It was a clear blue day.
The sun shone warm on the grassy hills and a light breeze cooled them. Bertram closed his eyes and let the wind caress his face.
A quick smile hurried over Bertie's face.
"That'd be me, if I remember correctly."
"I do not recommend a longer stay on this hill, sir. The wind is quite chilly."
"Oh, tish and pish. Let an old man enjoy his breaths of fresh air while he still can, will you?"
"This time span could be considerably shortened by a pneumonia, sir."
Bertie cracked one eye open and peered as his valet.
"Is it over then?" he asked quietly.
"Yes, sir. It was quite a beautiful service. Your absence, however, subtracted from that and was remarked upon."
"Oh, let them – sorry, could you possibly give my blanket a little tug? Thanks awfully, my dear chap. … Now, where was I?"
"'Oh, let them', sir."
"Ah, yes. Quite right. Ahem. Oh, let them, Jeeves. People are always very lenient towards chappies that are getting on a bit, you know. And if they aren't, I get back at them by blithering on about my gall bladder during dinner." He seemed to get somewhat lost in his thoughts until Jeeves coughed.
"What? Oh. Yes. You should wheel me back into more heavily populated areas, I suppose, Jeeves."
"Very good, sir."
"I'm glad he got a good service, Jeeves."
"I just... couldn't be there this time."
"It seems funerals get worse and worse every time."
"What a grim world this has become, Jeeves."
"A dark, grim, Bingo-less world."
"Very regrettable, sir."
Bertie sighed and put his hand over Jeeves' which lay on his shoulder.
"He- he was the last one, Jeeves. The last of the Drones, except for me."
"I know, sir."
"Makes me next in line, what?"
"It's alright, Jeeves. It's alright. I've had plenty of time to get used to the thought." He paused and added: "Can't say I have, though. Does one ever, Jeeves?"
"I couldn't say, sir. I haven't given the matter much thought so far."
Bertie kept quiet while Jeeves pushed his wheelchair downhill on a gravel path. When he intended, however, to take the route towards the house, Bertie stirred and tried touching Jeeves' hand on the handle with his. "Not yet. I – I want to pay him a visit first." Jeeves stopped.
"Mr Little, sir?"
"No, not Bingo."
The protracted silence that followed lay so heavily on Bertie that he began fidgeting in his chair. "I'm not ordering you, Jeeves, I'm asking for your permission. Please, let me see him. He was my friend."
"That is not the word I would choose, sir." The valet's voice had sunken below the freezing point.
"I know you wouldn't, Jeeves," Bertie murmured, a tired, resigned old man. "But like it or not, that's what we were. And I want to see him once, only once more before I am the one leaving the old homestead in a wooden box." A sigh behind him, then the chair was once again set in motion. "Thank you," Bertie murmured into the grating of the wheels on the gravel.
The grave was small and very simple. No angel sculpture, no fancy engraving on the stone, no exuberant flower arrangements. Just three tidy rows of primroses – purple and white – and a plain headstone with a name and two dates.
* 21 March 1891
† 3 June 1969
Bertie's hands clutched at the armrests, but his voice was quite steady when he said: "It looks like something he would like." There was silence, then the valet's soft voice: "Yes, mum and I thought so."
They talked no more while the wind made the branches of the trees and the leaves of the primroses wave gently.