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Jeeves and the Mating of the Scorpions

Chapter Text

It seems that in the days of old, unwanted advances on servant girls by their masters were all the vogue. There are tons of literature where a girl can look up what to do in that situation: she must virtuously rebuff the chap’s advances, and eventually he’ll marry her. Though why she’d want to marry a cove she just spent a whole book running away from is beyond me.

There are no useful hints for the opposite case. Imagine my shock when one day, out of the blue, the most respectable chap who ever ironed another chap’s clothes, in re: Jeeves, began to take an inappropriate interest in the young master. Nobody tells you what to do when you’re being made love to by your valet.

It started out very innocently, on the day when my Aunt Dahlia and her daughter Angela came to London for some shopping. They had dropped in, left some bags on my doormat, and gone off again to collect the haul later. In any case, it just so happened that I wanted a gasper lit, and Jeeves held out his lighter.

But in that moment I saw a hideous porcelain pug rear its ugly head out of one of the bags, and I got so confused that my hand moved away from the flame Jeeves was holding out. It took me some seconds to get back on the job, and even then, my hand was still shaking. Jeeves quietly steadied my hand and lit the gasper with the usual perfect efficiency. But then I realized that he was looking me straight in the eye – a thing he had never done before over a light.

His gaze, and his fingers, stayed on me for about half a second too long. The fingers, I wouldn’t have minded so much, but the eyes! The way he stared at me with just a hint of insolence, then averted them and went about his usual routine! It unsettled me so much that I forgot all about the pug for the rest of the day. I watched Jeeves float through the flat and tried to figure out – had I been seeing things that weren’t there, or had he really been locking eyes with me?

The next day, the incident had slipped away and made space for more worthy ideas. And I would never have remembered it, either, if I hadn’t started to pay attention to the mirrors in the bathroom when I came out of the tub the next day. The bar of “Don’t bring Lulu” I was humming faded away in my throat: Jeeves, who was doing something or other behind me, was looking at my back with some vague interest. Well, not my back exactly, but rather the lower end of it. It’s not that he was leering, mind you; just looking at something he liked, the way one eyes a meringue before dinner, when its consumption is still in the far future, but definitely on the agenda.

The eye-locking came back to my memory like a flash. Then Jeeves handed me a towel, and the moment was gone. But I decided to pay a lot more attention to the bathroom mirrors in the future.

Over the next three days, he would sometimes ogle portions of me when he thought I wasn’t looking. Then one day, suddenly, his eyes left my sirloin regions and met my eyes in the mirror.

“Will that be all, sir?” he said.

“Err”, I said. He knew that I had been watching him. He had known all along. “Err, yes, that’s all, Jeeves.”
And the blasted pirate very nearly smiled and said: “Very good, sir.”

 

Bertram’s peace of mind, one would think, would take a swift vacation after all this. One would think that a man who’s being subtly made love to by his valet would soon be a nervous wreck, and I’m sure that it has happened to lesser men with lesser valets. But once we had established the fact that Jeeves really was ogling me, and I was not just seeing things that weren’t there, my mind became as calm as a tar pit. I was, to my own amazement, perfectly at ease with everything. If Jeeves was going to bat his eyelashes at me, let him. I was even a little flattered.

I haven’t always lived like a nun, you know. In adult life, they throw girls your way and expect you to marry them, and nothing else; but when I was a growing boy, in school, some boys would throw themselves at each other, and I quite liked that. Most of them had dropped their fellow men like hot bricks as soon as they came of age, but I don’t see why one should give up a nice thing just because one gets older. Jeeves’ interest was unexpected, but I was not going to stop him. In fact, I couldn’t wait to see where he would lead us.

At this time, a change began to take place in my faithful factotum. Apart from the change in his attitude towards my buttocks, I mean to say. Jeeves, realizing that I wasn’t rebuffing his advances, positively began to glow. Of course, he couldn’t look any more carefully preened than he always did – if that were even possible, they would put him under a blanket because his sparkling would blind the eyes of innocent passers-by – but he suddenly went about the flat with a quarter-inch smile stapled to both ends of his mouth. His eyes shone when he touched me in order to straighten out my tie or my collar, and when I came home, his “Good evening, sir” had a bounce to it like a lamb in spring.

For about four weeks, he continued this subtle wooing, and I let him. Other men might have found some pretext to sack him (in fact, I wondered, was this the reason why he had served in so many different places at his age? Always ogling up his masters?), but I didn’t feel at all uneasy about it. This little ship was rocking peacefully on a calm sea, and whatever shore it would end up on, I was fine with.

Then came Cannes (some readers may remember this holiday as the start of the love story of the Bassett and Gussie Fink-Nottle, of Angela’s shark and Tuppy’s addiction to steak-and-kidney pie), and we were separated for nearly two months. I was a little afraid that he would have lost interest by the time I came back, but it turned out that a. really made both our h.’s grow f. It made Jeeves even bold enough to become indiscreet.

The next day, when I was just about to leave for lunch, he looked at me and pointed out that I had forgotten to shave a spot under my right ear. I was ready to hop back into the backroom, annoyed because I was late, but Jeeves already had the razor in hand and said: “Just a moment, sir”, and I held out my neck towards him. Scraping away the remains was the work of two seconds, and kissing me on the corner of my mouth was the work of three.

No kiss had ever made the Wooster heart throb like this one. I grinned like an idiot, wheezed “Toodle-oo” at Jeeves and ran out into the street before he could see me flush like a schoolgirl, capering all the way.

Chapter Text

For the next few days, with all the excitement at Brinkley Court, my own love life had to be shelved. Also, one’s own flat makes a much better love nest than other people’s places, don’t you know. There is the fear of being caught, and also the unspoken question what Auntie would say if she knew what you’re thinking about doing in her guest room.

In fact, no love-making occurred until the whole affair was well finished, and Jeeves saw that he had to make amends for everything he had put me through that night. You will remember – if you know the story, that is – that I came home from an 18-mile bicycle ride very sore, especially in the parts that had met the bicycle most intimately.

So when everything was sorted out and I had had my hot bath and was just about ready to get into my pyjamas, and when Jeeves had explained his whole scheme to me, I told him in no unclear terms that I was still sore, inwardly and outwardly, and it was all his doing.

He tried very hard to look shamefaced, but there was an impish glint in his eyes when he suggested: “Do you think, sir, that a massage would help?”

“Oh, rather!” This sounded like a splendid peace offering.

“I will fetch some oil, then”, he said and biffed off, and I lay down on the bed, spread-eagled, in my towel, and waited for heavenly things to come. The first heavenly thing was that for the first time in all my life, I saw him roll up his sleeves. It made him almost human. The second heavenly thing was that – unlike a lot of chaps who are built like him – he was not trying to break any ribs. You know how it is when you get a backrub, either they break your ribs and ram the remains into your lungs, or they think you’re a wine glass and you’ll produce a tone if they run their fingertip over you with a feathery-light touch.

But Jeeves was pretty good at it – dashed competent, once more. He started with my back, lower back first, shoulders afterwards. Then I told him I had ants in my calves, and he turned towards them. I have to admit that by this time, I was having pretty warm thoughts, and was glad that my face was squashed into the pillow, because I must have looked redder than a lobster.

Jeeves’ voice was oozing mischief. “What about your thighs, sir?”

“Good Lord”, I squeaked. “Help yourself.”

“You’ll have to loosen the towel, sir.”

I began to fumble with the blasted thing, and it finally came loose and fell away from me. All this time, I kept my face firmly in the pillow, because I did not want to look Jeeves in the eyes. I’d just let him do whatever he wanted, and I’ll admit: his kneading helped loosen the muscles. I don’t know why girls get massages in the hope that it’ll firm them up. I always feel like jelly afterwards. And the part of me that was firming up during this particular massage – I’m pretty certain that’s not the part those girls are talking about.

“If I remember correctly, sir, you said that your posterior was most adversely affected.”

“Did I?” I squeaked, closed my eyes and commended my soul to whatever deity would look kindly upon it under these circumstances.

“I believe you used the term kicked by a mule and thrown into an anthill to die”, said Jeeves thoughtfully, and his hands were wandering upward inch by inch.

I couldn’t answer, but he rightly took that for a yes. The moment his oily, warm hands were on my bottom, I was completely lost, and I knew it. This would not be the end of Jeeves’ apology. He was planning for greater deeds tonight, and the worst thing was: I would not even try to stop him.

My thoughts wandered back to school. All those nights in the dorm rooms, at that time when growing boys are at their worst. I may be a chump in some ways, but I’m no fool: I have seen everything back in those days. Crawling into each other’s beds at night; groping hands; sometimes even a nice mouth, for a nice mouth in return; and the memories all came back to me now. I had never let any of the boys get too familiar with my fundament, though, having seen what it could lead to – Ginger crying softly with his face in the pillow, and Bingo on top of him, practising, and me, in the next bed, knowing what they were doing and helping myself out, feeling half-bad about it – but now I wasn’t a boy any more, and Jeeves wasn’t exactly a silly boy either.

Quite the contrary, in fact. He had been kneading me for a while now, and had me wonderfully relaxed in all the bike-bitten parts. It was the strangest feeling: the front feeling hotter and tighter by the minute, and the back feeling as relaxed as never before. This was just too lovely. As far as I was concerned, he could go on all night.

By now it became pretty obvious that his thumbs were brushing deeper and deeper along my cleft with every circle. My heart took a few somersaults; it was rather clear that my dishonourment was impending, and it we were approaching it at full speed. I pressed my face into the cover, because who needs oxygen, what?, and got terribly embarrassed when my hips began to move on their own accord. But afraid I wasn’t. I didn’t put it past that wonderboy that he’d give me a Greek philosophy lesson without even hurting me.

He had me so worked up that by the time his thumbs were brushing over the frame of the back door, I believed I could reach the point of friendly fire without having to touch the gun. I was not even trying to, either.

Four, five, six, seven, eight slow and gentle thumb strokes from warm, oily fingers; first upward, then downward. And then suddenly, during one upward stroke, one thumb ceased to go upward, and went, rather suddenly, inward.

I gasped. Not that it hurt, mind you, but it was very strange.

Jeeves leaned over my half-hidden face. “Sir, did I hurt you?” he asked softly.

“No”, I whispered. “Not at all. I’m just not… not used to it.”

He kissed the back of my neck and slowly started to massage in and out of the steamrolled young master’s body. Whenever he bent his finger – also quite suddenly – I felt about ready to be carried away in a strait-jacket. I had to be hallucinating. This was too good to be true. His thumb felt as if it was all I could take, and yet, I could have done with something more. I mustered all my courage and popped the question.

“Jeeves, are you going to bugger me?”

“No, sir”, he said reassuringly.

But this Wooster needed nothing of the sort! I let him keep going. “Not even if I want you to?”

“No, sir, I could not – not until you are well used to being touched like this.”

I lasted for exactly fifteen seconds until I blubbered: “You can have the mess-jacket! Do with it what you like. And the pink briefs, I know you always hated them!”

“I am sorry, sir, but the matter is not negotiable”, he said tenderly. “Nothing could induce me to hurt you, but if I complied with your wishes, I most likely would.”

I growled. What a frustration! Coming to think of Ginger and Bingo again, he was probably right. The blighter always was. But he’d said he would, eventually, hadn’t he?

“I distinctly remember, sir, that you do not react well to bodily pain”, he continued, and sounded like a man who is having a hard time fighting a laugh back under his ribs. At any other time, I would have told him in no unclear terms who was who and what was what, but right now, he was bending his thumb at such a delicious angle that I forgot to get pipped.

“Don’t stop.”

He kissed my neck again and kept it up. I don’t believe you have ever, or will ever, see Bertram make a fool of himself like he did then: begging and whimpering like a drunken man who wants in but can’t find the door handle, and shoving himself up against the hands of his abuser. Fortunately you weren’t there, and haven’t seen it.

The final throes were a golden haze – I was, after all, half-suffocated in that pillow – and when I came to, Jeeves had already left me lying there. I rolled over, pulled the defiled towel away from under me, and watched the incomparable Jeeves go to the bathroom and wash his hands. I was feeling thoroughly debauched, and thoroughly at peace with the world, and oxygen began to flow back into the old corpus.

“Jeeves”, I sighed, “what are you doing to me?”

He came out of the bathroom. “I have to admit, sir, I am not sure if there is a technical term for this particular exercise.”

I felt too exhausted to even put my pyjamas on. My belly was still throbbing and my backside was feeling strange; but I had never been so happy before, and I wanted to dish out happiness in return. Under the pinstripes of Jeeves’ trousers there was a bulge, and I decided to concentrate my charitable efforts on it.

“Come here, why don’t you, Jeeves? You look like a man in dire need of some labial attention.”

Shocked, he looked. Positively scandalized! His brows flew up to his hairline. “I assure you, sir, this is not necessary.”

“But I want to see you happy, after this lovely… very lovely thing.”

“Thank you, sir, but it is really not necessary.”

“You don’t think I’m any good?”

“I am sure you are very good at it, sir.”

Now here I was in bed, with a heart filled with tenderness and a lover who didn’t want any of it. I should have started to suspect then and there, but I was too sleepy and happy to smell the haddock. I’d pay him back in kind some other time.

“Goodnight, Jeeves.”

“Goodnight, sir.”

Chapter Text

The night was filled with pleasant dreams, and I woke up the next day, my heart filled with song. Jeeves floated in with my tea, and the day could not have been better.

He put the tray down with a sunny little smile. His “Good morning, sir” had a vibration to it like a lamb’s tail.

“Listen, Jeeves”, I said, “don’t you think it’s time we adjusted to this whole thing? I mean to say, you don’t have to call me sir when we’re alone. And I’d rather call you something other than Jeeves.”

He tilted his head thoughtfully. What wonderful ideas had he got hidden in there? “This could be a critical step, sir.”

“Rather! I mean it to be!”

“You misunderstand me. If we embark upon such a habit, sir, we might produce a lapse in public, with potentially disastrous consequences. Your family might force us to part ways.”

“Pshaw, just let them try! We Woosters are made of steel!”

“If I may say so, sir, one Wooster made of steel against a dozen other Woosters, also made of steel, could hardly carry his point.”

“H’m, I hadn’t thought of that. Well, maybe I would, but you wouldn’t make that sort of a bloomer. You can still call me Bertie.”

“I would rather not, sir. It is dangerous.”

I sighed and took a sip of tea. “So this is the agony of a secret pash!”

“Precisely, sir. But we must not let it demoralize us. The agony of getting caught would be much worse.”

We smiled at each other like calves for about a minute and a half, and then he biffed off to prepare our departure for the capital.

 

What with one thing coming to another and the affairs I had to settle after a week of absence, I had no time to be alone with Jeeves and make sheep-eyes at him until eleven in the evening. Jeeves was still busy in the kitchen, and I was quite tired and went off to catch some dreamless. He tucked me in and said goodnight.

This was all very nice, I pondered after he had left me, but I would have liked a goodnight kiss. I should have suggested it while he had been here! In fact, I should have invited him to share the young master’s bed. It was, after all, large enough for two! Why hadn’t he stayed for a cuddle? I wasn’t even asking for another round of illegitimacy. I would have welcomed it, but I wasn’t asking for it. Why was I in my bed, and he in his? One of us was in the wrong bed. We were lovers now, after all.

So I decided to take steps, and I took them towards his lair. I knocked, but when I got no answer, I silently stole inside and traipsed to his bed.

“Jeeves?”

He gargled something. “Sir? Is something wrong?”

“No. Just wanted to join you for a bit.” I shoved myself in under the covers with him – which just about filled the narrow bed. But I soon had plenty of space, because Jeeves at once eeled away from me as if I were lava. If there hadn’t been a wall on the other side, he would have fallen out.

“Sir, what are you doing?” he asked sharply.

“Just joining you.” I noticed a distinct lack of passion in this chap.

“To do what?”

“Oh, whatever you like.” I snuggled into his pillow. “If you don’t particularly want anything, I’ll just lie here and bask in your presence.”

But Jeeves was not enthused. In fact, he put on a tone of perfect indignation. “Sir, do you think it appropriate to climb into your servants’ beds at night?!”

“What?” I mean to say – he sounded as if he was scolding me for trying to seduce the milkmaid. “But – what?”

“I do think you’re being overly familiar.”

“Me? Familiar?! You had your finger in my –“

“That was different, sir”, he said, rather antarctically.

I couldn’t believe it. “Jeeves, are you spurning me? Turning me away?”

“I would much prefer it if you slept in your own bed, sir.”

“But…”

“Sir.” Just one quiet, cool word, but it broke my heart. What had gotten into him? What had I done? For a single moment, I even doubted whether I had not lost my mind and imagined everything that had passed between us for the last few weeks. Had I finally gone off the brink, the way Aunt Agatha – and even Aunt Dahlia – often suggested? Was it finally the padded cell for me? No, I decided. I had not imagined his looks, his kisses, and all the rest.

“Fine”, I said coldly. “Have it your way. Goodnight.” So I toddled off to my own bed, which now felt cold and empty, I swallowed a few tears of loneliness and finally went back to sleep.

 

Very much sobered, I woke up the next morning, and had hardly time to become aware of the full scope of my misery before Jeeves came in with the tea.

“Good morning, sir”, he said, the spring in his step and the bounce in his voice very much gone. He looked sobered too.

I eyed him from my bed and tried to demoralize him with my indifferent looks. After about four minutes of this, I knew that this wouldn’t get me anywhere. So I folded my arms and said coldly: “Will you kindly tell me why you turned me out into the cold dark night?”

I had hit the right note. His barrel chest heaved once, and then he gave me the works. “Sir, do you trust me?”

“I don’t know, do I?”

“You always have. Please trust me on this, too.”

“Why? What for?”

“Because I do not operate in the customary way in these things. I need to use my own methods.”

“But… but I don’t understand! For weeks, you all but jump my shin, and when I come to you, you act as if I had the black plague! One could start to think you couldn’t stand me.”

“Trust me, sir. It is the only way I can play this game.”

“Is that what it is, then? A game?”

“No, sir, I merely meant…”

“You dish out your advances to me, but when I make some, you treat me like one of those slimy little red things that you find on the rocks in Brighton, what are they called?”

“It has momentarily slipped my mind, sir.”

“Are you playing me, then?”

“No, sir. I am sorry for what happened last night. I should have prepared you for this case, then you would not have had this unpleasant surprise.”

“But you don’t see any evil in your deeds, other than that? You don’t think that it’s, let’s say, a bit off to treat a lover like this? Jeeves, I’m devastated. I’m starting to think that you’re just pushing me around!”
“Certainly not, sir!”

“But that’s what it looks like. As if you don’t care for me at all, you just want another way to… dominate me. That’s the word. Dominate.”

“Sir!” Jeeves looked positively scandalized. “What you call dominance is the way I function, sir – the only way I can. If you want our… indiscretions to continue, we will have to play by my rules. I am aware that you may find it inconvenient, but I cannot help it. Trust me, please.”

“Fine, then”, I said. “So it’s your way or no way? Fine. Let’s cut the whole business out.”

Oh, he had not expected that one! He gasped like a fish.

“Because I won’t be pushed away like a… a cheese that has gone off whenever you feel like it!” I continued. “I’m too bally close to falling in love with you to play games about it.”

About seventeen different expressions were mixing in Jeeves’ face at this moment, and I could not name a single one of them before he had shoved his frog mask over the mess.

“As you say, sir. Will that be all?”

“Yes, that’s all”, I said, and meant it to sting.

For the next few days, Jeeves reduced himself to minimum in the household. He seldom came out of the kitchen, and if he did, he floated about like a ghost. Gone were his smile and the impish look in his eyes. He looked cold, sober and thin. I felt as if a large chunk had been ripped out of me and was being chewed by a lion, while the lion made sarcastic remarks about it; but I distracted myself pretty successfully by dropping in on everybody I knew, whether they liked it or not. I would come home after Jeeves’ bed-time and leave the flat for lunch again. It worked pretty well. And then came the day the whole Phnell-Bungham business began, and we were whisked away to a country-house that was really a scorpion pit in disguise.

Chapter Text

“Miss Travers is on the telephone, sir.”

“My cousin Angela? What can she want?”

“I suggest you find out, sir.”

“Good thinking.”

It is rare enough that Angela calls me – it’s usually my Aunt Dahlia who negotiates everything, if something needs negotiating – but this time it was urgent.

“Bertie, darling, will you do me a favour?”

“Anything, old thing.”

“Daffy has a problem, and I think Jeeves could solve it.”

“Then what do you want me for? You were just talking to him a minute ago. And who the deuce is Daffy?”
“My friend, Daphne Phnell-Bungham. I’ve told you about her, haven’t I? Anyway, she’s in love with this chap who is staying at her father’s place. Her father is a scorpion collector, and so’s the young man. He’s nice enough, but he seems to think she’s a piece of furniture.”

“Has he tried to sit on her?”

“No, you silly old thing. She wants to get him interested. This is where Jeeves comes in.”

“You want me to borrow Jeeves out to that Daffy person?”

“No, of course not. Even you must see that you can’t just send Jeeves without a good excuse for him being there. So you have to come along. You’re invited to spend a couple of days at Daphne’s place. She told her father that she met you at Brinkley at some point. That’s not true, of course, but likely enough. You’re invited for the day after tomorrow.”

“But, Angela, wait. There must be some way we can send Jeeves down without me having to come. I don’t even know these people.”

“They’re fine, you’ll like them. Daffy’s nice.”

“But… but, I say.” An idea began to form in the old bean. “Why don’t we send Jeeves, and he pretends to be me?”

There was a soft cough behind me. “Pardon me for interrupting, sir, but I do not think this would be a good idea. I could not, as you would put it, pull it off.”

“Well, you’ve heard it, Angela, this plan is off.”

“It sounded like a bloomer from the start, Bertie.”

“Well, maybe Jeeves can do a tele-diagnosis through the phone? So that none of us has to go anywhere?”

I handed the receiver to Jeeves and went back to the sofa. From the distance, I heard only one part of the dialogue. For a long time, Jeeves said nothing but “I see, madam”, and “Indeed, madam?”, and finally he admitted defeat. “I am afraid, Miss Travers, that I cannot think of a solution on the telephone. I agree that it would be best to follow your original plan and appear in person – providing the journey is not incompatible with my domestic duties towards Mr Wooster.”

“Oh, you just go, Jeeves”, I sang in the background. I would have liked to have the flat to myself for a few days. Being reminded of our failed relationship would sometimes drive me up the wall.

“I am sorry, madam, but I could not possibly leave him alone. You see, he would not find a suitable replacement on such short notice; and since the visit to Brinkley Court he has been struck with a touch of influenza” – now that was a filthy lie from beginning to end! – “yes, I regret to say, madam, the cold rain seems to have affected him… it would be nothing but neglectful of me to leave him. If Mr Wooster were to follow Miss Phnell-Bungham’s invitation, I would gladly join him.”

“Oh, alright”, I sighed. “Just tell her we’re both coming.”

 

What Jeeves was thinking, forcing us both upon a bunch of perfect strangers, so deep in the countryside that even the sheep got bored, I could not say. We had a long and silent train ride to a dump named Nether Addlethorpe, where we were picked up by Daffy Phnell-Bungham herself in a car.

She wasn’t what I call pretty, but I liked her – lively and cheerful, without being oppressive. She was also very short and must have weighed about the same as a middle-sized hen.

“Has Angela told you what the problem is?” she asked while we were driving through fields.

I said nothing, but I gave Jeeves in the backseat an encouraging look.

“Yes, madam.”

“And you, Mr Wooster?”

“I don’t know the details. Anyway, I won’t be much help. Jeeves is the one who does the smart thinking. I’m just being ornamental.”

She must have spotted a splash of bitterness, so she gave me chocolate eyes and said: “Don’t say that, Mr Wooster – or, I should say, Bertie. We’ll have to call each other by first names if Father is to believe that we’re old friends, right? Don’t worry. We’ll see to it that you have fun while you’re staying. There’s a golf course near the house, you know. And on Tuesday, some of my friends are coming over for some board games. It’s not London, but you won’t get bored, I promise!”

Her soothing voice was balm for Bertram’s soul. I was starting to believe I could really distract myself from our domestic tragedy.

 

That is, until I saw the scorpions. Old Phnell-Bungham had a couple of hundred scorpion tanks put up in the drawing-room, filled to the brim with nasty, crawly, highly venomous beasties, and he was enormously proud of all of them. I got the guided tour as soon as I had entered the house and shaken the old chap’s hand. He thought his scorpions were such a treat the he even asked Jeeves to come and have a look at the things.

I could see from the look on Jeeves’ face that he would rather be anywhere else. After Bungham had introduced us personally to about two dozen species, we came to a large tank with a difference: There were two scorpions in it, not just one.

“And this, my dear Mr Wooster, is a couple of blue-bellied Whineria argutica. You came just in time for a treat: they’re going to mate any time now!”

This was too much. If life in this place was so boring that people got a thrill out of watching vermin produce more vermin, I would have to leave as soon as possible! I cast a quick glance at Jeeves, pleading with my eyes and telling him to hurry along with his magic. The sooner he was done, the sooner we could leave! But Jeeves stepped closer and eyed the things politely.

“Ah, you’re wondering why they’re holding hands, eh?” said old Bungham jovially. The two critters really looked as if they were holding hands, though: they had locked their pincers as if they were about to do a ring-a-roses. “It’s a pretty sad story. Scorpions can’t let their guard down, even when they’re mating. They might get attacked by their partner if something goes awry, you see, so they hold hands to keep each other’s pincers busy, and to make it harder for the partner to sting them.”

“What happens if they let go after… you know?” I asked.

“Oh, sometimes the male gets eaten. Scorpions have horrible private lives, you know. They never even have any intimate contact with each other. The male just leaves his sperm somewhere for the female to pick it up.”

I could feel my face growing hot. I mean to say, I’m a modern chap, as modern as they come, but to hear a dignified old man, and a perfect stranger at that, talk about the married life of the scorpion gave me the pip.

“Your man’s looking quite fascinated”, said Bungham in a very loud whisper and turned to Jeeves. “Interested in scorpions, are you?”

Jeeves had been in a kind of trance, staring at the things as if mesmerized. Now he woke up and got a grip on himself. “They are very interesting, sir. I have never had much interest in entomology, but this seems to have been a mistake.”

“Not much interest in entomology”, chuckled the old man. “I can tell. Entomology is the science of insects. Scorpions aren’t insects, you know. There are some books in the guest rooms. Some of them about scorpions. If you want to catch up on… oh, here they go now! Do you see how they’re pushing each other around? It looks like a dance, doesn’t it? Quite tragic, when you think about it. Whenever I have a row with my wife, I remind myself: at least we’re not scorpions!”

Anybody who didn’t know better would have let the matter slip, but I did know better. I’m the first to admit that I would have made the same mistake, throwing scorpions into one bag with the insects. But Jeeves! My heart was bleeding for the poor chap. He had to be quietly fighting for his sanity to make a mistake of this magnitude. Something had to be done about our star-crossed love affair. I’ve read that people can die of a broken heart, and I was sure that Jeeves was close to it.

 

I met Daffy’s dreamboat, Albert Spinnerett, over dinner. He was very handsome and very aloof. While Daffy was melting into her food bowl whenever she looked at him, he eyed her with friendly indifference. I spotted the problem right away: too many scorpions on the chap’s mind. He talked about nothing but scorpions, and neither did old Bungham.

Jeeves was standing to attention in the background, together with some of the ghosts of the Phnell-Bungham household. I had told him specifically to have a good look at Spinnerett and see what one could make of him in re: Daffy. But whenever I stole a glance at him, I found that he was eyeing my back instead of Spinnerett’s. I got really pipped at the neglectful ass. Couldn’t he stop thinking about his own problems for a second, and put his mind to the one of Daffy and her scorpion lover? After all, here I was, suffering from an unhappy love affair, just like him, but I could at least be selfless enough to try and make other, luckier people happy!

 

We met Daffy in the garden after dinner. We were standing beside a large rhododendron bush, quite in plain sight of the house, but our voices were low.

“So, you know the situash”, I said to Jeeves, and Daffy hung on our lips, “what do you make of it?”

“It seems that the young gentleman is exceedingly interested in scorpions”, said Jeeves.

“What, really?”

“Sir, I am aware that the impression forces itself on the observer, but I think I already have an angle from which to approach the problem. I take it, Miss Phnell-Bungham, that you are quite well-versed in all things concerning scorpions?”

“Oh yes”, said Daffy darkly. “Grew up around the blasted things. Never had a scorpion-free day in my life. I’m talking to him about scorpions every day, you know. But it’s not enough to get him interested.”

“From the conversation between Mr Spinnerett and Mr Phnell-Bungham I take it that Mr Spinnerett is interested in a very specific scorpion Mr Phnell-Bungham has in his possession – an animal by the name of Emerald.”

“Yes. Emerald is a Heimeria telsoserrata, a South-Italian cleft-stinger. A male. Albert – I should say Mr Spinnerett – has a female. Very few people in England have this species. Albert is trying to get Father to borrow him Emerald to mate him with his Betsy. But Father won’t think of it. He is afraid that Betsy will eat Emerald after… you know. It’s only a small risk, I keep telling him, and he could get a couple of the babies in return, even if Emerald does get eaten. But he won’t hear of it.”

“I see, madam. I think this is exactly the toe-hold where we should begin. If you were to go to dramatic lengths to do him a singular favour, while at the same time linking to the subject he is most interested in, you could prove yourself a soul mate in his area of expertise, but at the same time a woman in love.”
“He always talks like that”, I explained to Daffy.

“You mean I should keep trying to talk Father into borrowing him Emerald.”

“No, madam. I propose you abduct Emerald for one night and bring him back before dawn, thus enabling the two animals a night of passion, and fascinating the young man by disobeying your parents to make him happy.”

“That’s brilliant”, I said. And he'd come up with that one while broken-hearted! “He’s brilliant, isn’t he?”

“Thank you, sir.”

“You really are, Jeeves”, beamed Daffy. “Handling Emerald is child’s play for me. I’ll have to sneak past Mother, of course, but… yes, that’s going to be easy! I’ll do it right tonight!”

The plan sounded like a corker. But take it from Bertram: If someone says “It’s child’s play”, be warned. It never is, once you get down to business, and the girl found out the same night.

Chapter Text

I was sitting in the tub, and Jeeves was bustling about the room.

“Jeeves”, I said, “you’ve done it again. Tomorrow by this time we’ll see Daffy and Spinnerett as an engaged couple, and I’m ready to bet on it.”

“Providing everything works according to plan, sir”, said Jeeves demurely. He had his back turned to me again, which pained me. He wouldn’t look at me in my birthday suit, these days. In the past he had always acted completely natural in the bathroom, and none of my naughtier bits had ever put him at unease. I felt now, if ever, that I loved him, and that all precautions had come too late. Fate had decided to make me fall in love with a cactus.

 

The next morning I got up and dressed, and took a little walk around the garden to reap the rewards of last night’s efforts. I met Daffy in the gazebo – by herself, which gave me a dark premonition.

“Hullo, hullo”, I said. “What news from the front?”

Daffy sighed and gave me a rummy look. “If I’d only got as far as the front! Bertie, you remember that I told you I had to sneak past Mother, right? My bedroom has only one way out – through another room, where she sleeps during the hot summer months, because her normal bedroom is too warm for her at the moment. Well, she noticed me.”

“No! She did? What did you tell her?”

“That I’d heard a strange sound from the garden. Well, that was the worst possible excuse, but it was the only thing I could think of. She didn’t believe a word of it. I didn’t try it again. Imagine, if I had woken her up again!”

“That wouldn’t do at all.”

Daffy sighed heavily. “Well, here we are. No Emerald for Betsy, no Albert for me. I don’t dare to try it again, Bertie.”

“But… but… we must find a way!” I sat down beside her and patted her arm in sympathy. “I’ll tell Jeeves, and he’ll work his grey matter for five seconds and come up with another corker, you’ll see!”

Daffy looked at me for a moment too long. I did not like that. “I’m starting to think”, she said, sliding closer, “that it’s for the best. Albert – I should say Mr Spinnerett – is certainly a looker, but that’s not everything in life, is it? I’m thinking that maybe the man for me should be more approachable, and sweet, and know how to keep me entertained.”

The hair in the back of my neck was beginning to stand on end.

“What? I mean, what... what’s wrong with a man who’s… handsome and… serious and… scient… ific…” My voice trickled away like a tiny stream in the depths of the Sahara desert. Daffy was giving me chocolate eyes again, and this time she meant it.

“I think you know what I mean”, she said with a horrible twinkle. “Your man tells me that women never appreciate you for what you are. And I think you’re fabulous.”

“Well, no! You are completely mistaken! I’m not approachable! Worse than a clam, they say in my family! Bertie, he’s more reclusive than a clam. In fact, they say Bertie when they mean clam, that’s how bad it is! And I don’t know how to entertain anybody. I’m dead boring! In fact, when I’m dead, my funeral will bore thousands! Martha, they’ll say when they come home, Uncle John’ funeral was the Moulin Rouge compared to this!”
Daffy chuckled under her breath, and I realized to my horror that she found this rushed speech from my parched lips entertaining.

“You will join my friends tonight at the Bridge evening, won’t you?” she asked sweetly.

“Oh, yes. Absolutely.”

“Good. Care to go for a stroll?”

I jumped up and hit my head on the roof of the gazebo. “No. I mean, sad as it is, I have some very urgent business to do. Can’t wait. Sorry.”

And I ran down the garden path and made the gravel fly.

 

I shot through the door into my room, barricaded the door, and hid under the window.

“Jeeves”, I cried out in a hushed voice, “I want your advice!”

“Very good, sir.” Jeeves materialized out of the adjoining room.

“I say. I say, Daffy has changed her mind. Now she wants me. You must find a way to get her off my back. My life depends on your quick thinking!”

“Sir, may I ask what makes a matrimonial union with Miss Phnell-Bungham so unappealing to you?”

I gaped at the man. “You what?! Don’t be ridiculous, I can’t marry her!”

“If you don’t mind me saying so, sir, she is in many ways superior to most fiancées from your past.”
“Jeeves, you’re blabbering! What the hell are you thinking?”

Jeeves coughed. “Sir, I believe that after the events of the last few weeks, marriage would be a highly sensible step for you to take.”

The floor beneath my feet dropped away. My chin fell six feet deep, out of reach, where I could not pull it up again. Jeeves wanted to marry me off! To put me under wraps and close the box!

“The young lady has a very pleasant disposition”, said Jeeves through the haze, “but also intelligence and sensibility. Even more importantly, she shares your liking for – more or less – cultivated amusement.”
“Jeeves, are you trying to auction off a horse? Because that’s what you sound like you’re doing!”

“I think Miss Phnell-Bungham would in many ways make a very good companion to you.”

“There’s nothing wrong with her, Jeeves, but what about me? I don’t want to marry! Especially not after… everything!”

“It would be sensible. And your family would certainly approve of your choice.”

“Sensible? You’re talking about cold reason when it comes to hot passion? About my family’s opinion, when it should be a decision of heart? Damn it, Jeeves, you know why I can’t marry. You know that I would marry nobody but you, in spite of everything my family would say and in spite of your hostility against my clothes and my penny dreadfuls…” How absurd it all sounded! At this point I was running out of air. I had to gasp a few times. “But I can’t marry you. Dash it, I can’t even make love to you. And since I can’t have you, I don’t want anybody particularly, thanks very much.”

I could see in his pale face that he was moved. “In this case, sir”, he said with a slight roughness in his voice, “you will have to let the young lady know that her affections are wasted.”

“That is exactly what I need you for, Jeeves.” I dropped onto a chair. “I can’t walk up to the girl and tell her to just keep lusting after her spider-fancier.”

Jeeves’ jaw began to move sideways. His eyes began to wander towards the left side of the ceiling. “I fancy, sir, that her affections for Mr Spinnerett are not quite dead, just momentarily distracted. If Mr Spinnerett were to court her, I think it highly likely that she would quickly be charmed by him again.”

“Yes, but how? There is a light-sleeping mother factor between her bedroom and the drawing-room. She can’t get there.”

“No, sir, but you can.”

The scales fell from my eyes. “You mean, I get the blasted spider…”

“Scorpion, sir.”

“… and bring it to Spinnerett?”

“It would be advisable to do so while Mr Spinnerett is playing Bridge tonight, and to leave a note with some words of a passionate nature, together with some instructions, signed with a forged signature of the young lady.”

“Ah, but there is one problem. I can’t pick the blasted thing up in the morning and put it back in its tank before the old man notices it’s gone, because I don’t know which scorpion is which. I might, just as likely as not, swap them, and then where would we be?”

“Mr Spinnerett could easily sort this out, sir.”

“Yes, but he expects Daffy to come by and collect the beast. Say what you want about his distracted scientific nature, but he’ll notice that I’m not Daffy!”

Jeeves coughed. “Yes, sir, it would take something in the nature of diversionary tactics. I suggest you abduct the male scorpion. It joins the female in the tank, while Mr Spinnerett is away – the Bridge evening tomorrow should be an ideal opportunity. You leave a note, saying you will make Father – that is, Mr Phnell-Bungham – believe that the scorpion escaped all by itself, and that Mr Spinnerett should pretend that he found it in the house, no sooner than tea-time. By then, Mr Phnell-Bungham will be very grateful to the finder, and he will not know of the mating that has taken place.”

“But what if Betsy eats Emerald after mating?”

“In this case, sir, Emerald will be tragically missing forever, perhaps assumed to have been trodden to death under a careless shoe. In any case, Mr Spinnerett will soon be able to supply Mr Phnell-Bungham with new specimen.”

“Jeeves”, I said, and I swear my voice was heavy with tears of gratitude, “your plan is brilliant, but I know how to improve it even more. You do the whole thing. I’ll botch it. You know me.”

“I am sorry, but I must absolutely refuse. This book was on the mantelpiece, sir. It contains a useful manual on the handling and transport of scorpions, which will be very useful for your endeavour tonight.”

 

Things couldn’t have been more perfect for the fiendish strategy Jeeves had thought up. The night was warm, and the Bridge company was playing outside on the terraces. The drawing-room was empty, and Spinnerett was downstairs playing Bridge with the rest of Daffy’s friends.

And Bertram was sneaking down the stairs towards the drawing-room like a practised scorpion-thief. In my hand was a small cardboard box, and in the other the book that said how to handle the beasts. Nobody saw me come into the room. I closed the door as softly as a breeze and turned on a small light.

Old Bungham had, in his pride over his collection, labelled them all, the way a wine connoisseur would label his bottles. All I had to do was to find the South-Italian Cleft-Stinger (Jeeves had kindly written it down for me), and put the animal into the box. It couldn’t go wrong: Emerald was the only of his species in this room.

Just as soon as I had found the right tank, I was overcome by a terrible anxiety. My hands were shaking. The book said that the cleft-stingers weren’t particularly poisonous, but I still didn’t fancy getting stung by one of nature’s most vicious vermins. Emerald was sitting in his home, looking particularly sinister. He was just the sort whom you would use if you wanted to kill someone by giving them a heart attack, like they do in all those Sherlock Holmes stories. You want to kill an old enemy, you show him a particularly ugly creepy-crawly, and he keels over dead. It’s the perfect crime, except for the fact that at some point you have to handle the beast.

The book said that one should grab the tail near the stinger and then take the animal on the other hand, but how was I going to hold the box? I was definitely ill-equipped for the job in that I didn’t have enough hands.
“Hello old boy”, I said, my voice suave like a gravelly road, “Bertie’s going to take you to the adventure of a lifetime!”

Emerald was not touched. I opened the lid just a little bit, enough to squeeze my arm inside (did scorpions jump their victims insidiously? I had better keep the lid closed as far as possible), and shook my way down to the beast. He yielded a few steps from my hand, but then he got fed up and stayed put. With the power only true love can lend a man, I grabbed his tail and threw him into the cardboard box. Then I wiped the sweat from my brow.

I had him in the box, safe and sound. The rest should be easy. Now that my mind was clearer, it suddenly struck me that our cunning plan had one catch. It wasn’t very credible that Emerald should have escaped from a closed tank. I had to leave the tank a bit open, at least. Maybe old Bungham would believe that he was getting a bit senile, and that he had forgotten to close it.

But that sounded thin even to my ears. Bungham would never fall for it – him, leaving the tank of his most precious scorpion open! He would suspect foul play immediately. But if I left several tanks open, then the whole family would stand around the old man and tut-tut at him, and he would be so confused he wouldn’t even think of accusing anyone.

I had to select a few tanks, and do it quickly. But you don’t want a handful of the deadliest crawling around the house at night, and I had no time to get a few books and look up which was which. So I just made a quick silent prayer, closed my eyes and pointed my finger at a random tank. This one I opened. I did this five times more, and then I thought it enough. With any luck, they wouldn’t even feel like taking a stroll. One could only hope.

I made it to Spinnerett’s room unheard and unseen. He had a dozen small tanks on his desk, all labelled just like Bungham’s, and it was the work of a moment to drop Emerald in with Betsy. I then grabbed a piece of paper and a pencil from the desk and wrote a note.

From Daffy, with Love

Return Emerald tomorrow. Father thinks he has escaped from this tank. Come downstairs around teatime, pretend that you found him in the house.

After some more thinking, I added:

Piningly, Daffy

This should do. I left the two lovebirds to it, put the paper on the desk, and flew downstairs again. The Bridge party on the terrace was up and running when I entered.

“So”, I said and wiped my brow again. “What ho, everybody!”

 

Say what you want about Daffy Phnell-Bungham’s fickle heart – she had a very good taste in friends, and we made a merry bunch until shortly after midnight, when we were quite done playing, and also nobody could really hold the cards any more.

I, feeling not unlike an olive in a martini, and thoroughly satisfied with my performance in re: Emerald, tried to find my way to my room, and failed. Instead I ended up somewhere on the ground floor, in a corridor where I was certainly not supposed to be. Any minute now I would get into a kitchen-maid’s way and get charmed out of the chunnel, and look like a perfect fool even to the staff.

But it was no kitchen-maid I met, it was Jeeves. I met him between a doorway and a sideboard that was covered in dishes, and I counted on his infallible reflexes to avert an impact between the two corpi involved. I shouldn’t have. We collided in the doorway and whisked a few trays from the sideboard.

“I’m sorry, sir.”

“No, not at all, my fault completely. I’m sozzled as an amarena cherry. You?”

“I have to admit, sir, it is the cook’s birthday and I was invited to… share a couple of drinks… more than I should have”, he added pensively.

“No, it’s fine, you deserve it, after the bad time we’ve all had”, I said. “It’s no fun, what, being lovesick.”

“No, sir.”

“I’m lost, Jeeves.”

“Lost, sir?”

“Can’t find my room.”

“Allow me, sir. I distinctly remember where we left it.” We set off, but we didn’t get far: one of the trays had perfidiously lodged itself between my calves, so that I fell over it, and took Jeeves with me. He hit the wall of the doorway, and I hit him. For a moment we had to collect our bearings. Then I realized how lovely it was, being pressed against him in this way. He wasn’t moving. His eyes had a sad shine to them as they looked down on me.

I felt the tender beginnings of an erection against me. He “wore” right, that much was certain, and as I did too, a bit of shifting was necessary to bring the two together. Jeeves’ eyes fell half-shut, his mouth opened just a bit, and he groaned under his breath as I began to slide slowly against him. His warmth, the scent of his skin, and our shared excitement made me bold enough to try a kiss.

So there I was, kissing my manservant in the doorway and rubbing my particulars against his, and I felt that this was all I had ever expected from life. But it didn’t last long. Suddenly his eyes flew open, and he pushed me away like a rag doll. He seems too confused to say anything at all. Only after he had picked up the trays, he cleared his throat and said hoarsely: “Follow me, sir.”

I knew what this meant. We Woosters know when a battle can’t be won, so I hung my head and followed him, let him put me into bed, and finally took care of my needs all alone. At least I was drunk enough to sleep like a rock afterwards.

Chapter Text

I woke up peacefully the around eleven and watched the rain pour down outside the window. But soon memories from last night hit me over the head with a truncheon. Daffy had given me the eyes rather a lot with me last night. She had also given Spinnerett the e.’s, but then, he was meant for her and I wasn’t. If everything went according to plan, he would tip the scales himself today. The plan could hardly fail. It was one of Jeeves’, after all.

Jeeves! I thought of our little episode in the corridor, and my heart grew heavy again. It was clear now that he wanted me still, but he wasn’t satisfied until I was an arm’s length away. Did he think he was a scorpion? Was he trying to break me into long-distance mating? Well, I wasn’t a scorpion, that much I was sure of. Where was the blighter anyway?

Blinking through sticky eyes into the cruel light of day, I found a glass of Jeeves’ hangover cure on the nightstand, and beside it a piece of paper:

 

Unfortunately I am currently engaged in a search of several scorpions, which for unknown reasons escaped last night. Everybody in the house is advised to wear shoes at all times, and to examine their clothing carefully before dressing.

All of the staff are required to help searching, excepting only the cook, but if you ring, she will hear it and have me sent up to your room.

 

I drank the cure. I looked into my slippers and through every trouser leg and every shirt arm, and then I dressed. It was not before lunchtime that I came toddling downstairs. I met old Bungham in the corridor, walking to and fro and scrutinizing the baseboard.

“What ho”, I said. “Bit of rotten luck, eh? About the scorpions roaming the house?”

My affability didn’t warm the old man at all. He just said “Shhhht!” and kept going. I traipsed on, but then he called after me: “Keep your eyes open, will you? And don’t try to catch them on your own. You might get stung!”

“Are there any deadly ones out there?”

“Possibly.”

“Oh.” I made my way to the other rooms and came across a kitchen maid who was going through the crockery in a sideboard as if it were made of egg-shells. She seemed to expect something deadly jumping at her from a saucer any time now. I asked if she had seen Jeeves, and she sent me to a corridor on the other side of the drawing-room.

I found the fellow there, going through a broom-cabinet.

“What ho, Jeeves.”

“Good day, sir.”

“How many escaped from Alcatraz?”

“Seven, sir, but three of them are already caught.”

“That part was my own idea. Leaving a few tanks open, I mean to say.”

Jeeves gave me a strangely soupy look. “Indeed, sir? I thought so.”

“You mustn’t be so gloomy about it, my man. If only one had escaped, it might have looked like foul play.”

“I suppose there is some truth in that”, he admitted reluctantly. “In any event, Mr Phnell-Bungham does seem too confused to speak out any accusations – so far.”

“How long have you been searching the house?”

“Six hours, sir.”

“Well, if he hasn’t said anything so far, he won’t say anything at all, I reckon. What about the lovebirds?”
Jeeves brightened up at this subj. “Mr Spinnerett has been eyeing Miss Phnell-Bungham with visible interest since breakfast, sir.”

“You see, Jeeves? Your plan brought home the bacon after all.”

“It would seem that way, sir. By the way, sir, there will be no lunch, unless the escaped animals are caught by this time. I suggest you help searching, to speed up the end of the hunt.”

 

It was a cruel thing to ask of a chap who hadn’t had breakfast and hadn’t been fed lunch, to search a stranger’s house for their vermin on an empty stomach. But in the hunt, all differences of sex, class or education were annihilated: everybody in the house, staff or owner or guest, was crawling the floors and going through bookcases, touching things as carefully as if they were red-hot, and walking across the floor as if it were made of lava. This must be the image of equality those revolutionary chappies imagine the world should be. Someone should tell them that they’ve got it all wrong: they don’t need rallies and signs, they just need a couple of scorpions for every household in England.

The ordeal went on and on. By teatime, two more scorpions had been caught. Now only two were missing, one of them Emerald. And sure enough, at five precisely, a triumphant cry came from the drawing-room. Everybody heeded the call, and soon the whole household was assembled around Mr Spinnerett, who was holding Emerald on his hand, and Mr Phnell-Bungham, who was fussing over the animal happily.

“You have no idea how relieved I am to have him back”, he said and slapped Spinnerett on the shoulder.

“Don’t mention it. I’m just glad nobody got stung”, Spinnerett said and lifted his chin heroically.

Old Phnell-Bungham was just about to answer, but I had to interrupt him rather rudely by screaming and jumping about five feet high into the air. A pinprick like a red-hot needle had just taken place in my right forearm.

“Here, now, what happened?” asked the old man with a touch of reproach.

“Mr Wooster’s been stung.”

I fell back into a chair and pulled my sleeve up with a trembling hand. There was only a tiny red dot on my arm, but it was burning like the dickens. The beast had got under the sleeve of the jacket and, not liking it there, had stung me through the shirt.

Jeeves jumped to my side. “Mr Spinnerett, how dangerous is this animal?”

Spinnerett grabbed the blasted critter with a practised grip and eyed it up and down. “Oh, it’s a South Indian Greyfooted.”

“Well, then, what’s it going to be?” I asked weakly. “Amputation or death?”

Daffy came and fussed over me. “Here, don’t get agitated. It won’t help. Keep calm.”

Jeeves behind me was panting like a race horse. It served him right, I decided. At least I would have one final satisfaction. When I was dead, Jeeves would eternally be sorry for his coldness of heart!

“Any heart troubles in the family?” asked Spinnerett serenely.

“Not so far, but after today, I’ll be the first!”

“You should be fine, then”, he replied cheerfully. “It’ll just swell and ache for a while. Very unpleasant, but nearly always harmless. Just put something cold on it. Phew, that was the last one. I’m starving. Anyone else for scones?”

 

When I came back from the kitchen with some ice in a tea towel, Daffy met me on the corridor. She came sailing towards me from a starboard direction.

“Bertie, everything worked out wonderfully”, she told me in a hushed voice. “Mr Spinnerett – or, I should say, Albert – proposed to me just twenty minutes ago, before he brought Emerald back to Father!”

No victory in the Crusades ever cheered a Wooster up as this news did Bertram. “You accepted?”

“Of course I did! Oh, I’m so grateful to both of you! And I do so hope that you’ll both be as happy one day as I am right now – if that’s at all possible!”

The smile I was trying to put on in the face of young love was sliding down my chin. The cold steel of reality cut me, and I knew that her wish would not come true, at least for me. Love was not meant for Bertie Wooster.
“Bertie? Did I say anything wrong?”

“No! No, I’m just happy for you…” It was less than three syllables into the sentence before my voice broke and left me sounding like a man who has just imbibed a gallon of helium. Poor Daffy, of course, got it all wrong.
“Oh. Oh my gosh, Bertie! I’m so sorry! I didn’t think you’d… Jeeves said you wouldn’t…”

The mention of Jeeves’ cursed name constricted my throat like a badly-knotted tie. I suddenly couldn’t breathe.

“You know, after I didn’t get Emerald, Jeeves came to me yesterday morning and suggested that I should pretend to be interested in you, just to see if Albert would get a bit jealous. To have a rival in the picture, you see. And he said you shouldn’t know that I was just pretending, because then you’d try much harder to get Albert and me together.”

Did that man’s depravity know no bounds? I thought so, and I said so.

But Daffy jumped to the rescue immediately. “If I had known that you’d take it so hard, I would never have said yes! But Jeeves told me fourteen times you wouldn’t want to marry me anyway, so you wouldn’t mind playing the decoy! And you got Emerald out of his tank, too, and wrote a note for Albert… with my name on it… just to help me get him… when you would have liked to marry me yourself?”

I sat down. I fanned myself for a bit. I tried to think. Was I in the soup again, or was I not? Where exactly was I?

Daffy gave me her handkerchief.

“Wait”, I said. “Let’s straighten out all the facts of the case. You never really wanted me.”

“I’m sorry, Bertie. It was Albert all the time.”

“But Jeeves told you to pretend that you wanted me, because that would get Albert jealous.”

“Yes.”

“But he told you not to tell me…” My head began to hurt. “I wasn’t to know that it was just a red herring. I was supposed to think you really wanted me.”

“To make you more anxious to help. That’s what Jeeves said.”

“Because I didn’t want to marry you anyway.”

“Again, that’s what Jeeves said. If I had known that you were interested yourself, I would never have…”

“Dear old thing”, I said, drying my tears, “do not worry about it. Jeeves was right. You’re a fine girl in many ways, but you’re not my kind of girl.” And I managed to smile quite sincerely.

“No? Then why are you crying?”

“Happiness”, I said. “Happiness for you. And because Emerald got Betsy, and you got Mr Spinnerett, and all I get is stung, but mostly happiness. Definitely mostly happiness.” And I smiled. And I can tell you why I smiled: Because the mastermind had made one fatal mistake, and now I saw all.

 

Later, when I had changed into my pyjamas and was ready for bed, Jeeves shimmered in once more to tuck me in. He carried a little jar of something or other.

“Mr Spinnerett was kind enough to give me this, sir. He said it would ease the swelling on your arm.”

“Ease away, I can certainly do with some easing. That blasted bite burns like fire.”

“If you’ll allow me, sir.” Jeeves took my arm, rolled up the sleeve and began to rub the stuff on. At first I hissed at the mere touch, but the ointment was as good as its word – after a few seconds, a cooling and tingling sensation happened, and then the pain was much more bearable.

Jeeves finished his work with some cotton gauze.

“Lucky that it wasn’t a deadly one, what?” I said weakly.

“Indeed, sir. It was a terrifying experience.” He looked up at me and smiled a bit. He was making love again, and I began to hope.

“Jeeves”, I said, “do you admit that you talked Daffy into pairing up with me, not just to make Spinnerett jealous over her, but because you thought that another escape from hellish matrimony would make me fling myself into your arms again?”

“I admit, this was the scheme I had in mind.”

“Oh dash it all”, I said and jumped at him. But when I took his face between my hands and planted a kiss on him, he suddenly recoiled and went stiff as a broom again.

“Sir”, he said touchily, “I distinctly remember telling you that I do not like to be crowded.”

“Crowded? What do you mean, crowded? You mean I’m not allowed to kiss you?”

“I would feel easier if you left the business in my hands. I thought you were always very satisfied with the way I handle your affairs.”

“Yes, but… but Jeeves! You can’t keep a lover at bay with a whip and a chair! Do you… you do know that I won’t eat you after mating, right?”

“Yes, sir, I am aware of the fact.”

“Then what is eating you? Why won’t you tell me?”

“Don’t you think that such an arrangement could be very satisfying for both of us?”

“No, it blooming well couldn’t!” I started to pace around Jeeves, giving expression to my feelings with my arms, not unlike a windmill. “Maybe for you! But I can’t have that. Not being allowed to come to you at will? Only speaking when spoken to? Even Florence wasn’t that cruel! The way you’re treating me, you might as well be an aunt!”

I’ll be damned if I didn’t see a thin film of water forming over the honest fellow’s lower lids. Suddenly my own headlights started to leak in sympathy. “I’m sorry, old thing”, I said, mustering all my strength. “This won’t do. If nothing has changed, we’ll have to call the whole thing off.”

Jeeves’ voice was barely audible. “Very good, sir.”

“Now leave me alone before I make a fool of myself, will you.” My voice broke, and Jeeves floated out.

 

I admit shamefully: when he was gone, I threw myself between the covers and cried myself to sleep. Much later I woke up very thirsty. I could have died for a glass of water, but instead I did the sensible thing and rang for Jeeves.

For some reason, this manoeuver failed to produce a Jeeves. After ringing for the seventh time, I got up and went to his little room myself. The irresponsible blighter wasn’t in bed, and I was left to my own devices.
On my way to the kitchen I saw a faint light from the drawing-room. I looked into the matter quickly, and there I found Jeeves: sitting in a wooden chair next to one of the scorpion tanks, in the light of a small dim lamp, and staring at the beasts like a marble statue.

He never even noticed me as I slunk off to the kitchen.

 

My arm was still aching the next morning, so I carried it in a sling. Jeeves was sitting opposite of me on the train home, and in the bright sunlight that shone on his face, he looked pretty unhealthy. I reckoned that he hadn’t got much sleep for staring at scorpions.

After twenty minutes of solid silence, an elderly couple who were sickeningly in love with each other came in and took two of the other seats. The words of greeting they said to us, and we to them, sounded as strange as if they had been spoken in a silent cathedral. The two old prunes fell into silence too, but it was a very warm silence. Every time one of them looked up, the other smiled. I hoped they would both die of a heart attack, preferably while I was watching.

Just as I was thinking that, I scratched the back of my neck with the left hand. My wrist met an unexpected crisp resistance on the way, coming from my breast pocket. Had I forgotten a slip of paper in there?

Impossible, I had only put on the suit this morning. I fished the article out of the pocket. It was not just a slip of paper, it was a whole sheet, neatly folded several times. I looked at Jeeves. He met my eyes, then averted them. Of course, he had put it there for me to find.

A cold hand gripped my heart, and the cushions of the seat seemed to fall away and drop me into an endless black abyss. Was this Jeeves’ formal resignation? Would he leave me alone in the cold?

There were black spots before my eyes when I unfolded the hellish letter. But then, Jeeves wouldn’t use a crumpled sheet of paper for a resignation, would he? It would have to have an envelope, at least. With the Sword of Democrit hanging over me, I began to read.

 

Dearest Mr Wooster,

 

This was Jeeves’ neat handwriting, but this was no way to begin a resignation letter, unless I was very much behind the times. The clouds of terror were lifted from my mind, and I could read on with a much lighter heart.

 

I am very sorry for the way I spurned your affections recently. The long and the short of it is that I was wrong; that you deserve to be loved unconditionally; and that one cannot expect love to grow under the circumstances which I tried to implement.

 

I looked at the fellow. He kept staring at his hands in his lap, as if he was counting if they were still all present. Only the slightest movement under the skin of his throat showed that he was inwardly screaming and jumping in circles.

 

There is an explanation for my behaviour – it might strike you as silly, but I hope you can understand to a certain degree why I acted this way. I have learned that it is important to retain control over one’s life at all times. You not only left me that, you even trusted me enough to grant me control over certain aspects of your life.

I am not naturally a trusting soul, and when our relationship began to change in a more intimate direction, I could feel that my grasp was slipping. There is no book of rules for a relationship like ours, and my growing fondness for you, combined with our social positions, made me fear that I was giving you incalculable power over me at last.

 

“But… blast it. This is nonsense”, I said out loudly, and I hoped my indignation would show in my voice. What did he think I would do? Put on a black moustache and tie him to the railway tracks? When all I wanted to do was love him and cherish him, and make myself a complete fool over him?

 

I tried to keep control of all our improper encounters because I was scared of depending on you, and your emotions for me. But I know now that I cannot control your affections, and that I must simply step out into the weather and brave it, whatever may come.

I hope you can understand that this step, which you always take so easily – to trust someone, and to depend on them – is very hard for me. I would never put myself into anybody else’s hands in this way; in fact, I never meant to put myself in yours, but I am afraid I already am.

Will you still have me, if I promise to muster the courage necessary to let you love me?

J

 

I was not sure I had read this all correctly, so I read it again, and tried to make something out of it. But the more I read and the more I tried, the more it was clear that there was only one thing to make of it. The birds started to sing; flowers began to bloom on barren fields; the two sweet old people next to us told us a story about how love can last; and life became one grand song again.

Jeeves had been eyeing me quietly, his hands folded in his lap like a schoolboy’s. Then he saw my smile, and the light of love lit up once more in his eyes, and his quarter-inch smile came back to his face after all those weeks.

I smiled so broadly I must have looked like a perfect idiot, but I didn’t know what to say. So I just folded up the paper and put it back into the pocket, and stretched out my legs, so that one of my trouser-legs was touching his in an inconspicuous way.

And the arm wasn’t aching any more, and all was golden.