Tales from the Junior Lipstick: the F. of the S. — Part II

Back by popular demand, if a broad definition of the word popular is applied, Part II of my homage to P.G. Wodehouse, a Junior Lipstick Club story

The F. of the S.

Here’s Part I if you missed it.  

* * *

Eustacia Bellows and Cyril Pomfrey-Waddelow (said Hilda Gudgeon) had been pals since childhood. When Stacey was nine she saved Cyril from drowning in the village pond, and when an impressionable young girl saves a chap from drowning, she naturally takes a proprietorial interest in his progress. When Cyril was lying-in with mumps, she read him Pickwick. In the holidays she took him for bracing walks and corrected his square cut.

They met again by chance in London last spring. Cyril had just stepped in front of an omnibus, and Stacey, who happened to be on hand, dashed into the road and pushed him aside.

When Cyril had finished gulping like a stranded goldfish, she deposited him in a neighbouring tea and bun shop and got to work on rekindling the friendship. For love had hit her, as surely as the number 37 omnibus hadn’t hit Cyril. Stacey could see the poor lamb was lost without her. It had been almost two years since they’d last met — how Cyril had managed to survive all that time in London without her was a mystery.

“Fancy running into you again, Pompy old pet,” said Stacey, opening proceedings with her trademark cheerfulness.

Cyril blinked like a bewildered rabbit. I don’t know what kind of shove she gave him, but Stacey was our school’s half-prop — Rosie Benger’s shoulder still gives her trouble after being on the receiving end of one of Stacey’s tackles. Given the choice between colliding with an omnibus or Stacey Bellows, I’m not sure I wouldn’t take my chances with the bus. I dare say Cyril, who was always on the delicate side, was feeling it.

“How’s the metrop treating you?”

“Fine, fine,” Cyril gurgled.

“You’re looking well,” said Stacey, proving the adage that love is blind, for Cyril Pomfrey-Waddelow was not one of nature’s greatest hits. His closest friends might, after a good meal and some financial inducement, be persuaded to call him Byronic, but a consumptive Byron at best, with some sort of wasting sickness thrown in.

Cyril sniffed his tea.

“So, no secret troubles then?”

“Eh?”

“One merely wonders. Chaps don’t usually go about flinging themselves at omnibuses, you know. I suppose the odds are lower for poets. Some worm criticises your latest effort, and just as you’re pondering whether life is worth living, along comes the number 37. I expect it’s an occupational hazard.”

Cyril bristled –- or tried to. Weakened by his ordeal, Cyril’s bristling was on par with that of an existential hedgehog who has given up on life.

“The critics were very complimentary about my last volume.”

“Were they? That’s terrific! I’m dashed sorry I haven’t read it. The only thing of yours I’ve read is that collection you sent at Christmas. Something about butterflies, wasn’t it?”

“Yes, that’s it. Where Doth the Moth?: Prose studies of the anthropomorphic condition.”

“And they liked it, you say?”

“One critic,” said Cyril proudly, “called it the most astonishing new work since The Tay Bridge Disaster.”

Well, love may be blind, but even love could not overlook the fact that Where Doth the Moth? contained some of the worst bilge ever flung at the poetry-loving public. To give you just one example:

Love, love, and thirst.

Fools endure like true honey.

Wishes flap!

Rotting hide.

Digestion is a torpid bride.

Hero holds the highest grape.

Bounder laps the rotting pool.

The flounder is a fool.

 

It goes on like that for another thirty-seven stanzas.

“I’m just putting the finishing touches on my next volume,” said Cyril. “I’ll send you a copy.”

“Please do.”

“And you’ll be invited to the wedding.”

“Is someone getting married?”

“I am,” said Cyril, brightening a little. “Angelica Blake has just agreed to marry me. I was on my way to speak to her father when you… err… ran into me. My mind was dwelling on Angelica’s tender face.”

“Your mind, such as it is, was very nearly dwelling all over Piccadilly Circus. I don’t like the sound of it. Are you sure this female is a good influence?”

“Angelica is my ideal,” said Cyril, filling himself with air. “She walks in beauty like the night…”

“So she’s a pippin,” said Stacey. “But is she fit to handle the business of being Mrs Pomfrey-Waddelow? The woman who marries you will need nerves of steel and the biceps of an all-in wrestler. Can she do the Australian crawl with one arm, and lug a kicking boy in the other — that’s what I want to know.”

Cyril shuddered. “I haven’t fallen in a pond in years.”

“No, you’ve moved on to omnibuses. What would this Blake female have done if she’d been the woman on the spot today?”

“Oh, Angelica,” said Cyril with feeling. “To see her beloved, as I hope I may now call myself, stricken before her eyes would haunt her delicate soul forever.”

“Sensitive girl, is she?”

“Naturally. She’s a poet too, you know. This afternoon, she’s reading her Sonnets of Sincerity to the Wimbledon Ladies Literary Society.”

Stacy was renown at school for her quick thinking, and her wits did not desert her at the crucial moment.

“I’d like to see that. A pal of mine is on the committee. I’m sure she wouldn’t mind if I buzzed down to Wimbledon and joined the festivities.”

“I wish I could join you,” said Cyril. “I have to catch Angelica’s father before he leaves for the country.” Cyril’s brow, by the despairing light of the tea-shop, wore an unearthly aspect. “She says she can’t marry me unless he gives his consent.”

“What? In these enlightened times?” asked Stacey, brightening.

“Her father is Sir Igneous Blake, the gravel magnate. He’s about eight feet tall and looks like Grendel on one of his bad days. He bullies poor Angelica terribly.”

“Well, don’t let him bully you, old thing. Make a good impression, and if he gives you any trouble, be firm.”

“I’m wearing my best suit,” said Cyril.

Stacey inspected Cyril’s costume. His morning coat was covered in dust and there was a hole in one trouser leg. His hat was intact, but it was a filthier, more misshapen hat than strictly fashionable. Cyril looked less like something the cat had dragged in, than something a discerning cat would give a wide berth to. It occurred to Stacey that a prospective father-in-law might feel the same way.

“On second thoughts,” said Cyril, “perhaps it can wait until I go down there on Friday.”

“Why put it off?” Said Stacey. “I’d do it now if I were you.”

“Do you really think so?”

“I do. Show old Pop Blake that an omnibus can’t keep a good Pomfrey-Waddelow down. Besides, you don’t want to keep a dear girl like Angelica waiting for an answer.”

“No. I suppose you’re right.”

“That’s settled then,” said Stacey. “Sit tight and finish your tea while I pop out and get you a taxicab.”

* * *

Continue to Part III

HP

27 thoughts on “Tales from the Junior Lipstick: the F. of the S. — Part II

  1. Pingback: Tales from the Junior Lipstick: the F. of the S. – Plumtopia

  2. I’m all agog to find out how Stacey gets her man. Cyril’s poem matches Ralston McTodd and Percy Gorringe. After that, I think now the pale parabola of joy must be a banquet of underdone roast beef and rotting flounder.. But the finger stall in your salad is this “half-prop” thing. It’s an interesting concept the Wallabies could use. And by the way, it’s “complimentary”, not, I’m afraid, that similar word with an “e”. Just being picky.

    1. What Ho, Noel.
      Picky much needed here – keep it coming! I’ll never be any good if the only person reviewing my stuff is me.
      On the matter of the half-prop, unlike the number 37 bus which I frankly made up (don’t tell Murray), I did some research before deciding to make her a former half-prop. I don’t know enough about Rugby to have invented it myself, and I was specifically looking for outdated terminology. I’ve just gone back to my notes, but I don’t seem to have included the source. If I find it I’ll get back to you. (Very happy to be corrected of course, but now I’m curious to know where it came from).
      This all makes me glad to be writing a one-off homage for the amusement of myself and like-minded souls, and not serious historical fiction. I did quite a lot of research on aspects of this piece, but I still missed a bunch of stuff (and it’s only about 2000 words).
      Pip Pip
      Honoria

  3. Murray Hedgcock

    Much as I admire Honoria Plum’s contributions to the world of Wodehouse, I must reluctantly question the bona fides of her Junior Lipstick homage. London’s No.37 bus runs from the Green Man on Putney Heath to Peckham Bus Station, via Clapham Junction – worlds distant from the implied setting. Are we to accept that Cyril P-W would be seen in such an area, even if by any improbable chance he had been persuaded to venture South of the River? I suggest the story be recast, using one of Adelaide’s better-known bus routes – one, say, traversing King William Street. (Ah – I knew it well……)

    1. What Ho, Murray.
      If I told you this was a discontinued pre-war bus service, verified personally by extensive archival research, you would not believe me for a minute. And quite rightly too.
      HP

  4. Ann Burns

    Love that you are using the Junior Lipstick for your homage and waiting with baited breath for the next instalment to find out what happens next!

  5. Mark Donkin

    Could you be talked into creating a full version of this in e-pub format or something similar? I’d love to have it on my Kindle.

  6. LCantoni

    Top hole, old girl! “Where Doth the Moth” had me spluttering over the morning cuppa. Also the reference to the consumptive Byron avec wasting sickness. Keep it coming!

  7. Mustard Pott

    I may have seen the pale parabola of joy while watching a game on Major League Baseball channel yesterday. Home team was the Cardinals. Wonder if Mr. McTodd had ever been there.
    Mustard Pott

  8. George P. Smith

    A part from the undoubted value of both the plot and the text, what strikes me more is the joy of writing that sprinkles fro every single word. well done and keep it coming.

  9. Mustard Pott

    Roxanna Robinson, author of Dawson’s Fall, in an interview-
    “A novel usually comes to me from some kind of problem- it comes to occupy more and more of my thoughts, and then I realize I’m going to have to write my way out of it. Then the characters emerge and the book begins.”
    And so Stacey’s problems lead to a book. Keep us posted on her solution, please.
    BTW- Roxanna’s great aunt Hettie was Harriet Beecher Stowe, of whom Lincoln said, “the little woman who wrote the book that made this Great War”.

    Mustard Pott

    1. What ho, Mustard Pott.
      Yes… your quote is very apt. I am slightly concerned that my short story is going to take longer to unravel than I had planned.
      Great fun, fortunately.
      HP

  10. Jolly good! Several passages effortlessly hurdled the “so good I have to collar my husband from whatever he’s doing and read them out to him” bar.

    I have made my own attempts at a Wodehousian book (combined with what I hope is Christieish mystery), but I must say your efforts put me in the shade. This is, as PGW said of Sam the Sudden, darned good stuff.
    Definitely publishworthy, and I look forward to reading more of it.

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