“Thank you, Jeeves,” I said as my man bunged down a platter of fragrant eggs and bacon before the young master. Jeeves inclined the noble head. He then sat on his haunches, staring fixedly at my plate. This was deeply unnerving, even though it had become a regular occurrence at mealtime. To avoid it I had been lunching and dining anywhere but in Berkeley Mansions, W.1. One doesn’t like to think about one’s table manners while enduring the hungry gaze of one’s valet. But venturing out to eat breakfast was simply too much to ask, particularly on mornings after a night of strenuous revelry. So I suffered through my valet fixing his eyes on my plate as if to look away would cause the earth to crack open and swallow us all.
He raised his peepers to me with silent imploring.
“Very well, dash it!” I tore off a small piece of bacon and tossed it into the air. Jeeves caught it in his teeth, swallowed, then took out his handkerchief and dabbed the corner of his mouth.
“Thank you, sir,” he murmured, his gaze latching once more onto the comestibles.
“Jeeves, I’d like coffee today. Don’t concern yourself about the young master, just—just stay in the kitchen until it’s made.”
Jeeves continued to stare at the food. “Are you sure, sir? You might drop your fork.”
“Then you’d lick it and hand it back to me. No, that is not happening again, Jeeves, make the dratted coffee.”
“Very good, sir.” Jeeves stood and flowed out to the kitchen. I put my head in my hands, then realized I had to get outside all of the bacon before he returned, lest he continue to look at the edibles with that Soul’s Awakening gaze. By the time he served freshly made coffee I had cleaned my plate to a sparkling finish. If for a brief moment sadness crossed his finely chiseled features, what of it?
In the ordinary course of human events the arrival of the post went unnoticed, but not since Jeeves had entered this extremely disturbing phase. Before any sound reached my ears, my valet was at the door, standing straight and exclaiming “You there! You there! You there!” at the postman on the other side while the mail slid through the slot into the basket. I prayed he wouldn’t bring the mail to me in his mouth. Thank God he was still Jeeves enough to bring it to me on a silver tray.
Don’t misunderstand, Jeeves was still Jeeves, but he was also not Jeeves, albeit in a Jeevesian fashion. To put it plainly, the man had an unnerving way of acting like a dog at times. Even with his enormous perspicacity, the blighter saw nothing amiss. It seemed utterly natural to the cove to be crouching on his haunches next to my chair, begging with quiet dignity for a morsel or two. The first time it happened, after serving me gammon with salted potatoes and asparagus, I started and squawked, “Jeeves, what on earth are you doing?”
“I would deem it a great kindness if you would let me have some of your gammon, sir.”
“Jeeves, don’t you have your own dinner in the kitchen?”
“Yes, sir, but it would taste far better coming from your plate.”
God help me, I gave him a small piece of meat. Instead of taking it with his hands, he tugged it out of my fingers with his teeth. As if it were the most natural thing in the world! I mean to say, what? And wouldn’t you know he started begging at the table at every meal? My late uncle Willoughby would have fallen to the ground in a fit at the way I let my valet beg, even more so when I let Jeeves lick the plate clean. He’d had his hunting dogs fed elsewhere at the old family pile. Since then I’d made a practice of tearing off a few small pieces to feed him throughout the feast. One couldn’t resist that pair of large grey eyes staring up so beseechingly, could one? It was only a few pieces of bacon or lamb or plum duff and Jeeves enjoyed it so much, how could I not? And he always wiped his mouth.
It also took a bit of getting used to when he started sleeping on my bed at nights. No, it’s not what you think. Jeeves stands by the bed, gently paws at the counterpane for a bit, then curls up near the foot of the bed and falls asleep. He wears pajamas, of course! It would be an unthinkable liberty to sleep on my bed in his uniform. Yes, it is a trifle annoying when a loud noise in the street causes him to wake up and yell “What! What! What!” Takes me forever to get back to sleep after that; Jeeves just resumes his place on the bed and goes right to sleep again. Once I shooed him off the bed. But he kept walking around and around until I patted the sheets with exasperation and said, “oh, all right, Jeeves, hop up!”
By now you’re asking, “Bertram, how on earth did this catastrophe occur? Why does your faithful manservant think he’s a Labrador retriever?”
It’s all the fault of that blithering idiot Barmy Fotheringay-Phipps. He got his mitts on a little green book called “How To Hypnotize People”. He was blathering on at the Drones at how corking hypnotism was, how the hypnotist could make anyone do anything. He proved it by making Freddy Threepwood think he was a garage mechanic and that the porter’s desk was an Aston-Martin. Rogers, our porter, got quite vehement when Freddie went behind and began dismantling the hat stand. It was a great hit.
Right idiot that I am, I invited him back to the flat to hypnotize me. I wasn’t about to risk turning into a water buffalo at the Drones. Much better to do it in safer environs, the good old homestead. Little did I know.
Barmy had me stare at a watch he swung in the air, telling me to sleep. It seemed to go on for hours, but I was alert as when I drank one of Jeeves’s restoratives.
“You’re coming a right cropper, Barmy,” I said. “I’m not sleepy in the least.”
“You haven’t got enough brains to let me hypnotize you!” Barmy spluttered.
“I say! I’m a great deal smarter than Freddy!”
“Here, Jeeves! I’ll hypnotize your valet!”
“Nobody can mesmerize that great brain, Barmy.” I smiled indulgently. “Be my guest. Would you mind very much, Jeeves, letting Barmy hypnotize you?”
“I am not a believer in mesmerism, sir.”
“Then you won’t mind if Barmy makes an ass of himself. Go to it, Barmy.”
Dashed if Barmy didn’t get Jeeves looking rather muzzy, even if Jeeves did not fall asleep. Barmy giggled and said “When I snap my fingers, you will be a Labrador retriever.”
He snapped his fingers. Jeeves continued to look rather muzzy but nothing happened. “Come on, Jeeves, you’re a Labrador retriever!” Barmy snapped his fingers several times, to no avail.
“I am sorry to disappoint you, sir, but I am not a Labrador retriever,” Jeeves informed him deferentially.
“Ha! You see, Barmy? It’s fake!”
“I’m going to go try it on Biffy, then!” Barmy spluttered, and left in high dudgeon.
I held up a cigarette for Jeeves to light. “He can hypnotize Biffy, Jeeves, but Biffy will forget he’s hypnotized in five minutes. I say, are you all right, Jeeves?”
He rubbed his temple. “I shall be better directly, sir.” He flowed into the kitchen to slap together dinner.
It was only the following day that I found out that some wires had somehow got crossed. Jeeves was not a Labrador retriever—well, most of him was not. But some of him was. And that damned Fotheringay-Phipps had gone off to Paris for the races and wouldn’t be back until the next month!
It had been two weeks and no sign of Jeeves becoming 100% Jeeves any time in the near future.
I sat in the armchair, reading the newspaper, until I again became aware of Jeeves’s stare. “Yes? What is it, Jeeves.”
“If I might take the liberty, sir, it is a fine day for a walk in the park.”
“Jeeves, I’m reading the society pages.”
“Indeed, sir, but it is a fine day for a walk in the park.”
“Sir, we should go for a walk in the park.”
“Sir, let’s go for a walk in the park let’s go for a walk in the park, sir, let’s go for a walk in the park—“
“Jeeves! Stop that prancing back and forth!”
“I should very much appreciate going for a walk in the park, sir.”
“Dash it! Let me get my hat, Jeeves.”
“Thank you, sir! Thank you!”
Out of the door, business as usual. Jeeves bought a nosegay from the flower seller and shoved it in my buttonhole with his usual eclat. We crossed over to the park, where I made myself at home on a bench with my newspaper and a gasper. Once again, I felt The Stare.
“What is it now, Jeeves?” I said, glaring at him over the sporting section.
“If you could throw this, sir.” From his pocket, Jeeves produced a tennis ball and tossed it to me.
“Jeeves! I’m not bloody well going to throw a tennis ball across the park for you to run after.”
After a few tense seconds, Jeeves relaxed and sat on the bench next to me. “Very good, sir.” He sniffed the air. “If you will pardon me, sir, I perceive that there is a squirrel next to that tree.” In a flash, he was on his feet on the trail of the unwary mammal. The squirrel ran up the tree, leaving Jeeves to stand beneath the branches with his hands on his hips. “Squirrel! I insist you come down at once!” He pointed at the ground. “Squirrel!”
For a moment I was flummoxed, but then I realized what must be done. I clapped my hands loudly together and whistled. “Jeeves! Here, Jeeves! Jeeves!”
He obediently shimmered back, bowler hat in hand. “Good boy,” I said.
“Thank you, sir.”
It was then I made the mistake of patting him on the head. He pushed his head into my hand. “If you would do that again, sir.”
“Pat my head, sir. I would appreciate it greatly.”
“Jeeves,” I hissed, “I’m not patting you on the head in public. Now be a good boy while I read the paper. Stay!”
“Very good, sir.”
“Lead me to the nearest pet shop and we’ll buy some biscuits for you, old thing.”
“Very good, sir. Thank you, sir.”