I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again–girls are rummy. Old Pop Kipling never said a truer word than when he made that crack about the f. of the s. being more d. than the m.
P.G. Wodehouse ~ Right Ho, Jeeves
With Ben Schott‘s recent homage to Wodehouse, Jeeves and the King of Clubs, so well received by the critics, the time seems right to tell you about a little homage of my own invention, which I’ve been threatening to share for some time. Unlike most Wodehouse fan-fiction, it does not feature Jeeves or Bertie Wooster. I’ve chosen to set my homage within the inner sanctum of one of Wodehouse’s lesser known fictional clubs — The Junior Lipstick.
As a women’s club, Wodehouse could never comfortably enter this world (in life, or in fiction), but he provides a fleeting glimpse in ‘Came the Dawn’ (Meet Mr Mulliner) when Angela Biddlecombe is fetched ‘from the billiard-room, where she was refereeing the finals of the Debutantes’ Shove-Ha-penny Tournament…. She was smoking a cigarette in a long holder, and as she approached she inserted a monocle inquiringly in her right eye.’
I thought it might be fun to take a closer look into this world in a series of short stories, while also having a pop at the Wodehouse style (the tricky bit). I won’t thrust the whole bally lot upon my poor blameless readers here, just my introduction to the first story. It’s not perfect, but it was terrific fun to write.
THE F. OF THE S.
Into the atmospheric pea-souper of the Junior Lipstick Club smoking room, Daphne Dinmont made an appearance.
“What beasts men are,” she said, attacking a blameless armchair. “They toy with our hearts, and flit and sip like butterflies on a toot.”
“Does this mean all bets are off on an early union between yourself and Jerry Noble?” asked Trixie Steggles, who liked to keep abreast of the form.
“You bet it does!” said Daphne.
“For three weeks, he gave me the rush of a lifetime. Dinner at the Carlton, dancing at Mario’s, boating on the Serpentine. Then last Tuesday, he cancelled our lunch to visit a dying aunt in Aberdeen and I haven’t heard from him since, but Mavis Stubbs saw him at the Scarlet Centipede, dancing like a gigolo on shore leave. And now I’ve just seen him lunching at the Berkeley with Felicia Koops and that idiotic Pekingese of hers — staring lovingly into her eyes.”
“No, the Koops’.”
“Look on the bright side,” said Lettice Albright, who, unlike the poet Blake, could happily see another’s woe and not be in sorrow too. “Perhaps the Peke will bite him.”
“Do you suppose it’s possible to bribe a Peke?” asked Daphne.
“Too unreliable,” said Trixie. “I remember at school, Veronica Turbington persuaded Miss Whemper’s Basset Hound to eat her Thucydides paper. It gorged itself on the best bits, refused to touch the worst passages, and regurgitated the remains on Miss Whemper’s mauve slippers.”
“Quite right,” said Jane Hubbard, puffing on a congenial pipe. “Nothing beats a snake. Slip one into his bedroom after dinner, let the snake do the rest.”
“Don’t be an ass,” said Trixie. “How does she get the snake into his bedroom?”
“That depends on what floor he sleeps on,” said Jane. “I met a man at Aswan who shimmied up the Old Cataract Hotel with a live cobra stuffed down his trousers.”
“That’s just the sort of low trick I’d expect from a man,” said Daphne. “Men can do whatever they like. They flit and sip, and scale walls with their trousers full of snakes. And what can we women do about it? Nothing!”
The shapely eyebrows of the smoking room rose in unison.
Jane Hubbard snorted. Hilda Gudgeon looked up from the letter she’d been writing to the MCC on proposed changes to the Leg-Before-Wicket rule. Ordinarily content to let girls be girls, she knew when a firm hand was needed.
“What rot!” said Hilda. “That sort of talk will get you struck from the club register.” The girls in the smoking room nodded in approval, eyebrows restored to normal service.
“But, what can I do about Jerry?” said Daphne, looking slightly ashamed.
“Plenty,” said Hilda. “I’d have created a scene at the Berkeley if I were you. If you can break windows, break ’em! You could try and get him back if you really want to, but he sounds like a bit of a worm to me.”
“I… I suppose he is a worm, but I thought he was my worm.”
Daphne’s lower lip trembled like an infant violinist, and Hilda gave her a commiserating wink. As one of the Junior Lipstick’s less junior members, she’d seen this sort of thing before.
“Women are just as capable as men,” said Hilda. “Remember what Kipling says about the female of the species?”
“That’s just poetry.”
“Not just poetry. I can think of at least a dozen real examples without trying.” Hilda paused thoughtfully for a while before continuing.
“Did you ever meet Eustacia Bellows? Stacey to her friends and admirers. She was always popping into the club at one time, before her troubles with Cyril Pomfrey-Waddelow.”
“Is that a person?”
“Certainly. The Shropshire Pomfrey-Waddelows are an old family. Cyril is currently making a name for himself as a poet.”
“Good for him.”
“And if you stop interrupting me, I will tell you about them.”
“Oh, go on then,” said Daphne.
Fancy more f. of the s.?
I’d love to know what you think of it.