|The Transformation Story Archive||The Other Sex|
The Bingo Pool
Based on characters created by P. G. Wodehouse and situations created Rumiko Takahashi. Used without permission.
I think I shall now get on to one of the rummiest episodes in the Wooster archives. As it was about to start, I had no idea what was in store for me, sort of like one of those chaps in those mystery novels who go to stay at a house in the country, not knowing that some butler or chambermaid is quietly planning his murder.
I was staying at old Bingo Little's place in the suburb. I don't know if you're acquainted with Bingo from other archives, but he's quite a nice cove whose one fault is that he tends to fall in love with every female he sees. As this story starts, he had fallen for a girl in the local village. She was the sort of girl who actually believes all that rot in the romance novels about brave captains sweeping young maidens of their feet, or some such junk, and she wanted to marry someone dashing and heroic, which, for all his virtues, Bingo is not. I mean to say, he has a number of talents, such as doing a very good imitation of a donkey, but none of them the sort to impress this woman.
Anyway, I had brought Jeeves down to see if his massive intellect could find a solution to this problem. Where the greatest of sages might quail in the face of such problems, Jeeves stands tall, and can often find an ingenious way through. However, before I could actually bring the prob. to his attention, a rift (if that's the word I'm looking for) sprang up between us. I had started growing a beard, which made me look frightfully handsome. But Jeeves is rather hidebound in some matters, and he pointedly laid out a razor with my clothes when we were packing.
"Jeeves," I said on seeing the instrument, "you have put a razor out. You are not by any means implying that I should shave, are you?"
"I am, sir."
"Well, I won't," I retorted cleverly, and left the house. After all, if a chap lets a valet decide his beard length, well, I mean to say, dash it all, what. The upshot of it all is, of course, that I left without mentioning Bingo's posish. to Jeeves. So I strolled through the woods, thinking about Bingo's problem. Now, I'm generally not one for beautiful trees with birds twittering away in the background and all that rot, but I must say those woods stimulated my thinking almost as much as a good stiff drink.
I don't know if you've ever to Willowbrook Hall (Bingo's residence), but there are several ponds on the premises, and it was next to one of these that I met Bingo moping around.
"Hello, Bingo," I said brightly.
"Oh, hello, Bertie."
I could see at once that as far as Bingo was concerned, all was not right with the world. He was lacking the old fire in the eyes, if you know what I mean. Just then, a brilliant idea to help out Bingo occurred to me. I have a reputation for not being particularly bright, I suppose, but this just goes to show that even the humblest can have these flashes of inspiration. It's like what happens to all those coves in the bible. They're going about their business, and suddenly God pops up, says "What ho!" and inspires them.
"I say, old man," I said, "I have a perfect idea for you to win this girl of yours. As I see it, the problem is that she's never seen you do anything particularly brave. All you need to do is rescue someone."
"That's a fatheaded thing to say, Bertie. I wouldn't know how to rescue a person, and even if I did, where would I find someone who had to be saved?"
"Ah, there's the reason my plan is so clever. I'll fall into this pond at which we're standing, and you'll come walking by with this Mabel, or what ever her name is, and jump in to save me."
"Her name isn't Mabel; that was the waitress last month. Her name does not deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as that of my true love, Jane."
"Right," I said. You can't argue with Bingo when he's in love. "Anyway, she'll be impressed, and you can marry her."
"I say, that's brilliant. Tell Jeeves I think it's fantastic." I drew myself up coldly. "Jeeves had nothing to do with this plan," I informed him.
"You didn't come up with it, did you?"
"Jeeves is not the only one with brains," I said, and I meant it to sting. "Well, I suppose it will work anyway," he said doubtfully. We agreed that he would save me at 3:00 the next afternoon, since he had already decided to take Jane on a walk then.
I returned to my room with a smile on my lips and a song in my heart, unless it's the other way around. That afternoon I shared my idea with Jeeves, but all he would say was "Yes, sir." Well, we Woosters know when we are being coldly rebuffed. Jeeves was probably jealous. After all, he has on occasion been known to refer to me as "mentally negligible," but so far I had made a better showing than he had. So I informed him to ready some clothes that could afford to get wet, and made my departure.
The next day, I woke up bright and early with the birds at 12:00. Actually, I suppose the birds had been up for some time already, but 12:00 is as b. and e. as I get. It is not too much of an exaggeration to say that I sailed into my breakfast with a tra-la. I would show Jeeves that while he was worrying about inconsequentialities (I think that's the right word; you know, unimportant things), I was solving real problems.
So, I was out at the pond at the duly appointed hour of 3:00, when I was faced by a massive dilemma. Should I jump into the water immediately or wait until I heard Bingo coming? On the one h, I did not want to thrash around in that water any more than necessary. On the other h, I would look fairly silly if I mistimed things, and jumped in after the couple hove into view. About all Bingo could do in a case like that would be to come up and ask if I were having a nice swim. I swayed to and fro like Jeeves's cat i' the adage, but I finally summoned the famous Wooster courage and jumped in. I paddled back and forth for about an hour, but Bingo never showed. I felt rather put out, like one of those fellows in the spy novels who sit around waiting for the secret code to be dropped off, and then it turns out the messenger was a double agent and has bunged off with the code and won't show up after all. Tired of waiting about sums it up.
Anyway, now we come to the part of my story I'm sure the reader won't credit. He will instead quietly shake his head and surmise that old Bertram Wilberforce Wooster has gone round the bend (unless, like my Aunt Agatha, you believe that I turned that particular corner years ago).
I got out of the lake with my clothes dripping a veritable torrent, and my shoes squishing in most annoying fashion. I had not taken them off for adde veri, what's that word that begins with a v? Veri something. Jeeves would know. Anyway, it would have looked rather silly if Bingo had rescued, and my shoes had been sitting on the side of the pond. I would be instantly transformed in this Jane's eyes from a hapless blighter who happened to fall into a pool into an idiot who liked to swim with his clothes on. Verisimilitude, I think, is the word.
So I reached down to take off the old shoes when I nearly fell over. In the first place, my balance had been completely upset, but I also saw my chest, which rather threw me for a loop. Since this is not the usual reaction to seeing a part of one's body, I think I had better explain. In the short form, I'd changed into a woman. I realized that it must have happened while I was splashing around in the pond, and I'd been too busy trying not to drown to notice.
I suppose Shakespeare or one of those coves would be able to describe the feeling more precisely for those of you who haven't had this experience. Unfortunately, I was one of those chaps who at Eton always used to get essays handed back with "Try harder" written on them. What I mean to say is, where other fellows could fill out ten pages on the beauty of a sunset, I was lucky to grind out a paragraph.
Be that as it may, I was not a little concerned by my new circs. For one thing, the Drones is an all male club. I decided that the best to do was to sneak back into the house, dry off, and think things through. I would have liked to popped the problem at Jeeves; his shining brilliance would undoubtedly have solved the problem in record time, but I could see no way to do that. I couldn't very well walk up to the fellow and say, "What ho, Jeeves. Look what happened to me today."
I walked back to the cottage we were staying in, and it was but the work of a minute to climb up the water pipe and into the window. (Actually, it took considerably more than that, what with unfamiliar balance and such, but you get the gist). From there, a hot bath seemed the perfect place for meditation. In addition to the normal pleasures of a hot bath after being cold and wet, this particular bath had several battleships left by some previous younger inhabitant. I recommend these battleships highly to all my readers. Many are the pleasant minutes I've spent maneuvering them about.
I forbore my usual practice of singing in the tub, for fear of what my new voice would sound like. Sort of like Macbeth not wanting to see the body of the King he had killed, unless it was Othello or one of those other chaps, if you get my meaning.
I'm sure you can picture my gratification on exiting the bath to find that I had my own body back. Jeeves's help would not be needed. It's always rather a problem to ask one's valet for help, no matter how brainy he is. Destroys the old feudal spirit. In addition, there was the fact of the growing estrangement between us because of the beard. What I'm getting at is that I left that room a considerably bucked Bertram Wooster.
I related my odd experience to Jeeves the next day, but I was not expecting belief. Which was a good thing, because all he said was something about dreams and Freud that went by too fast to catch.
That afternoon I saw Bingo again. "Where were you yesterday?" I asked coldly.
He actually had the nerve to smile. "Sorry about that, Bertie old man. It's just that I realized my love for Jane was illusory. All along, the right girl for me was Angela. So I didn't bother to show up, knowing you'd understand."
"Ha!" I said, and I meant it to sting.
"What did you say?"
"I said 'Ha!' I suppose this Angela is that rather plump daughter of Lord Wickersham?"
"She is not plump! As her name implies, she is an angel in human form." Having seen Bingo in this sickening state many times before, I quelled the urge to argue and left his company quite hurriedly. Jeeves and I returned to London the next day.
I was eating lunch in the Drones about a week later, when Bingo came into the conv. I was talking to Haffy, a fellow who would bet on how long his mother would live if she were sent to the hospital.
"I say, Bertie," he said, "are you in on the Bingo pool?" "Bingo!" I said scornfully. "I know you'll bet on almost anything, but isn't bingo sinking a bit low. It's such a dreadfully boring game."
"No, no, Bertie. Don't be a chump. We're betting on how long it will take Bingo to fall in love again. After Angela gave him the push-off, he's sworn off women entirely, if that affects your decision."
"What are the odds?" I asked immediately, not wanting to miss out on a good thing. We Woosters have the sporting blood in full measure. Haffy handed me a little card:1 day 1:60 2 days 1:45 3 days 1:15 4 days 1:1 5 days 1:23 6 days 1:70 more 1:108
"I shall have to think about it," I said, meaning to consult with Jeeves on the matter. Although the beard was still causing tension, I felt sure that the old sporting spirit would cause him to rally round and help the young master.
"All right, but bets must be put down in two days; that's when Bingo returns to London."
"Right ho," I said, and departed for home. Immediately after I climbed into the cab for the ride home, it began to rain, and soon the water was pouring in buckets. I felt like one of those coves in the bible when the Flood started (It's amazing the things I remember from winning that bible contest in grade school. It just goes to show that people like my Aunt Agatha who claim that my memory is abominable (that's her word) are completely off the mark.). Anyway, I was very glad that it was only a short dash from the cab to my door.
I let myself in, to find Jeeves standing at the entranceway. "Good afternoon, madam," he said. I saw in a flash what had happened. His brain was like one of those racing cars that runs at super high speed for a few years and then is discarded. After shining so brightly for many years, it had broken.
"It's me, Jeeves," I said gently. "It's Bertie." Let this be a lesson to us all, I thought. Even the finest among us can only push his brain so far, be he Einstein or even Jeeves.
"Pardon me, madam?" he said as gravely as ever. I could see that this was going to take some time, and I didn't want to stand there in my dripping wet coat. As I was shrugging it off, I realized how tight my shirt felt, and realization hit. The change had happened again. I generally do not approve of strong language before a member of the fair sex, but I suppose one can make an exception when one is said member. "Dash it!" I said. I mean to say, I felt pretty strongly.
Well, we Woosters are quick on our feet. I realized after a rather short time that a hot bath would probably set me right. I headed immediately for the bathroom.
"Pardon me, madam, but where are you going?" It was Jeeves again. Now, I can understand a desire to protect the young master's property, but preventing me from a hot bath was taking it a bit too far, I mean to say, what. Still, under the circs. I could hardly protest.
I exercised the gray matter to the utmost. I was like one of those detectives who are always trying to figure out how the murderer escaped from a locked room.
"I'm just going up to wash up. It will be OK with Mr. Wooster; that's why he lent me his key."
"Very well, madam," he said, and shimmered aside. I felt like Ali-Baba at that cave. You know, the one with "Open sesame," and all that.
I went in and took a bath, and came out a changed man (or an unchanged man, depending on how one looks at these things.) I stepped out of the bathroom, and walked almost straight into Jeeves. He registered the greatest emotion I've ever seen; both eyebrows lifted a full eighth of an inch.
"You see, Jeeves. I was right that day at Bingo's place." "Yes, sir."
"Well, I suppose that's one good result of this problem. I showed you that you can occasionally be wrong."
"Yes, sir. Actually, if you'll pardon my saying so, sir, there is another advantage."
"What Jeeves?" Maybe his amazing brain, fueled by years of fish, had seen something I had not.
"Meaning no disrespect, sir, but in female form, you do not have that beard."
Well, of all the dashed impertinence. However, we Woosters know how to oil the troubled waters, as it were. "Never mind all that, Jeeves. Rally round; I hope you've been stoking up on fish, because I have two problems for you. The first, you've just witnessed. The second concerns Bingo." I then detailed the Bingo pool to him. My hopes were not misplaced. As I talked, I saw that gleam of pure intelligence steal over his face, until it gleamed with braininess.
"As to the first problem, sir, I have no ideas currently, but I will think on it. For the second, put your money on day two."
"All right. But don't you think that's dashed fast for even a blighter like Bingo to fall in love."
"Very well, Jeeves. I suppose you have some clever scheme. I just hope it doesn't... what's that thing that plans do?"
"Gang aft agley, sir. According to the poet Browning." "Right. Well, I suppose I will defer to your judgement in this as all things."
He uttered a soft cough. "Not all things, sir." I just coldly looked him in the eye and left the room. There's not much one can do with a valet who constantly harps on the length of one's beard.
I placed my bet at the Drones the next day, and the day after that, Bingo returned to London. The night he returned, there was a tenseish conf. in the Wooster living room.
"Jeeves," I started the proceedings, "this bet was a bad idea. Bingo has been avoiding all women as if he were one of those monks ever since his return. They say he walks down the street with eyes downcast to avoid a pretty face."
"Jeeves, don't you see that this means he will never fall in love by tomorrow."
"Well," I said bitterly, "I must say I had expected rather more of the old solace than that."
"I say, you haven't made on progress on my other problem, have you?" "Regrettably not, sir."
"Say, wouldn't it be funny to get a dress and go to a masquerade as a woman?"
Jeeves is rather a stick in the mud, but I suppose this time he was correct. I mean, my costume would have been too good, so to speak, and no-one would have known it was me. I'd be shunned by the fellows who invited me, thinking I'd never shown up, and end up feeling like one of those fellows in the mysteries who is about to be hanged for a crime he didn't commit. Anyway, I could see that nothing was forthcoming in this conv. so I toddled off.
The next day, I ate lunch at the Drones as usual and had just left its environs when I saw Bingo walking along the road, eyes downcast.
"What ho, Bingo!" I shouted. He looked up, but just then someone stumbled into me and I fell into the fountain just outside the club. I splashed around for a bit, when someone lifted me out. I turned to thank my rescuer, and saw that it was Bingo.
"Thanks a lot, old chum," I said.
"No problem at all," he said, eyes lighting up. "For you, I would do it any day of the week."
Now here was dashed odd behavior. I mean, the usual reaction of one of my pals at such a juncture would be to tell me what a chump I was.
"I say," Bingo went on, "you're awfully wet. Why don't you come to my place and dry off?"
"Oh, that's hardly necessary."
"I insist. Besides, my cook sets out a wonderful tea." Well, that persuaded me. Granted, Bingo's cook is not as good as Aunt Dahlia's chef Anatole (commonly known as God's gift to the stomach); nevertheless he makes the most amazing biscuits.
"All right," I said, and he hailed a cab. As we were getting in, Haffy came out of the Drones.
"Hello, Bingo!" he shouted.
"What ho, Haffy! I say, the most wonderful thing's just happened. I've realized that all of my previous loves were false, mere schoolboy gushes. I saved this beautiful girl from drowning, and she is my true love."
I was sitting in the cab, so I don't suppose I sagged visibly, but my nervous system had just taken quite a blow. This might be rather puzzling to some of you. After all, a man who has just won a bet at such tremendous odds should by rights be ecstatic. The only problem was that I had just realized that Bingo was referring to me.
Preoccupied is the word to describe Bertram Wooster as we set out. Had I not been I would have leaped out of the cab before Bingo entered.
"What's your name? And where do you live?" asked Bingo. I tell you, it is a mark of my state of mind that I gave him my real name and address.
"I'm sorry; did you just say your name was Bertie Wooster?" "Yes. I mean, no. I'm staying with him." It was a rather tense ride to Bingo's place. He gave up on the small talk after I stared at him coldly several times.
When we got to our dest. I decided I might as well go in and have that tea, after I had gone to so much trouble. I would not have entered had I known the dreadful fate that awaited me. I even resolved to be civil to the poor blighter; after all, he was not to blame.
I soon regretted that decision. With very little encouragement, Bingo started spouting the most absurd drivel I have ever heard. I will not sully this page by writing any of it down. Suffice it to say that if your favorite actors were to talk such twaddle on the screen you would immediately head out to the popcorn stand.
I soon excused myself, but Bingo insisted on seeing me home. I agreed, thinking that perhaps Jeeves would find a solution to my predicament.
When we got to the house, Jeeves was waiting at the door. "Good afternoon, madam. Good afternoon, Mr. Little. Madam, Mr. Wooster has been searching extensively for you."
"I say, Jeeves, what are," I started to interrupt, but he sailed smoothly on. "Madam, Mr. Wooster has requested that you wait for him in the upstairs bedroom. Mr. Little, it is rather important that I speak to you before you depart."
I realized at once what had happened. Jeeves's mind had instantly divined the situation and already had come up with an answer. Truly, the man is a marvel. "Right ho, Jeeves," I said, and toddled up the stairs. I am proud to report that I only tripped once. I dare say that with practice I could have handled that body as if born to it.
I waited in the room for several minutes until Jeeves came in. "Well, Jeeves, what is the news? Is Bingo gone?"
"Yes, madam. And I am pleased to inform you that he is no longer infatuated with you."
"That's fantastic. I suppose I'll get married eventually, but I don't think Bingo heads the list of reasonable mates."
"Somewhere below even Honoria Glossop, I should think." "Yes, madam."
"And please stop calling me Madam."
I gave that up as a losing battle. After this, he deserved his little idiosyncrasies. "So, Jeeves, how did you convince him I was unsuitable?"
"I informed him that you were suffering from schizophrenia." "What is schizo whatever it is, anyway?" "In your case, madam, it manifests itself as a delusion that you are Bertram Wooster. Thus, you use his name and wear his clothes. Consequently, you are being sent to an asylum on the morrow."
"I say, that was a bit thick, telling him I'm loony." "It was necessary, madam. Further, it will not reflect on you, merely on the female guise."
"I suppose so. Anyway, we won the Bingo pool, because he fell in love with me."
"The thought had occurred to me, madam." "It was the most tremendous luck, his coming by when he did." "Not entirely, madam. It is always your habit to leave the Drones at 2:00 p.m., so I phoned Mr. Little and convinced him that it was important for him to be present at the Drones at that time."
"Yes, but how could you possibly know I would fall into that fountain?" "I fear I had something to do with that also, madam. I knew you would shout to Mr. Little, and that after your falling in he would rescue you, being close by. I pushed you in, and the rest was human nature."
"The psychology of the individual, eh, Jeeves." "Precisely, madam."
"I must confess, I'm rather surprised that you would push me into a fountain. Still, all's well that ends well, as Shakespeare said."
"No, madam, actually..."
"Never mind, Jeeves," I interrupted, "I do not care who said it; the statement still holds."
"I shall now go take a bath."
"Perhaps, madam, you will mix this in with your water when you bathe," said Jeeves, as he produced a small bottle.
"I'm surprised at you, Jeeves. You know I don't use bubble bath, and I would never have suspected that you were an aficionado of the stuff."
"I think you misunderstand, madam. This bottle contains material to solve your current problem."
"You mean this stuff will turn me male permanently?" "Precisely, madam."
"I've said it before, and I'll say it again, Jeeves. The world may venerate its Einsteins and Aristotles, but I will place my bets on you every time."
"Thank you, madam."
"But where ever did you find this stuff?" "I went to the Jupiter club, and sought out information on Mr. Little's ancestors in the archives."
"You don't mean those dashed archives actually came in useful!" "Yes, madam, they were."
I don't know if you remember, but Jeeves and I have had several arguments about said archives in the past. The Jupiter club is for butlers and valets, and each member contributes info. on his current employer. I had felt that it was not necessary for Jeeves to record some of my experiences for public consumption, but he had insisted. However, we Woosters know when we are wrong.
"In that case I take back all I have ever said about them." "Thank you, madam. At any rate, Mr. Little's grandfather spent some time exploring China, and he took his valet with him. In their travels, they ran across a number of pools with strange properties--the water from them would turn people into different forms whenever they touched cold water. They could return back to normal only when they touched hot water.
"When he returned home, Mr. Little brought back a number of bottles containing water which he had collected from several of the pools as curiosities, or possibly to use in practical jokes. Among them was one to turn a person into a young man, which Mr. Little thought would be good to keep for his old age. However, he died suddenly without having a chance to use the bottle. On his death, the bottles were all emptied into the main pond, since no-one knew of their effects save the valet. He managed to procure that particular bottle for his own use. However, he too died suddenly (of a stroke, I believe), and his son put the bottle into the Jupiter club exhibit. I was able to put several clues together and determined that this was the bottle that was needed. By the way, madam, it is interesting to note that all of the bottles were emptied into the same pond. One wonders whether it always has the same effect or a random one. In fact..."
At this point, I felt it was necessary to interrupt. If you let Jeeves get started on some pedantic point you may never hear the end. Besides, I was queasy at how close I may have come to, say, being turned into an aardvark. "Jeeves," I said, "you are brilliant. Is there anything I can give you, unto half my kingdom."
He gave a soft cough. "Well, madam, I hesitate." "Say no more. Prepare my razor for when I return from the bathroom. This beard has served me well, and I shall hate to see it go. Nevertheless, if one cannot make sacrifices for one's savior, then, well, you get the idea."
"Thank you, madam."
The Bingo Pool copyright 1996 by Gavin Steyn.
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