R: Justice League #1 (May 1987), art by Kevin Magure and Terry Austin
(Click picture to Justi-size)
Well now, let's get down to it. This week, my dear little souls, Uncle Woggly is going to put you on to a good thing. We all want to make a spot of easy money these hard times, don't we? Well, here's the lowdown, straight from the horse's mouth. All you have to do is get hold of some mug and lure him into betting that a quart whisky bottle holds a quart of whisky.Useful info I would enjoy reading in any of my children's magazines, but it gets Monty tossed out into the street, jobless again and this (as they say) is where the fun starts.
Sounds rummy, what? I mean, that's what you would naturally think that it would hold. So does the mug. But it isn't. It's really more, and I'll tell you why.
First you fill the bottle. This gives you your quart. Then you shove the cork in. And thenfollow me closely hereyou turn the bottle upside down and you'll find there's a sort of bulging-ion part at the bottom. Well, slosh some whisky into that, and there you are. Because the bot. is now holding more than a quart and you scoop the stakes.
It was four o'clock of a sultry, overcast, oppressive afternoon, and a sudden stillness had fallen on the world. The heat wave which for the past two weeks had been grilling England was in the uncomfortable process of working up to a thunderstorm. Shropshire, under a leaden sky, had taken on a sinister and a brooding air. The flowers in the garden drooped forlornly. The lake was a grey smudge, and the river in the valley below a thread of sickly tarnished silver. Gone, too, was the friendly charm of the Scotch fir spinneys that dotted the park. They seems now black and haunted and menacing, as if witches lived in crooked little cottages in the heart of them.The storm breaks midway through the novel, and like the storm in King Lear, it serves as a turning point for the lazy susan of the plot's action to take its specific turn. The rain traps Pilbeam on the estate grounds instead of fleeing across the back gardens, so he takes refuge in a gardening shed and hides the pilfered manuscript in a pile of hay rather than getting away scot-free with it. The heavy weather convinces Beach the butler, more portly than Adonis, to mop his brow and stop in for a beer at the local pub, where he overhears the plot to steal the manuscript. And the rain catches Monty Bodkin full force, soaking him to the skin, so that when he dashes to the house to towel off, Ronnie spots a telltale tattoo and assumes the worst: that Sue still loves Monty and Monty still loves Sue:
'Ugh!' said Sue, hating Shropshire.
...Ronnie Fish uttered a quick, sharp exclamation.Weep no tears for shattered Ronnie and poor Sue, because Ronnie will see the light and the truth when Galahad forces them to sit down and talk to each other; like Sherlock Holmes, the outrageous older uncle untangled the skein of missing manuscripts, lost loves and pilfered pigs with incisive delight. This is a comedy, after all, and it all ends happily, with lovers clasping each other to their bosoms, marriages set to be scheduled (at least until the next Monty Bodkin novel) and while I won't tell you the final fate of an important MacGuffin, let's just say that like much of the novel's action, the problem is solved by nature...but not so much an Act of God as an Act of Pig.
Monty looked up, surprised. His benefactor had turned a vivid vermilion and was staring at him in a marked manner.
'Eh?' he said, puzzled.
Ronnie did not speak immediately. He appeared to be engaged in swallowing some hard, jagged substance.
'On your chest,' he said at length, in a strange, toneless voice.
Eton and Cambridge came to Ronnie's aid. Outwardly calm, he swallowed again, picked a piece of fluff off his left sleeve, and cleared his throat.
'There's something on your chest.'
'It looks like "Sue".'
He paused again.
'"Sue",' he said casually, 'with a heart round it.'
The hard jagged substance seemed to have transferred itself to Monty's throat. There was a brief silence while he disposed of it.
He was blaming himself. Rummy, he reflected ruefully, how when you saw a thing day after day for a couple or years or so it ceased to make any impression on what he rather fancied was called the retina. This heart-encircled 'Sue', this pink and ultramarine tribute to a long-vanished love, which in a gush of romantic fervour he had caused to be graven on his skin in the early days of their engagement, might during the last eighteen months just as well not have been there for all the notice he had taken of it. He had practically forgotten that it was still in existence.
It was a moment for quick thinking.
'Not "Sue",' he said. '"S.U.E."Sarah Ursula Ebbsmith.'
'Sarah Ursula Ebbsmith," repeated Monty firmly. 'Girl I used to be engaged to. She died. Pneumonia. Very sad. Don't let's talk of it.'
There was a long pause. Ronnie moved to the door. His feelings were almost too deep for words, but he managed a couple.
'God bless my soul!' said Lord Emsworth querulously.I only have one edition in my collection of Heavy Weather: an early 1980s Penguin paperback with a cheery Ionicus illustration of Lord Tilbury confronting Gally. That edition's long out of print, but you can pick up this perfect piece of art in a newer Penguin edition with a doleful frog on the cover (A frog? Why not a hog?) by clicking on the Amazon.com link to the right. Extra bonus: this edition has an introduction by Nick Hornby, one of my favorite contemporary writers. Gee, now I'm going to have to get that edition too. See what Wodehouse inspires in me? I won't buy multiple copies of comic books anymore, but I'm a sucker for different editions of my favorite author. Whatever edition you pick up, this is one of Wodehouse's high points and a wonderful introduction or return to the world of Blandings.
He turned from the piano, and Lady Constance was enabled to see him steadily and see him whole. The sight caused her to utter a stricken cry.
'Whatwhat is that thing in your shirt-front?'
The ninth Earl squinted down.
'It's a paper-fastener. One of those brass things you fasten papers with. I lost my stud.'
'You must have more than one stud.'
'Here's another, up here.'
'Have you only two studs?'
'Three,' said Lord Emsworth, a little proudly. 'For the front of the shirt, three. Dashed inconvenient things. The heads come off. You screw them on and then you put them in and then you screw them on.'
'Well, go straight up to your room and screw on the spare one.'
It was not often that Lord Emsworth found himself in the position of being able to score a debating point against his sister Constance. The fact that he was about to do so now filled him with justifiable complacency. It seemed to lend to his manner a strange, quiet dignity.
'I can't,' he said. 'I swallowed it.'