I frowned, the bright morning dimmed slightly by a problem so perplexing that there was only one course of action. Gargling with the old tooth water, to clear the jolly vocal chords, I took a deep breath and yodeled, “Jeeves!”
He was there in an instant, shimmering into view like the bally stars at night do, soundless and not there and then there, if you take my meaning. Deuced odd, but I was used to it by now, so I didn’t jump.
“Yes, sir?” he asked, sounding mellow and approving. I basked in the glow. I’d been rather cunning – outwitted Jeeves, which is something one doesn’t hear of every day. Or night. Possibly on April the First but that wouldn’t count. Sorry; babbling like one of those dashed brooks. I’d seen a tie in a shop, y’see. Hideous thing. Sort of a mustard-yellow, with magenta horseshoes scattered hither and yon. I blinked at it, trying to decide if my sight had been permanently affected and whether that was a blessing or a curse, when I saw another tie in the window. That one – ah, that one was stunning. Deep mauve and a sort of subtle pattern of diamonds. I took a brace and walked into the shop, bound and determined to sport that strip of silk with no time wasted. I went through the usual guff with the bloke behind the counter, firmly dissuaded him from the notion that I needed bright red braces – and then got stuck in the doorway, vibrating gently back and forth as I thought.
Jeeves wasn’t going to like this tie. Mauve. He had this dashed silly idea that it didn’t suit my complexion. What that had to do with the price of fish on Friday when the subject under discussion was a pair of mauve socks, I don’t know, but there it was. Jeeves had put a blot against the fair name of mauve in the rainbow of life.
Now, he might think I haven’t noticed the way he works, but I have. Bertie Wooster is many things, and if my Aunt Agatha had her way, I’d have a special entry in the bally dic. under ‘wastrel’ but I’m not solid from the neck upwards. Jeeves would tell me something wouldn’t do, I’d kick against his decree like a filly in the 2.30 at Goodwood, he’d extract me from a pickle and in gratitude, or because he’d jolly well blackmailed me, I’d hand over the article, agree to his demands and we’d have less of Jeeves the human icicle and more the Jeeves who appeared two minutes after the old eyelids had lifted and blinked, cup of tea in one hand and smiling slightly.
So my cunning plan, and a fine one too, was this; I’d buy the hideous monstrosity, wear it around the flat for a while, get Jeeves up in arms, concede gracefully and then produce the mauve one. Psychology of the individual, what? Next to the mustard horror, even Jeeves wouldn’t mind the mauve one.
So far, the plan had gone well. I’d worn the tie, endured the polite suggestions from Jeeves that I give it to the deserving poor (cruel chap!) and then, with a regretful, false sigh, allowed Jeeves to bear it off in triumph, destined, I hoped, for a grave six foot deep, with warning notices scattered hither and yon as it was probably poisonous. This morning I planned to move onto step two of the c.p. and bring out the mauve one.
But... “You see this, Jeeves? Dashed odd. Won’t go away, don’t you know? Can you imagine what a sight I’ll look in my trousers with this sticking out?”
Jeeves inhaled sharply. “Oh, that will never do, sir. The trousers should break over the instep just so. That will not be possible with sir in this condition.”
I stared down and slapped the old todger moodily. It didn’t help.
“Might I ask what remedies sir has attempted?” Jeeves asked.
I cast him a look of gratitude. “Oh, the usual; cold shower, five minutes pondering being marooned on a desert island with that blight on my life, Aunt Agatha... Thought it might be working at one point but no, sprang back like a leaping hart, or whatever it is that leaps.”
“Many things, including frogs,” murmured Jeeves, his gaze directed south. It was hard to tell as his face is one of those impassive ones, barely trembling no matter what stress he’s under, but I thought he looked a tad concerned. “If I might be so bold, sir,” he continued, “have you attempted a slightly more direct solution? A hands on approach if I might use that phrase.”
“You can use whatever bally well phrase you like, old man, as long as this gets reduced to a size that will allow me to walk into the Drones without making the gathered populace throw bread rolls like confetti.”
“Very well, sir. If you would allow to position this towel...Now, if sir would simply wrap his hand around – no, I fancy it would be more efficacious if you were to – ah, just so. Now, gripping firmly –”
“Niblick? Or putter?” I demanded. “Is this a wood shot?”
His eyes closed for a second and he seemed to lapse into deep thought. When he opened them again, his eyes seemed a little glazed, like the best hams. “A perfect description, sir. I fancy you should endeavour to emulate Braid and grip the club – I beg your pardon, your –”
“Todger,” I said helpfully as he seemed to run down a little, like the clockwork train I got in my stocking one year that went just far enough to knock over the Pater’s port glass and no further. Of course, he hurled it to the floor and jumped up and down on it a few dozen times, so I can’t say that I was surprised.
“Quite. Once gripped, a gentle up and down motion whilst thinking of –”
“Aunt Agatha? That pestilent boil, young Edwin?”
“On no account, sir. It might seem strange, but we have moved into a brave new world and what worked so well before is now contraindicated.”
“Eh? Contra...well, whatever you say, Jeeves.”
I took hold and began to move, sighing gently and beginning to hum. Jeeves winced sharply, a pained look flitting over his face. “Normally, one performs this particular act in silence,” he suggested.
“Really? Dashed peculiar! I’m getting the same feeling I do when I’m splashing in the old b. and you know what happens when Bertie meets water, suds and the jolly old rubber duck. We have the music of the spheres right here in the flat and the angels weep.”
“They do, sir?”
“Like willows,” I said firmly. I glanced down. “Still there, Jeeves. Possibly there’s some ointment that might do the trick? You could ferret around in the medicine cabinet, get the jolly old muck we used when I had that rash and apply it in a gentle circular motion for ten mins or so?”
Jeeves shook his head firmly. “I think if sir merely increases the speed of his action, closes his eyes and concentrates on something pleasant...”
I did as he said and d’you know what floated into my head? That tie. I saw myself slipping it around my neck, smooth and silky against my palm, fitting it snugly under the crisp, starched collar, dropping my hands and waiting for Jeeves’ fingers to fold the collar down and work his magic on the tie, tweaking it into place, tightening the knot...
“Jeeves!” I panted, suddenly overcome with an alloverish sort of a feeling. “Can’t – quite - Help!”
My eyes were still closed but I thought I heard him sigh faintly and then my hand was lifted gently away and his replaced it. The difference was astounding; like one of those before and after ads one sees in the glossies. Everything went starry and bright and there was this sensation of indescribable relief, coming in waves.
I stood, swaying slightly, feeling weak about the knee region, a bit like the feeling I had the time I went to pinch a bobby’s helmet and found I’d taken his hair piece with it and he wasn’t inclined to view it as no end of a jape.
“Jeeves,” I said, opening my eyes and gazing at him reverently. “There’s a tie tucked behind my handkerchiefs. You may extract it and do with it as you will. Bin it, Jeeves. It’s dear to my heart but – away with it.”
His eyes met mine with a sombre satisfaction. “I came across it last night sir. It is giving great pleasure to a young gentleman in China, that is, it will do when the package arrives.”
I followed him out of the bathroom to the bedroom where my clothes lay neatly spread on the bed. “Not with you, Jeeves. Explain, elucidate and all that rot.”
“A young lady called by, collecting for the Chinese Mission. I took the liberty of donating it in your name.”
I frowned austerely as I stepped into the trousers he held out and then caught sight of my reflection in the mirror and the impeccable fold of the old underpinnings. One couldn’t out fox a man who could produce results like this, a veritable virtuoso.
“Right-ho, Jeeves,” I said sadly.
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