'did I hear you correctly?'

  'Yes, sir.'

  'You actually contemplate leaving my entourage?'

  'Only with the greatest reluctance, sir. But if it is your intention to play that instrument within the narrow confines of a country cottage ...'

  I drew myself up.

  'You say "that instrument", Jeeves. And you say it in an unpleasant, soupy voice. Am I to understand that you dislike this banjolele?'

  'Yes, sir.'

  'You've stood it all right up to now.'

  'With grave difficulty, sir.'

  'And let me tell you that better men than you have stood worse than banjoleles. Are you aware that a certain Bulgarian, Elia Gospodinoff, once played the bagpipes for twenty-four hours without a stop? Ripley vouches for this in his "Believe It Or Not".'

  'Indeed, sir?'

  'Well, do you suppose Gospodinoff's personal attendant kicked? A laughable idea. They are made of better stuff than that in Bulgaria. I am convinced that
he was behind the young master from start to finish of his attempt on the Central European record, and I have no doubt frequently rallied round with ice packs and other restoratives. Be Bulgarian, Jeeves.'

  'No, sir. I fear I cannot recede from my position.'

  'But, dash it, you say you are receding from your position.'

  'I should have said, I cannot abandon the stand which I have taken.'


  I mused awhile.

  'You mean this, Jeeves?'

  'Yes, sir.'

  'You have thought it all out carefully, weighing the pros and cons, balancing this against that?'

  'Yes, sir.'

  'And you are resolved?'

  'Yes, sir. If it is really your intention to continue playing that instrument, I have no option but to leave.'

  The Wooster blood boiled over. Circumstances of recent years have so shaped themselves as to place this blighter in a position which you might describe as that of a domestic Mussolini: but, forgetting this and sticking simply to cold fact, what is Jeeves, after all? A valet. A salaried attendant. And a fellow simply can't go on truckling – do I mean truckling? I know it begins with a 't' – to his valet for ever. There comes a moment when he must remember that his ancestors did dashed well at the Battle of Crecy and put the old foot down. This moment had now arrived.

  'Then, leave, dash it!'

  'Very good, sir.'


  I confess that it was in sombre mood that I assembled the stick, the hat, and the lemon-coloured some half-hour later and strode out into the streets of London. But though I did not care to think what existence would be like without Jeeves, I had no thought of weakening. As I turned the corner into Piccadilly, I was a thing of fire and chilled steel; and I think in about another half-jiffy I should have been snorting, if not actually shouting the ancient battle cry of the Woosters, had I not observed on the skyline a familiar form.

  This familiar form was none other than that of my boyhood friend, the fifth Baron Chuffnell – the chap, if you remember, whose Aunt Myrtle I had seen the previous night hobnobbing with the hellhound, Glossop.