Wodehouse Quotations

Another man. hearing these words, might have been stunned, and certainly a fifth 'Who - me?' could have been expected, but in making this request of George Cyril Wellbeloved the secretary was addressing one who in the not distant past actually had stolen Lord Emsworth's pig. It was a long and intricate story, reflecting great discredit on all concerned, and there is no need to go into it now. One mentions it merely to explain why George Cyril Wellbeloved did not draw himself to his full height and thunder that nothing could make him betray his position of trust, but merely scratched his chin with the beer bottle and looked interested.

Lavender Briggs decided to be frank. She was a fair-minded girl and saw that he had reason on his side. Even the humblest hired assassin in the Middle Ages probably wanted to know, before setting out to stick a poignard into someone, whom he was acting for.

Lavender Briggs made no comment on this. She was not interested in her companion's plans for the future, though in principle she approved of suspending Dukes from lamp-posts.

'Then that is understood,' said Lavender Briggs. 'Keep it well in mind.'

'I'm sorry. A bad habit of mine, which I will endeavour to correct.

Lord Ickenham agreed that it did indeed stamp itself on the mental retina.

'I know the word that is trembling on your lips. child, but don't utter it. Let us keep the conversation at as high a level ag possible. Well, I agree with you that the crisis is one that calls for thought. I wonder if the simplest thing might not be for Bill just to fold his tent like the Arabs and silently steal away.'

'But two days during which I shall be giving the full force of the Ickenham brain to the problem, and there are few problems capable of standing up to that treatment for long. They can't take it.'

'And when the two days are up and you haven't thought of anything?'

'Why, then,' admitted Lord Ickenham, 'the situation becomes a little sticky.'

Among other notable observations, too numerous to mention here, the poet Dryden (1631-1700) once said that mighty things from small beginnings grow, and all thinking men are agreed that in making this statement he called his shots correctly.

These fellows like Ickenham, he told himself, cautious conservative men of the world, do not make snap decisions; they think things over before coming to a conclusion, and when they tell you how to act, you know that by following their instructions you will be acting for the best.

It would be too much, perhaps, to say that remorse gripped Lord Emsworth, but he was undoubtedly in something of a twitter and wondering if that great gesture of his had been altogether well-advised.

'I understand. You are a man of action, and words don't come to you easily.'

- 'She does find out things.'

- ' But not this one. It will remain one of those great historic mysteries like the Man in the Iron Mask and the Mary Celeste!

Taken into the squad room and grilled under the lights, however, he persisted in stout denial and ultimately had to be released for lack of evidence. That is the thing that is baffling the prosecution, the total lack of evidence.

There are few things that so lend elasticity to a girl's step as the knowledge that in the bag swinging from her right hand there is a cheque for this sum payable to herself.

He was a light mauve in colour, and his eyes, generally so mild, glittered behind their pince-nez with a strange light. It needed but a glance to tell her that he was in one of his rare berserk moods. These occurred perhaps twice in each calendar year, and even she, strong woman though she was, always came near to quailing before them, for on these occasions he ceased to be a human doormat whom an 'Oh. Clarence I' could quell and became something more on the order of one of those high winds which from time to time blow through the state of Kansas and send its inhabitants scurrying nimbly to their cyclone cellars. When the oppressed rise and start setting about the oppressor, their fury is always formidable. One noticed this in the French Revolution.

A hostess gets annoyed and frets when she finds that every second guest whom she entertains is enjoying her hospitality under a false name, and it sometimes seemed to her that Blandings Castle had imposters the way other houses had mice, a circumstance at which her proud spirit rebelled.

He did not strike the lad, for that would have involved rising from his seat, but he gave him an unpleasant look. Intrusion on his sacred after-breakfast hour always awoke the fiend that slept in him.

The Duke stirred irritably. He was regretting the mistaken kindness that had led him to brighten Blandings Castle with his presence. It was the old story. You said to yourself in a weak and sentimental moment that Emsworth and Connie and the rest of them led dull lives and needed cheering up by association with a polished man of the world, so you sacrificed yourself and came here, and the next thing you knew everyone was Jumping into lakes and charging you five hundred pounds for stealing pigs and coming squeaking in your ear and so on and so forth - in short, making the place a ruddy inferno.

Like most small boys, George had the quiet persistence of a gadfly. It was never easy to convince him that his society was not desired by one and all. He settled himself on the stone flooring beside the Duke's chair in the manner of one who has come to stay. Limpets on rocks could have picked up useful hints from him in the way of technique.

George shrugged a shoulder. 'Beyond the obvious facts that the miscreant was a Freemason. left-handed, chewed tobacco and had travelled in the east,' he said. 'I have so far formed no conclusion.'

George would have liked to say, 'You know my methods. Apply them.' but it would have wasted time, and he was anxious to get on with his story.

'Oh. just looking around.' said George guardedly. He knew that there was a school of thought that disapproved of these double breakfasts of his, and nothing to be gained by imparting information which might be relayed to Lady Constance, the head of that school. 'I sort of happened to go in.'

The Duke considered the question, and saw that the lad had a point there.

'Use your loaf. big boy.' pleaded George. 'You know my ' methods. Apply them.' he said, happy to get it in at last. 'I wanted to see what he was up to.'

The Duke relapsed into a gloomy silence. Like many anotner thinker before him, he was depressed by the reflection that nothing ever goes just right in this fat-headed world. Always there is the fatal snag in the path that pulls you up sharp when the happy ending seems in sight.

A man of liberal views, he had no objection whatsoever to a little gentlemanly blackmail, and here, you would have said, the luck of the Dunstables had handed him the most admirable opportunity.

If Emsworth, as he was bound to do, pleaded not guilty to the charge, who was going to believe the testimony of a child with ginger hair and freckles, whose reputation as a teller of truth had never been one to invite scrutiny?

The Duke quivered as if he had been the sea monster he rather closely resembled and a harpoon had penetrated his skin.

George nodded, 'I dig you. Chief.'

Lord Ickenham remained perplexed. The situation did not . appear to him to have been clarified. He, personally, would always prefer not to see the Duke, a preference shared by the latter's many acquaintances in Wiltshire and elsewhere, but it did not disturb him unduly when he had to, and he found it strange that his companion should be of less stern stuff.

And I gave George that camera for his birthday! "This will keep you out of mischief. George, my boy," I remember saying. Out of mischief 1' said Lord Emsworth bitterly, his air that of a grandfather regretting that he had ever been so foolish as to beget a son who in his turn would beget a son of his own capable of using a camera. There were, he was feeling, far too many grandsons in the world and far too many cameras for them to take pictures of grandfathers with. His view of grandsons was, in short, at the moment jaundiced, and as, having told his tale, he moved limply away, he was thinking almost as harshly of George as of the Duke of Dunstable.

He always thought more nimbly when in a recumbent position, and it was plain to him that a considerable amount of nimble thinking was now called for.

It was one of those occasions, more frequent in real life than on the television and motion picture screens, when the bad guy comes out on top and the - good guy gets the loser's end.

This struck Lord Ickenham as unusual. It was the first time his hostess had gone out of her way to seek his company, and he was not sure that he liked the look of things. He had never considered himself psychic, but he was conscious of a strong premonition that trouble was about to raise its ugly head.

'I'm sorry. I'm afraid I let my attention wander. I was thinking of the dear old days.

A nicer-minded man would have detected in these words a hint - guarded, perhaps, but nevertheless a hint - that his presence was no longer desired, but Lord Ickenham remained glued to his chair. He was looking troubled.

Beach! Eighteen years of spotless buttling, and now this! If she had not been seated, she would have reeled. Everything seemed to her to go black, including Lord Ickenham. He might have been an actor, made up to play Othello, lighting an inky cigarette with a sepia lighter.

He was sufficiently a student of human nature to be aware that, when two lovers get together in a rose garden, they do not watch the clock, and he presumed that, if Bill and Myra had been there some little time ago, they would be there now.

'If you like to call it that.' said Myra. She kicked moodily at a passing beetle, which gave her a cold look and went on its way. 'I've broken our engagement.'

'Myra,' he said. 'You ought to have your head examined.'

She was very much inclined to go down to the lake and ask one of the Church Lads if he would care to earn a shilling by holding her head under water till the vital spark expired.

This morning, however, you would have been out of luck, for Lord Tilbury was sitting motionless at his desk. He had been sitting there for some little time. There were a hundred letters he should have been dictating to Millicent Rigby, his secretary, but Millicent remained in the outer office, undictated to. There were a dozen editors with whom he should have been conferring, but they stayed where they were, unconferred with.

Lord Tilbury frowned. There were only a few survivors of the old days who addressed him thus. Even in the distant past he had found the name distasteful, and now that he had become a man of distinction, it jarred upon him even more gratingly. In addition to frowning, he also swelled a good deal. He was a short, stout man who swelled readily when annoyed.

Lord Tilbury did not reply. He had stiffened in his chair and presented the appearance of somebody in a fairy story who had had a spell cast upon him by the local wizard.

Lord Tilbury seemed for a moment bewildered. Then he understood. He was a quick-witted man.

A sudden hush seemed to have fallen on the garden of the Emsworth Arms. It was as though it and everything in it had been stunned into silence. Birds stopped chirping. Butterflies froze in mid-flutter. Wasps wading in strawberry jam paused piotionless, as if they were having their photographs taken. And the general paralysis extended to Lord Tilbury. It was an appreciable time before he spoke. When he did. it was in the hoarse voice of a man unable to believe that he has heard correctly.

A man who has built up a vast business, starting from nothing, must of necessity be a man capable of making swift decisions, and until this moment Lord Tilbury had never had any difficulty in doing so.

To any other caller without an appointment the owner of the Mammoth Publishing Company would have been brusque, but Lord Tilbury could not forget that this was the girl who had come within an ace of taking five hundred pounds off the Duke of Dunstable, and feeling as he did about the Duke he found his surprise at seeing her mingled with an unwilling respect. It would be too much to say that he was glad to see her, for he had hoped to continue wrestling undisturbed with the problem which was exercising his mind, but if she wanted a moment of his time, she could certainly have it. He even went so far as to ask her to take a seat, which she did. And having done so she came. like a good business woman, straight to the point.

Lord Tilbury found himself warming to this girl. He still felt that the words in which he had described her hair, feet and general appearance had been well chosen, but we cannot all be Miss Americas and he was prepared to condone her physical defects in consideration of this womanly sympathy. Beauty, after all, is but skin deep. The main thing a man should ask of the other sex is that their hearts be in the right place, as hers was. 'Preposterous'... 'Quate absurd' ... The very expressions he would have chosen himself.

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Quotes - By books

Index from book Wodehouse on Wodehouse. | Article "About Stories" | Dedications1 | Dedications 2 | Prefaces1 | Prefaces2 | Prefaces3 | Prefaces4 | "Facts from Usborn" (forewords from Vintage Wodehouse)