Well, an unlooked for benefit of being roused early from my bed by an apparition was that I was not late for my appointment in the garden with Loopy. I trod down a peaceful looking gravel path, the over-sweet smell of roses thick in my nose, and saw him wave at me from the gazebo.
My own cheery wave was halted when I saw that the shade of Gloria Hart standing next to him, looking at him fondly, and I do not mind telling you that, pride be dashed, I nearly turned and ran for it. However, I never got the chance, for she saw Loopy's wave and turned to look at me, a sinister light in her eyes, and then she was doing her speeding train impression once more, coming for me at a pretty fast clip. She sort of sank into me, and it felt rather like when Tuppy Glossop had put an ice cube down my shirt, chill and slimy, but all over, instead of just down my spine. Against my will, I felt myself smile, and begin to walk towards the gazebo.
After that, I think I must have grayed out for a bit, because the next thing I knew, there was someone else's tongue in my mouth.
I thought for a moment it might be Jeeves, for no reason that needs going into, but when I pushed the someone off me and my eyes had adjusted to the light, I saw that it was Loopy.
As it happened, the secretary, young golden haired Alain, also saw that it was Loopy, for he had just stepped up into our gazebo, and was now staring at us both gape-mouthed.
Loopy reeled, and I suspect it was only partly because I had pushed him. "Ah, Alain," he said, "It's not what it looks like-"
"How could you?" Alain cried, quite rightly not believing a word of it. Angelic good looks he had in spades, obviously, but one couldn't forget that he was also a secretary, and likely quite brainy with it.
"I trusted you," Alain added mournfully, and his tone was such that I saw all. Or, rather, some. Clearly, there was something of a romantic nature between Loopy and the young secretary, and as is often the case, the course of true love never did run smoothly.
"Not another word, Louis," Alain hissed, "I'm calling my brother," he said, making no sense to me - I couldn't see what his brother had to do with anything, unless he was a policeman perhaps, or a loony doctor. And then he turned on his heel and sprinted off, down the garden path.
"Well, that's torn it," Loopy sighed, watching Alain run fleet footed out of sight, like a greyhound chasing a particularly fast rabbit. I daresay Loopy wanted to chase after him, his eye had a wistful gleam, and his lip was quivering slightly, but Loopy is no sprinter. Came in last in most of our boyhood races, save the ones where Stinker Pinker tripped over the starting line and took that particular honor. Myself, I had collapsed onto one of the benches of the gazebo.
"Torn what?" I said, wiping a hand over the beaded brow. Possession, it seemed, took it out of a fellow.
"Well, he was already suspicious after he caught us embracing in my office-"
"I say, embracing?"
"-and then I rather lingered with you over the brandy and cigars last night-"
"Here now, Loopy," I interrupted, "That couldn't have been more than five minutes, ten at the outside," I protested, still stung a bit that he'd flung the Wooster corpus out of doors so early, "I don't know what anyone could have expected us to have got up to in that amount of time."
"Oh pish, Bertie, back at Oxford, I could bring you off in four minutes."
"I'm older now," I said austerely, rather wishing he'd abandon the conversation, or at least the topic.
"And I was gossiping with Bingo last week, and he said-"
"Oh, alright, old thing, if you're going to dig up the sort of rot that Bingo says."
"How is he, by the way? Married, isn't he?'
"Yes, to Rosie M. Banks, if you've heard of her." My pal Bingo had gone and gotten himself hitched to a female novelist, who had penned some of the most treacly sap I have ever had the misfortune to lay eyes on. Best selling sap, it has to be said, but sap nonetheless.
"Alain is a fan," Loopy said, "Got a set for Christmas from his friend Reggie, and didn't put them down for weeks. And to think, Bingo married her," he shuddered a little, and I saw he shared my opinion of this kind of literature.
"But," he said, continuing on, "Didn't you two have some sort of understanding or arrangement or some-such? I suppose that's off now."
"Nothing quite as fixed as you're thinking," I confessed with a brief sigh, "Anyway, once Jeeves signed on, I saw that there was no use trying to hide those sorts of affairs from him, so I've rather given up that kind of thing."
Loopy eyed me a bit askance, "That's a bit thick. Why didn't you just let Jeeves go, if he's such a danger?"
"Let Jeeves go?" I scoffed, "Clearly you are not among the cognoscenti regarding Jeeves gifts, my dear Loopy. I'll have you know, the man eats net-fulls of fish and wears a size 14 hat."
"What on earth are you talking about, Bertie?" Loopy asked, peering at me like he half expected I had caught sun stroke.
"What I mean to say is, the man's a genius. Why if it weren't for him, I would have ended up married to Honoria Glossop. Or Madeleine Bassett - or worse yet, Florence Craye."
"Well, at least then you wouldn't be celibate, Bertie. Don't you find it an awful sacrifice?"
"No," I sniffed, "And if you knew Jeeves, you wouldn't be asking such a silly question."
"Oh, it's like that, is it?" Loopy said, nodding thoughtfully, "Now I get it. But you could have just said so, Bertie, instead of talking about hats and fish and whatnot."
I could see what he was implying, but I chose to ignore it. I was weary enough from being toyed with like a puppet, and wanted nothing more than a stiff drink to restore the tissues, but I was well aware that I still had no achieved that which I needed to in regards to finding out why I had been summoned to Tumby Woodside in the first place, vile hotbed of paranormal activity as it was.
So, gracefully, I steered the conversation onwards, "We are getting off topic, Loopy. If this Alain is your paramour, why did you tell me were having romantic troubles with a lady?"
"Not with a lady," Loopy clarified, running a hand through his fine brown hair, "Because of one."
"Ah," I said, "I know what that's like."
"I know," Loopy said, moving toward the garden and beckoning me onward with a wave of his hand, "But the problem is, I don't know who the girl is."
"I'm not following you," I said, and then had to step back quickly to avoid colliding with Loopy who'd stopped to turn and look at me.
He glanced at me, then at the gazebo, which I'd left a few paces back, and then back at me, "Yes, you are," he said, clearly not getting the gist.
"Well, yes, I'm following," I explained, "As in walking behind you, yes. But mentally, you've left me at the starting block. What do you mean you don't know who the girl is?"
"I mean I don't know her," Loopy said slowly.
"How can you be having problems with a girl you don't even know?" I mean to say, Loopy can be difficult to get along with at times, but he's never been one to offend the populace at large, "How do you even know she exists?"
"I don't. Actually, I rather suspect she doesn't."
This was one of those conversations that, at the best of times, would make me long for a stiff one. Or maybe one of Jeeves's special cocktails. But after being tormented by his bally dead fiancée all morning, I was hard pressed to rein in a sharp cry.
Perhaps Loopy could see the strain I was under, because he continued on without waiting for comment, "Well, it's like this. I met Alain when I was engaged - you remember me telling you I was engaged, Bertie?"
I nodded and waved him on.
"I was engaged, but you've seen him, Bertie, he's practically a demi-god, how was I supposed to resist? And he has the softest - well, I'm only human. Anyway, one thing led to another, and we're very happy now, but he's rather got the odd idea that I'm prone to straying."
From what I had seen, Alain had a point. Clearly the Clan Lufton did not have a code like the Woosters, or there would have been less cheating on fiancées with nubile secretaries. Or kissing old school chums with tongue in gazebos.
"Which I am not," Loopy glared at me, as though sensing my thoughts. They may have been pretty clear on my face of course, Bertram has many talents, but subterfuge is not one of them, "Except he swears that the last several times he has come to visit me in my room, he's heard a lady's voice."
I whistled a little, "You're keeping a lady in your inner lair, Loopy? That's a bit thick."
"Of course not!" Loopy cried, "I don't know what he's hearing! It's utterly bizarre. Anyway, that's when I called you, to see if you could help a pal out," He paused and eyed me with a look he'd clearly learned from our headmaster, and had been practicing ever since. I recognized the way the brows sort of pinched together and the lip curled, "Only you've gone and made it worse and now he thinks I'm seducing you."
"Well, tell him you're not."
"He wouldn't believe me. He saw us kissing."
And who's fault was that, I wanted to ask. But I wasn't entirely sure it wasn't mine, or rather Gloria's, what with my not remembering anything, so I held my tongue, "You can say you were taking a gnat from my eye," I suggested.
He considered it, "Do you think it might work?"
"It's worked in the past."
"Well, I'll give it a try," He said, coming to the end of the garden path, "Hopefully, I can catch him before he rings his brother, and try and sell him this gnat business."
"What's so terrible about his brother, by the way?"
"Nothing really. Well, he's a guardsmen, if that gives you an idea."
"Ah," I said, picturing it, a brave lad, in the noble uniform of our nation.
"Of course, he specializes in roughing up young gentlemen for their amusement," Loopy said, rather destroying the picture in my mind.
"Oh, I say," I gasped. I don't know if you've heard of these types, but some of our noble guardsmen will, on occasion, entertain a lad or two for a bit of the ready. And one hears of the sort of club where one can go if one cares for one's amorous encounters with these fellows to be a bit on the rough side. For myself, however, I got quite enough discipline in school, and I prefer my amorous activities to be a bit more matey than one can guarantee with a guinea.
"So you don't think he'll...?"
"It's quite possible," Loopy said, "That he might use his professional skills to make life a bit unpleasant."
We both cogitated on this for a moment of silence.
"Well, stiff upper lip," I offered, with not a little optimism.
"Yes," Loopy sighed, "Quite."
Once back at the cottage, and after a late spot of breakfast, I settled in to muddle things over a bit, but just when I was getting my brain really knotted over the issue, Loopy's dratted dead fiancée wafted up beside me, and I let out a little shriek of surprise.
Or perhaps not so little, I noted, as the echo of my manly warble pinged around the room, causing Jeeves to shimmer in, with a look of concern almost, but not quite, denting his noble brow.
"You rang, sir?"
"Bellowed, actually, and how you mistook that for a bell, I don't know, Jeeves," I chided.
"Perhaps you meant to ring, then?"
The ghost was beginning to turn her attention on him, then, her white lips turning down at the corners, and her eyes slitting in a way that meant nothing good. I couldn't see what was riling her myself, he was standing there looking perfectly tall, and strong, and handsome as the dickens. Still, I wasn't the most objective judge, I suppose, and clearly the best thing for Jeeves was to get him out of sight and out of mind of the restless dead.
"Actually, Jeeves, now that you mention it, I could do with a cup of tea. Possibly also scones, if you'd be up to baking some," I said, shooing him back towards the kitchen.
His eyebrow rose a fraction, "Would you like anything else, sir?"
"Ah, maybe - yes, why not some," I groped around for something that would take a marvel like Jeeves more thank an eye-blink to make, "Some pie, Jeeves?"
"Yes, that would do very well, Jeeves."
"Do you have a particular type of pie in mind, sir?" His face had taken on the look of a stuffed frog, and I knew that I would be paying for this later, but needs must.
"Oh, any old thing, Jeeves, so long as it has a crust closed round it. No hurry, of course," and waved brightly at him as he retreated to his lair.
When he was safely stashed away, I turned to the spirit, "Yes?" I hissed, trying to keep my voice low, "What is it now?"
She pouted, as if I had hurt her feelings, "You act as though you aren't glad to see me."
"I'm bally well not glad to see you. The last time you popped by for a chat, I ended up planting one on Loopy Lufton against my will."
"I'm not planning on doing anything to you this time," she soothed, "If it makes you feel better."
"Oh, well, thank you very much," I snapped at her.
Only I ended up snapping at Jeeves, who had come in unnoticed with the tea tray.
Jeeves's stuffed frog expression gained a little more stuffing at my tone. He didn't quite glare at me, but there was rummy look in his eyes as he set down the tray and biffed off again. The thing with Jeeves is, unless you really strain your eyes at it, you can almost never catch him coming and going. It's some sort of mystical power of his, I can only suppose, but between him and the sudden appearances of Loopy's late fiancée, my nerves were getting a work out.
"What I want to know," I said when he was once more safely out of the room, "Is why you did whatever it is you did in the first place."
"Well, It worked, didn't it?" She asked merrily, her eyes glowing even more like car headlights than usual, "Louis's little secretary saw the whole thing and gave him the heave-ho, didn't he?"
I nearly choked on my tea, "What do you know about it?" I insisted, still sputtering.
She pointed her headlights at the ceiling and assumed a martyred expression, as if I were simply too much to be endured, "I know about it, Mr. Wooster, because I brought the whole thing about. When you refused to help me, I took steps," she explained smugly, "I took over the butler, and had him summon the secretary to the garden. And then I took you over, and we made our move on Louis. It was simple, really."
I don't know if simple was the word for it. Cunning, possibly. Or diabolical might be what I'm after.
But before I could reply, Jeeves was in amongst us again, this time with a plate full of freshly baked scones that would have taken any normal valet much longer to bake. Well, probably. I can barely boil water without a manual, so I don't actually know how long it takes to whip up a batch of baked goods.
While Jeeves was dithering with the plate, the ghost bent over to smell one of the little dishes of potpourri and frowned, her form sort of flickering a bit in distaste. Ghosts must not have a sense of smell, because Jeeves's little scented herb mix was nothing to sneeze at. Unless you had allergies, I suppose. It was the most comforting, homey, delicious fraternization of fragrances I've ever sniffed. And now it was mingling with the scent rising from the scones in a dashed marvelous way.
"Thank you, Jeeves," I said, and despite the fact that I'd only asked for the scones to keep him out of the way, I was surprised to find I was now craving one.
"The pie is still unready, sir, but if you have something else you require of me-" He pressed, and his voice was full of something more than the usual feudal spirit.
When he asked me like that, I almost hated to deny him anything, but I would hate worse for him to suspect me a lunatic, "No Jeeves, that will be all."
"Very good, sir," he said, and vanished once more.
Taking strength from my tea, scones, and little bowls of potpourri, I turned towards Gloria, "Look here," I said sternly, "Now you've had a bit of a laugh, and I don't blame you for wanting it, but Loopy will have everything smoothed over with the chap Alain by nightfall, I wager, and that's that. There shall be no more ghostly interference!"
"Oh, no?" She replied, growing angry, "I've had a bit of a laugh, have I?" She chuckled darkly, and the room suddenly felt colder, like someone had just rolled it into an icebox. I clutched at the warmth of my little mug of tea like a drowning man, "I'll have more than that before I'm through. I'll have my fiance back, and you won't be able stop me!"
I made a faint squeaking noise, and then she snapped out of appearance before I could ask if she meant to kill Loopy or marry him - though I could not imagine how, in her present state, she could accomplish either.
After a few moments, I assumed she'd biffed off for good, and allowed myself to relax a bit, and take a few sips of the healing brew that is a nice cup of tea, but something hove up suddenly in the periphery of my vision, and I ended up spewing a mouthful in surprise.
"Pardon me, sir," Jeeves offered belatedly, and produced a towel to wipe up the excess liquid from the floor, "Is something distressing you, sir?"
Of course, it was too much to hope this paragon hadn't noticed my upset.
"Oh, no, Jeeves, just a spot of, um, indigestion," I improvised.
Jeeves's eyebrow twitched, "Perhaps the pie should be saved for later, in that case, sir. However," he added, a his voice dropping significantly, "if there was something distressing you, I hope you know that you could ring for me at any time."
"No, no," I waved my hand carelessly, "No distress, it's just been a bit of an odd day, what?"
"Indeed, sir. Perhaps you should stay in this evening, sir, since you rose so early."
"Excellent idea, Jeeves, I think I'll do just that."
The rest of the afternoon was mercifully quiet, and I was able to put aside my cares, both worldly and otherworldly, to get ahead in a new mystery novel. A mystery which, thankfully, featured no supernatural elements whatsoever.
However, as the clock ticked over into evening, I was disrupted from my reading by a soft cough from Jeeves, who requested that he be allowed to take his night off a bit early to go and visit a friend who needed some advice, to my surprise. Of course, Jeeves has scads of friends, many of whom call round the flat from time to time. And they quite frequently ask his advice, too. The surprise was that he had one lurking about Tumby Woodside, though it rather explained his readiness in procuring the cottage.
Still, I didn't begrudge Jeeves a chance to kick up his heels, so I wished him a fine evening, and watched sadly as he biffed off into the night. Well, I say watched, but I didn't actually catch him using the door. I really don't know how he does it.
However, once he was gone, I heartily began to wish that I was one of those ogreish employers who never allows their staff time off, because even if Jeeves is quiet as a cat and twice as subtle, there's a certain thingness to any abode he's currently about that he'd quite taken with him. And here I was, sitting alone in a dim and haunted cottage, missing him like the dickens.
Except that I did not end up sitting alone for long, since presently there was a knock at the door and Loopy rolled in, looking drawn and pensive.
"No luck?" I asked, ushering him in and pouring him a cold cup of tea. Of course, a good host would have offered him warm, or even hot tea, but I can't be held to the same general standards when Jeeves isn't around. Also, after the last time I attempted to use the stove, Jeeves supplied me with a cogent list of very sound reasons why I ought never to attempt it again. I wouldn't say he had outright forbidden me from using it, but the list had been pretty thorough.
"Well, it rather depends on your definition, what?" Loopy said, tasting his tea, and then setting it back down hastily.
"Of luck," Loopy clarified, but then muddied the waters again by adding, "For instance, there is good news, and there is bad news."
In these cases, I always prefer to take the good news first, generally out of the hope that by the time the chap gets round to telling you about the bad news, he'll have forgotten it. I indicated as such to Loopy and he continued along the proscribed line.
"The good news is that Alain did believe me that I had a gnat in my eye, and therefore, he has totally released me from all suspicions of wrongdoing."
"Excellent news!" I cried, "I'm not sure what there could be leftover to generate any bad news. I take it your two hearts both beat as one once more?"
"Yes," Loopy said, and a dreamy look came into his eyes, "I say, Bertie, if you only knew how-"
"Less of it," I requested politely, "What, then, is the bad news? I don't suppose you were mistaken about having any?"
"Oh, no, there's bad news alright - would you happen to have any cigarettes about? Thank you, there's a chap." He said, and seemed prepared to leave it at that, puffing away at his gasper like he'd done a full day's work and was now enjoying the fruits of it.
"Loopy, the bad news?"
"Ah, well, you see, his brother arrived."
"I dunno, I left as he was coming. Sort of brawny about the shoulders, though, I thought it best to lay low for a bit."
"But surely you have nothing to fear," I said, feeling Loopy was in need of a bit of bolstering, "You said yourself you'd mended the rift with young Alain. Where, then, lies the bitter pill?"
Loopy sighed mournfully, "The thing is, Bertie, that Alain didn't buy the whole gnat wheeze."
"You said he did!"
"I said he believed I had a gnat in my eye. What he does not believe is that you were attempting to extract it."
"No?" I said, taken aback, "Why on earth not?"
Loopy rolled his eyes, and blew out a long, curling wisp of smoke, "He did see your mouth on mine, Bertie. It's not a commonly recognized method for getting small insects out of eyes."
"Oh, dash it," I said, "But this is rather rummy, what? You said he no longer suspected you."
"So all is fine, then?"
"No. You see, he suspects you of plotting the whole thing, Bertie."
"Plotting the whole what?" I asked incredulously.
"You know, luring me out to the garden where there are lots of gnats swarming about. Waiting until, inevitably, one found my eye. Then taking advantage of my innocent appeal for your assistance," He gave a thoughtful puff, "That's about the gist of it."
"Well, of all the bally nerve," I cried, "You didn't correct him?"
Loopy's eyes widened innocently, "How could I, Bertie? He would have gone back to suspecting me again, and I would have lost all my present happiness. Whereas you can just go back to London, and everything will be square."
"Well, I like that!" I was disappointed in Loopy.
"You might want to leave rather sooner than later," He added thoughtfully, "Alain may have mentioned something about sending his brother over to meet you."
I glared at Loopy with a cold eye. For someone meant to be warning a bosom friend of imminent peril, he was certainly relaxed, I noted, taking in his feet propped up on the small table, and the half smoked gasper.
"Well, sooner will just have to wait until tomorrow, Loopy," I informed him, "Jeeves is out on the town, and I can't leave for London without him."
"Oh, I say, can't you? Only, I don't think you have that much time," He said calmly, not at all in the air of one bearing news of the executioners ax.
"I will not leave without Jeeves!"
"Like that, is it?" Loopy said, rising and stubbing out his gasper, "Well-" he began, but was cut off by a soft, polite sort of knock at the door.
Well, I can see now that - just having been warned, as I was, of an angry guardsman who had penned an appointment in his day planner to deal with Bertram - it might not have been the most prudent thing for me to have flung wide the door.
But fling it wide, I did.
Standing on the stoop was a man who bore a clear resemblance to Loopy's secretary, although there were some marked differences, quite like what you would find if you were to compare a house cat to a lion. There is the feline aspect, yes, but a clear difference in size and ferocity. I mean to say, if young Alain was Eros, this man would be Neptune. His entire form was rippling with muscles. His shoulders bulged, his thighs were like sturdy tree trunks. But it was all combined together as though by the deft hand of an Italian sculptor. Many men, on having that kind of bulk, looked like neck-less rugby players - and I dare say some of them were - but this bird had the graceful form of a Greek god.
"Are you Wooster?" He asked me, and I thought for a second to lie and tell him I was Clyde Mocklington, but then he glanced over my shoulder and saw Loopy, looking frozen and terrified, and I knew then that the jig, as they say, was up.
"Mr. Lufton," the stranger at the door said, shaking his bean sadly, "I'm going to have to tell Al you were here. He won't like it."
At this, obviously deciding that he did not want to stay and chat, Loopy legged it for the open window, and popped out.
I might have considered similar measures, but at this point, the man, seeing how things were going, grasped my shoulders, and heaved me across the sitting room.
"Mr. Wooster, I am very fond of my brother," he said nonsensically, pinning me against the wall.
"Oh, ah?" I asked, because one ought to be polite, and tried my best to wriggle free. However, agile as I am, the man had a grip like iron, and I made no progress.
"And I'm certainly not thrilled that he's gone and tied himself to that flitting wastrel butterfly Louis Lufton," he said, grabbing my collar in one large fist and pulling it tight, "But he was happy enough with Lufton until you came along and tried to steal him away."
"Steal?" I wheezed, "I say, no, certainly not."
"Yes, steal him! With your fair, soft skin, and your graceful figure, and your eyes that beckon to a man like twinkling stars."
He punctuated this observation by raising one of his fingers from my collar to brush at my throat, and I could see things were getting a bit thick, "You know, I wouldn't have to hurt you if you were to give up on Lufton and come away with me..."
This promise not to hurt me did not seem to jive with what Loopy had told me of his preferred romantic style, but I gave that a pass to address the main point in question.
"Perfectly happy to give up on Loopy, old chap! Consider him quite off the menu, as far as this Wooster is concerned," I said, attempting a sunny smile, despite the fact that I was still a few inches clear of the floor.
"And you'll come away with me," the man said, with a seductive leer.
"Ah, no. Tempting, of course-" or it may have been if my heart was not otherwise at full occupancy. Or if I were a masochist, "But I must decline."
"Pity that," the man sighed, "Because I really just can't take your word for it."
Then he reared back a bit and biffed me in the jaw.
At first, his fist around my collar kept me from tumbling to the floor, though I was seeing enough stars that I half expected someone had removed the ceiling to give me a better view of the heavens. But then he let go and popped me another one, and soon enough I was face first in the carpet, and rather content to stay there, if it meant this rough treatment would stop. We Woosters are not exactly built for action. However, a Wooster must be brave - one strives to be a preux chevalier of course, so I rolled over and braced myself to take the next blow like a man.
However it never came, because without either of us noticing, Jeeves had returned and was now manhandling my tormentor into submission. He made a fine spectacle of it, I can tell you, his whole figure seemed to shine with the fire of justice, from bowler hat to immaculately polished shoes. But then the spark seemed to vanish, just as he used the back of the man's shirt to turn him around and put him in reach of Jeeves's raised fist.
"Henri?" Jeeves said, boggling, and the raised fist dropped.
"Reggie!" Henri greeted merrily, despite Jeeves's continued grip on his shirt.
Henri's amiable smile was suddenly marred by a look of bemusement, "Look here, Reggie, never tell me this is your gentleman!" he exclaimed, looking from me to Jeeves.
Jeeves nodded and released Henri's shirt, "I'm afraid so," he said, and came over to pick me up off the carpet. However, he had just put his hand out to grasp mine, when he seemed to a freeze a little bit, and an uncomfortable look I had never seen before came into his eyes. I realized, all of sudden, that he must be thinking of the last time he had reached out a hand to help me, and stopped himself before he could touch me. He didn't draw his hand away, however, and there was this sort of terrible empty space just between his hand and mine. I practically lunged forward to bridge it, grasping his hand, and then he was moving again, helping me up, and then depositing me on the settee.
Henri watched all this wordlessly, and then made a tsking noise, "You ought to be looking after him better," he scolded Jeeves, "You didn't see how riled up Al was over this mess your Wooster's made."
"I have been to see Alain just recently, in fact," Jeeves informed him coolly, "Which is why I hurried to return here." I was watching the whole time, rather dazed to see how impressive an masterful Jeeves was when dealing with one of his peers, so I was a bit surprised when he turned to me, still collapsed as I was on the settee, and spoke, "You must forgive me, sir, for my tardiness."
"Nonsense Jeeves," I said, feeling carefully along my sore jaw, "I rather think you got here just in time, what?"
"If you say so, sir," Jeeves replied, and turned back to Henri, "I'm sure this has all been a most regrettable misunderstanding. Whatever Alain thinks he may have seen, Mr. Wooster is not the type of gentleman who assaults other gentleman."
"Well, I'm sure I couldn't say either way," Henri eyed me narrowly, "Only he doesn't have the build for it, that's for certain. A stiff breeze could knock that one over."
"Or a bally ham sized fist," I retorted, stung to the core.
"Indeed, sir," Jeeves replied sympathetically.
Henri sighed, "Well, Reggie, if you're taking care of things, there's no need for me to be getting involved, is there? I'm sorry for knocking your gentleman around, I know how fond you are of him."
Jeeves stiffened slightly, "If you'll excuse us then," he said, and ushered Henri out the door.
That Jeeves was apparently friends with a fellow like Alain - not to mention this Henri - seemed to me a distressing coincidence. I mean, he was probably a nice enough chap when he wasn't setting his brother on Bertram, but considering Jeeves's enthusiasm for assisting the lovelorn, it put me in a deuced awkward place, especially considering the fact that apparently, Alain had been the advice wanting friend Jeeves had gone to visit. One might have hoped that Alain would have the sense to keep his romantic woes to himself, seeing as they were illegal, and Jeeves was about as straight an arrow as you could come across, barring some minor incidents with black jacks and knock out drugs that do not need mentioning. But clearly he had told Jeeves something, in re me assaulting Loopy.
I coughed a bit uncomfortably, and began, “I hope I need not tell you, Jeeves, that anything young Alain told you about me is untrue.”
“Quite, sir,” Jeeves said calmly, though his eyes were twinkling a bit, “I am not unaware of the types of misunderstandings that can arise in these circumstances, sir, and endeavored to convince Mr. Renault of your probable innocence in the charges he laid against you.”
“And how did you get on, Jeeves? Did he believe you?”
“No, sir, he is more inclined to believe his employer than myself, especially as he indicated that I had not witnessed the incident in question.”
“Ah,” I replied thoughtfully, inwardly congratulating myself on the unexpected bonus that, after all, Jeeves had not witnessed the i. in q.
“However, sir, if you would perhaps relate to me the particulars of the circumstances, I might be able to argue more persuasively on your behalf.” Jeeves said, definitely twinkling now, and with a hint of a smirk lurking near the corner of his mouth. Jeeves is, I've noticed, frequently all to willing to chuckle at the young master's misfortune, and while in the future, I may perhaps myself look back and laugh, at present, I saw no cause for levity. In addition to which, I could not be coaxed into confessing my darkest all to Jeeves for a hundred pounds, let alone to cravenly save myself from a beating.
“Thank you, Jeeves, that will not be necessary,” I informed him, “I am sure I will be able to come up with some way of easing the tensions.”
At Jeeves's poorly disguised look of disbelief, I added cuttingly, “I'll have you know, Jeeves, that while compared with a paragon like yourself, I may appear mentally negligible, I have been, on occasion, something very near clever.” Generally, I'm the first to admit that my brain power is nothing to Jeeves's, but I could not help that think that if he had not gone and swept up the salt, there would be a good deal more peace on earth than there was at present, and while I could not tell him so, I didn't want to leave him with the impression that he was the only one in the household capable of solving life's little problems.
“No indeed, sir,” Jeeves said, looking, if I stretched a point, almost discomfited.
“You don't believe I can be clever, Jeeves?”
Jeeves coughed apologetically, “Forgive me, sir, I meant that I do not think you are mentally negligible sir.”
“Hah!” I retorted, and I meant it to sting. “Well, I'm to bed, Jeeves, toodle pip!”
“Sir,” He called, stopping me just as I'd reached the hall.
“If you will take the bell with you, sir, you will be able to summon me if any new difficulties arise during the night,” he said, and, not really giving me an option to refuse, handed me the bell quite firmly, so that it tinkled a little as he passed it on. I hadn't rung it before, and it was a merry, cheerful little sound that seemed to lighten the very air around me, but this assumption of his that Bertram was so helpless as to need the bell at hand constantly was beginning to grate on the raw.
“What on earth could possible arise in the middle of the night that I would require your help with, Jeeves?” And I meant the question to be sarcastic, only just after I said, it occurred to me that there was one particular thing that could arise in the middle of the night that I would certainly not mind having his assistance with. And as a consequence, I could feel my face heat up like the stove top, and turn, I suspect, nearly as red.
Jeeves raised an eyebrow, no doubt taking in my flushed state, “I'm sure I could not say, sir,” he murmured.
“Ah, um, well – right ho, then,” I stammered, and beat a hasty retreat. It had almost seemed for a moment as though Jeeves were flirting with me, and it's hard enough to resist throwing myself at him when he's simply walking around being all Jeevesian and perfect. If he insisted on being inviting as well, I was going to have to invest in a straight jacket to wear round the flat.What with one thing and another - where one thing was definitely the pain in my jaw - I did not fall instantly to sleep once I had myself nestled in amongst the blankets and pillows.
This was most likely fortunate, since I would have missed the entrance of the wraith of Gloria Hart issuing forth from the floorboards. She had a soft and conciliatory look about her that I instantly knew spelled trouble for Bertram.
"What ho, restless spirit," I greeted her, clinging to my good manners despite the circumstances.
"Good evening Mr. Wooster. I must say," She began, her eyes wide and appealing, "I'm awfully sorry for losing my temper this afternoon. And after everything you've done for me!"
"Water under the bridge," I assured her, "Now, if that's all-"
"I wouldn't want you to think I'm ungrateful, after all," she said, still in that sort of supplicating tone, meant to lure me off guard. But once you've been lured into an engagement with the soppiest girl in England, who writes poetry and thinks that the stars are God's daisy chain, melting, wide-eyed appeals from soft spoken girls have no power to move.
"Quite," I said firmly, "Say no more."
"Only," she continued, "As you pointed out today, my little ruse didn't work after all, so-"
"Ah, planning to give up, are you? I have to discourage you against trying again, it isn't the sort of trick that will work twice," I advised, trying to sound rather like a wise old uncle - you know, knowledgeable, and authoritative, someone a young dead girl might listen to, that sort of thing.
"No, of course, you're quite right, Mr. Wooster," she admitted, and I was halfway to twisting my arm around to give myself a pat on the back, when she continued, "I need to try a different angle entirely."
"Ah," I said, deflating, "I don't suppose you have anything planned out, what?"
"As it happens, I do!"
"You do, do you? I don't suppose it involves me?"
"How did you know, Mr. Wooster?"
"Oh, just instinct, I suppose," I sighed.
"I need you to seduce Mr. Renault," she said, destroying with one blow her image of an innocent, if dead, girl, by not batting an eye at her own shocking suggestion.
"You'll do it, won't you?" She asked, and I don't think I was imagining the hint of a threat in her tone.
"Out of the question," I said, "Absolutely not," putting my foot down as much as I could whilst supine.
"You disappoint me, Mr. Wooster, I had thought you had realized it was in your best interests to help me."
"When you put it like that, I hardly even know why you're asking! I suppose you'll just turn Bertram into your merry puppet again. Well, go ahead," I sighed, "I can't very well stop you."
"Don't be absurd," She said scornfully, though I couldn't see what I'd said to merit it, "I can't seduce Mr. Renault."
"Developed some scruples, what?"
She looked at me coldly, "I suspected you were an idiot, and this confirms it. I can't seduce Mr. Renault," she said, very slowly, "Because my heart belongs to Louis."
"Oh, ah," I said, not quite getting it, but willing to let the matter slide to avoid any more personal insults, "While we're on the subject, who is Mr. Renault?"
"The disgusting abomination that stole my dearest love from me. I thought you'd figured out that much already. You really are slow."
"Oh, the secretary you mean?" Things were beginning to click, "I say, what good does seducing him do? He'll hardly mind Loopy straying if he's straying himself."
"No, but Louis will. He'll be furious! He'll cast Mr. Renault aside, and my path will be cleared," she crowed, clearly not seeing the other obstacle looming before the path - i.e. that she was dead.
"Well, I won't do it," I said, and pulled my blankets over my head.
"Yes, you will," I heard her say through the sheet.
"No, I bally well will not!" I said, "Seducing and misleading secretaries is against the Code. Out of the question."
"Oh, really?" She asked, her voice had gone sly and dangerous, "What about seducing and misleading valets?"
I shot up in bed, got trapped in the blankets, and had to stop and wrestle with them for a moment. When I emerged, I gave her the fiercest glare in my arsenal, the one that burns strong men to a crisp where they stand, "Madam," I said sternly, "You are trying my patience."
At this display of manly indignation, I expected her to collapse into a puddle and trickle through the floorboards in shame, but apparently this ghost was made of sterner stuff, for she merely tossed her head, sending wisps of spectral hair flying about her like a electrical storm.
"You," she said, "Are trying mine."
"Leave Jeeves out of it!" I said, and perhaps I was louder than was wise, because before you could speak of the devil, Jeeves was in amongst us, and I half suspected him of being incorporeal as well, because I hadn't even heard him use the door.
"Sir," Jeeves said, "Did you call for me?"
"Um, no Jeeves," I said, sinking back into the pillows, in what was likely a vain attempt to make it look like I'd been sleeping all the while. Gloria was eyeing my man speculatively, her glowing eyes darting from him to self in a way that made me distinctly uneasy.
"Perhaps you meant to ring the bell?"
"No, Jeeves, just, you know, having a little chat with myself. Possibly your name came up, possibly it didn't. You know how it is," I said, nerves making my voice wobble just on the end, but otherwise I thought I came off passably nonchalant.
"If I might ask sir, will you be returning to sleep now?"
"Mr. Wooster, one last time, will you help me or not?" Gloria asked at the same time.
"I will not!" I told her distractedly, and then realized at Jeeves's expression that - well, of course he'd heard me.
But I did not get a chance to explain, because all of a sudden, Gloria was rushing at me, and everything went dark and swimmy. I felt as though I had fallen back onto the pillows, and then down through them, but I must not have after all, because a moment later, I was back to myself, and once again, kissing someone rather passionately.
It was quite a nice feeling, really, I had soft, warm pillows pressed all against my back and a hard, warm someone pressed all against my front. The cloying smell of roses and Loopy's pungent cologne was missing, which was something of a relief - everything smelled of home, of cotton sheets, potpourri and ... Jeeves.
My hands had gotten all wrapped up around his neck, and honestly, I didn't want to let go, so it took me a guilty moment to get free, and when I had, all I could do was stare at him aghast. His lips were red and swollen and his hair was all mussed out of it's normal slicked back style.
I had kissed Jeeves. I had rumpled Jeeves!
I remember a conversation I once had with young Stiffy Byng, who had asked me if one could kiss Jeeves. I had told her certainly not - and I had meant it. I had seen the man shy away from a pat on the back. With Jeeves, a friendly handshake is just about right. But here I'd gone and slipped a kiss past him.
"Jeeves!" I cried, powerless to say anything else, and I half meant it as an appeal, and half as a prayer that his great, powerful brain could somehow get me out of this mess, nevermind that he was in it up to his eyebrows too.
"Sir?" He replied, calm as anything, and I have to tell you, instead of being glad that my assault hadn't caused him to lose his Jeevesian sangfroid, my heart sank like a lead stone that had rebounded off of an iceberg of despair. I mean to say, of all the times that I had daydreamed of doing exactly this, I'd once or twice allowed myself to imagine him responding positively. You know, getting down on bended knee, perhaps, or sweeping the young master off to bed. And I had generally prevented self from going through with things by focusing on the more likely outcome: picturing the inevitable stuffed frog expression, the cold words, the giving notice - but I had never thought he'd simply say, "sir?" as if the whole thing had been blanked from his memory. He'd shown more bally emotion when I'd asked him for pie! The only bright side, as I could see it, was that Gloria had apparently biffed off into the ether, no doubt congratulating herself on a job well done.
"I'm sorry, Jeeves," I said, and my voice was so small that I daresay anyone other than Jeeves - who has excellent hearing- would have missed it, "I didn't mean to," and pulled the sheets up over my head again.
"Sir?" I heard Jeeves asked again, and then there was nothing. I held myself under the sheets, not daring to move, even though I rather assumed he'd already left. But it was a few minutes later that I heard the bedroom door open and shut behind him, and I realized he must have stood there watching me for a while. And then he'd actually made noise so I'd know he was gone, which meant he hadn't been fooled for a second that I was asleep, which gave me an awful sort of twisting feeling in my stomach.