Wodehouse Quotations


- 'But why did a delightful creature marry Pott?'

- 'Why docs anyone marry anybody? Why docs Polly want marry a modern poet of apparently homicidal tendencies ? Why have you wanted to marry the last forty-six frightful girls you've met?'

He wore now a disintegrated air, as if somebody had removed most of his interior organs.

'No,' said Lord Ernsworth, who seldom followed what people were driving at.


'The present task will be a childishly simple one to a man of my gifts'.

'Don't let him. When you get to know Pongo better,' said Lord Ickenham, 'you will realize that he is always like this -moody, sombre, full of doubts and misgivings. Shakespeare drew Hamlet from him. You will feel better, my boy, when you have had a drink. Let us nip round to my club and get a swift one.'


Anyone ignorant of the difference between a pessimist and an optimist would have been able to pick up a useful point or two by scanning the faces of this nephew and this uncle. The passage of time had done nothing to relieve Pongo apprehensions regarding the expedition on which he was about to embark, and his mobile features indicated clearly the concern with which he was viewing the future. As always when fate had linked his movements with those of the head of the family, he was feeling like a man floating over Niagara Falls in a barrel.

'He might have disapproved. There is an odd, Puritan streak in old Mustard. Well, everything seems j to be working out capitally. You're looking wonderful, Polly. If this Duke has a spark of human feeling in him, he cannot fail to fall for you like a ton of bricks. You remind me of some radiant spirit of the Spring. Pongo, on the other hand, does not. There is something worrying Pongo, and I can't make out what it is.'

'Well, we'll try you on the nobs,' said Lord lckenham doubtfully. 'But don't blame me if it turns out that that's the wrong thing and Lady Constance takes her lorgnette to you. God bless my soul, though, you can't compare the lorgnettes of to-day with the ones I used to know as a boy. I remember walking one day in Grosvenor Square with my aunt Brenda and her pug dog Jabberwocky, and a policeman came up and said that the latter ought to be wearing a muzzle. My aunt made no verbal reply. She merely whipped her lorgnette from its holster and looked at the man, who gave one choking gasp and fell back against the railings, without a mark on him but with an awful look of horror in his staring eyes, as if he had seen some dreadful sight. A doctor was sent for, and they

managed to bring him round, but he was never the same again. He had to leave the Force, and eventually drifted into the grocery business. And that is how Sir Thomas Lipton got his start.'


'I wish I had a brain like yours,' said Lord Ickenham. 'What an amazing thing. I suppose you could walk down a line of people, giving each of them a quick glance, and separate the sheep from the goats like shelling peas. . . . "Loony . . . not loony. . . . This one wants watching. . . . This one's all right. . . . Keep an eye on this chap. Don't let him get near the bread-knife. ..." Extraordinary. What do you do exactly? Ask questions? Start topics and observe reactions?'

Why don't you go in and engage him in conversation and note the results ? If there's anything wrong with him, that sixth sense of yours will enable you to spot it in a second.

'But my dear boy,' protested Lord Ickenham, 'what has happened, except that I have been refreshed by an intelligent chat with a fine mind, and have picked up some hints on deportment for brain specialists which should prove invaluable?'


'The whole affair was a triumph of mind over matter, and I am modestly proud of it.'


It had always been an axiom with Pongo Twistleton that his Uncle Fred was one of those people who ought not to be allowed at large, but he had never suspected that the reasons for not allowing him at large were so solidly based as this.

'My dear boy, for a young man who has enjoyed the advantage of having a refined uncle constantly at his elbow, you seem singularly ignorant of the manners and customs of good society. We bloods do not make scenes in public places.'


'My dear Pongo, you have a gift for taking the dark view - that amounts almost to genius.'

'Excuse me, sir,' he said. 1 wonder if you could inform me if there is any possibility of my obtaining a vehicle of some sort here, to take me to Blandings Castle ?'

The heir to the Earldom of Ernsworth was a slow thinker, but he was not incapable of inductive reasoning.


Pongo repeated the substance of his remarks. 'Yes, I see what you mean,' agreed Lord Ickenham. 'You must always remember, however, that there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. Still, in feeling that a problem has arisen I am not saying that you are not right.'

'Horace is a nice boy, but he would be a total loss as a conspirator.'

- 'Keep cool.'- 'A fat lot of help keeping cool will be.'

- 'This is the pessimist in you speaking again.'

'My dear boy, do try to rid yourself of this horrible defeatist attitude. You have seen for yourself how stout denial of identity affected our friend Bosham. '


'Things arc certainly being made somewhat intricate for us on this little expedition of ours,' he said contentedly.

'It is not so much what has happened as what is going to happen.'


Lord Ickenham took it in his stride. The recent happenings on the station platform had left him pleasantly exhilarated, and he was all eagerness to get to his destination and see what further entertainment awaited him in the shape of obstacles and problems.

Rightly concluding that this was a crisper and neater way of saying 'psychiatrist, Lord Ickenham replied that he was.


'The whole family's potty. You saw Bosham at the station. There's a loony for you. Goes up to London and lets a chap play the confidence trick on him. Give me your wallet to show you trust me," says the chap. "Right ho," says Bosham. Just like that. Ever meet the other boy - Freddie Threepwood? Worse than Bosham. Sells dog-biscuits. So you can get a rough idea what Ernsworth must be like. Man can't have two sons like that and be sane himself, I mean to say. You've got to start with that idea well in your t head, or you'll never get anywhere.'

'And where would you rank Horace in this galaxy ofgoofi-ness?'

'The very thought that flashed on me. Well, you can imagine that that made me realize that matters were grave. One bloomer of that sort - yes. But when it happens twice in two minutes, you begin to fear the worst. I've always been o uneasy about Horace's mental condition, ever since he had measles as a boy and suddenly shot up to the height of about eight foot six. It stands to reason a chap's brain can't be all that way from his heart and still function normally. Look at the distance the blood's got to travel.'

This nose, as he gazed at Lord lckenham, was twitching like a rabbit's, and in the eyes behind their tortoiseshell-rimmed spectacles there was dawning slowly a look of incredulous horror. It was as if he had been cast for the part of Macbeth and was starting to run through the Banquo's ghost scene.

Lord Ickenham did not reply for a moment. He was tying his tie, and on these occasions the conscientious man anxious to give of his best at the dinner-table rivets his attention on the task in hand.

'You appear still moody,' he said reproachfully. 1 had supposed that my narrative would have had you dancing about v the room, clapping your little hands. Is it possible that you arc still finding Lady Constance a source of anxiety?'

'She hasn't been doing anything, exactly. She's been quite matey, as a matter of fact. But my informants were right. She is the sort of woman who makes you feel that, no matter how suave her manner for the nonce, she is at heart a twenty-minute egg and may start functioning at any moment.'


'I know what you mean. I have noticed the same thing in volcanoes, and the head mistress of my first kindergarten was just like that. It is several years, of course, since I graduated from the old place, but I can remember her vividly. The sweet, placid face ... the cooing voice . . . but always, like some haunting strain in a piece of music, that underlying suggestion ^ of the sudden whack over the knuckles with a ruler.'

'Where's your chivalry? A nice figure you would have cut at King Arthur's Round Table.'

He had found the talking point. Pongo said Yes, there was something in that. Lord lckenham said he had known that Pongo would arrive at that conclusion, once he had really given his keen brain to the thing.


'Well, it's a pity, for Ernsworth would undoubtedly have rewarded you with a purse of gold. Noblesse would have obliged.'


To most people at whom the efficient Baxter directed that silent, steely, spectacled stare of his there was wont to come a sudden malaise, a disposition to shuffle the feet and explore ^ the conscience guiltily: and even those whose consciences were clear generally quailed a little. Lord lckenham, however, continued undisturbed.


It seemed to Pongo, as he withdrew into the farthest corner of the room and ran a finger round the inside of his collar, that if ever he had heard the voice of doom speak, he had heard it then. To him there was something so menacing in the secretary's manner that he marvelled at his uncle's lack of emotion.

He paused, and in the background Pongo revived like a watered flower. During this admirably lucid exposition of the state of affairs, there had come into his eyes a look of worshipping admiration which was not always there when he gazed at his uncle.

I really think, my dear fellow,' he said, 'that we had better pursue a mutual policy of Live and Let Live. Let our motto be that of the great Roi Pausole - Ne nuis pas a ton voisin. It is the only way to get comfortably through life.'


'My dear boy, you embarrass me. A mere nothing. It is always my aim to try to spread sweetness and light.'

Lady Constance's mind was beginning to adjust itself to the position of affairs.

Rupert Baxter, meanwhile, feeling in need of fresh air after the mental strain to which he had been subjected, had left the house and was strolling under the stars.

Was there, he asked himself, no method by which he could express his personality, no means whereby he could make his presence felt? He concentrated on the problem, exercising his brain vigorously.


If he had been less preoccupied, he would have observed that at about the fourth bar a certain liveliness had begun to manifest itself behind the french window which he was passing.


'I would not say that Baxter was actually ill,' said Lord lckenham, 'though no doubt much bruised in spirit.'

'0h, he got him squarely. I must confess that my respect for the Duke has become considerably enhanced by to-night's exhibition of marksmanship. Say what you will, there is something fine about our old aristocracy. I'll bet Trotsky couldn't hit a moving secretary with an egg on a dark night.'


A point occurred to Lord Bosham. His was rather a slow mind, but he had a way of getting down to essentials.


To-night, for some reason which I am unable to explain, Baxter put himself on as an understudy. The Duke and I were in the Garden Suite, chatting of this and that, when he suddenly came on the air and the Duke, diving into a cupboard like a performing seal, emerged with laden hands and started to say it with eggs. I should have explained that he has a rooted distaste for that particular song. I gather that his sensitive ear is offended by that rather daring rhyme - "Loch Lomond" and "afore ye." Still, if I had given the matter more thought, I would have warned him. You can't throw eggs at his age without -'

After a shaky start. Lord Bosham followed her like a bloodhound. Long before she had finished speaking, he had gathered that what Blandings Castle was overrun with was impostors, not mice.


A silence followed. Furrows across his forehead and a tense look on his pink face showed that Lord Bosham was thinking.

Lord Bosham dissembled. Belatedly, he had realized that he was on the verge of betraying confidences. Horace, he recalled, when unburdening his soul during their drive from London, had sworn him to the strictest secrecy on the subject of his activities as an employer of private investigators.

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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)