It all began as I was lathering my toes in the big tub attached to my room at Brinkley Court. I was enjoying the spring weather and looking forward to a sumptuous meal prepared by my Aunt’s incomparable chef. Jeeves had laid out my suit and was just that minute bringing me a pre-dinner cocktail. I lifted my voice in song and informed the world that I was just a little birdie-ie-ie-ie taking to the wing.
The sound must have reverberated a bit in the tiled confines of the bathroom, because Jeeves winced a little as he entered the room. Either that or he did not approve of the shower cap.
I raised a hand to demonstrate my heartfelt apology and he simultaneously bent to pass me the cocktail. What with one thing and another, our hands entangled in a way that one sees in the more lurid sort of Hollywood movie. The sort with no gloves, where a sheik kidnaps a young lady.
Of course I wasn’t thinking about that at the time. I was thinking that this was it. IT with a capital IT. I felt a tingling, starting at my toes and whooshing up to my wrist. I gaped at my skin because there, suddenly but quite clearly, were the letters RJ.
I stared at Jeeves in wild surprise. He staggered backwards, grasping his own wrist. Being Jeeves he managed to not drop the glass as he did. He stared back at me in even wilder surprise.
And then he blinked and returned to his stuffed frog face, the one he makes to cover all emotion. ‘I am so sorry, Sir,’ he said.
I stared at his broad, capable hands and wondered how it had come that he had never touched me before without his grey gloves. ‘Should we…?’ I could not formulate an end to the sentence.
Jeeves cut across me. ‘I am sorry.’
He might have said some more, but that was enough. Of course it was an error for a chap like Jeeves to be bound to a chap like me.
I felt a little dizzy and sat back down in the bath. A small amount of water sloshed out, which was unfortunate because at literally that very moment Gussie Fink-Nottle zipped into the room and slipped on it.
Gussie fell over backwards, exactly like a Vaudeville performer except that they don’t usually squeal while careening across the floor. I goggled at him in case he was to undertake further circus-like gyrations, but he merely sat rubbing his head.
I took advantage of his inattention to quickly drape my flannel over my wrist. I wished I had something to cover my nether regions as well, and sunk down in the water. It was lucky I had used a generous hand when dispensing the bubble bath.
‘You have to save me, Bertie,’ Gussie said. ‘Spode is furious with me. He is pursuing me with the intent of pulverising me.’
I glanced urgently at Jeeves who was tugging on his service gloves. ‘Nonsense,’ I said, ‘He’s happily engaged to Madeline. Unless you have somehow gummed up the works.’ I peered at him. ‘You haven’t gummed up the works, have you, Gussie?’
Gussie’s cheeks flushed and I could see at once that he was the gummer in chief. Gussie is just the sort of ass who could somehow get Spode to think he was flirting with his fiancée. Granted, she had once been engaged to Gussie but that was water under the bridge. It was months ago.
‘What did you do?’ I asked.
Jeeves had oiled out during the commotion, but now reappeared, looking as stuffed frog-ish as ever and bearing two cocktails. He had the sense to pass mine to the left, so my flannel didn’t slip.
‘It was the merest accident,’ Gussie said. ‘A misunderstanding. It’s just that I was helping Madeline remove an eyelash that was lodged in her eye and…’
His voice burbled on, but I could see it all now. Of course Gussie, that fatuous ass, would have tilted her head back to see her face. Of course Spode would have entered at that moment.
‘This is not a good time,’ I murmured.
‘But you must hide me!’ Gussie stammered. ‘Spode is stamping about like a buffalo looking to flatten a gnat.’
Spode is built a bit like a buffalo, of course, and Gussie is definitely one of life’s gnats.
Jeeves cleared his throat to let us know he was about to join the conversation of the gentry. As if we didn’t all know that it was really his help that Gussie wanted. ‘If I might suggest, Sir, you will be at no danger at the dinner table.’
That was true enough. Spode was a brute, but not such a brute as to pulverise someone while eating at another man’s house.
‘After the meal is complete, you could recall an engagement in London and take your leave of your hostess.’
I nodded meaningfully at the door, because I needed a moment alone to check that there really was writing on my wrist. After all this time.
‘Make your farewells to Aunt Dahlia. No need to let Spode know you are leaving. He’ll probably have calmed down by the time he sees you next.’
Jeeves escorted Gussie out and I reached for a towel. I would need to be fully clothed to have the sort of conversation that I needed to have with Jeeves. I had to tell him that if he regretted that we were soul mates, he needn’t worry about it. I wouldn’t say a word. I would ignore it forever, if only he would stick around.
I sniffed and was trying to think of a dignified way to say ‘couldn’t bear it if you left’ when the door to the bathroom burst open again and my Aunt Dahlia rushed in.
I don’t mean to give the impression that my bathroom was Piccadilly Circus, but at this point in time it did have much the air of that frantic place. What with people rushing out and others rushing in, things were taking on a hectic note. And really all I wanted was a minute to beg Jeeves not to leave.
Aunt Dahlia flung her hand over her eyes and begged me to throw on some covering. This was a bit rich, considering she had burst, uninvited, into my bathroom.
I was about to tell her so when I noticed that her face was ashen. I felt a pang of sympathy. I am sure my own face was ashen.
I drew on my dressing gown and tugged the sleeve down over my fist. Just to make sure I shoved my hand into my pocket. ‘What is it?’ I asked. ‘Can we help?’
Across the room Jeeves made a slight movement. Aunt Dahlia didn’t notice, but it is unusual for Jeeves to gesticulate at all.
I looked at him but he stilled.
Aunt D poured forth a tale of woe. All about her blessed magazine, of course, which is always teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. Her backers were threatening to pull out unless the next issue was a best seller. Circulation had fallen again and she needed some kind of massive boost.
I looked at Jeeves, hoping he would be able to come up with a plan instantly, so as to move her out of the room. It was a lot to ask, but he does have a mighty brain.
He coughed again and stepped closer with his hands clasped behind his back. ‘Perhaps sales would increase if you ran some kind of exclusive.’
The idea did not seem to be one of his best. Admittedly, he was operating while newly soul bonded when his first response to the bonding was to say how sorry he was.
I was sorry too. I had not meant to be such a disappointment. I wiped my eyes surreptitiously.
Jeeves glanced at me, and expanded on his idea. The essence of it, the nub if you will, was to get Spode to agree to an article about him being the new Lord Sidcup.
I keep forgetting about his elevation to the peerage – to me he will always be Spode, terrifying gorilla. But to the public at large he is Lord Sidcup, dignified stateman. And the public as a whole laps down tales of the peerage. Especially when accompanied, as Jeeves suggested, by a photo montage of Sidcup at his castle home, with his delightful fiancée.
I could scarcely believe Jeeves had thought of all that right off the top of his head. I was even more impressed when he mentioned that this might distract Spode from his current vendetta against Gussie.
He had nearly soothed Aunt Dahlia enough to walk her to the door when she baulked. ‘But will be agree?’ Aunt Dahlia asked.
Jeeves ventured to suggest that it would be agreeable to Madeline and that would make it acceptable to him.
‘She’ll love the idea,’ I said. After all, a girl likes to show off that she has captured the heart of one of the elite of the land. ‘Prepare for a lot of photos of her walking through meadows of flowers. Probably back lit. There may even be photos where she holds a lily while wearing lace gloves.’
There was a terrible moment when I thought she was going to sit down to discuss it further, but Jeeves oozed her through the door.
And we were alone.
I opened my mouth, but Jeeves said firmly, ‘We must bolt the door.’
‘I am sorry…’ I began.
Jeeves interrupted. ‘I may have inadvertently given the wrong impression.’
I waited avidly.
‘Before we were interrupted I was going to say that I had removed my gloves while loosening the soda bottle. I apologise for not resuming them.’
The exact circumstances of how his hands came to be naked did not concern me. Although one is supposed to wear them at all times, everyone knows that really there are times when you have to remove them. When you are having a bath, for instance. Or eating a peach. Or eating a peach in a bath which is the best way to do it.
‘I thought, I thought that you were sorry that…’ my voice trailed off and I gestured at myself. I realised I had not covered my hands and I looked my bony fingers.
‘I apologise for giving the impression that this bond does not give me perfect satisfaction.’
I could not believe my ears. I reached out and he took my hand.
Aside from some dim memories of my parents holding hands at home, I had never seen adults in such an intimate position. But it did not feel strange at all.
He pushed my sleeve up and looked at the letters there. Jeeves gave the smallest of smiles, which made me grin like a loon.
He turned his wrist over and, by undoing two buttons, I was able to see Bertie W scrawled across his arm.
We had not unclasped our hands but now Jeeves stepped even closer and hugged me. It was a bit like a big, warm jacket wrapped around me, and this led to some incoherent expressions of devotion and joy from me. ‘I thought you could never want to be with a dunce like me. Are you sure?’
‘I would be pleased to spend the rest of my life with you. I… enjoy taking care of you.’
I wanted to jump up and down shouting with excitement, but then Jeeves tugged on my arm. After a few moments I realised that he intended to cross the room but did not want to let go of me.
He picked up the house phone and called down to the kitchen to tell them that I was feeling unwell (untrue) and would not be at dinner (true) and that he would stay with me to make sure I had everything I needed (profoundly true).
I could see this would be the beginning of what the cognoscenti call a beautiful friendship.
Notes: This fic assumes a background knowledge of the Jeeves and Wooster stories. In summary:
• Gussie Fink-Nottle – A friend of Bertie’s. He was once engaged to Madeline Bassett and later to Emerald Stoker.
• Madeline Bassett – A sentimental and fanciful young woman. Engaged successively to Bertie Wooster (who was a reluctant party), Gussie Fink-Nottle and Roderick Spode (who became Lord Sidcup).
• Roderick Spode – A bounder. Founder of the Black Shorts (a fascist movement) and later Lord Sidcup. He has loved Madeline since she was so high.
• Dahlia Travers – One of Bertie’s kinder aunts, not the sort who gargles broken glass. She edits a ladies’ magazine, Milady’s Boudoir.