Like Lieutenant Bromhead at the end of Zulu, “I feel sick – and ashamed,” but not enough of either to make me turn it down.
I’ve always thought that unlike every other victim of mpreg ever (with the exception of Captain Jack Harkness, who whatever his other reactions was possibly not surprised), Lord Peter Wimsey would have a realistic approach to things.
Bunter had not initially worried when his lordship complained in somewhat querulous tones that his trousers had become too tight. Since he had been fit enough to take up his old exercise routine (ju-jitsu, fencing, and the Egotists’ Club gym), Bunter had felt that his master would have looked better with a good half stone on him: despite the admirable figure, he remained too drawn about the eyes, too pale. He still had difficulty getting up early, having been on a couple of occasions when crawling out of bed before nine quite overcome with nausea, but Bunter put that down to continued adjustment. He was eating more and with his hair thick and fair skin bright, he was looking better than Bunter had seen him since early in the war.
For Wimsey’s part, he had been prepared to accede to Bunter’s comments upon his trousers, and as he had no compunction about not waking until eleven, the vomiting had not been much of a problem. The kicking, however, was really too much, and he felt the beginnings of a strain upon his bladder. This was not a situation that could best be dealt with by ignoring it.
‘A situation has arisen.’
‘Indeed, my lord?’
‘A somewhat unusual situation.’
‘Is that so, my lord?’ The ghost of a puzzled frown passed over the man’s face.
The imperturbable mask of Jeeves can stand up to most circumstances. Bigamy, blackmail, unfortunate indiscretions with members of the lower ranks, and even shipwreck on tropical islands aroused not a flicker of perturbation in the face of the Ideal Manservant, but this was something else. Fortunately, as it could not possibly be true, Bunter met it with the stoicism with which he was accustomed to endure his master’s more painful episodes, and concealed the rush of pity in his breast.
‘I see, my lord.’
Wimsey looked at him. ‘You don’t seem very surprised,’ he said, before realization struck. ‘Ah. No, Bunter, this is not an unfortunate delusion, or even the phantom condition I believe rabbits, and indeed women, occasionally fall prey to. It’s started kicking.’ He seized the man’s hand and held it against his abdomen, and was gratified at the somewhat painful kick that fell on cue and consequent electric withdrawal of Bunter’s hand and simultaneous draining of blood from his face.
Ten minutes later, when Bunter was able to sit upright once again and drain a double brandy, Wimsey had finished dressing and took a seat himself.
‘You were not aware of this?’
‘I confess, my lord, that the possibility of such an explanation for your lordship’s recent condition had not occurred to me.’
‘You don’t think anyone else suspects?’
‘I believe that would be most unlikely, my lord.’
‘I’m glad to hear that at least.’
It was against all his principles, but Bunter was still feeling rather weak. ‘My lord, if I may be permitted… My lord, how?’
‘I’ve been pondering that one myself. My only conclusion is that it is the result of one of the more continental evenings of our recent European journey.’
‘Vienna, my lord?’ suggested Bunter, in tones that perfectly modulated understanding and a merest whiff of manly sympathy.
‘Vienna. They do say it’s the playground of the galaxy. One can only assume a more literal meaning than I had hitherto understood.’
‘Indeed, my lord.’ Bunter had never wholly approved of the more outré habits of minor European royalty.
‘The question is, what am I to do about it? I assume the performance of the obvious solution is not within your own repertoire?’
‘I regret to say that it is not, my lord. However, I believe a fellow member of the Junior Ganymede Club may be able to procure the necessary treatment. I need scarcely add his assurance of the utmost discretion.’
‘Thank God for that.’
Bunter’s contacts proved, as ever, effective and discreet. Lord Peter, convalescing for a couple of days at a pleasant hotel following the procedure conducted at a quiet clinic in Paris, was thoroughly relieved. The prospect of faking his own death or pretending to go on safari for six months was not one he had relished, quite aside from the mind-boggling physical logistics of the conclusion. He had endured a stiff talking-to on the importance of taking adequate precautions with the humility proper to his situation, and had promised never to put himself at such risk again. Separate enquiries revealed that a certain club in Vienna had since closed its doors.
‘I can’t say I haven’t learnt something from the experience, Bunter. I’ll have a damn sight more sympathy with women for a start.’
Bunter murmured something in reply that Wimsey did not quite catch and sensibly decided to parse as, ‘Quite, my lord.’
‘It’s a pity about the club – it was an interesting night in lots of ways. Mind expanding, you might say.’
‘Indeed, my lord. Your bath is ready, my lord.’
‘Right-ho. And Bunter, cancel that hotel reservation, will you? I think I’ll be sticking in London for the moment; I’ve had all the variety and spice of life I fancy for a while. There’s a lot to be said for the company of the old familiar faces.’
‘Very good, my lord.’
Wimsey chucked his dressing gown over the back of a chair and strolled off towards the bathroom, his belly enviably flat once more. Bunter watched him in the corner of a carefully adjusted mirror, and thanked his lucky stars that he had lost the toss that night.