Wodehouse Quotations

But though externally as intimidating as ever and continuing to give the impression of being a young man with whom no prudent person would walk down a dark alley, Ricky Gilpin on this April morning was feeling a sort of universal benevolence towards all created things. A child could have played with him, and the cat attached to the Emsworth Arms had actually done so. Outwardly tough, inwardly he was a Cheeryble Brother.

Many young men, on receipt of this information, would have said the wrong thing. Ricky's manner, however, was perfect. He placed the blame in the right quarter.

'Any balanced woman would have seen in a second that you had right on your side.'

'What!' Ricky had not thought that human nature could sink so low. 'You mean he intends to go back on his sacred word? The man must be a louse of the first water.'


'The coast is clear. A thousand men could steal a thousand pigs from the piggeries of Blandings Castle at two o'clock in the afternoon, and defy detection.'

'I know I'm right. It's the most extraordinary exhibition of sheer ice-cold brainwork that I've ever encountered.'

Ricky said Oh, it was just a knack - not to be compared with work that took real, hard thinking, and gave as an instance of such work the planning out of campaigns for stealing pigs. To do that, said Ricky, a fellow really had to have something.


Only a man of very exceptional charm could have retained his esteem after asking him for two hundred and fifty pounds.

He was conscious as he spoke that frankness is a quality that can be overdone and one which in the present case might lead to disagreeable consequences, but some powerful argument had i to be produced if there was to be a change for the better in the other's attitude. And there was just a chance - Mr Pott in his Silver Ring days would probably have estimated it at ioo-8 -that what he was about to say would touch the man's heart.


Ricky had started the day with a tenderness towards all created things, and this attitude he had hoped to be able to maintain. But he could not help feeling that Providence, in creating his Uncle Alaric, was trying him a little high.


The Duke was taken aback. It was seldom that he found himself in the position of having to deal with open mutiny in the ranks. Indeed, the experience had never happened to him before, and for an instant he was at a loss. Then he recovered himself, and the old imperious glare returned to his bulging eyes.


'My price for stealing pigs is two hundred and fifty pounds per pig per person, and if you don't wish to meet my terms, the deal is off. If, on the other hand, you consent to pay this absurdly moderate fee for a very difficult and exacting * piece of work, I on my side am willing to overlook the offensive things you have said about a girl you ought to think yourself honoured to have the chance of welcoming into the family.'


'Uncle Alaric,' he said, 'your white hairs protect you. You are an old man on the brink of the tomb -' The Duke started.

'What do you mean, on the brink of the tomb ?'

'On the brink of the tomb,' repeated Ricky firmly. 'And I am not going to shove you into it by giving you the slosh on the jaw which you have been asking for with every word you have uttered.'


'You are without exception the worst tick and bounder that ever got fatty degeneration of the heart through half a century of gorging food and swilling wine wrenched from the lips of a starving proletariat. You make me sick. You poison the air. Good-bye, Uncle Alaric.'

wow! -ct

But far more paralysing was the reflection that in alienating Ricky Gilpin he had alienated the one man who could secure the person of the Empress for him.


The Duke of Dunstable's mind was one of those which readily fall into the grip of obsessions, and though reason now strove to convince him that there were prizes in life worth striving for beside the acquisition of a pig, he still felt that only that way lay happiness and contentment. He was a man who wanted what he wanted when he wanted it, and what he wanted now was the Empress of Blandings.

Mr Pott, like Ricky, had arrived at Market Blandings in good spirits. Lord Bosham's telephone call, coming through just as he was dropping off to sleep, had at first inclined him to peevishness. But when he discovered that he was talking to a client, and not only to a client but a client who was inviting him to Blandings Castle, he had become sunny to a degree. And this sunniness still lingered.

Little wonder that life looked rosy to Claude Pott. And he was still suffused with an optimistic glow, when the cab drew up at the front door and he was conducted by Beach, the butler, to the smoking-room, where he found a substantial, pink young man warming a solid trouscr-scat in front of a cheerful fire.


It seemed to him, as it had seemed to Pongo Twistleton on a former occasion, that if this rummy object before him was a detective, his whole ideas about detectives would have to be revised from the bottom up.

'You are the right Pott ?' he said.

Mr Pott seemed to find a difficulty in helping him out. The question of the rightness or wrongness of Potts appeared to be one on which he was loth to set himself up as an authority.


Lord Bosham felt that his misgivings had been unworthy. He remembered now that quite a number of the hottest detectives on his library list had been handicapped - or possibly assisted - by a misleading appearance. Buxton Black in Tbrel Dead at Mhtlei^b Court and Drake Denver in The Blue Ribbon Murders were instances that sprang to the mind. The former had looked like a prosperous solicitor, the latter like a pleasure-loving young man about town. What Mr Pott looked like he ^ could not have said on the spur of the moment, but the point was that it didn't matter.


'Well, when I tell you that one of them played the confidence trick on me a couple of days ago, you will be able to estimate the sort of hell-hounds they are. Write them down in your notebook, if you use a notebook, as men who will stick at nothing.'


'All wives are like that. You start out in life a willing, eager sportsman, ready to take anybody on at anything, and then you meet a girl and fall in love, and when you come out of the ether you find not only that you are married but that you have signed on for a lifetime of bridge at threepence a hundred.'

Mr Pott hesitated. For a moment, it seemed that professional caution was about to cause him to be evasive. Then he decided that so ancient a crony as his companion deserved to enjoy his confidence.


Before starting to do so, however. Lord lckenham paused for a moment in thought. He had just remembered that Mr Pott was not an admirer of Ricky Gilpin and did not approve of his daughter's desire to marry that ineligible young man. He also recalled that Polly had said that it was her father's hope that she would succumb to the charms of Horace Davenport. It seemed to him, therefore, that if Mr Pott's sympathy for and co-operation in their little venture was to be secured, it would be necessary to deviate slightly from the actual facts. So he deviated from them. He was a man who was always ready to deviate from facts when the cause was good.

'You don't apprehend my meaning, Lord I.,' said Mr Pott patiently, 'I meant that she takes after her dear mother in having a sweet nature. Her dear mother had the loving kindness of an angel or something, and so has Polly. That's what I meant. Her dear mother wouldn't hurt a fly, nor would Polly hurt a fly. I've seen her dear mother take a fly tenderly in her hand -'

'Nobody has ever disparaged your intelligence, though I have known people to be a bit captioua about that habit of yours of always cutting the ace. And that brings me back to what I was saying just now. This money you've taken off Bosham. Kiss it good-bye. Mustard.'

'I don't approve of a young girl having a lot of money. I wouldn't mind giving her a tenner.'


'Yes, but two hundred and fifty -'


Mr Pott continued to shuffle his feet. It was plain that in one ^ sense he was touched, but not so certain that he intended to be in another. 'How about a nice twenty ?'


Mr Pott's face lit up with a sudden glow that made it for a moment almost beautiful.

'I'll tell you why. Because if I give it you, you'll go and talk my dear daughter into marrying you. Polly's easily led. She's \ like her mother. Anything to make people happy. You'd tell her the tale, and she'd act against her better judgement. And then,' said Mr Pott, 'the bitter awakening.'

'There is no occasion to be personal.'


'It's not disliking. It's disapproving of in the capacity of a suitor for my dear daughter's hand. There's nothing fundamentally wrong with you, young G. - I'll admit you've got a sweet left hook - but you aren't an om scerioo. A French term explained Mr Pott, 'meaning a fellow that's going to get on in the world and be able to support a sweet girl as a sweet girl ought to be supported.'

If there was one thing certain in an uncertain world, it was that Polly was as straight as a die. How she came to be so with a father like that constituted one of the great mysteries, but there it was. The thought of Polly cheating was inconceivable.


Ricky Gilpin's heart seemed to leap straight up into the air twiddling its feet, like a Russian dancer. He had sometimes wondered how fellows in the electric chair must feel when the authorities turned on the juice. Now he knew.

Unable to find her, he sought information from Pongo, whona he discovered in the smoking-room staring silently at nothing. The burden of life was weighing on Pongo Twistleton a good deal just now.


Pongo did not set out with enthusiasm, but he set out, and Lord lckenham made his way to his room. The fire was bright, the armchair soft, and the thought of his nephew trudging four miles along the high road curiously soothing.


To say that the sight of this unexpected apparition had left him feeling completely at his ease would be to present the facts incorrectly.

'Then why does he want to murder me?' 'He doesn't.' 'He does, I tell you.'

'You're thinking of someone else.'

'I'm not thinking of someone else. I found him on the back of my car just now, and he distinctly stated that he was going to tear me into little shreds and strew me over the local pasture land.'

For the first time, Horace brightened. It was plain that some pleasing thought had occurred to him.


'You speak in riddles, my boy. A little less of the Delphic Oracle. Let your Yea be Yea and your Nay be Nay.'

Horace's manner became more friendly. He was still resentful of the trick that had been played upon him and by no means inclined to accept as an adequate excuse for it the pie of military necessity, but he found it impossible not to admire this iron man.

'Remorseless reasoning'

'I had gone about three-quarters of a mile, touching the ground perhaps twice in the process.'


'If Valeric were in a position to report to G.H.Q. that she had found me at Blandings Castle posing as a brain specialist, the consequences might well be such as would stagger humanity.'

The evening was cool and fragrant and a soft wind whispered in the trees, as Lord Ickenham made his way down the drive. Despite the peril that loomed, his mood was serene.


'Don't be so infernally broadminded, child.'

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' It won't be any use.'

'That's what they said to Columbus. Don't you worry, my dear. I can handle this. I know my potentialities, and sometimes they absolutely stun me. Are there no limits, I ask myself, to the powers of this wonder-man ? I am still completely unable to comprehend why you should want the chap, but if you do you must have him.'


It would have taken a better man than Ricky to stop Lord Ickenham telling stories

The future Onion Soup King was exhibiting all the symptoms of one who has been struck on 'the back of the head with a sock full of wet sand.

'So I trousered it, and toddled along to Market Blandings, and breezed into the post office, and shoved two hundred quid into an envelope addressed to George Budd and fifty into an envelope addressed to Oofy Prosser and sent them off, registered. So all is now well. The relief,' said Pongo, 'is stupendous.'


It was not immediately that Lord Ickenham spoke. For some moments he stood fingering his moustache and gazing at his nephew thoughtfully. He was conscious of a faint resentment against a Providence which was unquestionably making things difficult for a good man.

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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)