As I made my way across the driveway a car pulled up and out climbed one whose finely chiselled features could belong to none other than Bingo Little. Despite his being the instigator of my downfall at the Drones, he was still an old school pal, and so I decided that a civil course remained the most appropriate to pursue.
‘What ho, Bingo! It’s not like you to frequent country houses on the weekend. I didn’t expect to bump into you here.’
‘I don’t suppose you did. I expect you rather hoped that you would be able to continue, uninterrupted, your despicable attempt to steal from me the woman I love. Out of my way Wooster, I don’t wish to talk to you.’
To say I was flabbergasted was not the half of it. How anyone could imagine that I was foolish enough to put myself anywhere near the line of Honoria’s fire, was beyond me. Up until now Bingo had avoided looking directly at me but now, his eyes no doubt drawn by the splendour of my hat, he turned his head to face me. And then, just as Bingo had noticed something remarkable about my appearance, it now became my turn to note something remarkable about his.
‘I say Bingo, what’s that on your top lip?’
‘That Bertie, is what is termed a moustache, a sign of masculinity – something for which real men are well known. I thought Honoria would be interested to see it.’
‘I don’t doubt it Bingo. And very impressed I’m sure she’ll be. How ever did you manage to grow it so quickly?’
Bingo seemed to be pleased with my positive appraisal and softened a little.
‘Well Bertie, I’ve been to see Gussie in his new role as a GP. He’s been marvellous. He gave me this cream and told me to rub it into the requisite area three times a day.’ He pulled a tube of testosterone gel from his pocket and demonstrated the application process. ‘So you see Bertie, with this being so effective, I believe I can win back Honoria’s affections. May the best man win,’ And with that he placed the tube back in his pocket, turned back toward the house, and strode off purposefully.
Alone again I continued on my way to the lake. Gussie was there, just as Jeeves had suggested and, true to his description, he was the very picture of a soul bereft. Clearly he was thinking about Madeleine, a subject about which I, however, was not prepared to enter into discussion. We stood looking at each other for a few minutes, the silence growing more awkward, until I blurted out the only thing I could think of to say.
‘I say Gussie. Have you heard that the newt population in these parts is in decline?’
With the conversation turning to the subject of his beloved newts, Gussie’s eyes lit up and his tongue was loosed.
‘Newts in trouble Bertie, but why?’
For a moment I wished I’d not silenced Jeeves on the matter earlier in the day. Unable to answer him, Gussie took it into his head to discover the reason for himself.
“Would you pass me your hat Bertie, I have an idea”
‘An idea, Gussie, what sort of an idea?’ I asked, not liking the turn this conversation was taking. Take it from me, a man capable of spending long hours in the company of semi-aquatic creatures with a penchant for stagnant bodies of water, is capable of pretty much anything.
‘Trust me, Bertie, I’m a newt enthusiast’
With that Gussie snatched the hat from my head and plunged it into the lake, drawing it back out brimming with water. He proceeded to pour the contents out onto the ground in front of him and went on to repeat the procedure time and again until, eventually, a newt was included in the sodden contents of my Stetson. Gussie examined the creature closely and then announced his findings.
‘It’s a male newt Bertie and at this time of year a young male newt’s fancy ought to be turning to thoughts of love. But this newt seems to have no such inclinations. He should be changing his colour and bending his body in an expression of romantic intent – but he’s not.’ Gussie was finding it difficult to speak now, choking with the emotion of it all as he forced the words out. ‘It’s as if he’s lost what it is to be male – it’s almost as if this male newt is…female’
At that moment a cough came from the bushes and Jeeves stepped out from behind them.
‘I’m sorry to interrupt you Mr Fink-Nottle, but I couldn’t help but overhear your observations. The article I was referring Mr Wooster to earlier this afternoon was suggesting that the feminisation of male newts was occurring as a consequence of high levels of oestrogen in the water, possibly as a result of local women on excessive doses of HRT excreting high levels of the hormone. Might that tie in with your findings Mr Fink-Nottle?’
Gussie went pale.
‘What a fool I’ve been Bertie. I see now how foolish I’ve been to think I could ever be a doctor. My real love is for newts. I’ve neglected them and threatened their existence trying to be something I’m not, something I don’t have the passion for, nor the necessary resilience. I renounce it all. No longer will I be a GP – no longer will I prescribe HRT to Honoria’.
And with that, displaying a sense of urgency I’d rarely seen in him, he dashed back to the house shouting as he went ‘Let me through, I’m a doctor no longer’.
Jeeves looked at me as I gazed crestfallen upon my hat that lay, ruined forever, on the ground.
‘The misfortune that has befallen your hat is most regrettable sir. But perhaps you might find some consolation in the good that seems to have resulted from its misappropriation. Miss Basset will soon have Mr Fink-Nottle back now that he is no longer a GP and a deoestrogenised Miss Glossop, her ardour dampened, is sure to find her desire for you diminished. Mr Little will, I am sure, replace you once more as the one who leads among those vying for her affection. Furthermore, with the reduction in the prescribing of HRT for Miss Glossop, one can only imagine that there is enough for everyone else, not least your own Aunt Agatha.’
‘I agree Jeeves, but for the state of my hat, a satisfactory resolution all round.’
We began to make our way back to the house. As we did so we saw Gussie and Madeleine, walking hand in hand together. As they passed Gussie nonchalantly tossed a couple of small cardboard boxes in my direction which, in one deft movement, I swiftly pocketed. All the evidence suggested that a burden had been lifted from Gussie’s shoulders and love was in the air once more. Further indication that Cupid had been busy putting in the hours presented itself when, on nearing the Glossop ancestral home, we were greeted by the disconcerting sight of Honoria and Bingo, arms entwined in what can only be described as a clinch. Clearly the moustache was already having the desired effect.
‘One wonders how long Bingo will be required to maintain his hirsute appearance once Honoria’s HRT is reduced’, I commented to Jeeves as we climbed the steps to the front door.
‘One does indeed, sir. One can only hope that Miss Glossop’s passion for facial hair is temporary since, I fear, Mr Little has had his last tube of testosterone cream now that he too will be needing to find a new GP’
‘Indeed Jeeves. The plan to take short cuts on the training of GPs seems not to have worked out so well after all. And there therefore still remains, the problem of getting a GP appointment in a timely fashion. You understand the posish Jeeves?’
‘Indeed I do sir, the problem is a most vexing one.’
‘Have you a solution, Jeeves?’ I asked hopefully.
‘Alas no, sir. I fancy it’ll take a greater mind than mine to solve that particular problem’
‘But Is there a greater mind than yours Jeeves?’
‘Who can say, sir? Who can say?’
I dismissed Jeeves for the night but, feeling the need for a restorative before retiring myself, I made my way back to the dining room. I had not forgotten the decanter of port that was stationed there and which was no doubt anxiously awaiting my return. Sauce in hand I headed then for the drawing room where I made myself comfortable in an old leather armchair and contented myself with the thought that, with Bingo and Honoria reunited once more, all charges of my supposed ungentlemanly behaviour would be dropped and I would once more be held in good standing at the Drones. Within moments, however, a deafening roar disturbed by reverie. I looked up and saw the imposing figure of Aunt Agatha standing in the doorway, clearly with malevolence still very much on her mind.
‘Bertram Wooster, where have you been? You’re as bad as my doctor. I can never get to see him when I want to either. I’ve been looking for you. Have you got me my pills yet?’
I paused a moment, quelling the habitual panic that Aunt Agatha invariably evoked in me, before getting to my feet. I placed my hand in my pocket and, pulling out what I found there, answered her with a smile.
‘Yes, Aunt Agatha, I rather think I have!’
[With huge apologies to P.G. Wodehouse, the master of comic prose which always brightens even the darkest day.]