Richmond Read-along 45
Welcome back to the Richmond Read-along! Today’s short story comes from P. G. Wodehouse. Wodehouse turned to writing after an unsuccessful attempt at being a banker, and he found his real strength in comic farce. Best known as the creator of the incomparable Jeeves and his dimwitted employer, Bertie Wooster, Wodehouse delighted in playing with language. His Jeeves and Wooster books combined slang, quick plots and carefully constructed syntax for a distinct narrative voice that nonetheless remains easy to read over a hundred years after the first Jeeves and Wooster stories were published. Wodehouse was also a master of character. The strength of Jeeves and Wooster remain obvious through adaptations of their stories, and Wodehouse also created a number of other memorable characters.
Captured by the Germans during World War II, Wodehouse made broadcasts from Germany after being freed, which led to a long-lasting controversy where he was suspected of being a Nazi sympathiser. Despite being found to be untrue, this controversy followed him until his death, and after the war he never returned to the UK. It was not until near the turn of the century that Wodehouse came to be acknowledged as a truly great writer and to gain the solid reputation he now enjoys.
Today we are reading a fragment from a collection put together by Project Gutenberg.
The Secret Pleasures of Reginald
I found Reggie in the club one Saturday afternoon. He was reclining in a long chair, motionless, his eyes fixed glassily on the ceiling. He frowned a little when I spoke. “You don’t seem to be doing anything,” I said.
“It’s not what I’m doing, it’s what I am not doing that matters.”
It sounded like an epigram, but epigrams are so little associated with Reggie that I ventured to ask what he meant.
He sighed. “Ah well,” he said. “I suppose the sooner I tell you, the sooner you’ll go. Do you know Bodfish?”
I shuddered. “Wilkinson Bodfish? I do.”
“Have you ever spent a weekend at Bodfish’s place in the country?”
I shuddered again. “I have.”
“Well, I’m not spending the weekend at Bodfish’s place in the country.”
“I see you’re not. But——”
“You don’t understand. I do not mean that I am simply absent from Bodfish’s place in the country. I mean that I am deliberately not spending the weekend there. When you interrupted me just now, I was not strolling down to Bodfish’s garage, listening to his prattle about his new car.”
I glanced around uneasily.
“Reggie, old man, you’re—you’re not—This hot weather——”
“I am perfectly well, and in possession of all my faculties. Now tell me. Can you imagine anything more awful than to spend a weekend with Bodfish?”
On the spur of the moment I could not.
“Can you imagine anything more delightful, then, than not spending a weekend with Bodfish? Well, that’s what I’m doing now. Soon, when you have gone—if you have any other engagements, please don’t let me keep you—I shall not go into the house and not listen to Mrs. Bodfish on the subject of young Willie Bodfish’s premature intelligence.”
I got his true meaning. “I see. You mean that you will be thanking your stars that you aren’t with Bodfish.”
“That is it, put crudely. But I go further. I don’t indulge in a mere momentary self-congratulation, I do the thing thoroughly. If I were weekending at Bodfish’s, I should have arrived there just half an hour ago. I therefore selected that moment for beginning not to weekend with Bodfish. I settled myself in this chair and I did not have my back slapped at the station. A few minutes later I was not whirling along the country roads, trying to balance the car with my legs and an elbow. Time passed, and I was not shaking hands with Mrs. Bodfish. I have just had the most corking half-hour, and shortly—when you have remembered an appointment—I shall go on having it. What I am really looking forward to is the happy time after dinner. I shall pass it in not playing bridge with Bodfish, Mrs. Bodfish, and a neighbor. Sunday morning is the best part of the whole weekend, though. That is when I shall most enjoy myself. Do you know a man named Pringle? Next Saturday I am not going to stay with Pringle. I forget who is not to be my host the Saturday after that. I have so many engagements of this kind that I lose track of them.”
“But, Reggie, this is genius. You have hit on the greatest idea of the age. You might extend this system of yours.”
“I do. Some of the jolliest evenings I have spent have been not at the theatre.”
“I have often wondered what it was that made you look so fit and happy.”
“Yes. These little non-visits of mine pick me up and put life into me for the coming week. I get up on Monday morning feeling like a lion. The reason I selected Bodfish this week, though I was practically engaged to a man named Stevenson who lives out in Connecticut, was that I felt rundown and needed a real rest. I shall be all right on Monday.”
“And so shall I,” I said, sinking into the chair beside him.
“You’re not going to the country?” he asked regretfully.
“I am not. I, too, need a tonic. I shall join you at Bodfish’s. I really feel a lot better already.”
I closed my eyes, and relaxed, and a great peace settled upon me.
Join us tomorrow for the next Richmond Read-along!