This book is intended as a tribute from me, and on behalf
of any others who don't think it falls too lamentably short of
the mark to P. G. Wodehouse: a thank you for all the pleasure
his work has given. I have been reading him with joy and
admiration for almost half a century. I am no expert or mastermind
on things Wodehousean; I am just a fan.
The great man's descendants hope, I know, that a new novel may help to bring the characters of Jeeves and Bertie to a younger readership that lucky group of people who have yet to open The Mating Season or Right Ho, Jeeves. I hope so too, and I envy them the joys that lie in store.
To the old hands, meanwhile, I would say only this: that yes, I did understand the size of what I had taken on, and yes, it was as hard as I expected. Wodehouse's prose is a glorious thing; and there's the rub. I didn't want to write too close an imitation of that distinctive music for fear of sounding flat or sharp. Nor did I want to drift into parody. What I therefore tried to do was give people who haven't read the Jeeves books a sense of what they sound like; while for those who know them well I tried to provide a nostalgic variation in which a memory of the real thing provides the tune and these pages perhaps a line of harmony.
I would like to thank Sir Edward Cazalet, P. G. Wodehouse's step-grandson, for his encouragement; Tony Ring for his Wodehouse expertise; and Gillon Aitken, Peter Straus, Jocasta Hamilton, Keith Kahla, and Gail Rebuck for easing it all into print. I hope that readers of this story will be encouraged to go back to the peerless originals, and thence to a brighter world.
I was woken in the middle of the night by
what sounded like a dozen metal dustbins being chucked
down a flight of stone steps. After a moment of floundering
in the darkness I put my hand on the source of the infernal
noise: the twin copper bells on top of a large alarm clock.
There followed a brief no holds-barred wrestling bout before I
was able to shove the wretched thing beneath the mattress.
It was a panting and lightly perspiring B. Wooster who
then consulted his wristwatch to find that it was in fact six
o'clock the appointed hour at which I was to throw off the
bonds of slumber and rise to tackle my new duties.
This was a dashed sight harder than it sounds. Easing the person to an even semi-recumbent position caused pains to shoot across the small of the back. Whoever had designed the palliasse on which I had lain these seven hours had clearly been of the opinion that nature's sweet restorer, as I have heard Jeeves call it, can get the job done in five-minute bursts. It required a steadying grip on the bedstead before I could cross the bare boards and don the dressing gown. It's possible that a sharp-eared observer might have heard a few groans as, sponge bag in hand, I headed down the passageway towards the servants' bathroom.
Mercifully, I seemed to be the first to the ablutions. Hot water came from a geyser in a boiling trickle over the bath, but in the basin the H and C taps might more accurately have been labelled "Cold" and "Frozen." It was a haggard Bertram who stared back from the glass as he plied the morning steel and sponged the outlying portions. I dried off with a strip of material less like a towel than a yard of well-used sandpaper.
It's funny how quickly one gets used to certain things in life. At school we had been compelled, on pain of six of the juiciest, to keep a keen eye on our kit and know at all times where the socks (grey, six pairs) and footer bags (navy blue, two pairs) were to be found. The services of Tucker, my accommodating scout at Oxford, however, and several years of Jeeves's care had left me rather vague in such matters. To say it was something of a trial to dress myself in the uniform of a gentleman's personal gentleman would be an understatement. Eventually, after several attempts and some pretty fruity language, the shirt, collar stud and tie achieved some sort of coming-together, after which the outer garments were a breeze. Pausing only to rub the shoe on the back of the trouser, I went gingerly out on to the landing and down the back staircase, which gave off a powerful whiff of lime wood.
Excerpted from Jeeves and the Wedding Bells by Sebastian Faulks. Copyright © 2013 by Sebastian Faulks. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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