I suppose the whole wheeze really began at a dinner party at the Vimeses’ place. I usually avoid the things if possible, because the last thing I want to do is mix with the police, but young Bingo had dragged me along because of some beazel or other.
As soon as I stepped through the door Lady Sybil bore down on me like a genial mountain, asking me about my good Aunt Dahlia (hale and hearty as always) and my terrifying Aunt Agatha, she who eats broken bottles and makes werewolves slink away at full moon (sadly also in good health), and steered me towards the dinner table. I was placed between a couple of Interchangeable Emmas, those girls who were mostly seen messing about with swamp dragons and whatnot. The one on my left was apparently the object of Bingo’s affections, poor girl.
Lady S. introduced her to me as Hetti, and the girl immediately turned to me and asked, “Your waistcoat is simply wonderful, Mr Wooster. Where on Disc did you get it?”
“Oh, this old thing?” I asked, secretly pleased at her response. It was a rather natty thing in yellow and red stripes and Jeeves had taken quite an unreasonable dislike to it. “It’s from Corksocks Natty Clothing Co, on Pellicool Steps, you know?”
Well, after that, she blanked Bingo completely and turned her attention upon yours truly. Of course, one tries to be the entertaining guest and all that, but the way she looked at me was more the way she should have been looking at young Bingo. Bingo himself must have noticed this excessive chumminess, given the way he spent half of dinner glaring at me, but that was nothing compared to Sybil’s husband.
This chap, as you may be aware, is Commander of the City Watch and what is known as a twenty minute egg. He has had a rather low opinion of B Wooster ever since an unfortunate incident involving a swamp dragon, a cow creamer and a prize pig, and it was clear he didn’t want me here as soon as he saw me. If I didn’t know better, I’d say he took as much exception to my waistcoat as Jeeves, but given I’ve never seen him in any clothing that wasn’t creased badly enough to make any valet wince, he was hardly in a position to object to striped waistcoats. Of course, strictly speaking, Jeeves isn’t either, but given other fiancés tried to mould me and stop me drinking and whatnot, I will gladly put up with the occasional clash over waistcoats in exchange for sharing my life with this paragon of paragons. Not that Jeeves was invited to this binge, still being one of the lower classes, at least until the day I finally screw my courage to the sticking point and inform Aunt Agatha of our engagement.
Anyhow, I was here without said paragon, with host and Bingo looking at me as if I had bitten them on the leg, and this Hetti girl looking at me with more than a touch of the soul’s awakening in her eyes. Well, I couldn’t jolly well tell her I was engaged, you understand, so when we found ourselves alone at the end of the evening and she proposed, I was more than a little bit stuck. A preux chevalier doesn’t go around getting engaged to more than one person at a time, but one can’t just say no to a girl either. It simply isn’t done. So there I was, mouth opening and shutting and something like a strangled ‘Yaargh’ came out, which the blasted beazel interpreted as a yes.
I came back to the flat all in a tizzy. “Jeeves,” I called, “Jeeves! I say, the most beastly thing has just happened.”
He shimmered in, carrying a b. and s. which I dived upon like a drowning man. Thus restored, I filled him in on the evening’s events, finishing with the marriage proposal.
“Don’t ‘indeed, sir’ me, Reggie. Give me some help. I can only marry one person and I want it to be you, so exercise the grey matter, will you?”
“As a matter of fact, sir, there are several religions which will officiate polyamorous marriages. The Anoians, for example-”
“Don’t give me that rot, Reg. This is serious.”
“I did not mean to insinuate that it was not, but I fear no solution comes to mind. Perhaps if you were to explain the situation to the young lady?”
“No, blast it. Sybil’s her godmother, and you know she knows Aunt Agatha and she’ll be after me with a hatchet in no time if she finds out about us.”
“I think you underestimate Lady Sybil, sir. In any case I can think of no other solution at present.”
Of course, I knew the reason for all the ‘indeed, sir’-ing, but I refused to relinquish that waistcoat and retired to bed alone.
After a sleepless night tossing and turning without Reggie by my side, I reconsidered my position.
“Reggie,” I said, passing the waistcoat to him, “do what you will with it, just get me out of this mess.”
“May I suggest, Bertram, that you donate it to a worthy cause? For example, if you were to go to the Sunshine Sanctuary at around seven this evening and pass it on to one of the ladies there, a young woman by the name of Mildred.”
He refused to explain further, but nevertheless I toddled round at the appointed hour, full of faith in Reggie’s abilities. The back gate was open as always, out of some overoptimistic belief that some night prowler might want to drop off a bucketful of coal, and blow me if there wasn’t someone lurking in the shadows.
Well, Bertram is no coward. A sharp, “I say there!” and the figure - or rather figures as I now realised - sprang away from the wall and from each other like a pair of scalded cats.
“Berite!” one of them yelped. “I can explain!”
“Oh, ah, Hetti, erm,” I stuttered, “I was looking for a Mildred someone-or-other and was told I could find her here.”
“That’d be me,” said the other one of the pair, a girl of almost Honoria-esque build with a frankly shocking number of lipstick stains around her face and neck area.
Now it is said that this Wooster is not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I can put two and two together and come up with four. Well, what does one do when one has interrupted a pair of lovebirds except leave as quickly as is polite? I felt some explanation was called for and held the waistcoat out in front of me, whilst uttering such choice phrases as “Erm, er, this, Jeeves said…” until I trailed off completely, then rallied with, “I suppose this means that we…?”
“Oh, Bertie,” Hetti gasped and threw her arms around me. “Thank you.” She turned around to the butch beazel and continued, “Didn’t I tell you it would look simply wonderful on you, dear. You’re right – we can’t continue this charade. I will marry you in the Temple of Small Gods tomorrow no matter what Mater says!”
So saying, she went back to kissing the girl as if I wasn’t there. Well, Bertram knows when he isn’t wanted, and, for that matter where he is. Off I toddled with a ‘pip pip’ back to Berkley Mansions and a Jeevesian embrace.