jeeves and the close shave
I was feeling pretty braced one morning, most extraordinarily cheery, don't you know, so I tossed the old bean between bathroom door and b. d. frame and carolled for Jeeves to rally round.
"Yes, sir?" Said the blighter, appearing just as proper as though last evening he hadn't near as a toucher declared his undying devotion.
I mean to say, when a fellow like Jeeves drops somewhat the iron reserve and begs a fellow like me with something rummily like uncertainty in his eye whether he mayn't be allowed to stay forever in the service of the fellow like me, the f. like m. is bound to give the matter more than a passing thought.
And he is bound to conclude that a f. like Jeeves shows nothing resembling uncertainty in his eye unless he is, beneath the mask, more than a lot discomposed. Jeeves is, after all, the cove who, when he discovered his hand-picked replacement manservant had taken a torch to the old homestead and aimed a large knife at the young master, had flickered not so much as an eyelash.
But I am getting ahead of my story here. I mean to say, readers who have just dropped in, not being familiar with all my recorded exploits, may well be forgiven for scratching their heads in wonder. Even devoted fans of the Wooster pen who don't recall exactly the episode to which I allude may be surprised. "Jeeves, begging with something rummily like uncertainty?" They may ask. "Jeeves, asking to be allowed to r. forever in the s. of Bertram Wooster?"
Briefly, then, I will summarize. Jeeves belongs to a sort of club for menservants and butlers called the Junior Ganymede. This club keeps a large volume called the Club Book in which all its members are required to record the peculiar exploits of their employers as a condition of membership. An unpleasant business with an amber statuette had recently brought the total pages dealing with yours truly to seventeen when a club member--none other than Bingley, Jeeves' hand-picked replacement manservant to whom I have alluded above--stole the most recent volume of the book with an eye to blackmailing the contenders in a municipal election, one of whom happened to be my pal, young Ginger Winship.
Although the exploits of Bertram had not been explicitly touched upon, you may understand that this episode caused what may be described as the cold finger of fear to touch the Wooster soul. What I mean to say is, though I had no ambitions vis a vis elections municipal or otherwise, I couldn't help wondering what would happen should the blasted book fall into other unscrupulous hands than Bingley's. I should become the laughingstock of the clubs, to say nothing of the reaction of my Aunt Agatha, should a rumor of so much as half those pages' content reach her ears. I am very fond of London, and did not relish the thought of its becoming too hot to hold me. In short, I was tying myself in knots over this cursed book.
Twice in as many days I had escaped from the threat of matrimony--once to Florence Craye, who, though possessed of a fine profile, is one of these modern sergeant-major females; and once to Madeleine Bassett, the mushiest female of my acquaintance, and to my knowledge the only who is of the opinion that the stars are God's daisy chain, or that every time a wee fairy blows its nose a baby is born. As you might imagine, I was feeling rather relaxed, so I put the question of the club book to Jeeves, without expecting much in the way of a favorable response from him. That he regretted the necessity, and that the danger was really quite small, were about what I expected to hear.
Instead, Jeeves rendered me capable of toppling by feather by informing me that he had already destroyed the pages about me in the club book.
Well, I mean to say! Now I look on it in retrospect, that act itself might be regarded as something in the way of a romantic declaration, but I don't think I should have twigged to anything if he hadn't carried on to explain himself, which for Jeeves is also a bit out of the common way.
Jeeves gave me to understand, cutting in before I could make a fool of myself with any sentimental outpourings, that the club book was never intended to be light or titillating reading, but was meant solely to acquaint club members in the market for work with the foibles of their prospective new employers. That being so, said Jeeves, there was no need for the pages, now eighteen, which he had written about myself. "For I may hope," said Jeeves--with, as I have said, something rummily like uncertainty in his eye, "may I not, sir, that you will allow me to remain permanently in your service?"
Now that all readers are up to speed, all of them will be able to join me in contemplating the extraordinary significance of this, taking into account the above information concerning facial expressions and fellows like Jeeves.
I, being as Jeeves has had it in the past somewhat mentally negligible, but also in the case of Jeeves a highly interested party, had cranked the gears the night before till they creaked, and decided at length that the situation merited further investigation, vis a vis the feudal or more than- spirit in Jeeves.
"Jeeves," I said pleasantly, looking out of the bathroom in a cloud of steam, "I find that my hands are feeling somewhat unsteady."
"Most unfortunate, sir."
"Yes, Jeeves," I said gravely, "and the bally thing is that I was just about to shave." I gestured at straight razor and all the other paraphernalia laid out like so many dental implements.
"That is indeed a troublesome circumstance, sir."
"What I'm getting at, Jeeves, is that I don't feel up to doing it myself. I shouldn't like to cut myself."
"No, sir. An occasion to be averted at all costs."
"Could you do it, perhaps?"
"Certainly, sir," said Jeeves, and floated into the bathroom, which like many of its kind is a small, enclosed space tending, in the aftermath of a session in the old clawfoot, to the damp and warm.
You see, I had had the idea that with Jeeves in such frightfully close proximity and off his guard, so to speak, I should get the chance to observe his reactions better. Besides which, the few other occasions on which Jeeves had performed this office for me already stood out in memory as some of the best and most fruity shaves of my career.
It will come as no surprise that I was pretty excited as Jeeves examined the razor carefully and whisked the shaving cream in the bowl. We Woosters are up to all sorts of schemes, particularly when it becomes necessary to help a pal in need. We are not, however, known for our steadiness of mind and character in a pinch. I was accustomed, when in any doubt, to consult Jeeves; and Jeeves has never let me down.
The fact that I was going to have to handle this one on my own was getting to me somewhat, on top of which it was a real humdinger. I stood in no danger of winding up in prison or of a life sentence with Florence Craye if I botched it; but I did stand in some danger of upsetting Jeeves, or even, God forbid, causing him to recant his flowery oaths of the night previous. And that made it a somewhat more serious situation than I was accustomed to navigating, even with the able aid of Jeeves; because if Jeeves took it into his head to go, any other scrapes I got into I would have to get out of myself, in addition to the more pedestrian problems of the birds ceasing to shine and the sun ceasing to sing and so on. Or is it the other way round? At any rate, I would have to become a hermit, or go mad, I knew. I didn't like to admit it in the normal way of things, but I simply couldn't deal with life without Jeeves.
I was trying not to shake like an aspen leaf, which the dampness and smallness of the room, and the closeness and Jeevesness of Jeeves, was making difficult. When Jeeves gripped my chin to turn it he had to stand quite close to get a good look at it, and I saw suddenly that Florence's profile was nothing to the shapeliness of his upper lip. When he turned slightly to pick up the razor, presenting an excellent view of his broad back clad only in waistcoat and spotless white shirt, I understood at once why it was that some other chaps were willing to put up with ridiculous nonsense from the likes of Madeleine Basset and improving lectures from the likes of Florence Craye. Their admiration was carnal, not just mental. I had known this in theory; I had admired Florence's profile and Madeleine's curves; but until I contemplated Jeeves's shoulders and my eyes wandered along his back to his waist and lower, and my mouth went absolutely dry, I had never quite felt it.
Jeeves was curiously silent, and my close observation of his mouth led me to notice that it was set rather tightly. It might even have been that his cheeks carried just a hint of rose. These were highly encouraging circumstances. They seemed to indicate that the success of my plan was likely.
But with Jeeves's long fingers steadying my chin and the razor at my throat, I discovered a distressing tendency in self to forget the script. Before I knew it, Jeeves was washing the razor and I was smooth as a baby's bottom once more.
"Jeeves," I said in an unintentionally small voice, "Will you really stick around for the bally long haul?"
"Most assuredly, sir."
Good. I mean to say, I should have plenty of chances to try again, what?