Jeeves and the Crime at Sea
By A.H. Brazier
Based on the stories by P.G. Wodehouse
In my experience as a man whose distant relatives (and if one includes my Aunt Agatha, who eats the family pets and sound-makers of little-feet-pattering noises, you'll be glad if such a relative is distant) and closest friends constantly give your life no end of peace, I have all too often found my patience tried and tested, and would gladly have given them the slip, if it weren't for the Code of the Woosters. My recent but short visit to Blandings Castle was merely the result of my receiving a telegram from one Stiffy Byng, which I did not even bother to look at. When one receives a letter from Stiffy Byng, telling them to come at once to Totleigh Towers, it is advisable for said person to run in the opposite direction, for when Stiffy makes a plan, someone, usually one called Bertram, is liable to end up risking life and limb for her, out of fear of being involved in a ghastly affair, made to look like they did the crime of whateveritwas, or to be exposed if they really were committing a crime. I still haven't forgotten that lamentable occasion, when Stiffy threatened to expose self to be Bertram Wooster, and not Gussie Fink-Nottle, during an identity crisis, which self has chronicled in books and on the stage, in a plan involving my robbing Totleigh Towers and having to be captured by my old chum, Reverend Harold "Stinker" Pinker, in hopes that my capture, to which I almost got shot, or at least ended up in chokey, would result in Sir Watkyn Bassett, father of Madeleine Bassett (who lives under the impression that the snow is God's way of doing the redecorating, and that every time a baby laughs, a wee pixie is born), giving Stinker a chapel, so he and Stiffy could tie the knot and enter the marital life together.
Anyway, I got the telegram from Stiffy, remembered my old man had had a cousin who was a distant relation of this cove named Clarence Threepwood, who, according to Jeeves, was now Lord Emsworth of Blandings Castle, posted a letter to said Castle, asking to stay a bit, and tootled off to Blandings, whereupon, I learned from Robert N. Banks, brother of Mrs Bingo Little (or as my regular book-readers will call her, Rosie M. Banks), and a fellow chronicler to his sister, of the peculiar events that had happened prior to my arrival. However, I had, on hearing of the manner in which the tale had been chronicled, discovered that Robert, the silly chump, who was posing as a gardener, in hopes of inspiration for a story, had neglected to mention Stiffy's telegram in his narrative, and that my old man was the cousin of Lord Stockheath, a relation of Lord Emsworth, so I decided to take over from him.
I was woken from my slumbers by a gentle rap of a fist on a door. I sat up, and in swept Jeeves, complete with tea and his famous restorative for chaps who have had a late one. 'Good morning, Sir' said the fellow.
I blinked. 'Jeeves,' I said, 'it may be a good morning, but I fail to see why I should need your restorative, when I can have a perfectly good night's sleep.' I had crawled in to the old bunk at ten to midnight, and dozed off a second later, and, since the old clock in my eyesight said seven o'clock, three hours before my usual waking hour, I seldom saw what could possibly necessitate the old revival beverage from Jeeves.
'Pardon me, sir, but I was informed by the young Mr Frederick Threepwood that Miss Byng was near the premises in the village, and had learned of your arrival. I encountered Miss Byng myself as she entered the castle grounds, and informed her that you had some business to attend to, regarding Miss Travers, a hospital and a disconnected leg, and that I was to replace the butler, Mr Beech, who was away on family affairs of a personal nature, and who was vacant from the present scene at the time. After seeing her off, I thought it advisable for your own sake, sir, if we left Blandings Castle for your apartment in New York for a considerable matter of time.'
'Very good, Jeeves, you have me convinced. Pass me the beverages, and I'll restore away.'
And so it was that we were tearing down the motorway, trying to break the world speed record of motor cars, leaving a hastily written note, explaining my abrupt departure, tyre tracks and broken garden monuments, owing to my driving. If there was a record for the highest cost of damages to garden monuments, I think I just broke it, to which I am glad that I could not be in a fast-moving motor car and at a Castle all at the same time.
We arrived back in the old metrop at around midday, by way of loco-power, quickly stopped at my apartment to pick up a few knick-knacks for our exile to the Land of the Free, and hastily made our way to Canary Wharf, with Mrs Georgiana Wooster and Mrs Jeeves, formerly Mrs Tillman, in tow (for the buffoon, Rupert, also neglected to mention our recent marriages, as self has documented in a narrative called Jeeves And The Wedding Bells), whereupon I learned of, and purchased a ticket for the S.S. Reliable, bound for New York almost immediately. The team was on board the steamer, and Jeeves and his missus had disappeared to see about the unpacking of the bare necessities of life, while Georgiana went for a walk around the deck, and self was off to the bar for the luncheon gin and t.
It was while I was at the bar, drinking said beverage, that I saw the devil in female form come towards me. 'There you are, Bertie' greeted the Byng, 'We've got some business to attend to.' 'Not today, no, I can't buy what you're selling, thank you very much!' I replied strolling away. I was then surprised to find out that the bandstand music accompanying my departure had been abruptly replaced by sounds of a woman screaming. Ignoring the looks saying what's-that-bally-idiot-done-to-upset-a-beautiful-young-woman, I walked on, but suddenly found the distance between the ground and my feet some two feet high, hands clasped around my chest, and a face belonging to a large johnnie, who looked more like a gorilla than a man, and built like a fortress, staring grimly, and in a manner which suggested he wanted to tear me limb from limb, especially since said fellow was ex-leader of the Black Shorts. 'So, upsetting innocent women, are you now, eh, Wooster? You sllimy snake-in-the-grass!' snarled Spode. 'L-L-Lord Sidspode!' I stuttered. 'Lord SIDCUP, you illiterate excuse for a man!' replied his Lordship. 'Now listen here, Wooster. I have come aboard this ship to take a holiday in New York, with my wife, and if I come across you causing anyone, and I do mean anyone, Wooster, you will find yourself, and your manservant, deprived of all life and limb, and knowing only water, and the feeling of having something forced into the both' of you at a sideways angle.' He dropped me, and, on impact with the floor, my rear end felt a hard bump, and my legs did nothing to support self, but just lay there like they were on strike. Spode turned his frankly-ghastly features to Stiffy, and softened them a touch. 'I trust this toad will trouble you no more, madam, but kindly warn your husband (he said the words as though they had a bad taste in his choppers) that if he comes snaking around my private quarters, he too shall meet an unfavourable end.' 'Only because you refuse to admit you're in the wrong does Harold come snaking around your private quarters' Stiffy said, as if she found the words equally disagreeable to her. Spode grunted, decided saying more was a stupid thing to do, which only a complete ass would disagree with, and stormed out of the bar. Stiffy came over, and helped Bertram to his feet.
'Now, Bertie,' she said, 'thank you so much to finally making yourself known to me. I followed the advice of Jeeves, and when I saw your aunt, I learned you had both been trying to avoid me, so I took the fastest train back here possible, and followed you in secret. You silly oaf, you really think I'd give up trying to find you, for your little job? Especially since poor old Harold is now in the medical quarters, with a broken leg?' 'What, old Stinker, in bed with a leg under the weather?' I said, shocked. I praised the cove who managed to lay a finger on him, and not have been revenged on by Stiffy, but the Wooster Code does encourage a sense of sympathy for pals who have taken injuries. 'Harold is in bed, because that fathead, Spode, stole my necklace, though he claims he didn't. At a dinner party at Totleigh Towers, I was going into my room, to put on my favourite necklace, the last birthday present my grandmamma gave me, before her funeral bells rang, and I discovered the gorilla in my room, window broken, and my jewellery-box deprived of said necklace. I went into Spode's room to find it myself, since I felt that responsible for the necklace, and was knocked out by a vase. Fearing the worst if I tried again, I sent Harold to look for the necklace, and Spode banged him up, by throwing him out the window, threatening to kill him, if he caught him at it again. Then, I remembered that Spode said he and Madeleine were taking a holiday in New York, and you had a flat there, so I sent a telegram, asking you to reply within a day, and come over to here. I even sent one to Hildebrand Glossop, asking him to pass on the message to you, and he told me you were at Blandings Castle. I followed you there, was sent on the wild goose chase to your Aunt Dahlia's, and followed you all the way here, and was overjoyed when I found you were heading to exactly where I wanted you to go, and on the same ship, too!' I gasped at this, and asked the barman for my gin and t., wishing for all the world it could be a bottle of arsenic, so I could end it all there and then. I instantly regretted having that conversation with my friend, Tuppy Glossop, on where I was running off to (the clot, Rupert, neglected to mention that, too!). 'Stiffy, whatever it is, I'm not interested. And it's no use saying that Bertram will be next, if Spode does the dirty work on Stinker, because I'm a married man.' 'Oh, really?' Stiffy said, her voice high in the seductive mode, 'Well I can always…sort that out.' She then picked up her leg, twisted it around me, and pressed the very thing that makes her sex what it is up against mine. A lesser man than I would have felt eager to fail do as she wanted, so as to try and take the opportunity to jump into bed with her, if said man was a descendant of either Henry VIII or Shakespeare's Lord Angelo, but I gasped. Stiffy had manipulated me time and time again, but this time, she, like Spode with his newfound willingness to do an injury to a member of the female gender, had reached a new low. I admire and sympathise with coves who had lost their beloved to other people, myself having been associated with brides not always in my liking range, but when it comes to separating with one's true love, and ending up in bed with, never mind marrying, Stiffy Byng, there is something very wrong that makes one wonder this: how on Earth did the poor blighter end up doing so? 'Stiffy,' I said, 'you are the devil in female form! Alright, I shall do it! But the outcome had better be the last I hear of you on this trip, regardless of whether it all goes well or not!' Reader, make note: I, Bertram Wooster, honest as the sun is, erm, yellow, I think the phrase goes, have just told a whopper. Not that Stiffy got an inkling that it was all a fib, anyway. I was acting sufficiently enough to make it appear as though I was going to stick to that promise. 'There, Bertie, I knew I could trust you! Just you break into Spode's cabin, ransack it, and steal the necklace if you find it. It was left to me by my dearly-departed mother, God rest her soul, so be sure you do. You don't want my Harold to die at the hands of Spode, who will suspect we employed you to do so, and you to look like you're doing as nature intended on me, do you? I'll deliver your lock-pick later!' She walked off, leaving me open-mouthed, and generally feeling proud about how I managed to pull one over her. Stiffy is a smart woman, but I refuse to put my neck on the line for her, especially where a brute like Spode is concerned.
That evening, I dined with Georgiana in the local restaurant. I was unsure where Jeeves had disappeared soundlessly for his dinner, but, from what he told me, he was determined to make lemonade out of the fact that he had to dine amongst the third class passengers, and had found some of them to be pleasant company. It seemed to me that Georgiana had been on the social life, too, for while she was about her walk on the deck, she met a most friendly johnnie called Joseph Winters, or 'Joe' as he preferred to be called. I admit to having rummy feelings about the man, or anyone who happens to have the name Joe, ever since Jeeves had to pretend he was an inspector arresting me for trying to pinch an African Statue for my uncle Tom, by accusing me of being a pincher by the name of Alpine Joe, to avoid my running into trouble with the constabulary and the colonel I had to nick it from. I must say, Jeeves was a dashed good actor when it came to being a detective, at the time. If ever there was a man who could be called upon to be Sherlock Holmes, I knew the prime candidate for the part. I must say, though, this fellow Joe looked as though he could've been given the name of Alpine Joe, too. He was white-haired, though he didn't look like anyone in the age vicinity of Aunt Dahlia or Aunt Agatha, and had a longish face, with glasses, which looked as though he might've been in chokey for some time. As it transpired, he had spent some time in chains. It transpired he had robbed several banks and a train, and had come a cropper in a sledge-race, in which the silly chump had got completely potted from the old g. and w., got on the back of a sledge, let it go downhill, complete with drunkard-passenger, all the while jabbering away about who he was and what he had done to the whole world, as though it were some trusted old chum of his round for a bite of something, and ended up in a snowdrift, surrounded by two halves of what constituted a sledge and ten dozen or so of the long arm of the law. He had gotten ten years for what he did, but claimed to have reformed, and had been let out after seven of them for decent performance during his time. It was during this recollection of his life story that I was given a telegram from my Aunt Dahlia, which I had to leave my two companions for, and send a reply to her. The conversation ran as something more or less like this:
S.S. Reliable Bertram Wooster
Am now thinking of you as a con-man, and inclined to come after you with ten thousand spears. What is the meaning of double-crossing young ladies and landing your disreputable friends on me, you snake-in-the-grass? Kindly do as she bids you, or suffer the consequences, you incorrigible oaf for a nephew! Hope you drown at sea! Love Travers.
Brinkley Court, Market Snodsbury, Shropshire Dahlia Travers
She's not a friend, she's a pain in places where the sun doesn't shine! Anyway, she's already bally well told me to do the deed, you clot! She threatened to ruin my marriage, don't you know? Kindly send up someone else who looks like me, because I made a promise I do not intend to keep! Love B.
S.S. Reliable Bertram Wooster
Find fact that she's not your friend hard to believe. She seems to be pretty familiar with you, at any rate. Shall be inclined to join forces with Spode and Aunt Agatha in roaming the countryside after you, armed with any weapon possible, unless you keep promise. If failed, or promise declined, hope you're happy as a man responsible for letting friend kick bucket, having to put up with a family who you have no love for, and being regarded as no nephew of mine, but a descendant of Don Juan! Love Travers.
And that seemed to settle the matter. Aunt Dahlia seemed to have denied me the one time it was essential not to obey the call of the code, and demanded I put the grey stuff to work on which was really the right thing to do, and get on and bally well do it, since nothing else was available for the doing, but to get the blasted thing out the way with. I waited for Jeeves to sweep into the vicinity like a gentle gust of wind on a summer's day, when one is apt to lose any expectation of such examples of nature, complete with plan and last cup of tea of the evening, but instead Mrs J. came to my bedside. Jeeves had, it transpired, come a cropper, while taking a walk on deck. The fault was, according to the human source of information, belonging to a squashed apple, left by some delinquent anti-apple youth, who had apparently abandoned the vitamins for some form of sweetmeat from the kitchen, and dropped it hard, with all due hatred of the fruit group that makes an apple an apple, onto the floor, and who should happen to materialise on the scene, with one foot on the apple, but the man now deemed absent from my room, and now currently in the m. ward on the third d.. 'I say, Mrs Jeeves! That's a bit of a rummy thing to happen, just when I needed the fellow' I exclaimed.
'I know, Mr W' she replied, still calling me that because of my escapade at Melbury Hall, Jeeves and I switched places, with Jeeves posing as Lord Etchingham, and self as his man, Wilberforce, she had called me said form of address, 'That's why I volunteered to act as maid for both you and Mrs Wooster. I am capable, so there's no need to worry.' I gave an expression of surprise and understanding. Those with more experience than I have had thus far on the marital life may call me slow on the uptake, for all I care, but it just occurred to me that the Jeeveses had chosen each other for far more than looks. I know Jeeves has told me they were already well-acquainted before I employed him, but, as I have said in my prior reminiscences, when Jeeves is asked to be a butler, he can jolly well buttle away with the best of them. It just dawned on me that these two had something similar, in that they were able to successfully pull off looking after more than one person in a single sitting! 'So, that puts him out of the framework, then?' I asked. 'Eh?' Mrs Jeeves wondered. 'Oh, nothing, just a personal favour which someone wants me to do, but I don't want to do it, so I thought Jeeves could work up one of his usual whizzos.' I explained, as casually as poss. I weighed up my options on the spot. I dreaded with every dread having to come up against Spode, even draining off some of my dread of my Aunt Agatha getting wind of this wheeze, and all dread I had about missing chances of putting the bib on, in anticipation of another masterpiece from Anatole, Aunt Dahlia's chef to supply the dread concerning the human gorilla, formerly of the Blackshorts. But I comprehended that Stiffy was going to make me look like I was doing part of nature's natural order on her, if I failed, thus breaking Georgiana's heart, and making self look like Lord Angelo! And then, there was the Code of the Woosters. I reflected that I would hardly be a Wooster if Spode got his hands on Stinker again, and Stinker was already pretty much almost beyond repair. I decided there and then that there was nothing for it but to put the Wooster grey stuff onto it. 'Will that be all, sir?' Mrs Jeeves asked. 'Yes, thank you, Mrs J., that will be all.' I replied. 'Goodnight, sir.' 'Goodnight!'
I sat up in bed, deep in thought. I missed having Jeeves around. This was the time when I really could do with him, and I could hardly go and ask anyone where the medical ward was, for the sake of a chinwag with the newly-invalid, unless said person was a nocturnal animal! Finally, when Georgiana threatened to bean me with a cricket bat for all my tossing and turning and taking up the bedclothes, I decided to give the grey stuff a rest and catch some forty winks.
I toddled down to the medical ward in the morning, bringing along some grapes to cheer up the invalid valet, with the intent on consulting him about what I was to do in this sticky situation Stiffy had gotten Bertram into. I opened the door to the medical ward, and there was Jeeves, sitting in bed, with his foot in a sling like a child on some sort of fairground or play-area attraction, not wanting to leave said attraction, even when it was time to do so. 'What ho, Jeeves!' I said, trying to act towards the injured party as chummily as poss.. 'Good morning, sir' replied the invalid, 'I trust you had a pleasant night, last night?' 'Yes, Jeeves, I did, thank you,' replied I, 'although I did unfortunately run into Miss Byng, and I'm afraid your suggestion to sully off to America has come a cropper.' And I told him everything, him listening like an attentive radio-listener to a particular favourite voice of his, and self like a university professor educating the most brilliantly-minded of students, knowing they would be able to understand what I said. 'So, now you understand the posish I'm in, eh, Jeeves?' I asked. 'Yes, sir, and I do have a solution' replied Jeeves. 'Ah, jolly good, I always knew you would rally round' I replied, beaming at this saviour of Woosterkind. I then noticed the grave expression on his face, and guessed what he wanted me to do. 'No,' I replied, 'No way, Jeeves. You can bally well forget it!' 'I'm sorry, sir, but it's the only way out of your problem' the backstabber replied. 'Jeeves,' I hotly complained, 'if I fail, not only will poor Stinker kick the bucket, but Georgiana will take the young master for a lothario willing to jump into bed with anyone of the opposite sex!' 'Well, sir, you could enlist the aid of Mr Winters to help you,' Jeeves suggested. 'What? Old Joe Winters? Whatever could he do?' I asked. 'Well, sir, from what you have told me, he has had a career in crime in his past. His knowledge of the burglary practise could prove invaluable to yourself in such a problem as this.'
'I say, Jeeves! That is a corker! I wish I'd thought of it!' I said, grinning as much as is humanly capable. I acknowledged that it was risky for Bertram, but I realised I was outnumbered, and I felt comfortable in discovering that I could enlist a man who knew his way around safes and locks.
My faith in Jeeves restored, I strolled out of the medical ward Jeeves was in, only to come across Georgiana in the next room, talking to someone. I considered her beauty as radiant as ever. Her skin was as pure as milk, her face as beautiful as a painting, her figure, so elegant, so…
Unfortunately, right at that moment, something hit my leg, and I hurtled to the floor, wailing loudly with my mouth closed. That wasn't right, I thought. Surely a silly ass who tripped over should wail with their mouths open. However, as I got up, I realised the wailing wasn't from my voice. I turned around and saw the object of Spode's dislike on the bed. 'Ah, what ho, what ho, what ho, Stinker!' I said, trying to lighten the mood. 'What ho, what ho, what ho yourself, you blind clot! Was it necessary to barge in and cause me pain, when I've just gotten used to being in a wheelchair and not in bed?' Stinker snapped crossly. 'I'm sorry, old bean,' I replied, slightly offended. After all, can't a fellow see how well his chums are recovering from their grievous and bodily harm? 'I just toddled in to meet up with Georgiana, and ask after your health!' I added. You see, Georgiana had at breakfast announced her intention to see Stinker, and enquire as to his health. 'Bertie Wooster, that's one more blunder to this plan you've made!' came a voice that I recognised all too well. My blood ran cold. I turned and saw the Byng, as large as life. 'Georgiana and I were having a little talk. Thought I'd at least tell her why you would be stealing the necklace' Stiffy explained with a sweetness that suggested that her intentions were anything but sweet! 'And I'm afraid I'm in agreement with her, Bertie. There really is no way out' Georgiana added. I opened my mouth and gasped. Then, I closed it again. I remembered Jeeves's suggestion. 'Well,' I said, 'well, well, well, well, well! It's just as well I am about to employ some help, then, isn't it?' 'Whatever do you mean, Bertie?' Stinker asked. 'I mean, Stinker, that, acting on the advice of Jeeves, who has seldom got it wrong, I shall employ the aid of my and Georgiana's new pal, Joe Winters.' 'A good idea,' Georgiana agreed, 'I do hate having to break the law, but, well, if someone's life, as well as our marriage, is on the line, I suppose it's the lesser of two evils. Anyway, Joe's had experience as a criminal, so he should be able to help you. Oh, don't start, Bertie,' she said, seeing self open mouth in shock. I expected her to be against my participation in Stiffy's plot to exploit Woosterkind, since this was our marriage on the line, dash it! 'I don't see any way out of it, and neither of us wants to end our marriage' she added with great sadness in her expression and face. Well, to that fact I was agreed on, anyway. 'Very well, then' said the defeated I, 'I shall rally him round, and enlist him to help me ransack Spode's compartment. I suppose I'd better respond to the call of the code, if old Stinker's not up to recovering the jewellery, and commit the atrocity while Spode's putting on the bib and tucking into supper, eh?' 'Yes, Bertie' Stiffy replied, 'Not just ransack it – empty it from top to bottom. Oh, and because you injured poor Harold, Bertie, and told me a whopper of a promise earlier on – don't deny it, I saw it in your eyes –, and because I decided my original idea was too damaging to your marriage (fair play coming from Stiffy on the marriage-to-Georgiana front, I thought) I have raised the stakes. Funny what a bean on the head, a pistol, some tomato sauce, the removal of some clothing and a person playing dead can do, isn't it?' I gasped, realising that Stiffy only contemplated fair play to really double the risks. Stiffy could really raise the stakes, and make a chap feel like a complete dunce when she wanted to, hang it all! I mean, it was one thing to make it look like I was doing nature's work on a woman when I was a married man, but to make it look like I had decided to play Father Time, and decide how and when a person should start pushing up the daisies, whether or not I had performed the act of nature on her was just too much for a chap to bear! With this danger on the line, I suddenly became aware that, should I fail to do as Stiffy desired, I would end up looking like a cad, and this time, not even Jeeves would be able to save me from the hangman's noose. 'In that case,' I announced to the world in general, 'I, Bertram Wilberforce Wooster, shall embark on a perilous mission, on the contrary that this shall be the last, and I absolutely mean the last, never-again, cross-my-heart-and-hope-to-die, scheme in which I shall risk life and limb for you, Mr and Mrs Pinker!' I impressed myself considerably on that last part, because of the disdain I said the names of the present invalid and his femme-fatale of a wife with, and moved to the door.
'Done!' replied Stiffy.
'Oh, and Bertie?' asked Stinker.
I sighed. 'Yes, old man?'
'Close the door as you leave, there's a good fellow!' the bounder replied with some gall. I mean, Bertram Wooster may not be the brightest light in the room, but there are points in which he can use his noggin, without the help of anyone else, thank you very much!
I signalled my farewells to the medical ward, with a wave of my hand, and opened the door with some vigour. Too much vigour, dare I add, for it sounded as though I had coshed someone on the other side of the door, since a loud scream of some considerable pain and anger erupted unexpectedly from the other side. I closed the door carefully. Speaking to the newest member of the injured party, I said 'Sorry, old bean, I…' I checked myself. On a study of the man-mountain before me, and acknowledging just who said man-mountain was, and why he was so angry (he'd apparently been for a walk, and fancied a raspberry ice, the sort in a cone, which I'd upset onto his nose, as well as knocking him one in the head), my blood turned cold, and I decided on the spot to make a dash for it.
'WOOSTER!' bawled Spode, with the might of all his lung power, 'COME BACK HERE, AND BE LYNCHED!' I assured myself I had no intention of doing so, and ran on until I saw Joe in my line of running.
'Joe,' I bellowed, 'I say, Joe, old Top! Run with me a moment!' Joe started running alongside me. 'Why all this running, Bertie?' He asked.
'Look behind me!' I told him. He did. One look at Spode was enough to make him see why. But then, Spode never struck me as particularly attractive, and I often wondered why on earth he and Madeleine Basset got married, and there is something explanatory about why a fellow is running away from another fellow whom the former fellow had accidentally beaned on the head with a door, making the latter fellow look like a smartly-dressed scarecrow, with some runny pink stuff up its hooter.
'Anyway, that's not the point' I called. 'The point is I need to speak with you in private. Any idea where we can go?'
'Easily!' Joe readily responded. He led me and the raging bull, Spode, down a flight of steps. Quite fortunately, we passed a young lad of about some seven or eight years of age, holding a packet of some sweetmeat or another, accompanied by the chance occasion of a trolley of plates passing through the vicinity. The lad in question must've been the same delinquent youth who saw to it that Jeeves was currently spending his voyage in the medical ward, and was henceforth about to redeem himself in the books of self and Jeeves, because he decided to chuck at Spode a few of his sweets, drawing Spode away from us, and ensuring that the trolley-load of dishes, which was going right by the afore-mentioned youth anyway, was reduced to scrap-metal, and the dust of fine china, having been demolished by the villain Spode, who had turned to attack the young hero, on impact with them. The young hero then wisely beat a hasty retreat, while the trolley's porter, in trying to help Spode to his feet, got pushed to the floor by the human bull, who then resumed his pursuit after us. Fortunately for Bertram and Joe, we had managed to put several doors between us and this recent scene of destruction, and entered into the engine room, whereupon we hid in a pile of coal, bribing the firemen of the steamer not to let Spode on that we were in the coal.
After we climbed out of the coal-pile, ascertaining to ourselves that Spode was no longer in the vicinity, we paid the firemen a shilling each for their secrecy, and, with substantially-ruined clothes, went to the cargo hold. On seeing a motorcar in the hold, we snuck in, ducked down from all view, and held our discussion there. I dare say, I could see how such a place could be used in a film about a ship, as a lovers' seduction place, if some steam and a man and woman, accompanied by some nifty camerawork and choreography to make it look like they really were doing nature's orders on each other, and looking as Mother Nature intended them to look. 'Now, listen here, old Top…' I said, and explained the whole affair to him. 'So that's the whole binge, pretty much' I finished. There was some thought in Joe's eyes. 'Alright then!' he replied with gusto, 'I'll take it up. I was getting bored with normal civilian life, anyway!' 'Excellent, excellent!' I replied, 'Capital, capital. Just meet me outside my room at seven of the clock, this evening, and bring a few cigars with you. It'll help us blend in, don't you know?'
It was precisely five minutes past the agreed hour when I and Joseph were taking what looked to all the world like a stroll on the deck. As promised, Stiffy had delivered the lock-pick, accompanied by a note which gave us the cabin number of Spode's compartment, as well as directions on how to get to it. We walked along, smoking our cigars, until we came across said compartment. Observing that the light was still on, and witnessing two large shadows in the windows, we hid around the corner waited until we heard the door open, and footsteps heading towards us. This gave us cause for some, erm … I think the word Jeeves would probably say would be alacrity. Anyhow, whatever word it was, we certainly felt the full bum's rush of it. Well, Joe did, anyway. Observing that we were in a dead end, he walked away saying 'Well, good night, old buddy. Jolly nice talking to you and all that tosh.' I however remained quite still. Those of you readers whose company I have entertained for many years will, I hope, remember who Spode tied the knot with. If not, I shall remind you, or rather inform you if you are not one of my regular reading company. The Mrs Spode was, as a matter of fact, Madeleine Basset, daughter of the loony doctor, Pop Basset. For all her faults, which included breaking the heart of my good friend, Gussie Fink-Nottle, and constantly living under impressions such as when flowers bloom, fairies are somewhere in the surrounding area, this Basset did have one saving grace about her. Whenever she saw me, she would always think that I was still madly in love with her. This impression often gave her some torture, the poor sap, but on this occasion, that was not an option, for it was her who approached the dead-end first, talking to Spode about how the waves rolled in, because giants were having a swim in the ocean somewhere in the world. She shrieked when she came across me. 'Bertie!' she cried. I grinned enormously. Normally, I would've been tempted to shriek with fright at this Basset nuisance, but on this occasion, I felt an enormous rush of joy. Spode could not maul me in front of Madeleine, so I was safe. So far, everything was coming up somethingorother. 'Wooster!' exclaimed Spode, purple in the face, clenching his fists. For the first time, that scared me not one jot, since Madeleine was present. 'Oh, Bertie!' Madeleine wept. 'It's alright, Roderick, I shall deal with him' she said through her tears. 'But…But…But this shrivelling imbecile is of the lowest form of man! What would you want with…?' Spode protested, and to this I resent my having to sneer at a cow-creamer on the day I met the gorilla. 'Roderick, I know his purpose for coming here. He loves me, and this is something we must settle alone, just him and me' Madeleine replied, with a surprising ounce of seriousness, coming from her. Being at sea seems to bring a remarkable change in people you regret being associated with. First, there was Spode's willingness to hurt flies, contrary to what certain phrases suggest. Then, there was Stiffy's willingness to make it look like some poor old bird had committed adultery and murder. Finally, Madeleine Basset was actually willing to take matters seriously, and deal, in the most serious manner imaginable, with something as serious as love, willing to make it sound like a matter of life and death in its seriousness, and not as a personal thing between two people. 'Oh, Bertie,' she cried, rushing into my arms. Oh, help, I thought, as I saw Spode's face. 'How could you? After every time I see you, you still don't seem to listen!' Madeleine wept. 'Understand what?' I asked, playing out the scene for what it was. 'Why, that we can't ever be together. I know you love me, Bertie, and I love you, too, but my heart belongs to Roderick. Please Bertie, I insist that you stop this, otherwise I…' and she sniffed, and announced 'I shall drown at sea!' I gasped in shock.
'Madeleine!' I exclaimed.
'Please reconsider, my dear!' Spode exclaimed, giving me the look that said If you value her life far more higher than I could bally well give a pin for yours, you will leave well enough alone – forever, if at all possible. 'No, it's too much heartache, seeing you, Bertie. I would rather live with the fishies than have to suffer the brunt of your heartache once more, so I tell you again: I love you, but we must part ways, and never see each other again!'
'Wisely spoken, dumpling!' encouraged Spode. Then, with teary-eyed Madeleine in the background, he lifted me up by the collars, and said 'Very well, Wooster, you may go, but I demand that neither of us ever hear a peep out of you on this voyage. Come, Madeleine, I shall treat you to whatever your heart desires for supper. You deserve it' he added tenderly to her. They walked off together into the wild black yonder of the ship, leaving self free to make a dash for safety. I went around the corner, and saw Joe looking at me in wide-eyed bewilderment.
'I saw the whole binge' he said, 'how on earth did you manage to survive encountering that man-mountain?'
'Oh, well, I was once engaged to his wife, and have seen her several times since. She always seems convinced that I'm madly in love with her. Not surprising really; she lives under the impression that the stars are God's daisy chain!'
'Oh, that much of a sap, is she?'
'Yes, Joe, indeed she is!'
We entered Spode's quarters through a bedroom window, and landed on something hard that seemed to give way. When Joe shined his torch on the source of the crashing noise, it revealed itself to be something that once looked like it could resemble a dressing table, but was now a pile of very large matchsticks. 'Dash it!' I cursed.
'Here's hoping no one heard us' Joe agreed. I started to look around for the safe, groping my way through the darkness. Suddenly, I felt the feel of cold steel against my neck. I shivered.
'Hands up, Wooster!' Joe commanded.
'Steady on, Joe' I exclaimed, under the impression it was a joke between friends, albeit a frankly unfunny one, 'this is not a Western movie!'
'No jokes, Wooster!' he snapped. I slowly put my hands up. The present Joe appeared to be a modern incarnation of Judas, backstabbing his friends at the first possible opportunity, while the absent Jeeves, and for that matter the rest of the world, became the Roman centurions, unable to save the man playing Caesar, of whom I was unwillingly cast in the role of, when Caesar needed saving. 'Move forward slowly, and no games!' he barked. I walked onwards, only stopping when we got to the bathroom. Judas then ordered me to sit in the bath, before gagging and binding me, putting the plug in, turning the taps on to full, and left the room, locking the door behind him, and, from what I heard, decided to treat himself to a few rounds of the alcoholic beverage, before he made his escape. Unfortunately for Judas, there were cries of 'Help! Police'.
At this point, the bath was overflowing, and I heard someone telling me that 'If you would kindly take cover, sir, I think that would be advisable in the present crisis.' I did so, with a massive smile on my face. I knew that voice all too well. When I had first heard it, I thought Spode had caught Joe in the act of robbery, but now I realised that Jeeves was rallying round once more to save the master. The window smashed above my head, the bathroom curtains fell off the wall, and Jeeves climbed in, untied me, and pulled me upwards towards a standing position.
'I trust you are in good health, sir?' he asked, as he helped me climb out the window.
'Jeeves, I have been soaked through, covered in coal dust, and threatened, multiple times, dare I add, with death and a ruined marriage! Tell me what you think my answer would be later!' I replied. I mean, this was hardly the time and place for such a discussion, and the man had just asked the most mind-bogglingly obvious of questions!
'Very good, sir. If you would care to follow me at a run, sir, I believe I saw Mr Winters escape, and understand he is in the possession of something valuable that is not his, and I believe we may be able to accost him, if we try' Jeeves said, climbing through the window himself.
'Jeeves' I asked, suddenly noticing something very important, 'why are you suddenly as fit as a fiddle?'
'I shall relay that information later, sir. There are more pressing matters at hand, at present.'
It seemed to me that, on that voyage, I was getting more exercise than I had bargained for, for I was now finding myself heading off in hot pursuit of a man who I had now mistakenly believed to be a pal. Jeeves, as was perhaps either due to his injury, or due to his position as a gentleman's personal gentleman, simply walked behind, and shouted a command to the sailors who were running in my general direction. I gathered that they were pursuing me, and ran faster, cursing Jeeves, and thinking what punishment I should like to dish out to him for attempting to have the young master arrested. As a matter of fact, I ran so fast, and thought I was being chased so much, that I didn't notice Joe had taken a turning, which the sailors followed. I slowed, and grinned. I'd managed to outrun the blisters, it seemed. I then turned sour. All those years of good service, and the backstabbing manservant had acted against me. Then, it hit me. Why on earth would someone chase me and then turn in the opposite direction to where I was, when I was right in front of them, plain as day, or night in the present case. Unless the sailors were blind enough not to see me, even if I was on their noses, painted purple and dancing the can-can, wearing nothing but my birthday suit, and they would be pretty sorry excuses for sailors if they were, they surely must be chasing Joe instead. I hoped that I was right, and that Jeeves had been wrongly accused by self of betrayal.
I was overjoyed to find that the above was the case. When I turned the corner, I found a rather strange group consisting of sailors, an unconscious Joe tied up by string, a string-holding Mrs Jeeves, armed with scissors, and a cricket-bat-wielding Georgiana. Jeeves then materialised on the scene. ''Ere's the gentleman, guv'nor' said a sailor, in a sailor-ish voice, the sort a bit like what pirates and the sailor-man-chap who eats spinach have, 'Is this him?'
'I can indeed confirm that it is' replied Jeeves.
'I should've known better than to trust him!' Georgiana said angrily, 'But at least we've stopped him in his tracks.'
'Exactly, ma'am' agreed Mrs Jeeves, 'and anyway, he had us all almost completely fooled'. I kept my trap shut. I had been not almost completely fooled, but totally and utterly fooled, but decided to say nothing, for fear of looking like a complete ass in front of everyone.
After Joe was escorted away from the premises, we, the families of the Jeeves household, and the Wooster household, agreed that, after all that excitement, it was best we had supper, a stiff one, and then bed, agreeing that we all were in need of refreshment and an awards. The next morning, I awoke to the knocking of the door. Georgiana had already got up, and was now dressing in the lady's room. Jeeves came in, complete with tea tray. 'Good morning Jeeves!' I remarked cheerily. 'Good morning sir. I trust your night was satisfactory?'
'Indeed it was, Jeeves, indeed it was. Rummy do about old Joe, eh, what?'
'Precisely, sir, although I had suspected Mr Winters of being in the criminal profession previously in the voyage. May I, as you would say, sir, tell all?'
'Pray do, Jeeves, pray do!'
'Thank you, sir. Some hours before we made our exit from Blandings Castle, I happened upon a poster in the newspaper I was reading while I was having my breakfast, informing me of an escaped prisoner, who was, as it happened, Mr Winters, or as the press have called him, Alpine Joe (when I used the name to assist you once before, sir, I used it because he was known throughout the mainstream press for crime, and knew that, if you were identified as Alpine Joe, the rescue would be swift and effective), and offering a considerable reward for his recapture. Unfortunately, he had not been released from prison, but rather was willingly absent from it, having made his plight some two months ago. I observed him boarding the ship, and also happened to see the Reverend Pinker boarding the ship on a wheelchair, only to accidentally roll onto an area that was currently being washed, and carry on traversing at speed into a bench, which would explain why he was in the hospital wing. The accident involving the delinquent child, and an apple, was merely just an accident, but when I was recovering in the hospital wing, with a very minor injury of a sprained ankle, which would explain my walking slowly, sir, which I hope you would forgive, I happened to converse with the Reverend Pinker as to the cause of his accident, and he revealed to me that he had been asked by Ms Byng to inspect all the hiding places for a necklace in Lord Sidcup's quarters at Totleigh Towers. He then explained to me that a man called Joseph Winters had just arrived, and was apparently a new member of the Reverend Pinker's congregation, and had become reasonably good acquaintances with him, but also that his lordship had caused some tension between him and the Reverend and Ms Byng, by knocking over a vase belonging to Ms Byng's mother. Henceforth, no one suspected that Mr Winters had stolen the necklace, which was, until last night, when he was searched following his arrest, on his person. It is now with its rightful owners, who send their greatest thanks, and apologies for putting you through your ordeal'.
'Tell them from me apology accepted, but please do not ask me for any more help for the next one hundred years' I replied, 'but, before you do, please go on with your narrative.'
'I enquired as to the description of Mr Winters, and gathered that he could potentially be Alpine Joe, because of the similarities in the words 'Alpine' and 'Winter', since both may be connected with the fourth season of the year. It was when you revealed your friendship with Mr Winters, that I deduced that Mr Winters was Alpine Joe. Following your kind visit, which I am most grateful for, sir, I explained my intentions to the ship's doctor, who informed the captain, who proceeded to order one of the hands to keep watch over you. You'll pardon me, sir, but I and the crew were acting in the interests of all concerned. We then discussed a plan of action, in which I, thanks to the excellent medical capabilities of the ship's doctor, would rescue you, while a group of sailors would pursue Mr Winters on his escape. Fearing that he would avoid recapture, and knowing that it is a criminal's first choice while being pursued to take the first available turning, I enlisted the aid of Mrs Wooster and Mrs Jeeves, to assist in the recapture. Mrs Wooster was an admirable member of the young ladies' croquet team in her youth, and could easily wield the bat as she did with her mallet. It was fortunate also that I found several small stones on deck, most likely left by a delinquent youth, to which I could use to affect your rescue, instead of using my shoes. However, I must confess one thing, sir. This endeavour required some heavy amount of luck. I knew that I could easily come to your aid, but acknowledged the possibilities of Mr Winters making good his escape, but realised that it was a risk I had to accept' the hero of humanity concluded.
'And what of Spode? Surely he must've heard the commotion?' I asked, afraid as to what would happen if he found out I had been involved in the invasion and destruction of his compartment.
'Unfortunately, sir, he did hear the commotion, but, instead of pursuing after Mr Winters, he gained the impression that the sailors were trying to break in. Having had several pieces of silver belonging to his mother and father stolen before his arrival at Totleigh towers, and naturally being suspicious of everyone around him, he reacted in a most violent manner, and struck a crewman. He was forced to the ground by six other sailors, and is now accompanying Mr Winters in the Detention ward of the ship, sir.'
'I see. So the Winters traitor gets put in a cell with King Kong, eh? But what about Madeleine? It must've been a dashed shock for her, and she was considering putting an end to it all the next time she saw me again. I trust she's alright. She's a pain in the neck, but it wouldn't be on to wish young ladies such as herself to die.' 'Fortunately, sir, Ms Basset merely fainted, and is now in the psychiatric ward, receiving comfort from all crewmen involved, as well as Ms Byng. She is struggling to cope with Lord Sidcup's undertakings, and is considering a divorce in the near future, having decided that she hates a man who commits violent acts upon others, which will, through her intent, be suggested by her immediate return to Britain following her arrival in New York, and appearing before her father without Lord Sidcup, which will, I hope, mean that she will not be interested in forming an engagement with yourself,sir' Jeeves finished.
'Capital, capital' I replied, 'I say, Jeeves, is there anything you would like from New York? No cost would be too great! My treat!'
'Thank you, sir. I would be quite content, sir, if Mrs Jeeves and I were given the day off on Monday to go and see the sights of the city.' 'Consider it done, Jeeves!'
'Thank you, sir!' Jeeves smiled graciously, and swept out of the room. I sipped my tea, thoughts of happiness in my mind. Amazing how free one felt, now that they did not have to worry spending their voyage in unfavourable company any longer, especially when one's company consisted formerly of Stiffy, Spode and Joe, among those present. I smiled. Then, I collapsed onto my bed, got up ten minutes later, dressed and toddled off to the restaurant for breakfast.
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