?

Log in

Previous Entry | Next Entry

Title: Jeeves and the Inferior Valet, or, Thomas and the Kindest Man in England
Fandoms: Jeeves and Wooster, Downton Abbey

Pairing: Bertie/Thomas at the beginning, with eventual Bertie/Jeeves
Rating: PG
Length: 12k words
Contains: Period-appropriate homophobia, first-person narration, a distinct lack of explicit sex scenes.

Summary: Bertie Wooster visits Downton, sans Jeeves, and a rummy sitch ensues. Or, Thomas is caught in a compromising position with a male guest, and is thrown out on his ear. Fortunately, the guest is too much of a preux chevalier to leave him to deal with the problem on his own....

Beta'd by the excellent Erynn99, whose Jeeves and Wooster Fics everyone should go read right now. I'll wait. The Sentinel AU and the Man from UNCLE crossover are particular high points, but I wouldn't miss the time travel adventure, either.



Dashed if I know how he does it, but no sooner had the young master entered the old homestead, Jeeves was on hand to take the coat and stick and offer the soothing restorative. Nothing so surprising, you say, from that paragon of valets? Consider this: I was not expected back for two more days, and it was no earlier than three o’clock ack emma. But the restorative was sorely needed, after the evening I’d had, so I questioned not, and quaffed.

Once I had placed the glass back on the salver, Jeeves asked, “May I ask, sir, who is this…person?”

I had hoped he wouldn’t ask, but I suppose one’s valet is entitled to a question or two when one turns up at three in the morning with a previously-unknown representative of the serving classes, what? “Jeeves, this is Barrow. Barrow, Jeeves.”

Barrow muttered a greeting, already considerably wilted under the full force of Jeeves’s stuffed-frog glare.

“Barrow will be staying in the flat until we can find him another job.”

“As what, sir?”

I glanced over my shoulder at Barrow. “A valet,” he said. One of my tougher New York acquaintances might have added, “You wanna make something of it?”

The stuffed-frog expression grew even stuffed-froggier. “Surely not, sir.”

But here I am, getting ahead of myself, as always seems to happen in these circs. The situation started—as so many situations do—with a summons from Aunt Dahlia. Dahlia, my regular readers will remember, is my good aunt, or at least my better aunt. She is not, I mean to say, my Aunt Agatha, who chews broken bottles and conducts animal sacrifices by the light of the full moon. Rather, she is that fox-hunting daughter of the Pytchley and the Quorn who induces nephews to steal cow-creamers through threats of withholding access to her French chef’s top-drawer cuisine.

“Jeeves,” I said, on the morning of the summons. “Aunt Dahlia has summoned me.”

“Indeed, sir?”

“Indeed. She summons me to Yorkshire.”

“Yorkshire, sir?”

“Yorkshire,” I confirmed. “Far outside her usual stomping grounds, yes. It seems she has herself been summoned by a fearsome specimen named Violet Crawley, the Dowager Lady Grantham. This aforementioned f.s. particularly desires her to bring with her a young eligible gentleman, and--” Here I turned to the reverse of the page. “—and everyone else she could think of is either engaged, in chokey awaiting trial, or down with mumps, so I will have to do. I say!”

“Sir?”

“You may not have noticed,” I explained, “but there is a certain insinuation to her words. An insinuation that I would not be deemed a suitable companion for this Yorkshire sojourn if any alternate were available. That I was chosen, as it were, as a last resort.”

“I did observe that implication, sir.”

“I’m of half a mind to refuse to go,” I said. “We Woosters are known for our family feeling, but there is a limit, Jeeves. A bally limit.” I scanned the rest of the page. “Opening of the foxhunting season, excellent country, a superlative stable…well, I quite understand the appeal for Aunt Dahlia, but I can’t imagine why she thinks I would be an ornament to the gathering.”

“There is a second page, sir,” Jeeves remarked.

“So there is.” The second page revealed the reason I was being press-ganged. The fearsome specimen had a ghastly granddaughter she despaired of seeing married. It was to this g.g.d. that Bertram was to be sacrificed—or at least dangled in front of, like a rabbit before greyhounds—as the price of Aunt Dahlia’s admission to the hunt field. Relaying these circs. to Jeeves, I added, “This Dowager drives a hard bargain, it seems.”

“Indeed, sir.”

“Aunt Dahlia will not pursue a single fox unless she produces the goods.”

“Yes, sir.”

“The goods being Bertram.”

“Yes, sir.”

“She concludes by saying that she knows I would not deprive a beloved aunt of an opportunity like this, but on the off chance that I require further inducement, she relates several of Anatole’s recent menus, and indicates that, if she does not attend this hunt, she will be too despondent to issue invitations to any nephews whatsoever for the foreseeable future.” I dropped the pages in my lap. “Aunt Dahlia is no slouch in the hard bargain department, either,” I observed.

“Indeed, sir.”

I was getting very tired of this yes-sir, indeed-sir business. “Well? What do you suggest?”

“I suggest that you attend, sir. Provided that you refrain from anything in the nature of moonlit strolls or intimate conversations with the young lady, the danger should be minimal.”

“Minimal, you say?” I considered. Minimal was not the same thing as nonexistent. “Well, I suppose you’ll be there to fish me out of the soup if needed.”

Jeeves coughed like a sheep on a distant hillside.

“Jeeves?”

“I direct your attention, sir, to the date of the invitation. The sixteenth.”

“Well, what of it?”

“I regret, sir that the date coincides with that of the Junior Ganymede Club’s annual dinner. If you recall, I accepted the honour of serving as Master of Ceremonies, after receiving your assurances that I would be free to attend. I believe your words were, ‘No matter how thick the soup, Jeeves.’”

The words rang a bell, now that he mentioned them. “It’s the same day?”

“Yes, sir.”

“The very same day?”

“Yes, sir.”

I reviewed my options. “My options are these. I can attend this blasted hunt meeting, sans valet, and hope for the best. Or I can decline, and suffer Aunt Dahlia’s wrath.” Insisting that Jeeves miss his dinner was not an option. A Wooster keeps his word.

“Should some emergency arise, sir, I could join you in Yorkshire on the next morning’s train.”

I appreciated Jeeves’s feudal spirit. I would not like to board a train for the countryside on the morning after an annual club dinner. One is not at one’s best, you understand. The sound of the whistle alone is likely to prove a trial, let alone the rocking motion of the carriage. “Very well. Dispatch a telegram indicating that I will attend, and haul the Wooster riding costume out of mothballs.” Privately, I resolved to do my best to avoid soup of all kinds—except, of course, the literal—so that I would not need to summon Jeeves the morning after his big blow-out.

#

What, it’s my turn now? All right, about the same time Mr. Wooster was getting his telegram, I was packing his Lordship for the trip he and her Ladyship were taking to New York. Ever since they announced the trip, I’d been figuring I’d get to go along—valets usually do. I don’t mind saying I was looking forward to it—I’ve never seen America, and I don’t imagine I ever will unless I’m hauled along as somebody’s valet.

Then the Dowager Countess came up with this plan of having a house party for the opening of the hunt season. Something nice for Lady Edith, it was supposed to be. I thought it was a fine idea as long as I wasn’t involved—I suppose if you don’t have any real problems, having your two sisters get married and your parents go off on an interesting holiday while you sit around the enormous ancestral pile and do nothing might be a little depressing, and a house party might be just the thing to cheer you up.

That’s what I thought, anyway, until Carson managed to convince his Lordship that he couldn’t possibly have a house party with so many gentlemen guests without me. In those days, if he were on fire he’d burn to a crisp rather than admit I might be qualified to toss a bucket of water on the flames, so I can only assume he found out somehow that I was looking forward to New York—even though I’d taken the precaution of complaining about the trip three or four times a day—and did me out of it from sheer spite.

At that point, naturally, I didn’t care one way or the other whether Lady Edith wanted cheering up or not, and resented the hell out of the whole damn business.

O’Brien still got to go—there were plenty of maids around to take care of the lady guests, and anyway, the Dowager hadn’t invited so many of those. She said she’d send me a postcard. I suggested she instead take the postcard, fold it up until it was all corners, and put it in a place she slapped me for mentioning in mixed company. (She did send me a postcard, though.)

So that was how things stood on the first day of the house party. I was unhappy. Carson was smug. His Lordship was absent.

A number of the gentlemen had brought their own valets, and Carson took one of the others, but that still left me with three to look after, as well as serving at dinner and passing stirrup-cups in the morning before they rode out. I did them up for dinner in strict order of precedence, which put Mr. Wooster last, after Lord Havisham and Sir Cyril Worthington. Lord Havisham was wider than he was tall, and Sir Cyril was good-looking enough, but ordered me around like a particularly dimwitted serf, so, even though I was in a rotten mood by then, Mr. Wooster looked pretty good by comparison, even after he greeted me with a cheery, “What ho! You’re here to shove me into the old soup and fish, I imagine?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Better get cracking, then,” he said. “I heard the starter’s gun almost a quarter-hour ago.”

He was, I decided, a complete loony. Unfortunately, he was still better than either of the other two. “Sir?”

“The dressing gong, I mean.”

“Yes, sir. I had several other gentlemen to see to,” I said stiffly, putting the studs into his shirt.

“Oh, no criticism implied. Just making conversation. Normally I’d have my own man with me, but a Wooster keeps his word.” Then he babbled for several minutes about how his valet had something more important to do than dress him that night. I wasn’t paying much attention, but at one point, I sighed heavily, thinking about how I had better things to do as well—namely, being in New York. Mr. Wooster stopped babbling. “Something bothering you, old fruit?”

“Nothing for you to concern yourself with, sir.”

Once he was into his shirt and trousers, he had me tie his white tie. Three times, claiming the first two times that the “perfect butterfly effect” had not been achieved. At the time, I had no idea what he was talking about, and I thought it was pretty damned suspicious. But I’d learned my lesson with the Pamuk business, and kept my hands and my suspicions to myself.

“How’s that, sir?” I asked after the third attempt. It didn’t look any different from the first two as far as I could tell, but we were running out of time.

“Perfect, thank you, ah….”

“Barrow.”

“Barrow.” After I’d put him into his jacket, he dismissed me with a demented grin and a “Toodle-pip!”

Then I had to run upstairs and get into my livery to wait at table, and race downstairs so Mr. Carson would have plenty of time to glare at me before we started serving dinner. After about two hours of that, I was dying for a smoke, so I rounded up Isis, tossed a leftover scrap of meat at the back door, and observed loudly that she was clearly desperate for her evening walk.

Normally, it would have been the job of one of the footmen to walk the household dog, but his Lordship had decided that, since I was so fond of Isis, I should be allowed to keep on doing it after my promotion to valet. I couldn’t exactly argue about it, since my alleged fondness for the animal was the main reason I’d been promoted in the first place. I suppose she wasn’t so bad, as dogs go, and it did come in handy every once in a while when I had my own reasons for wanting to get out of the house for a bit.

I could pretty much wander wherever I wanted on the excuse that it was where the dog wanted to go, so that evening I chose the formal garden, which was, after all, a nicer spot for an evening smoke than the kitchen doorway. Grabbing a stick, I chucked it as hard as I could, then sat down on a bench to while away the moments until Isis brought it back.

By the time I finished the cigarette, she still hadn’t returned. I tried calling a few times, but she didn’t come running, so at last I decided I had better go looking for her. I walked all over that bloody garden, with no sign of dog, until at last I tried the hedge maze.

“—say, do you know the way out of this thing, old boy?” I heard a familiar, slightly mad voice saying. “Er, girl? Yes, girl. Jeeves did suggest avoiding moonlit strolls with females, but I suppose you’ll be all right. I’m more of a cat person, myself, but any old port in a storm, what?”

I followed the voice into the maze, where I found Mr. Wooster following Isis, apparently in the sincere belief that she was leading him to the exit, rather than to the part of the maze that had once contained a rotting rabbit carcass. “I hope his Lordship’s dog isn’t bothering you, sir,” I said.

“Oh, no. She’s been dashed helpful. Have you ever thought of slinging a barrel of brandy around her neck, for the benighted traveler?”

“We generally keep the brandy in the drawing-room, sir.”

“Well, that’s one way of doing it,” Mr. Wooster sighed. “The drawing room is just so dashed full of females, at present. Also, I appear to be stuck in this maze.” He looked at me with a flash of inspiration. “I say, do you know the way out?”

“Yes, sir. Would you like me to show you?”

“If you don’t mind.”

“Just let me collect the dog, sir.”

“I know a trick for attracting dogs,” Mr. Wooster remarked, going along with me as I went to fetch Isis.

“Do you, sir?”

“Aniseed. Sprinkled on the trousers. Draws them like a magnet. Not that magnets draw dogs. But you know what I mean.”

“Yes, sir.”

“All the best dog-nappers use it,” he explained confidentially. “My man Jeeves taught me the trick when we had to steal my aunt’s dog back from an American theatrical producer.”

Like I said, I thought he was a complete loony.

#

I had been wandering in the hedge maze like an Israelite in the desert for some time before the dog found me, followed shortly by Barrow. I don’t know how valets do it, but they always seem to be on the spot at just the right moment, don’t they?

Jeeves probably would have had a stiffish b. and s. with him when he rescued me, but not every valet is a Jeeves. And Barrow did have cigarettes, so that was something. My own were in my room, as Jeeves doesn’t like me putting anything in the pockets of my evening costume. Something about “breaking the lines of the garment.”

I said something to that effect as I accepted one from his case, and Barrow expressed surprise that I allowed Jeeves to dictate my behavior in such a fashion. “Not just cigarette cases,” I said. “He also has strong feelings about cummerbunds, mess jackets with gold buttons, Alpine hats, Old Etonian spats, and any number of other things. We Woosters are known for our iron will, but experience has proved the maxim that Jeeves Knows Best. Many a time he’s helped me slip the matrimonial noose at the eleventh hour, and what is a mess jacket to that?”

“You’re uninterested in marriage, sir?”

A shudder passed through the willowy frame. “Not only uninterested, repelled. If I were to describe some of the ghastly creatures Jeeves has saved me from—not that I would, you understand, it wouldn’t be preux—but if I did, you wouldn’t sleep for days.”

“I understand, sir,” Barrow said. There was a sort of significance to it, and it was then that I started to think this weekend might not be completely without advantages for Bertram. You see, Jeeves is a paragon among valets, but there are certain things one cannot ask him to do. Snogging the young master in a hedge maze is one of them, and it naturally follows that anything rummier than that is completely out of the question.

Barrow was no Jeeves, but he was a valet with dark, brilliantined hair, who had only just now herded me neatly out of a shallow puddle of soup.

I was interested, if you take my meaning.

But he hadn’t given off a clear enough signal for me to venture anything direct just yet, so I decided to bring up one of our New York adventures, and eventually work around to dropping a reference to a visit to one of that city’s pansy clubs. Plenty of people went as a sort of urban safari; if Barrow was not receptive, I need not mention that I attended such places a little more frequently than was typical of a mere curiosity-seeker.

My plans were dashed when Barrow responded to the mention of New York with a look of abject dismay. Well, to most people it would likely have appeared that he still wore the professional mask, but recall that I have learned to read the expression of Jeeves; no mere Barrow could conceal his reaction from me. “What’s the matter?” I asked.

“Nothing, sir. You were saying?”

“No, you are distinctly pipped, and I wish to know why. Unburden yourself.”

“New York is a sore subject at the moment, sir.”

“Ah.” A Wooster, as a rule, does not pry, but I sensed that young Barrow wished to say more. “How so?”

Barrow unleashed his tale of woe. The circs. were that Lord Grantham had recently embarked on a two-month visit to no other place than New York. Barrow had, I gathered, already packed his suitcase with a spare pair of striped trousers and a few tins of fish—or whatever valets put in their suitcases—when his hopes were crushed by the news that his services were required for this very house party. His plight touched the Wooster heart. It must have been a bitter blow. “A bitter blow,” I said. “Jeeves would never have stood for it.”

“He would resign, sir?” Barrow asked.

“Oh, no. He would simply have arranged things so that I saw the error of my ways before the date of departure.”

“How would he do that?”

“Impossible to say,” I answered. “I never see these things coming. Anyway, I wouldn’t dream of going to New York—or anywhere else—without Jeeves.”

“You came here without him,” Barrow pointed out. “Sir.”

“Only because of the Junior Ganymede Annual Dinner. And a spot of blackmail by my Aunt Dahlia.”

#

By then, I thought I had a pretty good idea what Mr. Wooster was being blackmailed about. At the time, I didn’t know anything about Anatole or cow creamers, so I figured this Aunt Dahlia—Mrs. Travers to those of us below stairs—must have caught Mr. Wooster in a compromising position or something, and used it to lead him around by the nose. Now, of course, I know that if anything like that had happened, Jeeves would have managed to convince Mrs. Travers that Mr. Wooster was rehearsing for an amateur theatrical in which the other gent was playing a woman, or emulating the pose of a classical work of art for an exhibition of living pictures, or something of the sort.

But under the circumstances, it seemed like enough to confirm what I suspected. “I had better be getting back to the house, sir,” I said. Isis had been out much longer than usual already, and I would have to come up with a story in case Carson had any questions. “But perhaps we could continue this conversation later?”

“Of course, old chap,” Mr. Wooster said. “I’m sure you must be frightfully busy.”

“Yes, sir. I doubt I’ll have another free moment until all the guests are in bed.”

“Right ho,” Mr. Wooster said. “I suppose it’ll be an early night for most, with the hunt tomorrow.”

“I expect so, sir. If you were to find that you had trouble sleeping, I would think the billiards room would be pretty much deserted by, say, midnight.” I decided to put it that way, since turning up in Mr. Wooster’s room with no professional reason for being there would leave me open to a spot of blackmail myself, if Mr. Wooster got cold feet.

“The billiards room, midnight. I suppose I might while away the midnight watches there, what?”

“I expect I’ll stop by there to check that everything’s in order for tomorrow.” There was absolutely nothing about the billiards room that needed to be prepared for tomorrow, and even if there was, the sensible time to do it would have been when the guests were out in the hunt field, not in the middle of the bloody night, but I thought Mr. Wooster might be too loony to catch my meaning if I didn’t spell it out more or less directly.

“Oh! Right-ho. Well, if I happen to run into you there, perhaps we could…talk.”

“Yes, sir.”

#

As Barrow had predicted, the guests started trickling up to bed pretty early-ish—the fixture was slated for six AM or some similar hour better faced, if one must face it at all, from the opposite direction. I retired to my room along with the others and curled up in an armchair with an improving book to await the appointed hour.

Here, I should interject that, the opinions of aunts to the contrary, Bertram is not a chump. I generally favor the direct approach to communication, where one says what one means and means what one says. But when what one means can land one two years without the option, one must learn to say something else. In short, I fully understood that Barrow intended our rendez-vous in the billiards room to go considerably beyond conversation—or, indeed, billiards.

On or about the stroke of midnight, I put aside Death of a Duchess and ankled down to the billiards room, which I had taken the precaution of scoping out earlier in the evening. It wouldn’t do to get lost on an errand like that.

I arrived to find the room dimly lit by the lamp over the billiards table. Barrow was perched, in his shirtsleeves, on the edge of the table, and had taken the sensible precaution of bringing with him a decanter of brandy and two glasses. I applauded his foresight.

Joining him on the edge of the table, I accepted a glass of the aforementioned brandy. I had wondered about the choice of the billiards room for the purpose, but the location began to grow on me. It lent a sort of matey air to the proceedings, as if one were with a pal in the games room of one’s club. And matey, I’ve found, is precisely the right note to strike on occasions like these. One doesn’t want to pretend to be conducting a great romance—it isn’t preux, and the other party may get the wrong idea—but an efficient and businesslike exchange of pleasure makes the Wooster blood run just a bit cold. Two pals having a good time together is just about the ticket.

“Well I say,” I said. “This week-end is shaping up to be a bit less dire than originally anticipated, what?”

“It’s not so bad, I guess,” Barrow agreed. He omitted the “sir,” another detail which showed his skill at creating the optimal mood for the situation. One doesn’t like to be sir’d when one is hoping to have the other chap’s tongue in one’s mouth soonish. It lends a tawdry air, is what I mean.

“Not a patch on New York, of course,” I added, remembering Barrow’s private pain. “But let’s see if I can help you forget about New York for a bit.”

Here, a Wooster must draw a veil. A Wooster may be an invert, but he is not a pornographer. Even though this narrative will not see the light of day while the involved parties are within the grasp of prosecution, it simply wouldn’t be preux. Suffice it to say that matter proceeded more or less as they usually do. Those in the know can imagine the details, and those out of the know will be none the wiser.

I will say only that matters had proceeded pretty far, and we were in a deuced compromising position when the billiards room was invaded by butlers.

Or rather, just one butler, but he was furious enough for a whole pack, flock, or herd of them. “What is the meaning of this?” he bellowed. To be precise, he bellowed a lot of things, but that was the nub or gist.

I declined to answer, being rather absorbed in the task of doing my trousers back up. Barrow was, I believe, similarly occupied.

“Mr. Wooster,” the butler said. “I think it would be best if you were to leave.”

“Er,” I said. “Right-ho. I don’t suppose my Aunt Dahlia needs to hear about this, what?”

Carson took several deep breaths in a manner reminiscent of that of a bull preparing to charge. “No lady needs to hear about behavior as filthy and depraved as this.”

I could have done without the “filthy and depraved” part, but I was disinclined to argue.

When Carson turned his wrath on my partner in crime, it became clear that he had moderated his opinions substantially in expressing them to a guest. “Filthy and depraved” were sweet nothings compared to the things he said to poor Barrow. He wound up by saying, “You will pack your things and leave this house immediately. I hope it needs not be said that you will not be given a reference. Indeed, if I were you, I would avoid mentioning that I had ever been employed here, because if anyone asks, I will tell the truth.”

“You’re sacking me?” Barrow sounded outraged.

“You should consider yourself lucky I am not having you arrested.”

I was inclined to agree with Carson—the situation was an unfortunate one for Barrow, but in these circs. it’s best to scamper with one’s tail between one’s legs, and be grateful that decency prevents the discoverer from spreading the tale too widely. Barrow, however, was having none of it. “Arrested, right,” he spat. “Because the valet who murdered his wife, him you’d be glad to have back any time. But a bit of harmless—this is worse, is it?”

“Mr. Barrow, you cannot possibly imagine that accusing me of hypocrisy will improve your situation in any way,” Carson said.

“It can’t possibly make things any worse, can it? Out on my ear, without a reference, from the only place I’ve worked in my life? You might as well just shoot me now; I’m done for.”

“A display of hysterics will not improve your situation, either. Will it be necessary for me to summon some of the other staff to forcibly remove you from the premises?”

“Barrow,” I interjected. “Let’s not make a scene, what?”

“Why the hell not?”

“Because—I’d rather you didn’t.” It wasn’t much of an argument, but Barrow actually subsided a little. “I’ll help you find another place,” I told him. “Just, please, pack your things and go quietly.”

“Go where?” he snarled. It was like the snarl of a kitten that has been stepped on—furious but impotent, and a bit pathetic.

Carson suggested the infernal as a destination; I ignored him. “You can come down to London with me for a start, and put up at the flat for a few days until we figure out what to do.” Until Jeeves figured out what to do, I meant, but it didn’t seem right to drag his name into this situation. “And I’ll, er, cover what you’re owed in the way of wages,” I added. I had a feeling Carson would not be inclined to fork over the pay envelope, and it seemed the least I could do.

#

With Carson breathing fire down my neck and Mr. Wooster offering pretty reasonable terms if I would only shut up, I decided to live and fight another day. After stuffing what I owned into my Army kit-bag, I met Mr. Wooster in the garage and we started for London.

The first thing he did, once we were on the road, was impress on me that Jeeves couldn’t know what had really happened. “He doesn’t know, you see, about me. He might hand in his notice, and I couldn’t bear that. We’ll tell him…well, we’ll tell him something happened, and you lost your place through no fault of your own. He’ll know how to go about finding you another job.”

It seemed to me like the best option might be to have this Jeeves storm off in a huff, and I could slip into his position, with a few extra perks. But my clever plans had a way of backfiring on me in those days, so I thought I’d better see Jeeves in action for myself before going toe-to-toe with him. “I don’t know how anyone could find me another job, with no reference and no experience I can mention,” I pointed out.

“Neither do I, when it comes down to it,” Mr. Wooster said. “But Jeeves will. Jeeves can do anything.”

He went on to tell a few stories illustrating Jeeves’s genius. If they were even halfway true, he was a master manipulator that could put O’Brien to shame. Maybe putting the problem in his hands wasn’t such a bad idea. I may even have realized, at that stage, that I could learn a thing or two from Jeeves.

#

That brings us back, more or less, to the point at which we started. Barrow had just indicated that the task before Jeeves was to secure him a job as a valet, and Jeeves had indicated his doubt that such a thing was possible.

“Why not?” Barrow asked.

“Indeed,” I added. “Why not?”

“A person who would be seen in public in such a suit could not possibly aspire to such a position, sir,” said Jeeves.

I looked at Barrow’s suit. It was a rather dashing pin-striped number that gave him the air of an American gangster. I could understand Jeeves’s objection; he’d certainly never have allowed me to buy anything like it. “Nevertheless,” I said. “He was previously employed as Lord Grantham’s valet, and lost that position through circumstances that were entirely my fault. A comparable position must be found. Honor demands it.”

“May I enquire as to these circumstances, sir?” Jeeves asked.

“You may not,” I told him. Barrow and I hadn’t been able to come up with a plausible story ourselves, and since the matter could not be put to Jeeves, I had decided that stern silence on the subject was the only thing.

“Very well, sir. I had only thought that, if Lord Grantham previously found this…person’s services acceptable, convincing him to re-engage him might be the most expedient course.”

“Not on,” I told him. “The rift is permanent. Apply the brain to the problem—er, in the morning would be soon enough. After a hearty breakfast of fish, perhaps. In the meantime, bung him into the guest bedroom, and I’ll see myself to bed.”

“The guest bedroom, sir?”

“The very one. Unless you’d like to share your lair with him. Whatever you think best, of course.”

After a rather lengthy pause, Jeeves said, “The guest bedroom, sir.”

#

What with the night I’d had, and being unemployed and everything, I had hoped to have a bit of a lie-in the next morning, but Mr. Wooster’s man had me up at dawn doing his job, while he watched and made pointed remarks about the way I put kettles on and ironed newspapers. Putting kettles on was a more-or-less constant exercise, because apparently, Mr. Wooster’s morning cup of tea had to be presented to him precisely three minutes after he first opened his eyelids, whenever that was. I didn’t think that Mr. Wooster was the sort to fly into a rage over having to wait a few minutes for his tea, but when I mentioned that to Jeeves, he said it wasn’t the point.

Mr. Wooster had that lie-in I had been hoping for, so it was about noon by the time we actually made tea and carried it in. Or rather, Jeeves made the tea, since he didn’t think I could be trusted not to cock it up, and I carried it in while he hovered at my elbow.

Accepting the tea, Mr. Wooster sipped it. “Ah, nectar. What sort of day is it, Jeeves?”

“Exceedingly clement, sir, now that the morning frost has been burned off.”

“Oh, excellent.” He sipped some more. “I say, Jeeves, what’s Barrow doing in my bedroom? I know I said to find him a job, but I didn’t mean yours.”

“I am attempting to discover, sir, if he possesses any skills whatsoever that would allow me to in good conscience recommend him for a position.”

I would have been offended if Jeeves hadn’t been saying things like that all morning.

After some more sipping, Mr. Wooster asked, “Does he?”

“He has excellent posture, sir. It is a start.”

That was the first time Jeeves had let on that I had any redeeming qualities, in his eyes.

“It occurs to me, sir,” Jeeves continued, “that with some small amount of training, he might make a passably adequate footman.”

I’d been swallowing a lot that morning, but I choked on that. “I was already a footman,” I said. “Before I was a valet.”

“Er,” Mr. Wooster said. “I don’t suppose you’d consider returning to it?”

“No,” I said. After all I’d gone through to become a valet in the first place, I wasn’t about to take a step back down the ladder. “I’m a valet, sir.”

“It’s valet or nothing, Jeeves,” Mr. Wooster said. “And it can’t be nothing—as I said, the young master’s honor demands it.”

“I regret to say, sir, that honor likewise does not permit me to recommend Mr. Barrow for a position as a valet.”

“The Wooster will is as iron on this point, Jeeves,” Mr. Wooster said.

“I will endeavor to develop a satisfactory solution, sir.”

“That’s the stuff, Jeeves. In the meantime, how about some breakfast?”

It was about then that I remembered the bacon Jeeves had had me put on the stove before taking the tea in.

#

After breakfasting on slightly burnt bacon and slightly runny eggs, and splashing about a bit in a tepid bath, I oiled out of the flat to the Drones club. Since I wasn’t expected to show my face until Tuesday at the soonest, I was greeted with a glad cry and numerous offers of good fellowship. The day was marred only by one of my closer friends asking, “I say, old thing, is Jeeves ill?”

“No,” I said.

“On holiday?”

“No.”

“Ticked off at you?”

He very likely was, but I replied again in the negative. “No. Why do you ask?”

“Your socks don’t match your tie. Are you sure he’s not ill? I can’t imagine why he’d send you out like that if he wasn’t.”

I muttered something about the light over the bureau being out, and changed the subject.

I was beginning, in short, to see Jeeves’s point of view regarding Barrow’s inadequacies as a valet. He had his good points, you understand. One in particular he had begun to demonstrate last night in the billiards room, before we were so rudely interrupted. But in other areas, he was clearly not up to the standard to which I had become accustomed. He was not, I thought, much worse than average—he was certainly better than the sock-stealer or the house-burner-downer I had put up with in Jeeves’s absence. But Jeeves was a cut above, and any valet he recommended would be expected to meet a higher standard.

I decided to try finding Barrow a position on my own, by asking around the Drones if anyone needed a valet. Unfortunately, each fellow member I put the touch on had the same question: Does Jeeves approve this candidate? I had to confess that he had his reservations.

“In that case, old thing, I think I had better try my luck with the agency,” they, to a man, replied. Each using slightly different words, of course, but echoing the sentiment. I would not be able to oil out of the problem that way. Everyone who knew me, knew also that I had a superior valet. They would not be fobbed off with a sub-par specimen.

Only one alternative plan floated through the Wooster onion, and it was unthinkable. If Jeeves continued to balk at the fence, I would have to hire Barrow myself. The thought chilled the blood. I had no need for two valets, and Jeeves would never consent to share his duties in any case. I would be condemned to a lifetime of burnt bacon and poorly-matched socks, all for the sake of a moment’s pleasure.

Even worse, I would be condemned to a life without Jeeves. While Jeeves had never given the slightest sign of interest in what one might call billiards-room type activities, he more than made up for it with his steady presence, wise counsel, and general dreaminess. It was only through steadfast refusal to contemplate the concept that I restrained myself from falling head-over-heels in love with him. And the Wooster soul is, at heart, a romantic one. Given the choice between love and lust, it was no choice at all.

So it was in a fairly lowish state of mind that I made my way back to the flat. Barrow took my coat and stick, then offered a brandy and soda, heavier on the soda than I would have wished. It was a grim portent of things to come.

As I sat down at the piano bench to poke moodily at the keys, Barrow faded into the background, and Jeeves emerged. “What ho, Jeeves,” I said despondently.

“Sir, I believe I have identified a solution to the problem, which, while not ideal, would satisfy the honor of all involved parties.”

The Wooster ears pricked up. “You have?”

“It would entail some personal discomfort for yourself, sir,” he cautioned.

The ears subsided. “If you mean giving him your job, the plan has been considered and rejected.”

“No, sir,” Jeeves said, a hint of abject horror in his tone. “Indeed not. Such a course does not even bear thinking of.”

I brightened again. “All right, then. What’s the plan?”

“I will endeavor, sir, to mold Barrow into an acceptable valet.”

“Teach him the ropes, you mean?”

“Yes, sir. At the conclusion of the course of instruction—which may take several months—I should hope to be able to recommend him for a position with a gentleman who is not exceedingly particular.”

“That sounds bally perfect, Jeeves!” How many times had my friends wished for a valet like Jeeves? Surely finding a place for a valet personally trained by Jeeves himself would be a lead-pipe cinch. “Er, and the personal discomfort? Will you need to take him away to an isolated mountaintop to impart the secrets of the trade?” If he did, I was willing to make the sacrifice.

“I do not expect to have to resort to such an extreme, sir. I had envisioned requiring him to perform many of my usual duties, under my direct supervision. We can expect that, in the beginning at least, the results will be similar to those experienced this morning.”

I considered. A few months of such inconvenience was better than a lifetime of same, or than a permanent stain on the Wooster honor. “But you will be in the wings, so to speak, to attend to any crises?” I checked.

“Yes, sir.”

“Right ho, Jeeves. Proceed with the plan as indicated.”

Part II

Comments

( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
alex51324
Sep. 11th, 2012 05:18 am (UTC)
Oh, yeah, I forgot to go back and put in the real link once part two existed. It will take but a moment. (And the "next post" button will also get you there, if you're in a hurry.)
alex51324
Sep. 11th, 2012 05:21 am (UTC)
Oh, and thanks for pointing out the mistake!

(I added a whole new paragraph to part 2 since you read the draft.)
(Deleted comment)
alex51324
Sep. 11th, 2012 05:49 am (UTC)
Heh. Now that I've got my feet wet, I'm feeling an itch to write a fic that more fully explores the idea that Bertie's kindness is a superpower on par with Jeeves's brain.
(Deleted comment)
alex51324
Sep. 11th, 2012 07:44 am (UTC)
His ability to retain his sunny outlook on life through all kinds of stuff may be one, too. I mean, sometimes he gets a bit down in the middle of an story or novel, when things look at their worst, but he always bounces back. I thought about that as I was writing this little story--whether he ought to be more upset after being caught by Carson and called nasty names and so on. After some reflection, I decided it was perfectly IC for him to be basically OK.
softestbullet [dreamwidth.org]
Sep. 11th, 2012 09:33 am (UTC)
Omg! I'm delighted to see you post this so soon. I love it already.

All I know about Barrow is that he's evil and gay and that his evilness is unfortunately linked to his gayness on the show (would you say that's fair?), so I'm glad to see that Jeeves is there to keep an eye on things, but also that Bertie is so sweet to him. And his perspective is pretty hilarious.

I followed the voice into the maze, where I found Mr. Wooster following Isis, apparently in the sincere belief that she was leading him to the exit, rather than to the part of the maze that had once contained a rotting rabbit carcass.

<333333

Even worse, I would be condemned to a life without Jeeves. While Jeeves had never given the slightest sign of interest in what one might call billiards-room type activities, he more than made up for it with his steady presence, wise counsel, and general dreaminess. It was only through steadfast refusal to contemplate the concept that I restrained myself from falling head-over-heels in love with him. And the Wooster soul is, at heart, a romantic one. Given the choice between love and lust, it was no choice at all.

Something about this paragraph is just so charming. It put a grin on my face. Awww, Bertie.
alex51324
Sep. 11th, 2012 06:34 pm (UTC)
Yes, Thomas is gay and evil--particularly in season one, he does some very nasty things. The evilness is linked to the gayness mostly in actor interviews, where the guy who plays him says that how hard it was to be a gay man in the 1910's and 20's is the reason he's so mean. He had some more sympathetic storylines in season two, and his character is slated for major development in season three, which is about to air in the UK.

His only friend at Downton is the woman pictured in my icon, evil lady's maid O'Brien, and while I adore their friendship, she gives him a lot of, frankly, terrible advice. Like, "You want to be a valet? OK, let's make a big deal about how the current valet can't do his job because he has a limp, and when that doesn't work, let's try framing him for stealing, in the process drawing attention to some stealing you actually did." It turns out badly. The sneaky plots he comes up with on his own are more victimless.

I've written, er, let's see, three fics now, on the general theme that having somebody be nice to him, while at the same time taking no bullshit, would improve him substantially. In this story, of course, the "being nice" and "taking no bullshit" duties are split between Bertie and Jeeves.

chocolate_frapp
Sep. 11th, 2012 03:28 pm (UTC)
I love this! (and I've never even seen Downtown Abbey)
alex51324
Sep. 11th, 2012 06:35 pm (UTC)
Glad you liked! And DA is worth checking out--a little silly at times, but I liked it.
krisreinke
Sep. 11th, 2012 03:50 pm (UTC)
<3
Very much loving this! THanks
alex51324
Sep. 11th, 2012 06:35 pm (UTC)
Re: <3
Thanks!
storyfan
Sep. 12th, 2012 10:19 am (UTC)
I've only just started, but I want to say you've got this Wooster lingo down pat!

(Back into the fray!)
derien
Sep. 13th, 2012 10:56 pm (UTC)
I may have seen two eps of Downton Abby, so have no idea who this guy is, but I'm completely loving the "Jeeves takes on an apprentice" theme. :)
alex51324
Sep. 13th, 2012 11:59 pm (UTC)
So many people are reading this who don't follow Downton! Barrow (or Thomas as he is known on the show) is the gay footman who is, depending on your perspective, an evil bastard or a misunderstood woobie. Or a little bit of both (my preferred interpretation). His whole story arc in the first season is about his ambition to become a valet...so, naturally, I wondered what Jeeves would make of him.
katead
Nov. 11th, 2012 11:42 pm (UTC)
GAAAAAAHHHHHH! This is so perfect all I can do is flail! I have to get up in the morning but I don't care! *on to part 2*
( 17 comments — Leave a comment )