ataratah: (Default)
[personal profile] ataratah
Title: Jeeves and the Lovestruck Spirit
Rating: PG 13, maybe R?
Length: ~ 20K
Disclaimer: I do not own Jeeves
Notes: Beta by [livejournal.com profile] jjtaylor, who stepped up and was awesome, even though Bertie Wooster is not her very favorite.

Summary: Usually the women who land Bertie in the soup are at least alive. This time, not so much.



I don't know if you have ever stepped into a place that you had expected to be your new home away from home and found it already occupied. If you have, certainly you'll agree it's jarring. It's the sort of thing that leaves a man feeling out of place, unmoored from his tethers, like a ship about to drift away from port.

That's how I felt, when I pushed through the door of the cottage I'd taken in lower Tumby Woodside, just behind Jeeves and the half the luggage, and looked up to find a girl coming down the stairs at rather a brisk pace. Or rather, I mean tumbling. Mid-step, she seemed to quite lose her balance and ended up somewhere near the landing at double time.

I shied back in an unmanly panic and nearly took a tumble over the other half of the luggage. We were both gaping, me and the girl, her mouth working in vain to catch a breath and me trying vainly to get my voice to work so I could signal to Jeeves, who seemed oblivious to our distress.

Then the light shifted, shining through her body in such a way that I realized, rather than being in any immediate danger, this beazel was already out of the running, as it were. She continued to gape and gasp, but I was no longer fooled - I know a ghost when I see one, and it takes more than a bit of theatrics with otherworldly moans to spook Bertram.

What's this business about you seeing ghosts, Wooster? you may cry. Coming out of nowhere as it does, it's an understandable shock, but what is sudden to readers new and old is ancient history for Bertram Wilberforce Wooster. One doesn't like to mention it, of course, unless it is germane - if that is the word I want - to the matters at hand, ghosts not being the most seemly of topics. And in previous annals, it was not germane, since, when I say 'ancient history' I mean exactly that. I hadn't seen a ghost since I was so high, well before I started documenting my adventures, such as they are. I had rather hoped I had outgrown the talent, or that it had been one of those quirks of a child's imagination, but there was no mistaking the figure before me for flesh and blood.

Still, she didn't act like any shade I had seen, some of whom, if I remember correctly, were quite chatty, and others of whom sent cold shivers down my spine by drifting about and moaning. All in all, barring one or two of the chatty ones, not terribly convivial company. But I didn't remember any of them taking a gander at Bertram, and then rushing at me like the morning express train.

Except that was what this ghost did. She made a leap for me, and just as I had managed to untangle myself from the luggage and rise, she collided with me. Now, ghosts are, as you are likely aware, insubstantial, so no one was more surprised than I when she managed to bowl me over, sending me once more crashing amidst the bags.

I expected it to hurt, as it had the first time, but everything suddenly became numb and I could barely move my limbs, feeling rather as though I were underwater, or had been plunged full length into a tub of molasses. Not sticky, mind, you, just impeded. I couldn't budge an inch. At length, I gave up on trying, trusting that Jeeves, who'd come over to assist me, might be able to get me unstuck. Only as soon as he'd reached out to help me, my hand finally moved, and - completely against my intentions - slapped his own hand away.

I was horrified at myself. We Woosters have our pride, but we do not spurn offers of assistance from worthy fellows like Jeeves, and I could see he'd taken it hard, his mouth turning down just a touch at the corner. I opened my own mouth to issue an apology, but what emerged was a sharp rebuke, in my own ringing tones, "Don't touch me!"

For a moment, Jeeves just stared down at me, still sprawled helplessly amidst the luggage. Then a cold light entered his eyes, and he said, "Very good, sir," and shimmered off. I hadn't seen a single feature of his face even twitch, but the look in his eyes and his hasty retreat were enough to convince me that he was more than usually peeved at the young master, and I couldn't say that I blamed him myself. A fellow may naturally get startled on seeing a ghost, but that didn't account what I'd said to Jeeves. He'd touched me loads of times, and I'd never minded it. In fact I rather - well, that is to say, I certainly wasn't averse to the idea of him doing it more, if he wished to.

I sat there on the floor for a moment, and mused at the way life kept throwing these little hiccups my way. Here I was, visiting Tumby Woodside to sort out the troubles of my pal, Loopy, and - oh, wait, hang on. I haven't told you about Loopy yet. Hold on a tic, and we'll go back to the beginning.




It was one of those fine mornings you get just as summer rolls into autumn and loosens it's hot and humid grip on the metrop. Cool, clean air was moving in, and the birds were packing up their bags and moving out. The "season of mists and mellow fruitfulness," Jeeves calls it, but at present, there were no mists to speak of, only clear blue skies.

"What sort of day is it, Jeeves?" I asked, bunging the last bits of the e. and b. around my plate.

"Very fine, sir, though there is a bit of a chill to the air."

"Ah, excellent. A good day for a walk, what?"

"For any outdoor activity, if I may so, sir."

"You may, Jeeves. But I don't know of much we'd be getting up to here in the bustling city besides strolling around the park a bit."

"If I could suggest, sir, it is an excellent season for a visit to the country."

Ah, now I saw all. Jeeves, if not reined in, suffers from an acute strain of wanderlust, and would rove hither and thither like a gypsy, if he could. And every so often, moved by this terrible urge, he begins hinting of trips, or leaving out travel brochures for me to peruse. He gets his way more often than not, I'll admit, but this time I was putting my foot down.

"Not Steeple Bumpleigh again, Jeeves!"

"No, sir, I would not recommend another trip to Steeple Bumpleigh."

"Because you know what happened last time."

"Yes, sir. Most distressing."

I allowed myself to relax, knowing that, at the very least, Jeeves wasn't determined to bung me back into that particular lion cage, which housed not only my Aunt Agatha, but my former fiancée, Florence Craye - man eaters, both of them.

"Very well, Jeeves, where were you going to suggest?"

"There is a lovely little town just to the North, sir, called Tumby--" But before he could finish luring me who knows where, the phone rang and he shimmered off to answer it.

The very hint of Steeple Bumpleigh had me braced for the worst - the name tends to act a like a curse on the unwary, and I half expected my dreaded Aunt Agatha to be on the phone, so I was pleased when Jeeves revealed that it was, in fact, my friend Loopy.

I don't know that I have had cause to mention my pal Loopy in these annals of mine, but he is generally a pretty cheerful chap, so I was surprised to hear him trying his best to imitate a sullen foghorn over the line.

"Something the matter, Loopy?" I asked.

"Oh, Bertie, I'm neck deep in it. You have to come round to Lufton Hall and lend me a hand."

"What sort of hand?" I asked, though it was a mere formality, Loopy is a good egg, and isn't one to wantonly dunk a fellow into the soup, just to have a companion in misery like some of my pals. "Tell me all, my dear Loopy, I'm here to listen and advise."

"Well, it all started with this woman-"

"But Loopy," I interrupted, "I thought you didn't like women!"

"That's the whole problem," Loopy sighed.

I saw how it was. I was sad to be losing one of the staunchest allies of my bachelorhood, but there you are. Loopy had fallen for the siren song and forsaken the brotherhood. And accustomed to the love that dare not speak it's name, he had forgotten how to go about speaking the name of the love that does. In short this man's man had cast in his lot with woman, and now had no idea how to woo.

Well, it was a bit of a blow, I'll admit, but this Wooster has helped more hopeless swains than this in matters of the heart.

"Say no more, Loopy, I am ready and willing to assist."

We worked out the rest of the details of the visit, and then I rang off, after promising to appear no later than dinner time the next day.

"Once more into the breach, eh Jeeves?" I said, returning to the e. and b. The thought of the challenge before me was rather fueling my appetite.

"Sir?"

"That was Loopy on the phone just now. You remember Loopy Lufton, don't you?"

"Mr. Louis Lufton? A charming gentleman, sir."

"Yes, Jeeves, quite. Well, it seems he's gone and fallen in love with some filly, and wants us to rally round and cheer him on and whatnot."

"Sir?" Jeeves asked, looking shocked. Which is to say that his eyebrows rose perhaps an eighth of an inch.

"Yes Jeeves?"

"Are you quite sure that Mr. Lufton requested your help with a young lady, sir?"

"Yes Jeeves, quite sure, nothing wrong with the old ears, after all," I assured him.

"Very good, sir," Jeeves sniffed in that subtle way he has. It's beyond all reproach, of course, but you do get the impression that, were this a lesser man, all bets would be off.

Reading over this last bit, you might get the impression that Jeeves has some inkling of Loopy's, or in fact my, preference for the lads. But when Jeeves says bachelor, he means exactly that. Jeeves, of course, prides himself on the preciseness of his speech, but going further, he's also one of those old, traditional souls that does not see shades of the Greek in a man's natural disinclination to pursue female company.

No, Jeeves was quite unaware. And I, preferring to keep self out of gaol, and him in my employ, was rather careful to keep it that way.

"And Jeeves, Loopy says it's imperative our visit appear on the casual side, so we'll need to take some sort of cottage in the nearby village called - oh, what was it? Tumbling Woodside or something, instead of lodging at Lufton Hall."

"Tumby Woodside, sir."

"Eh, what?"

"Tumby Woodside is the name of the village, sir, by Lufton Hall. If you'll recall, I was just mentioning it to you before the phone rang."

"Oh, so that's where you wanted to go then, is it?"

"Yes, sir."

"A nice spot for fishing?"

"I believe there is stream or two in the vicinity, sir."

"Is there? Then I expect we'll both have a bit of a nice vacation, what?"

"Indeed, sir."

"Then I can trust you to take care of the arrangements, Jeeves?"

"Yes, sir, I had already taken the liberty of doing so."

"What?" I asked, startled at this display of prescience on his part. Jeeves is always in the know, but this was a bit beyond. He must have taken to reading tea leaves, on top of his regular meal of fish. "Never-mind, Jeeves, carry on."

"Very good, sir."




Only of course it was not "very good" at all. As I sat there, musing, it occurred to me that there could only be one explanation for Bertram Wilberforce Wooster seeing specters, ticking off Jeeves, and declining his helping hand. I was going mad, and clearly was but two steps away from shutting myself off from all mankind, and collecting rodents or some other small woodland creature, like my eccentric, rabbit loving Uncle Henry. Back when I was a lad, and seeing ghosts more or less on a regular basis, my Aunt Agatha had come to a similar conclusion about Bertram, and had been a touch away from having me committed. Only some fast talking from my Aunt Dahlia had stayed her hand then, but maybe she'd had the right idea. After all, one cannot go roaming about the countryside, seeing ghosts and insulting valets, especially topping ones like Jeeves.

This called for firm action. Once decided, I finally rose from the floor, and made a dash for the telephone, dialing the only person who could help me.

"Eh? Hello?" Spoke that familiar voice.

"What ho, Doc Glossop," I said, sound cheery enough, I think, despite my unease.

"Mr. Wooster!" Sir Roderick replied, "It is good to hear from you. Are you doing well?" His pleasure at hearing the Wooster voice seemed unalloyed for the moment.

"Oh, rather." I replied, "And how's Mrs. Glossop? And Honoria?"

"Fine, fine. But surely you're not calling to ask after Honoria?" He hinted a bit slyly, and I hastened to divert his mind from that dangerous path.

"Well, no, as it happens, I'm calling to ask your professional advice."

"Oh, ah?"

"Yes, well, rather - I've been seeing ghosts lately-"

"Have you really? Fascinating!"

"-or just one really, but it was rather jarring, you know-"

"Indeed?" He replied, his tone still unaccountably jovial. I had thought he'd be darkly hinting about padded cells by now. It would have been preferable to him hinting about Honoria.

"Erm, yes, as it happens. I say," I paused, "You're taking this rather well! Anyway, what I was wondering is, would you perhaps maybe have some room for me at the sanatorium?"

At this he broke into peals of laughter, his mirth pouring freely forth from the telephone receiver. Eventually he subsided and asked if I was serious.

"Yes, I bally well was serious," I replied, somewhat hurt that he would suspect me of such a pitiful ruse, "I really am seeing shades."

"I wasn't asking about that," Sir Roderick scolded, "but whether you thought you actually needed to be locked up. You know, after our adventure that night when we were ourselves mistaken for earth bound spirits, I have been researching these sorts of local superstitions, and I must say, Mr. Wooster," he said, lowering his voice a touch, "That at present I am by no means an unbeliever."

"So you won't lock me up, then?" I asked, disheartened.

"No, of course not!" He said, chuckling again, "Seeing ghosts is perfectly natural. In fact, I think I envy you somewhat. However, if you continue to have difficulties, might I recommend you use some salt?"

"Salt?" I asked, not quite getting the gist of the lemon.

"You sprinkle it across the doorways, you see, and the spirits can't get in."

"I say!"

"You should try it," He suggested, "It's a technique highly recommended in the traditional folklore."

"I believe I shall," and after chatting with him a bit more, I rang off, feeling braced and full of vigor at the new plan. There would be no escaping Jeeves with a pinch of salt, of course, so matters there weren't appreciably better, but I was sure that without anymore unpredictable ghostly influences, I would be able to smooth things over with him in time. Jeeves is not one to hold grudges. That is to say, I could probably expect to see the ashes of my primrose tie in the grate, but time heals all wounds, what?

Salt was easy enough to purchase at the local store, and I got a goodish sized bag of it for less than a quarter of the coin of the realm I had on me. That done, I legged it over to Lufton Hall, feeling that perhaps my own problems might pale in comparison to that of my bosom pal, and that a bit of perspective was just what I needed.




When I found Loopy, he was roosting in his study.

"What ho, Loopy," I said merrily as Loopy beckoned me into a room lined with books and heavy, important looking furniture.

"Hullo Bertie," he said, and right away I noticed that he was running low on his usual tank of joie de vivre.

"A pretty bad case, eh?" I asked perceptively, perching the sylph-like frame on the arm of a robust looking, velvet covered chair.

"You've no idea," Loopy said moaning like a door hinge that hadn't been greased in a while.

"Girl trouble?"

"It's every kind of trouble, Bertie. Though I guess it starts right enough with girl trouble."

"It usually does," I noted sagely. I had some experience in that area. Whatever trouble you get up to in the end, whether it be stealing a cow creamer, or impersonating a female novelist, I've found that it always begins with a bit of girl trouble.

"Well, you know how I am with girls, Bertie. I can't stand the creatures. Haven't a clue what to do around them. And I guess my father must have realized it, because he went ahead and had me betrothed to one, right before he expired a few years ago. You knew about my father, right Bertie?" He asked, looking a little forlorn.

I nodded and began to soothe, fearing he'd been overcome with melancholy, but he shook me off instanter, "No, no, it's fine, if I'd known what he was getting me into, I'd have danced on his grave. We were never close. Anyway," he said, shaking his head sadly, "That was Gloria Hart."

"Ah, the fiancée. What is she like?" I asked, hoping she was built more along the solid, sweet lines of my cousin Angela, and less like a fire breathing dragon, like Florence. I mean, if he was going to throw over the lads for an item of the fairer sex, it had to be fairly hot stuff, what? "When do I meet the light of your life."

"She's not the light of my life Bertie," He said with a touch of impatience, "What with one thing and another, she's gone and died."

I wanted to ask him for the whole story, but there was an moment when I could not reply, mainly because I had fallen off the arm of the chair I had sat on, and tumbled to the ground in shock at the news. Loopy came round and helped me up, and he was just reaching round to dust something off the back of my suit when the door opened.

A golden haired young Adonis bounded into the room, took the whole scene in with one sweep of the sapphire blues, and said, "Well, I never! First that girl and now him." He directed this last comment at me and topped it off with a scathing glare. About what I'm used to, really, but generally not from people I haven't even been introduced to.

"Here, now," I began.

"Alain!" Loopy cried.

"Oh, forgive me, sir," the young man returned, in tones that begged for apology as much as a rich man begs for crumbs on the street, "I'm just a secretary, I don't have any right to be offended." He slammed the folder he was carrying down on Loopy's overlarge desk so hard that all the papers burst out and flew everywhere. Then as an encore, he slammed the door on the way out of the study too.

"Oh dear," Loopy said, "I had better go after him. I'll see you at dinner, Bertie?" And he barely waited for me to wave him off before he was gone.




Well, it pained me to have to return to the cottage without making any progress on Loopy's case. I didn't even have the circs to ponder on the way back, and so spent the whole of the brisk stroll down the lane, past the hedge, and through the little wood thinking of Jeeves instead. Or more specifically, how I was to smooth things over with him without telling him the truth. In most circumstances, I am the first to agree to that honesty is the best policy, but I couldn't see that Jeeves would accept me blaming my rough treatment of him on a ghost. He'd think I was off my rocker, Doc Glossop's professional opinion aside, and would either bung me into the first loony bin we came across, or quit my employ. I mean, if a man can pick and chose who he worked for - and Jeeves could - he wasn't going to stick with a gentleman who made a practice of chatting up the dead.

Clearly the best thing for it was to pretend that nothing had happened, and leave my faith in the sack of salt now waiting steadfastly in the boot of my car.

Still, it was with a heavy tread that I once more set foot into my temporary abode.

Unlike the first time I had entered that foul cottage, nothing out of the ordinary greeted me on my return. Jeeves had even effected something of a miracle in my absence, because while I couldn't say I had noticed any dirt or dinginess about the place before, it was now practically gleaming, benefiting, I knew, from Jeeves's talented hand with the dust rag and polish.

Perhaps he'd cleared out the ghost with the cobwebs, I reflected, and gave Jeeves a warmer than usual smile when he brought me a whiskey and soda.

"This is sort of a nice little place. All the modern conveniences and so forth, what?"

Jeeves responded with his usual solemnity, "All but one, sir, the builder neglected to install a bell."

"A bell?"

"To summon the servants, sir. In your case, me."

"Ah, yes. I'd almost forgotten what they're for, you know, you're so dashed good at anticipating the young master's needs before I even know of them, Jeeves," I beamed at the man, pleased that he seemed to have forgiven my cross behavior, and was brimful as ever of the feudal spirit.

"Thank you, sir, one does hope to give satisfaction. However, in the event that I am not able to predict your needs, I have taken the liberty of providing a bell, sir," Jeeves replied, and proceeded to extract a bell from somewhere about his person - with Jeeves, you can never quite tell from where he gets these little things - and handed it to me.

It was a pretty silver jobbie, the sort of the thing my Uncle Tom would have lusted after for his collection, though it looked a little formal for summoning servants. I admired it briefly for a moment, then set it on the table, quite ready to forget all about it. When a man has a valet like Jeeves, he gets out of the habit of bells.

Jeeves, however, drew my attention back to it with the persistence of a bull terrier, "For instance, sir, if at some point during our stay you encounter one of the spirits that is rumored to dwell here, I hope you will summon me."

If Jeeves hadn't placed little scented bowls of potpourri about the place, I would have said I smelled a rat.

"Jeeves!"

"Yes, sir?"

"Did you know that this cottage was haunted when you let it, Jeeves?"

"Yes, sir," he replied with perfect calm.

"But why?" I sputtered a bit. "You know how I feel about ghosts, Jeeves," I rebuked him, thinking of how I had spent my childhood hiding under beds and in closets to avoid the creepiest members of the species.

"If I might venture to contradict you, sir, you have never mentioned your opinion on the subject."

"I haven't?"

"No, sir."

"Well, that's never stopped you knowing something before."

"Indeed, sir."

"But you didn't know about this, Jeeves?"

"No, sir. If you'll pardon me, I knew of the reported hauntings in the vicinity, but I did not suspect it would be a problem, as most scholars are, indeed, deeply skeptical of the very existence of these sorts of paranormal manifestations."

"Oh, are they?" I replied. And I meant it to sting.

"Sir?"

"Yes, Jeeves?"

"May I ask how you knew the cottage was haunted, sir?" His face was blank, as it usually is, but I could see a bit of a twinkle in his eyes, the one he gets when he's about to be terribly clever, or has just gotten one over on me by burning a brand new pair of my socks or some-such.

It was here that I became aware of the stickiness of my position. If I admitted to seeing a ghost this morning, he'd wonder, naturally, why I hadn't told him before, after it had caused me to behave so strangely. Then there was that other bit, where brainier coves than I had clearly decided that there was no such thing as ghosts, meaning that Jeeves would no doubt misconstrue my confession as the ravings of a mad man. However, and here was where it got sticky, if I did not tell, and he found out later - and Jeeves generally does find out about these things - he would not like that I had not told him when he'd asked.

Still, there was always a chance that he would not find out, especially if my gambit with the salt produced the goods, so I gave him an insouciant grin and replied, "No, Jeeves, you may not."

'Very good, sir," Jeeves said stiffly, his eye losing his twinkle, and his tone once more becoming soupy. "If you'll pardon my saying so, sir, you are back sooner than I had expected. Did you meet with Mr. Lufton?"

"Yes, Jeeves, but only for a moment before he was called away."

"I see, sir. Was he able to communicate to you the nature of his troubles, sir?"

"Nothing worth bending your ear with, Jeeves. As much as I admire your brain, even you couldn't get much out of the what I've learned so far."

"I'm sorry to hear that, sir."

"No worries, Jeeves, in a few hours Loopy and I will be chowing down at supper. Then, after, we'll be relaxing with brandy and cigars. And at some point, sooner or later, I've no doubt he'll open up and tell all."



But I was wrong, as it turned out, and Loopy was taciturn all through the excellent dinner he served up, wilting under the smoldering eye of his secretary, who might have shown more tact than to gnaw away at the hand that fed him before the fed meal was even wiped off the plate.

Luckily, the secretary did not join us for brandy, but this was little comfort, as Loopy was still uncommunicative.

"Listen Bertie," He said, nearly whispering for no reason that I could figure out, "We can't talk here."

"I say, Loopy, why not?" I boggled, looking around at the room, which was large and completely empty of other persons.

"I can't be closeted away with you for too long," He explained, explaining, as it happened, nothing, "He's already too suspicious."

"Who is?"

"Nevermind, Bertie, I don't have time to explain."

"Don't you?" I asked, "I dare say it's only been five minutes, and I'm not sure how much I could justly be suspected of in anything under a quarter of an hour."

"Nevertheless," Loopy said firmly, stubbing out his cigar, "I can't risk it. You'll have to meet me somewhere else."

"You're being awfully mysterious about all this, Loopy."

"There's a gazebo on the far end of the rose garden."

"Is there?" I queried, puzzled by this non sequitur.

"Meet me there tomorrow morning at 10 AM."

"10 AM, are you mad? I don't wake up before 11 for anything other than national emergencies!" I protested. After all, a man has to sleep sometimes, and we Woosters are not only fond of a nice lie in, we consider it something of a necessity for living.

"It is a national emergency," Loopy said coldly, "10 AM. Gazebo."

"Fine, fine."

"Excellent. Now shoo, Bertie," He said, waving me out as if I were a recalcitrant hound.

Well, a Wooster knows when he isn't wanted, so I allowed myself to be shooed, with nothing to show for an evening's efforts. Thankfully, Loopy's chef knew his business, otherwise I would have had to count the whole thing as a total loss.




Later, after Jeeves had eased me out of my suit and into a hot bath, I philosophized that at least it was a lot more peaceful, not knowing what Loopy's problem was. Usually by now, I was so sweating over my pal's dire straights that it was impossible to enjoy a nice splash in the bath and then a good night's sleep. But so far, all was smooth sailing. I hadn't even seen a single filly so far, besides the ghost of this morning, or heard of one, other than the dead fiancée, so there was little risk of Bertram becoming accidentally engaged, and needing to get fished out of the soup as well. And I had my little sack of salt now stashed in the back of the hall closet, ready and waiting to be employed at my defense, as soon as I could get Jeeves to look the other way.

Jeeves usually dances attendance on me when I'm in my bath, handing me the soap, washcloth or towel as I need them, or sometimes simply chats with me while I push the rubber duck around the tub.

But if it looks like I'm settling in for a good long wallow in the suds, he usually biffs off on mysterious errands of his own, returning precisely as the H2O is cooling to retrieve the young master, and wrap him in a warmed and fluffy towel.

This was just such a time, and Jeeves had left me after his careful tweaking of the taps had got the water just right. But as I leaned back against the porcelain and closed the peepers, I became aware of one of those uncanny country sounds, like the wind in the trees or the cry of the fox, that sounds perfectly natural in daylight, but becomes the stuff of gothic horror novels in the dark watches of the night. The wailing, gasping, noise continued on, trailing off, then coming back full force, until I had shivers running up and down the spine, despite the warmth of the bath water.

No doubt, I should have collected my not inconsiderable courage and silenced the little whisper of fear in my gut, but between the nighttime soundtrack and the ghost this morning, it didn't seem there was much of the valiant knight left in Bertram. Well, when in doubt, I reminded myself, better call for Jeeves. Better men than I would have consulted Jeeves if they had him at their fingertips, and at present, trembling in the bath, that was exactly where I wanted him. At the fingertips, I mean, not in the bath.

"Jeeves!" I called, my voice temporarily blocking out the squeal of barn owl or howl of the damned for a blessed moment.

"Yes, sir?" Jeeves shimmered in beside me, looking reassuringly Jeevesian and mundane.

"Ah, there you are, Jeeves," I said, beaming up at him, feeling better already, if not a little foolish.

"Yes, sir, was there something you required of me?"

"Not particularly, Jeeves."

Jeeves raised his eyebrow a fraction of an inch, but looking more amused, on the whole, than not. "Very good, sir," he said simply and then subsided.

Into the silence between us, there crept that haunting noise of whatever-it-was from outside, though now it sounded more like creaking than wailing - perhaps like the noise of a someone creeping up the stairs, or--

"Jeeves!" I cried, interrupting my own dark thoughts.

"Sir?"

"Tell me something, Jeeves," I begged.

"Of course, sir," Jeeves responded slowly, eyeing me a little curiously.

"Well?" I prompted, when he didn't continue.

"Pardon me, sir, was there anything in particular you wished me to tell you?"

"Oh, no, Jeeves, whatever you like."

His face began to take on the stuffed frog expression it gets when he's near being peeved, and I saw that I was bungling this somehow, "Am I to take it, sir, that what you would like me to tell you should be in the nature of a confession?"

"Eh, what?" I said, repeating his words over to myself slowly. "Oh, no, I'm not asking for your darkest secrets, Jeeves, just any little thing. Read any good improving books lately? What's that Spinoza chap been up to lately?" I said, rather babbling. I hadn't realized he might read so much into things, but I could see how, coming out of nowhere as it had, my request might have sounded odd.

"Spinoza has been dead for quite some time, sir, so there is little news on that front," He informed me, "And I have not read any improving books that would hold your interest, sir."

"No? That's too bad," I said, and I meant it.

"However, sir..."

"Yes, Jeeves?"

"The sloe was lost in flower, The April elm was dim; That was the lover's hour, The hour for lies and him." Jeeves quoted, his voice losing it's usual reticent timbre, and becoming deeper, and richer with the recitation.

"Wonderful, Jeeves," I said when he was finished, "What was it?"

"A poem, sir, from a recent anthology by A.E. Housman that I happened to be reading. I thought you might like to hear it, sir."

"Rather, Jeeves, yes. Do you have any more?"

And without the slightest pause, he launched into another one, just as topping, and the eerie sound didn't have even a chance to make a peep against Jeeves's ringing tones.

Well, his anthology got me through my bath all right, and soon we went our separate ways, he closing himself in his lair, and I legging it for the hall closet.

Jeeve's absence gave me the perfect opportunity to salt the house, and so I did, trailing wobbly lines of it along the windowsills and doorways, till it stood in shining little mounds across every entry way, like white soldier grains barring shut the gates from the unholy.

That done, I felt I had earned the sleep of the just, and fearing no interruptions from ethereal cries or restless spirits, toddled off early for my forty winks.

I would estimate roughly that I had got about 35 winks when a low and cooing voice broke through a rather topping dream I was having.

"Good morning, Mr. Wooster," the ghost said, the sun shining through her misty figure till I could barely see the outlines.

"Argh!" I said intelligently, and she must have taken it for a greeting because she launched right into it.

"You must help me," was what she said, and it probably the only thing that kept me from bolting out of the room like a prize racehorse at the track. I mean, one who follows the Code of the Woosters, does not flee when a woman asks for aid, dead or not. And, after all, it was hard enough on the ghost being dead in the first place, she must not have a lot of choice about who to go round pouring her soul out to, if you'll pardon the expression.

"Help?" I gulped.

She gave me the doe eyes, and, in case you can't imagine it, I'll tell you that it didn't go over well. Mostly because her eyes were glowing like lit coals.

"My name is Gloria Hart-"

"I say, Loopy's fiancée, wasn't it?"

"Yes, he was my dearest love," She said, sounding at once loud and far off. If you've ever had someone call to you from the end of a long tunnel, you know what I mean.

"Oh, ah." I said. I never know quite what to say to girls when they start talking about their feelings.

And it looked like I'd gotten it wrong again, because a rather peeved expression passed across her map, and she flew towards me rather suddenly, leaving me to scramble backwards across the bedclothes.

"We're soul mates," She said, through gritted teeth. If she hadn't been undead, I would have been concerned about her molars. As it was, I was more concerned about the entirety of this Wooster. Keeping her pleased seemed like a priority of no small importance.

"Oh, yes, rather," I nodded, "I believe Loopy may have mentioned something about it earlier today."

"He did, did he?" She asked, less appeased than I'd hoped.

"Well, it was a short conversation, but your name definitely came up."

"He wants us to be together," She sighed with a force that would have propelled a sail boat halfway cross a lake, "That is why you must help us."

"I say, this is rather rum," I cried, "I won't murder Loopy just so you can be together!"

"You won't?" She said, sounding disappointed.

"No," I said firmly, and crossed my arms. There are lines one has to draw, and murdering old school chums is well past it.

"Of course, I wouldn't ask you to do that," She added hastily.

"No?"

"No," She soothed, "I only want to talk to him. It would bring us both such comfort."

Well, there might be something to that. I don't know if she was the girl Loopy was pining for or not, but I didn't see what harm a little heart-to-heart could do.

"Why don't you?" I suggested.

"I've tried," She said, making a moue, "He can't hear me."

"Well, well, well," I said, considering the thing, "I suppose I can relay the contents of a message, what? Act as a sort of go-between?"

"You can do more than that," She said, and I didn't like the way her eyes narrowed just then, like I was a mouse and she a cat that was rather peckish, "If you'll only let me borrow you for a bit, I can talk to him myself."

"How do you mean 'borrow'?" I asked warily, beginning to get a glimmer of insight as to why I may have behaved so out of character the previous morning.

She leaned forward, rather looming over the bed, and I could feel the chill sort of aura she was giving off through the bedclothes, "Your body is what I'm referring to. Just to steer around for a little bit," She said, trying to make her shocking suggestion sound reasonable, and pleasant, rather like my dentist sounded just before he strapped me to the chair.

"To steer around-! Now, look here," I said sternly, clutching my blankets to my chin, "I'm more than willing to lend you anything in my possession, but my body? That's just not cricket!"

"No?" She asked raising a spectral eyebrow, "My dear Mr. Wooster, I'm afraid I wasn't really asking."

And then she vanished, just like that, after uttering the most ominous words I had ever heard spoken in the English language, and quite doing her part to ensure that I would not be getting any more sleep.

What I wanted now was Jeeves. Clearly, despite withholding information and lying as I had, there was nothing for it but to put the whole thing before him, and beg for mercy. I hastily washed and donned some manner of garb, and headed downstairs in search of my peerless valet.

And I found him sweeping what must have been the last of the salt into a heaping dustbin.

I have to confess, I nearly resolved the matter of whether or not he'd think me mad and quit right then and there by firing the man myself. What did he mean, sweeping up the last and best of Bertram's spiritual protection? Didn't he know what frightful danger we were in?

But of course he did not, because I had not told him.

"Good morning, sir," Jeeves said, for on finishing with the salt, he had turned and spotted me, "Would you care for some tea?" He said, and though his face remained expressionless, I could see he was feeling less than fond of Bertram at the moment, and my spirit shrank from laying my needy soul before him when he was in such a mood.

"Thank you, Jeeves, tea would be just the thing," I said, because if tea couldn't help, it couldn't hurt either, but then I stopped him before he could waft off to the kitchen with his dustbin, "I say, Jeeves, about the salt-"

"Yes, sir, it seems some miscreant has been strewing it about the cottage," Jeeves said, in a way that made me think he knew very well who the miscreant was, and had only with effort prevented himself from using stronger language.

"Ah, yes, well... you don't think you might perhaps... put it back, what?"

"No, sir."

"No?"

"No. If that is all, sir, I will be getting your tea," and out he went.
 

Part Two
Part Three
From:
Anonymous( )Anonymous This account has disabled anonymous posting.
OpenID( )OpenID You can comment on this post while signed in with an account from many other sites, once you have confirmed your email address. Sign in using OpenID.
User
Account name:
Password:
If you don't have an account you can create one now.
Subject:
HTML doesn't work in the subject.

Message:

 
Notice: This account is set to log the IP addresses of everyone who comments.
Links will be displayed as unclickable URLs to help prevent spam.

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags

Profile

ataratah: (Default)
ataratah

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Page generated Sep. 25th, 2017 06:45 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios
September 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 2014