It was that dreaded time of the year; summer. Lest I be misunderstood; young Bertram enjoys a warm, English summer day as much as any other chap; the clear, blue sky, the ripe, fresh strawberry enjoyed with a dollop of cream, the simple joy of a jaunt in Hyde Park when the sun is shining down on the metrop and all is right with the world, and God is in his heaven, or possibly the other way around. No, the thing about summer that makes me dread the season so is that it inevitably and inexorably heralds the annual vacation of my man, Jeeves.
‘That’s all, Wooster?’ you may well cry. ‘Surely a man can manage a handful of days in the year sans his gentleman’s gentleman without getting needlessly hysterical about it?’ But that was just it, you see; I did feel rather n. h. You would too, if you had a valet like Jeeves. He doesn’t just iron my socks and pick out my ties; he is the glue that holds the Wooster household together. Without him, I am less of a man; I’m hardly a man at all.
This particular year, Jeeves had asked permission to take his annual holiday a little earlier than usual, which I had duly granted. After all, if he must be gone for two weeks, we may as well get it over and done with. Said paragon of valets had then biffed off to Brighton, where he proposed to spend two weeks soaking up sun and reeling in fish, possibly to feed his ever-growing and impressive brain. Shortly after his extraction, the young master, which is to say yours truly, received a rather frantic telegram from Barmy, which is to say Barmy Fotheringay-Phipps, who had been enjoying some success with his latest musical comedy; a little something called “Love Lisps Eternal” unless I'm mistaken, which I frequently am. Had the word love in the title, of that I'm certain. It will come to me. At any rate, I was surprised to get the telegram, what with the aforementioned success. It stated, bafflingly; “IN DIRE STRAIGHTS STOP THEATRICAL EMERGENCY STOP NEED JEEVES URGENTLY STOP.”
Well, what’s a chap to say to a missive like that? I replied as follows: “JEEVES UNAVAILABLE STOP WHAT’S ALL THIS RE EMERGING STRAITS STOP CAN BERTRAM BE OF ASSISTANCE STOP.”
I soon received this: “GOOD CHAP STOP JOIN US IN BRIGHTON ASAP STOP PS MUSTACHE PREFERRED STOP,” at which point I rang him up on the telephone, because mustaches tend to make me rather nervous of late.
“I say Barmy,” I said, once we’d been properly connected and the operator had stopped explaining the long distance charges to me, “what’s all this about mustaches?”
“Oh, hello Bertie!” He sounded cheerful enough. Perhaps whatever it was had blown over, and I could get back to moping about the place forlornly. I considered this, realizing that dealing with Barmy’s problems, whatever they be, might be a preferable option.
“Yes, hello and all that.” One must be civil, of course. “Now, what about these mustaches? In Brighton, no less?”
“Yes, we’d rather you had one. There won’t be time for you to grow one, unfortunately, but we have a wonderful girl in the costume department that could make a choir boy look like Father Christmas in a jiffy with some spirit gum and a few odds and ends.”
“But I don’t particularly want to look like Father Christmas,” I protested, “or a choir boy, for that matter. What’s this all about, Barmy?”
“Why, your part in the show, of course!”
“My part in the show?”
“The one you just agreed to take over for the Brighton run. I really can’t thank you enough, Bertie; Evangeline sprang everything on me at the last minute, and we would have been in dire straights if you hadn’t bucked up!”
“You keep mentioning those,” I said, having to sit down at this point, “but I can’t seem to get a handle on what’s actually gone wrong, old fruit.” The idea of d. s. did not sound appealing. I get seasick in smaller boats.
“I didn’t tell you? I’m sure I told you; Evangeline’s getting married!”
I was momentarily overcome by dread. “Not to me?” I didn’t even know the girl, but it wouldn’t be the first time.
“Of course not; to her fiancé. Rather silly to do it any other way, I should think.”
“Well, certainly. When you put it that way.”
“So obviously we needed someone else for the part rather quickly, as we’re opening next week.”
“Evangeline’s part? I don’t make the most attractive of females you know, Barmy.” The maid disguise I had been forced to wear once had been a stretch. To this day I shall never know why Jeeves insisted on it.
“No, no; Robert’s part. Her fiancé. You’d hardly need a mustache to play an Arabian princess, now would you?”
“I suppose not.”
“Evangeline has an understudy, but Robert was the understudy; Simon is still laid up with his leg broken. They both took off to Cannes just like that, not so much as a postcard! Except the one I just got, of course, explaining everything. But really; is that any sort of way to behave?”
I agreed it wasn’t. My eyes searched the room out of instinct, wondering why Jeeves hadn’t handed me a refreshing something or other to drink. When I realized that refreshment would not be forthcoming and why, I sank a little deeper into my chair, and sighed.
“Anyway, I’m glad that’s all settled now. He plays the piano in the second act, you see, which is why I jumped at the chance to get you. I was going to ask Jeeves for advice, but I’m sure would just have suggested you. Opening night is Friday, so you’d have to get here tomorrow at the latest.”
“At the latest?”
“For the costume fitting. And the mustache, of course.”
I bit my lip. I’m not one of nature’s performers, despite a fairly decent experience with poetry recital in my formative years, but even then I had a tendency to go red about the ears and stammer towards the end if I started thinking too much about the fact that people were watching me. Still, here was a friend in need, and what else had I to do these next two weeks? Life without Jeeves has a tendency to deteriorate into sullen listlessness, unless I find some way of occupying myself. “All right,” I relented, “I’ll get the first train up tomorrow. Providing,” I added, over Barmy’s hearty ‘good show’s’, “we forgo the mustache. I have very strong feelings against mustaches.”
“You mean Jeeves has very strong feelings against mustaches.”
“Good bye, Barmy.” I rang off. It was only after I’d replaced the receiver that it struck me that I’d be going to Brighton – the very same place for which my much missed valet had set foot not twenty four hours ago.
I sank down even further in my fortunately comfortable chair, and began to seriously contemplate mixing myself a drink.
There were two things, you understand, that made this Brighton sojourn both appealing and unappealing to me. Firstly; there was the matter of Jeeves. The man spends more or less every waking moment with me every week of the year except two, and it would simply be ungentlemanly of me to intrude on those. Brighton is a large-ish city, of course, and we needn't run into one another, but nonetheless I felt it was a matter of principle. And yet... well, dash it; I missed him. Rather desperately in fact, which leads me to my second point of concern - that of Brighton's considerable number of clubs and establishments for... gentlemen of a certain inclination. Those, not to put too fine a point on it, who prefer the company of other gentlemen.
Perhaps I should take a moment, at this junction, to clarify. Though I do not consider myself part of the aforementioned group of gentlemen, it is not for lack of trying, as it were. While I enjoy female companionship, even of the intimate sort - not that I've had much experience - I find it somewhat akin to a nice, hot cup of tea; comforting and satisfying, but not terribly exciting. There are, of course, establishments catering to men of my persuasion in London, but with Bertram W. being something of a man about town, I feared the risk of someone recognizing and ratting me out to the police, or worse, my Aunt Agatha. (At least a prison sentence would be finite, as opposed to an aunt's fury.)
And so, you see my dilemma. In Brighton there would be less of a risk of being recognized, and from what I understand, rather a lot of options, but Brighton now also contained Jeeves. For him to find me in one of those places would be worse even than Aunt Agatha. I care for Jeeves, you see. Far more than is appropriate for an employer. Well, can you blame me? Regular readers will have noted my description of him; for those new to my adventures I shall repeat it. He is large of frame, taller even then myself, and I'm not the smallest of chaps; his head, which sticks out in the back in order to accommodate his impressive brain, is covered in dark brown, blackish hair; his face consists of finely chiseled features, encompassing a regal nose which, on any other Johnnie might be considered charmingly crooked. There's nothing charming about Jeeves however, which is not to say he's unattractive; it's simply not an adjective that suits the man. Elegant, perhaps. Suave, certainly. Handsome, yes please and thank you kindly! I ask you; if you had that sort of creature lounging about in your flat offering you drinks and insulting your ties, wouldn't you want to... I mean to say... wouldn't you?
I certainly would, which was why I was determined he must never know. Having come to this grim conclusion, I rose with determination and headed towards the drinks cabinet. I would go to Brighton, perform my theatrical duties and otherwise remain in the hotel. Jeeves would be none the wiser.
Friday afternoon found me in my dressing room, fiddling uneasily with my costume. As something of a compromise, Barmy had convinced me not to shave for the last two days, and the resulting prickly hairs did go some ways towards changing my appearance, I noted, taking stock of it in the mirror. In addition to the whiskers, my face had been covered in theatrical make up several shades lighter than my already pale skin, with dark shading provided under each eye and in the lines of my face, giving it an altogether haunted, slightly sinister look. My hair had been slicked back with colored pomade, rendering it a deep, nearly Jeevesian brown. I rather liked that bit; I've never been overly fond of its usual washed out straw color.
I was to play the villain of the piece; a French bird who tries to lure the beautiful princess Aysha away from her intended, the Earl of Heartforthshire. I'm not entirely sure there really is such a place as Heartforthshire; these playwright Johnnies do tend to take liberties that way. Mercifully there were not too many lines to remember, and there was a rather spiffing musical number in the second act that I genuinely enjoyed plonking through, immediately after which I died. That is my character, Jerome, died. Personally, I was left feeling somewhat relieved. We'd run through a matinee performance for a local school which had gone tolerable well, not counting the eggs that were thrown at my person halfway through Jerome's dying declaration of love for Aysha. It was not the prospect of going on stage that had me unnerved; it was my suit.
Jeeves makes a point of dressing me only in colors which, he insists, are suitable for my complexion. I have learned at my peril that on this subj. self and Jeeves simply do not see eye to eye, or even eye to chin, as it were. Should Bertram bring home a garment not to his liking, Jeeves will be the first to let me know with a well raised eyebrow and disdainful glance. There's no rhyme or reason to it near as I can tell; some shades are avoided in evening wear, yet positively cherished when worn in the guise of a three piece suit. Cinnamon is acceptable in waistcoats, yet shunned as a sock, and frankly, the less said about plaid, the better. I won't pretend I've cracked the code entirely, but the fact that I was currently upholstered in a pinstripe suit that could only be described as purple, did disturb me. What, I asked myself, would happen if Jeeves should happen to see me in this get up? Granted, he's not usually one for musical comedy, but he was, after all, on holiday. People get up to all sorts of things when away from their natural habitat. There's no telling what Jeeves might be doing right now, I mused, just as the young lad I had refused a shave from earlier popped his head in to let me know we had five minutes 'til curtains.
Thus roused from my musings, I threw myself upon the mercy of the faiths. Truth be told, they've been rather kind to me in this young life; perhaps as a way of making up for those rummy first few years. My mother had always liked the stage, I remembered, and there and then, some of the gloom lifted.
We were far into the second act, halfway through my little number, when I spotted a familiar face moping at me from the second row. For one terrified moment I was convinced it was Madeline Bassett. My hands fumbled on the keys, I stopped mid "je t'adore" in a shuddering gasp, and sort of slid sideways off the stool, legs slipping in amongst the una corda and sustain; the sostenuto prodding dangerously at my own nutos, as it were. Fortunately, this was taken as improvisation on my imminent death scene. The crowd lapped it up; from my vantage point I could see some of the punters in first few rows giving up a standing ovation with the notable exception, to my substantial relief, of one Bingo Little, to which the aforementioned f. f. belonged. Further examination made it clear what all the moping business was about too - as they rolled me and the Steinway out with some difficulty, bringing in the ladies in the chorus for the Arabian Dance, Bingo leaped to his feet and nearly jumped on stage when a tittering brunette turned to wink at him.
Well, I thought to myself, scrambling out as best I could with thespians rushing to and fro, same old Bingo. All well and good that I'd given up the idea of seeking out those clubs, really. Bingo and I were at school together, you see, and probably knows my mug better than anyone. The man has an annoying tendency of spotting me even when I'm doing my utmost not to be spotted; he once shouted my name across the platform at Victoria station when I was desperate to get on a particular train in order to avoid a particular aunt. Bingo is a strong, strapping chappie, broad of chest and large of lung, and I was soon dragged bodily from the carriage and into a waiting cab to be yelled at. Still, none of that was ever old Bingo's fault. He's a romantic soul, eager to fall in love, and
equally eager to tell you all about it, whether you'd like him to or not.
Having brushed myself off as best I could, I waited in the wings while the thing played itself out, humming along with the tunes absent-mindedly. Now and then I'd catch a glimpse of Bingo, throwing himself towards the object of his affection. Bingo was a pleasant sort of bird, really. Barmy hardly made an appearance except to tell me about costume fittings or changes to the script, and it occurred to me how nice it was to see a friendly face. By the time the curtain fell, I'd made my mind up; I'd run out and save the poor soul from his self-induced misery. I happened to know for a fact that the lady he'd set his eyes on was engaged to be married - I make it a point to find these things out about my immediate surroundings - and knowing Bingo, he'd soon be in dire need of a pint to cry into and a Wooster to buy it for him.
The performance appeared to have been a success. Ladies and gents were scurrying about chattering pleasantly amongst themselves when I rushed into the lobby. I hadn't bothered to change; speed was of the essence should I have any chance at all of cutting Bingo off before he met up with his would-be intended, and disaster struck. So intent was I upon finding him, that it came as a surprise when he quite literally bumped into me.
"Oh!" He said, hasting to retrieve his hat, which had been knocked off in the scuffle. "Terribly sorry, old chap!"
"Not to worry, Bingo old fruit!"
This appeared to confuse him. He peered at me from underneath his newly retrieved brim. "What?"
"Not to worry, I said. Happens all the time."
"Oh! Quite. For a moment there, I thought I'd heard you call me Bingo."
"I say, Bingo?" I I-sayed.
"Yes. It's what people call me, you see." He looked at me, directly into my baby blues, and smiled apologetically. "Sorry to have taken up your time, sir." And so, tipping his hat, he was off.
As regular readers will be well aware, the Wooster brain isn't the brightest specimen, and it took a good few minutes to work this one over. Bingo, a man who'd seen me with my bum-cheeks out and in a bucket of cold water after a particularly nasty caning at school had apparently snubbed me. The cogwheels turned and churned, right along with my stomach. Had I done something to offend him? Frowning, I reached my hand up to rub my brow... and smelled the faintly musty odor of stage make up.
I was still in costume. I remembered the face in the mirror; familiar and alien all at once. I hadn't looked all that different to myself, but I knew it was me, of course. All at once, things began to fall into place. That maid costume Jeeves had made me wear had fooled an entire household, not because I looked enough like a female of the species to pass for one but because they were expecting to see a female. Bingo wasn't expecting to see me all stubbled of cheek and Rudolph Valentinoed of hair in a theater in Brighton, so his grey matter failed to make the connection. Poor as it was, my disguise was effective. For all intents and purposes, I was invisible.
I'll admit a giggle may have escaped me, for a somewhat Spencer-Gregson-like female gave me a disapproving look as she brushed past. Ignoring her and all her fellows, I rushed towards the exit, taking the stairs two and three steps at a time. It felt rather like the first time I had stolen a policeman's helmet - thrilling and foreboding, and not a little tingly.
Having had no clear destination in mind, it surprised me significantly to find myself at the entrance to one of those clubs I mentioned. It brought the mind to one of those speak-whatsits in America, where they drink whiskey and gin out of tea cups, and you have to give a password to the chappie at the door. The chappie at this particular door was none too pleased when I didn’t have one to mind, but settled down when I showed him one of a collection of picture postcards I’ve taken to carrying about my person. These postcards, you understand, are somewhat of a candid nature, featuring young gentlemen in various states of undress. One would hardly take the risk of faffing about with them if one were not, shall we say, of an inverted nature. Of course, there was quite a considerable risk to all this, and had Jeeves known, I feel almost positive he would have gone to the lengths of tutting. Well, I say that; naturally Jeeves must never know.
Once inside, I was carried down a flight of stairs that had seen better days, creaking ominously under the patent leathers, and into a surprisingly cheery basement room. One hesitates to use the word ‘cozy’ where illicit clubs are concerned, but committed as I am to a truthful narrative, I’ve no choice but to brave it. There were chairs and tables, as might be expected, a fully stocked bar compete with tender, and a bird playing the piano in a dimly lit corner. By which I mean a pianist fellow, not the beak and feather variety. Having never been to such an establishment before, and assuming the reader has neither, it’s important to be clear about these things.
Fascinated as I was by taking all of this in on the way down, I was at something of a loss when I’d reached the bottom step. Men of all shapes and sizes - some, I noted with a mixture of alarm and interest, in frocks rather than suit and tie - moved politely around me, as though I were an obstacle in their way, which I was. Wooster, you may well chastise, what’s all this hemming and hawing from a famed man about town? To which I would refute that this was not the sort of t. about which I was generally a. As there was one conveniently nearby, I took a seat by an otherwise unoccupied table, and tried not to look too closely at anyone or anything, lest it or they look back. Taking pity on me, a waiter brought me a brandy, and thus fortified I felt bold enough to raise my eyes from the level of kneecap and garter.
Thus it happened that I chanced to get a glimpse of myself in the mirror behind the bar, and remembered. My costume! The change was instantaneous. Had I known purple pinstripe could have this effect on the self, I might have dared defy Jeeves and gotten one a long time ago. I imagined it might have its uses when dealing with aunts. I rose to my feet, brushed imaginary dust from my shoulder, and strode over to the piano. Striking up a conversation with the cove tinkling the ivories was as simple as ‘good afternoon’-ing an elderly relative, though infinitely more agreeable. We nattered on about this and that, mostly in the musical vein, and when the time came for him to take a well-earned smoking break, I offered to fill in. Though he regarded me, at first, with the skeptical eye of the consummate professional, it took but a few bars of Fourtyseven Ginger-headed Sailors for him to grin and putter off.
It occurred to me, as I chorused and versed quite jauntily, that I had yet to decide just what the Dickens I was doing there. Had I an aim? Given the haphazard way in which I’d found my way there, I doubted it. And yet, when would such an opportunity present itself again? Wishing to distract myself, I segued into a tricky little Bach number I knew was a particular favorite of Jeeves’s. This ditty is the sort where you have to pay quite careful attention to what each finger is doing, lest they stumble over one another and knot your hands together painfully, and having to think about that kept my mind from thinking about anything else, at least for a moment. There’s a bit towards the end where you sort of go tah-dum-dum, and then immediately afterwards go bah-dee-dilly-dum with a bit of a flourish, and I was just getting to that when I happened to glance towards the back of the room. A tallish, dark, handsome bird was staring at me, mouth open.
“Jeeves,” I gasped. The middle finger on my right hand veered towards the left when it should go right, while my left index finger simply gave up and fell hard between the C and D keys, bruising my knuckles. I stood up, and before I knew it I had ran up the stairs and was halfway to my hotel.
Jeeves. Why on Earth had Jeeves been there? I was in bed by the time the thought came to me, unbidden; terrifying.
He had been looking for me. He knew.
The next few days crawled by at a miserable pace. I did my bit and played my part with no great enthusiasm, retiring to my rooms the moment the curtain fell. As luck would have it, room service at The Old Ship Hotel is as excellent as it its wine cellar is well stocked, though perhaps a little too well stocked where my current sitch. was concerned. Not daring to venture even so far as the hotel bar, I fell into the habit of ordering a bottle of two of the good stuff with supper, and as the days progressed, deciding to forego dinner altogether.
“Wooster,” I chastised the bathroom mirror one night, “this is simply not on. You must face your fears like a man.” Which was all well and good, but one gets into these habits. And the plain truth of it was that for the past five-ish years or so, I had been in the habit of relying on Jeeves to bail me out of any little scrape in which I might find myself. And now, in my hour of deepest, darkest need, it was Jeeves who was the very face of my fear. I ask you, how can anyone be expected to buck up under those circumstances?
I took to moping about backstage, while waiting for my cue to go on. This was an exercise in patience, as the chorus gal towards whom Bingo had directed his considerable ardor, appeared to be juggling several suitors on alternating nights. I lived in fear of the day one of them would mark the wrong date on the calendar, though in truth this was a welcome distraction to the fear of what awaited me in London. That Jeeves would leave my employ was a given; the man is filled to the brim with feudal spirit, with which comes a decent helping of decorum. To remain in a household where immoral goings-on… well, went on, would be anathema to one such as Jeeves. He would not report me to the authorities, of that I had no doubt, but the thought of his strong, nimble hands no longer gracing my washing-up bowl with their presence was enough to have me in tears, most evenings.
It was a Saturday night, I believe, when I arrived at my dressing room, already made up and besuited, as I had taken to walking home in my costumed togs, to find it locked. I tried the door. It was locked. I pulled the handle. It would not budge.
“Hullo,” I said, to no one in particular.
“Hullo!” The door replied. Undaunted, I banged on it, rather impatiently.
“I say, who’s in there?”
“What do you mean; who’s in there?”
“I mean; who’s in there,” I elaborated.
“Robert! Robert Stephenson!”
The conversation went on in this manner for some time. This Robert, it emerged, presumed himself to be the villain of the piece - not literally, or perhaps that is exactly what I mean; that is to say, he was the man for whom I had been covering.
“I thought you were in Cannes, getting married.”
“I was. As it turns out, weddings are expensive.”
I muttered my commiserations. For all the dangers of matrimony from which Jeeves has saved me over the years, this was a not insubstantial one.
“I wired Barmy to ask where my money was, and he said what money, and I said, the money I was owed, and he had the nerve to tell me he couldn’t pay me if I was no longer in his employ!”
“That’s theater people for you,” I sympathized.
“Yes, well, if you wouldn’t mind awfully, I’ve got to get on. I’m on stage in half an hour.”
“Not at all. Except-”
“It’s just that I left my travel tweeds in there.”
“Oh, I don’t mind; I hardly noticed they were here.”
That appeared to be the end of it. I stood for a moment, hand half raised, contemplating to knock. I am, however, one who knows defeat when written in the furrowed brow of an oncoming aunt, or in this case, shouted through a door by a returning thespian. I sought out Barmy for a hasty farewell, and hurried back to the hotel. The sooner I could get out of here, the better chance I had of reaching London before Jeeves. A day or two in blessed solitude might help fortify me for the inevitable confrontation. There would be bleak days ahead.
“Excuse me,” said a gentle voice to my right. I was seated, finally, at the Old Ship Hotel’s bar, intending one last b. and s. before the road ahead.
“That’s quite all right,” I said, before the tone and timbre registered. Careful not to choke, I turned to look into the steel-blue eyes of my gentleman’s personal gentleman. I was about to speak, but as always, he got the better of me.
“I don’t believe we’ve met.”
To this, I could only open and close my mouth, and if memory serves, feverishly pinch my arm. Was I dreaming?
“My name, if you’ll forgive me, is not important. I have, however, a pressing need for a confidante.”
I looked at him as though I’d never seen the man before. Even when not in my service, his neatly pressed suit was black, though perhaps tailored a bit more shapely, if that’s the word. It rather underlined his own thingness. His shoulders seemed broader, his neck stronger; his jaw more finely chiseled. I worried I was gaping.
“My employer is a kind-hearted young gentleman, of noble spirit. Every year, he is generous enough to grant me two weeks of leisure time. It has been my habit to take these around the occasion of my birthday.”
I was aghast. Jeeves’s birthday! What sort of cad was I, not to have known? “I’m sorry,” I began, but Jeeves waved a hand.
“It is I who should apologize for the intrusion. This is, after all, none of your concern, and merely the ramblings of a stranger who has imposed himself on you this evening.”
I gave him a look. In so doing, I raised my eyebrows, which were itching from powder and that blasted pomade, and all at once, it struck me; Jeeves had not recognized me. “That’s quite all right,” I said, settling into my suit. Again, it worked its wonders, and confidence that would have otherwise escaped me, flowed through my veins like the proverbial milk and honey. Strong of spine and stiff of lip, I ventured to lean forward. My knee, dare I say it, brushed lightly against his. My heart soared.
If Jeeves had noted the impropriety, he did not let on. Such is his way; if a gaggle of chorus girls in their garters had thrown themselves upon his lap, Jeeves might be expected to lightly twitch an upper lip. Mere Woosters and knees would hardly register. “As I said, my young gentleman...”
He looked me in the eye as he said this, and I found myself wishing the b. and s. were rather more heavy on the b.
“...is kind-hearted, and quite generous. It would wound me greatly to have him suffer any consequences of my own indecorous behavior.”
“Indecorous?” I swirled my drink decisively.
“There are… certain proclivities in which I indulge once or twice a year. As you may be aware, clubs exist, in which people thus inclined can meet and, if an agreeable arrangement can be made, form short or long term attachments.” He held my gaze, and I nearly dropped my glass.
“And… you’ve come here to make such an attachment?”
“And,” I swallowed. Cotton buds had appeared out of nowhere and buried themselves in my ears. Under the circumstances, it was hard to keep an appearance of suaveness. “Have you. That is to say. Done so?”
I was glad to be sitting down for the man’s next words, muttered in that same voice he uses to placate elderly relatives, though perhaps that is not the best image best suited to the occasion; it was low and sultry, dripping with undertones of molasses, I meant to say. “Not yet.”
“Oh.” I said. Then, to elaborate, “oh.”
I had, you understand, arrived at something of a moral quandary. While the idea of a night with Jeeves (Jeeves!) filled me with Madeline Basset-like longing - the longing to which she is partial, that is, not the woman herself - it would quite simply not be cricket to seduce the man under false pretenses. Meanwhile, should I reveal my true identity, all would be lost! Thus lost in thought, I made the mistake of looking up that Jeeves, who had chosen that particular moment to pick an olive from a selection (which the bar provided), and pop it into his mouth. His fingers touched his lips just-so, and really, a chap can only be expected to endure so much.
“I had intended to return to London tonight,” I said, “but it’s been rather an exhausting day. I do believe I shall retire for the evening.” It was not yet eight o'clock. I trusted my meaning would be implied. With a small tip of my hat hastily avoided at the last minute, when I remembered I wasn’t wearing one, I stood. I gave a meaningful nod, and I think I even managed to look in the general direction of Jeeves’s eyes. Before I could change my mind, I hurried up the stairs to my room, heart in throat.
Two minutes later, I was beginning to suspect I’d made a terrible mistake. I’d not given him the number of my room, for one, but this was Jeeves. I didn’t need to. However, I’d made the assumption that he was, well, interested. And thinking about it with a clearer mind, why on God’s green Earth would he be? Even with a more fetching than usual color of hair and suit, who was to say either was to Jeeves’s liking. The suit certainly wouldn’t be. How pride goeth indeed before a fall! With my knowledge of scripture, how could I have forgotten?
I sat on the edge of my bed, deep in these thoughts, when a careful knock came at the door. “Come in,” said I.
“Jeeves,” I gasped, immediately realizing my mistake.
“It’s me,” I cried.
“I’m well aware, sir.” Gone were the dulcet tones, or should I say, that silkier feel to them.
“Oh Jeeves; I’m overcome with regret!”
At this, he inclined his head to the angle indicating strong disagreement. I should say it’s about two degrees or so, to the left, for preference. “Regret, sir?”
“I didn’t know it was you! I mean, I didn’t know I was me, or that you know I was I, if you follow?”
“Not, I must admit sir, entirely.”
Clasping my head in my hands, I rose. I didn’t want to look at him. It wasn’t helping. “Goodness knows how much I admire you Jeeves. This is all my fault. I never meant for you to find out. Now you know I’m an invert, you’ll have to leave me.”
From between my fingers, I glimpsed Jeeves’s eyes narrowing slightly. “Am I to understand, sir, that you wish me to give my notice?”
“Wish it? Heavens, no!”
“Then, begging your pardon sir, I fail to see why I would be at risk of doing so.”
This gave me pause. “Ah.” I contemplated. “Yes.”
“Am I to understand, sir, that you were laboring under the misapprehension that I would disapprove of your nature?”
“You mean to say you don’t?”
Jeeves took a step forward, bringing us chest to chest. We’re very nearly of a height, Jeeves and I, which does help in these situations. I can’t imagine how I’d feel had I been left staring into his tie. Then again, his eyes weren’t all that conducive to conversation either. My knees were weakening. I longed for a relaxing soak in the bath, and got very close to asking Jeeves to draw me one. I was entirely lost in the sea of his gaze. “Sir,” he said, all that silk and molasses dripping back in, “might I remind you that mere minutes ago, I was confessing my own inverted nature to you.”
“I… well, in a manner of speaking…”
“And you believed that if I were to find out that you shared my nature, I would be morally outraged and leave your employ?”
“Naturally! I…” Jeeves’s mouth was even closer than his eyes. It was dashed hard to concentrate. “Well.”
“When exactly is your birthday? It’s not today, is it?”
“Regrettably not, sir.”
“Could we… I mean to say… Pretend it was?”
Jeeves inclined his head. I tilted mine, and thusly, our lips pressed together like no thing at all. “I think,” said he, eventually, “I shall draw you a bath."