Rummy thing, valeting. I mean, I wonder what drove Jeeves into it. I can’t imagine that it provides the necessary stimulus for that fish-fed brain of his. Was he in dire straits? Was he broken-hearted? Was he undercover? He could not be merely my valet.
The thought that Jeeves harboured some dark secret began to dawn on me as that busy old fool, the unruly sun. I’d like to kick the sun in the seat of its pants, if suns have got pants.
As soon as the thought that Jeeves had a mysterious reason for being in my employ crept up on my horizon, it blazed across my mind and scorched every other thought I had of Jeeves. I had some pretty fruity thoughts of Jeeves that I had been fondly entertaining that I completely lost the tail of. It took a glass of the stiffest and several of his fellows to coax them back.
It was only a week or two of cocktails at night, trying to coax back the scampered fruity thoughts and dispel the fruitless attempts to divine Jeeves’s motives in becoming my valet before I resorted to asking Jeeves to hold the soda. It wasn't my way to get sloshed at home, but I couldn't bring my wonderings and troubles before Jeeves to tidy up and mend for me. You see the dilemma. He was genesis of the problem, and therefore not the solution. Quid pro quo. No, that’s not right. It’s not right and I can’t ask Jeeves.
“Jeeves!” I called.
“Mix me a brandy and soda. No soda.”
I pondered again what might motivate a paragon such as Jeeves to emanate from the background of my sitting room holding a tray.
“Brandy’s a solution, I suppose, Jeeves, what?”
“If you mean that brandy is a solute uniformly mixed with soda as a solvent, then you would be incorrect, sir. The solvent is the water and the solute is carbon dioxide. The brandy — ”
“You mistake me, Jeeves. Two more of these and the slinkiest, fruitiest tail would not elude me.”
I downed what I planned to be the first of several. The best-laid plans, however, gang aft agley. Jeeves has translated the Scots to me, but it doesn’t spring to mind. Never mind, the events I relate will show you better than I can explain it.
“I fear alcohol will not allow for clarity of thought, sir.”
Jeeves’ brow did not furrow, but something like a furrow disrupted his map. It took me a minute but I isolated the effect to his lips. Another minute and I had it. It was either a pout or a moue. I had just drawn breath to ask (Had I been holding my breath? It seems that I had) but it came out on (in?) this side of a gasp instead.
“Sir,” said Jeeves firmly, depositing the tray with an unnecessary flourish. “A good night’s sleep will more likely provide the elusive tail than a series of beverages.”
He gripped my elbow and steered me from the room as a boisterous child might sail a toy boat across the carpet. I have described his features as finely chiselled; yet in that moment I perceived that they were not so much marble as positively stone.
In my preoccupation with Jeeves’, well, occupation, had I overlooked some sartorial matter? Sudden and forceful movements on Jeeves’ part are mainly due to sartorial matters. My calves were swathed in a debonair pair of lavender silk socks, prevented from pooling unattractively about the Wooster ankles by a pair of sock garters.
“Pipped, Jeeves? I rather thought the lavender socks had been accepted. This close to bed time is not the hour for these doubts re. socks. Your wont on these matters generally expresses itself in the moment unless it is leaving the iron on them whilst it biffs off to answer the telephone, what?”
“Omnes vulnerant, ultima necat.”
That didn’t ring a bell. I tried it in my head in Mr Griggs’ voice from second year Latin. It didn't sound right. Had to be one of Jeeves’, then.
“Nonsense, Jeeves. Omnes, um. Omnes… Do you know, Jeeves, I’ve never known you so far off the mark. Omnes vulner-ay…” I realized where I’d read that before. “Oh, I know that one, Jeeves! It's on every sundial. Well, it makes neither sense there nor here. Why the opprobium for the socks — is it opprobium?”
“Opprobium, sir. I take no issues with the socks, Sir. The shade is quite different to that of the regrettable waistcoat of last season. I consider that we came to a satisfactory agreement on purple garments."
I placed my drink on my night table and began to loosen my tie. A tail twitched in my mind’s eye. “Jeeves.”
“It’s not the socks?”
I’d let the man get away from me in the past. Although I had relented on the waistcoat, there had been extenuating circumstances at the time that I won’t go into now. It sounds like a limerick gone wrong, now that I think about it.
There once was a chef name of Anatole,
Whose dinner I’ve missed… oh damn it all.
I’ve a fiancée more
Than I wanted before,
If Jeeves would just…
No, that one’s not coming out right.
There once was a prince among valets,
Who ruled whilst he offered the chalice,
Iron fist, velvet glove,
He managed my love,
So I had none, nor any white jackets.
No, that was the other time with the mess jacket.
Waistcoats don’t mix with my man,
If they’re red, when my jacket is tan.
I was to be married,
Yet justice miscarried,
I’m as free as you’d think that I am.
My man hates connubial bliss,
He strives so I give it the miss.
I’ve come very near,
To the altar, I fear,
But never as near as first kiss.
You get the gist of it, I expect.
I once had a valet named Jeeves.
He hated brass buttons on coats.
I got engaged,
The cat isn't mine,
And limericks are deuced hard to write.
I’ve gone off piste.
Back on track. I have tested the limits of Jeeves’ feudal spirit and found that as a pastime, I like it less than golf. My own poignant anguish in his absence is detailed elsewhere. Dashed if I would let a stony moue eat away at me over lavender socks.
“I worry, Jeeves. I ask for a brandy and soda, and you tell me the hours wound. You have mixed for me a million b. and s.’s. You have only seen one pair of lavender socks grace the young master’s ankles. If you mean to tell me it’s eaten away at you all day, I say rubbish. The evening finds me no less firm than the ack emma. The socks will come to no harm.”
Jeeves did not speak. I glanced his way, and his face was as unreadable as the Rongorongo glyphs.
I sat on the bed and offered a shoe. Jeeves is, at the end of the day, my man. He knelt before me to remove the old brogues, and then sat back on his heels.
“As I said, sir, it is not the socks. The phrase I offer alludes to the removal of the socks.”
Cryptic, that. He removed a shoe and held my foot in his hand.
“Ultima necat?” I asked. “The last hour kills? Dashed depressing, Jeeves.”
“Indeed, sir.” His hand slid up from my ankle to my garter. I goggled.
“J-Jeeves!” I gave a manly squeak.
I noticed that his eyebrow was a sixteenth of an inch higher than it had been a moment earlier. I thought of all the times I had sent Jeeves ahead with the luggage. He had that look of having unpacked the suitcases, heard the below-stairs gossip, and prepared a snoot-full upon hearing the two-seater on the gravel.
“You’re ahead of me, Jeeves.”
He was on the other foot, now.
“Extraordinary thing, Jeeves, you being here.”
“This is a duty I perform daily, sir.”
“Not you holding my foot, you bearing my cup, Jeeves. Not that you bore the most recently requested cup. No chance you’d bear it now?”
“What do you mean, ‘no, sir’? Extraordinary that you would be my valet, and extraordinarier that you would refuse to valet. Unaccountable. Damn and blast the fool unruly sun, Jeeves! Do not correct my quote!”
I could see, though he hadn’t moved a fraction, that he wanted to give me the full first three lines. I only remembered them at all because he’d said them not two weeks earlier when he handed over his incomparable restorative instead of my usual morning tea. Silence reigned for a moment, my foot still in his hand.
“Tell me something I’ve been wanting to know, Jeeves. You know why you choose to work here and I do not. Time to fill me in.”
Jeeves straightened up from his heels and I found that he loomed just as well on his knees before me as he did on his feet at my elbow. I don’t know if you’ve been early to a really big do and heard the orchestra warming up? It charges the air. One goes from milling about aimlessly to the business of filling up the dance card. It is neither as abrupt as a starting shot, nor as familiar as the dinner-gong, yet my heart was racing and my mouth hung open. I’d never felt any excitement over a dance card, but in that moment I felt a sudden fellow-feeling with every beazel who’d ever gazed up at me and asked if she could put me down for the waltz.
He began to speak and in that instant my heart became a panicked parakeet flapping about within the confines of my ribs.
“It is a personal feeling, sir.”
Air was in short supply. As I panted at the edge of my bed, the thought occurred that my breath must reach Jeeves’ face. I swallowed nervously and attempted to draw in air through my nose. I may have become light-headed in the attempt. Jeeves looked down and his lashes swooped down like a pair of ostrich-feather fans carried by a modest cabaret dancer. I giggled and Jeeves was up like a rocket.
I jumped up with him. Shaky and panting. I had somehow got ahold of his arm and most of the
back of his jacket. He froze.
“Pygmalion and Galatea, what?”
We stood there for a moment, and I regained my breath.
“Your statement is more accurate than you realise.” Jeeves spoke quietly, and I noticed he did not call the young master sir.
His voice was frosty and I loosed his arm. I wound my other hand a bit in his jacket and looked longingly at the tray on the sideboard.
“I just meant the statue,” I said. “It being still, if you see what I mean.”
“As did I, sir.”
Here’s where I knew it had gone all gang aft agley. Jeeves had been my valet and everything had been lovely. Now I was hanging onto the man’s jacket in my bedroom and he was both standing stock still and champing at the bit to be off.
“I should have just asked you, Jeeves,” I said morosely. “I should always just ask you. You would sort it.”
“In the morning, sir.”
I let go. Jeeves shimmered out like the fog on little cat feet.
“Chill in the air,” I said to the room. I pulled a fretful jacket round the shoulders and climbed into my bed. I ran over the events of the evening in my mind.
|raised eyebrow||jacket grasping|
I stopped there. He’d solved it. Personal feeling. He’d been ahead of me; I’d got that right. He was my valet because of personal feeling. Jeeves wanted me to catch my cat of a thought sober and at home. No, not just at home: in bed. ‘In the morning, sir.’
I settled down into my bed. Jeeves was going to sort it all out in the morning. The mystery wasn’t completely solved, but I’d firmly grasped the tail of my musings and finally glimpsed the whole cat.