A Damsel in Distress

pgwadidWhen George Bevan, bored 27-year-old American composer of successful musical comedies, hailed a taxi on London’s Piccadilly, he had no idea that, almost immediately, he would be sharing the vehicle with a damsel in distress. And, though the distressed damsel disappears almost as suddenly, George discovers that he has fallen in love with her. Unfortunately, he doesn’t even know her name.

The damsel is, in fact, Lady Maud Marshmoreton, only daughter of the widowed 7th Earl of Marshmoreton. Confined to the family home, Belpher Castle in Hampshire, to keep her from the man she fell in love with in Wales a year ago, she has managed to escape to London for the day in order to meet him. Unfortunately, her brother Percy is also in town and it is to escape from him that she sought refuge in George’s taxi.

Back home, her father is beset by females. His sister, Lady Caroline Byng, wants him to encourage Lady Maud to marry her stepson, Reggie, unaware that Reggie is nursing a secret love for the other female in Lord Marshmoreton’s life—his secretary, Alice Faraday. She keeps insisting that the earl work on his History of the Family, when all he wants to do is cultivate his roses.

George, having succeeded in identifying Lady Maud, takes up residence in a rented cottage close to the castle and is quickly—and mistakenly—identified as “the man in Wales”. George is delighted (if somewhat surprised) when he hears, from no less a personage than the 7th Earl, that Maud loves him. He is saddened, but behaves nobly, when Lady Maud explains to him the true state of affairs.

At which point the Earl announces to the assembled family that Maud and George are engaged . . .

Wodehouse, of course, is an expert in unravelling tangled knots, so it will come as no surprise that Maud is destined to realise her mistake and George, having rescued the damsel, will gain his just reward. Reggie, showing a surprising gift for stratagems, will marry Alice, much to the relief of Lord Marshmoreton. And, to the astonishment of his family, Lord Marshmoreton will abandon his widowed estate. The identity of the new Countess of Marshmoreton will be left as a surprise for the reader.