I knew what was stopping him from getting action. It was not… it’s on the tip of my tongue… begins with a p… I’ve heard Jeeves use the word… pusillanimity, that’s it, meaning broadly that a fellow is suffering from a pronounced case of cold feet… it was not, as I was saying when I interrupted myself, pusillanimity that held him back. Under normal conditions lions could have taken his correspondence course, and had he encountered Spode on the football field, he would have had no hesitation in springing at his neck and twisting it into a lover’s knot. The trouble was that he was a curate, and the brass hats of the Church look askance at curates who swat parishioners. Sock your flock, and you’re sunk. So now he shrank from intervening, and when he did intervene, it was merely with a soft word that’s supposed to turn away wrath.
“I say, you know, what?” he said.
I could have told him he was approaching the thing from the wrong angle. When a gorilla like Spode is letting his angry passions rise, there is little or no percentage in the mild remonstrance. Seeming to realize this, he advanced to where the blighter was now, or so it appeared, trying to strangle Gussie and laid a hand on his shoulder. Then, seeing that this, too, achieved no solid results, he pulled. There was a rending sound, and the clutching hand relaxed its grip.
I don’t know if you’ve ever tried detaching a snow leopard of the Himalayas from its prey — probably not, as most people don’t find themselves out that way much — but if you did, you would feel fairly safe in budgeting for a show of annoyance on the animal’s part. It was the same with Spode. Incensed at what I suppose seemed to him this unwarrantable interference with his aims and objects, he hit Stinker on the nose, and all the doubts that had been bothering that man of God vanished in a flash.
I should imagine that if there’s one thing that makes a fellow forget that he’s in holy orders, it’s a crisp punch on the beezer. A moment before, Stinker had been all concern about the disapproval of his superiors in the cloth, but now, as I read his mind, he was saying to himself, “To hell with my superiors in the cloth,” or however a curate would put it; “Let them eat cake.”
It was a superb spectacle while it lasted, and I was able to understand what people meant when they spoke of the Church Militant…
“Ha!” is one of those things it’s never easy to find the right reply to — it resembles “You!” in that respect — but Gussie was saved the necessity of searching for words by the fact that he was being shaken like a cocktail in a manner that precluded speech, if precluded is the word I want. His spectacles fell off and came to rest near where I was standing. I picked them up with a view to returning them to him when he had need of them, which I could see would not be immediately.