Title: Yes, Sir, Jeeves, Part I (the entire story can also be found here.)
Author: Sky Blue Reverie skyblue_reverie
Fandom: Jeeves and Wooster
Word Count: Approximately 14,000
Summary: Jeeves and Bertie swap roles at an upstate New York manor house as part of a plot to help Bertie's friend Larky. Wacky hijinx, along with a large helping of slashiness, ensue. This is a standalone, not part of my continuing J/W series.
Author's Notes: Written for the 2006 yuletide challenge, for the lovely notpoetry. Infinite gratitude to my beta-goddess Essie for beta work far above and beyond the call of duty. Massive thanks also to ennui_blue_lite, rivers_bend, and everyone else whose encouragement and support got me through this project. I love you all!
Disclaimer: I only wish Jeeves and Bertie belonged to me.
Feedback: Very much appreciated, as always.
From time to time, a chap wants a change of scenery. It's only natural for a young fellow, full of vim and vigour, to want to spread his wings and see the world, after all. In addition, I'd recently had a bit of a run-in with my Aunt Agatha on the subject of some dratted beazel upon whom she wished me to bestow the Wooster name. I had issued a nolle prosequi, and things had become a bit thick between Aunt A. and self. Accordingly, Jeeves and I had somewhat hastily toddled over to New York, where we planned to stay until the auntly storm had blown over and it was clear skies over London once again.
Jeeves and I passed a peaceful few weeks and settled into our new digs quite nicely. He made a few noises about us biffing off to the Old West to see the sights there and participate in some sport with the rather improbable name of fly-fishing. I wasn't altogether certain if the fish were supposed to fly or the fishermen, but either way it held no appeal for me and I told Jeeves firmly that I was sorry for his disappointment, but we were remaining in situ.
I'd stayed in these parts before, and Jeeves was able to set us up in the same flat that we'd taken the last time we were here. I soon renewed my acquaintance with the coves I'd palled around with on my previous visit to the New World. Most of them were the starving-artist types who seemed to live off the largesse of oofy relations - delightful chaps, but forever having disagreements with the gas company which resulted in the stuff being shut off.
One of this group was a fellow named Abelard "Larky" Larkmeade, who dabbled in the musical end of things, composing ditties and whatnot. He assured me that he was quite well-thought-of in certain circles, but what circles those were, I couldn't say. He was a jocular, cheerful sort, known to all and sundry as the fizziest bird between the Mississippi R. and the Atlantic O. He had a physique that might best be described as bean-pole-esque and a great deal of messy auburn hair.
One fine morning, around ten, just as I was addressing myself to the coffee and kippers that Jeeves had brought in, there was a sudden pounding at the door, causing me to upset my coffee cup and slosh the stuff down my front.
"Who on earth could be calling at this ridiculous hour?" I asked irritably, scrubbing at the stain darkening my previously rather spiffing periwinkle pyjamas.
"I could not say, sir. A blotting motion, rather than a rubbing one, will likely produce a more effective result, sir," he said. Meanwhile, the banging at the door continued unabated.
I dabbed at the damp spot and motioned for Jeeves to go answer the door and see what misguided blighter had come to visit this early in the a.m. He floated out with one last pained look at my pyjamas, and presently I heard the door to the flat opening. A moment later, Larky came bursting into my quarters as though he were being chased by the four horsemen of the Apocalypse.
"Bertie, I'm in a devil of a jam. You've got to help me out. That is, Jeeves has got to help me," was his opening gambit.
I considered some rather pointed remarks concerning his rudeness, both for calling at such an hour, and for dismissing old Bertram's help so quickly in favour of Jeeves's, but I saw almost at once that the poor wretch was truly suffering. He was actually grasping and pulling at his hair as if he were trying to tear it out by the roots, which I had always thought was just something that novelists said to get across the idea that their protago-whatsit was in dire straits - I'd never actually seen it done before. I decided to take preventative measures before he started in with the wailing and gnashing of teeth.
"Say no more, old bean; Jeeves and I are at your disposal," I reassured. "Why don't you go make yourself comfortable in the sitting room; I'll be there in half a jiff."
He took himself out, still looking like he might begin rending his garments at any moment. Jeeves had rematerialised in the interim, and he quickly got me shoved into the outer crust of an English gentleman. We then went out to the sitting room, where Larky had settled into a gloomy and morose silence on the settee. I offered him a gasper and took one myself, settling back into a chair across from him. Jeeves lit our cigarettes and then assumed an attitude of respectfully zealous attention.
"Well, Larky, you wanted our help, and here we are, so tell all," I urged.
He hove a woeful sigh. "Well, as you know, I depend on a small quarterly allowance from my Uncle Gerald. He doesn't approve of my musical aspirations; he considers them frivolous. He threatened to cut off my allowance unless I 'made myself useful' by finding gainful employment."
He paused here and gave a slight shudder; I winced in sympathy.
"So I... well, I told my uncle that I'd taken a job as personal secretary to Devin Brennan-McBride. My uncle's a terrific admirer of his."
The name was a new one to me. "Who, old fruit?"
Jeeves coughed in a deferential manner. "I believe, sir, that Mr. Larkmeade is referring to the well-known writer of Irish birth, educated in England, who now resides in America."
"Oh, ah," I said, still in the dark. "Well, if you've found a job with this writer fellow, what's the ghastly jam?"
"No, Bertie, you don't understand. I hadn't actually taken any job. I still haven't," Larky said, and the light began to dawn upon me. "Well, what could I do? I can't have a job; I'd never have time for my music if I were slaving away in some horrible office. Anyway, my uncle was appeased, and I thought that would be the end of it. But then yesterday I got a letter."
At this point he reached into his pocket and pulled out a tattered bit of paper. He passed it to me; I passed it to Jeeves; Jeeves cleared his throat and read it aloud. "Dear Abelard, As you know, I am very pleased that you have found gainful employment as personal secretary to such a celebrated author. I wish to invite you and Mr. Brennan-McBride to The Maples for a visit, and I won't hear any excuses. I'll look forward to welcoming you both this Friday afternoon. Fondly, Gerald Larkmeade."
There was a moment of silence. "Well, old chum, you'll just have to oil out of it somehow. Come down with a sudden case of some dread disease," I said.
He groaned. "You don't know my uncle. If he says no excuses, he means it. He'll cut me off if I don't put in an appearance. What am I going to do?"
There was only one thing for it. "Leave it to Jeeves; he'll come up with a plan."
Jeeves looked down at us with the light of intelligence burning in his eyes. "I believe, sir, that the best solution is simply for Mr Larkmeade to obey his uncle's summons," he said.
"Show up alone, you mean?" I queried. "But wouldn't Larky's uncle be rather shirty that he hadn't got the writer fellow with him?"
"I meant, sir, that he should appear at the elder Mr Larkmeade's estate in the company of a person who would ostensibly be the younger Mr Larkmeade's putative employer."
"A ringer, you mean?" I was beginning to get a glimmer of what Jeeves had in mind.
"Yes, sir, I believe that is the vernacular."
Larky's head had been swivelling back and forth between Jeeves and self during this exchange, and he looked a bit fogged. I translated. "Jeeves means that you'll ankle round to your uncle's place with a chap pretending to be this writer fellow."
"I suppose that might work," he said thoughtfully. "But where on earth am I going to find anyone to pretend to be Devin Brennan-McBride?" he moaned. Then his face brightened. "I say, Bertie, you wouldn't mind doing a pal a good turn, would you?"
I blanched. "Yes, I bally well would mind. I'm sorry, old egg, but it can't be done. The last time I pretended to be a writer it ended with all involved convinced I was off my onion, and I'd rather avoid being pinned with the reputation of a loony on this side of the ocean as well. Besides, I've never heard of this what's-his-name chap; I'd be utterly useless at trying to impersonate the bird. Your uncle would ask me some simple question about my last published work and the gag would fall all to pieces."
"But Bertie," he pursued, "surely you wouldn't abandon a friend in need? I wouldn't have thought you had it in you."
I stood firm. "Well, now you know. I'm sorry, Larky, truly, but it's out of the q."
Larky opened his mouth to respond, but was forestalled by the sound of Jeeves clearing his throat delicately but distinctly.
We both looked at him inquiringly. "I believe I may have a solution. It would, however, require your approval, sir." I waved for him to continue - anything was preferable to my having to take part in this farce. "I believe that I may be capable of assuming the role, if Mr Wooster is amenable to parting with my services for the necessary period."
We gaped at the man. "You, Jeeves?" Larky said, sounding a bit doubtful, I thought.
"Of course!" I exclaimed. "Just the fellow for the task. Jeeves will have your uncle eating from the palm of his hand, and of course he'll be able to quote out the fruitier parts of the cove's work at the drop of a hat, lending veri- verisi- ... what's the word I want, Jeeves?"
"Yes, that's the chap. When you want verisimilitude, Jeeves is your man. None better. In fact, how about a demonstration, Jeeves?"
Jeeves cleared his throat again and trotted out a few lines about the beauty of the English countryside and the sweet gentleness of its ladyfolk. Larky gazed up at him, awed, but I scoffed.
"What rot!" I said. "Absolute twaddle. Why, that's not poetry, Jeeves; that's propaganda - and it's not even good propaganda, at that! 'Fetching eyes of cornflower blue' indeed."
"While perhaps the use of metaphor leaves something to be desired, sir, I believe that - "
"Yes, yes, never mind that, Jeeves. It's not important. In any event, are you convinced now, Larky?"
"Well, I suppose..." Larky began.
I sprang from my chair and clapped him on the back. "Never fear, old egg, the whole thing will go off without a hitch. Actually, I could use a breath of country air; I've been meaning to head out of the metrop. for a spell. I think I'll toddle along with you."
"I don't think I could do that, Bertie," Larky said. "Uncle Gerald is something of an odd bird - he doesn't much like strangers or unexpected guests. I'll have enough trouble staying in his good graces without showing up with an uninvited pal."
I frowned a bit at this. I could see his point, and yet I didn't like to be left behind and miss the fun, especially since, for once, I would merely be an interested observer, as it were, rather than one of the principals in the scheme. Besides, I'm useless without Jeeves about to keep things ticking along smoothly. Parting with him during his annual holiday is bad enough, but I wasn't about to let him go swanning off to enjoy a relaxing retreat in the country while I was stuck alone in the city.
Luckily, at that moment Jeeves let loose another of those delicate coughs. "Yes, Jeeves?" I inquired anxiously. Clearly his brain was in top form today, and I didn't want to miss out on any other corking ideas of his.
"I believe, sir, that I have a solution to this particular dilemma as well, although it is somewhat irregular. I do not believe that the elder Mr Larkmeade would question the presence of Mr Brennan-McBride's personal gentleman."
"Well, yes, Jeeves, that's true," I said, somewhat dubiously. "But what would be the point of hiring you a valet just for a few days? That would be dashed silly."
"Indeed, sir. However, if you were to take on the role, your presence at The Maples would go unquestioned."
I boggled. Jeeves truly was a genius. "I say! That's quite a topping scheme, and it just might work," I began, and then stopped short. There was something that Jeeves had overlooked. "But Jeeves, as soon as I opened my mouth the game would be up. After all, you can take the boy out of Eton, but you can't take Eton out of the boy, so to speak, and I've more than a hint of the old Etonian in my dulcet tones."
"To the American ear, one British accent sounds much like another, sir," Jeeves said.
"That's true," Larky said. "Why, Jeeves sounds miles more intelligent than you, Bertie."
That stung a bit, but if it would get me to The Maples without having to masquerade as some blasted scribbler of verse, then I would swallow this blow to the Wooster pride. "Er, yes, well," I said.
Larky piped up again. "Oh, but, Bertie, you'll need a new name. I may have mentioned you in a previous letter to my uncle, and if you go tossing your own name about, the fat would be in the fire immediately."
"Oh, right-ho then," I said. I thought for a moment. "Well, what about Paul? That's a nice, stout name. Has a sort of whatsit about it, I've always thought. Now I just need a surname." I looked at Jeeves appealingly, and he mused for a moment.
"I believe a short, simple name would be ideal. Would 'Harris' be acceptable to you, sir? An acquaintance of mine, a fellow member of the Junior Ganymede, answers to that cognomen."
"Paul Harris," I said trying it out. "Yes, that will do nicely, I believe. All right, then, it's settled. We'll all oil round to The Maples in our respective roles - Jeeves as Brennan-McThingummy, self as McThingummy's valet Harris, and Larky as dutiful, gainfully employed nephew."
So it was agreed, and Larky trickled out, good cheer restored.
The appointed day rolled around, and we all piled into a handsome motorcar Jeeves had procured. He had spent the last few days making arrangements of various sorts for our little charade, and he was now attired in the harris tweed of a rather natty, if conservative gentleman, while I had donned the sort of dark, sober trousering that Jeeves usually favours. It was a pleasant day for a drive in the country - the leaves were just turning, but the songbirds hadn't yet got the message that the summer was over and were continuing to warble away without a care in the world. All in all, it was a scene of pastoral and bucolic beauty. Jeeves spent the drive issuing all sorts of instructions on valeting, and I tried to listen, but the scenery and the sunshine made it somewhat difficult to concentrate on Jeeves's monologue.
Finally, we turned into a wide and impressive gravel drive which led up to an even wider and more impressive country manor house - the kind of thing made of stone, dripping with ivy, and surrounded by well-manicured grounds.
"...which is of the utmost importance, sir," Jeeves said, and I came out of my reverie with a start. "Have you been listening to me, sir?" asked Jeeves with a touch of asperity. He had apparently taken to this reversal of roles without a qualm. I drew myself up.
"I shall manage very well, thank you, Jeeves," I said haughtily. "After all, how difficult can it be? Hundreds - no, thousands of chaps have managed it throughout the ages, and Bertram will be no different."
"As you say, sir," Jeeves said, somewhat doubtfully, it seemed to me. "I believe, sir, that we should now assume the identities which we will be using in the coming days."
"Yes, sir," I replied, adopting the respectful tone I'd often heard Jeeves use, and his breath appeared to catch a bit. Perhaps he'd accidentally inhaled an insect - it had happened to me two or three times on the drive up.
We drew up in front of the house and tumbled out of the car. I legged it for the front door, eager for some refreshment after the long drive, but was brought up short by Jeeves's unmistakable cough, the one which lets me know that I've neglected to do something rather obvious, like put on my trousers before leaving the flat. I turned around and found him still by the car. I bounded back over to him, and he said, "Harris, please park the car and bring the luggage in," in a loudish voice, for the benefit of the butler type who had by this time appeared at the front door. In a lower voice, he added, "You will need to use the servants' entrance, sir."
"Oh, right-ho," I said, hastily appending "sir" at Jeeves's warning look, and his eyes briefly closed as a strange expression wended its way across his dial. Perhaps it was causing the fellow pain to have our roles reversed in such a way after all - the old feudal spirit must have been flaring up.
I got back in the car while Jeeves and Larky were whisked inside. After a few tries, I got the motorcar wrangled into the garage. Then I spent the next several minutes carrying beastly heavy luggage out of the car and piling it by the servants' entrance, next to an increasingly amused fellow whose job seemed to be to stand around and watch me struggle. By the time I'd finished, I was panting and blowing and in desperate need of a stiff drink and a soft chair.
The chap pushed off from the wall and ambled over to where I was standing, or rather leaning over, catching my breath. He was a handsome sort of cove, the kind that females would no doubt flock to, with fine features and wavy flaxen hair. You've always got to watch out for the chaps with wavy hair - they're dashers with the sex. He offered me a gasper, which I accepted with gratitude.
"My, my, aren't you a fine specimen," were his opening words.
"Oh, er, thanks awfully," I replied, somewhat bewildered. "I'm - Paul Harris," I said, remembering my assumed moniker in the nick of time.
"Terrence Roberts," he said, offering his hand, which I shook. "When you're done there," he said, indicating my cigarette, "I'll get you settled in."
He lent a hand with the luggage, which we had to carry up a dark, narrow stairway, leaving me groaning and panting again almost immediately. He didn't seem to feel the strain, and bounded up in a carefree manner, while I trudged after him. He showed me to Jeeves's and Larky's rooms, where we dropped their trunks, and all the while he kept up another of those monologues regarding the dinner hour, the breakfast hour, the tea hour, and apparently every other detail he could think of regarding the operation of the house. It was all I could do to carry the blasted luggage up the stairs without memorizing a lecture at the same time, so I'm afraid the details were rather lost on me.
"The servants' quarters are small, so we don't have rooms for visiting valets. You'll have to double up with one of the staff - why don't you bunk with me?" he offered as we went back down those endless stairs for the last of the luggage, which contained my own belongings.
"Dashed good of you, old bean," I said.
"You English do have a charming way of expressing yourselves, don't you?" he said. I couldn't see what I had said that was so bally charming, and I was somewhat out of breath anyway, so I let that remark pass.
We got my things bunged into his room, which contained two cot-like beds, a small chest of drawers, a few whitewashed walls, and not much else. Terrence lay down on his bed and lit another gasper while I set my bags at the foot of the other bed. As I was standing, surveying the scene and wondering what I was supposed to do next, another fellow poked his head into the room.
"Harris, your man is asking after you - he's in his room," he said, and then biffed off.
"Oh, well, ah, I suppose I'd better..." I said.
Terrence waved a lazy hand in my direction. "I'll see more of you later, I'm sure," he said with a wink.
"Oh, right-ho; well, tinkerty-tonk, then!" I said, and took myself off.
I got a bit lost trying to navigate my way from the servants' quarters to the part of the house where Jeeves's room was, but eventually, after a rather embarrassing detour into the wing with the female servants' rooms, I was pointed to the correct corridor.
I entered the room and hove a sigh of relief to find it unoccupied except for Jeeves. I brightened further when I realized that there was a tea tray with some tempting-looking treats sitting on a small table, hard by a comfortable-looking armchair. Jeeves floated over to the door and locked it, saying, "Please, sir, have a seat."
I gratefully sank into the armchair and Jeeves brought me a drink while I nibbled on a few of the sandwiches from the tray. This valeting business was exhausting, and I was in dire need of sustenance. Jeeves hovered respectfully in the background while I made quick work of the contents of the tray.
"How goes it, Jeeves?" I asked when I had quieted the rumbling from my midsection. "Old Larkmeade unsuspicious?"
"We spent only a few moments in his company, sir, but he seems to have been convinced."
"Excellent. Larky bearing up under the strain?"
"Good, good. And you, Jeeves - no problems maintaining the subterfuge?"
"Jolly good. Well, what's next on the old agenda?"
"I believe, sir, that the elder Mr Larkmeade was desirous of making my further acquaintance. He invited me to join him in his study for a drink when I had finished getting settled into my room."
"Oh, right-ho. What about me, Jeeves?"
"Well, sir, if you would carry the tea-tray back to the kitchen, you could then join us in the study."
We parted ways, and I was rather pleased that I only got lost once on my way to the kitchen. When I deposited the tray, I asked a passing kitchen-maid where I could find old Gerald's study. She gave me a bit of an odd look, but pointed me in the correct direction.
I found the study easily, and sallied forth. "What-ho, what-ho, what-ho!" I called cheerfully as I entered, my standard opening in such situations. The conversation which had been in progress between Jeeves and an old fellow I took to be Larky's uncle immediately ground to a stunned halt. Even the maid who was drawing the curtains turned to stare at me. I quickly realized my bloomer - valets didn't usually announce their presence in such a way, but rather floated in noiselessly, or at least the better class of valets such as Jeeves floated noiselessly. "Oh, er, dreadfully sorry, sirs," I said, and went to stand behind Jeeves, since that seemed to be where he generally bunged himself when I was the one seated before an aged relation - not that old Larkmeade was Jeeves's aged r., or mine either, for that matter.
The Larkmeade fellow was one of those broad, red-faced gentlemen that seem to infest the countryside - bald as an egg, and gone a bit soft round the middle, but still quite formidable looking, in an uncle-ish sort of way. He gave me the fish-eye, but picked up where he had left off - some sort of dashed boring discussion about literature. I tried desperately to stifle my yawns, but didn't entirely succeed. Fortunately, within a few moments, Larky came into the room. I waggled my fingers at him in a jaunty little wave, and he nodded at me with a grin. Old Larkmeade glowered at this exchange, and I went back to standing as stiffly as a soldier lined up for inspection. Larky took a seat and then addressed himself to me. "Harris, would you mix me a brandy-and-soda?"
"Certainly, old th-... sir," I said, remembering myself just in time. I biffed over to the sideboard, where there was a selection of liquors and glasses and such, and began wielding the siphon while humming a merry tune.
"Will you be quiet!" Larkmeade burst out. I turned to him, surprised. He had gone even redder in the face than he had been to begin with, and looked as if he might blow a gasket at any moment. He turned to Jeeves. "Mr Brennan-McBride, your valet behaves in the most extraordinary manner."
"Please, call me Devin," Jeeves said smoothly. "I must apologize for my valet's deportment. I'm afraid that he was dropped on his head as a small child and has never been quite right. Still, his mother was a faithful servant, devoted to our family, and when she was on her deathbed I promised that I would look after him. He is eccentric, but essentially harmless. I am sorry, however, for the imposition on your very kind hospitality, Mr Larkmeade."
I stiffened a bit - I didn't quite understand why Jeeves seemed determined to go charging up and down the countryside convincing the natives of Bertram's looniness. Still, the Larkmeade blighter appeared to have melted into a Madeline-Bassett-like puddle of soppiness at this tale of woe.
"Oh, you must call me Gerald," he simpered. "I commend you for following through on a vow made to a lady on her deathbed. You certainly are a man of honour, Devin."
Jeeves inclined his head modestly. After a suitable pause, he said, "I believe, Gerald, that you were making a most intriguing point about Yeats and modernism?"
From here the discussion returned to frightfully dull literary matters. I gave Larky his drink and returned to my spot behind Jeeves's shoulder, looking down at him as he chatted knowledgeably with the Larkmeades, elder and younger. He really was a most dreadfully intelligent fellow - from this angle I could see how his head stuck out at the back, housing that incomparable brain of his. He was quite a well-put-together chap too, now that I had leisure time and the opportunity to consider the matter. I wondered why he had never biffed off to make some lucky lady happy, but my mind quickly shied away from that question. I knew he'd had an understanding with a cook once - or perhaps it was a waitress - and I was sorry for any heartbreak either party may have suffered, but I could only be grateful that the thing had failed to click. No, Jeeves belonged by my side, and I by his, and no female could be allowed to interfere.
That thought brought me up short - was this how Jeeves felt about my constant entanglements with the fairer sex? He certainly was quick to come roaring to the aid of the party whenever Wooster, B. found himself ensnared by a female. Not that I had any complaints, mind you, but now that our positions were reversed, I rather understood his perspective on the matter. This valeting business certainly did allow for a fairish amount of free time for contemplation - it was no wonder Jeeves was bursting with intelligence. I wasn't used to spending so much time in enforced idleness with only my own out-of-shape grey matter to keep me from complete screaming boredom. Of course, the e. i. also meant that I had been standing motionless like a blasted piece of statuary, and I could feel my limbs threatening to go numb. I began to fidget unobtrusively, trying to keep limber enough that I wouldn't topple over like a felled tree, which might cause old Larkmeade to blow another gasket.
Fortunately, at that moment, Jeeves's voice cut into the droning monotone that Larkmeade had adopted as he pontificated about something-or-other.
"I do apologize for my rudeness, Gerald," he said. "However, I feel a rush of poetic inspiration coming on. I noticed the lovely gardens when I entered and I believe a walk might tempt the muses. May I take advantage of your hospitality and beg your leave to stroll about the grounds for a short time?"
Larkmeade nearly fell over himself in his eagerness to accommodate Jeeves, or rather, the writer chap he was impersonating. Dash it, I still couldn't remember the fellow's name. In any event, we were promptly given leave to exit the blighted study. Larky, however, was not excused, and cast a longing glance at us as we made good our escape.
It was a blessed relief to get outside and stretch the old Wooster props. The twittering birds and late afternoon sunshine dispelled any lingering discomfort or discontent, and it felt like old times, wandering the grounds of some manor house's gardens with Jeeves at my side. Not that we'd been to The Maples before, you understand, but one country estate is much like another, whether in England or America. Neatly trimmed hedges, manicured lawns, gay flower-beds, aged gardener, perhaps an imperious cat or two. A typical example, all in all.
We chatted of this and that, Jeeves extracting a detailed account of my movements since our parting of ways at the front door. He quizzed me thoroughly on my interactions with the Roberts fellow, and lowered his eyebrows just a trifle when I mentioned that I'd be bunking with the chap. It seemed he was afraid that I wouldn't be able to maintain my role in such close quarters. Eventually he seemed satisfied, and we meandered back, Jeeves quoting bits of poetry while I enjoyed the fresh air.
Dinner in the servants' hall that evening was an uncomfortable affair; even more awkward than the time Sir Roderick Glossop dined with me and ended the meal convinced that I was mad as a hatter. The butler, a chap even more formidable than the Rev. Aubrey Upjohn, the old head-master at my private school, grilled me on every detail of Jeeves's daily routine, from how he took his morning coffee to what time he retired in the evening - as I didn't know any of these things, I'm afraid I made rather a hash of answering. I wished Jeeves had informed me that there would be an examination. The other servants giggled and whispered and stared at me while I squirmed uncomfortably under the butler's interrogation. I tried to lighten the mood by beginning a game of dinner roll cricket, always a favourite pastime at the Drones, but no one seemed inclined to join in, and it only caused more stares and whispers, until I subsided miserably. Finally, the butler, looking at me as he would a worm in his green salad, pronounced, "Well, I suppose you must have... other talents... which endear you to your gentleman." At this, the entire assemblage broke into a cacophony of laughter, while I gave a weak chuckle, not understanding the joke. The conversation then turned to the matter of the former parlour-maid's recent, and highly scandalous, elopement with the chauffeur from the neighbouring estate, and I was ignored for the remainder of the meal.
It was rather late by this point, as we had eaten after the Larkmeades and Jeeves, and I decided to turn in. When I entered the room I was sharing with Roberts, I found him lounging on his bed, reading a juicy-looking novel.
"Where were you during dinner?" I asked, somewhat irritably. He was the one person on the staff that I knew, and he hadn't shown his face during the meal.
"Oh, I never eat with that pack of wolverines," he said. "I took something from the kitchen earlier. I hope they weren't too terrible; I should have warned you."
"Yes, well, I must say their behaviour is quite inexplicable. I'm bally well exhausted. I'm going to bed."
"Shouldn't you go see to your gentleman?" he asked with a wink. The poor bloke always seemed to be squinching up one of his eyes - perhaps he had a tick or spasm of some sort, or perhaps he'd got a particle of something-or-other lodged in there; I'd had that happen to me, and it was dashed painful.
"Oh, yes, I suppose I should," I said. After all, Jeeves always made sure I was comfortably tucked up in bed, so I supposed it would have seemed odd if I didn't do the same for him.
"Don't worry, I won't tell anyone. Take as long as you need."
"Er, jolly good of you," I said uncertainly. I wasn't sure why he wasn't going to tell anyone, but perhaps that was part of the normal servantly discretion. In any case, I bade him goodnight and set off for the part of the house where Jeeves's room was located.
When I got to his door, however, I was confronted with a quandary. Servants don't usually knock on doors, or at least Jeeves never knocks on my door; he just materialises in the room like a wraith. But I don't, as a general rule, invade his lair, and I didn't like to burst in on him without so much as a warning. After dithering for a bit, I finally compromised by knocking once and then opening the door.
I stepped in and closed the door behind me. When I turned around, I beheld a sight that stopped me in my tracks. Jeeves was just stepping out of the salle de bain, wearing nothing more than a towel wrapped about his midsection. His skin was flushed and rosy from the heat of his ablutions and still glistened with a layer of moisture, and his dark hair, instead of being in its usual state of brilliantined perfection, was damp and tousled. I goggled at the man, utterly gobsmacked.
He, on the other hand, seemed only mildly surprised to see me. "I am sorry, sir; I thought you had retired for the evening. Did you require my services?" he asked.
I tried to collect my scattered thoughts. "Ah, well, that is - well, the other servants - well, one of them anyway - er, the fellow I'm bunking with, jolly decent cove, seems head and shoulders above the rest of the servants in the personality department. The rest of the servants are awfully rude, and seem to giggle a lot as well, only nothing is funny as far as I can see. Er, what was I saying?" My train of thought appeared to have left me at the station, so I brought my confused monologue to a close, still gawping at Jeeves. I had never seen him in such a state before. Then I realized that I was staring in a most ungentlemanly manner and I tore my eyes away from his frame and fixed them on a gewgaw on the mantelpiece, feeling my face heat up.
"I believe you were about to tell me why you came to find me, sir." He sounded faintly amused, and the left side of his mouth quirked just slightly.
"Oh yes. The fellow that I'm bunking with. Anyway, he seemed to feel I ought to, that is, he suggested that I should be seeing to my man. That is, to you. That is, to get you tucked up in bed or bring you a nightcap or whatnot." My face felt hot enough by this point to have boiled a kettle, should Jeeves have desired an evening cup of tea. "Er, not that you actually need me to tuck you up in bed, but it might have roused his suspicious if I refused. Not that I wouldn't be happy to tuck you up in bed, if you want me to, or bring you a nightcap, or..." I trailed off, since I seemed to have turned into a blithering idiot, for no reason I could fathom. That wouldn’t have surprised my nearest and dearest, Aunt Agatha in particular always having been of the opinion that in a battle of wits with a cauliflower, Bertram pulled ahead only by a very short lead, but a Wooster still has his dignity, and I attempted to salvage the remains of mine.
I snuck a glance at Jeeves and found, to my great relief, that he had donned his brown dressing-gown and was no longer in such a distracting state of undress. His hair was still dishevelled, however, and my fingers fairly itched to run through it and smooth it back. No doubt this was how Jeeves felt when my bowtie wasn't in a perfect butterfly formation - maybe there was a bit of valet in the old Wooster blood after all.
"I appreciate the offer; however, I do not require any assistance. I am accustomed to providing for my own needs, sir," he said, interrupting my musings.
"Oh, yes, of course, Jeeves," I said. "Well, then, I suppose I'd better be getting back..." I hesitated, not sure what I was waiting for.
"Indeed, sir," he said with perfect gravity, but with a sort of knowing gleam in his eye that I couldn't quite comprehend.
"Well, good night, then, Jeeves."
"Good night, sir."
I wandered back over to the staff quarters feeling rather odd and out-of-sorts. Normally I'm quite a gay, carefree fellow, as anyone down at the Drones will tell you, but tonight I felt... well, not quite my usual self. It must have been this valeting business - it was dashed draining, having to constantly hop up and down, fetch and carry, and yes-sir and very-good-sir. I don't know how Jeeves does it every day. The man is a wonder.
I opened the door to my temporary chambers and saw that Roberts was abed, the lights extinguished. I managed to locate my pyjamas with a minimum of crashing about and I was just about to make my way down the corridor to the shared lavatory when he spoke up, giving me rather a start.
"I didn't expect you back so soon," he said sleepily.
"Oh, well, yes, I'm, ah, a quick worker," I said.
This caused him to let out a brief snort of amusement. "It would seem so," he said, and I could practically hear the smirk in his voice. I was getting bally tired of trying to figure out these Americans and their peculiar sense of humour.
"Yes, well, I'm just going to, er, wash up a bit and then I'll be back," I said, making good my escape. I could hear his chuckle following me out the door.
Thankfully, when I returned, he appeared to be asleep. I slid into bed and tried to find a position that would allow me to catch my nightly forty winks - even twenty would do in a pinch. The comfort of this mattress left something to be desired, and the single pillow - well, it hardly deserved the name at all. Add to that my mental unrest over the events of the day, and it was a wakeful and unhappy Bertram who was tossing and turning like a boat in choppy waters, although fortunately without the attendant intestinal distress which often results from such circs.
Said tossing and turning must have awakened Terrence, because I heard his voice floating from the other side of the room.
"You're not used to sleeping in servants' quarters, are you?" he asked.
I began to get a bit nervous. "What do you mean?" I asked, as innocently as I could manage.
"I mean that clearly you're accustomed to sleeping in the master's bed."
I caught my breath. How could he have known? It must have been something in my bearing - he knew that I wasn't a valet at all! Still, he had no proof, and there was no point in confessing all. I decided to brazen it out.
"I don't know what you're talking about," I replied stiffly. "I am a valet. I sleep in a valet's quarters."
"Fine, have it your way," he said, sounding strangely disappointed. "But I wouldn't tell anyone, you know - I'm the same, after all."
Now I was positively flummoxed - what did he mean he was the same? Was he implying that he was participating in the same sort of masquerade that Jeeves and I had cooked up? That would have been a deuced odd coincidence - what were the chances of two gentlemen pretending to be two servants in the same house on the same weekend? Still, if it were true, it would be nice to have a confidante, someone with whom I could commiserate. I proceeded cautiously.
"Er, the same? What do you mean, old chap?"
"You know very well what I mean," he said somewhat sulkily.
"Yes, well, just pretend I don't."
"You want me to say it? That will make you feel safer? Fine, then - like you, I am an invert. A sodomite. A man who prefers the company of other men to that of women." He sounded rather upset. I didn't understand the first couple of terms he had used, but the last bit I could certainly comprehend.
"Oh, well, what right-thinking bloke doesn't prefer the company of his own kind? Females are a blasted nuisance. Always wanting to clamp the old leg irons on a fellow," I said hastily, anxious to soothe his ruffled feathers. This didn't seem to be going where I had expected - apparently he wasn't a gentleman in disguise as a servant after all.
"Yes, that's true," he said. Then he sighed wistfully. "Still, you're lucky to have found true love."
"True love?" I asked. This bird's conversational swerves left me utterly baffled - what on earth was he on about now?
"Yes," he continued. "It's obvious to anyone with eyes that your man would do anything for you. He's absolutely devoted to you. That sort of love isn't easy to find, you know, especially for fellows like us. You should treasure it."
I felt completely at sea, in the dark, without a lifeboat. I had only the vaguest idea of what he was talking about - I gathered it had something to do with Jeeves and love, but that was as far as I could make out. Nevertheless, I was intrigued.
"Love? You think J- er, that is, my gentleman loves me? He takes good care of me, I admit, but - "
"Oh, so that's how it is, is it? You think he's just after a simple tumble? No, Paul, I saw you two, walking in the garden together today. I'd thought maybe you and I could - but, well, never mind that. He loves you, all right, and what's more, you love him too, whether you want to admit it or not."
I was awake for a while longer, contemplating these words. I ignored the bit about Jeeves wanting to take a nasty spill - clearly this Terrence fellow wasn't quite right in the head. But he raised an interesting point - did I love Jeeves? Well, I relied upon him utterly, and I certainly missed him on those occasions when he was absent from the flat for his yearly holiday. There's no doubt that his judgment in clothing tends toward the hidebound and reactionary, particularly in the matter of men's soft-fronted shirtings, but on the whole, my valet is an absolute gem. I couldn't quite picture my existence without him; the mere thought caused the cold hand of fear to clutch itself round the Wooster heart. In fact, now that I considered the matter, I didn't quite know how I'd got along before him. It was all rather a blur. In any event, as I thought about it, a calm certainty floated to the surface. I did love Jeeves. After all, if love isn't the inability to picture life without a particular someone to bring one one's morning cup and cough disapprovingly at one's choice of tie, what is it?
That question answered, I turned to the second half of the equation - did Jeeves love me? There, I was less sure. After all, how does a fellow know what's in another fellow's head, especially when the second fellow is one as inscrutable - if inscrutable is the word I mean - as Jeeves? He certainly did his utmost to see to my comfort and safety, but then of course that was his job. Still, I liked to think that he enjoyed his duties, and didn't think too harshly of the young master, even when said y. m. was constantly getting into some scrape or other and requiring rescuing. Perhaps he viewed me rather the way a mother duck views her unruly brood - quite aggravating, yet possessing a sort of redeeming charm.
This deep reflection wheeze was a new one to me. I wasn't sure I liked the sensation, and I wasn't much use at it. There was only one possible solution - ask Jeeves. That policy had seen me through any number of potential disasters. I decided to tell Jeeves how I felt on the morrow, and find out how he felt about me. That would clear the whole thing up. Thus resolved, I drifted off to the dreamless.
On to Part II