It seems that in the days of old, unwanted advances on servant girls by their masters were all the vogue. There are tons of literature where a girl can look up what to do in that situation: she must virtuously rebuff the chap’s advances, and eventually he’ll marry her. Though why she’d want to marry a cove she just spent a whole book running away from is beyond me.
There are no useful hints for the opposite case. Imagine my shock when one day, out of the blue, the most respectable chap who ever ironed another chap’s clothes, in re: Jeeves, began to take an inappropriate interest in the young master. Nobody tells you what to do when you’re being made love to by your valet.
It started out very innocently, on the day when my Aunt Dahlia and her daughter Angela came to London for some shopping. They had dropped in, left some bags on my doormat, and gone off again to collect the haul later. In any case, it just so happened that I wanted a gasper lit, and Jeeves held out his lighter.
But in that moment I saw a hideous porcelain pug rear its ugly head out of one of the bags, and I got so confused that my hand moved away from the flame Jeeves was holding out. It took me some seconds to get back on the job, and even then, my hand was still shaking. Jeeves quietly steadied my hand and lit the gasper with the usual perfect efficiency. But then I realized that he was looking me straight in the eye – a thing he had never done before over a light.
His gaze, and his fingers, stayed on me for about half a second too long. The fingers, I wouldn’t have minded so much, but the eyes! The way he stared at me with just a hint of insolence, then averted them and went about his usual routine! It unsettled me so much that I forgot all about the pug for the rest of the day. I watched Jeeves float through the flat and tried to figure out – had I been seeing things that weren’t there, or had he really been locking eyes with me?
The next day, the incident had slipped away and made space for more worthy ideas. And I would never have remembered it, either, if I hadn’t started to pay attention to the mirrors in the bathroom when I came out of the tub the next day. The bar of “Don’t bring Lulu” I was humming faded away in my throat: Jeeves, who was doing something or other behind me, was looking at my back with some vague interest. Well, not my back exactly, but rather the lower end of it. It’s not that he was leering, mind you; just looking at something he liked, the way one eyes a meringue before dinner, when its consumption is still in the far future, but definitely on the agenda.
The eye-locking came back to my memory like a flash. Then Jeeves handed me a towel, and the moment was gone. But I decided to pay a lot more attention to the bathroom mirrors in the future.
Over the next three days, he would sometimes ogle portions of me when he thought I wasn’t looking. Then one day, suddenly, his eyes left my sirloin regions and met my eyes in the mirror.
“Will that be all, sir?” he said.
“Err”, I said. He knew that I had been watching him. He had known all along. “Err, yes, that’s all, Jeeves.”
And the blasted pirate very nearly smiled and said: “Very good, sir.”
Bertram’s peace of mind, one would think, would take a swift vacation after all this. One would think that a man who’s being subtly made love to by his valet would soon be a nervous wreck, and I’m sure that it has happened to lesser men with lesser valets. But once we had established the fact that Jeeves really was ogling me, and I was not just seeing things that weren’t there, my mind became as calm as a tar pit. I was, to my own amazement, perfectly at ease with everything. If Jeeves was going to bat his eyelashes at me, let him. I was even a little flattered.
I haven’t always lived like a nun, you know. In adult life, they throw girls your way and expect you to marry them, and nothing else; but when I was a growing boy, in school, some boys would throw themselves at each other, and I quite liked that. Most of them had dropped their fellow men like hot bricks as soon as they came of age, but I don’t see why one should give up a nice thing just because one gets older. Jeeves’ interest was unexpected, but I was not going to stop him. In fact, I couldn’t wait to see where he would lead us.
At this time, a change began to take place in my faithful factotum. Apart from the change in his attitude towards my buttocks, I mean to say. Jeeves, realizing that I wasn’t rebuffing his advances, positively began to glow. Of course, he couldn’t look any more carefully preened than he always did – if that were even possible, they would put him under a blanket because his sparkling would blind the eyes of innocent passers-by – but he suddenly went about the flat with a quarter-inch smile stapled to both ends of his mouth. His eyes shone when he touched me in order to straighten out my tie or my collar, and when I came home, his “Good evening, sir” had a bounce to it like a lamb in spring.
For about four weeks, he continued this subtle wooing, and I let him. Other men might have found some pretext to sack him (in fact, I wondered, was this the reason why he had served in so many different places at his age? Always ogling up his masters?), but I didn’t feel at all uneasy about it. This little ship was rocking peacefully on a calm sea, and whatever shore it would end up on, I was fine with.
Then came Cannes (some readers may remember this holiday as the start of the love story of the Bassett and Gussie Fink-Nottle, of Angela’s shark and Tuppy’s addiction to steak-and-kidney pie), and we were separated for nearly two months. I was a little afraid that he would have lost interest by the time I came back, but it turned out that a. really made both our h.’s grow f. It made Jeeves even bold enough to become indiscreet.
The next day, when I was just about to leave for lunch, he looked at me and pointed out that I had forgotten to shave a spot under my right ear. I was ready to hop back into the backroom, annoyed because I was late, but Jeeves already had the razor in hand and said: “Just a moment, sir”, and I held out my neck towards him. Scraping away the remains was the work of two seconds, and kissing me on the corner of my mouth was the work of three.
No kiss had ever made the Wooster heart throb like this one. I grinned like an idiot, wheezed “Toodle-oo” at Jeeves and ran out into the street before he could see me flush like a schoolgirl, capering all the way.