It was a lively crowd for a Thursday night at the Kitty Kat Club, hardly a spare seat to be found and plenty of impromptu standing room at the back of the hall. I recognized more than a few faces-- Elaine Mallory in a tidy pantsuit seated at a table with Mimsy’s pal Thora, done up in a lace frock, his braids twisted into neat buns, rather like something one would expect to find on one's breakfast plate beside the eggs and bacon, his pal George across from them with his arm in a sling, and two beazles I didn’t know, one striking beauty in trim pinstripes holding Thora’s hand, and another in a prettily beaded dress and a cloche, her dark hair in a bob and her red lips turned up in a coy, bright smile. And at a table next to them, with a polite tip of the Wooster chin and no little bit of thanks for the distance between us, Miss Oglesby and young Felicitus sharing a malt with Lily Sommerset, although my newly found cousins were nowhere to be seen. Speaking of which, I had to remember to tell Jeeves I’d been invited out to dine with them next week, a place called Delmonico’s I’d been meaning to pop by anyway.
It was good to be out and about; Jeeves and I had hardly left the flat for a week, recuperating, you know, and I was in as fine of spirits as any of the other revellers I could see. Jeeves was watching the entertainment on the stage thoughtfully, a broad-shouldered filly in a sequined grown dancing through a theatrical rendition of “If You Knew Susie,” accompanied by a lass in tails and a top hat on the piano.
“I would not be surprised if Miss McShea did not remind you of your obligation until the time came to collect upon it,” Jeeves said raising his usual distant murmur to be heard above the crowd. “Still, we must remain prepared.”
“Winter,” I said. “She said she’d come in the winter. And I owe her a song.”
“Indeed. I believe she will attempt to parlay a single tune into a more lasting and-- forgive me, sir-- nutritive arrangement.”
“She’ll attempt to eat the Wooster person?” I said, alarmed.
“The histories do hint at a certain tendency towards haematophagy.” He saw my look of horrified confusion and said, solemnly: “Blood drinking.”
Well, that left me less confused, but even more horrified. “I say! I’ve nothing against a glass of red at dinner, Jeeves, but the Wooster vintage is not one I wish anyone to be making free of!”
Jeeves took my hand, under cover of the table. “I will not allow her to harm you, Bertram. I will never allow harm to come to you.”
“Oh, Reg, old thing. I know. You never do.” I squeezed his hand. “We’ll manage.”
“As you say. Sir,” he said, with a glimpse around, as if anyone in this din could have heard him break the veil of master-and-gentleman. There was a tension about his eyes that I could pick out even in the gloomy lights of the club. “I have done some introductory reading, and have ordered a book of Schubert sheet music for your perusal. I think it would benefit you greatly were you to study it careful upon its arrival.”
“You’ve performed Herculean feats for the young Master in the past two weeks,” I said firmly. “It is my strictest order that you sit here, enjoy the entertainment, and allow me to procure drinks and a bit of edible for us both.”
“Miss Murphy is at the door, and less likely than ever to let the wrong element in,” I reassured him, waving at the little figure standing crossarmed by the entrance. “Miss Mallory’s right there, and I’m assured the zap is back in her right hook. Try to relax a bit; and don’t lift a finger for anyone but yourself for the next hour. Not a bit of servanting or fretting or Wooster-from-the-soup-extraction.”
His “As you wish, sir,” was decidedly soupy, but I thought I could soften him up when I got back and crowded in to enjoy the show.
I elbowed my way up to the bar-- tipping a wave and a merry “What ho!” to Susan and Martine, giving Elaine a bit of wave and getting one in return.
The Club’s fine bartender was dishing out good brew to all comers, the shuffle of tall glasses mixed with the occasional pat on the back and sympathetic glance to the only long-faced figure in the room; Mimsy’s persecutor, Doom’n’Gloom Morgan himself. This old gentleman had his head on the bar and a few empties at his elbow, but he stirred himself to give me a baleful look.
“You’re Wooshter,” he said, with great disapproval. “Colluding with Dresden. Warlock. Certain of it. D'Arshy told me all about you.”
“Darshy,” I said, “er. D'Arcy. Er, you mean Stilton. Haven't seen him since Saturday. How’s the old boy doing?”
“Wouldn’t know. On the boat to London,” the stern old face crumpled. “He doesn’t even like novelsh.”
“Just shnap her fingers and he comes slinking back,” Morgan mumbled, despairingly.
“Ah.” All came clear; word must have reached Florence Craye of Stilton’s entanglement to another lady; the green-eyed monster had laid waste to whatever current blockade impeded the Cheesewright-Craye union, and she’d summoned him home. With no allowances for a goodbye to old friends, or new ones, despite the obvious deep philosophical bond that had been shared.
“He said we were as Shpartans in decadent Athenia,” Morgan said, and then hiccuped.
“Sorry, old thing,” I said, with a certain amount of genuine sympathy. I’d done some classical Greek studies of my own, once upon a time, pal of mine named Winship-- the lessons had ended when we left Oxford and the Wooster heart had taken a bruising. “Florence is a commanding sort. When she marshals her forces, it’s hard to go unmarshaled. I’m sure he’d have stayed as he could.”
“Bah,” he opined. The bartender whisked by and patted him on the back. “Don’t patronishe me, Mac Macanacanalally. Got to keep an eye on Dresden. Dark magic, whatever he’s up to. Sure of it.” The suspicious eyes closed, and Morgan started to snore. Two full glasses landed in front of me, and a folded apron appeared like a pillow under Morgan’s head, the bartender shimmering silently to his next task. I’d have to ask Jeeves if there was a relation.
But I was more interested in seeing what Mimsy was up to and spending a cheerful evening with Jeeves: I left poor Morgan napping and elbowed back to our table with the drinks.
“Say, you were almost on good terms with Johnson by the end,” I said, setting his glass neatly by him. “Did he say what his gag to get Mimsy back on the stage was?”
“Not in so many words,” Jeeves said. “I do know, however, that a certain amount of his windfall from the DeWintour affair went to a pair of gold velvet heeled lady’s shoes, size very large; and that a wager was mentioned, as to the likelihood of Mister Dresden's compliance in the scheme.”
The musical number on the stage wound down and the announcer popped up, asking us all to lend a round of applause to their very new performer, the Magnificent Madam Merlin; I complied with gusto, Jeeves likewise.
The curtain rose to reveal a lady in a sparkling gypsy gown all spangled with moons and stars, and a red scarf setting off her ebon curls. She was about the height and width of a streetlamp, and her gold velvet heeled shoes did look as if they were size very large. The strings of bells belted around her waist jingled merrily when she gave her hips a wiggle, catching the light pleasingly.
“The blue suits him, I think. Quite eye-catching,” I said.
“The pattern is garish, but appropriate to the venue,” Jeeves allowed. “I do not think that this will greatly diminish his popularity, though he may resent the necessity.”
I looked up at Mimsy’s coy smile as he appeared a pair of doves out of his wide sleeves, then rolled them-- his sleeves, not the doves-- up so that he could show how he transformed his jingling bangles into two wide interlocking rings. “He doesn’t look as if it’s too painful,” I said, as the Magnificent Madam Merlin threw a saucy wink towards the back.
Johnson was leaning against the wall back there, and didn’t look too upset at being singled out. He was watching the show with what Mimsy had at one point taken pains to tell me was disdain and utter loathing. It looked more like admiration to me, but Mimsy knows best. From the smile he didn’t quite manage to hide, I took it that he was handling his defeat on the wager re: Mimsy’s foray into frocked entertainment quite well indeed.
“I must express a certain amount of relief that we can now return to the illusion of magic, rather than the genuine art,” Jeeves said thoughtfully, after a bit. “With no offense meant to Mister Dresden, of course.”
“Of course. You know, magic isn’t all it’s cracked up to be,” I said. “The crowd wouldn’t know the difference, and sleight of hands doesn’t set things afire when you’re in a glum mood. A little magic can be nice, I suppose, but it’s not the help you’d think it would be, is it? Can’t mend a broken heart or keep you out of the clutches of Dixonian temptresses. And the less said about fairy tales the better.” I smiled over at Jeeves. “I suppose what I’m saying is that I’m pretty well satisfied with the hand that this Wooster was dealt.”
“Indeed, sir,” said he, in tones of perfect agreement.