I don't know if you'd spotted anything in the set-up Woody was describing, but if I say a faint tinkling had started in the Wooster brain a minute or so back, I now felt like Quasimodo on New Year's Day as sounded by a bell- ringer with plenty to prove.
"And is she?" I inquired.
"Is who what?" said Woody, rather testily, I thought, as though the two great brains had forgotten I was in the room.
"Is the ward bringing home the bacon?" I glossed.
"Up to a point," said Woody. "She's engaged to a chap who has the stuff in sackfuls, but her heart's not in it. She's a dutiful girl, but she's a romantic deep down, like all girls. I'm not convinced she'll get to the church door, let alone the altar."
"A most parlous state of affairs, sir," said Jeeves.
His eye met mine and his right hand rose a fraction of an incha gesture that in Jeeves's world was tantamount to jumping up and down with a fi stful of red flags. I took the hint and kept the lips sealed.
"So what do you suggest I do, Jeeves?" said Woody.
"I regret to say that I have no advice to offer, sir. The situation is most delicate."
"Is that it? Have you lost your touch, Jeeves?"
"I feel sure, sir, that the problem will be susceptible of a solution in due course. Meanwhile, I would strongly advise a return to Kingston St. Giles as soon as may be con venient. An outstanding perfor mance on the cricket field could well go some way towards mollifying Miss Hackwood. As a keen sportswoman herself, she would be sure to appreciate a display of skill from her fiancé."
"Ex-fiancé," said Woody gloomily.
"And lay off the girls, Woody. Talk only to other chaps."
"Thank you, Bertie. I don't know how you come up with these things. I would never have thought of that by myself."
This having pretty much concluded the business part of the interview, I suggested that Woody might like to join me in a stroll before looking into the Drones for a bite of lunch. Mondays generally saw a rather toothsome buffet, with cold fowl and lamb cutlets en gelée to the fore.
"A zonker beforehand, do you think?" said Woody. "Just to whet the appetite?"
This "zonker" was a drink whose secrets Woody had been taught by the barman at his Oxford college and had in turn shared with old Upstairs Albert at the Drones. It involved gin, bitters, a slice of orange, some sweetish vermouth, a secret ingredient and then a fair bit more gin, with ice. It tasted of little more than sarsaparilla, but invariably made the world seem a happier place.
"Perhaps just one," I said.
"No more," concurred Woody. "Then I'm going off to do a stint on the Piccadilly Line."
"You're doing what?"
"Surely even you, Bertie, are aware that there's been a General Strike?"
"I thought that had all been sorted out and that the lads had gone back to work with a song on their lips." "It's officially over, but there are one or two lines still not back to normal. Some other chaps at the Bar have roped me in. My shift starts at four. You should think about doing it yourself. You might not get another chance to drive a train."
"I rule nothing out, Woody," I said. "So long as I don't get set on by the frenzied mob."
What with one thing and another it was almost five by the time I got home. After Woody had left for his public transport duties, I picked up a game of snooker pool with Oofy Prosser and Catsmeat Potter-Pirbright, who was resting between dramatic roles, and this, as chance would have it, went to a profitable third frame.
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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