casual mother of the bride
I looked round. Those parted lips…those saucer-like eyes…that slender figure, drooping slightly at the hinges…Madeline Bassett was in our midst. ‘Goodness gracious!’ she repeated.
I can well imagine that a casual observer, if I had confided to him my qualms at the idea of being married to this girl, would have raised his eyebrows and been at a loss to understand. ‘Bertie,’ he would probably have said, ‘you don’t know what’s good for you,’ adding, possibly, that he wished he had half my complaint. For Madeline Bassett was undeniably of attractive exterior — slim, svelte, if that’s the word, and bountifully equipped with golden hair and all the fixings.
But where the casual observer would have been making his bloomer was in overlooking that squashy soupiness of hers, that subtle air she had of being on the point of talking baby-talk. It was that that froze the blood. She was definitely the sort of girl who puts her hands over a husband’s eyes, as he is crawling in to breakfast with a morning head, and says: ‘Guess who!’
I once stayed at the residence of a newly married pal of mine, and his bride had had carved in large letters over the fireplace in the drawing room, where it was impossible to miss it, the legend: ‘Two Lovers Built This Nest,’ and I can still recall the look of dumb anguish in the other half of the sketch’s eyes every time he came in and saw it. Whether Madeline Bassett, on entering the marital state, would go to such an awful extreme, I could not say, but it seemed most probable.
She was looking at us with a sort of pretty, wide-eyed wonder. ‘Whatever is all the noise about?’ she said. ‘Why, Bertie! When did you get here?’
‘Oh, hallo. I’ve just arrived.’
‘Did you have a nice journey down?’
‘Oh, rather, thanks. I came in the two-seater.’
‘You must be quite exhausted.’
‘Oh, no, thanks, rather not.’
‘Well, tea will be ready soon. I see you’ve met Daddy.’
‘And Mr Spode.’
‘And Mr Spode.’
‘I don’t know where Augustus is, but he’s sure to be in to tea.’
‘I’ll count the moments.’
Old Bassett had been listening to these courtesies with a dazed expression on the map — gulping a bit from time to time, like a fish that has been hauled out of a pond on a bent pin and isn’t at all sure it is equal to the pressure of events. One followed the mental processes, of course. To him, Bertram was a creature of the underworld who stole bags and umbrellas and, what made it worse, didn’t even steal them well. No father likes to see his ewe lamb on chummy terms with such a one.
‘You don’t mean you know this man?’ he said.
Madeline Bassett laughed the tinkling, silvery laugh which was one of the things that had got her so disliked by the better element. ‘Why, Daddy, you’re too absurd. Of course I know him. Bertie Wooster is an old, old, a very dear old friend of mine. I told you he was coming here today.’
Old Bassett seemed not abreast. Spode didn’t seem any too abreast, either. ‘This isn’t your friend Mr Wooster?’
‘But he snatches bags.’
‘Umbrellas,’ prompted Spode, as if he had been the King’s Remembrancer or something.
‘And umbrellas,’ assented old Bassett. ‘And makes daylight raids on antique shops.’
Madeline was not abreast — making three in all. ‘Daddy!’
Old Bassett stuck to it stoutly. ‘He does, I tell you. I’ve caught him at it.’
‘I’ve caught him at it,’ said Spode.
‘We’ve both caught him at it,’ said old Bassett. ‘All over London. Wherever you go in London, there you will find this fellow stealing bags and umbrellas. And now in the heart of Gloucestershire.’
‘Nonsense!’ said Madeline. I saw that it was time to put an end to all this rot. I was about fed up with that bag-snatching stuff. Naturally, one does not expect a magistrate to have all the details about the customers at his fingers’ ends — pretty good, of course, remembering his clientele at all — but one can’t just keep passing a thing like that off tactfully.
‘Of course it’s nonsense,’ I thundered. ‘The whole thing is one of those laughable misunderstandings.’
I must say I was expecting that my explanation would have gone better than it did. What I had anticipated was that after a few words from myself, outlining the situation, there would have been roars of jolly mirth, followed by apologies and back-slappings. But old Bassett, like so many of these police court magistrates, was a difficult man to convince. Magistrates’ natures soon get warped. He kept interrupting and asking questions, and cocking an eye at me as he asked them. You know what I mean — questions beginning with ‘Just one moment — ’ and ‘You say — ’ and ‘Then you are asking us to believe — ’ Offensive, very. casual mother of the bride
However, after a good deal of tedious spadework, I managed to get him straight on the umbrella, and he conceded that he might have judged me unjustly about that.
‘But how about the bags?’
‘There weren’t any bags.’
‘I certainly sentenced you for something at Bosher Street. I remember it vividly’
‘I pinched a policeman’s helmet.’