I heard the sound of a much-needed cup of tea being set upon the bedside table.
“Good morning, sir.”
“Hnh?” I shifted in bed. Despite their desire to stay closed, I fought the good fight with my eyelids and forced them open. “Jeeves?”
“It is nearly noon, sir—I thought--“ the words died on my man’s lips. He looked over my head at the wall.
I was baffled. Then I discovered I wasn’t wearing my pyjama top. “Oh! Surely you’re not offended that the young master is bare-chested?”
I shifted back to get a better look at my man, and my back pressed against something...
Solid, warm and shifting.
Since I do not own a dog and my aunt’s terrier McIntosh was not staying with us, it took a moment for me to turn from Jeeves to the solid w.s. behind me.
A young woman with dark brown hair and green eyes looked up at me. “Hallo, luv,” she chirped.
I know what you’re thinking. Wooster, you cad! You blot! You married this sweet young thing and you don’t know her name? Where’s the Code you’re always blathering about? What happened to our fair, our innocent young Bertie Wooster? Who is this heartless libertine?
Let me explain. The novels and stories I write are for the general public, you see. Parents read my tales to their tykes. Should I poison their nascent brains with tales of my exploits? Not that there are that many, but there are exploits. And an exploit is not something I can bung into one of my light-hearted tales. Well, I could, but it would have to be marketed to an older audience, and shock my aunts to no good effect. One can only imagine Aunt Agatha careening to London from her suite in Castle Dracula, ready to tear her nephew apart with her fangs.
All of the young men in my circle have exploits. I choose not to write about them so as not to unwittingly toss anyone into the tureen. Would it do to detail Catsmeat Potter-Pirbright’s dalliance with a maiden from Suffolk? Well, not a maiden, but you know what I mean. Or to admit that my old schoolmate Bingo Little, who throws his heart at any female remaining stationary long enough, had a torrid three weeks in Spain with a lissome beazel under the names Mr. and Mrs. Hagerty-Phipps-Toulouse? Or that my dear friend Ginger Winship prefers the company of his own sex and that is why he frequently travels to Brazil? No, it would not do.
Unless this has slipped from your nerveless fingers, I shall go on to explain. Like Ginger, I prefer the company of my own sex. However, Wooster has not met a cove that’s worth doing two years of hard labor for. If I was Oscar Wilde, I might get some poetry out of it. But I doubt anyone wants to read “Bertie and The Striped Prison Suit”. However, the fairer sex are easily available in a variety of sizes and colors. Any number of females have flung themselves at me, seeking matrimony, but that is not for Bertie. They entangle themselves with this Wooster in the mistaken notion that I nurture a tender pash in their direction. I don’t know that I’ve ever had a tender pash. And I have taken great care to not bring any cove or filly back to the flat.
The reason is Jeeves. Anyone who reads my little narratives knows that I hold the man in the highest esteem. He is the ideal to which we should all aspire. His magnificent brain, chiseled features and imposing broad-shouldered physique seemed impervious to desires of the flesh. Although I occasionally indulged in rather naughty fantasies as to what might be under his white shirt and sleeve garters, I had the strong impression that earthly delights were something he would not delight in, if you take my meaning.
“Good morning...?” I said with less than my usual panache.
The girl yawned and stretched, revealing herself to be wearing the top of my coral pajamas. When I turned, Jeeves was gone.
“Beryl.” She was pretty, large green eyes, pert nose, rosy lips and slightly pointed chin. She was practically purring. “You naughty man.” She reached a hand to her hair, which was mussed. Beryl had an unplaceable accent. If I had to guess, it would be Cockney tortured into an approximation of proper British vowels. Or possibly American. I’ve always had trouble telling them apart.
I shifted away from her in the bed. “I have a serious question to put before you, er—“
“Yes, I have a serious question to put before you, Beryl.”
“Ask away,” she sighed.
“Are we married?”
Beryl gave such a hearty laugh I nearly fell out of the bed. “Married? Are you mad? Of course we’re not married! When would we have time to get married?”
Looking around the bedroom, attempting to reconstruct the night before, my eye alighted on an object hanging on the bedpost. A funny hat, made of gauzy stuff with gold striping running across it, with a large funny gold flap on either side. Aha! The memory rushed in. A chorus line of beautiful girls, kicking and singing.
“Ride up to the sky with me
Won’t you aeroplane with me!”
The delightful musical, ‘Node’s Jollities of 1934’, at the Princess Theater! I attended with Tuppy Glossop. He’d had yet another row with Angela. How she could withstand the rows that came as regularly as the ocean tides escaped me. Several of the young ladies of the chorus caught our eye. During the interval we sent around champagne and notes. When the show was finished, Tuppy and I went backstage along with a group of other chappies, much champagne was opened, much revelry, and then it became a tad hazy. But now I remembered ALL.
“I told you that.”
“No, you’re Beryl! Third from the left! I say, I say! I remember you!”
“I should hope so,” she pouted.
Beryl! Of course! She enchanted me the minute she first stepped onstage, in her quaint little crab costume for the “O’er the Oceans I’m Seeking You” number. Her lithe figure, her red lips, the whole package was quite topping. She had bally marvelous legs.
“You have bally marvelous legs!” I exclaimed. “That’s right!”
“Why, thank you ever so, Mr. Wooster.” She reached up and pulled me down for a kiss. I unhooked myself from her arms.
“No, I can’t—pardon me, but I must go speak to my man.” I pulled on a dressing gown before I went into the sitting room. “Jeeves?”
He turned, as expressionless as a—as someone with no expression. “Yes, sir?”
Trying to be nonchalant, I waited for Jeeves to give notice. But he continued to gaze at me. Not even an eyebrow twitch.
“Well! Yes! This is awkward, by Jove.”
“What is, sir?”
“Dash it, Jeeves, I was in my cups! You might have seen to it that the young lady went in the opposite direction of my front door,” I remonstrated. “Or at the very least bedded her down in the guest bedroom.”
“I was asleep when you returned home, sir. When I awakened, the tenor of your conversation suggested that an intrusion would be most unwelcome.”
“Oh! Oh, dear. I’m dreadfully sorry this happened, I’ve not brought a beazel home before.”
“It is your home, sir,” he said coldly.
“Jeeves, it’s yours as well.”
“I live here because you employ me, sir.”
Oh, dear indeed. Jeeves was most definitely put out. “I didn’t mean to. I was a bit under the surface, and we—Miss—um—Beryl has three flatmates. And we couldn’t find a hotel room.”
“If you say so, sir.” There was a freezing downdraft coming from Jeeves’s direction. I needed a raccoon coat and gloves to withstand the chill. “Does sir plan to appear in the circus?”
“The Harlequin makeup, sir.”
I reached up and touched my face. My fingers came away with smeared red lip rouge. Unnerved, I chuckled. “Oh! No, that’s lip rouge. Well, out, out damned spot, what?”
Jeeves remained frosty. But the cove knew I was a man of the world.
“Jeeves, old thing,” I made another feeble attempt at a chuckle. “You know I’m a man of the world.”
It was not what I was doing, or who I was doing the what with, it was the where. The flat had been sacrosanct, untouched, a virgin temple. Jeeves had been the temple guardian lo these last two years. But Wooster had snuck past the guardian and ironically—is that the word I want? No, inevitably? No, dash it! Irrevocably!—irrevocably removed the sanct from the sacrosanct.
“I’m terribly sorry I have sullied the Wooster abode, but there’s nothing I can do about it now. The damage has been done. There is no repairing it. The virgin temple is virgin no more.”
“I beg your pardon, sir?”
“If you want to give notice...”
“Why should I wish to do that, sir? It is hardly my place to have strong feelings about my master’s romantic activities.”
“You have strong feelings about everything, Jeeves.”
“Will there be anything further, sir?”
I gave up. Relief that he wouldn’t quit over my indiscretion mixed with...I’m not sure what. I mean to say, if Bingo Little wearing a tie with little horseshoes causes Jeeves to leave the room to compose himself, or my banjolele playing leads him to give notice, surely this was near the top of the Jeeves Disapproves scale? Why wasn’t he setting the sofa on fire?
“I like her,” I stated. “So!” I clapped my hands together in a feeble effort to be insouciant, if that’s the word I want. Yes, insouciant, light hearted, carefree. “Nothing to be done, eh? It’s breakfast for two, Jeeves.”
“Very good, sir.” He started for the kitchen, but I stopped him.
“Jeeves, it appears the young lady came here in only a costume, so we shall have to send for her clothes. I presume they are back at the Princess Theater. She’s in a show there.”
“Yes, sir. I will go prepare breakfast, sir. Shall I serve it in your bedroom, sir?”
“What? No! The dining room, Jeeves. We’re not barbarians.”
“As you say, sir.” He floated to the kitchen. The swinging door swung in a marked manner.
Well! Dashed awkward, the whole business, but there was nothing for it but to carry on. I mean, one couldn’t bung a chorus girl out onto the street in nothing but a spangled costume, no matter how becoming.