Jayes and The Proposal
“Sir? I wonder if I may discuss a matter with you?”
I looked up from my paper and stared at my man, a look of concern and indecision in his eye. This was a new experience for me, but I had expected there to be a conversation, given the events of the last forty eight hours.
“Of course you may, Jayes - speak your mind.” I folded the paper and watched as Jayes coughed and began by saying “I fear that there will have to be a change in our domestic arrangements, sir, given your decision. I would very much like to discuss this with you, if it is convenient...”
Oh darn I’ve done it again - gone off at the end of the story without telling you all that had gone before. I really should begin with the telegram from Aunt Deborah, the house party, and how a moonlit night can lead to unexpected consequences...
“Good morning, Sir. I trust you had an enjoyable evening?”
I walked in and sat at the table, while Jayes placed a plate of the B and E in front of me. I had spent an enjoyable evening with the boys at the club, taking in a show and a late supper at the Savoy, and was now looking forward to a quiet day preparing for a visit Jayes and I had planned that evening.
“Good morning, Jayes,” I replied lightly as I buttered a slice of toast and placed it in my mouth. “How is the world this bright and beautiful day?”
“All seems to be well, Sir.”
“Nothing in the papers of note?”
“A little trouble in the Sudenland, but nothing that need concern you today Sir. Miss Pugh called today.”
I looked up at Jayes, my coffee cup hanging on my fingers. “Miss Pugh? Gladys was here?”
“No, Sir,” Jayes replied, and I could have sworn I saw an unfamiliar gleam in his eye as the corner of his mouth twitched upwards, “Miss Daphne. She was desirous of a conversation with me about some matters of concern to her. She did say, however, that she and Miss Gladys would be attending a gathering this weekend, where a theatrical entertainment is been presented on the grounds.”
“Sounds most intriguing,” I said with a smile. I knew that Jayes was enamoured of the younger Pugh sister, but the difference in their social standing was a barrier he personally found more formidable than the state of the Stygian stables before Hercules got to work. In other words, almost impossible to clear. “Did she say where this play was going to be presented?”
“She did indeed sit - on the village green in Little Rumpton.”
I paused with my cup in my hand again. “Little Rumpton? Aunt Deborah’s current residence?”
“Indeed, Sir. If you will excuse me, I believe I can hear the telephone.” As he glided out, I put the cup down and scratched my chin, wondering if there was a way to wrangle an invitation.
“Rhymaes Residence,” I heard Jayes say in the corridor.
“Good morning, Mrs Trenton. Yes, Mister Rhymaes is in residence, but he is unavailable at this precise moment. Could I take a message?
“Of course - I will convey that to him precisely as you have told me, Mrs Trenton. Good Day.” I heard the receiver been replaced, and Jayes glided back in. “That was Mrs Trenton,” he said as he returned to his place.
“Do tell - I thought I heard the hounds gathering outside. What does my much loved aunt want?”
“She said, and I quote directly Sir, ‘Tell that fat headed nephew of mine to meet me at Simpsons at one for lunch.’ I apologise for the language, Sir.”
“No apology needed, Jayes - I know Aunt Deborah too well. You had better lay out suitable raiment and prepare the bath for me - I want to be at my best for this.”
At precisely one, dressed in the grey suit and with a fresh buttonhole in place, I walked into the restaurant and looked round.
“Over here, squirt,” I heard the voice that hailed half of Berkshire call out, and smiling I walked over to where Aunt Deborah was sitting. For those who are new to these chronicles, I should explain that Aunt Deborah was that rarity in the Rhymaes family - a good and kind aunt. Unlike the dreaded Aunt Agnes, she of the stern and flower wilting demeanour, Aunt Deborah was all sweetness and light. Of course, she knew nothing of my more nocturnal activities, but I always suspected she would have approved if she did.
“Hello aged Rel, “I said as I sat down, “To what do I owe this pleasure?”
“I decided you can buy me lunch,” she said as she signalled to a waiter, “and then I want you to come down to Little Rumpton this weekend.”
“Oh, why would you want me to grace your presence again? Last time I was there, I recall a slight contretemps with the local constable.”
“Briggs is a fathead - but he’s on leave. No, I want you to come down and form part of the party I am hosting - we need a few more bright young things, and there is one girl in particular I would like you to meet.”
I eyed her suspiciously as the soup was laid in front of me. “Has Aunt Agnes been talking to you again?”
“No, no - I think she will like you though. Her name is Pugh - her father is an industrialist or something.”
I must have dropped my spoon or something, because Aunt Deborah eyed me keenly, and then said quietly “Barty, is there something you should be telling your favourite aunt?”
“Well,” I said as I mopped the table, “I do indeed know Gladys Pugh, and her sister. Jayes said...”
“Good,” Aunt Deborah said with a smile, “then you will come. There’s a job I want you to do while you’re there.”
“What sort of job?”
“A nice simple one - now eat your soup before it gets cold....”
“Jayes - you had better start preparing for a weekend trip. We have been invited to Little Rumpton Manor for a few days.”
As always, he remained impassive but I could swear that gleam was brighter than before in his eye. “Very good, Sir,” he said as he handed me a pair of telegrams, “These arrived while you were out.”
I opened the first one, which contained a message that the delivery we had been expecting would be available from eight that evening. I handed it to Jayes, who nodded as he read it.
“Very good Sir - I will arrange your clothing later.” I opened the second one and smiled as I read it. “Gladys is very much looking forward to seeing us this weekend, Jayes.”
“I am glad Sir,” he said as he took my jacket to hang up. “If there is nothing else, I will prepare an early meal before we are about the evening’s business.”
As we trundled down the road to Little Rumpton, I turned to Jayes and said “May I ask you a possibly personal question, Jayes?”
We had been slightly delayed in our departure, due to the rather late return to my flat after our visit to the Bayswater residence of the Dowager Lady Bracknell. It had been a most fruitful visit, with a great deal of Her Ladyship’s jewellery taken from the residence in one of her voluminous handbags. The delay had been caused by the unexpected return of Her Ladyship and two of her friends from the theatre - but that is a tale for another day.
“You may, Sir,” he replied, “But as a Gentleman’s Gentleman, I of course reserve the right not to answer if it is too - indelicate.”
“You and Daphne Pugh, Jayes - forgive me for been blunt, but I sense that she is affecting you in some way. Is it possible that you have feelings for her.”
He stayed silent, focusing on the driving, but I could see a hint of colour on his cheeks before he said “There is indeed much to admire in Miss Pugh, and I would be desirous of knowing her somewhat more intimately, but I fear that may not be possible. The differences in our social standings...”
“Should not be a barrier to you,” I said as we turned the corner. “Confound it, Jayes, she is not exactly of aristocratic background, and she certainly has much to appeal to her.”
“Indeed, Sir, but it still would not be proper.” He turned through a gateway and drove up the elm lined avenue that led to the front of the manor house, coming to a graceful stop just outside the front door. As it opened, a vision in green chiffon walked out, saying “Barty, you young devil - I heard you were coming.”
I stepped out of the car and embraced Gladys, my hand holding her possibly a little closer than decorum would usually allow, while Jayes opened the boot of the car and retrieved the bags. As I kissed the divine one, I heard a soft cough, and looking up saw Jayes indicating the oncoming presence of Aunt Deborah, smiling as always.
“Barty - so glad you could make it,” she said as I finally let go of Gladys. “I see you’ve already met one of our other house guests - Gladys, your sister was looking for you in the drawing room.”
“Thank you, Mrs Trenton,” Gladys said as she walked off, but as she turned and winked at me I felt as if my legs were made from Birds Blancmange. Aunt Deborah took one look at me, raised an aristocratic eyebrow and said “You look as if you could do with a stiff drink my boy - this way.”
She led me to the drawing room, planted a very large W&S in my hand, and looked over me with the eye that had seen off more foxes than Farmer McGregor. “You’ve gone and done it, haven’t you, you stupid ass - you’ve fallen for Gladys Pugh.”
“Is it that obvious?” I said as I downed the glass in one. “Yes it is,” Aunt Deborah said as she refilled the glass, “and I for one think you could not have made a better choice. The one you need to convince is Agnes.”
Even the mention of her name made me tremble. “Please - it’s too early in the day for horror stories,” I said as I watched a very tall and rather stout woman walk by, dressed in a man’s suit of all things. “Who on earth is that?”
“That,” Aunt Deborah said with a snort “is Miranda Cleaver, the leader of the band who are putting on the show this weekend - and the reason I need you here. Or rather, I need Jayes.”
“Oh,” I said as I put my glass down, “and what does my man have that I do not?”
“The sense to know when to shut up for one thing,” Aunt Deborah said as we both realised that Jayes had come in. How the deuce he does that, I do not know, but he does it with brilliant grace and style.
“I was led to believe you wished to see me, Madam,” he said as he stood reverently by Aunt Deborah’s side. “How may I be of service to you?”
“You have seen the other house guests, Jayes?”
“You refer, I believe, to the Cleaver Company, led by the noted thespian Miss Miranda Cleaver, madam? I have been aware of them for some considerable time. Their style is perhaps not to my tastes, but I understand they are very popular amongst the populace.”
“Yes, well,” Aunt Deborah said as she drowned her very large drink of the warm amber liquid, “I agreed to allow them to host n outdoor play here this weekend - but I really had no choice in the matter.”
“How so, aged rel,” I said as I leaned forward.
“I... I recently had a bad run at Ascot. I put five on Gloriana to win in the 2.30.”
I looked at Jayes when I heard this. He had told me of the tip at the time, but had recommended caution. “I am sorry to hear that madam, but surely the loss of five pounds, although heavy, is well within your means.”
“Five pounds, yes Jayes. Five hundred - not so easy. My accountant had asked for the money for some time, then stopped. This week, when that blasted Cleaver woman showed up, I discovered she had bought my debt - and is now demanding six hundred pounds.”
I let out a low whistle, while Jayes looked at Aunt Deborah. “I presume, madam, that you wish Mister Rhymaes to extract something from Miss Cleaver?”
“I do,” Aunt Deborah said quietly, “I need him to sneak into her room and get a small, brown leather covered notebook. She showed me it the day she arrived - it has the records and the proof she could use to blackmail me. She keeps it around her person, but at night it should be easy enough to extract...”
“Stop right there, beloved aunt of mine,” I said as I looked at her. “If you think I am going to sneak into that woman’s room in the middle of the night...”
“Well, that’s settled then,” Aunt Deborah said as she stood up, “I expect you to get the book in my hand at breakfast tomorrow. There will be a cold platter at six, before the show.” She stood up and walked out, leaving me to stare at Jayes.
“I will give the matter my utmost consideration Sir - but I actually came to inform you that Miss Gladys and Miss Daphne were looking for you. I believe they are in the flower garden, Sir.”
I nodded and put my glass down. “Very well Jayes - but find me the moment you come up with an idea.” I walked off into the garden, and soon found the two Pugh sisters walking hand in hand. I was struck again by how alike the two looked - fortunately, Daphne was wearing her wire rimmed glasses, or I would have difficulty telling the two of them apart.
“Hi Barty,” Daphne said as she came up and kissed me on the cheeks, “Where’s that man of yours?”
“Pondering the imponderable on behalf of Aunt Deborah,” I said with a smile on my face. “So, looking forward to tonight?”
“I am,” Gladys said as they took my arms, “Especially now that you are here, Barty. I thought I was going to be bored silly - but now I’m sure I will be able to enjoy the night. Will you accompany me to the show?”
“It will be my honour,” I said, before whispering “And I need you to cover for me - Aunt Deborah wants me to do a small job.” Gladys nodded as we walked up to the house.
“Jayes,” I said as I went to my room to dress, “I have arranged everything.”
“Indeed, Jayes. Tonight, I will slip out during the performance, enter Miss Carver’s room, purloin the notebook and return for the encore. Simple, elegant, and neat, don’t you agree?”
“Just so, Sir, but if I may add...”
“No, Jayes that is the plan. Lay out the suit for tonight.”
“I strongly suggest...”
“Very good, Sir.” I trust the man implicitly, but sometimes you have to lay down the law, what?
Well, the gathered crowd made short work of the cold repast, before we assembled on the chairs laid out on the lawn and started to watch the play. It wasn’t a bad production, to be fair to them, but Miss Carver literally chewed the scenery.
No, I mean literally - in one scene she was meant to break a glass, but instead she bit into it and ate what I hoped was sugar glass. I took that as my cue, whispered to Gladys “I’ll see you later - tummy trouble” and slipped back to the house. As I did so, I passed Jayes, who was helping to clear the table. I nodded very slightly, he raised an eyebrow, and we both understood where I was going.
Retiring to my room, I slipped out of the herringbone tweed that Jayes had selected earlier that evening, and put on my night uniform of a black jumper and trousers, soft shoes and leather gloves. As I glanced out of the window, I could see the twilight on the horizon, and decided now was as good a time as any to make my move.
As I slipped down the corridor, I could hear some noises through the open windows, but I was focused, determined and ready. As I approached Miranda Cleaver’s room, I girded my loins, opened the door and slipped in - only to receive a blow on the back of the head that made me sprawl out unconscious on the floor.
When I finally opened my eyes, the first thing I noticed was that it was dark outside. The second was the curtain pull that had been tied around my wrist and ankles, and the fact I was sitting on the bedroom floor. The third thing was Miranda Carver standing over me, a gleam in her eye.
“So your aunt asked you to get this, did she,” she said as she waved a small brown leather covered notebook in her hand. “Well, the price just went up, and you just...”
As I watched her, her mouth formed a small “O” before she crumpled to the floor. Standing behind her was Gladys, the remains of a rather fine vase in her hand. “Barty, Barty, Barty,” she said as she looked down at me, shaking her head, “Do I have to fish your rather cute little tush out of the fire again?”
“Very funny,” I said as I looked at her. “Did Jayes send you?”
“Hardly - I’m here on Mummy’s behalf. This delightful piece of work here had her chit for...”
“Gloriana at the 2:30 at Ascot? Snap,” I say as Gladys knelt down and looked at the ropes around my body. “So what are you going to tell Aunt Deborah about the vase?”
Gladys was about to say something, when she caught the look in my eye. I had seen the door open and someone walk in - someone who looked very like Miranda Carver. She closed the door, saw me and Gladys, the prostrate double on the floor, and did the one thing I did not want her to do - produce a small pistol and point it at us.
“I don’t know what’s going on here,” she said in a low voice, “but I bet it has to do with the notebook. I see you’ve met my twin sister, Cassandra. She stayed behind to guard the room - and not very well, by the looks of things.
“Stand up, Miss Pugh, and put your hands behind your back. Mister Rhymaes, you stay exactly where you are.”
As Gladys slowly stood up, I tried to free my wrists, but to no avail. I was forced instead to watch as Miranda used a sash from a bathroom robe to bind Gladys’ wrists together, and then her arms together behind her back with a second one. “I did not know you had a twin sister, Miranda,” Gladys said with her sweetest smile, but I could tell she was angry underneath as she looked at me.
“Comes in very useful,” Miranda said as she pushed Gladys onto the bed, then untied me and helped me to my feet, sitting me next to her. “Quite a pair of lovebirds you make together,” she said as she picked up a pillow, took the linen cover off it and started to rip it into strips.
“You do look cute in that jumper,” Gladys said as she watched Miranda.
“You look wonderful in that dress,” I said, and she did - a creation in grey chiffon, with capped sleeves and a long scarf pinned to the shoulders. She smiled at me, and my heart leapt for joy - before I leapt up as I felt the gun sticking in my ribs.
“Let’s go,” Miranda said as Cassandra slowly got to her feet and rubbed her head. “Sis, you hold the fort here - I’m going to take the two lovers for a little walk.”
That little walk took us to the boating lake, where we were invited much against our will to step into a rowing boat. Once sat inside, facing each other, we watched as Miss Carver bound our ankles together, and then linked them with a length of rope that ran through the bung in the bottom of the boat.
“Enjoy your cruise,” she smirked as she pushed our boat away from the pier, “while I help myself to Mrs Trenton’s jewellery.” We watched, helpless as she walked back towards the house, while we drifted out into the lake, paddle less under the pale moonlight.
“Well,” Gladys eventually said, “at least I have good company for the cruise. How much was your aunt in for?”
“Five hundred. Your mother?”
“Three - it’s almost as if the whole race was fixed.”
“Oh,” I said as I raised an eyebrow, “Do you really think this woman would...” I stopped myself as I realised this woman was actually two. “Forget it - she probably could dope the entire field if she wanted to.”
“I very much fear so, Barty,” Gladys said as she looked up at the moon. “It is a beautiful night though, isn’t it? A night made for romance and boat trips...”
“... though not necessarily while tied up in one,” I finished her sentence, then started laughing. Gladys joined in as well as we sat there, wondering what was going to happen next.
“Barty,” Gladys eventually said, “You do know Jayes has an understanding with Daphne?”
“I know he’s got a crush on her, but those damnable social rules he lives by won’t let him take it any further. Why?”
“Because Daphne has quite the crush on him as well - she told me she finds him mysterious, alluring - manly even.”
“Must be all the fish he eats,” I say quietly, “but I admit I could use him out here right now. Can you loosen the ropes at all?”
“Not really - and by the way, he’s not the only one in your residence a member of my family has feelings for.”
That made me sit up and look at her, the moonlight reflecting on her hair. “Gladys - look, you know how I feel about you, but...” My stammering was silenced by the sound of creaking wood as Gladys moved and sat next to me, her lips touching mine as we started to kiss.
“Mmmmm,” she eventually said, “That was nice. Want to do it again?”
“Of course I do - I want you to be a part of my life forever,” I said as I looked into her eyes.
“Was that a marriage proposal, Bartholomew Judas Rhymaes? Can you really see us, living a quiet life together in some seaside retirement home in our seventies?”
“I truly can, Gladys,” I said, “provided we can deal with one or two trifling matters first.”
“Like the fact you pulled the bung out of the bottom of the boat when you moved.”
“Oh,” Gladys said as she looked down and saw the water slowly seeping in. “That is a problem. Do you think they can hear is if we shout loudly enough?”
“Only one way to find out,” I said as I looked to the shore. “Help!”
“You called, Sir, Miss Rhymaes?”
We both turned at the sound of Jayes’ voice, and saw him in a row boat next to us, looking at us in his curious way. “Jayes,” I finally stammered out, “How did you..”
“If you will permit me, Sir, I think we should get Miss Rhymaes and yourself into this boat without further delay.” He took a knife and cut the ropes around our ankles, then helped us in before heading back to the shore, as we sat huddling against each other in the stern.
“Jayes,” Gladys finally said, “How did you find us?”
“I was concerned when neither yourself nor Mister Rhymaes returned from the interval, miss. I had already had misgivings about Mister Rhymaes' plan, owing to the fact I was aware there were two Miss Carvers.”
“You knew? Jayes there are times...”
“I now regret not fully informing you, Sir, but as soon as I realised the problem I sent Miss Daphne to Alert Mrs Trenton, and started to search for you. Seeing the boat in the lake, I procured a second boat and rowed out to find you.”
Now it was Gladys’ turn to be upset. “Jayes that Carver woman is planning to rob Mrs Trenton. And you sent Daphne to find her...”
For the first time ever, I saw a strange look cross Jayes’ face - a mixture of uncertainty and fear. “Then, with all due respect, Miss,” he said as he rowed faster, “We must make haste to make sure both parties are not threatened.”
As we reached the shore, we all jumped out of the boat and started to run to the house. Well, I say run - Gladys ran, I followed as fast as I could, and Jayes merely walked at a slightly quicker pace than his usual stride behind us. Most of the party had dispersed, but I knew Aunt Deborah would be taking her late night snifter on the drawing room prior to retiring for the night.
As Gladys and I looked through the window, we could see our worst fears were realised. Aunt Deborah was sat in a heavy wooden chair, her eyes bulging over a large length of cloth that had been tied over her nose and mouth, and it was obvious from the way her cheeks were puffed out she had something in her mouth as well. Miranda Carver was standing over her, taking to her about something. Yards of rope were wound round her floral print dress, securing her very tightly to the chair, but her gaze was directed to the form of Daphne Pugh that was laid on the chaise longue.
By this time Jayes had caught up with us, and I could hear his intake of breath as he watched Cassandra Carver securing Daphne’s thin legs together under the hem of her dress with rope. Her arms had already been lashed to her side, and her hands tied together in front of her, but as of yet nothing was obstructing her speech.
“If you will forgive me, Sir, Miss,” Jayes quietly said, “I find this a most deplorable act, and would request your permission to deal with it with extreme expediency.” I turned and looked at him - I had never, ever, in all the years I had known him speak with such passion. Gladys looked at him as well, before laying her hand on his shoulder and saying “No, Jayes - we need to tread carefully. I have a plan, if you are interested, a nice simple plan that will work.”
“Oh yes,” I said as I looked at Gladys. “What do you have in mind?”
“Divide and conquer.”
I blinked for a moment, before saying “But does not divide and conquer require a patsy - someone to... Oh no, no you don’t Gladys the light of my life, no way...”
“Oh don’t be such a baby, Barty - you go in, having changed of course, and draw one of them away, where Jayes will be waiting. I then go in and take care of the other miscreant.”
“You - but you...”
“Are as least as skilled as either of us, sir, in our craft.” Jayes nodded as Gladys blushed at his praise. “If I may suggest Sir, we retire to your room and ensure you are properly attired? If for no other reason, I suspect your current clothing is not exactly sanguine.”
I hadn’t even noticed how wet my feet were, so I nodded in agreement. “I’ll go and change too,” Gladys said, “into something more suitable.” The three of us made our way as quickly as we could into the house and up to our rooms. As I slipped out of my wet clothes, Jayes laid out a pair of crimson pyjamas and a dressing gown on the bed.
Slipping them on, I sat on the bed and pulled on a matching pair of slippers while Jayes retrieved a number of items from our special case. “Do you think that is absolutely necessary, Jayes,” I said as he produced a very serviceable cosh and slapped it in his hand,
He said nothing, merely opening the door for me as I stepped out. Walking down the stairs, everything seemed eerily silent, but as I approached the drawing room I heard the dulcet tones of Miranda Carver Saying “Last chance, Mrs Trenton - will you tell me the combination to your husband’s safe, or does Miss Pugh here have to pay the price?”
“Gthlhl,” I heard Aunt Deborah say as I gripped the door handle, turned it and walked in. “What ho, what ho,” I said in a light and carefree air as I walked in, “I just fancied a late night snorter and...”
Aunt Deborah’s eyebrows would have hit the ceiling if they could, the way she looked at me, but it was nothing compared to the look of shock on the face of Miranda and Cassandra Carver. “But...” the faux actress next to Aunt Deborah said as she looked at me, “how...”
“Well, I was in bed, reading an instructional book, and I thought a nightcap would be just the thing to end the evening with - but I appear to have walked into something else. Are you all right, Daphne?”
“I’ve been better, Barty,” Daphne said from her rather attractive prone position on the recliner, “Thanks for asking.”
“Well, that’s good - so why have you trussed Daphne and Aunt Deborah up, Miss Carver? Were they going to give you a bad review - and who is this rather attractive look alike next to Daphne anyway?”
Cassandra looked at Miranda, Miranda looked at Cassandra, and suddenly we started to re-enact a scene like one of those Marx Brothers movies, as they both tried to grab me, and both tripped over one of Aunt Deborah’s rugs. “Well, perhaps I should just go and call for the authorities, what,” I said as I headed for the door, Cassandra bowling behind me as fast as she could.
It was a close run thing as I headed down the corridor to the phone, with me ahead by a short neck for most of the time, but as I approached the telephone the Carver woman was within an arm’s reach - in fact, she caught the collar of my dressing gown and started to pull me back, only to pull me down instead as I heard a soft thud behind me.
“My apologies for the delay, sir,” Jayes said as I scrambled onto my knees and felt my rather sore neck, “I had to attend to another matter before I was able to respond to your situation.”
“What other matter,” I said as I watched Jayes expertly bind Cassandra Carver’s arms and legs with a single length of rope, then pull a length of cloth between her teeth.
“I must be your indulgence in asking for a delay in the explanation, Sir,” Jayes said quietly as he stood up, “We should see how Miss Pugh is progressing.”
“Gladys,” I gasped as we both made our way down the corridor. As we re-entered the room, however, we were met with a sight that made my heart leap for joy, as Daphne was untying Aunt Deborah from the chair, and the sleeping body of Miranda Carver was lying trussed like a Christmas Turkey on the floor.
“It was magnificent, Barty, Jayes,” Aunt Deborah finally said after she pulled a napkin out of her mouth. “This horrible Carver woman was threatening Daphne, when this figure in black, a young man I think, came in and clamped some sort of cloth over her nose and mouth.”
“That’s right,” Daphne said as she looked at us, “He must have drugged this horrible woman, then tied her up and untied me before disappearing into the... Gladys!”
“Daphne,” Gladys said a she ran in, a cream silk dressing gown over her nightdress, “I went to your room, but you weren’t there. What happened?”
“If you will excuse me, Sir, Ladies,” Jayes said with his usual quiet manner, “I will remove this miscreant and place her with the other, whom I secured earlier, and then call the authorities.” He picked up the comatose Miss Carver and carried her out, as I said “You all look as if you could use a stiff drink - let me pour one for you.”
“Better make it champagne, Barty - remember?”
Aunt Deborah and Daphne both looked at me, then at Gladys. “Bartholomew,” Aunt Deborah eventually said, “Is there something you wish to tell me?”
“Well,” I said as I looked sheepishly at her, “Gladys and I were out for a walk earlier, and we talked, and...”
“CONGRATULATIONS!” Daphne screamed as she embraced Gladys, “Mum and Dad are going to be so happy!” Aunt Deborah looked at me, then Gladys, before shaking her head and saying “Promise me one thing, Barty?”
“Anything, Aged Rel - what is it?”
“Let me be there when you tell Agnes - I want to see the look on her face...”
Well, the police arrived, and Carver and Carver were taken away to enjoy His Majesty’s Pleasure. The next day was spent in talking over the first arrangements - and setting a time for me to broach the subject with Gladys’ father. Over all of that, however, I knew there was a deep depression coming, and when Jayes interrupted my morning coffee at the flat on the Monday I knew the depression had reached a climax.
“A change on the domestic arrangements, Jayes? I hope this does not mean you cannot remain in my employment - I know how some of your gentlemen’s personal gentlemen feel about these things.”
Jayes smiled as he said “Actually, Sir, in most circumstances I would have taken that exact course. In the case of Miss Pugh, however, I could not think of a more deserving and suitable partner for you. I merely wished to inquire of you if you would be willing to continue to employ my services.”
I stood up and offered him my hand. “Jayes, I would not think of losing your services if I could possibly help it. But what of you? You need to know that Gladys is very aware of your feelings towards Daphne.”
“Ah,” Jayes said as he smiled again, “I feel I should inform you, Sir that Miss Daphne Pugh and I have entered into an understanding with regards to our relationship and the possible future of ourselves.”
It took me a few minutes to translate that, before I said “You’re engaged?”
“Not as such sir, but there is an understanding. Of course, with you and Miss Gladys spending more time together, it is our fervent hope that we will see each other more as well, until such time as we can consummate our relationship.”
My brain took time again to understand what he was saying. “Jayes,” I finally said as I looked at him, “Are you saying this is a secret engagement?”
“For now, Sir, yes - only you and Miss Gladys know.”
“One thing, Jayes - when did this happen?”
“After Miss Daphne, Miss Gladys and Mrs Trenton watched me burn the notebook, Sir - the reason I was delayed in helping you was Miss Daphne had asked me to get it from Miss Carver. It appears her name was in there as well. If you will allow me, Sir, I shall clear the table and run the bath for you - and Sir?”
“Thank you.” That was all I could think of to say - and I meant it.