Jeeves, the Cat, the Bird and the Playwright
When one has pledged his lifelong fealty to a code of chivalry, one has a sort of slanted perspective on the machinations of most of humanity. That is to say, when living by the Code of The Woosters, one tends to give a chap the benefit of the doubt, and perhaps entertains a rather gormless assumption that said chap will make an effort to conduct himself by standards similar to the C. of the W. And, I might add, when the chap fails to come up to scratch, as he almost always will, one is oftentimes so discombobu-whatsit, if that is the word I want, by this chap's lapse in moral what's-its-name, that one is too rattled to stand up to said lapse and has a tendency to be dragged along by the undertow of iniquity. This tends to become particularly prickly when one's invaluable valet happens to be a spotless paragon of the highest calibre, unlikely to empathise with one's tragic moment of weakness.
'Wooster!' I hear you cry, 'What the deuce has this got to do with the price of champagne in Cologne?' Well, it is entirely relevant to the actions of that blasted blighter Catsmeat Potter-Pirbright, during an evening which stands out as one of the most prickly in recent memory. Although I am happy to report that its long-term effects caused a marked improvement to how things stood between my man Jeeves and I, I shall never forget the lengthy, ghastly, treacle-slow moment of abject horror for which Catsmeat was responsible.
I had invited he and his delightful sister Corky over for a post-engagement-dinner dinner, if you catch my drift. Having been at school with the male half of the Potter-Pirbright brood, I had known the siblings for quite some time, and we were a terribly chummy lot. Seeing as I had not been able to bend their ears much at the celebration, I thought it a spiffing idea to invite them round to strap on the nosebag, and congratulate them personally for their upcoming nuptials to their respective paramours.
'Jeeves,' I had said that morning over my Darjeeling, 'I think it a spiffing idea to invite Corky and Catsmeat round to strap on the nosebag, so as to congratulate them personally for their upcoming nuptials to their respective paramours.'
'Very good, sir.'
'Salmon, do you think? Something suitably wedding-ish?'
'I shall do the marketing this morning, sir.'
So we ate, drank and were merry, fuelled by childhood anecdotes, Jeeves' stellar salmon, and waxing lyrical on the many virtues of one Gertrude Winkworth and one Esmond Haddock. Corky shot off at around eleven p. m., protesting about an early morning call to her agent and an appointment to pick out the flowers. We wished her goodnight and repaired to the drawing room, where Jeeves settled us in with a pair of b. and s.'s before floating off to the kitchen. Catsmeat, that festering hideous boil, reclined easily beside me on the chesterfield.
'Dashed rum thing, this marriage wheeze,' I mumbled, already somewhat in my cups.
'How so, Bertie?' Catsmeat said, languorously sliding out one arm upon the back of the couch.
'Well, I mean, it just seems to be closing in on all of of us like some dreaded bally storm. First Biffy, then Bingo, and now Tuppy, Gussie, Chuffy and Pinker are all affianced... I expect I shall see a day soon when not one of the Drones remains his own man.'
Catsmeat sipped deeply from his glass, fixing me with a searching sort of look. 'Except for you, dear child.'
I squawked out an abrupt 'Ha!' and added, 'as long as I can keep Aunt Agatha at bay. Well, I should say, as long as Jeeves can keep Aunt Agatha at bay. I have faith in the man, you know.'
'Bertie... haven't you ever wanted to get married?'
'Once or twice. A few frivolous follies of youth, which usually burned up pretty quickly, once I realised that the apples of my eye were in fact rotten. No, Catsmeat,' I uttered with an uncharacteristically pensive sigh, 'now I'm older and wiser, I can clearly see that Bertram is not the marrying type. It's strictly bachelorhood for me, old egg.'
Here the blackguard smirked, and his white teeth winked in the dim lamplight. 'I know what it is...'
I must have looked the most unguarded, unheeding chump, as the very next moment saw him leaning right into my personal space with an expression that would have made Theda Bara herself burst with pride. I could smell the brandy on his breath. 'You miss the night-time gambols at Eton and Oxford, don't you?'
I should perhaps pause the narrative here to allow the ladies, striplings, and anyone of a sensitive temperament to avert their ears. Or their eyes, I suppose, as one does not exactly listen to the written word, especially when the written word is in the form of private memoirs. But then, given that these memoirs are private, I suppose there is little need to worry about distressing or offending any outside parties, what?
Nevertheless, there remains the need to clarify the gambols to which Catsmeat was alluding. During my callow schoolboy days, it had been something of the norm for the boys who shared rooms to, ah, entertain each other after lights out. I wish I could say that nothing untoward happened, but in fact untowardness was the thingummy du nuit. Catsmeat, being something of a precocious sort, had introduced me to the kind of intimate relations that you might imagine only happened in marital bedchambers. Lips and hands and naked skin and sensitive areas and all that sort of thing. I blush to the roots of my golden curls to admit that I developed a taste for this vice, quite a taste indeed. Soon I was sharing it with Bingo Little, Kipper Herring, Chuffy Chufnell, and later at Oxford, Ginger Winship. I don't suppose it redeems me to mention that Ginger also roused the first stirrings of the Tender Pash within me - not only did I share my bed with him, but also the Wooster heart. After graduation, Ginger called the whole thing off, and I am putting it lightly when I say I rather went off my feed. In fact, I was devastated. The old boy was regretful to hurt me so, but he impressed upon me the dangers of continuing such relations in post-Oxford life. Dashed unfair, I say, that an activity quite blithely dismissed and tolerated at school should earn a fellow a long stay in chokey once he's a fully-fledged adult. I have always been tempted to ask a magistrate what the reasoning behind this is, but I'm sure such a question would raise suspicions. So, with my upper lip properly starched, I carried on and tried my best to develop an interest in the fairer sex.
It was for this reason that I had calcified in my seat, feeling akin to a chilli pepper in midsummer. As much as I loathed it, Catsmeat had hit the nail right on the h. My previous dalliances with various fillies- Bobbie Wickham, Lady Florence Craye et al- had been unsuccessful attempts to bury my desires for more masculine companions. (And by that, I do not mean Honoria Glossop.)
'I'm sure I don't know what you're on about,' I blithered.
'Oh come now, Bertie,' Catsmeat purred, and the back of his hand found my jawline. The sauce had made me a tad dithery, but at this point I still had enough sense to steel myself against this advance.
He continued, as I kept still, like some catatonic fawn in the headlights of an oncoming Chrysler. 'You were always so into it, more than the other lads. It was obvious that you weren't picturing Lillian Gish in your head.'
I had shut my eyes, the lamplight glowing a dull red through my eyelids. I could feel Catsmeat's weight shift on the couch. The heat of his body, the plumes of his brandy-soaked breath and the tickle of his mustache on my ear all assaulted me at once.
'But then...' his fingers glided across the sensitive skin on my neck, 'you were always such a pretty thing... most of the boys fancied you to be their Lillian Gish.' Here his voice took on a deeper, rumbling timbre. 'You loved it, didn't you.' It was not a question.
'Catsmeat...' I pleaded, my voice strained to little more than a manly whimper.
'I can give you what you need, Bertie... one last act of kindness before I become a married man. I rather think I'll enjoy it.'
Here I gathered some scrap of resolve, and pushed a hand against his chest before he could make an amuse-bouche of my face. 'Steady on...' I managed. '...What would Gertrude say...!?'
A short, high-pitched laugh spurted out of him. 'There shall be plenty of time for fidelity after the wedding vows! Besides, my sweet Gertrude is no neophyte. She knows the sort of company I keep in the theatre. All those late night rehearsals with the leading man...'
I don't know whether you've ever had the unrivalled pleasure to be sick in yout gut and burning in your loins all at once. But my disgust at Catsmeat's less-than-golden conduct was at odds with the sensations he was evoking elsewhere, trailing touches across my face, neck, and down the black wool of my suit to areas less amenable to higher reasoning.
'Please don't...' I whispered.
'Just one last little taste,' he countered, his voice all velvet and intemperance.
At this point, the cad kissed me full on the mouth, his tongue raiding me like the most enthusiastic of spelunkers. My first instinct was to fight back, trying to frame thoughts of his poor fiancée in my mind, preferably with large, glistening eyes, clutching their future firstborn in her arms. That was before my body's complete betrayal of me, as I hardened and heated and melted all at once under how dashed good it all felt. I mean to say, it had been years since anyone had touched me like this. Many long, lonely years. It was quite unlikely that an encounter such as this would present itself again. I may or may not have whimpered as he pressed the kiss deeper and pushed me down along the full length of the chesterfield. I know I definitely upended something at some point. Now completely lost in sensation, and a disgrace to my noble forbears, my mitts respectively found the back of his head and his rather marvelous posterior, clutching at him mindlessly as he sent jolt after jolt of pleasure zipping through my nerves and into my aching groin.
'Oh Bertie...' he breathed between snogs.
I too came up for air, half-forgetting where I was or what my latest purchase of fruity apparel had been. As I lay there panting like a landed piscine, trapped beneath Catsmeat and getting a vague notion of a magenta cummerbund, I beheld a sight that chased off all my mixed and addled feelings like a panther pouncing upon luckless canaries.
With abject horror, I beheld Jeeves staring at us from the kitchen doorway.
'Jeeves!' I squeaked.
Those unaccustomed to reading the Jeevesian dial would have taken the look on my valet's face to be one of perfect calm. However, though subtle, the outward expressions of feeling that this marvel among manservants displays are indeed readable, at least to those who know him well enough.
His shapley mouth remained untugged by a frown or moue. His porcelain forehead remained uncrinkled, though one perfectly tapered eyebrow was raised about one-twentieth of an inch. The bridge of his rakishly crooked nose bore a microscopic crease.
The big giveaway, however, was the raw outrage flaring in his dark blue eyes. Like bally dynamite, I'm telling you.
'Excuse me, sir.' With one liquid motion, he swooped back into the kitchen.
Having plummeted back into reality, I brusquely pushed Catsmeat off of the Wooster corpus, quaking and seething.
'Bertie...' The blister mewed.
'Get out,' I menaced.
He toppled the hatstand, slammed the front door, and was gone.
I attempted a few deep breaths, my hands digging into the back of the chesterfield. In the next few minutes, I was sure my life would be going to hell in a receptacle. The question was, to what extent? I would certainly offer Jeeves a glowing recommendation, even try to secure him a cushy spot with some indulgent and easygoing duke, if he would accept it. The fee for his silence would be hefty, considering the generous paycheck he already earned. However, it was quite possible that no prize could stop him from reporting me... I prayed that whatever fondness he had for Aunt Dahlia and the gang down at Brinkley Court might stay his hand. After all, they would be brought into disrepute as well. Maybe I would be quickly married off to the next available filly, or dumped in a cell at Colney Hatch... none of these grim prospects were quite as awful as contemplating the fact that Jeeves was no longer to be at my side.
'Get a grip, Wooster,' I told myself. Valiantly reining in my panic, I plunged through the kitchen door. Jeeves was sitting at the table, one hand resting upon his forehead, staring into space. That look of outrage was still plastered across his face. I decided that t'were well done quickly, and flatly asked him:
'Are you going to call the authorities?'
My utterance seemed to act on him like one of his own restoratives. He started, acknowledging my presence, and then a completely unexpected change overcame him: he thawed. A kind of paternal sympathy seemed to bloom in him, and he looked up at me as one would regard a lost, bedraggled baby animal.
'No sir, I am not.'
I collapsed upon the other chair, my head flopping down upon the table. I was too ashamed to meet his gaze anymore. 'You must be so disgusted with me...'
He was silent, and I could sense the slight tension in his bearing as he fashioned his response. 'If I may speak freely, sir, I feel that both the law and our society's prevailing attitudes are much too harsh in their condemnation of men of your persuasion. While hardly conducive to the production of heirs, intimacy between men is not harmful or violent in its essence, and has in fact been revered in some cultures.'
While this was certainly some kind of balm for my frayed nerves, I still issued a plaintive, guttural moan at this point, as if the baby animal within had been nursing a frightful wound.
'However, I am displeased that Mister Potter-Pirbright pressed his attentions on you in such a manner. You do not deserve such disrespectful treatment from one claiming to be your friend. As my master, your wellbeing is always of dearest importance to me.'
My head shot up off the table, and I looked into Jeeves' eyes. I don't know if I had imagined it, but I could have sworn there was a thingness swimming underneath his words that kind of almost hinted at a suggestion of something that was sort of...
Jeeves stared back at me, looking a mite startled himself.
With the same suddenness, I broke our eye contact, chiding myself. No. It was just my damned wishful thinking again. Without going into too much detail, suffice it to say that my buried desires for a masculine companion had taken on a very Jeeves-esque form over the past few years.
'Would you care for another drink, sir?' The stuffed frog mask was once more securely in place.
'Actually... could I trouble you for a cup of tea, Jeeves? It seems just the thing right now.'
He rose, looking jolly well relieved for something to occupy him. I took simple pleasure in watching his graceful motions as he readied the kettle, pot and teacup for a spot of the bracing. I recalled in my mind's eye his look of outrage upon seeing me in my indiscretion.
'Are you going to give in your notice?'
'No, sir, not unless you wish me to.'
'Oh. Well, I'd rather you didn't.'
I paused for a long moment, and my thoughts began to settle into some semblance of order. Perhaps he had simply been cross with Catsmeat for pawing at me. I certainly couldn't blame him for that.
'I'm very glad you're with me, you know.'
'I am gratified to hear it, sir.' He treated me to one of his half-smiles. Slowly, all the larks and snails of the world were beginning to fall back into their rightful places. Yet given the late hour, I'm pretty sure those larks were in fact nightingales.
I detected that familiar air of contemplation about my man again, as he boiled the water and measured out the tea leaves. I waited patiently as his brilliant brain fired away, putting into place the next stream of eloquent elucidation due to emanate from his exquisite mouth.
'Sir,' he finally said, as he opened the sugar bowl, 'have I ever told you of the time I met Oscar Wilde?'
Well, I mean to say. I goggled. 'By Jove!' I exclaimed. 'When? And how? And... say on, old thing!'
The unfortunate events of the Wilde scandal had reached their conclusion close to thirty years previous. However, the echo of its consequences still reverberated heavily throughout London's social scene. Young men no longer strolled through Hyde Park arm-in-arm, and those with a penchant for dressing flamboyantly were whispered about in close circles, their reputations teetering over a precipice. Uranian poetry, by Wilde and others of his literary set, could only be purchased through clandestine connections in the back rooms of London's pokiest bookstores. Not even solid evidence need be required to utterly ruin a gentleman. It is surely no surprise, then, that the tale I told Mister Wooster had never before been divulged to anybody.
In the springtime of 1894, I was a young boy living with my family at Sheringham Hall in Norfolk. My father, Edward Jeeves, was the butler of that grand estate, and likewise, my mother and elder siblings held positions within the domestic staff there. Upon my next birthday, I was to begin training as a page-boy. For now, however, I was fully occupied with memorising the contents of my mother's modest personal library, and spending long afternoons playing beside a tree-lined stream on the estate grounds.
A house-party had commenced some days previous, and to avoid my getting underfoot I had been set loose to occupy myself. My eldest brother Thomas, the second footman, had scooted me from the hall once the first carriage-load of guests had pulled up, and I had quite happily hurried down to my playground at the stream. The weather had recently warmed, and the sunshine was a welcome change to the grey winter that I had endured from the dim confines below stairs.
I reached the base of a favoured cherry tree when I first heard the plaintive sound. Casting my eyes around to locate its source, I discovered a tiny, featherless chick writhing on the earth. Pathetic and naked, it squawked desperately for its mother. The nest above was crowded with its clamouring siblings, deaf to the pleas of their doomed brother.
Having led what was naturally a rather careless existence until that point, I can still recall my very first feelings of duty and protectiveness for another rising inside me. A spark of disapprobation briefly mingled with this, as I supposed that the poor little bird may have been tossed from the nest by an unsympathetic relative. Without hesitation, I scooped the animal up in my small hands. Examining him, I recalled what I had learned from my mother's splendid bird book. I discerned the arrangement of his delicate toes- three forward, one back- that indicated his status as a passerine, possibly some species of skylark or swallow.
'Don't worry, Percival,' I told him, naming him on a whim, 'I'll protect you.' I stroked a careful finger gently along his back, and felt his rapid heartbeat slow.
Depositing him in the front pocket of my tunic, I once again cast my mind back to the bird book. Perching birds of this type tended to be largely insectivorous, preferring juicy grubs and winged bugs for their sustenance. Feeling braced, I gingerly began climbing a nearby branch, on the hunt for Percival's lunch. My charge tweeted up at me quizzically, not quite understanding my plan of action. However, I was resolved to give satisfaction.
For the better part of an hour I scrambled about in the trees by the stream, being very careful not to bump or squash Percival in his new resting place. I was quite sure the warmth from my active body would be keeping him at an optimum temperature, as I painstakingly collected an enviable plunder of caterpillars, larvae, and even a slow-moving grasshopper. At last, satisfied with my efforts, I hopped down from the branches to the stream bank, ready to prepare the ornithological repast. Taking a wide, flat rock and a robust stick, I rendered the ill-fated insects into a lumpy sort of mash, in imitation of the mother birds who would process and regurgitate their prey before feeding it to their offspring. Then, taking a smaller, fresh twig, I scooped up a small lump of this paste, taking gentle hold of Percival in my other hand. I held it up to his little beak, urging him to take a bite and restore his faculties.
Alas, he did not stir.
A most horrendous, metallic sensation swept through me as I perceived Percival lying limp and silent in my hand, his heart no longer beating. Reverently, I laid him out on the grass as the shameless tears that one can only concede to in childhood began surging down my hot cheeks.
I remained crouching in the dirt for some time, sniffling and whimpering and heaving with each new spasm of grief that came for my precious songbird. The sun sank a little lower in the trees, until I discerned the sound of others' voices:
'Oscar? Where the devil are we going?'
'Down here, Bosie. The cries appear to be coming from beside the stream. I wish to offer my assistance, and ascertain what could possibly be more distressing than the sight of Lady Rutherford's new sun-hat.'
Even, solid footsteps made their way towards the stream bank, stopping just a few yards away from me.
'Well, hullo there!'
Blinking in the afternoon haze, I looked up to perceive what was, to my juvenile eyes, a grand monolith of colour. Light, flowing reams of pastel fabric, a towering walking stick of pale beech, and a bursting golden sunflower perched upon his great chest. My tears were promptly burned away by a swell of utter astonishment.
The stranger knelt down, and I was then able to discern the map of his face. He had full lips and gentle eyes, and I could detect none of the patronising scorn that made most adults so intimidating to me.
In a soft voice, he asked: 'What is your name, young man?'
Shaking off what trepidation I felt, I endeavoured to answer. 'R-Reginald Jeeves, sir.'
The man extended a truly enormous hand, which I shook feebly. 'The pleasure is all mine, Reginald. My name is Oscar.'
'He must be the butler's son. We should tell the household staff where he is,' the second gentleman suggested, not a little recalcitrant. He stood some distance behind us. I found his delicate features and sheaf of wavy blonde hair very beautiful, but I bristled at the implication that I was lost and needed the help of my elders.
'I am not lost,' I asserted, 'I know the grounds of the estate very well.' It was perhaps the second man's youth and impertinent air that also provoked my pride.
Oscar chuckled, a deep, mellifluous sound. 'But whatever was it that upset you so?'
I was a little hesitant to reveal the source of my sorrow. Instinctively, my eyes drifted to Percival's inert body, still lying on the grass. A kind of sad thoughtfulness wilted Oscar's effervescence. 'Oh... your poor little songbird, Reginald...' he murmured.
His younger companion huffed. 'Let's get back to the house. They'll be wondering where the two of us have gotten to.'
'All the better to give them something to talk about, Bosie,' Oscar retorted, and turned back to me. 'We must do your bird the honour of performing last rites.'
'His name is Percival,' I informed him, 'because he is a passerine.'
'Then Percival shall have a majestic funeral to befit his majestic name.'
Behind us, Bosie slumped down upon an obliging log, crossed his arms and grumbled something under his breath.
Oscar directed me as I located a soft patch of earth, not far from the cherry tree. With my hands, I scooped at the soil and created a small grave, knowing that my mother would punish me for becoming so dirtied. For once I did not care. I was advised to make the hole a little deeper than I had estimated, so as to guard against detection by predators.
'It is ready,' I announced.
Oscar lifted Percival from the grass with a reverent hand. He then extracted a flawless ivory handkerchief- one that must have been made of very high quality silk- from his coat pocket. I ascertained his intention, and my usual sense of propriety overcame me. 'Oh, sir, no,' I blurted.
'I can think of no nobler use for this square of fabric,' he insisted, brokering no arguments.
Thus wrapped in his shroud, Percival was laid to rest by his brightly-coloured pallbearer. No affectation marred his actions. In retrospect, I consider that Mister Wilde had likely been feeling pangs of longing for his two sons, from whom he had been away, and had reacted to my predicament with all the pent-up tenderness of a heartsick father.
'Reginald,' he said as we stood over the open grave, 'have you any words for the dearly departed?'
'Dear Percival,' I pronounced, clasping my hands before me. 'You were my bird. I found you on the ground and decided to look after you. I kept you warm and tried to feed you insects, but you could not eat them as you had died... I will miss you.'
At this point my speech dissolved into another fit of crying. Oscar knelt and began to fill the grave. 'Réquiem ætérnam dona eis, Dómine; et lux perpétua lúceat eis,' he recited, smooth and pacifiying. I sniffled loudly.
Oscar then removed the sunflower from his lapel and held it out to me. 'Here,' he urged, 'you may have this for a tribute.'
Awestruck, feeling unworthy of such a fine gift, I tentatively plucked it from his long fingers and, handling it as if it were the most fragile thing in creation, rested it on the burial plot. Its vibrant yellow petals stood out grandly against the dense black soil.
'You have shown a most sterling character in your kindness toward that helpless little creature, Reginald,' he told me. 'Such dedication is a priceless quality for a young man to have. Never lose it.'
I bestowed upon him one of my slight, near-imperceptible half-smiles. 'Thank you, sir.'
Soon we were discovered by my mother, who had been anxious about my whereabouts. She made repeated apologies to Mister Wilde and Lord Alfred, and scolded me soundly for harassing the house-guests. My face and hands were scrubbed til raw in a basin of cold soapy water, but the events of the afternoon had left far too deep an impression upon me to protest. Never had an adult treated me with such generosity and respect, and I sadly surmised how unlikely it was that I would ever experience such a thing, ever again.
'Oh, Jeeves... how frightfully... oh, my dear man.'
Mister Wooster had leant forward in his place at the table, his face resting in his hands and his cup of tea lying forgotten beside him. This was by far the greatest amount of personal information that I had ever divulged to him, and though his sympathy did not surprise me, I was touched all the same.
'I will never forget the comfort that that kindly gentleman provided me,' I told him.
'Did you meet again during the house party?' Mister Wooster inquired.
I slowly shook my head. 'No, sir. I never saw him again. When the news of his arrest and trial reached me, I was silently heartbroken to hear of his sufferings. The public impression was that he was a monster, some iniquitous villain corrupting the collective moral order. I had known him as a visiting angel who had aided me in a time of sadness. Even when I was old enough to understand what he and Lord Alfred were to each other, I cared not. He was still one of the finest people I had ever met.'
Mister Wooster was silent, his gaze softening as he absorbed these words.
'Now, sir, surely you will understand. Any relations you may have with your male companions can never diminish my opinion of you.'
His final misgivings and traces of anxiety had been soothed away completely. I was rewarded with That Look, the superbly sweet and credulous look in my master's eyes that arose whenever I had managed to, in his words, 'extricate him from the soup'. It was a look that communicated his ardent trust and admiration for me. Even after so long, I still inwardly trembled at the sight of it. As a man who had been schooled from the cradle in the art of concealment, having learnt from experience that discretion was crucial for one's survival, Mister Wooster's inherent openness was a natural wonder to me. Throughout our acquaintance, I had repeatedly and brazenly manipulated this delightful young man, and yet, he still bravely allowed me access to the deepest reaches of his character. He was a far better man than I.
'Jeeves,' he declared, 'I have often told you what a marvel you are. Now I realise how truly blessed I am that you are in my life. Thank you, old thing. I mean it.' And with this, he bade me a good night.
I finished cleaning up the debris of the evening and retired to my quarters. The keen self-disgust that I been pushing down overwhelmed me, and I sank down on my narrow bed, burying my face in my hands. I was not worthy of my master at all. In truth, on that spring day during my boyhood, I had tearfully buried Percival all on my own, gathering a meagre funeral wreath of dandelions and clover blossoms. When I returned home that afternoon, I had comforted and tortured myself by perusing the lush colour plates in my mother's bird book, as well as reading 'The Happy Prince', the poignant fairy-tale penned by my idol. His comfort to me was distant and impersonal- he had never once set foot in Sheringham Hall.
In light of the incident that had rattled Mister Wooster's equanimity that evening, I had improvised the fiction about my meeting with Mister Wilde to placate him, distract him, and to assure him that my loyalty and sympathy was his. I could easily have confronted him with the bald truth of my motivations, but I just did not have the heart to cause him any more distress. As I told him, his wellbeing was of dearest importance to me, so restoring his peace of mind was my prime duty.
The bald truth, I fear, would have been far too much to burden him with: I, like Mister Wooster, was an invert. Furthermore, I had secretly nurtured a hopeless yet passionate love for him since our first meeting.
Although I had percieved hints of my master's proclivities over the years of our association, I had sternly denied they were anything more than the result of my fevered imagination and frustrated longings. I ached for him with every act of service, from pouring his tea to affixing his cufflinks, to rescuing him from undesired engagements with unsuitable women. Upon seeing him wrapped in the arms of Mister Potter-Pirbright, a flood of turgid emotions had charged through my core. Most prevalent, in addition to the initial shock, had been a scorching jealousy: seeing a careless and fickle coxcomb such as Mister Potter-Pirbright toying with my precious Mister Wooster, stroking his fair, silky hair and kissing his gorgeous lips, had infuriated me. Admittedly, these were things I had dreamed of doing with him myself, and the impulse to strike Mister Potter-Pirbright with all the force I could muster had had to be vigorously repressed. Soon that gave way to a strange, grey despondency. Even though I now knew that Mister Wooster shared my attraction to men, the difference in our social status loomed as large as ever. It was likely that he only wished to court men of his own class. Knowing him as I did, he would no doubt deem the seduction of a servant to be abominable. He would not want to be the kind of master that took advantage of those beneath him, those without the option of rejecting his advances. He was far too loyal to his 'Code of the Woosters' to allow such a thing. And, even if he could work around such an obstacle honourably, what possible attraction could he feel for a man such as me? To me he was a bright, gay, sparkling songbird, and he saw me as a hidebound patriarch carved from stone.
Unable to sleep, I rose from my bed and carefully opened the false bottom to the lowest drawer of my bureau. Forsaking the salacious French postcards and poorly-bound volumes of Uranian poetry, I plucked out my old childhood copy of 'The Happy Prince (and other tales)'. By lamplight, I re-read the story, allowing myself an audible sigh upon reaching its tragic conclusion.
I prayed that Mister Wooster would never suffer from the cold, and that my leaden heart would one day be lifted.