“Good morning, Mr. Wooster.” Morris set down my tea on the nightstand with a slight clatter of china.
“Thank you, Morris,” I replied. “What sort of day is it?”
The man glanced out the window. “Sunny, sir,” he said. Then he turned and left the room.
I know you’re asking: where is Jeeves? The stalwart fellow who has been at this Wooster’s side lo these many years? Has he taken a position with the royal family? Decided to make a change of career? Joined the French Foreign Legion?
None of the above. The bounder was on his annual holiday at Herne Bay. Two weeks! Two weeks without Jeeves! A motherless lamb on a rainy day could not be more downcast than your faithful memorialist. Morris was competent but he suffered from being not-Jeeves. He did not float, he walked like any ordinary mortal. Now the gay mad dash of metropolitan life no longer seemed worth bothering with. Dinner roll cricket at the Drones club was an empty pleasure. Brandy and soda might as well be hemlock. That is to say, this Wooster positively moped. One could not begrudge the fellow his annual visit to the seaside, but begrudge one did, no matter how un-preux it is to do so.
I was sipping a disconsolate cup of tea when I heard the doorbell. Suddenly my bedroom door swung open and there was Honoria Glossop in full cry.
“Bertie!” she yelled loud enough for my upstairs neighbors to be startled. Honoria is a large, dynamic girl with an equally large, dynamic voice.
Morris trailed after her. “I am sorry, sir, but the young lady would not be stopped.”
“Damn it, Honoria, if you’re going to barge into a gentleman’s boudoir, keep your voice less deafening! I’m only just having my tea!”
Honoria turned and stared at Morris. “You’re not Jeeves! Bertie, why isn’t this man Jeeves?”
Morris was visibly startled, yet another difference from Jeeves. He walked—walked, dash it—out of the bedroom.
“Jeeves has deserted me for the delights of the seaside,” I said, following my statement with a deep sigh.
Once we were alone, Honoria sat on the bed!
“Honoria!” I yipped, yanking the coverlet up to my chin, “What brings about this insane action! This wild breach of decorum?”
“I need Jeeves,” she groaned. “It’s about my engagement.”
I clutched the bedclothes tighter. “When did we get engaged?” I gulped.
“Not you, stupid, me! I’m engaged to Percy Codswallop. It was a whirlwind romance, but the whirlwind died down.”
“He swept you off your feet and won’t let you back down?”
“Then what’s the problem? Break it off. You found it easy enough when we were affianced.” Of course, since then, Honoria had learned that I wasn’t a lady’s man. More of a man’s man, if you follow my drift. What with my no longer being in the running for the husband role, we had become great pals. Honoria Glossop is quite jolly if she doesn’t think she’s going to be lumbered with you for life.
“Percy won’t let me break the engagement! He hugs me and tells me I’m a silly little thing! I’m not silly!”
“And you’re certainly not little.”
She gave me a shove that almost pushed me over. “I even tried slapping him across the face in the lobby of the Ritz! Damn the man, he forgave me. Nobody forgives a woman for slapping his face in the lobby of the Ritz.” She put her face in her hands. “I need Jeeves.” She removed her face from her hands. “Bertie, you have to get me Jeeves!”
“But he’s on holiday!”
“Then I’ll go see him at—where does he go?”
“Herne Bay. Honoria, you can’t jaunt off to Herne Bay after my manservant! What will people say? Your reputation!”
“That’s why you’re taking me there.”
“I can’t interrupt my valet’s holiday!” Even though I missed Jeeves like the dickens, it was simply not in the Code to invade his leave.
“I can’t see why you’re making heavy weather out of it, Bertie. We are friends, aren’t we?”
“There are limits to friendship, young Honoria!”
“For the dear memory of our betrothal.”
“Which neither of us wanted, if I recall.”
“I’ve always known you to be a sweet, generous soul. You’d put your cape across a puddle so that I wouldn’t get my evening slippers wet. Bertie, be a dear, take me to Herne Bay.”
“I won’t do it! No, dash it!”
A look of hard determination overcame the young blister’s face. Her red-lacquered lips set in a thin line. “Bertie, you will take me to Jeeves and you will do it today.”
It took longer than I had thought to get to Herne Bay. I’d gone in the wrong direction for several hours and didn’t realize it until we reached Upton-cum-Chalvey. At that juncture Honoria demanded she take the wheel. Rather too imperiously, I thought.
In a clear case of false advertising, the village of Herne Bay turned out not to have a bay. It was a place for the huddled masses to breathe free, as it says on the Statue of Libertine in New York. The huddled masses, however weren’t so very huddled. The main street was clogged with men in shirts and suspenders, well-padded women in garish dresses, and squalling children. If not for Honoria driving the two-seater, I would have bagged this jaunt pronto and sped back to the metrop.
“I say, we are surrounded by the common herd, Honoria. This Wooster has the same feeling the French nobles had when the tumbril pulled up at the front door.”
She glared at me. “Bertie, don’t be a snob! Just because we’re not at Monte Carlo there is no reason to turn up your nose at honest working stock.”
“Huh,” I retorted as the car narrowly missed a florid female pushing a pram. She shouted something I shouldn’t like to repeat. Which confirmed my feeling that Herne Bay was a tad below the salt. We drove to the Miramar, the hotel that was the return address of Jeeves’s letters.
The Miramar was a small, pleasant hotel, with a small, pleasant lobby. I should have known this was Jeeves’s choice of hostelry. Armchairs with antimacassars, doilies strewn about, aspidistras, that kind of thing.
“Boy, is Jeeves staying at this hotel?” I asked the desk clerk, who was going through a stack of mail.
“You mean Mr. Jeeves?” the man said, not bothering to turn around. “Yeah.”
I rapped my stick on the counter. “Summon him at once.”
“He’s down at t’beach,” the man said, his tone implying this was the last thing he was going to say for the rest of the afternoon.
“Where’s the beach?”
“Out there, can’t miss it. Long, brown and pebbly. Mr. Jeeves will be there somewhere. He likes to sunbathe.”
“Bertie, the beach is right down the road,” Honoria said, grabbing my arm. “We must find Jeeves, or I’ll find myself married!”
So it was that we two strolled to the beach. It was indeed long, brown and pebbly, the man had been accurate. There was a long row of brightly colored beach huts, quite cheery.
Honoria and I stood and cast our eyes about. An absolute glut of families, identical to the ones we had seen on the main street. Many of them in bathing suits, which only made it worse. We were most definitely not in the French Riviera.
Looking over the throng I saw nothing to indicate Jeeves. There were any number of men fully clothed, some standing in the water with their trousers rolled up to their knees. But no sign of a bowler hat, not even among the chappies in the water. Nor was there a black suited figure to be seen on the beach.
Honoria poked me, hard.
“Oi!” I rubbed my arm.
Her eyes were wide. She pointed.
A tall, well-built fellow lay on a yellow towel, his nose white with sun cream. Quite the matinee idol. My stomach gave a curious flutter.
“Bertie!” Honoria gasped. “Is that—Jeeves?”
“Of course it isn’t—“ I started, but then recognition hit. My mouth went dry and my heart went pitter-pat in ragtime. That handsome devil was Jeeves? My Jeeves, of the spotless uniform and tranquil countenance? “Good lord, that is Jeeves!”
“He’s a fine figure of man, Bertie!” Honoria laughed and punched me on the arm. I was going to be a mass of bruises before this day was out. “I’ll wager you’ve had naughty thoughts about him. He’s got sex appeal!”
“No, young Honoria! He’s a servant. And—and—and—“ Just then, Jeeves rolled over on to his stomach, revealing a shapely rump. “And—and—“
“Get him now!” she ordered.
Dutifully I moseyed down the steps to the beach proper, and stumbled over the sand, avoiding sticky-mouthed children throwing pebbles at each other.
Jeeves had a remarkably well-proportioned back, clothed with only two crisscrossing straps of the black wool bathing suit. He was bronzed and fit indeed! The noble head was cradled on his folded arms. I was reluctant to wake him, it was so much pleasanter staring down at him. When I glanced up at Honoria, she was gesturing in a way unbecoming to a lady.
“Jeeves,” I crooned. “Jeeves, it’s me.”
“Hmmm?” he said, not quite awake. His eyes opened, and he turned his head in my direction. With a look of surprised horror, he quickly rolled over, pulled the sandy towel over himself and sat up. “Mr. Wooster?”
“In the flesh. Not as much as you’re in the flesh—I say, I had no idea you had so much flesh, Jeeves!”
“Sir, what do are you doing here?” Jeeves stared up at me. “Is there an emergency?”
“And how! Do you see Honoria Glossop up there?”
Jeeves turned his head, and your faithful memorialist was distracted by the sand in his dark hair and on the back of his neck.
“She’s engaged—not to me, I hasten to add—and she can’t get out of it! Honoria tried everything in a lady’s arsenal, Jeeves, but he’s attached to her like a barnacle. She ordered me to find you. We went to your hotel. The desk clerk, who was abominably rude, told me you were on the beach. As indeed you are.”
“Yes, sir. Sir, why didn’t you telephone?”
“Honoria insisted on speaking to you in person. I’m rather glad she did, Jeeves. I mean—well, you know, the telephone is so impersonal and face to, uh face is so much—so come with me and talk to Honoria?”
“Not in my present attire, sir,” he demurred. “If you would come to the Miramar hotel at four o’clock, I shall be happy to confer with you then.”
“Don’t cut short your sunning time on our account. Lie back down and let the sun caress your arms and legs.”
Jeeves gave me a baffled look. Something told me it was time to skidoo, so I did.
At four o’clock post meridiem Honoria and I arrived in the lobby of the Miramar. Jeeves was waiting, the black bathing costume replaced with a brown tweed suit, which was rather a pity. He had assumed his usual austere demeanor. We went in to the hotel dining room in a suitably private corner. “Jeeves, I’m engaged to an imbecile who won’t let me break the engagement,” Honoria opened with. She went on to explain her predicament. Jeeves listened attentively as he always does.
“Miss Glossop, I believe I have arrived at a solution to your problem.”
“I knew it, Jeeves! You’ve never let me down yet!” I crowed.
“How would Mr. Codswallop feel if he knew you were in love with another man?”
I rocketed to my feet. “Oh, no, Jeeves! I’m not kissing her where he can see me.”
“That is not what I mean, sir.”
“I’m not cooing to her in a shaded glade, I’m not dancing with her. No, nyet, nein!”
“None of that would work, Jeeves,” said Honoria glumly. “Percy wouldn’t care.”
“I gather that, miss. I suggest that Mr. Codswallop find you in flagrante dilecto.”
Jeeves gave an infinitesimal cough. “I apologize for being coarse, Miss Glossop. In your bedchamber. In your bed.”
“What good would that do?” she asked.
“With Mr. Wooster.”
“JEEVES!” Honoria and I burst out simultaneously.
“I would never do such a thing,” Honoria gasped. “I’ll have you know I’m a lady!”
“And I’m not a cad!” I exclaimed. “I do not go to bed with ladies of my acquaintance.”
“You don’t go to bed with ladies at all,” Honoria observed.
“Be that as it may, I will have no part in destroying this woman’s good name, Jeeves! How could you suggest such a thing! Hours in the sun have turned that brain of yours to pudding!”
Jeeves let a tiny smile cross his face. “Sir, if I might explain. Scene: a room in small hotel in an out of the way part of London. You and Miss Glossop are in the bed, center. Enter Mr. Codswallop. He discovers the two of you. Outraged, he breaks the engagement. He goes to your father. Who will never believe his daughter would do such a thing, particularly not with Mr. Wooster. Sir Roderick will think Mr. Codswallop is deliberately besmirching you. He will forbid Mr. Codswallop to see you again.”
“Especially if Percy says he discovered me with Bertie,” Honoria agreed. “Daddy thinks he’s a loony.”
“I say!” I cried, but they ignored me.
“Bertie, the idea of letting you make love to me is preposterous! Jeeves is right, Daddy would throw Percy out of the house for making such a claim!” Honoria let fly a guffaw and punched me in the arm. “Jeeves, you’re brilliant!”
“Jeeves, you are an ass!” I said “I’m not going to be found partager un lit with Honoria in an out of the way hotel or anywhere else! We Woosters have a Code!”
“If I may speak frankly, sir, does your code prevent you from helping a lady in distress? And not just any lady, but your close friend Miss Glossop?”
Honoria put took my hand in hers. “He’s right, Bertie. I’m a lady and I’m in distress. You’ve got to help me!”
“Bertie, if you don’t help me, I’ll tell Daddy we’re engaged again!”
“I won’t do it!”
The next morning, the bedroom of the De-Luxe Hotel in Slough was occupied by three people:
In the bed, center, Honoria and yours truly, divested of our outer garments. Upstage left, one manservant. Jeeves was there to protect me in case Percy lost his temper and decided to relocate my nose to the back of my head.
“I don’t like this one bit, Honoria,” I moaned, shifting in the bedclothes as far away from her as I could get. Honoria was dressed only in her pink step-ins and was quite fetching, if you like your women on the brawny side. Despite my protests, Jeeves and Honoria insisted on me stripping down to my drawers, leaving me bare-chested and indignant. “Sir, if you were to be wearing any upper garments, the illusion that you are naked would be ruined,” Jeeves had said unhelpfully.
The fiend consulted his pocket-watch. “It is almost ten o’ clock. The anonymous tip Mr. Codswallop received told him to be here at ten. I have left the door unlocked.” He turned to leave.
“Jeeves!” I squawked. “Where are you going?”
“To hide, sir.” With that, he stepped into the salle de bain.
“I could die I’m so humiliated,” Honoria muttered. “If this wasn’t the only way to break it off with Percy I’d never have gone through with it.”
“You’re humiliated? I’m pretending to be your—your—“
“Lover.” Honoria said the word as if it tasted like castor oil.
Just then, there was a pounding on the door.
“HONORIA!” came a man’s voice. From the tone, the possessor of said voice was not in an agreeable mood. “OPEN THIS DOOR!”
“GO AWAY, PERCY,” Honoria bellowed, causing me to go deaf in my right ear.
My heart was going pitter-pat again, but not in ragtime, rather in flamenco. The door swung open, revealing a blond giant in a pinstriped suit. The expression on his face suggested he was ready for a small spot of homicide. I slid down, hoping to hide under the scratchy hotel sheets.
“Honoria!” The giant’s voice matched Honoria’s for volume and richness. Between the two of them, I was surprised plaster wasn’t falling from the ceiling. “Honoria, what is this? Who is this?”
Honoria sat bolt upright, doing a smashing job of feigning shock. “Percy!”
“Who is this man?”
“What ho,” I squeaked. “Bertram Wooster. At your service.”
“At her service, more like,” the giant snarled.
“What are you doing with this man? I received an anonymous message, telling me to be at this hotel, room 7B, at ten this morning. And I find this.” His tone was not any more conciliatory. I debated dashing out of the room, but that would have put me right in the path of Murder, Incorporated.
“Percy, you can never marry me now,” Honoria said, casting her gaze downward and wiping away a tear. Absolutely the picture of remorse. Sarah Bernhardt could not have done a better job. “I am so sorry. I can never make it up to you.”
Codswallop stood, looking at us. Bertram was praying not to be pulverized by one of those colossal fists. He took a step forward. I closed my eyes, waiting for the coconut to be biffed with great force. But the blow did not come.
The tone of his voice made me open my eyes. The homicidal rage had given way to Codswallop gazing at Honoria with the sort of melting tenderness the ingénue gives the male lead after he’s saved her life by pulling her off the ice floe. “Honoria,” his voice trembled. “I forgive you.”
“I forgive you.”
The ingénue in this scenario was not returning said melting tenderness. In fact, if I had to describe Honoria’s expression, the word that comes to mind is “exasperated.” She crossed her arms.
“No, my flower.”
“But—but—what’s wrong with you? I’m in bed with another man!”
“He beguiled you, dearest Honoria. You weren’t thinking.”
“I certainly was,” she retorted. “Percy, you can’t possibly marry me now!”
Codswallop smiled sadly. “My beloved petunia, we must put this embarrassing incident behind us. I will do my best to forgive. And forget.”
“You can’t forgive me! It’s unforgiveable!” Honoria wailed.
“I love you, Honoria. This beast seduced you.”
“Here, I did not!” I squeaked.
“You vile swine, you seducer of helpless women, you lothario, I am going to give you the beating of your life!” Codswallop took off his jacket. He seemed to have grown in all directions since his entrance into the boudoir. He rolled up his sleeves, and I prepared myself for an ugly, painful death.
“Percy—“ Honoria hollered.
A gentle cough interrupted her.
Jeeves, a towel around his waist, stood by the bed. Except for the towel, he was completely nude. I was struck dumb. As I watched, astonished, he slid into the bed on the other side of Honoria, placing a large hand on her thigh. “Good morning, sir,” he said politely to Codswallop. Understandably, the latter was gawking.
“Honoria,” he ground out, “what is the meaning of this?”
Her mouth opened and shut, but nothing came out.
“Who are you?” the giant demanded of Jeeves.
Jeeves gave a small nod. “I am Mr. Wooster’s gentleman’s personal gentleman. My name is Jeeves.”
Codswallop turned a deep shade of purple, the same color as the King’s ceremonial royal robe. “Honoria! Not only this Wooster, but his valet as well?”
“Mr. Wooster and I have been, shall we say, enjoying Miss Glossop’s company. As you know, she is a most attractive creature.” To underscore his point, Jeeves patted Honoria’s knee. She looked as though she was going to keel over. Keeling over was high on my to-do list as well.
Codswallop looked from me to Jeeves and me to Jeeves and back again. “Both of you?” he said faintly.
“Indeed, sir,” came the calm reply.
“Honoria, is this true?” he gurgled.
“I’m afraid so,” she replied, putting her arms around Jeeves’s neck and kissing his cheek. He put his arms around her, and this Wooster felt decidedly left out.
Codswallop shook himself. “Honoria, I am going straight to your father.”
“Oh, no, not Daddy!”
Jeeves hugged her reassuringly. “He will understand, miss.”
“No, no, he won’t!” she moaned, putting her head on his broad shoulder. An urge to push her out of the bed and take her place came over me, but I was too frightened to move.
“Goodbye forever, scarlet woman!” Codswallop pronounced, grabbing his jacket. He slammed the door behind him so hard it splintered.
There was a silence. Then Honoria giggled, guffawed, and proceeded along the train track to full-throated laughter. “Bertie! The look on Percy’s face! Wait until he tells my father he discovered me in a love nest with Bertie Wooster and his man Jeeves!” Laughter overtook her completely. She fell against me, which almost caused me to fall out of the bed.
“It’s not funny!” I shrieked. “My reputation—Jeeves’s reputation—we’ll be laughingstocks!”
“Jeeves, that was utterly brilliant!” she exclaimed, poking him in the side.
“Ow. Thank you, miss. I thought perhaps Mr. Codswallop was tenacious enough to forgive you an indiscretion, even one so far from the pale as this. I was prepared for this eventuality. In case Sir Roderick was willing to believe your having a tryst with Mr. Wooster, I knew that I would need to, as gamblers say, up the ante.”
“We’re ruined.” I put my face in my hands.
“Nobody’s going to believe Percy, you chump! You, me and Jeeves?” A considering expression crossed her map. “Although it might be fun.”
“NO!” I screamed. “Jeeves, tell her! I won’t!”
“Miss Honoria, I really do feel Mr. Wooster’s finer feelings would be assaulted should the three of us engage in carnal activity,” Jeeves said calmly.
“Blast.” Honoria clambered over me to get out of the bed, nearly breaking my leg in the process. “I’ve always wanted to try it. I’ll ask Gussie if he knows of any fellows who feel the same.”
Unless I imagined it, Jeeves moved closer to me in the bed. I wasn’t imagining it; a large hand, presumably the same one that had been on Honoria’s knee, took mine under the bedclothes.
“Miss Glossop, in order not to arouse suspicion, I would suggest that you dress and leave the hotel first. Mr. Wooster and myself will wait a suitable interval before exiting.”
“Yes,” I managed, twining my fingers with the fingers holding mine. Splendid thinking, Jeeves.”
“I hope the two of you can find something to amuse yourselves,” Honoria said as she took her clothes out of the closet. She gave me a broad wink.
Once Honoria had left the vicinity of the De-Luxe, Jeeves and I still lounged in bed. To my delight, he showed no signs of wanting to get up.
“Jeeves,” I said, leaning on his broad tanned chest, “jolly nice of the prune Glossop to leave us like this, what?” I reached around and stroked his side. He smelt of the sun and the seaside. Lovely. I traced my finger along his chest, the line where tan skin ended and white skin from the bathing suit began.
“Indeed, sir,” he rumbled, running his fingers through the Wooster hair.
“This is a consummation devoutly to be wished, Jeeves.”
“Not yet, sir,” Jeeves replied, and kissed me. It wasn’t just a kiss, it was a pipterino, a sockdolager, a wow and no mistake. The man knew his way around a pair of lips! I joined in and we proceeded to pash enthusiastically, tongues getting in on the action while hands went hither and thither and beyond. Jeeves removed my drawers with slightly less than his usual efficiency. He lay down, pulling me alongside of him. I held onto him as he devoted his efforts to the newly freed Wooster’s wooster. Jeeves pulled with long, firm strokes, rubbing his fingers lightly over the head.
“Jeeves,” I gasped, “I had no idea!”
“I know, sir,” he whispered into my hair. “I did. I have for some time.”
“You set up the whole thing deliberately—woof—didn’t you?”
“It seemed to me that it would kill two birds with one stone.”
“Oh, god, Jeeves, it was inspi—igh-igh—spired! You stand alone!” It was at that moment that my body shook, there was an explosion and I saw Japanese lanterns behind my eyelids. A century later, when my eyes felt normal again, I opened them to see Jeeves gazing lovingly down at me.
I smiled and reached down to grasp his jeeves to reciprocate. A Wooster never leaves another fellow wanting, it’s against the Code. But to my surprise, he was already done. “Jeeves...did I fall unconscious?”
He smiled. “No, sir. Seeing you in your ecstasy was too much for me.”
“Er, Jeeves,” I managed, “you didn’t want a threesome with Honoria, did you?”
“Perish the thought, sir!” His mouth formed a moue of disapproval, and he kissed me again. “All I desired was you. I have desired you for no little time.”
I ran the hand down his damask cheek, fingers dragging along his jawline. “I didn’t know I desired you until I saw you lying on the beach. One had no idea you kept this splendid corpus concealed in your uniform. But now I shall want to see you sans uniform on a daily basis.”
“That can be arranged, sir,” he rumbled.
“Thank you, Jeeves.” My eyes shut, and I fell into a blissful doze, held by the most wonderful man in England. Scratch that. The most wonderful man in the world.