Howsoever irrational and demanding his pals, Bertie would never let them down. Show him a soul in torment and he would rush in to provide the healing touch. A couple whose union is threatened by either a parent or an uncle gets his unstinted support, even if it means his taking the rap for a misdemeanor he is not at all connected with.
We see him rallying around when a member of the so-called sterner sex is incapable of expressing his tender feelings to a member of the tribe of the delicately nurtured. Often, we find him persuading a member of the opposite sex to end a bitter feud with a friend who has been returned to store on account of some misunderstanding.
At times, we find him charming his returned-to-store pals against running across the Atlantic. This ensures that they remain readily available for a speedy reconciliation between the sundered souls. This also protects him from the perils of losing his own bachelorhood!
This personality trait – to never let a pal down – shines through all memoirs of his. In ‘The Code of the Woosters’, we find him facilitating two love affairs – one involving Madeline Bassett and Gussie Fink-Nottle, and another involving Stephanie Byng and the Rev. Harold Pinker.
As the narrative unfolds, we find him advising the first pair. As to the second pair, despite his better judgment, he gets persuaded by Stiffy to carry out some of her fruity schemes, leaving him all-of-a-twitter.
An Altruistic Nature
Madeline has severed her ties with Gussie and declared her willingness to instead make Bertie happy. Bertie is trying to establish that Gussie’s motives in being intimate with Stiffy were as pure as the driven snow, namely, to secure his notebook which contains some juicy references to Sir Watkyn Bassett and Roderick Spode.
‘It is useless, Bertie. I know, of course, why you are speaking like this. It is that sweet, generous nature of yours. There are no lengths to which you will not go to help a friend, even though it may mean the wrecking of your own happiness. But there is nothing you say that will change me. I have finished with Augustus. From tonight he will be to me merely a memory – a memory that will grow fainter and fainter through the years as you and I draw ever closer together. You will help me to forget. With you beside me, I shall be able in time to exorcise Augustus’ spell.’
Bertie once again tries his best to prove to Madeline that Gussie is more to be pitied than censured.
‘And you say Stephanie has hidden this notebook in Daddy’s cow-creamer?’
‘Plumb spang in the cow-creamer.’
‘But I never heard such an extraordinary story in my life.’
‘Bizarre, yes, but quite capable of being swallowed, don’t you think? What you have got to take into consideration is the psychology of the individual. You may say that you wouldn’t have a psychology like Stiffy’s if you were paid for it, but it’s hers all right.’
‘Are you sure you are not making this all up, Bertie?’
‘Why on earth?’
‘I know your altruistic nature so well.’
Advising a Newt-fancier
Despite having shown the notebook to Madeline, Gussie manages to get Pop Bassett to ban his marriage to her. It is then left to Bertie to advise him on the right course of action.
‘Listen, Gussie,’ I said. ‘I think I’ve got it.’
His face lit up. I could see that optimism had stirred and was shaking a leg. This Fink-Nottle has always been of an optimistic nature. Those who recall his address to the boys of Market Snodsbury Grammar School will remember that it was largely an appeal to the little blighters not to look on the dark side.
‘Yes, I believe I see the way. What you have got to do, Gussie, is pinch that cow-creamer.’
The Risk of a Saunter down the Aisle
Denizens of Plumsville would recall that – in another narrative – when Gussie Fink-Nottle had shrunk from pleading his cause with Madeline Bassett, he had asked Bertie to plead for him. The result was that Madeline thought that Bertie was pleading his own case. So, when Gussie fell out of favor (after a sozzled-up prize-giving ceremony at the school), Madeline had lost no time in attaching herself to Bertie and returning Gussie to store.
Mercifully, things had got straightened out, saving Bertie the trauma of having to spend the rest of his life with Madeline.
Mourning for a Loony Pal
Constable Oate’s pinched helmet has been hidden by Stiffy in a suitcase of Bertie’s. Its discovery by the butler has landed Bertie in a soup. He faces the prospect of thirty days without the option.
Meanwhile, Pop Bassett has forbidden the union between Stiffy and the Rev. Pinker. Bassett Senior has taken umbrage at the part played by Pinker in allowing the purloiner of the cow-creamer to effect her/his escape.
Does Bertie feel happy at the misfortune being faced by Stiffy? No. Despite the predicament in which he finds himself – entirely due to Stiffy – he still wishes the young loony well and mourns for her in her hour of disaster.
The Inheritance of Combined Loopiness
Bertie is not only worried about the relationship between Stiffy and Stinker Pinker getting blesses by her uncle. He is even concerned about the upcoming generation.
‘The more the thoughts dwell on that young shrimp, the more the soul sickens in horror. One peers into the future, and shudders at what one sees there. One has to face it, Jeeves – Stiffy, who is pure padded cell from the foundations up, is about to marry the Rev. H. P. Pinker, himself about as pronounced a goop as ever broke bread, and there is no reason to suppose – one has to face this, too – that their union will not be blessed. There will, that is to say, ere long be little feet pattering about the home. And what one asks oneself is – Just how safe will human life be in the vicinity of those feet, assuming – as one is forced to assume – that they will inherit the combined loopiness of two such parents? It is with a sense of tender pity, Jeeves, that I think of the nurses, the governesses, the private-school masters and the public-school masters who will lightly take on the responsibility of looking after a blend of Stephanie Byng and Harold Pinker, little knowing that they are coming up against something hotter than mustard.’
Never Letting a Pal Down
Sidney Carton confessing his feelings to Lucie Manette
Stiffy invokes the Code of the Woosters to get Bertie to fall in line, ensuring that Pinker does not have to take the rap for stealing Constable Oate’s helmet and thereby face the prospect of getting defrocked.
‘I can’t have my precious angel Harold doing a stretch.’
‘How about your precious angel Bertram?’
‘But Harold is sensitive.’
‘So am I sensitive.’
‘Not half so sensitive as Harold. Bertie, surely you aren’t going to be difficult about this? You’re much too good a sport. Didn’t you tell me once that the Code of the Woosters was ‘Never let a pal down?’
She had found the talking point. People who appeal to the Code of the Woosters rarely fail to touch a chord in Bertram. My iron front began to crumble.
‘That’s all very fine-‘
‘Yes, I know, but, dash it all –‘
‘You will take the rap?’
‘I suppose so.’
‘Thank you, Bertie darling. I knew you would be sweet about it. I can’t tell you how grateful I am, and how much I admire you. You remind me of Carter Paterson…no, that’s not it…Nick Carter…no, not Nick Carter…Who does Mr Wooster remind me of, Jeeves?’
‘Sidney Carton, miss.’
‘That’s right. Sidney Carton. But he was small-time stuff compared with you, Bertie.’
Whenever Bertie finds a friend of his in peril of any nature, the milk of human kindness sloshing about within his bosom comes to the fore. There is nothing he would not do to save a friend in need. This personality trait forms the core of the Code of the Woosters.
(Part 5: De-codifying the Code of the Woosters)
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