Present tense, future perfect
Many of us, the residents of Plumsville, are familiar with eligible bachelors and spinsters who dot its magnificent landscape. Their attempts at attracting each other, as well as their romantic rifts, keep us glued to many a narrative. Incurable optimists that we are, we believe that once they have tied the knot, they would live happily ever after. Their present may be tense, but their future would surely be perfect.
But life has this innate tendency to keep them baffled. The harsh slings and arrows of Fate continue to torment them with equal ferocity even after they have sauntered down the aisle with their soul mates and we, the gullible readers, have mistakenly decided to breathe easy.
To PG Wodehouse’s credit, he etches out the struggles of married couples with as much aplomb as he does those of bachelors and spinsters in his narratives.
The curious case of Bingo Little: Pre-nuptials
Take the case of Bingo Little. We know that he is a diehard romantic, perennially in love with some dashing female or the other. Even when at school, he is reported to have had the finest collection of actresses’ photographs; at Oxford, his romantic nature was a byword. He is inclined to fall in love at first sight on a regular basis and become highly emotional about his affections.
Residents of Plumsville are aware that objects of his affection have included a waitress named Mabel; Honoria Glossop, the formidable daughter of Pop Glossop; Daphne Braythwayt, a friend of Honoria; Charlotte Corday Rowbotham, a revolutionary; Lady Cynthia Wickhammersley, a family friend of Bertie’s; and Mary Burgess, niece of the Rev. Francis Heppenstall. After each failed affair, Bingo does not necessarily sulk. The scales fall from his eyes, and he suddenly realizes that the next girl alone is his true soul mate.
After many failed affairs, Bingo ends up marrying the romance novelist Rosie M. Banks, an author whose outlook on life happens to match well with that of his.
The not-so-curious case of Bingo Little: Post-nuptials
However, in the post-matrimony phase, we find a Bingo Little who is completely transformed. He is singularly devoted to his wife. Maintaining matrimonial peace and harmony is the sole purpose of his life. When it comes to keeping his lady-love happy and contented, there is little that he leaves to chance.
If a childhood friend has to be persuaded to soften up an uncle, he does it. If having the same friend being held to be a looney helps him to make the dove of peace flap its sonorous wings over his abode, he does not hesitate.
If a cook of the stature of Anatole has to be sacrificed to ensure that his social reputation does not nosedive, so be it.
If the pocket allowance granted by the better half gets blown away on a racing misadventure, he starts supplementing his income by tutoring a despicable kid like Thos. His idea is that the lapse on his part should not come to the notice of the better half.
If the afternoon cup of tea held in high esteem by the better-half has to be delayed so as to drive a nutrition freak out of the couple’s life and burnish up his own image in the eyes of his lady-love, he does not twiddle his thumbs.
In this series of posts, we try to learn from Bingo Little the art of surviving and doing well in a matrimonial relationship.
A king in Babylon meets a Christian slave
We get introduced to the future Mrs Little in the short story ‘Bingo and the Little Woman’ (The Inimitable Jeeves). She pops up as a waitress at the Senior Liberal, where the youngest member is about eighty-seven. Bertie portrays her as a tallish girl with sort of soft, soulful brown eyes. She has a nice figure and rather decent hands. She raises the standard of the place quite a bit. Predictably, she casts a spell on Bingo.
Jeeves is sounded out.
‘Is Mr Little in trouble, sir?’
‘Well, you might call it that. He’s in love. For about the fifty-third time. I ask you, Jeeves, as man to man, did you ever see such a chap?’
‘Mr Little is certainly warm-hearted, sir.’
‘Warm-hearted! I should think he has to wear asbestos vests.’
Within a span of ten days, Bingo announces that he has been successful in his latest endeavour.
‘Good Lord! That is quick work. You haven’t known her for two weeks.’
‘Not in this life, no,’ said young Bingo. ‘But she has a sort of idea that we must have met in some previous existence. She thinks I must have been a king in Babylon when she was a Christian slave. I can’t say I remember it myself, but there may be something in it.’
Gift of a literary kind softens up Uncle Bittlesham, who agrees not to pit himself against the decrees of Fate and approves of the marriage. Bingo’s allowance continues to flow in every quarter.
The Code of the Woosters
A complication arises in the shape of Bertie himself, who never shies away from helping a pal in distress. Earlier on, he had been introduced to old Bittlesham as an author using a pseudonym – Rosie M. Banks. Mrs Little, upon meeting the old boy, stakes her claim to the name and proves her case. Before she has a chance of accosting Bertie seeking an explanation, Jeeves advises his master to scoot off to Norfolk, honouring a shooting invitation.
By the time Bertie is back, peace prevails. Uncle and the little woman have become great pals, discussing literature and other things. Bingo has no hesitation in telling Bertie that his uncle is convinced that he is a looney.
‘He – what!’
‘Yes. That was Jeeves’ idea, you know. It’s solved the whole problem splendidly. He suggested that I should tell my uncle that I had acted in perfectly good faith in introducing you to him as Rosie M. Banks; that I had repeatedly had it from your own lips that you were, and that I didn’t see any reason why you shouldn’t be. The idea being that you were subject to hallucinations and generally potty. And then we got hold of Sir Roderick Glossop – you remember, the old boy whose kid you pushed into the lake that day down at Ditteredge Hall – and he rallied round with his story of how he had come to lunch with you and found your bedroom full up with cats and fish, and how you had pinched his hat while you were driving past his car in a taxi, and all that, you know. It just rounded the whole thing off nicely. I always say, and I always shall say, that you’ve only got to stand on Jeeves, and fate can’t touch you.’
In ensuring a state of peace and harmony at home, Bingo demonstrates himself to be a man of chilled steel. Quoting their togetherness at school and college, he continues to persuade Bertie to smoothen things out between himself and his uncle. But when the situation warrants his establishing Bertie’s credentials as a looney, he does not hesitate. In managing uncles and in unraveling his own goofy scheme, projecting Bertie as Rosie M. Banks, he proves himself to be a ruthless husband.
The members of the so-called sterner sex who happen to be permanent members of the Self-harassed Husbands’ Association can perhaps learn a lot from Bingo Little’s example.
(Illustrations courtesy www)