Wodehouse Quotations

She moved slowly, as if weighed down by sad thoughts, like one who, as Luella Delia Philpotts beautifully puts it, paces with measured step behind the coffin of a murdered heart.

Dudley Pickering's first impulse was to stride briskly up to the intruder, tap him on the shoulder, and ask him what the devil he wanted; but a second look showed him that the other was built on too ample a scale to make this advisable. He was a large, fit-looking intruder.

Mr Pickering was alarmed. There had been the usual epidemic of burglaries that season. Houses had been broken into, valuable possessions removed. In one case a ncgro butler had been struck over the head with a gas-pipe and given a headache. In these circumstances, it was unpleasant to find burly strangers looking in at windows. 'Hi I' cried Mr Pickering.

He was just thinking sorrowfully, as he listened to the music, how like his own position was to that of the hero of Tennyson's Maud - a poem to which he was greatly addicted, when Mr Pickering's 'Hi!' came out of nowhere and hit him like a torpedo.

It was as if the voice of conscience had shouted *Hi!' at him. He was just wondering if he had imagined the whole thing, when ...

It was not the fact that he was in an equivocal position, staring into a house which did not belong to him, with his feet on somebody else's private soil, that caused Bill to act as he did. It was the fact that at that moment he was not feeling equal to conversation with anybody on any subject whatsoever.

All he aimed at was the swift removal of himself from a spot infested by others of his species.

He could have painted far more comfortably in the house, but Eustace had developed a habit of stealing up to him and plucking the leg of his trousers; and an artist simply cannot give of his best with that sort of thing going on.

He had given America one look, and then his mind was made up - he disapproved of it.

Something in the butler's manner, a sort of gloating gloom which he radiated, told her that she had arrived at one of these corners now.

The sight of Lady Wethcrby's distress melted the butler's stern reserve. He unbent so far as to supply a clue.

Lady Wetherby's mental eye attempted to produce a picture of the scene, but failed.

Her first glance, however, at the actual theatre of war gave her the impression that matters had advanced beyond the hushing-up stage.

The only calm occupant of the room was Eustace himself, who, either through a shortage of ammunition or through weariness of the pitching-arm, had suspended active hostilities, and was now looking down on the scene from a high shelf.

There was an apron hanging over the back of a chair. More with the idea of doing something than because he thought he would achieve anything definite thereby, he picked up the apron and flung it at Eustace. Luck was with him. The apron enveloped Eustace just as he was winding up for another inshoot and was off his balance. He tripped and fell, clutched at the apron to save himself, and came to the ground swathed in it, giving the effect of an apron mysteriously endowed with life. The triumphant odd-job man, pressing his advantage like a good general, gathered up the ends, converted it into a rude bag, and one more was added to the long list of the victories of the human over the brute intelligence.

Everybody had a suggestion now. The cook advocated drowning. The parlour-maid favoured the idea of hitting the prisoner with a broom-handle. Wrench, eyeing the struggling apron disapprovingly, mentioned that Mr Pickering had bought a revolver that morning.

it was Nutty Boyd's habit to retire immediately after dinner to his bedroom. What he did there Elizabeth did not know. Sometimes she pictured him reading, sometimes thinking. Neither -supposition was correct. Nutty never read. Newspapers bored lum and books made his head ache. And as for thinking, he had the wrong shape of forehead. The nearest he ever got to meditation was a sort of trance-like state, a kind of suspended animation in which his mind drifted sluggishly like a log in a backwater.

It was just at the end of his Broadway career, when, as he handsomely admitted, there was a certain amount of truth in the opinion that his interior needed a vacation.

And since then he had imbibed each night, and nothing had happened. What it came to was that the doctor was a chump and a blighter. Simply that and nothing more.

The fact that Lady Wetherby, as she had been informed by the grocer in friendly talk, had rented a summer house in the neighbourhood made Eustace's identity positive.

Eustace was sitting on the hammock, brooding. The complexities of life were weighing him down a good deal.

There was something in Wrench's manner that perplexed Lady Wetherby, something almost human, as if Wrench were on the point of coming alive.


In the interests of truth. Bill thought it best to leave this question unanswered.

Lady Wethcrby was feeling perfectly happy now, and when Lady Wetherby felt happy she always became garrulous. She was one of those people who are incapable of looking on anybody as a stranger after five minutes' acquaintance.

It is an ironical fact that Lady Wethcrby was by nature one of the firmest believers in existence in the policy of breaking things gently to people. She had a big, soft heart, and she hated hurting her fellows. As a rule, when she had bad news to impart to any one she administered the blow so gradually and with such mystery as to the actual facts that the victim, having passed through the various stages of imagined horrors, was genuinely relieved, when she actually came to the point, to find that all that had happened was that he had lost all his money. But now in perfect innocence, thinking only to pass along an interesting bit of information, she had crushed Bill as effectively as if she had used a club for that purpose.

'It's a wonderful match for dear old Claire,' resumed Lady Wethcrby, twisting the knife in the wound with a happy unconsciousness.

Bill came to life with an almost acrobatic abruptness. There were many things of which at that moment he felt absolutely incapable, and meeting Claire was one of them.

Mr Pickering quivered with combined fear and excitement and inductive reasoning.

In a man of Bill's temperament there arc so many qualities wounded by a blow such as he had received, that it is hardly surprising that his emotions, when he began to examine them, were mixed. Now one, now another, of his wounds presented itself to his notice. And then individual wounds would become difficult to distinguish in the mass of injuries. Spiritually, he was in the position of a man who has been hit simultaneously in a number of sensitive spots by a variety of hard and hurtful things.

Little by little, walking swiftly the while, he began to make a rough inventory. He sorted out his injuries, catalogued them. It was perhaps his self-esteem that had suffered least of all, for he was by nature modest.

... Scarcely a fair description of Mr Pickering, but in a man in Bill's position a little bias is excusable.

It was her beauty that had held him, that and the appeal which her circumstances had made to his pity. Their minds had not run smoothly together. Always there had been something that jarred, a subtle antagonism. And she was crooked.

That was because she would also be extremely intelligent, and, being extremely intelligent, would have need of kindness to enable her to bear with a not very intelligent man like himself. For the rest, she would be small and alert and pretty, and fair haired - and brown-eyed - and she would keep a bee farm and her name would be Elizabeth Boyd.

Having arrived with a sense of mild astonishment at this conclusion, Bill found, also to his surprise, that he had walked ten miles without knowing it and ...

There was nothing whatever the matter with him now.

Bill swiftly added another to that list of qualities which he had been framing on his homeward journey. That girl of his would be angelically sympathetic.

"Take another aspect of the situation. The night before last my precious Nutty, while ruining his constitution with the demon rum, thought he saw a monkey that wasn't there, and instantly resolved to lead a new and better life."

What conclusion does all this suggest to you Mr Chalmers?'

boyhood, like measles, is one of those complaints which a man should catch young and have done with, for when it comes in middle life it is apt to be serious. Dudley Pickcring had escaped boyhood at the time when his contemporaries were contracting it. It is true that for a few years after leaving the cradle he had exhibited a certain immatureness, but as soon as he put on knickerbockers and began to go about a little he outgrew all that. He avoided altogether the chaotic period which usually lies between the years of ten and fourteen. At ten he was a thoughtful and sober-minded young man, at fourteen almost an old fogy.

An imagination which might well have become atrophied through disuse had him as thoroughly in its control as ever he had had his Pickcring Giant.

As for the apparently blameless beekeeping that was going on at the place where he lived, that was easily discounted. Mr Pickering had heard somewhere or read somewhere - he rather thought that it was in those interesting but disturbing chronicles of Raffles - that the first thing an intelligent burglar did was to assume some open and innocent occupation to avert possible inquiry into his real mode of life. Mr Pickering did not put it so to himself, for he was rarely slangy even in thought, but what he felt was that he had caught The Man and his confederate with the goods.


Like generals, authors, artists, and others who, after planning broad effects, have to get down to the detail work, he found that this was where his troubles began.

It was not for some time that he was able to give that selfless attention to exterior objects which is the prowler's chief asset. For quite a while the only thought of which he was conscious was that what he needed most was a cold drink and a cold bath. Then, with a return to clear-headedness, he realized that he was standing out in the open, visible from three sides to anyone who might be in the vicinity, and he withdrew into the shrubbery. He was not fond of the shrubbery, but it was a tf splendid place to withdraw into. It swallowed you up.

This was the last move of the first part of Mr Pickcring's active campaign.

Mr Pickcring's vitality began to ebb. He was ageing, and imagination slackened its grip. And then, just as he had begun to contemplate the possibility of abandoning the whole adventure and returning home, he was jerked back to boyhood again by the sound of voices.

At the right time and in the right frame of mind man is capable of stoic endurances that excite wonder and admiration. Mr Pickering was no weakling. He had once upset his automobile in a ditch, and had waited for twenty minutes until help came to relieve a broken arm, and he had done it without a murmur. But on the present occasion there was a difference. His mind was not adjusted for the occurrence. There are times when it is unseasonable to touch a man on the leg. This was a moment when it was unseasonable in the case of Mr Pickering. He bounded silently into the air, his whole being rent asunder as by a cataclysm.

Mr Pickering's behaviour had been one of those things that no fellow can understand.

Lord Dawlish did not answer. His whole mind was occupied at the moment with the contemplation of the fact that she had called him Bill. Then he realized that she had spoken three times and expected a reply.

Bill pondered. Never a quick thinker, the question found him unprepared.

Dudley Pickering moved through the wood as snakily as he could. Nature had shaped him more for stability than for snakiness, but he did his best. He tingled with the excitement of the chase, and endeavoured to creep through the undergrowth like one of those intelligent Indians of whom he had read so many years before in the pages of Mr Fenimore Cooper. In those days Dudley Pickering had not thought very highly of Fenimore Cooper, holding his work deficient in serious and scientific interest; but now it seemed to him that there had been something in the man after all, and he resolved to get some of his books and go over them again. He wished he had read them more carefully at the time, for they doubtless contained much information and many hints which would have come in handy just now. He seemed, for example, to recall characters in them who had the knack of going through forests without letting a single twig crack beneath their feet. Probably the author had told how this was done. In his unenlightened state it was beyond Mr Pickering. The wood seemed carpeted with twigs. Whenever he stepped he trod on one, and whenever he trod on one it cracked beneath his feet. There were moments when he felt gloomily that he might just as well be firing a machine-gun.

From time to time he would turn to administer some encouraging remark, for it had come home to him by now that encouraging remarks were what she needed very much in the present crisis of her affairs.


The suspicion that someone was following them did not come to him, for he was a man rather of common sense than of imagination, and common sense was asking him bluntly why the deuce anybody should want to tramp after them through a wood at that time of night.

He would show him something. He felt grand and strong and full of beans. What a ripping thing life was when you came to think of it.

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