Ben Schott

Jeeves and the Cap that Fits

A sporting Jeeves story, with apologies to P.G. Wodehouse

Jeeves and the Cap that Fits
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The Secret Service said it would investigate Donald J. Trump’s longtime butler over Facebook posts laced with vulgarities and epithets calling for President Obama to be killed.

New York Times, 12 May 2016

I had only just risen from a deep slumber, when in shimmied Jeeves with the cup that cheers.

‘Does the day look fruity, Jeeves?’ I yawned.

‘Indeed, sir,’ he assented, opening the curtains to an expanse of cloudless sky, ‘decidedly clement.’

‘Perfect conditions for a perusal of the racing form in the long grass, would you say?’

‘I would, sir. However your aunt has asked me to inform you that she desires you to entertain a guest this morning.’

‘A guest? What guest? I thought we were all alone at Brinkley this weekend.’

‘The guest is Mr Trump, sir. An American. He arrived with his butler in the early hours.’

‘Was that the infernal shouting that woke me at three ack-emma?’

‘Undoubtedly, sir. Mr Trump has a voice that carries.’

‘I’ll say! Like a yodelling banshee. What’s he like, this Trump?’

‘I have not ascertained, sir, since he has yet to rise. His butler, however, seems to be a man of strident views, if I may be so bold.’

‘Be bold, Jeeves, be bold! And if there are beans, spill them.’

‘After insisting that Anatole be woken to prepare a “well-done steak”, he became somewhat overheated and expressed opinions that some might deem unsound.’

‘Unsound? More unsound than shaking the genius Anatole from his post-culinary slumber?’

‘He suggested the President of the United States should be assassinated.’

‘Good Lord, Jeeves! Do you think his employer knows of these revolutionary tendencies?’

‘I could not say, sir. But I gather Mr Trump has controversial views on the president.’

‘It’s all a little too reminiscent of Spode for my liking.’

‘Yes, sir. I too was reminded of Lord -Sidcup.’

‘And I am commanded to amuse this -earwig?’

‘That is your aunt’s desire, sir. It seems that Mr Trump is in business negotiations with your uncle, Mr Travers.’

‘Poor old Tom. Well, as aunts bid, nephews serve.’

‘So I have observed. I propose to set out your light tweed, sir, as the barometer suggests optimism may not be bootless.’

As Jeeves assembled the day’s habiliments, I spied him slipping my new forage cap into his pocket.

‘I say, Jeeves, that’s my new cap!’

‘Is it sir? I’m very sorry. I assumed it belonged to one of the pig men.’

‘It belongs to me, and was purchased only yesterday at Lock.’

‘Are you proposing to wear it in public, sir? It has an unsettling orange hue.’

‘The hue, Jeeves, is “golden tempest” and I am proposing to wear it today.’

‘Very good, sir,’ he murmured, and oozed away to draw a bath and decant the salts.

I sat alone at breakfast, forking my E and B and mulling this sartorial set-to, when a haircut burst into the room closely followed by a bovine gentleman the colour of turmeric.

‘Ah, you must be Worcestershire! Your uncle Tom has told me all about you.’

‘It’s Wooster, actually, but call me Bertie, everyone does.’

‘And you can call me The Donald,’ barked Trump, setting about the breakfast dishes like a haystack in search of a needle.

‘Tinkety tonk, The Donald. I gather that, in my uncle’s absence, we are to spend the morning together.’

‘That’s what Tom said. Do you play golf? The Donald is magnificent at golf.’

‘I’ve been known to hack the mashie,’ I said modestly, ‘but the local course is closed for a tournament this weekend.’

‘I’ll buy the club and fire the tournament,’ Trump thundered, spitting flecks of kedgeree.

‘Or,’ I soothed, ‘we could play croquet?’ I made the universal gesture of a man swinging a mallet.



‘What’s the difference?’

It’s jarring to encounter such a world-view so early in the morning, and it took every ounce of the Wooster grey matter to marshall a coherent answer. ‘Croquet is a little like chess,’ I explained, ‘played on grass. With balls.’

I began to approximate the hoop layout with cruets when Trump swept all aside.

‘Don’t worry about that! The Donald is fabulous at all sports. Cracket it is!’

My postprandial ablutions completed, I was sauntering across the garden to the field of battle when I heard a ‘psssst’ emanating from the rhododendrons.

‘Bertie, you ass,’ snorted the evergreens in a voice that could only be attached to my aunt Dahlia.

‘At your service, aged relative.’

‘You have to lose this game. Everything depends on it. Tom is on the brink of sealing a deal with this blister Trump, but all will be ashes if his prize-winning ego is dented a jot.’

‘Now listen here, the Wooster male stoops to no man…’

‘Oh do shut up, Bertie. If you don’t lose this match you’ll never eat so much as a crumb of Anatole’s cooking again.’

Her coup-de-glacé delivered, Dahlia rustled off into the deepest foliage.

I’m not ashamed to say that this -materteral intercession rather chilled my bonhomie. It’s one thing to lose a match deliberately, quite another to lose to an opponent who has never before heard of the sport. My spirits were lifted only by the recollection of my ‘golden tempest’ cap, which I set at a defiantly jaunty angle as I strode towards ignominy.

I won’t harrow you with the sordid details of the match. Trump insisted that he needed a caddy to hold his mallet, call the yardage and tend to the clips. This role was performed by his butler, who quickly demonstrated that he was no gentleman’s gentleman, nor was his gentleman a gentleman.

It took all of my ingenuity to miss roquets and misplay croquets without arousing suspicion. No such caution commanded The Donald, who skipped hoops and kicked balls with so brazen an insouciance that it seemed impolite to notice, let alone protest.

Despite straining every sinew to lose, we were neck and neck after 12 hoops, and the first to ‘peg out’ would win. As I lined up my shot, calculating to miss by a lick of paint, Trump suddenly proposed a wager which, my duplicitous mission notwithstanding, I felt honour-bound as a sportsman to accept.

‘How was the game, sir?’ inquired Jeeves, as I sank into a forgiving sofa.

‘I lost! I threw the match, and with it the Wooster dignity.’

‘I’m distressed to hear that, sir.’

‘I also lost my new forage cap in a bet.’

‘You must feel that bereavement keenly, sir,’ said Jeeves, visibly brightening. ‘Would a whisky and soda be of comfort?’

‘Well, when I say I lost the cap, I really just swapped it for the one Trump was wearing.’

Jeeves arched an eyebrow. ‘Indeed, sir?’

‘Yes, and you know, I think it’s rather the thing.’

‘Might I see, sir?’

Jeeves took the bright red cap gingerly between thumb and forefinger, as a schoolmaster holds the ear of a particularly unwashed child.

‘This hat appears to have writing on it, sir.’

‘Yes, Jeeves, it says: “Make America Great Again”.’

‘What a curious sentiment, sir. But did Mr Trump really desire your forage cap?’

‘He did,’ I sighed. ‘He said it matched his hair.’

‘Of that, sir, there can be no doubt.’

Ben Schott is the author of the Schott’s Miscellany and Schott’s Almanac series, and of Schottenfreude.