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Blackmail at Blandings Castle

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‘Jeeves, oh, Jeeves,’ I sighed, jamming the phone back into its place and coming over all faint. ‘This is it.’
‘And what may “it” be, sir, if you will permit me to ask?’
‘The “it” in question is no other than Millicent Threepwood, Lady Constance’s protegée, Jeeves! From now on there shall be no joy in life, no colour, no sunshine. The snail may be on the wing and the lark on the thorn, and everything may seem right in the world, but not for this Bertram Wooster.’
‘Sir?’ Jeeves enquired, as close to alarmed as I had ever seen him. Two eyebrow hairs twitched, you see. ‘I take it that you’re engaged to the young lady?’
‘However much it pains me to say so, yes Jeeves. We’re engaged!’ I groaned. ‘Aunt Agatha just telephoned me to say that she’d arranged the whole fiasco. Apparently she holds Connie in such a high regard and trusts that the Threepwood-Keeble family are a respectable lot. A load of rot if you ask me! If you’d have heard Freddie Threepwood going on about his Pink Pussy club at the Drones last night, Jeeves, all your faith in humanity would have came crumbling down!’
Jeeves harrumphed respectably. ‘Lady Constance Keeble of Blandings Castle, sir?’
‘That’s the baby. Or woman, I mean.’ I said, but things took a desperate turn soonish as he offered no solution, owing to my lavender socks. ‘Oh, please, Jeeves: do get me out of the soup. I’m nearly on my knees, man!’
‘If you’ll pardon me for saying so, sir, your socks are rather distracting.’
The brazen cheek!
‘Burn the socks, Jeeves! Desperate times call for desperate measures. Speaking of desperate measures, pour me another one, will you.’
‘Very good, sir.’

Early the next morning, I was awoken by Jeeves with a cup of darjeeling. Although typically I would be rather put out at being roused back to consciousness at such an ungodly hour — nine ack emma, I’ll have you know — the sight rather warmed the whatsits of my heart, for, you see, Jeeves is my world. I could wax poetic over Jeeves for years at a time, and even fall into a soppy daydream over specific dream rabbits, for that is what Jeeves does to me; he turns me into a rather manly, sentimental version of Madeline Bassett. After all, you only have to peer into one of my many novels for one slight second and realise it’s all about Jeeves, Jeeves, Jeeves and his wonderful brain and finely chiselled features.
He must never know how highly I regard him, and yet I fear that he can read me like a book. My mooning and accidental longing glances every now and again must be rather telling, not to mention rather disgruntling. Not very preux, either. Through being a rather sterling chap, Jeeves has never let on that he knows my true feelings — loyal to the gills, that fellow.
‘Good morning, sir,’ he said, shimmering even closer to hand me the tea.
Our fingers entwined ever so slightly as the tea cup was passed from one large, warm hand to my own, smaller, slender hand, sending electricity jolting through my veins.
I must have had a rummy expression on my face at that moment, for Jeeves quirked an eyebrow in my direction. It took every ounce of gentlemanly spirit not to blush at the look he was giving me.
‘Oh, it’s nothing, Jeeves. Pleasant day?’
‘Exceedingly clement at the moment, sir, though there is a chance of rain.’
Along with the tea he handed me a letter.
‘You read it, Jeeves,’ I pressed, feeling a tidal wave of apprehension wash over me at the words “Dearest Bertie” printed at the top. I sunk further under the covers.
My man cleared his throat and seemed to come over a vermilion hue at the beginning of the letter — perhaps he was coming down with a fever, or maybe he saw it as a slight to his masculinity at having to project the words “darling Bertie” and “sweetie pie” in my direction. Either way, I was red from head to toe by the time he had finished, hardly having taken a word in. All I could hear was Jeeves addressing me as “darling Bertie” and it quite turned my knees to jelly.
‘Ah, um, Jeeves… Could you repeat that one more time? I’m afraid the message didn’t quite get through that thick skull of mine.’ By now I was shaking from embarrassment.
‘Of course, sir,’ he said rather soupily. ‘”Dearest Bertie, it would be my greatest wish to meet you here at Blandings Castle this Thursday, if we are to be wed in the summer. I have heard so many great things about you from Mrs Gregson, darling Bertie, and would love to meet you in person as soon as possible. You sound like such a sweetie pie if what your aunt said was true, and I have no doubts that we shall make a wonderful couple. Love and kisses, Millicent Threepwood”’.
Instead of flushing and preening this time, the blood simply drained from my face, leaving me as white as a ghost and just as likely to wail.
‘Oh dear, this is awful,’ I trembled, looking at Jeeves in fear. He was offering me his greatest sympathies, I could tell by the ever so slight tilt of his eyebrow.
Marriage, to some chaps, is just their cup of tea; they could stroll down to the altar without a worry in the world, head held high and heart filled with love for their bride to be. For me, this could never happen, and I live in dread of the day when Aunt Agatha finally catches on to why I’m not keen to marry. Despite being an admirer of the odd elegant profile or shapely, delicate hand, fillies never did anything for me; my greatest romances were all at Eton and Oxford, though of course one is expected to grow out of those kinds of things, but I never did. My breath still hitches at the sight of Ginger Winship, remembering the many great times we had and the passion we shared during his bachelor days — but not without a little pain, for he is married now, and happily so, if I remember well.
One by one, all of the Drones were getting engaged and married off, sauntering down the aisle with Mrs Bingo or Mrs Fink-Nottle on their arms; some never returned to the club again, for their wives deem it as too wild and raucous for a respectable family man and society gentleman. And here I am, writing novel after novel, poem after poem about my gentleman’s personal gentleman, wiling away my days pining over him and spending my nights trying hard to lock away all wanton thoughts. A sense of impending doom filled my chest.
‘Fine,’ I sighed, edging towards the melodramatic. ‘Pack the bags and we’ll be off to Blandings.’

Mid-afternoon we set off for Market Blandings by train, myself getting more and more miserable by the second, and Jeeves, opposite me, more and more unreadable. Rain poured down from the sky as though God himself was protesting the Wooster-Threepwood match, and sick of having to watch the sodden world outside as bleary hill after flooded field passed us by, I focused my gaze on Jeeves instead. He was the picture of masculine beauty, and heartbroken, I had to look away.
‘Is there something you need, sir?’ he asked.
I resisted the urge to say “yes, a coffin would suffice, Jeeves”, and shook my head morosely. ‘No, nothing, Jeeves. Do carry on reading your newspaper.’
He regarded me as he would regard a fibbing child, and slowly went back to studying the economics pages.
Marrying Millicent Threepwood would undoubtedly be the end, I mused as precipitation streamed steadily down the window panes. She would be the end of me, the end of Jeeves, the end of my tender feelings. Everybody knew that when the bride came through the front door for the first time, the valet would be sure to exit through the back, never to be set eyes on again. The end of our friendship, that bond we shared…
‘Jeeves,’ I croaked. ‘You’ll think of something, won’t you? To get me out of this mess, I mean.’ I couldn’t help it: a tear trickled out of the corner of my eye and I batted it away furiously.
His stern demeanour melted for just a second. ‘Sir, I shall endeavour to give the matter my utmost attention in our stay at Blandings Castle. You must not cry, sir.’ He lifted his hand as though he wanted to squeeze my hand or pat my knee, but evidently thought better of it.

‘Ah, Mr Wooster, you’ve arrived,’ Lady Constance beamed at the last of the Woosters, possibly soon to be an extinct species with the most frightening grin she was giving me. ‘How nice to see you! Millicent is at her toilette, preparing for dinner. You shall meet then, and get to know each other over those cocktails the youthful population are so fond of.’ She trailed off awkwardly, hardly knowing me apart from the misinformation my Aunt has spread.
‘What ho, what ho!’ I attempted my sunny disposish, but it came across as more of a grimace than natural joy.
From the top of the grand staircase, a young man was skulking around. He had a head of curls and spectacles so large and thick that it gave him the appearance of having fishbowls for eyes, with little swimmy things inside. Even from the distance between us, he seemed to glower at me; I couldn’t imagine why, for I’d only just arrived and he had no reason to form an opinion of this Wooster so soon. Dismissing it as a trick of the light, as I descended the stairs to prepare for dinner and he was gone, just like an apparition. I hoped Blandings wasn’t haunted, for ghosts were my greatest fear, no matter how much I enjoyed a spine-chiller in the evenings.
Not long after, the dinner gong chimed. We all made our way to the grand dining room, where apparently they had decided to put on the Ritz; now, I have dined at the Ritz before, but even there I hadn’t experienced as much extravagance and frippery as I had now, with Lady Constance playing host. Everything was in tip top shape, all except the company. Lord Emsworth droned on about some Empress or another, getting more and more feverish by the second, and Millicent simply gazed at me with puppy dog eyes, which I didn’t much like the look of. Yet even worse than that, something which made the Wooster heart pound, was that apparition from before, that glowering menace that introduced himself as ‘Mr Baxter’. He sat opposite with fury etched through his features, almost as though he wished to bore a hole right through my lavender tie and reduce it to ashes. If looks could kill… It was unnerving, to say the very least.
‘So, Mr Wooster, what do you propose to do with your future?’ Lady Constance asked, completely oblivious to the death glares being fired my way.
‘Well,’ I began, nerves settling in, ‘I suppose I’d like to just potter around the old metropolis and flat, tootle along to the Drones club, and get back just in time for Jeeves to hand me a toothsome b. and s. Though, of course, I’m expected to inherit the title of Lord Yaxley when my old uncle decides it’s time to shuffle off this mortal coil.’
Lady Constance looked as though she had just been slapped. ‘That’s interesting… Your dear aunt gave me the impression that you were looking forward to inheriting your title as Lord Yaxley.’
‘One does try to do their bit. After all, if I don’t inherit the title, my devilish cousins Claude and Eustace shall be next in line, and God help the country then! The world would turn upside down,’ I gave a little chuckle, hoping that an injection of humour would help ease the broody atmosphere. It did nothing.
‘So you have no future plans, Mr Wooster?’ Baxter finally spoke, silkily. ‘Your only plan is centred around your manservant and your life together, it seems. What about when your manservant moves on? What then?’
My heart became icy with fear.
‘And what about your wife?’ the Lady of the house joined in.
‘I don’t have a wife.’ Confused, I looked all around expecting to see some filly sat beside me.
‘Your future wife, Mr Wooster,’ Lady Constance all but barked. Her patience was wearing thin.
‘Ah, well, I haven’t thought about it yet.’ I tried not to blush.
At the other end of the table a gasp was made just audible. Perhaps it was Millicent, perplexed and perturbed that I hadn’t made a reference to our undying love, or maybe Freddie Threepwood had just done something unmentionable to the young lady seated opposite to him. Either way, it didn’t make a difference to this Wooster’s level of anxiety; for, almost a mile away at the other end of the grand table, I could see that Baxter was smiling, smugly. Why?
‘I see,’ said Lady Constance, unimpressed.
‘And so, the Empress began to feed again!’ Lord Emsworth said over her, obviously in his own little world. ‘All it took was the call of a wild boar to get her eating again. Funny how pig’s minds work. Whiffle says that— Oh, I do apologise, dear Connie. Were you just talking?’
‘Yes, Clarence, I was just speaking to the guest, Mr Wooster.’ She snapped at her brother. ‘And I must apologise to you, Mr Wooster. We shall have a decent conversation in the drawing room after dinner.’

‘Nice to meet you at last, darling Bertie,’ the ghastly young girl warbled upon seating herself cosily next to me on the arm of my chair. ‘My Aunt Constance says that we are to be engaged, and I am vastly looking forward to it. You’re even more handsome than I first anticipated… Do you think I’ll be a pretty bride?’
Not wanting to be one to crush a young girl’s dreams, I quickly spluttered out a rapid ‘Oh yes, you’ll look wonderful in white, my dear.’
She was only a child. Seven years my junior, at age seventeen, she was to be married off to an older man that had no intention of ever loving her. The urge to sob on Jeeves’s neck came to me very strongly there and then, but I knew that he was probably downstairs with all the other servants, eating dinner or socialising after a long hour of serving.
Again, like an attack dog, Lady Constance was at my side all ready to interrogate me, ever persistent. ‘I trust that you can keep Millicent in the manner to which she is accustomed?’
‘Yes, Lady Constance,’ I almost sighed, feeling as if we were making a transaction with cash rather than arranging a marriage. ‘She shall have whatever her heart desires.’
‘Oh Bertie!’ the young filly squealed soppily, and lisping ever so slightly, wrapping her arms around my neck like a python. A kiss was planted on my ear, or very close to it, anyway. I squirmed uncomfortably and thought of Jeeves instead, and it almost became tolerable, having her arms slung around me like that.
I left soon after, eager to get away from the young blister. It was one thing to have a young cousin kiss one like that — Angela has kissed me many a time, and frequently calls me her “little sweetheart” — but quite another having a girl one’s only just met acquaintance herself with one’s cheek like that.
On the hallway to my temporary bedroom, where Jeeves was waiting for me, ever patient, I caught sight of a young footman sobbing by the staircase. Never one to leave a person in distress, I leaped to his aid in two quick strides. My appearance must have startled the sweet young thing, for he very nearly took a tumble if it weren’t for my arms reaching out to catch him, and his one hand that shot out to grab the back of my blazer. He looked petrified. I leaned closer to get a better grip of him, for in his fear and surprise his legs liquefied beneath him.
‘I-I’m so sorry, sir! I’ll be more careful next time!’ he gushed and very nearly ran away.
‘Oh, don’t dwell upon it,’ I said blithely, waving a hand dismissively. ‘Do stand up though, boy.’
He straightened like a regimental soldier and we distanced ourselves respectably from one another.
‘Whatever is the matter?’ I asked as kindly as I could, and reached out to give him my handkerchief.
The boy dabbed his eyes speedily and handed it back, practically unsoiled. He looked about sixteen years old, and had very large, doe-like eyes, and just like the aforementioned creature, he appeared timid and flighty, about to run for the hills at the slightest thing.
‘It’s nothing, sir, forgive me. I must be about my duties. I shouldn’t trouble you.’
‘Nonsense. It’s ten o’clock at night — too late for men of service to still be about their duties — and you aren’t bothering me one jot.’
‘Well,’ he trembled, and tugged me closer to whisper in my ear. ‘I shouldn’t speak ill of her, but her Ladyship chided me for breaking a vase. It wasn’t my fault, a complete misunderstanding, for Young Master Freddie was playing golf at the same time I was dusting the vase. He swung the club and accidentally shot the golf ball in my direction, and I tumbled, bringing the vase with me.’
It seemed this young chap was both clumsy and unfortunate. I offered him a sympathetic smile. ‘Well, that Freddie Threepwood can be a pest at the best of times. I suppose he did not tell the truth to Lady Constance?’
‘Oh, no, he’s far too scared of her to do that, Mr Wooster!’
It surprised me that he knew my name. ‘How did you know I’m called Mr Wooster?’
‘Everybody knows you were coming down to Blandings Castle, sir. Even all the servants know about you, for you are to be married to Miss Millicent this summer. Everybody is vastly excited for the special day, sir!’
My heart sank. ‘Oh, is that so, young—’
‘James, sir. My name is James.’
‘Nice to meet you, James, and I hope that Lady Constance doesn’t mistakenly scold you again, for she doesn’t seem the type to forgive broken ornaments a second time. Toodle pip, James.’
‘Goodnight, sir.’

I was strolling in the garden the following morning, queerly rather chipper considering the bare facts, until I bumped into Baxter, quite literally. For whatever reason, he had a diabolical look on his face, and I was terrified of him. He was the Devil personified with that awful, sickening grin of his, regardless of being half the size of Roderick Spode.
‘Good morning, Mr Wooster,’ he drawled, piercing me with that obscure light in his eyes. ‘How are you?’
‘Very well, Mr Baxter,’ I lied through my teeth. ‘Pleasant day, is it not?’
‘Indeed. And how is Jeeves, your manservant?’
I was rather cowed by his peculiar inflection on the word ‘manservant’ and had to submit. ‘He’s doing well, I suppose. I only saw him before breakfast, and he seemed in good spirits; well, as far as tall, dark, brooding manservants can seem in good spirits.’ Here I let out a gay, debonair laugh for good measure.
‘He is your manservant, I presume?’
I was numb. ‘Why, yes, of course. Why else would he bring me tea in the mornings and polish my shoes?’ I realised that I was flushing all over, but I couldn’t do a thing to stop myself.
‘Why indeed. You’re so painfully transparent, Wooster, and yet you think you can hide yourself away through becoming engaged to young Miss Millicent.’ He appeared to growl.
‘I’m sure I don’t know what you’re on about, old top,’ I said as suavely as I could manage in the circumstances.
‘You have evil designs on serving class men, and to hide this deviation away from the public eye, you have decided to take an innocent girl as your bride in a loveless marriage. Why she is so smitten with you, I have no idea, but I’ll tell you this, Wooster — I shall expose you for the insane monster you are if you lay a finger on the poor girl.’
‘I wouldn’t touch a hair on her head!’ I yelped like a kicked puppy, completely and utterly lost. ‘I’m completely and utterly lost, Mr Baxter.’
Where he got these ideas from, I couldn’t tell you, but I believe that Sir Roderick Glossop would be intrigued to have a look at him, yellow feathers or no. But that he had insight, implying that something wasn’t entirely as it seemed between Jeeves and myself… I felt my stomach churn.
‘I saw you in the hallway with that footman last night. And I have all the evidence I need to stop this union between Miss Millicent and yourself. You shall rot in prison like the rest of your depraved kind.’
Here he produced a black and white polaroid. I studied it intently, marvelling at how the obscure angle changed everything, twisting it into something I wouldn’t even dream of. From the cameras point of view, I was bending ever so slightly over a smaller gentleman, our lips aligned. James’ hand was clutching the back of my jacket, as if he were in the throes of passion, and my arms ensnared his waist.
‘This is folly! A mistake, old chap; I was simply catching him as he fell.’ I was quick to howl, hoping that he wouldn’t have the gall to blackmail me with it. I hoped he would rectify his mistake and all would be well, but I was wrong.
‘The camera never lies, Mr Wooster. What would Miss Millicent think at such a sight? What about Lady Constance? Or Jeeves?’
Jeeves! What would he think? He’d be sure to resign after being under the misapprehension that I had kissed a member of the serving classes, and a man at that. Anybody would be certain that I had taken advantage of the poor boy, using my wealth and social class as a tool against him for my wickedness. Jeeves wouldn’t stand for such a thing. He wouldn’t, and couldn’t. He’d be off like a shot.
‘You—!’ I choked, hardly thinking of the words before they left my throat. I couldn’t think at all, and had no idea what I was trying to say.
‘Good day, sir,’ he said, and was gone.
I was helpless. Even Jeeves could not rescue me now, for to plead for his council would incriminate myself and send him running for the hills. In a daze I tootled back to the hall for luncheon, where I put on a mask and pretended that everything was peachy.

The next day I was treated to the same charade. Diabolical Baxter threatened me with the poloroid once again, this time with the promise of showing it to Lord Emsworth, my host. Funnily enough, as soon as he had finished with “and Millicent will never have to marry such a filthy man”, Lord Emsworth himself came gallivanting around the corner, a book titled “Whiffle” cradled tenderly in his arms.
‘Take a look at this, my Lord, and see what you think of Mr Wooster and young James.’
The elderly man peered at it as though it were from another planet entirely, and merely shook his head.
‘But he can’t have kissed Footman James,’ Lord Emsworth protested stubbornly, ‘for he loves… what’s her name, his betrothed. That’s what, um, thingummy told me anyway.’
‘Millicent,’ I offered, quick to latch on to the idea. ‘I love Millicent.’
‘That’s right,’ said Lord Emsworth, chuffed and triumphant in the matter. It obviously hadn’t crossed his mind that I could tell a lie without my tongue turning black. ‘Tomorrow, Baxter, I shall be calling in a nerve specialist. This madness of yours has gone far enough, and I want you properly treated before you can carry on being my secretary. Come along, Mr Wooster, I’d like to show you the Empress.’
‘But, Lord Emsworth!’ he spluttered.
‘Enough, young man, I’ve had enough of your unbalanced mind to last me a lifetime! You are paranoid and delusional, blaming our dear guest like that.’
Out of Baxter’s stunned fingertips I snatched the evidence and made off with his Lordship, almost skipping with glee. After pretending to be interesting in the life of porcine beings, I disposed of my incrimination by folding it around a slice of apple and throwing it to the Empress, where it was gobbled up with all due urgency; thankfully her adoring master had no notion of what I had done, and simply carried on babbling about her piglet days.

Very luckily, Sir Roderick Glossop, the renowned nerve specialist and a good friend, was brought in the very next day. He and I had not seen eye to eye at first due to his rather extreme hatred for cats and my devilish cousins having ushered in three strays that they had stolen in a bet to get into a club, to my apartment where the Glossops were to be having dinner — he viewed me as a looney to be avoided at all costs, and certainly not one to marry off one’s daughter to! However, after an unfortunate run-in with a homicidal swan, there began to blossom the beginnings of a wonderful friendship. Indeed, Sir Roderick Glossop was a topping ally to have. I knew I could count on him to get me out of this mess; there was very little he had not seen in his profession, and inverted misunderstandings are fairly innocent compared with all the other vexing things that nerve patients get up to, he has confided in me.
Naturally, the diabolical Baxter had protested that he was insane over dinner, and had instead implicated me, claiming I had evil designs on serving class men — though through viewing the facts (throwing flowerpots at his employer’s windows and breaking property in the middle of the night) it seemed to me that he was extremely potty himself, invert or no. I had felt my heart palpitate violently at his claims, knowing full well that my manservant Jeeves was stood by my side, listening to every heartless lie he told and taking it in, weighing in the debits and credits of having a homosexual master. I watched as Sir Roderick’s face contorted in shock and disbelief, hardly wanting to believe that a criminal deserving two years of hard labour was in his midst. I watched Lord Emsworth hum to himself, having taken nary a word in, most likely daydreaming about his precious Empress, and I watched Baxter’s expression flip from fear and danger to smug, infuriating pleasure. Never before had I wished to reach out and strike a person so badly in my life.
Lady Constance Keeble was unreadable, her mouth one hard, straight line — most likely she was cursing my Aunt Agatha for sending a pansy to propose to her protegée — and Millicent had completely vanished from the room. She had fled, bawling her eyes out.
‘I suppose I must go and see to my niece,’ the Lady of the house announced, hardly liking to intrude upon a man’s discussion. Mumbled agreements and well wishes followed her out of the hall.
‘Do you have any evidence for your claims, Mr Baxter?’ Sir Roderick asked, glaring menacingly at him through his pince nez. Sterling chap, Sir Roderick Glossop: always on my side.
The monster of a man seemed to falter for a moment, before sighing, ‘well, no, actually. The evidence I did have was disposed of by the man in question.’
Here I let out a nervous laugh. ‘Your claims are false, my dear man. I have never laid eyes on another man with malicious intentions of leading them astray, and frankly, the notion disgusts me.’
Jeeves let out his polite sheep on a distant hill cough, and all eyes turned to him. My knees were swimming somewhere in my oxfords at this point. I relied on him so heavily, and everyone in the room knew it, except for Lord Emsworth, perhaps; he was in another world entirely.
‘If I may speak, sir, I must say that in all of my years of service to Mr Wooster, he has never made any unwelcome advances towards me, nor towards any other man.’
I wondered what the fellow was on about; in the past I had teased Jeeves flirtatiously with the best of them, spoilt him with many presents for no other reason than that I could, and taken many liberties that are typically unspeakable between master and servant. True, he had never protested, and true, we were closer than any employer and employee aught to be… Then it all came to me in one huge rush to the brain. I could have toppled over, it was so powerful, so sudden, so true. Jeeves returned my feelings!
‘That is all the evidence we need,’ Sir Roderick announced. ‘Your claims that Mr Wooster has entered a relationship with any man is outrageous at best, Mr Baxter, and I shall request of you that you allow me to give you a psychological evaluation, for the safety of everyone around you, and yourself.’
‘Do not protest, Mr Baxter. You have caused enough trouble.’
‘Jeeves,’ I said softly and neutrally as I could, ‘I would like to return to my room now, after this great indignity. Soon as morning comes, we shall pack up and leave for the metropolis. Is that agreeable?’
‘Indeed, sir,’ Jeeves bowed and took me gently by the arm, leading me away from all the gawking faces.

‘Jeeves?’ I gave tongue when we were back to the privacy of my flat, and not without a little apprehension stirring in the solar plexis.
‘Sir?’ Jeeves enquired.
His eyebrow twitched a fraction of a centimetre as he sensed my finer feelings, no doubt tapping into my innermost thoughts like the marvel he is. I for one would not put being clairvoyant past the fellow.
‘Well, um, the thing is,’ I began. Suddenly a wicked blush spread over my dial. I coughed.
‘If I’m not mistaken, sir, something seems to be troubling you.’
‘Y…yes, Jeeves. Here’s the thing: you wouldn’t think any less of me if I requested an… embrace? Just a quick, amiable rubbing of shoulders — nothing more, mind you. Just a hug? I’ve had such a blasted rotten time of late, and I need some manly comfort, if that would be… ah, agreeable, what?’
It all came out a lot less eloquently than I could have hoped for in this dire sitch. And as I had anticipated, there Jeeves stood, staring at this foolish young blot as though I had thrown him in the deep end of the Drones Club swimming pool, in full evening wear, no less.
It was indeed true that times were rough, and my trusty valet had seen with his own eyes Bertram’s troubles.
‘Sir,’ Jeeves said again, and I’ll be dashed if there wasn’t something rummy about his voice!
Before I could realise just what that thingness in his voice was, his huge, bear-like arms were wrapped around me in a vice. It was only then that I noticed the differences in our heights and masses; we both happened to be tall coves, but Jeeves was at least two inches taller than myself, and thrice as virile. Yet the way we stood together, chest to chest, his arms about my willowy waist and mine around his barrel-like midsection — call me soppy, but it was like we were made to fit together. Like a jigsaw puzzle, if you get me.
There was an ambrosial smell about him, something exceedingly clean and sparkling — brilliantly pristine, you see — and yet there was still a rather musky, masculine scent to the man. In the seconds we joined together, as it is, I could count four different smells that made Jeeves Jeeves; freshly-washed cotton, from when he spends time scrubbing our clothes; a cool, minty aroma of toothpaste, applied twice daily; the pomade sleeking back his hair; and something slightly salty, like the sea — perhaps it is the Viking blood within him? Funny how a chap doesn’t notice until he’s face to face with said paragon.
We must have stood like Greek statues for at least sixty seconds or more… And I dare say he lingered.
But just as we were about to separate, our eyes met and I was transfixed, rather like one of those sappy, romantic johnnies in the talking pictures. Jeeves, equally, was caught up in my own optical fixtures, and just before I could “ahem” cordially and break the spell like any respectable gentleman would undoubtedly have done, his face was creeping ever closer to my own — and, quite without realising it, I was mirroring him as though he were my glass reflection.
Tentatively, his lips touched mine.
‘I say,’ I I-sayed after he kissed the parted Wooster lips twice in soft succession.
His eyes were suddenly wide and imploring — or at least I could tell they were w. and i., being a self-confessed expert on Jeeves’s oh so subtle facial tics; nobody else would have noticed the softening of his eyes, it prided me to say. But I digress.
As a valet he knew he had done something wrong. Something entirely unprofessional. And as a well-respected man, he had done something inappropriate… I had never seen an unmasked emotion pass this paragon’s face before, and I’ll be dashed if I’d let him get away with such a pathetic expression here and now!
And thus, reader, I would bally well snog him. With the vigour of a puppy, I launched at him... and froze in my tracks like a deer in the headlights of a fast-approaching truck. When it got down to it, I found myself perplexed as how to actually go about it; you see, I’ve kissed girls before, but never quite like this — more of a quick, chaste peck on the cheek, as is expected of a gentlemanly fiance. Never anything remotely French, especially with another chap… It just wasn’t cricket in polite society!
Luckily, Jeeves got the picture and took the reins before I could make a fool of myself. His huge palm glided across my cheek like a velvet glove, and finger tips traced my jaw slowly and with care, languorously. I gulped. And I have no qualms in stating that I was very nearly trembling in anticipation. Then he plunged against my gasping mouth before I could shut it, and after that everything else was quite hazy, but bally marvellous. Polite society be dashed!
‘I say,’ I breathed. ‘Jeeves!’
I was clutching the man as though hanging on for dear life. He had quite kissed my strength away, and I was ensconced in his arms like a fair maiden.
‘Was that agreeable, sir?’ he asked, a hint of nerves creeping into his tone.
‘Oh, rather, Jeeves! Do it again, if you please.’
And he did do it again, over and over, and by that time we were wrapped up under the covers together and it was evening rather than mid-afternoon. Repressed desire can do that to a person, or so I’m told. It felt wonderful to be curled up like a lapdog by his side, his arms like vices around me, just daring me to ever break free. I placed kiss after kiss on his angular, clean-shaven face, and he stroked and ruffled my blonde curls as if I were his special childhood pet. It had never felt so good to be home.