The whole story started with a visit from my aunt Dahlia, as these things so often do. Often and often have I found that many a time and oft is it that case that such malentendus (if that’s the word I’m after) – or is it contretemps? – that such imbroglios, if I may use the expression, often begin with a visit from the aunt. For she is a stormy petrel of sorts who brings the old storm clouds in her wake wherever she hies as if they were attached by a leash to her ankle. Which is substantial, by the way, having been lovingly beefed up for years by her incomparable French chef Anatole. But this is by the way.
So on the morning in question the old aunt had incorporated, if that’s the word, in my midst at about nine a.m. without so much as a word of warning. Faithful readers will not need to have it spelled out to them what a nuisance, indeed a what-d’ye-call-it such unanticipated visitations present to the Wooster constitution, which is frail and birdlike. To intrude into the presence before noon is to risk the wrath that my ancestors showed to such effect at Boulogne (I think it was). And so it proved on the occasion in question.
‘My dear old a.,’ I said, fixing her with a cold stare, ‘what is the meaning of this?’
But she was unflappable. Indeed I have often and often had occasion to remark that to flap old aunt Dahlia is a project beyond the capacities of most mortals. She has a sort of steely whatsit to her that is all but impossible to penetrate. Even the bravest men have been seen to quail before her when she stands athwart their doorway like a seventy-four that is miffed. But not for nothing am I a Wooster, and the Wooster blood does not curdle lightly.
I braved her steely gaze bravely and continued my harangue, for to be honest I was quite dashedly pipped. ‘I must observe, aunt of my loins,’ I continued icily, ‘that your unheralded appearance chez Bertie at this ungodly hour is not at all what I would call the thing. There is a fine line between paying a nephew a friendly visit and making a damned nuisance of yourself, and you seem to have mistaken that line for the starting pistol in the long jump.’ Thinking back I suppose I got my metaphors a bit mixed at this point, but the gist was clear enough. ‘What, I ask again, is the meaning of this barbaric intrusion? I haven’t had breakfast.’
‘Nor will you ever, you nitwit, if you go on in that vein,’ she said in what I thought was a somewhat menacing tone, ‘because I’ll kill you. Now listen to me. You’re to come down to Brinkley Court tout de suite. Take the first train down. No need to pack. Bring Jeeves.’
And with these ominous words she was gone, like a wraith that has, well, uttered ominous words and gone.
I was left rather nonplussed by this communication, to tell you the truth. It sounded as if she had said ‘You’re to come down to Brinkley Court tout de suite’ and ‘Take the first train down’, as well as ‘No need to pack’ and also ‘Bring Jeeves’. But this was scarcely possible.
Thus reflecting I sank back upon my pillow with a sigh and decided to put in another hour or four of Zs. Perhaps things would be clearer in the morning, or, seeing that it was morning, in the afternoon. ‘Jeeves,’ I murmured sleepily, forgetting that he was not by my side.
‘Sir?’ came his answering hail from the direction of the kitchen. The chap has a marvelous sense of pitch, I’ve always said. He can distinguish his own name from a parasang away.
‘Jeeves, I shall be wanting breakfast in about four hours.’
‘Very good, sir,’ says he. ‘But would you not prefer to breakfast at Brinkley Court?’
There was that name again. ‘Brinkley Court?’ I said. ‘Why on earth should I prefer to breakfast at Brinkley Court when I’m not at Brinkley Court? You’ve taken leave of your senses, Jeeves.’
‘I was under the impression, sir, that we were to embark for Brinkley Court in a matter of minutes.’
This took the biscuit.
‘Oh, you were, were you?’ I said. ‘Well, you can extricate yourself from under that impression, Jeeves, and spare yourself considerable discomfort, I would imagine. We are to do nothing of the sort.’
‘Very good, sir. But I suspect Mrs Travers will be rather put out if we fail to arrive forthwith.’
‘Mrs Travers’ put-outness or the contrary, Jeeves, is none of your concern,’ I said, imbuing my tone with a hint of that Wooster sharpness that has made braver men than he to quail and blubber. ‘Breakfast in four hours. Till then, toodle-pip.’