"Your tea, Lord Etringham," I said.
"Thank you. Please be so good as to leave it by the bed," replied Jeevesfor it was he and no bona fide member of the aristocracy who reclined among the crisp linens of the four-poster. "I trust you slept well," I said, with a fair bit of topspin.
"Exceedingly well, thank you, sir."
But hold on a minute. I see I've done it again: set off like the electric hare at the local dog track while the paying customers have only the foggiest idea of what's going on. Steady on, Wooster, they're saying: no prize for finishing first. What's this buttling business, and why the assumed names? Are we at some fancy-dress ball? Put us in the picture, pray, murky though it be...
Very well. Let me marshal my facts.
In the month of May, about four weeks before this hard kitchen labour, I had taken a spring break in the South of France. You know how it is. It seemed an age since the ten days in January I had spent at the Grand Hotel des Bains up in the Alps and the pace of life in the old metrop had become a trifle wearing. So I instructed Jeeves to book two rooms in a modest hotel or pension on the Promenade des Anglais and off we went one Friday night from Paris on the Train Bleu.
I envisaged a Spartan régime of walking in the hills, a dip in the sea if warm enough, some good books and early nights with plenty of Vichy water for good measure. And so it was for a couple of days, until a misunderstanding of swing-door etiquette as I re-entered my hotel early one evening caused a fellow-guest to go sprawling across the marble floor of the lobby. When I had helped her to reassemble her belongings, I found myself staring into the eyes of perhaps the most beautiful girl I had ever seen. It seemed only gallant to invite her into the Bar Croisette for something to restore the bruised tissues while I continued my apologising.
Georgiana Meadowes was the poor girl's name. She worked for a publisher in London and had come south for a few days to labour away on the latest typescript from their bestselling performer. I had only the faintest idea of what this entailed, but held my end up with a few "indeed"s and "well I never"s.
"Do you do a lot of this editing stuff on the Côte d'Azur?" I asked.
She laughedand it made the sound of a frisky brook going over the strings of a particularly well-tuned harp. "No, no, not at all. I usually sit in the corner of a small office in Bedford Square working by electric light. But my boss is very understanding and he thought it would do me goodhelp clear my mind or something."
We Woosters are pretty quick on the uptake, and from this short speech I deduced two things, viz.: one, that this G. Meadowes had a dilemma of a personal nature and, two, that her employer prized her services pretty highly. But one doesn't pryat least not on first acquaintance with a girl one has just sent an absolute purler on a marble surface, so I moved the subject on to that of dinner.
And so it was that a couple of hours later, bathed and changed, we found ourselves in a seaside restaurant ten minutes' drive down the Croisette tête-à- tête over a pile of crustacea. After two nights of Vichy water, I thought it right to continue the restorative theme of the evening with a cocktail followed by a bottle of something chilled and white.
Those familiar with what I have heard Jeeves refer to as my oeuvre will know that over the years I have been fortunate enough to have hobnobbed with some prize specimens of the opposite sex and to have been engaged to more of them than was probably wise. One does not bandy a woman's name, though since the facts are in the public domain I fear the bandying has been done and it may therefore be permissible to mention Cora "Corky" Pirbright and Zenobia "Nobby" Hopwood as strong contenders for the podium in the race for most attractive prospect ever to pitch over the Wooster horizon. I should also mention Pauline Stoker, whose beauty so maddened me that I proposed to her in the Oak Room of the Plaza Hotel in New York. Even Madeline Bassett was no slouch as far as looks were concerned, though her admirers tended to dwindle in number pretty rapidly once she gave voice.
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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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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