Этот неподражаемый Дживс! / The Inimitable Jeeves
Адаптация текста и словарь С. А. Матвеева
© The Trustees of the P.G. Wodehouse Estate
© Матвеев С. А., адаптация текста, словарь, 2018
© ООО «Издательство АСТ», 2018
Jeeves Exerts the Old Cerebellum
“Morning, Jeeves,” I said.
“Good morning, sir,” said Jeeves.
He put the good old cup of tea softly on the table by my bed, and I took a refreshing sip. Excellent, as usual. Not too hot, not too sweet, not to weak, not too strong, not too much milk, and not a drop spilled in the saucer. A wonderful guy, Jeeves. So competent in every respect. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Just for example. Every other valet I’ve ever had entered my room in the morning while I was still asleep, but Jeeves seems to know when I’m awake by a sort of telepathy. He always comes in with the cup exactly two minutes after I come to life.
“How is the weather, Jeeves?”
“Exceptionally clement, sir.”
“Anything in the papers?”
“Some crisis in the Balkans, sir. Otherwise, nothing.”
“I say, Jeeves, a man I met at the club last night told me to put all my money on Privateer for the two o’clock race this afternoon. How about it?”
“I shall not advise it, sir.”
That was enough for me. Jeeves knows. How, I couldn’t say, but he knows. There was a time when I would laugh lightly, and go ahead, and lose everything, but not now.
“By the way,” I said, “have those mauve shirts I ordered arrived yet?”
“Yes, sir. I sent then back.”
“Sent them back?”
“Yes, sir. They would not suit you.”
Well, I must say I bow to superior knowledge. Weak? I don’t know. Most fellows, no doubt, are sure that their valets must only crease trousers and so on; but it’s different with Jeeves. Right from the first day he came to me, I have looked on him as a sort of guide, philosopher, and friend.
“Mr. Little rang up on the telephone a few moments ago, sir. I informed him that you were not yet awake.”
“Did he leave a message?”
“No, sir. He mentioned that he had a matter of importance to discuss with you, but gave no details.”
“Oh, well, I expect I shall see him at the club.”
“No doubt, sir.”
To be honest, I wasn’t excited to see him. Bingo Little is a fellow I was at school with, and we see each other often. He’s the nephew of old Mortimer Little, who retired from business recently with a lot of money. Bingo wandered about London, his uncle gave him enough money, and led a fairly unclouded life. I suspected that he had discovered some new brand of cigarette which he wanted me to try, or something like that.
After breakfast I lit a cigarette and went to the open window. It certainly was one a bright day. “Jeeves,” I said.
“Sir?” said Jeeves.
“You were absolutely right about the weather. It is a nice morning.”
“Spring and all that.”
“In the spring, Jeeves, flowers grow and birds sing.”
“No doubt, sir.”
“Exactly! Then bring me my cane, my yellowest shoes, and the old green hat. I’m going into the park.”
I don’t know if you know that sort of feeling you get on these days in the end of April and in the beginning of May, when the sky is blue, with cotton-wool clouds, and there’s a breeze blowing from the west? Romantic, if you know what I mean. On this particular morning it seemed to me that what I really wanted was some charming girl to ask me to save her from assassins or something. So that it was rather terrible when I suddenly ran into Bingo Little, in a crimson satin tie decorated with horseshoes.
“Hallo, Bertie,” said Bingo.
“My God, man!” I gargled. “Your tie! Why? For what reason?”
“Oh, the tie?” He blushed. “I—er—I was given it.”
“Jeeves tells me you want to talk to me about something,” I said.
“Eh?” said Bingo. “Oh yes, yes. Yes.”
I waited for the news, but he didn’t seem to go on. Conversation languished. He stared straight ahead of him.
“I say, Bertie,” he said, after a pause of about an hour and a quarter.
“Do you like the name Mabel?”
“You don’t think there’s a kind of music in the word, like the wind through the trees?”
He seemed disappointed for a moment; then cheered up.
“Of course, you wouldn’t. You always were a worm without any soul, weren’t you?”
“Just as you say. Who is she? Tell me all.”
For I realized now that poor old Bingo had fallen in love again. Ever since I have known him—and we were at school together—he has been perpetually falling in love with someone, generally in the spring. At school he had the finest collection of actresses’ photographs of his time; and at Oxford he was famous for his romantic nature.
“You’d better come along and meet her at lunch,” he said, looking at his watch.
“Well,” I said. “Where are you meeting her? At the Ritz?”
“Near the Ritz.”
He was geographically accurate. About fifty yards east of the Ritz there is a tea-and-bun shop, and into this young Bingo dived like a rabbit. Before I had time to say a word we were at a table, with a pool of coffee left there by a previous client.
I couldn’t quite understand the situation. Bingo was not a millionaire, but he has always had a fair amount. Why, then, has he invited the girl at this eatery?
The waitress arrived. A rather pretty girl.
“Aren’t we going to wait?” I started to say to Bingo, but I caught sight of his face, and stopped.
“Mabel,” said Bingo, “this is Bertie Wooster, a friend of mine.”
“Pleased to meet you,” she said. “Nice morning.”
“Pleased to meet you, too,” I said.
“You see I’m wearing the tie,” said Bingo.
“It suits you beautiful,” said the girl.
Personally, if anyone had told me that a tie like that suited me, I should have risen and fight them, regardless of their age and sex; but poor old Bingo simply got all flustered with gratification, and smirked.
“Well, what’s it going to be today?” asked the girl. Bingo studied the menu.
“I’ll have a cup of cocoa, cold veal and ham pie, slice of fruit cake, and a macaroon. Same for you, Bertie?”
I gazed at him, revolted. He thinks I am going to insult my stomach with that! And he has been a friend of mine all these years.
“Or how about a bit of hot steak-pudding, with some wine?” said Bingo.
You know, love can change a man completely. This fellow before me, who spoke carelessly of macaroons and cocoa, was the man who had ordered sole frite au gourmet aux champignons and the best wine some day. Ghastly! Ghastly!
A roll and butter and a small coffee seemed the only things on the list that were eatable, so I chose them, and Mabel went away.
“Well?” said Bingo rapturously.
He wanted my opinion of the female poisoner who had just left us.
“Very nice,” I said.
He seemed dissatisfied.
“You don’t think she’s the most wonderful girl you ever saw?” he said.
“Oh, absolutely!” I said. “Where did you meet her?”
“What were you doing at a subscription dance at Camberwell?”
“Your Jeeves asked me to buy a couple of tickets. It was in aid of some charity or other.”
“Jeeves? I didn’t know about that business of his.”
“Well, I suppose he has to relax a bit every sometimes. Anyway, he was there, too. And danced. I didn’t want to dance at first, but changed my mind. Oh, Bertie, think what I might have missed!”
“What might have you missed?” I asked.
“Mabel, you fool. If I hadn’t gone I shouldn’t have met Mabel.”
“Bertie,” said Bingo, “I want your advice.”
“At least, not your advice, because that wouldn’t be good to anybody. Not that I want to hurt your feelings, of course.”
“No, no, I see that.”
“What I wish you would do is to tell the whole story to that fellow Jeeves, and see what he suggests. You’ve often told me that he has helped other friends of yours. From what you tell me, he’s the brains of the family. Tell him about my problem.”
“Why, you idiot, my uncle, of course. What do you think my uncle’s going to say to all this? If I tell him about the marriage, he’d die at once.”
“One of these emotional guys, eh?”
“He needs to be prepared to receive the news. But how?”
“You see, I’m dependent on my uncle. So tell Jeeves the case. Tell him my future is in his hands, and that, if the wedding bells ring out, he can rely on me, even unto half my kingdom. Well, ten pounds. So, will he help me for ten pounds?”
“Undoubtedly,” I said.
I wasn’t surprised that Bingo wanted to tell Jeeves his private affairs like this. It was the first thing I would do myself. As I have observed, Jeeves is full of bright ideas. If anybody could fix things for poor old Bingo, he could.
I stated the case to him that night after dinner.
“Are you busy just now?”
“I mean, not doing anything in particular?”
“No, sir. Usually at this hour I read useful books; but, if you desire my services, this can easily be postponed.”
“Well, I want your advice. It’s about Mr Little.”
“Young Mr Little, sir, or the elder Mr Little, his uncle, who lives in Pounceby Gardens?”
Jeeves seemed to know everything. Amazing. I’d known Bingo practically all my life, and yet I didn’t know where his uncle lived.
“How did you know he lived in Pounceby Gardens?” I said.
“I know the elder Mr Little’s cook, sir.”
“Do you mean you’re engaged?”
“It may be said, sir.”
“She is a remarkably excellent cook, sir,” said Jeeves, as though he had to give some explanation. “What was it you wished to ask me about Mr Little?”
I gave him the details.
“And that’s it, Jeeves,” I said. “I think we must help poor old Bingo. Tell me about old Mr Little. What sort of a man is he?”
“A somewhat curious character, sir. He retired from business and became a great recluse, and now devotes himself almost entirely to the pleasures of the table.”
“Greedy, you mean?”
“I would not, perhaps, take the liberty of describing him in precisely those terms, sir. He is what is usually called a gourmet. Very particular about what he eats, and for that reason values Miss Watson’s services.”
“Well, it seems to me that our best plan would be to tell him everything after dinner one night. He will be in a good mood, and all that.”
“The difficulty is, sir, that at the moment Mr Little is on a diet, because of an attack of gout.”
“Things begin to look badly.”
“No, sir, I think that the elder Mr Little’s misfortune may be turned to the younger Mr Little’s advantage. Yesterday I was speaking to Mr Little’s valet, and he was telling me that it has become his duty to read to Mr Little in the evenings. If I were in your place, sir, I should send young Mr Little to read to his uncle.”
“Nephew’s devotion, you mean? The old man will be touched, right?”
“Partly that, sir. But I would rely more on young Mr Little’s choice of literature.”
“That’s no good. Bingo is a good fellow, but when it conies to literature he stops at the Sporting Times.”
“That difficulty may be overcome. I would be happy to select books for Mr Little to read. Perhaps I might explain my idea a little further.”
“I can’t say I quite understand.”
“The method which I advocate is what, I believe, they call Direct Suggestion, sir. You may have had experience of the system?”
“You mean they keep on telling you that some soap or other is the best, and after a while you come under the influence and buy twenty pieces?”
“Exactly, sir. The same method was the basis of all the most valuable propaganda during the recent war. I see no reason why it should not be adopted by us to get the desired result with regard to the subject’s views on class distinctions. If young Mr Little reads day after day to his uncle a series of stories in which marriage with young persons of an inferior social status was appropriate and admirable, I think it will prepare the elder Mr Little’s mind for the reception of the information that his nephew wishes to marry a waitress in a tea-shop.”
“Are there any books of that sort nowadays? The only ones I ever see mentioned in the papers are about married couples who hate each other.”
“Yes, sir, there are some. You have never read All for Love, by Rosie M. Banks?”
“Nor, A Red, Red Summer, by the same author?”
“I have an aunt, sir, who owns an almost complete set of Rosie M. Banks. I could easily borrow as many volumes as young Mr Little might require.”
“Well, it’s worth trying.”
“I should certainly recommend the scheme, sir.”
“All right, then. Go to your aunt tomorrow and grab a couple of the best stories. We shall try.”
No Wedding Bells for Bingo
Bingo reported three days later that Rosie M. Banks worked well. At the beginning, Old Little was not happy with the change of literary diet; but Bingo had read him Chapter One of All for Love and after everything went well. They had finished A Red, Red Summer Rose, Madcap Myrtle and Only a Factory Girl, and were reading The Courtship of Lord Strathmorlick.
Bingo told me all this in a husky voice. The only thing to complain was his throat which was beginning to show signs of cracking under the strain. He was looking his symptoms in a medical dictionary, and he thought he had got “clergyman’s throat.” But I was not sorry for him, because his aim was near, and also after the evening’s reading he always stayed on to dinner; and the dinners, as he told me, by old Little’s cook were excellent. There were tears in his eyes when he was talking about the clear soup.
Old Little wasn’t able to take part in these banquets, but Bingo said that he came to the table and had his arrowroot, and sniffed the dishes, and told stories of entrées he had had in the past. Anyhow, things seemed to be quite wonderful, and Bingo said he had got an idea. He wouldn’t tell me what it was.
“We make progress, Jeeves,” I said.
“That is very satisfactory, sir.”
“Mr Little tells me that when he came to the big scene in Only a Factory Girl, his uncle was crying like a baby.”
“Where Lord Claude takes the girl in his arms, you know, and says—”
“I am familiar with the passage, sir. It is distinctly moving. It is my aunt’s favourite scene.”
“I think we’re on the right track.”
“It seems so, sir.”
“In fact, this looks like another success of yours. I’ve always said, and I always shall say, that you are a sage, Jeeves. All the other great thinkers of the age are nothing.”
“Thank you very much, sir. You can always rely on me.”
About a week after this, Bingo told the news that his uncle’s gout had ceased to trouble him, and that he would be back at the table with a knife and a fork as before.
“And, by the way,” said Bingo, “he wants you to lunch with him tomorrow.”
“Me? Why me? He doesn’t know I exist.”
“Oh, yes, he does. I’ve told him about you.”
“What have you told him?”
“Oh, various things. Anyhow, he wants to meet you. And take my tip, you’ll go! I think the lunch tomorrow will be something special.”
I don’t know why it was, but Bingo’s words sounded strange.
“There is something strange in it,” I said. “Why should your uncle ask a fellow to lunch whom he’s never seen?”
“My dear old fathead, haven’t I just said that I’ve been telling him all about you—that you’re my best friend—at school together, and all that sort of thing?”
“So what? Why do want me to come?”
Bingo hesitated for a moment.
“Well, I told you I’d got an idea. This is it. I want you to tell him the news. I’m not brave enough.”
“And you call yourself a friend of mine!”
“Yes, I know; but there are limits.”
“Bertie,” said Bingo, “I saved your life once.”
“Didn’t I? It must have been some other fellow, then. Well, anyway, we were studying at school together and all that. You can’t let me down.”
“Oh, all right,” I said. “But, when you say you are not brave enough, you misjudge yourself. A fellow who—”
“Cheerio!” said young Bingo. “One-thirty tomorrow. Don’t be late.”
I can say that the more I thought about the lunch the less I liked the idea. It was all very well for Bingo to say that I was invited; but what if they would drive me out? However, at one-thirty next day I was at No. 16, Pounceby Gardens, and punched the bell. And half a minute later I was in the drawingroom, shaking hands with the fattest man I have ever seen in my life.
The motto of the Little family was evidently “variety”. Young Bingo is long and thin; but the uncle was like a square.
“Mr Wooster, I am gratified—I am proud—I am honoured.”
“Oh, ah!” I said.
He stepped back a bit.
“You are very young and did so much!”
I couldn’t follow his thought. My family, especially my Aunt Agatha, have always told me that my existence is a wasted life, and that, since I won the prize at my school for the best collection of wild flowers made during the summer holidays, I haven’t done anything useful at all. I was wondering if he mixed me up with someone else, when the telephone bell rang outside in the hall, and the maid came in to say that I was wanted. I came down, and found it was young Bingo.
“Hallo!” said young Bingo. “So you’ve got there? Good man! I knew I could rely on you. Was my uncle pleased to see you?”
“Absolutely. I can’t understand why.”
“Oh, that’s all right. I just rang up to explain. The fact is, old man, I told him that you were the author of those books I’ve been reading to him.”
“Yes, I said that “Rosie M. Banks” was your pen-name, and you didn’t want it generally known, because you were a modest man. He’ll listen to you now. A bright idea, right? Well, go on, old lad, and remember that I can’t possibly marry on what I’ve got now. So try to persuade him to give me more money. At least double. Well, that’s that. Cheerio!”
And he rang off. At that moment the gong sounded, and my host came downstairs.
I always look back to that lunch with a sort of regret. It was the best lunch in my life, and I could not appreciate it. Subconsciously, if you know what I mean, I could see it was pretty special, but I was shocked with the ghastly situation in which young Bingo had landed me.
Old Little began:
“My nephew has probably told you that I have been studying your books?”
“Yes. He mentioned it. How—er—how did you like them?”
He gazed reverently at me.
“Mr Wooster, I am not ashamed to say that the tears came into my eyes as I listened to them. It amazes me that a man as young as you can be able to learn human nature so deeply; to write novels so true, so human, so moving, so vital!”
“Oh, it’s nothing special,” I said.
It was terribly hot in the room.
“Do you find the room a little warm?” he asked.
“Oh, no, no, rather not. Just right.”
“Then it’s the pepper. If my cook has a fault—which I am not prepared to admit—it is that she adores pepper. By the way, do you like her cooking?”
I was so relieved that we had changed the subject that I shouted approval.
“I am delighted to hear it, Mr Wooster. I may be prejudiced, but to my mind that woman is a genius.”
“Absolutely!” I said.
“She has been with me seven years, and in all that time I have not known her guilty of a single lapse from the highest standard. Except once, in the winter of 1917, a certain mayonnaise of hers was not soft enough. But there had been several air-raids about that time, and no doubt the poor woman was shaken. But nothing is perfect in this world, Mr Wooster. For seven years I have lived in constant apprehension lest some person might lure her. To my certain knowledge she has received offers, lucrative offers, to accept service elsewhere. You can imagine, Mr Wooster, my sorrow when she said that she was going to change her place of employment!”
“Oh, my dear author of A Red, Red Summer Rose! But I am glad to say the worst has not happened. Jane is not leaving me.”
“Wonderful, indeed. And, speaking of your books, may I say that what has impressed me about them even more than the actual narrative, is your philosophy of life. If there were more men like you, Mr Wooster, London would be a better place.”
This was opposite to my Aunt Agatha’s philosophy of life, she has always told me that it is the presence of guys like me that makes London a plague spot.
“Let me tell you, Mr Wooster, that I appreciate your splendid defiance of the fetishes of a social system. I appreciate it! I remember the words of Lord Bletchmore in Only a Factory Girl, “Be her origin never so humble, a good woman is the equal of the finest lady on earth!’ ”
“Really! Do you think that?”
“I do, Mr Wooster. I am ashamed to say that there was a time when I was like other men, a slave to the idiotic convention which we call Class Distinction. But, since I read your book—”
“You think it’s all right for a guy to marry a girl of what you might describe as the lower classes?”
“Of course I do, Mr Wooster.”
I took a deep breath, and told him the good news.
“Young Bingo—your nephew, you know—wants to marry a waitress,” I said.
“I honour him for it,” said Old Little.
“You don’t object?”
“On the contrary.”
I took another deep breath.
“I hope you won’t think I’m butting in,” I said, “but—er—well, how about it?”
“I fear I do not quite follow you.”
“Well, I mean to say … The money you’re good enough to give him. He was rather hoping that you—because of his marriage—might add some money to his income.”
Old Little shook his head regretfully.
“I fear that can hardly be managed. You see, a man in my position must save every penny. I will gladly continue my nephew’s existing allowance, but beyond that I cannot go. It would not be fair to my wife.”
“What! But you’re not married?”
“Not yet. But I think about it. The lady who for years has cooked so well for me honoured me by accepting my hand this very morning.” A cold gleam of triumph came into his eye. “Now let them try to get her away from me!” he muttered.
“Young Mr Little has been calling you during the afternoon, sir,” said Jeeves that night, when I got home.
“No wonder,” I said. I had sent poor old Bingo a note by messenger-boy shortly after lunch.
“He seemed a little agitated.”
“I don’t wonder, Jeeves,” I said, “I’m afraid I’ve bad news for you. That scheme of yours—reading those books to old Mr Little and all that—has led to nowhere.”
“They did not soften him?”
“They did. That’s the whole trouble. Jeeves, I’m sorry to say that fiancée of yours—Miss Watson, you know—the cook, you know—well, she’s chosen riches, if you know what I mean.”
“She’s got engaged to old Mr Little!”
“You don’t seem much upset.”
“The fact is, sir, I had anticipated some such outcome.”
I stared at him. “Then why did you suggest me that scheme?”
“To tell you the truth, sir, I was not wholly happy with my relations with Miss Watson. I respect her exceedingly, but I have seen for a long time that we were not suited. Now, the other young person with whom I have an understanding—”
“Oh Lord, Jeeves! There isn’t another?”
“How long has this been going on?”
“For some weeks, sir. I was greatly attracted by her when I first met her at a subscription dance at Camberwell.”
“Oh Jesus! Not—”
Jeeves inclined his head gravely.
“Yes, sir. By an odd coincidence it is the same young person in whom young Mr Little has been so interested. Good night, sir.”