When taking Mr. Wooster his three o'clock cup of tea, I was confronted by the sight of his hind quarters protruding out from beneath his bed.
It took more than unexpected buttocks to surprise me, I am happy to say, for I had been a gentleman's personal gentleman for many years now, and had faced considerably more surprising things than that in my service – particularly in the service of Mr. Wooster, from whose employ sprung far more unexpected surprises than out-of-place extremities.
Furthermore, it should be stated that there was nothing at all displeasing in regard to Mr. Wooster's behind – it was, in fact, quite pleasing in all dimensions.
Therefore I was quite able to enter the room as soundlessly as ever and place the tray on the dresser before addressing Mr. Wooster.
I cleared my throat discretely.
"Have you lost something, Sir?"
There was a loud bang and a yelp as Mr. Wooster jumped, hitting his head on the bed.
"Jeeves!" he exclaimed, backing out swiftly and standing up. He looked red-faced and dishevelled but was not, I am happy to say, at all dusty from his exertions under the bed. Very few dust bunnies escaped my eye, even under there. "Uh… there you are!"
"Yes, Sir," I agreed. "You were looking for me under the bed?"
"Well… no." Mr. Wooster said, shiftily. Mr. Wooster was a man of many fine qualities, but was severely lacking in improvisation skills, or, frankly, the ability to dissemble in any way.
I waited for further information. While doing so I glanced over to a large box that was on the floor near the corner of the room. I had noticed it under Mr. Wooster's arm when he'd returned from luncheon at The Drones, but had not asked him about it. I had noticed in myself, to my chagrin, a slight over-curiosity in Mr. Wooster's activities unbecoming to a high quality gentlemen's personal gentleman such as myself.
I was beginning to wonder, however, if that might have been an error on my part.
"Well the thing is, Jeeves," Mr. Wooster said. "I was over at the old club and old Percy Philington-Smythe, he was in a bit of a bind, you see?"
I was beginning to see, I feared.
"Indeed, Sir?" I prompted.
"Yes, and we were at school together," he continued, and it had often occurred to me that if Mr. Wooster had been privately educated at home his life, and mine, would be far simpler, "so a chap really had to help out an Old Etonian, what?"
"Indeed, Sir," I agreed rather than questioned this time. I understood by now that this was deeply integral to the Code of the Woosters, and unlikely to ever change.
"The thing is, Jeeves, I've bally well lost it. Misplaced the little blighter."
"What 'little blighter', Sir?"
"Yes, Jeeves, I fear little flopsy has given me the proverbial slip, I must confess, while I was catching a few winks."
"Am I to understand, Sir, that there is an actual leporid in the flat?"
"I'm afraid so, Jeeves, if Lepor-whatssit is the word I want to mean a little, big-eared, long-toothed blighter that has probably given poor Bertram the slip to go off in search of some carrots. We are, as the French might say, avec bunny."
I did not say it was extremely unlikely the French would say such a thing.
"I see, Sir," I said, instead, my tone decidedly frosty. A gentleman's personal gentleman did not want the gentleman in question to be in possession of either a wife or a pet.
"I was just holding on to it, Jeeves, for the afternoon!" Mr. Wooster hastened to explain. "Poor Percy's beloved, the light-of-his-life, reason for his being, one Miss Barbara 'Bunny' Basingstoke-Bewes is terribly fond of the little devils and so Percy planned on bestowing one upon her, along with an engagement ring – which, indeed, would lead to the bestowing all his worldly goods upon her in due course – this evening.
"Turns out, however, poor Percy is fearfully allergic to bunnies – with the exception of Miss Bunny B-B herself, of course – and so Bertram was called upon to step into the breach and bunny-sit the blasted thing until this evening. I didn't mention it, Jeeves, because it would only have been for a few hours."
Mr. Wooster continued looking slightly sheepish, and I suspected he – rightly – had assumed I would not approve of a rabbit in the flat. I did, however, approve even less of a rabbit loose in the flat, which may have been prevented by my knowing what had been in the cardboard box.
"I suppose the creature chewed through the box?" I surmised.
"Right you are," Mr. Wooster said. "We are therefore currently sans bunny, as the French would say.
"So you just caught me," he continued, "looking for bunnies under the bed. Alas, there was not a one to be found, not even a dust bunny, and so, I'm afraid to say we still find ourselves somewhat embarrassed for bunnies for when Percy totters up to the homestead in a couple of hours expecting to take possession of one."
"You've only had the creature for an hour – I do not imagine it could have got very far by now, Sir, even with its impressive teeth to aid its escape. I suggest we sweep the room in a methodical manner from the east to west wall and we shall soon uncover it."
"Right ho, Jeeves," Mr. Wooster said. "Topping idea. I would have called it, but unfortunately Percy didn't give me its name."
"I doubt it would have responded anyway, Sir."
"Really? Disobedient, are they, rabbits?" Mr. Wooster asked, cheerfully – all trace of discontent gone as he placed the matter in my hands – as he took the left side of the east wall. "I suspected as much – shifty eyes it had, I thought."
As we progressed slowly through the room – not too difficult a task as I, if I said so myself – kept the room in a pristine condition.
"Even if it had enough time to chew through to another room, Sir, one rabbit is, in my experience, much the same as another and another can be cheaply and easily procured to meet Mr. Philington-Smythe's needs if necessary. If we subsequently discover the original I have a niece who is unaccountably fond of the creatures and would provide it with a good home," I said, sweeping the room with my eyes for cotton-tails and long ears.
"Ah, yes, that may be true, Jeeves," Mr. Wooster said, clearing his throat uncomfortably, "but unfortunately the engagement ring Percy planned on presenting to Bunny when she accepted his plea for the matrimonial chains was attached to a collar around his neck."
I only allowed my raised eyebrow to express my feelings about attaching valuable jewellery to mobile animals in cardboard boxes which were likely to slip their collars or eat the jewellery in question if given the slightest opportunity.
Mr. Wooster groaned from the floor where he was carefully searching, "If that's lost how much do you suppose young Bertram will have to spend to recover it?"
"I could not say, Sir," I said. I, of course, had not even seen the ring in question, let alone been able to assess the value of its diamond using the four Cs – although I could have if called upon. "But I am sure it will not be necessary."
It was, perhaps, remiss of me to take the opportunity to look through Mr. Wooster's personal papers. Usually I left the box of papers kept in the bottom drawer of the armoire untouched, as a man needed a degree of privacy, and it would be rather unprofessional for a valet to intrude. However, as I have previously admitted my level of curiosity about all of Mr. Wooster's activities was unbecoming, and I confess I took the opportunity of the rogue bunny to flick through some of the papers.
I had flicked through three of the pictures in silent surprise before Mr. Wooster noticed what I was doing.
"Jeeves!" he cried, leaping up and rushing over. "Those are…"
He snatched them from my lax fingers, blushing a furious red.
They were, in fact, drawings of me.
They were not, in all honesty, particularly good representations of me, but the hair and the clothing were quite telling. They were, it had to be said, innocent in almost all respects. I had been painted before – my face and figure, apparently, having 'good lines' – and these were no different from those in anything but quality, but that they were in Mr. Wooster's personal papers, when Mr. Wooster was so naturally open.
And, of course, Mr. Wooster was looking incredibly guilty and embarrassed.
"…not very good." Mr. Wooster finished, lamely.
"On the contrary, Sir," I said. "I find them very expressive."
"Really?" Mr. Wooster asked, uncertainly.
"Indeed," I said. "One can infer quite a lot from them."
"Oh," Mr. Wooster said, flushing miserably. "You can?"
"If you want to," I said, purposefully.
"Oh!" Mr. Wooster said, again. "And, uh, do you want to?"
I stepped forward into Mr. Wooster's space. He managed somehow to blush even more deeply, but didn't step away.
I leaned forward and kissed him. His mouth was soft and surprised, but he kissed back with enthusiasm.
I pulled back after a moment, and he stood there smiling, grinning goofily until he made a startled noise and leapt behind me.
He was sprawled on the floor, grasping a large, white rabbit with a large, vulgar jewelled collar with a ring attached.
"Got 'im!" Mr. Wooster said, scrambling up with the rabbit clutched closely to his chest, beaming.
The rabbit had apparently been sequestered beneath the armoire, so I looked underneath to check for damage.
"I really do feel we should take that collar off the rabbit, Sir," I said, straightening up. "His taste is clearly far too superior for it – he's destroyed your orange socks."