R: Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane #8 (September 2006), art by Takeshi Miyazawa and Christina Strain
(Click picture to jackpot-size)
'...now that there has been a change of programme the iron has entered into your soul.'Why yes, in fact, Bertie rather does. More to the point, he desires Miss Bobbie Wickham, the red-headed daughter of Lady Wickham. This, naturally, sets off the alarm bells in Jeeves's unparalleled grey matter. It's always in his best interests to keep his master singlethe addition of a lady of the house could seriously challenge his authority in the Wooster home.
'Not at all, sir.'
'Oh yes it has. I've seen it. Very well then, what I wish to impress upon you, Jeeves, is that I have not been actuated in this matter by any mere idle whim. It was through no light and airy caprice that I accepted this invitation to Lady Wickham's. I have been angling for it for weeks, prompted by many considerations. In the first place, does one get the Yule-tide spirit at a spot like Monte Carlo?'
'Does one desire the Yule-tide spirit, sir?'
'Jeeves,' I said coldly, 'if you have anything to say against the lady, it had better not be in my presence.'Jeeves goes on to warn of the dangers of marrying a red-headed girl. This naturally doesn't sit well with Wooster:
'Very good, sir.'
'Or anywhere else, for that matter. What is your kick against Miss Wickham?'
'Oh, really, sir!'
'Jeeves, I insist. This is a time for plain speaking. You have beefed about Miss Wickham. I wish to know why.'
'It merely crossed my mind, sir, that for a gentlemen of your description Miss Wickham is not a suitable mate.'
'Red hair, sir, in my opinion, is dangerous.'Mmmmm, pure mashed potatoes. That reminds me...
I eyed the blighter squarely.
'Jeeves,' I said, 'you're talking rot.'
'Very good, sir.'
'Very good, sir.'
'Pure mashed potatoes.'
'Very good, sir.'
'Very good, sirI mean, very good, Jeeves, that will be all,' I said.
And I drank a modicum of tea, with a good deal of hauteur.
The next that that happened was a bit of a lull in the proceedings. For about three and a quarter seconds or possibly more we just stood there, drinking each other in, so to speak, the old boy still attached with a limpet-like grip to my elbow. If I hadn't been in a dressing gown and he in pink pyjamas with a blue stripe, and it he hadn't been glaring quite so much as if he were shortly going to commit a murder, the tableau would have looked rather like one of those advertisements you see in the magazines, where the experienced elder is patting the young man's arm, and saying to him, 'My boy, if you subscribe to the Mutt-Jeff Correspondence School of Oswego, Kan., as I did, you may some day, like me, become Third Assistant Vice-President of the Schenectady Consolidated Nail-File and Eyebrow Tweezer Corporation.'Glossop angrily demands that Bertie now swap rooms with him so that he (Glossop) might have a dry bed while he (Bertie) be left to the sopping-wet one, while meanwhile he (Glossop) explains that he (Bertie) ought to have known what room he was in because he (Glossop) earlier told Jeeves (Jeeves). Armed with that puzzling knowledge Bertie spends the night crouched in the armchair, stewing over Jeeves's betrayal.
'You!" said Sir Roderick finally. And in this connexion I want to state that it's all rot to say you can't hiss a word that hasn't an 's' in it. The way he pushed out that 'You!' sounded like an angry cobra, and I am betraying no secrets when I mention that it did me no good whatsoever.
I could swear I hadn't so much as dozed off for even a minute, but apparently I had. For the curtains were drawn back and daylight was coming in through the window and there was Jeeves standing beside me with a cup of tea on a tray.Like a detective rounding up the usual suspects in the drawing room during the final act, Jeeves explains it all for you: although he knew well that Sir Roderick had swapped rooms with young Tuppy, his actions were above reproach: to keep Sir Roderick as cold as possible towards person Wooster to avoid a reconciliation with Glossop's daughter Honoria, Bertie's ex- fiancée. A cup of hot tea helps Bertie see the point on that: having once been affianced with the sporty, braying Honoria, Bertie has no wish to do so again. And besides, he's enamored of red-headed Bobbie Wickham. Another bad choice, sir, Jeeves diplomatically points out, outlining Bobbie's mischievous nature and love of practical jokesshe set up both Bertie and Tuppy by suggesting each sneak to the other's room puncture the other's hot water bottle.
'Merry Christmas, sir!'
'You've seen Sir Roderick this morning, then?'That is, as is often in a Bertie Wooster story, the cue to pack the bags quick and make a dash out the back door to the car without pausing to say farewells. Good-bye to all that at Skeldings, but where to go? The no-doubt enraged-once-she-hears-of-the-Christmas-proceedings Aunt Agatha is in London, so there's no safety at home. As usual, of course, Jeeves has the perfect solution:
'How did he seem?'
'A trifle feverish, sir.'
'A little emotional, sir. He expressed a strong desire to meet you, sir.'
'I think the best plan, sir, would be for you to leave England, which is not pleasant at this time of the year, for some little while. I would not take the liberty of dictating your movements, sir, but as you already have accommodation engaged on the Blue Train for Monte Carlo for the day after to-morrow'And a very Merry Christmas to Jeeves and Bertie as we watch them scurrying out to dash away unseen for the continent on an English Christmas morning. I do hope they had time later for a plum pudding or a bit of Christmas goose, but I'm sure they would both settle for a whisky-and-soda.
'But you cancelled the booking?'
'I thought you had.'
'I told you to.'
'Yes, sir. It was remiss of me, but the matter slipped my mind.'
'All right, Jeeves. Monte Carlo ho, then.'
'Very good, sir.'
'...many doctors, I understand, advocate such abstinence as the secret of health. The say it promotes a freer circulation of the blood and insures the arteries against premature hardening.'You know those articles in Esquire magazine (I only read it for the photos of Keira Knightley, honest) that attempt to explain what the Modern Man Must Know? Well, long before magazine mascot Esky and other dapper celebrities began dishing advice on how to live the life of a gentleman, Jeeves was the epitome of gentle breeding and good taste. Although I often took issue with his internet search engine, you can't fault the man for his sartorial advice:
'Oh, do they? Well, you can tell them next time you see them that they are silly asses.'
'Very good, sir.'
'You don't think young Thomas would bean Mr Filmer with a cutlass?'The titles themselves are things of joy. If you're a Arthur Conan Doyle fan, you remember the thrill of opening The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes for the very first time and seeing thrilling short story titles so evocative and picturesque "A Scandal in Bohemia"..."The Man with the Twisted Lip"..."The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb"...and my personal favorite, "The Red-Headed League"that you could not help but flip the page as fast as possible and dive into the thrilling prose that awaited you. Very Good, Jeeves! is much like that: colorful and intriguing titles that, like a good comic book cover, make you declare aloud "I gotta read that!": "Jeeves and the Impending Doom"..."Episode of the Dog McIntosh"..."The Inferiority Complex of Old Sippy"..."Jeeves and the Song of Songs." Dear reader, I challenge you not to bury your nose in the book after skimming the contents page. Here we have the Kid Clementina, and the Spot of Art, and the Love That Purifies, and each and every one of them is a corker with jewels-a-sparklin' on every page:
'We can but wait and see, sir. The tie, if I might suggest it sir, a shade more tightly knotted. One aims at the perfect butterfly effect. If you will permit me'
'What do ties matter, Jeeves, at a time like this? Do you realize that Mr Little's domestic happiness is hanging in the scale?'
'There is no time, sir, at which ties do not matter.'
And yet, if I had only know, what I had been listening to that a.m. was the faint rumble of the coming storm. Unseen, in the background, Fate was quietly slipping the lead into the boxing-glove.And...
'...My sister will be arriving to-morrow. She will be greatly upset. I am her favourite brother.'Many of the stories feature the tried-and-true yet never weary subplot of Jeeves disapproving of a purchase or habit of Bertie's and steelily withholding help until the end because of his dislike. As always, the reward for Jeeves's Sherlockian genius is for Bertie to grudgingly give up the object, in this case a pair of luridly-colored plus-four trousers:
'How many of you are there?'
'And you're her favourite?'
It seemed to me that the other five must be fairly sub-human, but I didn't say so. We Woosters can curb the tongue.
I hesitated.What's bubbling below the surface of this conversation is that Bertie has also given up Bobbie Wickham, a fiancée Jeeves did not approve of. Unlike the other Wodehouse romances, Bertie Wooster never finishes the story married or in love. Why should he? He's got everything he needs in Jeeves. (Not that I mean what you're giggling at. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.))
'You may give them to the poor.'
'Thank you very much, sir.'
'It is my heart's blood, Jeeves.'
'I appreciate the sacrifice, sir. But, one the first pang of separation is over, you will feel much easier without them.'
'You think so?'
I am convinced of it, sir.'
'So be it, then, Jeeves,' I said. 'so be it.'