I can honestly say that where these paragons of their sex left off, Georgiana Meadowes began. One rather wondered whether she should be allowed out at all, such a hazard did she pose to male shipping. She was on the tall side, slim, with darkish hair in waves and eyes about as deep as the Bermuda Triangle. Her skin was pale, though frequent laughter caused small variations of colour to play across it. The poor old wine waiter sloshed a good glass and a half onto the tablecloth and I noticed other fellows gathering and whispering behind their hands at the door to the kitchen. The girl herself seemed quite unaware of the havoc she was wreaking.
My task was to keep this vision entertained, and I pushed on manfully, even when it became clear that I was well out of my classa selling-plater panting along upsides a Guineas winner. But the odd thing was that, although I hadn't a clue what she was talking about half the time, it didn't seem to matter. Perhaps this is what they mean by a light touch, but the long and short of it is by the time the coffee came we were the firmest of friends and had agreed to meet for luncheon the following day in the garden of the hotel, where she could take an hour off from her editing labours. It was a pretty elated Bertram who, twenty minutes later, went for a stroll on the seafront, looking up at a bucketful of stars and hearing the natter of tree frogs in the pines.
Jeeves, once I had put him in the picture, made himself scarce in the days that followed, taking off in the hired car with rod, net and line, a picnic lunch packed by the hotel and doubtless a bracing volume or two of Kant. This left the coast clear, as it were, for the young master, and I found myself reluctant to stray too far from the vicinity of our hotel. There was hardly anyone to be found in town, the French having, it seemed, very little interest in the beach or in bathing or in lawn tennisor in anything at all very much beyond the preparation of a series of exquisite plats, beginning with the strong coff ee and fresh croissant at nine-ish and giving the system small respite till roughly ten at night.
Once Jeeves had returned from his fishing, Georgiana and I set off in the car. On the second evening, she persuaded me to let her drive. "Go on, it can't be that difficult. Please, Bertie. I've driven hundreds of cars before."
To say she drove in the French fashion would be to cast a slur on that fine people. The pedestrians leapt like lemmings over the sea wall; the roadsters swerved into the dust; the goods lorries blew their claxons. But in all their evasive actions, you felt, there was a measure of respect; they recognised one of their own. The fifteen-minute journey was achieved in half that time, with only a minor scrape along the passenger door as we swept into the restaurant car park.
Despite being put together in the most streamlined fashion, Georgiana took a keen interest in matters of the table. "Perhaps we could just share a few langoustines, Bertie," she'd suggest after the main order had been bunged in. The days and the evenings passed in a sort of rush, with the air blowing through the old open-top as we drove home, Wooster now firmly at the wheel, and the sound of Georgiana's laughter playing over the drone of six cylinders in top gear.
On the night before her departure, she confided in me the nature of her problem. Meadowes père had been a surgeon of some repute, working in London but with a base in the Vale of Evesham, where Georgiana had passed a sunny childhood, mostly on the back of a pony or horse. A German U-boat had deprived her of both parents at the age of fourteen when it sank the SS Lusitania, and though they had left her considerable means, it was held in a trust until she reached the age of thirtya point still some years distant. Her uncle-cumguardian, who had taken in the orphan girl and to whom she consequently felt an enormous debt, was now so strapped for cash that he was on the point of having to sell his family house, complete with substantial acreage. The one daughter had fallen for some handsome but penniless fellow, so the only solution was for Georgiana to marry a man with readily available means and such a suitor had been found.
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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