"Th at's a bit rough," I said. "But surely she'll come round." "You don't know Amelia."
"No, I haven't had the"
"She used some pretty ripe language, you know. She accused me of 'drooling' over one of them."
"I say, that's a bit"
"One of them ran her hand up and down my sleeve a couple of times. What was I meant to do? Biff her one?"
"Perhaps get up and hand round the sandwiches?"
"But they were nothing. Nice enough girls, of course, but compared to Amelia, they were ... they were ..."
For once the Chancery advocate seemed at a loss for words, though I had a sense that Jeeves could provide. I looked in his direction.
"Less than the dust beneath her chariot wheel, sir?"
I lit a meditative cigarette and sat back in the old armchair. Although I knew that Woody was as honest as the day is long, I wondered if he was giving us quite the whole picture. As well as making F. E. Smith look tongue-tied, Woody, I should have mentioned, is one of those chaps who seems able to turn his hand to anything. He was in the Oxford cricket eleven two years running, played golf off a handicap of two and, as if that were not enough, in his final year picked up a half-blue at boxing. His features might best be described as craggy, with the old beak pretty prominent, the eyes on the hooded side and the hair generally in need of ten minutes in the barber's chair, but the opposite sex were drawn to his scruffy figure as moths to the last candle before wax rationing. And being an obliging sort of fellow, Woody enjoyed a bit of repartee with the fairer sex; he didn't like to see a girl's face without a smile or a glass without a drink in it. It took a man who had known him since boyhood to see how little all this meant, because the better part of Woody's mind was always turning over some finer point of jurisprudence or wondering how he could slope off to the Oval to catch Jack Hobbs in full flow. The gist of what I'm saying, I suppose, is that while never doubting the old bosom friend, I was also wondering whether Amelia might not have a point.
While the Wooster intellectual juices had been so distilling the data, as it were, Woody was coming to the end of his tale. "So I'm to go down to Kingston St. Giles at the weekend again, but only because Sir Henry insists I play for his confounded cricket team. Amelia said she won't be seen in the same room as me, but Sir Henry's dead set on winning this match against the Dorset Gentlemen."
There was an imperceptible rustle, neither cough nor sneeze, but an indication that Jeeves was on the verge of utterance, if invited. I invited away.
"Might I inquire, sir, as to Sir Henry's attitude in general to the engagement of yourself to his daughter?"
"Grudging," said Woody. "And hedged about with caveats and provisos."
I think I may have missed the odd detail of Woody's story, but not the choice morsel with which he now concluded. "Yes. Sir Henry needs a very large sum of money to save Melbury Hall, where his family have lived for nine generations. Otherwise it will be sold to a private school. Either his daughter or his ward must provide the wherewithal through marriage."
"And if I might be so delicate as to inquire, sir, whether"
"I know what you're trying to ask, Jeeves. The Beeching fortune was lost some time ago. An unwise speculation on the Canadian Pacifi c Railroad by my grandfather. I've no more than what I earn. Sir Henry told me he can't bless my union with Amelia unless his ward brings home the bacon."
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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