Jeeves and the Blind Master
Chapter One: Introduction
A/N: This is a new fandom for me. I've been reading P.G. Wodehouse lately, and associated fanfics about his characters, mainly Bertie and Jeeves, and wanted to give their stories an entirely new perspective. Let me know what you think and if you'd like me to continue.
For those of you not in the know: Bertie Wooster is a young, rich, man-about-London without a job and no desire for one. He gets into scrapes of all kinds, mostly engagements to women he doesn't want to marry. It's the 1920's England, and there are quite a number of young people that fit his description. Servants are still in vogue, and will be until the Second World War, so Bertie employs a valet, a gentleman's personal gentleman, to see to his needs, cook his food, dress him, and generally run the household. My AU twist is Bertie's disability. I've based my story mainly on the 1990's TV show with Fry & Laurie, but there are references to the original books, as well. Writing in Bertie's voice is rather difficult, and it's first-person, which isn't me favorite, but, hey, why not stretch oneself every now and again?
Thanks, and enjoy!
For a gentleman in my position, having a trustworthy valet is of the utmost importance. Fortunately, the Heavens blessed me with the marvel that is Jeeves. My man, you know, and a bally wonderful one, at that. I couldn't go a day without him, and I'm not ashamed to admit it.
For those of you familiar with my other writings, you've no doubt read of how brainy a cove he is, and how he fishes the young master out of the old aunt-induced matrimonial consummé on a regular basis. A bit too strict in the sartorial senses for my taste, but what is a man to do? I don't want to wear scarlet cummerbunds every day, nor do I go overboard with the paisley, but a spot of color now and again wouldn't hurt a fly, as I like to say. Jeeves says otherwise, and even from the beginning, a deep part of the Wooster heartstrings thrummed in time with his, if thrummed is the word I want. Maybe it's strummed? It doesn't matter now, since our hearts beat in perfect harmony most of the time. Except when he takes exception to my newest hat or tie as too fruity for the young master to wear in public…
Now, you might be wondering to exactly which position I belong that requires a valet of Jeeves's Greek god-level of intelligence and fortitude. You see, the young master is blind. Have been since birth. Oh, I can see light and dark, certain bright colors when the conditions are right, spot a human-shaped shadow at five or six paces, and avoid running into buildings, but beyond that? Nothing. The world is a blur, and not in the moving-too-fast way most chappies use the expression.
I've never been able to read a printed page, but my Braille is top-notch and I have enough of the ready that I can have any book I want transcribed within a week. In fact, there's a particular bookseller who knows my tastes so well that he commissions certain books as they come out, knowing it makes my afternoon to have a book at the same time as the other Drones. I sometimes wonder if Jeeves has a hand in Mr. Bridleman's foreknowledge of which books to create for me.
Be that as it may, I had a classical education same as my peers at Eton and Oxford, and probably read a great deal more of the books than they did, simply because I could do it in the dark, after all the usual excitement died down. I loved reading at night when I was at school. It gave me a bit of an advantage in class, and impressed the other boys, not to mention the tutors, who half expected me to know nothing and be there simply to play while using my allowance to fund a place to be out of my aunts' hair for a good number of years. Not that I understood half of what I read, mind you. There's a limit to the Wooster grey-matter, after all.
I participated in rowing when at school, since it was one of the few sports that would allow me. I still remember the first time Aunt Dahlia came to see me on the river, and the howl of surprise and happiness when my boat took the blue. It's the only physical activity that ever gave me any pleasure back then.
I avoided the play of the boys, what? It didn't appeal to me in the slightest, and though many of my friends encouraged me to try, I didn't see the use after the first attempt or two. Not after that time when I was twelve and one of the underbutlers at the house I was visiting with Aunt Agatha took me aside and did, well, what he did. He thought that because I couldn't see his face, that I wouldn't be able to identify him. Well, let me tell you, when the 12-year-old nephew of Mrs. Spenser Gregson shows up to tea with ripped clothing and blood coming from places unmentionable in mixed company, bawling his eyes out from the pain, the world rather falls on its knees to prostrate itself before said Mrs. Gregson.
What the underbutler didn't know is that I can see faces, if they're close enough to kiss me. That's earned me a fair number of slaps from young ladies over the years, as well as a few unplanned engagements, but I digress. The man was fired, thrown in chokey, and Jeeves tells me he never worked in one of the great houses again. Though, fortunately, I didn't have to go around and peer into the faces of all the domestic staff, as the man had a particular scent that was burned into the nostrils, don't you know, and I smelled him from across the room before I confirmed that it was him.
Not that I had any interest in the female form any more than I did the male. One of the kitchen maids (or perhaps she was a parlor maid?) offered to teach me one summer when I was sixteen, and it was a bally disaster from start to finish. I was nervous, she was reasonably inexperienced, and neither of us could quite figure out what we were supposed to do since I couldn't see her explanatory gestures. Eventually she put my hand where other parts were going to go, and haltingly explained the next step. I was horrified! It was bad enough putting my hand there, but other parts? I couldn't stomach it. Needless to say, it was a bit of a relief when we were discovered by one of the footmen.
I was with my Aunt Julia at the time, and she was a bit more lenient than any of my other aunts would have been, but she made me promise on the Wooster name that I would never touch a girl like that again until I was married to her. It's a promise I've been rather delighted to keep, don't you know?
But I'm rambling, and there's a point to this narrative, if I can remember what it was. Jeeves would know. I frequently tell him what I'm writing about before I sit down, in case something like this happens. Which it does.
This is the story of how Jeeves came into my life and changed this Wooster for the better.
Rummy circs. that started it all. I caught my former valet, Meadows, stealing my socks. Turns out, he was pinching other things, as well as embezzling from the household account. He stuck me for nearly £2500! I only found out when I went to see one of my accountants, Hobby Gingerly-Simms, who went to Oxford with my father, after the sock thingummy. My accountants are dedicated men. I have two, for reasons that for a very long time I couldn't find trustworthy ones. They all wanted to pull the wool over on this Wooster, thinking that because I didn't have an eye for the numbers that I wouldn't notice I was getting robbed. Taking advantage of a blind man has to be one of the lowest forms of evil in this world, and I had to learn from experience that more people than I would suspect would do such a thing. Hence, the two accountants. I have them check each other's work, and didn't tell them about each other for quite a number of years. Once I found that they were both getting the same numbers quarter after quarter, I settled down to trust them.
Jeeves might have called me mentally negligible when he was first in my employ, and Bertram is certainly not gifted with the gray matter on the level of Jeeves and his fish-fed brain, but I have a pretty good grasp of music and an ability to carry on after falling headfirst into dangerously hot soup. And soup it was with Meadows!
I thought it was bally odd, after three months, that Meadows needed to ask for an increase in the household account. I hadn't been entertaining more than usual, nor had I traveled beyond a few trips to the country to visit relations and friends. I'd only been engaged twice. But I signed the check and let the matter go. He asked again two months later, and I denied him, saying that it was his job to make the oof stretch, as they say. I noticed a marked decline in what he served me after that, and the brandy didn't seem quite up to my usual standards. It was just about that time, springtime, you know, when the birds were singing in the trees and the bees were doing their bee-things, that I caught him stealing my socks. I sacked him immediately, of course.
It was a few days before the agency could send me a new valet, and I admit I was a bit out of sorts, rather down in the dumps over the whole matter. I need a valet for a bit more than the average gentleman, after all. It's not just putting me in my clothes and doing the usual domestic tasks, but it's also reading my mail to me, taking dictation if I want to respond, guiding me to my various appointments and social obligations. I can get to a few places on my own, and taxis are a godsend for a chap like me, but if given the opportunity, I'd prefer a preamble — if that's the word I want — about the streets on the arm of a dashing man over being cooped up in a cab any day.
My friends tried to buck me up, as friends do, but in the end, they were rather like the soft-boiled egg that cracked in the pot, for I hear that eggs are cooked that way, sometimes, and became nothing more than a bother to me. No eggs at the flat, at any rate, and I'd never done my own marketing, so I had to wait. I spent inordinate amounts of time at the Drones Club, until I grew bored of the antics, even though they let me enter the annual darts tournament and throw a few rolls during the evening dinner roll cricket matches to try to cheer me up.
My chums thought it would do me a good turn to celebrate Boat Race night, and we all got rather snozzled, which contributed the the circs. of Jeeves's arrival. Having been abandoned by my mates with a stolen policeman's helmet in my hands, I faced down the magistrate with nothing more than my crumpled evening attire and stick. I barely remember getting home after paying the fine — ￡5! — and was off to the dreamless within seconds of throwing the corpus onto the bed. Why the magistrate found me guilty I'll never know, since it was blindingly obvious that a blind man couldn't steal a policeman's helmet, but the Code of the Woosters forbade me to turn in my friends, so there I was.
Jeeves is a miracle worker. I'm rather chuffed, remembering how he turned the disreputable state of the flat into something even an aunt could approve of in just a few hours while I dressed, bathed, and had a good helping of the old eggs and b. He has a way about him of calm whatsit that just relaxes a cove, don't you know? He produced tea and toast out of thin air while I bathed, startling, I know, for I didn't think I had any toast left after three days of fending for myself. I'd lunched at the club most days, and supped there as well, but there's only so much of that one can take before he needs a change of pace.
It was after he served my tea that I began to cotton on to Meadows's larcenic tendencies. Jeeves asked, in that low, cultured voice of his, whether I knew the location of the sugar bowl that went with my second-best tea service, since he hadn't found it with the other things, nor could he locate the honey pot. He then went on to expound that the larder was dangerously low on comestibles and he would have to do some marketing if I wanted a proper dinner, which I did. I've always had what my Aunt Agatha calls an 'unhealthy appetite,' meaning, of course, that if food is bunged down in front of me, I'll eat it.
"Not fowl, Jeeves," I said. "I've been eating nothing but chicken this last fortnight, and Meadows was not the most creative in its preparation," I explained. "I'd like something heartier, if you can manage it."
Jeeves was horrified to learn of the depths of Meadows' deceptions, since the ledger (and the butcher's bill) indicated he'd been buying much pricier cuts. Yet another evidence of the villainy.
That evening, after an expertly-prepared meal and a pair of b. and s.s, I asked Jeeves to make an inventory of the valuables about the flat and compare it with a list my solicitor, Mr. Jeremy Carson-Wiggs, esq., had prepared for me at the start of the year. He does one for me every year, at my request, for just such a situation as this, since having a valet steal from me, was, alas, a rather common occurrence until Jeeves entered my service. They usually just took money, but Meadows seemed a rather persistent sort of cove.
Meadows had been helping himself to the silver, my Turkish gaspers, and the best brandy. I was shocked! How could this have happened? Jeeves assured me that I need not have Mr. Carson-Wiggs press charges, and intimated that he would be able to recover the missing items without effort. I didn't care about the money, I told him, but the tea service was from my mother's mother, and one of the few things of my parents that had remained with me over the years. It was years before I learned that not only did he reclaim the silver Meadows pinched, but he blacklisted the man at his club and within the network of butlers, valets and other household staff so that Meadows would never work in the Empire again for his felonious actions. And, I might add, he was able to manage the household budget so efficiently that we recouped the monies taken by Meadows by the end of the year! Even from the first day, Jeeves evidenced a protective streak towards the young master that went beyond the usual bonds of feudal loyalty.
It was months before I learned of his true regard for me, and how deeply said regard went, and several more months before I admitted my own feelings on the matter. He says he does not begrudge the time we could have spent together when I was yet to cotton on the the real tabasco of the thing, and I believe him because he has never lied to me about anything truly important. Matters of the heart, unlike the whereabouts of a certain tie or waistcoat, remain the one point on which we rarely disagree.