"As King Henry exhorted, `Once more into the breach.'" I raised an eyebrow of inquiry, since surely Jeeves or his pal Henry must have meant "breeches," the singular of the term being rather meaingless, but let it go, as I could see his point. The point to which I refer, of course, is that Jeeves and self were back once again in the Kansas town known as Smallville. By now, the hustle and b. of the place were familiar, and like a whatsit to the something, Jeeves and I were tooling to the hostelry known as The Talon, to input, as we computer users call it, a genial b. or two, it being about that time of the afternoon.
Our old pal, well, rather newish old pal, Lex Luthor, was leaning against the counter with the satisfaction of an aunt who's devoured an entire village and found she doesn't even need the fingers of one hand to count the survivors. Smug, if you know what I mean. Lana, the girl whose eyes and profile almost, but not quite, reconcile Bertie Wooster to the fact that she throws poetry readings, was looking up at him with a smile that seemed to say that he'd told a joke and she knew it was funny, but wasn't quite sure she was ready to laugh. Chloe, a remarkably pretty girl, clearly with a superfluity of brains and energy, was standing with her mouth wide open.
"So you're really getting married?" she asked, making the question sound like the words really had only one syllable each.
"Personally delivered invitations," he said. "And Clark's agreed to be my best man." Clark, if you recall, being the chappie who can perform most extraordinary feats of strength and speed and such not. "Faster than a speeding bullet," Jeeves put it, rather neatly, I thought. But that's Jeeves for you, probably somebody with one of those machines would be able to see brain waves positively shimmering off him.
"Hallo hallo hallo!" I said, amiably, and Jeeves inserted a, "It is a pleasure to see you again."
The Luthor bean actually beamed, which struck me as a bit odd since last time, our r. had been a bit strained, due to my rather permissionlessly borrowing his car to follow Lana when she had taken off in mine, and only Jeeves had mollified his w. by some snappy brain cell exertion and explanations. "So what are you doing in Smallville again?" he asked, but without the angry aunt tone which suggests that the explanation had better be good, and had better end in "and I'm leaving in five minutes."
"My Aunt Dahlia wanted another article for her `zine about life in smalltown America, and suggested, well, not that she suggests anything, it's more a command, that Jeeves and I attend a farmer's market, to see if it's anything like markets in dear old England, don't you know? So I thought, why not pass through again?" Aunt Dahlia, who, when not saying that I should have been drowned at birth and so on, is the best of eggs, and at her request, all the Wooster noblesse oblige starts to oblige. Also, refusing one of her requests sends strong men quivering. Jeeves once put it that they "tremble in fear at her frown," which just about says it all. Her chef, Anatole, is the greatest magician to set spoon to pot, another reason one wants to keep on her good side.
"I was just inviting the ladies to my wedding. Perhaps you'd honor me by attending, as well? It's this Sunday afternoon, at the castle."
I frankly gaped. While I didn't know Lex Luthor that well, he struck me as a sensible chap, not the type to bill and coo, let alone enter matrimony without a good deal of force, though certainly other men have walked down the dreaded aisle as though it were a pleasure.
It struck me that whoever the bride might be, she must be quite the personality, and aside from wishing the Luthor chappie all well, and having no objection to what would probably be a festivity of festivities, I accepted, thinking it would provide self and Jeeves an opportunity to study the psychology of the individual. Jeeves' phrase, not mine.
I strode out of my room with a calm that concealed my trepidation, if that's the word I mean. Jeeves once used a rather neat phrase, saying that he felt zero to the bone, but when I expressed my admiration he said something to the effect that he'd pinched it from a lady friend of his, Emily Dickinson.
While we Woosters might feel trepidation, we don't allow it to show, retaining the calm, icy exterior. I imagine that before Waterloo, the Wooster in attendance looked as calm as a man who's not too hungry while he's waiting for the next course. Unruffled, I mean. And I was unruffled and prepared to remain unruffled, particularly when it concerns items of fashion. The thing is, I was expecting Jeeves to k. up a fuss over my selection of tie, which was a red bow tie rather than the grey ordinary one he'd laid out to go with my suit. Not being a man to be dictated to, I took the b. tie from its place of concealment and put it on. Not, mind you, that I concealed it out of timidity, but that I wanted to avoid the inevitable raising of the eyebrow and "indeed, sir" that can chill a room so quickly the inhabitants say, "Hullo ullo ullo, did we move to the north or the south pole?" At least until the last moment.
As expected, Jeeves glided out of his room and came to a dead halt when he saw my cherished tie. "I apologize, sir, I must have forgotten to put out the tie that goes with that suit."
I breezily answered, "No, Jeeves, nothing escaped that master brain of yours. I thought that this tie would add more festivity to the, well, festivities. We move with the times, Jeeves, we move with the times."
"Yes, sir." I determined to watch over my tie with the steadfastness, if that's the word, of a hen with one chick. His response did not imply that he approved and he is not above skullduggery, if that's the word I want.
When we pulled into the grounds of the Luthor homestead, it's not too much to say that I marvelled. Jeeves sometimes refers to a place a pal of his built, or as Jeeves put it, a pleasure dome decreed, but Jeeves' pal would have felt pretty silly looking at the way that chez Luthor was bedecked. I mentioned as much to Jeeves, who agreed. Usually there is complete harmony between Jeeves and self, just on certain matters he is inclined to impose his views with an iron h. unless firmly resisted.
When the bride appeared, I could see that the Luthor bean would have done a top-notch job as a recruiter for a harem. She would have knocked most other girls into a cocked hat just with her profile, and Jeeves would have added something about her face launching plenty of ships, I suspected. I muttered as much to Jeeves when the ceremony was over, and he responded that she exuded confidence and vitality. I wasn't quite sure what exuded means, but I'd guess it means has in pots and pots, since the words did apply. He seemed somewhat distant, though, which I took as childish sulking over the tie, which I considered absolutely to grace the o.
Levity and such abounded, but when the Wooster ship and the rugby chappie's ship passed in the night, rugby chappie didn't seem to recognize me or Jeeves. Now, I've known many, including my nearest and dearest, who feign that state of not recognizing me, but never seen the same treatment meted out to Jeeves, and I suspected that something was amiss. He was fixing the b. and groom with a strained look and stepping backwards, bumped into a pole and nearly made the whole canopy imitate the walls of Jerico, as we winners of knowledge of Scripture prizes say, and tumble down. However, Jeeves was there and caught the pole, so all was well. The rugby chappie muttered an apology that seemed to encompass not just Jeeves but the pole and possibly anybody else in the n. vicinity and left.
The Luthor chappie was clearly eager to spend his time elsewhere and we stood not upon the order of our parting, a rather catchy way of putting it that Jeeves had, though not original with him. Jeeves was pensive on the way home, which for a moment I thought was more unbecoming sulking over the tie, but it seemed more like the answer to a problem was eluding him and he was considering eating more fish to give that extra oomph to the brain cells. I asked him what was on his m. and he answered that the marriage seemed a bit quick out of the starting post, and he was reminded of the old adage.
"The gloomy one about betting on the dark horse?"
"I was rather thinking, `Marry in haste, repent at leisure.'"
"The Luthor chap seems to have gotten his share of brain cells, I'm sure he knows what he's doing."
"I certainly hope so, sir."
It was a few days after the big wedding and I was polishing off the daily shaving with the diligence that a straight-edge demands if you aren't to go out among the teeming hordes with little bits of cotton attached to the visage like those button mushrooms.
There was a knock on the door and since all was decently covered, I called out a hearty "Come in" to whatever representatives of the world's t. hordes might be out there. Imagine your Bertam's surprise when Desiree came in, closing the door behind her and pawing her way over rather like that panther at the London zoo who always reminds me of my assorted aunts, except, of course, for Aunt Dahlia, who is an egg of the highest caliber, despite her tendency to disparage my intellectual capacity. I explain that compared to Jeeves, I rank low, but so would anyone. She usually snorts something about how Darwin would have changed his mind or invented another theory had he met me. But I digress.
"Bertie," she sighed when she was just a few inches away and still advancing. I backed up, since there was a distinctly alarming glint in her eyes.
"Er, jolly day out, isn't it?"
"Bertie, I made such a terrible mistake and I need your help. He's a monster."
"Eh? Who's a monster?"
"Tush-tush! He has the aspect of a man absolutely--"
I'd run out of space to back into and just as I was warming to the theme of young Luthor having the aspect of a man well and truly wrapped around her finger, I felt her kissing me very thoroughly.
"Right. Monster. Quite right." I couldn't understand why on earth I'd not seen that Luthor would mistreat a delicate flower of feminity like that.
"Bertie, you have to set me free from him."
"Right. I'll get Jeeves onto it."
She frowned, a bit like Cleopatra would have if a handmaiden or some such had said that she had the last milk in her tea and there wasn't any for Cleopatra's bath. "That's not what I meant," she murmured, wrapping her arms around my neck.
"But Jeeves is frightfully clever-"
She put a finger on my mouth. "No, Bertie, you have to kill him. Then I can be yours."
"Kill Jeeves?" I probably gaped and she frowned again, as though Cleopatra's handmaid had done the same thing the very next day.
"No, darling, kill Lex."
"Oh. Well. Right-ho." It all made quite a bit of sense. Kill the Luthor bean, free Desiree, definitely a wise course of action. "Er--with what?"
I almost thought she rolled her eyes, but decided I had to be mistaken. "Whatever comes to hand. Find a gun, a knife, anything. But remember, Bertie, it has to be soon. I won't be free until you do. Promise you'll do it this morning."
"Right-ho," I repeated. "On this morning's to-do list." Another kiss and she wafted out before I could even say that said kiss had spread some of the shaving cream from my face to hers, right under the nose.
Even if she didn't hold Jeeves' brain in the proper regard, I did, so after attending to the rest of shaving, I knocked and stuck my head in his room. "I say, Jeeves, if you had to kill a chappie, how would you go about it?"
He put a bookmark in the pages of the doubtless improving tome he was reading. "I beg your pardon, sir?"
I hadn't expected Jeeves to be slow in grasping the concept. "You know, kill. Gun, poison, rampaging bulls?"
"Is this a theoretical question or do you intend to implement such a plan?"
"Sorry, Jeeves, not at my best in the mornings."
"Are you going to kill any specific individual, sir?"
"Oh. Righty-ho. The Luthor bean." I decided to explain the whole story. "You see, Desiree, who is the most stunning girl in the world, says that he's a monster. Furthermore, she says that she won't be free unless I kill him. So you can see, only solution. Clear to the simplest mind." I rested my case, if that's the right way to say it.
"I see, sir." He got up and put his jacket on. "I suggest that we go to Mr. Luthor's residence and see what weapons suggest themselves."
"Top hole, Jeeves, old chap. Bound to be all kinds of useful implements there. Lead the way, Jeeves."
"I say, Jeeves, are you sure that Luthor is up here?"
"I'm quite positive, sir."
I paused for thought. Jeeves had gotten us inside unseen but I wondered if his thinking might have gone a bit below par after that, since we'd been wandering around the place for hours, and I was reasonably certain that we'd been in this turret at least once before. I looked at the faithful timepiece and saw that it was already early afternoon, a fact which my stomach was insistent on confirming. A Wooster's word is sacred, and due to the endless wanderings like some Dutchman Jeeves met once, I'd not killed the Luthor chap, which I'd said I'd do that morning, so I was feeling a bit like a knight whose white horse didn't feel like galloping to the rescue, don't you know?
Out the window, I saw the rugby chappie's father coming, with what looked like a shotgun. "I say, Jeeves, isn't that Kent senior?"
Jeeves' brow wrinkled. "I wonder why he is armed, sir."
"The lawless frontier and all that, he probably has to shoot bison or bandits or some such. All in a day's routine."
I saw something else. "D'you think that blur was Kent minor?"
"I think it quite likely, sir." I felt a firm guiding hand on my shoulder. "And I am convinced that Mr. Luthor is in this closet." The f. g. hand then propelled me into said closet and I heard the definite sound of a key being turned and removed.
"Jeeves," I said in a tone which mixed anger and reproach in just the right quantities. "I fear your powers of thought are fading." I could have sworn that I heard him running out of the room and down the stairs.
I battered at the door in a determined sort of way, but the door was of solid craftsmanship. I invoked a curse on the builder's work ethic and settled to wait. While I was there with little else to occupy my mind and make the hours pass, it might be prudent, I decided, to think of just how to explain to Desiree that though no fault of his own, Bertram had put his hand to the plow but then got locked in a closet.
My watch is the jolly kind that can glow in the dark, and I saw that it had taken only fifteen minutes to think of the wording. I passed the next moments with some of the more lively songs from the Drones' and then started in on some romantic ditties.
"I'd do anything for you," I warbled, then had that feeling you get when you remember that you've forgotten something. There was something I'd promised to do and it definitely involved the softer emotions. I recreated the scene, as detective chappies do. Shaving, that I recalled clearly, passed without incident. Then Desiree visited and I recalled subsequent events much less clearly, a bit like after an evening with the Drones and various convivial beverages.
I heard footsteps approaching and hoped that it wasn't Desiree, as I'd really rather changed my mind about killing Luthor. A Wooster's word is his bond, but there is a limit, especially if she hadn't yet asked Jeeves. For a solution, not to kill the Luthor bird, that is.
The door unlocked and it was Jeeves. "I say, Jeeves, what is happening? Closets and Kents and such."
"The young lady's kiss had potent aphrodasiac powers."
"What types of powers? I didn't quite catch the word."
"She could, by kissing a man, make him intent on obeying her will only. She apparently used these powers on you, and when you apparently had resisted her, she did the same to Jonathan Kent. However, Mr. Kent's extraordinary young son prevented this and, as with you, the powers wore off in time.
"This is a very rum sort of town, what?"
I considered the scope of Jeeves' deeds that morning and swallowed hard. Sometimes gratitude is best expressed in grand gestures. "Oh, Jeeves. That tie..."
"It's truly not the height of fashion?"
"On fashion, I am not an authority, but it is certainly not at the height of taste. I suspect, in fact, that it was the factor that led the lady to select you for her cat's paw. A man who would wear that to a wedding might be judged as having little intellect."
I heaved a d. sigh. "Very well, Jeeves. When we get back, you may dispose of it."
"Very good, sir. Might I suggest that we leave now, while our presence is still unknown to the inhabitants?"
"Lead on, Jeeves."
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