Another multiple-choice misadventure! I can’t figure out a way to make these interactive on the blog, so I’ll just post the route the audience at Esoterotica decided to take, though there were two fully separate paths to take through the story.
I’m not sure whether P.G. Wodehouse would roll in his grave or merely smile and wink if he found out about this.
Right There, Jeeves: A Multiple Choice Misadventure
by Zach Bartlett
It’s the roaring 20s. You’re an English upperclass twit by the name of Bertie Wooster and, oh man, it’s about time you got around to sleeping with that butler of yours.
You’d thought that going to the agency and asking for a “gentleman’s personal gentleman” was straightforward enough. How were you supposed to know that term was an actual not-sex-related occupation at that point in time? Anyways, being British and all, you were far too polite to try and correct the agency on the matter and had just settled into having a normal platonic valet for the last year. You figured maybe it would just take some hint-dropping, though you’re not a subtle man.
He’s saved you from enough ill-advised engagements to various women in the last year that you’d think he’d HAVE to have figured your inclinations out. (And I don’t know how much of a social faux-pas being gay was in England at this time so you can’t just out and tell him. How convenient for the plot!)
Presently, two of you are in your quarters at Blandings Castle, getting ready for the banquet the Earl of Blandings is throwing to celebrate his beloved Berkshire sow ranking second in the annual Shropshire Agricultural Show.
You’ve read enough bodice-ripping romance novels to know that heated arguments can sometimes progress to elaborately-described make-out scenes, and you’ve orchestrated one you know will rile Jeeves. As you stand at the mirror affixing your collar, you remove an oversized purple and orange houndstooth bowtie from your pocket, slip it around your neck and begin to tie.
There’s a single quiet cough from behind you, and you can tell from his reflection that frost has begun to form on the butler’s upper slopes.
“Do you have something you’d like to say, Jeeves?”
“Sir. I should advise you that tie may not be the best aesthetic compliment to your more conservative dinner jacket.”
Oh, he tries so hard to stay polite when you’re acting a fool just because that’s what he’s paid to do — it’s fucking adorable.
To give in to his charms and put on a black tie, turn to page 2.
To resist, in hopes of a heated argument that stiffens more than his upper lip, turn to page 3.
“Jeeves,” you say, “I feel there’s been quite enough of you trying to put the velvet fist to my iron glove when it comes to contemporary fashion.”
“You had not instructed me to pack your iron gloves, sir.”
“Oh, dash it, you know what I mean. But all the bright young things wear fetching patterns like this, and I intend to be the talk of the evening.”
The corner of Jeeves’ mouth twitches almost imperceptibly. “Very good, sir.”
Well, that didn’t seem to have worked. “Right, then,” you say in conclusion, then make your way down to the main hall where the party is gathered. Upon entering the room, you happen to step directly in front of your Aunt Agatha.
It’s generally known that your Aunt Agatha regards you as little more than an unsightly stain on the landscape, and her reaction upon seeing the tie you’re wearing does nothing to change people’s idea of your relationship.
“Egads, Bertie, you besotted young imp! What in the world has overtaken you to make you think wearing such a hideous garment was at all appropriate?”
You open your mouth to say something other than “lapping my tongue all over that butler’s crooked handsome nose,” but she has no time for valid excuses when she’s in the middle of a good tirade.
“I’ve no Earthly conception what sort of beef-witted fashion rags you’ve been reading to think such-” she continues on in that manner entirely oblivious to your combined disinterest and frustration. Where’s Jeeves to help a fellow out of a bind when one needs him? Or maybe help him into a bind, if he’s into that sort of thing. Did bondage even exist in the 1920s? But that’s getting beside the point — you need to extricate yourself from the present situation.
Through a smoky haze, you think you see some familiar faces in the study holding cigars and snifters of brandy — certainly the kind of behavior a woman like Agatha would avoid for loopy “health” reasons. To head there, turn to page 4.
To tumble out the window behind you and hope you’re on the first floor, turn to page 5.
Without waiting for a pause in conversation to excuse yourself, you lean back and fall out of the window into a conveniently-placed shrub just below.
You take cover beneath the shrub for a moment to make sure nobody’s trying to continue their conversation leaning over the sill at you, then stand up and begin to straighten your clothes. Unfortunately you’ve stood up from the bushes just as two people were passing through the yard close by. You recognize them as the Earl of Blandings, who looks quite surprised, and MacAlister, the castle’s gardener, who looks as happy to see someone emerging from one of his plants as he looks to see anybody. Which is to say not.
“Egads,” exclaims the Earl, “Bertie, you errant rapscallion, what are you doing in there?”
“I was, er, I was merely taking a brisk walk, you see-”
“Walking? At this hour? And through my prize-winning aspidistra?”
You’re momentarily at a loss for excuses, until you notice that the Earl and MacAlister are holding hands.
“What, ah, what are YOU doing out here?”
MacAlister’s eyes narrow at you, the Earl’s widen.
“Me? I’m, we’re…” he drops MacAlister’s hand “…we’re taking a brisk walk.”
“Capital evening for it.”
An awkward pause ensues.
“Well, let’s be on our way then.”
After they head off in the direction of the lake, you look back towards the window and consider that, while it isn’t entirely unusual for you to fall out of a window, you climbing back in certainly would be. You’re also aghast at the prospect of having to return to that company sober. How will you get back indoors without making a scene?
To sneak around to the servants’ entrance (not your servant’s entrance, that comes later,) turn to page 6.
Since you’ve already established that windows are easier to navigate than they seem, you could slip through the one by your feet leading into the wine cellar. That’s on page 7.
You run around back to the servant’s entrance, knowing that it’ll take you through the kitchen, where hopefully you can snag some port on your way back to the event. However, once you enter the kitchen, you see second-cousin and first-class troublemaker Bobbie Wickham poised on a stool next to a large pot of stew on the stove, holding what looks like a clump of red leather pouches.
“Bertie,” she gasps, “oh, you’re just in time, this is going to be the greatest one I’ve ever pulled!”
You’ve no idea what that bob-cut hoyden may be talking about, and stammer something to that effect.
“Uncle Fred brought these ‘ghost peppers’ back from a trip to the Orient — hottest food on the planet, he says! So I’m going to toss them into the main course unbeknownst to all the toffee-nosed prigs out there! Oh, the hilarity that will ensue!”
Bobbie’s always been a bit of a tomboy, so she doesn’t seem to take any offense when you tackle her off of the stool before she can throw in the ghost peppers. You’ve got plans for Jeeves’ mouth this evening which don’t involve painful inflammation.
“Oh well,” she says, taking a bottle of cooking wine from one of the cabinets, “My backup plan still has a chance to go off. I’ve slipped a hefty dose of Spanish Fly into the 1884 Madeira they’re planning to serve! The entire party’s going to be too loopy to stand! What a sight!”
Horrified at the implications, you snatch the bottle from her hand.
“S’not that one, silly; it’s in the wine cellar.”
Undeterred, you take off through the servants’ quarters with the bottle you’d just nicked and exit into the castle’s main foyer.
There’s a knock at the door, and through the window you can distinctly make out the shape of a policeman’s helmet. If you want to answer the door while coated in dirt and holding a bottle of liquor, turn to page 8
You also see a ghastly young nephew of yours, Thomas, emerging from a doorway beneath the main staircase while trying carefully to balance a bottle on top of a serving tray. Everybody knows you’re the one who usually makes clumsy accidents around here — to stop him from stealing your thunder, turn to page 9
“Thomas,” you exclaim, “what the devil are you up to?”
He nearly leaps out of his breeches at that, upsetting his tray, and you dart forward to catch the bottle before it crashes to the floor.
“Lady Constance said it was time to present the guests with a digestif, and I said what’s a digestif, and she said it was this bottle what I was to go and fetch for her.”
You examine the bottle he’d been carrying. Although the label is written in some swoopy-cursive handwriting, you’re pretty sure that it says it contains Madeira, bottled in the year 1884.
You have one of those rare moments where you can feel gears turning within your head and a lightbulb, if only a 15-watt, shining above it.
“Well, you’d better not waste any more time getting it to them,” you say, placing the bottle you’d swiped from the other room onto his tray. “Run along now, or rather, walk very carefully along now!”
You send him on his way, and begin trying to figure out a scheme by which you can get Jeeves to drink from this doctored bottle. Spanish Fly is a love potion, right? That’s how it works? So if you slip some of it to him his eyes’ll turn into little hearts and he’ll just-
Unfortunately, your planning is cut short by a curt bark from the top of the stairs. It seems that Bartholomew, Lady Constance’s ill-tempered Scottish terrier, had been locked in her bedroom for the guests’ safety and Thomas left the door open. The dog glares at you like a village priest rebuking sin. (Which isn’t too far from the truth.)
You give a polite wave in the dog’s direction, then it charges down the stairs at you. You run for safety to page 10.
You take off through the castle with that monstrous little dog hovering right at your heels. Darting through the doors to the main hall, you manage to swing one of them open into Aunt Dahlia, sending her arse-over-teakettle into the punchbowl and causing several monocles to pop from shocked eyes as you barrel through the room into the smoke-filled study.
You manage to slip in between two men at the entrance only to notice that your momentum is taking you straight into… oh god, that’s Oswald Mosley! You collide, knocking him out of the same window you’d opened earlier in the evening. Bartholomew, undeterred by smoke and fascism, continues baring down on you. He chases you back out into the hallway where you scramble up the stairs, dash into your own quarters, and manage to clamber atop your dresser as the dog frantically leaps against the side, chomping and yapping at you.
You then realize that somehow, throughout the chase, you’d managed to hold on to the bottle of drugged Madeira. Thinking quickly, you pull the cork out and empty the bottle over the ravenous hound. Apparently you manage to get enough into Bartholomew’s gaping maw that he soon calms down, stumbles sideways for a few steps and then seems to pass out. You bean him with the empty bottle for good measure — he’s fast asleep.
Then there’s a polite cough, as though a sheep cleared its throat in a field of wild clover, and Jeeves is standing in the doorway.
“May I perhaps be of assistance, sir?”
“Oh, Jeeves,” you say, collapsing filthy and exhausted into his waiting arms, “I’ve had a devil of an evening and now I don’t even have the ability to drug you.”
“I beg your pardon, sir?”
“Oh nevermind,” you say, completely at the end of your patience after what you’ve gone through.
“Perhaps I could lay out a fresh outfit, and you might return to the night’s proceedings more presentably?”
“Oh, dash it, Jeeves, I’m too exhausted to deal with this Edwardian social propriety. Are we fucking or what?”
“I was in grave peril and you came to my rescue, even someone as dim as I can see this is the point where sex would happen. And everyone knows you’re the smarter one in this relationship we aren’t yet having. Go find us another bottle of whatever I gave the dog, and then let me drink it by pouring it down your chest.”
While he’d never been the type to be forthcoming with his emotions, one of Jeeves’ eyebrows arches three or four degrees at hearing that.
“As you wish, sir.”