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Jeeves and the Blessed Indiscretion

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Ordinarily Jeeves manages to divine when I have awoken by some arcane method, likely of a kind man was Not Meant To Know. It is a settled thing that within two minutes of the resurrection I can anticipate my tea coming into the room, ready to do its part in the getting of one Bertram Wooster from the horizontal to the vertical state. On particular occasions, perhaps the period may stretch to five of the big hand.

The morning unfairly showed no early warning signs of disaster. The sun was simply pouring enthusiastically into the room, rather overdoing it in my opinion. The consequences of an evening sprung off by Foggy Moreland are not lightly shrugged away, he said with a hollow laugh. I had just settled it with myself that when Jeeves entered, I should have to call upon him for one of his nothing-short-of-miraculous concoctions.

At that moment I glanced again at the clock, and it dawned upon me that no less than fifteen minutes of awareness had been engaged in reaching this conclusion. A dreadful sinking sensation gripped me at once. You may ask yourself why I did not resort to the bell. Well, after a fellow has gotten used to someone like Jeeves, he can hardly be blamed for jumping to conclusions, and it seemed to me I was sure to find him prostrated in the hall.

Having dragged the corpus out of bed and tottered downstairs in something just short of a panic, I consider I was justified in being cross when I found Jeeves quite composedly sweeping the hearth in the sitting room, with no signs of the heart-attack or the impending-stroke to mar his appearance.

'Well, really!' I said.

'I beg your pardon, sir,' Jeeves said, straightening up with dustbin in hand. 'I did not expect you to wake for another fifteen minutes. Will you have your breakfast now?'

Now, when presented with an apology alongside a plate of baked eggs and ham, it would take a harder man than B. Wooster to ring a peal, but I don't mind saying I was taken aback. I mean, even supposing I was to linger in the land of Nod a while, what on earth did the fellow mean, sweeping the hearth at this hour of the morn instead of attending for the waking cry of the young master, etc.? Still I made no noise, for render unto Jeeves what is Jeeves', and if he felt the establishment could not carry on another moment without a swept hearth, who was I to argue the point?

#

It's rummy how some things don't go away when neglected. I mean to say, take a girl for instance, you had better be dashed careful not to neglect her or one morning she will have sailed for the colonies with a millionaire, and there you are, in the soup, supposing of course that your heart was really in it, and you were not secretly wishing to be well-shot of the whole business. Or if in the thrill of combat you leave your dinner unattended on the table and go and have a round of billiards, you may confidently expect the grub will have disappeared just when you are starting to feel the pinch of the inner beast.

So anyone would have expected this business of Jeeves' to blow over, and when my tea arrived as scheduled the next am, I gave it not another thought. God's in his Heaven and all's right with the world and all that. Said state of domestic bliss qua ignorance lasted only to the evening, however, when I discovered waiting for me a pale lilac specimen of neckwear which one could only describe as juicy in the extreme, which I had brought home the week prior and added to the wardrobe with a careless, insouciant air.

We had exchanged words on the subject, ending rather austerely in firm assertion on the master's side and stiff resignation on the man's. A certain decided coolness had resulted. Yet now here it was, willingly laid out for me, when I was sure Jeeves would have arranged by now to have it baked into a pie or run over by a cart.

"Jeeves!" I said.

"Yes, sir?"

"This tie!"

"Yes, sir?"

Well, I was stymied. Treed, as it were. Brought up short. After all, one can hardly ask a fellow what he was thinking when he has only put out a tie which one has just finished informing him, with the stern majesty of the ages, was to remain among the Wooster panoply over his objections.

"Right ho!" I said.

I sallied forth in my tie, which yielded the anticipated cries of delight among the cognoscenti, but my mind was decidedly occupied and it cast a bit of a pall over the triumph. After turning the matter over in my head a couple of dozen times, I cried off and legged it home, bound and determined as ever a man was to find out what was stirring in the depths, as it were. After all, when one has got one's hands on an artist like Jeeves, one cannot be too cautious. Only a few months ago some unscrupulous type had been trying to lure him away on the quiet, to the tune of one hundred pounds more per annum. If I hadn't found him doing sums in a dark corner and worked out the whole, and upped the ante by a good fifty of the shiniest, the most awful consequences could have followed.

I knew the game was afoot when I saw the side door illuminated; properly rummy, I call it, having the tradesmen's entrance hanging open at 2 ack emma. Entering into the spirit of the thing, I went around back and hauled myself in at the window. Not, of course, that I meant to go sneaking about the house in order to eavesdrop upon Jeeves. But after all, a man has a right to go about his own house as he likes, and if he chooses to be generous and not wake his long-suffering, hard-working valet just to fetch a glass of milk or something, then it can hardly be called any fault of his if he happens to come bang up on said valet having a tryst in the pantry or working on a private toot amidst the French brandy.

No sooner had I made my way down and about to the back stairs but I overheard the following speech:

'It is a great pity. My, to think of such a comfortable situation lost, and all for the want of a little resolve. I am afraid Mr. Wooster will not be at all amused with my little folio of photographs. The ones you burnt were really only a small sample, and my, my, by no means the most indiscreet.'

With a flash of perspicacity, so very like lightning on the darkling plain, I realized that presently ensconced in my downstairs dining room was an out-and-out bounder, and of no ordinary variety.

'You are quite sure you do not wish to change your mind? That salver there alone would entirely -- '

'Get out.'

I have heard Jeeves speak with real loathing, on the subject of some maroon-striped blue shirtings I meant to wear once, and so it is with authority I can say this last was said in the tones of frothing-at-the-mouth rage. Considering that the only salver which could have been under discussion was the gold-plated thingamabob Uncle Ernest sent from the West Indies a year and so back, inexcusable except as the result of overindulgence in rum punch, which by mutual agreement has spent the last year and so minus a day sitting downstairs well out of sight, I could safely assume the degree of passion was directed at the threat to Mr. Wooster's innocent eyes, and not to said dish.

Chastened, the bounder got out as instructed, and I sloped off to ponder. It was a trickyish sort of situation. After all, here was Jeeves going on forgetting my tea and entertaining dubious characters who hadn't the sense to not want anything to do with Uncle Ernest's gold plate. It stands to reason that what the photog saw had to be something pretty ripe. Jeeves not being the type of fellow to shove old ladies in front of trams or anything really rotten, I was at point-non-plus trying to make it out, but my course was plain.

It is a well-known fact that a person can never see the way out of their own difficulties. I cannot count the number of times Jeeves has brought the dawn unlooked-for in darkness when I was positively certain I was in the soup. Plainly he was now stymied by his own troubles, and it fell to yours truly to return the favour. I considered it as a debt of honor.

#

Having spent a sleepless night in contemplations, rendered more sleepless by the necessity of getting back out the window sans alerting Jeeves and in again by the front door, I was left with all the difficulties of tracking down a fellow without knowing his direction, his profession, or what he looked like. Asking Jeeves was right-out for the obvious.

Fortunately, the bounder solved all my worries the very next day by accosting me in the street, trying to shove a packet of photos in my hand without so much as a by-your-leave. He started in on an aspirated whining line to the effect that I had been cruelly imposed upon, which was true enough in the moment. It has occasionally been said, usually by my Aunt Agatha, that I have not much self-assertion, and it is deuced unfair of her, too, as whenever I give it a try on any of her proposals she is quick as a rabbit to put a stop to it. But in the present occasion I defy even Aunt Agatha to quarrel with the degree of assertion displayed by self.

Having stiff-armed the fellow unheard and pushed him off into the gutter, I shot around the corner. Of course, I had seen at once that the only thing for it was to follow him. The only establishment in the area was a wretched sort of tea shop, but with customary vim I nipped inside and snatched a greatcoat and hat off the rack for purposes of disguise, flinging a couple of ten-bob notes at the waitress. More, truth be told, than the ensemble was worth, but in the service of justice a Wooster brooks no cost to purse or personal appearance.

A bit of noise followed me out into the street, but I paid no mind. My quarry had already picked himself up from the mudswept regions more properly his abode and wandered off towards Bloomsbury. I hailed a cab in proper Sherlockian fashion, though of the automobile variety, hansom cabs dashedly thin on the ground these days, and we bowled along after him at a regular sort of clip.

Well, the fellow didn't actually go to ground, was the thing. Instead he crawled out of his own cab and settled himself in at another of these blasted teahouses, and started looking over what I suppose were his receipts. A fellow that goes around trying to steal Uncle Ernest's dish is, safe to say, not going to be forthcoming with the ready. Also, the blighter had only ordered a cup of tea, and was presently attracting the kind of looks from the waitress which lacked something of the spirit of goodwill towards men and all that.

Hat and coat, in addition to shabbiness, were rather too large, so a nice sort of figure flapping about I made, but I doubt the old pater would have known me, had he thought to wander back earthwards at the moment, so I knew no fear of recognition. I poked inside and darted over to a table in a darkish corner and exercised the Wooster charm in low tones upon the young lady in question.

'Tea, please. I say, bit of a rum sort, that chap, no?'

In confirmation of all my suspicions, she cast an ominous scowl in his general direction. 'I should think,' she said resentfully. 'I like a man can do some justice to his stomach, instead of teasing it on with tea and not a bite to eat.'

'Which reminds me, I should like an omelette, a couple of buns, and perhaps -- no, certainly -- some sausages,' I said, concealing the inward shudder. Jeeves should never know the sacrifices which I had endured on his account. 'I don't suppose I know him. Not a Mr. Thortingham, is he? I had a teacher in first form named Thortingham.'

'Oh no, that's old Jack Foxley, he never taught no school in his life,' she said. 'Old b---.' The charming young lass skipped off to the kitchens and my doom, leaving me slightly the richer in essential information if cringing in the regions of the stomach, as it were.

I had made some small inroads into what not even charity could call a repast, when a big fellow of the stevedore variety came bursting in the front door. He stood there heaving and snorting, and making rather a spectacle of himself. Foxley had a start, seeing him: effect of a guilty conscience, I expect, though one would think a fellow who went around blackmailing upstanding people like Jeeves would have gotten a thicker skin by then. Anyway he shook his things into his satchel and sidled out the door post-haste.

I was on the point of springing up to follow when the large chap made a bee-line for yours truly with fists clenched, and stood in the most obstructionist way directly in my path.

'What the devil d'you think you're on about, pinching my coat?' he demanded.

'This piece of ruin?' I said. 'Good God, man, you never chased me across London to have it back, did you? I left twenty pounds for it.'

'It's the principle of the thing,' he said. 'You can't go around snatching a man's coat, even if you are a toff.'

'My quarry is getting away and here you are making bally noise at me about the aristocracy and the common man. Go buy a new one from Weston, and have him put it to my account; Bertram Wooster is the name,' I said, preparing to make a valiant heave and have him out of the way, or at least a jolly good try at it.

'Here, you're Jeeves's fellow, ain't you,' my adversary unexpectedly said at this, however. 'I heard as you were dicked in the nob.'

Ignoring this unflattering description, I seized upon the heart of the matter. 'Do you know Jeeves?'

' 'Course I know him,' he said. 'Why, didn't he set up my Annie by half when she was that in a muddle over a bad business at her shop?'

Shortly thereafter, we were crouched outside Mr. Foxley's window, contemplating our options. Mr. Jessup, as my stalwart companion was called, expressed the opinion we were in imminent danger of being taken up, but upon my persuasive arguments (another fiver, as well as assurances that any policeman would blame me for the entire enterprise, while he could pass himself off as a groundskeeper long enough to whiffle off), agreed to boost me up to the balcony.

The rest proved remarkably straightforward, at least when one discounts the cat, the housemaid, and the fire, which was put out long before reaching any of the other residences on the street, and without injury to any of the inhabitants, though I have to call that a pity. Jessup and I went galloping away with a really ripe assortment out of the old rotter's safe, after tipping him out the window to avoid said fire -- he had opened the thing to put away his little packet of horrors. Rather a neat business, and I flatter myself that if I could ever forget myself so far as to stoop to a life of crime, London should never be the same, as the great detective says.

#

I parted from Jessup with many hearty congratulations on both sides, though he did mutter a quiet, 'God looks after fools and madmen, I warrant,' while shaking my hand, and off I toddled with the goods, as I believe they are called in the profession.

Most of the lot could be burnt, of course, but I had a dashed unpleasant moment finding a handsome set of diamonds buried in amongs the bits and boxes. I mean, going by the house and all, the blackmailing trade brings in a goodish bit, and though I suppose it would be poetic to drop his ill-gotten gains off in the nearest poor-box, it seemed to me that it was a bit off, pinching a fellow's jewelry, and also likelier to land a chap in gaol, with attendant wailing and reproaches from kin, than the rest.

Fortunately, before I had time to really properly anticipate Aunt Agatha's dulcet tones conveying her feelings on the subject, Jeeves came into the room. Now, Jeeves is ordinarily the most phlegmatic of chaps. The proverbial face of stone is simply nothing to it. At the moment, however, there were distinct traces of emotion.

'Sir,' he said. 'May I have a word?'

Nothing as undignified as a tremor, of course. But distinct.

'Jeeves, cast an eye over here, would you? What do you suppose a fellow would do for stealing these?' I inquired.

'Seven years with time off for good behavior, I believe, sir,' he said, obligingly looking over the frippery. 'Sir -- ' Here he broke off and looked again. 'Sir,' he said, in quite different tones, 'how have you come by Lady Tavington-Platt's diamonds?'

'Ah!' I said, perceiving all. 'I suppose Foxley would take diamonds when he couldn't get gold plate.'

I have said before that Jeeves stands quite alone among the breed in intellectual matters, and I expect I will never again have the opportunity to see him so thoroughly at a loss. The poor fellow looked so white I had to put him in a chair and give him a glass of brandy, very Boxing Day, and he gazed on me as on an eighth wonder. Well, there is only so much of that sort of thing a fellow can take before he begins to feel called-upon to say something.

'Er, ah,' I said.

But thankfully the wheels once again began to turn, the tides to ebb and flow, sun hop back along its ordinary course.

'Sir,' Jeeves said, getting himself out of the chair, 'Perhaps I might deal with those for you?'

'Very good, Jeeves,' I said and handed the diamonds over with relief. Jeeves vanished the necklace somehow; out of s. out of m., as they say, and I promptly washed my hands of the thing.

I rather hoped we might maintain a manly, brothers-in-arms silence about the matter from there, avoiding all those troublesome explanations and so on, but Jeeves had a grim, martyred air that heralded something more to come.

'I am very grateful, sir, and very sorry you should have been put to any trouble,' he said. 'My acquaintance Mr. Harding will make you an excellent replacement -- '

'Jeeves, you don't mean to leave me after this?' I said, aghast. Not precisely fair to put it that way, I suppose, with the fellow laboring under a debt and all that, but what was I to do with a shock like that, I ask you?

He paused and gave me an odd sort of look. 'Sir, did you examine Mr. Foxley's property before you disposed of it?'

'I should think not,' I said, revolted.

'You have been exceedingly generous,' he said quietly.

'Well, I have. If you only saw those sausages -- ' I said with feeling, and saw him give a sort of flinch sideways. 'But there, water under the bridge. I do hope that is an end to this talk of leaving. Honestly, Jeeves,' and I could not entirely avoid a reproachful tone, 'I should never have thought that fine old word loyalty was dead in your breast, before this.'

'Loyalty, sir, forbids my taking advantage of your forbearance. If you were aware of the facts, you could not consider me fit for your service.'

'Jeeves,' I said firmly, 'this is bloody nonsense. If you are unfit, the rest of the world had better blow its brains out now and put an end to the music. What is it, murder? Although really, I can't believe you would be so clumsy as to let a second-rate weasel like this Foxley catch you at it, if it were.'

'I am an invert,' he said.

'Oh, ah,' I said, and blushed. Well, what on earth had he been doing, letting the blighter take photos of him in flag., anyway? Then a horrible thought struck. 'Not with -- '

'No,' he said, looking quite as horrified. 'With a gentleman of his acquaintance. I believe it was a settled arrangement, between them. There was a curtained alcove, where I believe -- ' He looked red. '-- where Mr. Foxley evidently concealed himself and his equipment.'

'Oh. I say. Rummy, that,' I said. 'I, er, hope relations have been severed?'

'At once.'

'Well,' I said. We stood there in one of those blighted silences that makes a fellow want to go sidling out the door. And then the light dawned over the land of Wooster. 'Jeeves!' I said.

'Yes, sir?'

'Have, um, other relations been established?'

'No, sir,' he said. 'If you should care to accept my word that none other shall be formed -- '

'Well, I rather should,' I said. 'No, what I mean, is -- oh dear.' My mind was a perfect blank. I mean, nothing really guides a chap in a moment like this, does it? If I had had Miss Wickham in front of me, there are at least a bally thousand go-rounds of it in literature to follow on, but it didn't seem really the thing for me to be flopping down on one knee before Jeeves.

But the opportunity simply couldn't be missed. A Wooster knows a good thing when he has got hold of it, and I had rather a strong preference for making it until-death-do-us-part instead of two weeks' notice.

'Look, Jeeves, I don't suppose this might have given you rather a distaste for the carefree bachelor life? I mean, is variety an irresistible song, or might you consider forsaking all others, and so forth?' I asked finally.

He looked taken aback, and well he might, seeing how I was making something of a rum go of it, but at least he wasn't flying from the room or giggling at me in that horrid way Honoria Glossop did the first time I found myself pushed up to the mark.

'Of course one couldn't properly regularize the arrangement, but I hope my word would be good enough,' I added.

He gave me a considering eye, though if ever man knew prospective mate, Jeeves knew his, and what flaws there might be in the Wooster physique or character were hardly to be concealed from him. 'Are you quite certain, sir?' he inquired.

'Dash it all, Jeeves, it is not as though Aunt Agatha were putting me up to it this time, you know,' I said.

'In that case, I should consider it my very great honor to accept,' Jeeves said.

We shook on it.

Another of those awkward silences ensued as we contemplated the traditional salute, but of course a moment's reflection made clear that as the proposing party, it fell to me to begin, and I gallantly dived in. After a moment, however, Jeeves prudently took over the business.

'I suppose we ought to go upstairs, what?' I said rather breathlessly some moments later. My jacket was lying in a crumpled way upon the floor, but I was having some difficulty mustering a proper degree of concern. Jeeves had transferred his attentions to my neck.

'Later,' Jeeves said, a wealth of meaning in those brief syllables.

'Oh... oh. Yes. Very well. Carry on, Jeeves.'

#

The common wisdom has it married life changes a fellow, but having got over the awful shock of learning Jeeves' first name was Reginald, I cannot really say I have noticed very much of a difference, Jeeves looking more tolerantly upon a chap's usual round of amusements perhaps than the hypothetical little woman might have.

However, I could not in justice deny Jeeves' point that the authority of a spouse added to that of a valet required some concessions. The lilac tie has not again seen the light of day, and I have some fears for its present health and happiness. A simply charming set of green spats marked with blue pin-stripe have also fallen under the gimlet eye, and the less said of the fate of my recent aubergine waistcoat, the better.

Aside from these minor alterations to wardrobe, I do often have to wait a good deal longer than previously for my morning libations, as Jeeves turns out to be one of those awkward types who are bright and chipper in the am, and rather inclined towards the sportive. Such sacrifices, however, a gentleman can but endure.

# End