Special for Wodehouse fans:
JEEVES DEALS WITH CORONAVIRUS
As ever, Jeeves entered the room at the exact time. Neither too soon or too late, but just when I was about to begin to open my eyes, the honest man shimmered into view holding the salver with the invigorating cup of morning tea.
‘Good morning, Jeeves’, I said.
‘Good morning, sir’, said Jeeves.
‘What’s the weather like, outside?’
‘Extremely clement, sir. A balmy afternoon can be expected.’
‘Just the thing to encourage a chap to go for a constitutional around the park after breakfast, preparatory for a good lunch at Simpson’s, eh, Jeeves?’
‘Under usual circumstances, most definitely, sir.’
There was a clearly unhappy undertone in that. Almost imperceptible to the untrained ear, but definitely there. I decided to probe further into the matter.
‘Is anything the matter, Jeeves? Is the park being drilled for oil? Is the Serpentine being converted into some sort of dam to generate electricity for the Metropolis?’ I inquired.
‘Not exactly, sir. But circumstances have arisen that will prevent our leaving the flat for some time.’
‘Surely not, Jeeves. An Englishman’s right to roam the land of his birth is sacred. Am I being stalked by some malevolent aunt wanting to use me as an instrument of her devilments? Are we surrounded by bailiffs clamouring for the settlement of unpaid bills or some such nonsense?’
‘No, sir. No aunts have presented themselves at the door, and neither have any bailiffs. And all the bills have been satisfactorily settled.’
‘What’s the snag, then? Why can’t we leave the flat? Have our basic liberties been rescinded?’
‘Rescinded is not the right word for the present situation, sir. Suspended would be a more apt choice of word, if I may say so. And only in the case of venturing outside, sir. For one’s own health, sir.’
‘Come, come, Jeeves. I think that this massive brain of yours has sprung a leak. There’s nothing healthier than the bracing air of the Metropolis on a fine day. It has been proven time and again, eh?’
‘The metropolitan air is now filled with a new strain of virus, sir. It is called Coronavirus, and hails from China. Its effects are most unpleasant and human contact must be kept to a minimum to avoid its dissemination and contagion.’
I was jolted by that. I sat up in bed as if my spine had become a switchblade and the steaming cup was nearly flung across the bedroom in the process. But I composed myself and pressed on with the questioning.
‘Are you trying to tell me that we are facing some kind of Spanish Flu, Jeeves?’, I asked, clearly alarmed.
‘Of a kind, sir. But I have been reassured by an article which appeared in The Lancet that if all the proper precautions are taken, there is not much to be concerned about.’
‘Dash it, Jeeves! Confound it! Of all the bally things that could have been sprung upon is, this is one of the balliest, eh?’
‘It certainly disrupts one’s normal life, sir. But one must also look upon it as bringing some measure of not unimportant rewards.’
‘And beyond remaining in proper form to take part in the 02:30 Sweepstake at Kempton Park on Saturday, what rewards might those be, Jeeves?’
‘Well, sir, you will remember telling me that you urgently needed respite from Mrs. Gregson’s constant campaigns to affiance you to a suitable young lady.’
‘I do’, I replied pensively.
‘Also, the chances of encountering Miss Honoria Glossop will be most slender’.
‘They will’ said I cheering up considerably.
‘Not to mention Lord Sidcup. And Miss Madeline Basset…’
‘And her blasted father, Sir Watkyn Basset!’ I added, now positively positive about the whole thing.
There was definitely a hopeful, even cheerful note about the whole thing ringing in the air. The dark gloom lifted from the atmosphere, which became instantly light and suffused by golden hues. I could gladly face a bit of domestic incarceration if I could be protected from that Oriental virus and the aforementioned human pests.
‘Well, Jeeves. There certainly are some compensations in all this, eh? Besides, I have recently stoked up on records and music sheets, as well as a dozen or so of the ripest detective stories available. And I am sure that you have made arrangements for a decent supply of victuals for the flat and books for you, also, eh? Espinoza’s latest and all that, what?’
‘Precisely, sir. And I have been fortunate enough to secure on loan from Lord Yaxleys’s wife her book of recipes for cocktails, a memento she kept from her days at the Criterion.’
‘Have you now, Jeeves? I have heard that some of them are legendary and have never been tasted ever since she retired’.
‘And there is one more thing, sir. I fear I have been remiss about not having advised you sooner about it.’
I knew it. Just as I had cheered up in the face of such news, Fate was there, about to wield the stuffed eelskin once more. But we Woosters are made of stern stuff. I braced myself for the blow.
‘What is it, Jeeves?’
You will remember, sir, that yesterday the Junior Ganymede Club hosted a dinner for Monsieur Anatole, for his services to culinary excellence.’
‘I seem to remember you mentioning it before you left to go there, Jeeves’.
‘When the ceremony ended, I offered to escort M. Anatole to Paddington, to catch the last train to Brinkley Court. But, alas, the taxicab developed a mechanical problem and we were unable to reach the station in time, so I took the liberty of offering M. Anatole a bed in the spare room.’
‘You mean to say, Jeeves, that Anatole is here for the duration?’
‘Yes, sir. And he is so grateful for our hospitality in the face of this virus that he has committed to cook for us on a daily basis for as long as he is prevented from returning to Brinkley Court.’
‘You mean to say, Jeeves, that on top of being free from pests of all imaginable sorts, having more than enough reading and musical material and being able to taste once more cocktails that have gone into legend we will be having Anatole’s culinary wonders for breakfast, lunch and dinner’?
‘Not to mention tea, sir.’
The beauty of the plot dawned on me. Jeeves had done it again. That gigantic brain had found the perfect solution for a tricky problem once more.
‘Jeeves’, I said, ‘Did you know about this Coronation virus, or whatever it is called, before the curfew was announced?’
‘My copy of the Lancet arrived here, as ever, three days ago, sir.’
‘So can one also take it that the problem with the taxicab was not altogether due to chance?’
‘The fact that the driver is married to one of my cousin Albert’s nieces cannot be wholly discarded from the equation, sir.’
‘Jeeves, you’re a wonder.’
‘Thank you, sir.’