P G Wodehouse has etched out the kids in his works with much finesse. When it comes to ranking these kids on a Richter scale of Roguishness, our task is not too difficult. If Edwin, Thos and Seabury secure the top ranks, kid Blumenfeld, Bonzo and Sebastian Moon occupy the middle order. Kid Clementina, Oswald and Peggy Mainwaring appear to be competing for the lower ranks.
We also get to meet kids who can only earn a negative rank on the Richter scale of Roguishness. Their conduct is as pure as driven snow.
Prudence Baxter does not herself outsmart the real winners at an Egg and Spoon race. It is Jeeves’ desire to help a Bingo in distress which helps her to claim the prize.
Bingo Junior wins a baby contest and is blissfully unaware of the extent to which his accomplishment boosts up the morale of his father. He is too young even to understand that he saves his Godfather, Oofy Prosser, from the prospect of getting married. A soul’s awakening, as it were.
Here is a recap of the antics of some of the kids we come across in Plumsville, broadly recounted in an increasing order of roguishness.
Algernon Aubrey Little and the Soul’s Awakening
Proving lucky for the father
Well, here is a son who proves lucky for his father, Bingo Little, when he happened to be the editor of Wee Tots, a journal for the nursery and the home. P P Purkiss, the miserly proprietor of this rag, was adept at shrugging off Bingo’s apologetic hints at giving him a raise. The tightness of money and the rising cost of pulp paper were brought up as and when the old miser was endeavoured to be touched for an increase in the pay packet.
A day dawned when the bouncing baby stood first in a baby contest. He was kissed by the wife of a Cabinet Minister and generally fawned upon by all and sundry. The next morning, the proud father, with a strange glow on his face, strode into the miser’s office without knocking, banged the desk and demanded an additional ten fish in his pay envelope starting the following Saturday itself. When P P Purkiss started to go into his act, Bingo Little banged the desk again and said he hadn’t come there to argue. ‘Yes or no, Purkiss!’ he said, and the old miser meekly consented to the proposal.
In The Mating Season, Bertie narrates this incident to Corky while trying to convince her of the soundness of the scheme to ensure that Esmond Haddock’s hunting song at the village concert is greeted with thunderous applause. This, he is sure, would give Esmond the courage to defy his five aunts, thereby gaining her respect, admiration and love.
Saving a Godfather from a saunter down the aisle
When Mrs Bingo Little is away to see her mother through while she undergoes some treatment at the Droitwich brine bath, Bingo Little loses his allowance on a Gargoyle which merely finishes in the first six. Oofy Prosser refuses to pitch in to make good a loss of ten quids. Since Bingo has intruded into one of his serious romances, he even expresses his desire to dance on the mangled remains of his corpse in hobnailed boots.
Another ten pound note arrives in the mail from Mrs Little. The money is to allow Bingo to open a bank account in the name of Junior. This also gets wiped off in a bet. Bingo then remembers that Oofy Prosser happens to be the Godfather of the child.
On a fateful morning, the son is left behind alone for some time with Oofy. His frightful company, coupled with his ‘homicidal fried egg’ visage, leaves Oofy convinced of the perils of matrimony. To show his gratitude, he consents to give Bingo Little fifty quids, thereby saving the latter an embarrassing ‘Oh, how could you?’ moment with his better half. (Sonny Boy: Eggs, Beans and Crupmets)
Prudence Baxter, the Egg and Spoon racer
Prudence Baxter is a small girl who is participating in the Egg and Spoon race at the local village school-treat at Twing. She is pretty excited about the rag-doll she has just won in the Lucky Dip and confides in Bertie her plans to name it Gertrude. (The Purity of the Turf: The Inimitable Jeeves)
Prudence turns out to be a good conversationalist but does not seem to have the build for a winner. According to Jeeves, she is a long shot. Bingo, wounded to the very depth of his soul by the recently failed Cynthia affair, has thirty quids at ten to one riding on her.
The favourite of bookies instead happens to be a Sarah Mills. She has grace and a practised precision about it. Her egg does not even wobble. As widely predicted, she comes first, followed by Jane Parker, Bessie Clay, Rosie Jukes and, well, Prudence Baxter.
Thanks to Jeeves, the first four in the race forfeit their amateur status and get disqualified. The prize, a handsome work-bag, presented by Lord Wickhammersley, goes consequently to Prudence Baxter!
Kid Clementina and the art of celebrating a birthday AWOL
A cousin of Bobbie Wickham, kid Clementina is a quiet, saint-like child. Bertie is charmed into treating her to dinner and a movie on her thirteenth birthday. Unlike other young women, who snigger and giggle when they are in Bertie’s company, she gazes at her benefactor in silent admiration. She is a sympathetic and attentive listener. Her hands are spotless. Her behavior throughout the evening is unexceptionable. At the conclusion of the proceedings, she even thanks Bertie with visible emotion.
Bobbie is of the opinion that at St Monica’s, Clementina is sourly misjudged. After all, what is the point in sending a decent kid like her off to bed in the afternoon itself, that too on her birthday, just for putting some sherbet in the ink to make it fizz?
It transpires that the kid is out of her school without leave, and Bertie now has the unenviable task of bunging her in without incurring the wrath of Miss Mapleton, the formidable headmistress who also happens to be a close chum of Aunt Agatha.
Thanks to the super-human intelligence of Jeeves, the mission gets accomplished in a smooth manner, with Bertie earning words of praise from Miss Mapleton, the lion tamer. After all, it is not every day that she comes across a modern young man who can single-handedly tackle burglars in the school garden with much vim and courage. (Jeeves and the Kid Clementina: Very Good, Jeeves)
Oswald and the Australian crawl
The brother of the formidable Honoria Glossop, Oswald happens to be one of those supercilious souls who give you the impression that you went to the wrong school and that your clothes do not quite fit.
Young Bingo finds it very difficult to love Oswald. The hapless guy, who happens to be passing through the Honoria-is-my-soul-mate phase of his life just then has no other option but to keep trying. After all, Honoria is devoted to the little brute. (The Hero’s Reward: The Inimitable Jeeves)
Bertie comes up with a scheme to enable Bingo to win over Honoria’s heart. He would shove Oswald into the lake. Bingo would save him.
At the appointed hour, the push from the stone bridge gets made. A kind of yelp emanates. A splash follows. However, Bingo is not where he is supposed to be. The outcome is that Bertie himself has to chuck off his coat and vault over, only to find upon surfacing that Oswald is already swimming ashore, using the Australian crawl. Honoria decides to marry Bertie, so as to be able to reform him.
Peggy Mainwaring and the art of unnerving lecturers
In Bertie changes his mind (Carry on, Jeeves), we meet Peggy Mainwaring. She is a red-haired young girl with a snub-nose and an extremely large grin. She is perhaps around twelve years of age.
Having enjoyed her half-holiday at Brighton putting pennies in the slot machine, the poor girl ends up getting a nail in her shoe. This delays her return to the boarding school. Faced with the prospect of incurring the wrath of Miss Tomlinson, the formidable headmistress built along the lines of Aunt Agatha, she is all of a twitter.
Bertie and Jeeves offer her a lift and a solution to her grim predicament. Back at school, Bertie is to present himself as an old friend of the young lady’s father. He is supposed to have taken Peggy out for a short drive.
The subterfuge works. Jeeves portrays Bertie as a celebrity of sorts and manages to persuade Miss Tomlinson to get him to address an assembly of girls.
Peggy’s father, Professor Mainwaring, might be an authority on matters philosophical, but the young woman is quite down to earth in her approach to life. She distributes Bertie’s cigarettes for her friends to relish in the shrubbery. Her views on unnerving guest lecturers are also very straight forward.
‘Oh, I say,’ she said, ‘will you give this to Mr Wooster when you see him?’
She held out Mr Wooster’s cigarette-case.
‘He must have dropped it somewhere. I say,’ she proceeded, ‘it’s an awful lark. He’s going to give a lecture to the school.’
‘We love it when there are lectures. We sit and stare at the poor dears, and try to make them dry up. There was a man last term who got hiccoughs. Do you think Mr Wooster will get hiccoughs?’
‘We can but hope for the best, miss.’
‘It would be such a lark, wouldn’t it?’
‘Highly enjoyable, miss.’
‘Well, I must be getting back. I want to get a front seat.’
The experience of delivering a lecture to a vast group of giggling and staring young women leaves Bertie shaken and stirred. He drops his plans to get married. He gives up his desire of hearing the prattle of young feet around him.
Jeeves manages to avoid severing an association so very pleasant in every respect.
(To be continued)
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