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|Right Ho, Jeeves||P. G. Wodehouse|
|Page 1 of 6||
"What-ho, Gussie," I said.
You couldn't have told it from my manner, but I was feeling more than a bit nonplussed. The spectacle before me was enough to nonplus anyone. I mean to say, this Fink-Nottle, as I remembered him, was the sort of shy, shrinking goop who might have been expected to shake like an aspen if invited to so much as a social Saturday afternoon at the vicarage. And yet here he was, if one could credit one's senses, about to take part in a fancy-dress ball, a form of entertainment notoriously a testing experience for the toughest.
And he was attending that fancy-dress ball, mark you--not, like every other well-bred Englishman, as a Pierrot, but as Mephistopheles--this involving, as I need scarcely stress, not only scarlet tights but a pretty frightful false beard.
Rummy, you'll admit. However, one masks one's feelings. I betrayed no vulgar astonishment, but, as I say, what-hoed with civil nonchalance.
He grinned through the fungus--rather sheepishly, I thought.
"Oh, hullo, Bertie."
"Long time since I saw you. Have a spot?"
"No, thanks. I must be off in a minute. I just came round to ask Jeeves how he thought I looked. How do you think I look, Bertie?"
Well, the answer to that, of course, was "perfectly foul". But we Woosters are men of tact and have a nice sense of the obligations of a host. We do not tell old friends beneath our roof-tree that they are an offence to the eyesight. I evaded the question.
"I hear you're in London," I said carelessly.
"Must be years since you came up."
"And now you're off for an evening's pleasure."
He shuddered a bit. He had, I noticed, a hunted air.
"Aren't you looking forward to this rout or revel?"
"Oh, I suppose it'll be all right," he said, in a toneless voice. "Anyway, I ought to be off, I suppose. The thing starts round about eleven. I told my cab to wait.... Will you see if it's there, Jeeves?"
"Very good, sir."
There was something of a pause after the door had closed. A certain constraint. I mixed myself a beaker, while Gussie, a glutton for punishment, stared at himself in the mirror. Finally I decided that it would be best to let him know that I was abreast of his affairs. It might be that it would ease his mind to confide in a sympathetic man of experience. I have generally found, with those under the influence, that what they want more than anything is the listening ear.
"Well, Gussie, old leper," I said, "I've been hearing all about you."
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|Right Ho, Jeeves
P. G. Wodehouse
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