R: Avengers v.3 #22 (November 1999), art by George Perez, Al Vey, and Tom Smith
(Click picture to Hank Pym-size. That's Hank Pym-Giant Man size, not Hank Pym-Ant Man size.)
Elsa leaned forward eagerly.Hotchy motchy! That's some progressive stuff for the nineteen-teens. But wait, faithful reader:
'You don't know him.'
'But what's his name?'
'Well, if I am on the witness-standMaude.'
'Maude? I thought you said a man?'Yes it is...especially when (could you guess it?) loverboy John Maude and the newly reinstated Prince of Mervo turn out to be one and the same, and both of him are pretty likeablea stalwart Wodehouse hero:
'It's his name. John Maude.'
'But, Betty! Why didn't you tell me before? This is tremendously interesting.'
Ten days after Mr Scobell's visit to General Poineau, John, Prince of Mervo, ignorant of the greatness so soon to be thrust upon him, was strolling thoughtfully along one of the main thoroughfares of that outpost of civilization, Jersey City. He was a big young man, tall and large of limb. His shoulders especially were of the massive type expressly designed by nature for driving wide gaps in the opposing line on the gridiron. He looked like one of nature's center-rushes, and had, indeed, played in that position for Harvard during two strenuous seasons. His face wore an expression of invincible good-humor. He had a wide, good-natured mouth, and a pair of friendly gray eyes. One felt that he liked his follow men and would be surprised and pained if they did not like him.and becoming royal doesn't go to his head; John's still the same salt-of-the-earth reg'lar guy he always is:
At this point Mr Scobell made his presence felt.Golly. I think I'm falling in love with him.
'Glad to meet you, Prince,' he said, coming forward. 'Scobell's my name. Shake hands with General Poineau. No, that's wrong. I guess he kisses your hand, don't he?'
'I'll swing on him if he does,' said John, cheerfully.
He was a young man of spirit and resource. His appearance, to those who did not know him, hardly suggested this. He was very tall and thin, with a dark, solemn face. He was a purist in the matter of clothes, and even in times of storm and stress presented an immaculate appearance to the world. In his left eye, attached to a cord, he wore a monocle.Huh! sez I, scratching my little stuffed head as I read this bit. This Smith fellow reminds me an awfully lot of another Wodehouse character. Wears a monocle, monopolizes the conversation, calls his peers 'Comrade'...why, this Smith character
Through this, at the present moment, he was gazing benevolently at Mr Renshaw, as the latter fussed about the office in the throes of departure. To the editor's rapid fire of advice and warning he listened with the pleased and indulgent air of a father whose infant son frisks before him. Mr Renshaw interested him. To Smith's mind Mr Renshaw, put him in any show you pleased, would alone have been worth the price of admission.
'Well,' chirruped the holiday-makerhe was a little man with a long neck, and he always chirruped'Well, I think that is all, Mr Smith. Oh, ah, yes! The stenographer. You will need a new stenographer.'
The Peaceful Moments stenographer had resigned her position three days before, in order to get married.
'Unquestionably, Comrade Renshaw,' said Smith. 'A blonde.'
Mr Renshaw looked annoyed.
'I have told you before, Mr Smith, I object to your addressing me as Comrade. It is notit is noterfitting.'
Smith waved a deprecating hand.
'Say no more,' he said. 'I will correct the habit. I have been studying the principles of Socialism somewhat deeply of late, and I came to the conclusion that I must join the cause. It looked good to me. You work for the equal distribution of property, and start in by swiping all you can and sitting on it. A noble scheme. Me for it. But I am interrupting you.'
Mr Renshaw had to pause for a moment to reorganize his ideas.
'I thinkah, yes. I think it would be best perhaps to wait for a day or two in case Mrs Oakley should recommend someone. I mentioned the vacancy in the office to her, and she said she would give the matter her attention. I should prefer, if possible, to give the place to her nominee. She'
'has eighteen million a year,' said Smith. 'I understand. Scatter seeds of kindness.'
Mr Renshaw looked at him sharply. Smith's face was solemn and thoughtful.
'Nothing of the kind,' the editor said, after a pause. 'I should prefer Mrs Oakley's nominee because Mrs Oakley is a shrewd, practical woman whoerwhowho, in fact'
'Just so,' said Smith, eying him gravely through the monocle. 'Entirely.'
The scrutiny irritated Mr Renshaw.
'Do put that thing away, Mr Smith,' he said.
'Yes, that ridiculous glass. Put it away.'
'Instantly,' said Smith, replacing the monocle in his vest-pocket. 'You object to it? Well, well, many people do. We all have these curious likes and dislikes. It is these clashings of personal taste which constitute what we call life. Yes. You were saying?'
Mr Renshaw wrinkled his forehead.
'I have forgotten what I intended to say,' he said querulously. 'You have driven it out of my head.'
New York is an egotist. It will suffer no divided attention. "Look at me!" says the voice of the city imperiously, and its children obey. It snatches their thoughts from their inner griefs, and concentrates them on the pageant that rolls unceasingly from one end of the island to the other. One may despair in New York, but it is difficult to brood on the past; for New York is the City of the Present, the City of Things that are Going On.But finally, I can't find fault with a Wodehouse book that so jovially addresses me by name:
John beamed down on them.Golly. Thank you, Mister Wodehouse.
'That's right,' he said. 'Bully! I knew you could get a move on as quick as anyone else, if you gave your minds to it.'
Mrs Mariner frowned.There's other great characters: Freddie Rooke is a helpful and sometimes bumbling member of the Drone Club; he follows Jill to New York to persuade her to return to Derek but winds up staying for a life on the stage when he falls in love with a chorus girl. There's Wally Mason, tall, gallant and handsome playwright, who we all know is the man Jill should be with (but she's not sure of it herself until the end of the book). While Wally serves several plot points to introduce Jill to her new world, Wodehouse smartly resists the temptation to make Wally a deus ex manhattana to solve all her problemsinstead, Jill's smarts and kindness get her ahead and solve the puzzles, no matter how complicated they are. Her Uncle ChrisMajor Christopher Selbyis a charming rogue, conning his way into crashing at Wally's lush midtown apartment behind Wally's back. Then there's a bevy of chorus girls: Babe, The Duchess, Nelly and the Cherub, who are about to become Jill's friends and confidantes and for whom Jill learns she can lay down the law to authority on behalf of. I like almost everyone in this novel, and if Wodehouse probably could have used a little bit of judicious editing (it clocks in at 300+ pages, about a third longer than the vast majority of Wodehouse novels), Jill flies by thanks to its energetic and amusing cast of characters.
"I was going to suggest," she said frostily, "that you shovelled the snow away from the front steps!"
"Splendid!" said Jill. "Oh, but I forgot. I want to go to the village first."
"There will be plenty of time to do it when you get back."
"All right. I'll do it when I get back."
It was a quarter of an hour's walk to the village. Jill stopped at the post-office.
"Could you tell me," she asked, "when the next train is to New York?"
"There's one at ten-ten," said the woman, behind the window. "You'll have to hurry."
"I'll hurry!" said Jill.
There are streets in London into which the sun seems never to penetrate. Some of these are in fashionable quarters, and it is to be supposed that their inhabitants find an address which looks well on note-paper a sufficient compensation for the gloom that goes with it. The majority, however, are in the mean neighborhoods of the great railway termini, and appear to offer no compensation whatever. They are lean, furtive streets, gray as the January sky with a sort of arrested decay. They smell of cabbage and are much prowled over by vagrom cats. At night they are empty and dark, and a stillness broods on them, broken only by the cracked tingle of an occasional piano playing one of the easier hymns, a form of music to which the dwellers in the dingy houses are greatly addicted. By day they achieve a certain animation through the intermittent appearance of women in aprons, who shake rugs out of the front doors or, emerging from areas, go down to the public-house on the corner with jugs to fetch the supper-beer. In almost every ground-floor window there is a card announcing that furnished lodgings may be had within. You will find these streets by the score if you leave the main thoroughfares and take a short cut on your way to Euston, to Paddington, or to Waterloo. But the dingiest and deadliest and most depressing lie round about Victoria. And Daubeny Street, Pimlico, is one of the worst of them all.Those of you who know this li'l stuffed bull know that one of my favorite times of day in England's capital is being able to wander through London by night, so this description of wandering down the Thames Embankment after dusk especially touched me. His words still ring true; it's barely changed in almost ninety years:
She glanced down the Embankment. Close by, to the left, Waterloo Bridge loomed up, dark and massive against the steel-gray sky, A tram-car, full of home-bound travellers, clattered past over rails that shone with the peculiarly frostbitten gleam that seems to herald snow. Across the river, everything was dark and mysterious, except for an occasional lamp-post and the dim illumination of the wharves. It was a depressing prospect, and the thought crossed her mind that to the derelicts whose nightly resting-place was a seat on the Embankment the view must seem even bleaker than it did to herself. She gave a little shiver. Somehow this sudden severance from the old days had brought with it a forlornness. She seemed to be standing alone in a changed world.Things are apt to get brighter and sunnier in New York, both thematically and literally, when Jill once again meets Wally there, with room for another wonderful panorama landscape view of a great city:
"Cold?" said Wally Mason.
They moved westwards. Cleopatra's Needle shot up beside them, a pointing finger. Down on the silent river below, coffin-like row-boats lay moored to the wall. Through a break in the trees the clock over the Houses of Parliament shone for an instant as if suspended in the sky, then vanished as the trees closed in. A distant barge in the direction of Battersea wailed and was still. It had a mournful and foreboding sound. Jill shivered again.
Wally disappeared again, and a few moments later Jill heard the faint splashing of water. She walked to the parapet and looked down. On the windows of the nearer buildings the sun cast glittering beams, but further away a faint, translucent mist hid the city. There was Spring humidity in the air. In the street she had found it oppressive: but on the breezy summit of this steel-and-granite cliff the air was cool and exhilarating. Peace stole into Jill's heart as she watched the boats dropping slowly down the East River, which gleamed like dull steel through the haze. She had come to Journey's End, and she was happy. Trouble and heart-ache seemed as distant as those hurrying black ants down on the streets. She felt far away from the world on an enduring mountain of rest. She gave a little sigh of contentment, and turned to go in as Wally called.A good two-thirds of the novel takes place in Manhattan, and that's "good" not only as "the better part of" but also "agreeable": New York City energizes and enlivens our heroine and brings out the best in her. I see her point. It's a tough city to live inthe mild-mannered need not apply, and being a small stuffed bull on the MTA subway is often an invitation to have a boot step on you. But it's a grand and glorious place, and Jill's (and Wodehouse's) affection for it is nicely drawn. Much of the action takes place in Bryant Hall, a (possibly fictional) music hall theater on 42nd Street, my midtown stomping grounds. Right across Fifth Avenue from the New York Public Library is Wally Mason's midtown apartment, so deviously appropriated by Uncle Chris, so out at lunchtime on a bright day I stepped around the corner and tried to scout out 9 East 41st Street, where Wally lived on the 22nd floor. Wally's building is almost certainly gone: there's no building at that address or near it of that height, and the buildings are all much young than 1921. But here, showing the scaffolding that tells you New York is always a place of change and transformation, is where once upon a time Uncle Chris threw dinner parties behind Wally's back and from whose balcony Jill gazed out across the East River. You see, there's a little bit of Wodehouse wherever your hoofs take you.
'Whatever are you doing in New York?' asked the girl. 'I never knew you meant to come over.'You can't go wrong with a heroine who enjoys wheatcakes.
'It was a little sudden. Still, here I am. And I'm starving. What are those things you're eating?'
'Oh, yes. I remember Uncle Chris talking about them on the boat. I'll have some.'