Penelope Bothroyd-Harrington and the Honourable Melissa Domingo were up to their old tricks again. Dash it! They were playing fast and loose with the affections of my chum Binky – Basil Binkton, Lord Chuffnorton to give his proper title. I was at school with Binky, he went to the other university so I saw less of him then but we renewed the old bonds of friendship when we both found ourselves washed up on the shores of the jolly old colony.
In New York one soon found it worthwhile to keep a couple of old Etonians in your back pocket to bail you out what? New York police – I believe it fashionable to call them cops – have less of a sense of humour than the happy London bobby. Many’s the time a jape in London has passed off with a “now then sir” or a “time to go home sir”; but in the city we found ourselves ensconced for a session; the boys in blue tended to say “I have a gun on you, you piece of sh-” yes well we needn’t dwell on it. Suffice to say Binky and I formed a mutual scrape escape society to great effect.
Not for the first time I wished Jeeves had accompanied me. When I announced the trip he reminded me that his annual two weeks in Tenby with his aging aunt would fall in the middle of the proposed sojourn “Can’t you delay it Jeeves?”
“I fear not sir, she does so look forward to my visit. I did inform you fully six months ago of the date” Well, I mean how is one to remember the butler’s bally time orf? I have a butler to remind me of appointments afterall. I thought of pointing this out but before I could open the crimson gargle hole to give this clever riposte he added “It is on the calendar sir, and I did remind you last week” Wooster ‘0’, Jeeves ‘1’ I fear. I can’t understand the attraction of aging aunts, that was the reason for my debunking to Amerigo Vespucci’s wonderland after all – dashed pleased it hadn’t been named Vespucci-land eh? Aunt Agatha was suggesting I escort her poisonous godson Archie and his sister around town. Well I discovered a reason to be in America pretty quick I can tell you! But sans Jeeves ya see? So I gave Jeeves the summer and headed alone to the wide blue yonder. I found Aunt A had followed me out! Like a terrier after a badger that aunt, well, we slipped the old girl by jumping back on the ship she arrived on and telling all that we were heading to Chicago – a town somewhere west I understand. Pretty smart!
Now these two sirens were playing with my friend’s emotions in that way that pulchritudinous fillies find so amusing. They did it to yours truly only a few months past; generally dressing in diaphanous flowery creations and what not. One would bat her headlamps at me and make me convinced I was the most in love that anyone could be, then the other would enfilade – if that’s the word, Jeeves would know - and undermine and lay siege to my emotions and I would be drawn to realise that she was even more the girl of all my waking dreams. Then the first would disport a pretty leg and a guy was lost like a drowning man without one of those floaty things. Soon my head was spinning inside like some damned fairground carousel and then they would float away to create earthquakes of bally emotion in some other poor sap.
And the poor sap they were earthquaking now was Binky. “I say” I said to Penelope “I mean to say!”
“Oh, hello Bertie; are you here?”
“Yes, I am, and, excuse the old language and all that but it bally well won’t do”
“Oh Bertie, you are so manly when you are cross. What has raised your ire to such a peak?”
“Well, I mean really! You know, I mean, come on!” I was losing my train of thought as her perfect features bored into me with their beauteous drills
“Bertie, you are funny!” she said and walked away. I had failed in my first sally to even reach the outer borders of her reason. I had failed my chumpy friend too. I had to make another attack. I resolved that since they could unman even the manliest man with their decorous simpering, I should resort to remote communication. In short I would write to the sweets.
I wrote “Dear Penelope and Melissa, I would esteem our friendship even higher than the highest peak if you could see your way to desisting and resisting from continuing your reduction of my chum and friend Binky – vis Lord Chuffnorton – to the state of jelly of the quivering kind by your feminine wiles and winsome ways. Your great friend and admirer Bertie”
I think that struck the right note, friendly yet forceful. Kindly yet with a velvet glove in the iron fist or something to that effect. The reply came from Penelope:
“Bertie, how delightful that you think us winsome. Is this desire truly from an affecting friendship or do you still hold a torch for me? You know we can never rekindle the delight we once had and you should not try; you delightfully silly boy. Your ever-admiring Penelope”
Well I mean, what’s a chap to do? You take the bull by the whatnot and fly too close to the sun but the horse won’t drink what? I tried the nice route. I’d have to find a different maze to reach the top of the mountain, if you catch my drift.
Binky, meanwhile was getting more confused. He would take no advice from the old oracle, to wit, myself. Indeed he became jolly well aggressive on occasions.
“Binky, old bean, how goes it?”
“Bertram, I am at a loss, I even lost the boat up the creek, not just the paddle. I think I may be hopelessly in love with two wonderful girls. Can you guess who?”
“I’m thinking it might be Penelope and Melissa?”
“Bertie, dear boy, a little more distance if you will for the ladies, one of whom will soon be Lady Chuffnorton.”
“Sorry old chum, you mean Misses Bothroyd-Harrington and Domingo?”
“In truth I do, they are the sirens of Sussex, the Angels of England. I am lost for words in their company and cannot describe them enough to do justice to infantile beauty they exude” Here I think he had mixed his words, but I forgave him; one is apt to do this when confronted by temptresses of the quality of the young ladies concerned.
“Binky, old thing. I don’t know what to say. You are aware that I swooned for their perpetual company only a three month ago? It is their recreation I think to hook poor saps like us. They will tire and move on I assure you. Only buck up and bear it a few more days and all shall be well. Just like a cold I guess”
“Bertie, how can you compare my true and lifelong love for one or other of them to your fickle and wayward short obsession?”
“Now just hang on!” I began, but he continued in like vein for fully five minutes, telling me I was a deluded idiot of the lower orders when I was head over lower; but that he was enamoured of a true and consistent love that only the loyal Greyfriars B. could emulate. Eventually this slushy paean came to an end and I blurted “You are a chump, they are playing you like a fish” He became puce and turned and walked in the direction of the lake, no doubt an appointment he had forgotten.
Rapidly and without delay, indeed immediately the following day after luncheon, I proceeded post-haste and with all speed to the residence of one Squiffy in Bloomsbury. Squiffy was in one of his fads – this time that he was a member of the poesy-clutching, emotive declaring set of that region of London. I knocked, as one does, in urgent manner. His butler welcomed me. Loquacious George he is named by those of us that know him.
“Good Morning George, is Squiffy in?”
“Good Afternoon sir. Squiffy?”
“Oh, you know, your leader, your master, Mr Darcy Skeffington”
“Ah, Mr Skeffington-Ajax Junior is in sir”
“Good, show me to his abode”
“Mr Skeffington-Ajax Junior begs me to inform all visitors that he is not receiving”
“Not receiving what? Letters? Solid food?”
“Ah, yes, but that won’t apply to one of his oldest, his dearest, his best – bestest? – friends”
“I fear sir he offered no exceptions”
“Look are you going to ballywell let me in?”
And there we left it. If LG had been a small, weedy butler of the sort more suited to flats of the more compact kind, I might have pushed past and shouted “Squiffy! Tell your man to allow me in no matter what injunctions are in place” but the common theory was that he had played rugby for the army or somesuch. Less like a butler and more like a 20 stone gorilla in a suit I have yet to meet. The man-mountain was not to be trifled with, though none I knew had tried. Perhaps he was a large mound of butter, a slow and humble snail perhaps? Be that as it may, I opted to test such errant theories another time and left forthwith.
I resolved this must stop soonest so I set in train a plan the skill and cunning of which my errant and holidaying butler – one Jeeves by name – would be proud. I could hear in him commending me in my head.
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