Pico Iyer Journeys

Jeeves and the March of Progress

High spirits were rather rampant as I emerged from my morning toiletries that day. There was to be a New Year’s do at the Drones the following week, and I’d come up with the rum idea of asking Bingo Little to put on a foxtrot or two to give the new millennium some bounce.

“What ho, Jeeves!” I shouted, depositing myself in front of the new machine Aunt Agatha had given me for Christmas. There was a silence. “I can’t seem to get this deuced thing to say hello.”

“I believe you may find the on-off switch helpful,” offered Jeeves.

“Right ho!” I said, still bright with expectation. Bingo was a good egg when the light hit him right, but he was given to lying rather low. This Windows johnnie seemed the very thing to bring him up to earth.

A moment later, high spirits were rather dashed. “Jeeves ?”

“Sir ?”

“It’s asking for a `Password’ !”

“If you’ll allow me, sir,” said Jeeves, bending over to tap out the letters, “P-A-S S-W-0-R-D.” The man’s taste in neckwear was dubious, but I’d have been nowhere without him.

Within seconds, the contraption was spitting into life like Aunt Agatha during a three-legged race. Next thing I knew, a voice was calling, “You’ve Got Mail!”

“Someone at the door, Jeeves.”

“I suspect, sir, you will find your mail inside the machine.” The man-servant was looking a trifle technological. “E-mail, I believe they call it, sir.” It all sounded uncomfortably close to “female” for my liking, and when I pushed the button he had pointed out, further words started winking at me. “A.A.:New Year’s Festivities.”

“I believe, sir,” said Jeeves, “we now know why your aunt elected to give you a Power Book.”

The thing spluttered and whirred some more, and then a message appeared, roughly the length of Paradise Lost. “Bertram,” it began unpromisingly, “I have arranged for my godson Lord Ponsonby to visit you on New Year’s Eve. I trust you can find some suitably wholesome entertainment to share with him.”

“Lord Ponsonby ?” I cried. “New Year’s Eve ?” It was enough to give a chap a headache. I hardly had the stomach now to address the other two messages on the screen–one from Gussy Finknottle, looking for some lucre, no doubt, the other from Bobbie Wickham, waxing melancholy, I’m sure, about the marmoset in the Father Christmas suit. “We’re finished, Jeeves,” I said, not rosy with the holiday spirit. Jeeves, too, looked far from his jauntiest.

“I trust, sir,” he said, after a few moments, collecting a touch of the old sang-froid, “no one but your lordship has seen this message ?”

“And Aunt Agatha, of course. And Ponsonwallah.”

“Ponsonby, sir.”

“Quite so.”

“I wonder, sir, whether Y2K might not prove providential ?”

“ `Y2K’ ?” It sounded like one of those Highland flings that had led to Tuppy Glossop’s expulsion from Gloucestershire.

“The Millennium Bug,” Jeeves went on. “The Glitch to End all Glitches.”

No one can accuse us Woosters of unsportingness, but this was all a bit much before the cocktail hour.

“This time next week,” Jeeves continued, “your machine may be `history,’ as they say. That should, however, be of no consequence in Marseilles.”

“Marseilles ?” The morning was yet young.

“I was merely suggesting, sir, that if your aunt knows of this malfunction, and you are otherwise engaged in seaside activities, she will naturally assume that her message to you went unread.”

“And the do at the Drones ?”

“Perhaps I can convey the message to Mr. Little by more traditional means ?”

“Jeeves,” I said. “Where would I be without you ?”

The man looked positively triumphant.

“Sir–if I may make one further suggestion ?”

“Suggest away,” I said, preparing myself to toss out the canary-yellow plus-fours. “Were your lordship to change your handle–to `Bingo,’ say–you might find yourself less besieged by messages from your aunt.”

“Capital, Jeeves,” I cried, as I went off to pack my swimwear. “The end of the world, don’t you know ?”

“Your world, sir, will never end.”

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