Wodehouse Quotations

"Then perhaps you will inform me," said M. de La Hourmerie, always a handy fellow with the swift retort" what I do mean. I repeat my statement. Somebody hit me on the head with a hatchet."


"A glancing blow, because the fool let the weapon slip it his hand. You would think that if you were going to murder someone with a hatchet, it would be perfectly! simple to make a good job of it, but no. Sloppiness Inefficiency! The curse of the Civil Service," said M. de La Hourmerie broodingly.



"No wonder you're upset."

"Upset?" The inadequacy of the word caused M. La Hourmerie to explode, as if he had been stuffed wit trinitrotoluol and some hidden hand had touched it off.



M. de La Hourmcrie stood for a moment gazing fixedly at Old Nick, then, as if feeling that no words at his comman could do justice to the situation, turned and moved awa And Old Nick was about to sit down and resume his core munion with the champagne, when a cold female voic said "I should like to speak to you. Marquis", and hefoun Kate confronting him.

;-) Apparently she recently became possessed of a small sum of money-a legacy, presumably-and decided to end it on a jaunt to Roville. One sees what was in her mind, of course," said Old Nick, who would have done just the same thing if he had been a girl. " She hoped to catc a rich husband. What a merciful dispensation of Providence it was that enabled me to discover this before you had definitely committed yourself! I am not a religious maq but really there are times when one cannot help having the feeling that one is ... how shall I put it? ... protected."


"She'll look at me."

"I consider it most unlikely. If I were in her position, I would erase you from my thoughts and marry someone with millions, like Butch."


;-) "Oh?" said Terry, and tried to keep flatness out other voice
met She was just thinking hard thoughts of this impossible creature and harder ones of Jeff, when his note was brougtB to her by the same juvenile Ruritanian Field-Marshal who had brought M. de La Hourmerie's telegram to Old Nic. She opened it, and instantaneously the whole aspect what had been a pretty inferior sort of world changed in flash. The sun shone out. An unseen orchestra started play soft music. Roses and violets came popping up through the carpet. And Jeff, who a moment before had been an uf pleasant blend of wolf and worm, sprouted wings and a halo.


"I am attached to the Roville police force, mademoi­selle."

"Oh, yes?"

"I assist M. Boissonade, the Commissaire."

"Oh, yes?"

"Who is a pig and a bounder and a tyrant," said M. Punez with heat. "He is a rogommier," he added, an epithet new to Terry but one which she instinctively divined was not intended to be complimentary. She stored it up for future use. It would be a good thing to call Mr. Clutterbuck next time he started throwing his weight about with reference to the price of honey.



Terry started. This began to make sense.

"You had better tell me all about it," she said.

M. Punez told her all about it. When he had finished, Terry was experiencing the emotions of some wayfarer in a thunderstorm on a dark night, to whom a sudden flash of lightning reveals that he is standing on the brink of a precipice. She bit a thoughtful lip, and her feelings toward Mrs. Pegler, never affectionate, hit a new low. It wounds a sensitive girl to learn that she has been asked to dinner solely with a view to getting her out of the way while the police go through her belongings.


;-) A vision of Freddie rose before her eyes, and she found comforting.
tt Encountering fourteen stone of Frederick Cat penter in the dark would, she felt, prove a turning point i the life of Pierre Alexandre Boissonade, doing him all th good in the world. He would come out of the experience graver, deeper commissaire. And she was just regrettin that Mrs. Pegler would not be with him to get her share o the impending doom, when Kate came in.


"You mean he is not a Marquis?"

"Oh, I suppose he's that all right," said Kate, "but wh< isn't, in France? The point is, he's just another of thes decayed aristocrats who haunt places like this, living oi their wits. He hasn't any money at all."


  Russell Clutterbuck would like to have a talk with him. Hold firmly to that thought, for that was where the inter­linear material began. When busy publishers take the time to talk to young authors who have sent them their novels, they do not talk about the weather or the political situation. They talk about the novel and the profundity of their emotion when, on starting to read it, they were sud­denly struck all of a heap and felt like some watcher of the skies when a new planet swims into his ken. It was absurd to suppose that Russell Clutterbuck wanted him, Jeff, to break bread with him, Clutterbuck, merely because he, Clutterbuck, was curious to see how he, Jeff, broke it. Obviously what he, Clutterbuck, had in mind was not a social get-together, but a business conference.
gs A good seventy per cent of his elation left him. But he had no alternative, he felt, but to cancel the engagement.
tt His mood was lushly sentimental. How beautiful is night, no mist obscures nor cloud nor speck nor stain breaks v the serene of heaven, he was saying to himself (or words to that effect), and was conscious of strange emotions stirring within his forty-four-inch bosom. He was thinking of Mavis Todd.



Until an hour or so ago Freddie's feelings toward Mavis Todd could best have been termed tepid. Asked to describe her, he would have said that she was a nice little thing, fairly pretty in her way but in no sense a knock-out, one of those girls, in short, whom you can take or leave alone-her most endearing quality the fact that, being quiet and mouselike, she was an agreeable contrast to the varnished-haired, wisecracking young women who had paralysed him at so many a cocktail-party. For there was nothing of the dashing playboy about Freddie Carpenter. He was a shy young man and liked girls to be quiet, though goodness knew that it was only once in a blue moon nowa­days that you found one who was. Yes, Mavis had always seemed to him quite tolerable-what dramatic critics call adequate-but nothing more. She had never spoken to the deeps in him.
;-) ;-) Snake Todd was one of the fixed stars in the firmament of football, a man whose name even after two decades had passed was still breathed with all the awe it had evoked in the thirties, and the thought that, if he played his cards right, he too might one day be in a position to call this god­like man Uncle George, so electrified Freddie that he choked on his roast veal and had to have his back slapped by a waiter. When his eyes had ceased to water, he turned them on Mavis with such a wealth of passion that she in her turn swallowed a mouthful the wrong way. The whole thing would have reminded a Shakespearian scholar of the first meeting between Romeo and Juliet.
gs tt It seemed to Freddie that if he had interpreted right that swallowing-a-mouthful-the-wrong-way sequence and her subsequent acquiescence when he had held her hand at the pictures, the thing was in the bag.
gs! It was a totally new experience for him. Quite a number of girls in the last year or so had shown an up-and-coming cordiality in his presence, but always he had had the de­pressing feeling that it was not his personality that appealed to them so much as the fact that, owing to the public's generous support of Fizzo, he had more millions salted away than you could shake a stick at. Only now had there swum into his ken a member of the opposite sex who had not one bright eye fixed on his bank account.




"How long does this go on?"

"I don't know. Are you getting awfully bored?"

Freddie admitted that the vigil contained the elements of tedium, and Terry felt discouraged.


gt! "Looks that way. Psst!" said Freddie with the hushed conspiratorial intonation of a member of a secret society addressing another member of a secret society, and she closed the door. Plainly the time for action had come, and there must be no more words. A pity, for she would have liked to give her executive a pep talk. Not that Freddie needed pep talks, she reflected. He might be a little on the slow side mentally, but she was safe, she felt, in assuming that he knew the procedure on occasions like this. When the moment arrived for distributing marrons, he would be in there swinging and giving of his best. She got into bed again and sat listening tensely.


Terry popped her head out.

"My hero!" she said. "Did you kill him?"


tt Terry was conscious of a reluctant admiration for Picrre Alexandra Boissonade. She had never met him and did not like what she had heard of him, but he was unques­tionably of the bulldog breed. Most men who had suffered as he had done at Freddie's hands, which were like hams, would have felt that they had had enough. Their inclina­tion would have been to give the thing up and call it a day. But not Pierrc Alcxandre. His hat was still in the ring. You can give a Boissonade a marron, but you cannot quench his manly spirit. They make these commissaires, Terry was thinking, of tough stuff.
cs!! But this was no time for idle meditation on the will to win of the Roville police force, it was a time for action. Waving a hand in the direction of the bathroom, she wiggled her eyebrows at Freddie in a meaning manner. What she was intending to convey was that he should leap into the bathroom and there remain in hiding till at a suitable moment, to be selected by himself, he came leaping out again and began carrying on where he had left off, a manoeuvre which could scarcely fail to make the intruder feel extremely silly.
;-) Freddie was not listening. His mind had floated back to the moment at the dinner table when with the aid of twenty-two lumps of sugar he had demonstrated to Mavis Todd a complicated play which had been presented to his notice at last year's Army-Navy game. How different, how infinitely more fitting her attitude had been. He could still see the rapt interest in her eyes as the lump of sugar that was carrying the ball had threaded its way through the opposition lumps of sugar and scored a touch-down while thousands cheered.
;-) comp She broke off with a gulp, and a similar gulp proceeded from Freddie. He shot out of his chair and stood looking J like a statue of himself subscribed for and presented to the community by a few warm friends and admirers.


"I wish I could. I mean," said Old Nick gravely, "stop Sir Percy Bunt telling the story which he will un­questionably spread all over Roville, starting tomorrow. The full story of what he saw here tonight."

Freddie leaped like a salmon in the spawning season.

"He wouldn't do that?"

"He will probably dine out on the thing for weeks."


comp, met, te Freddie sat plunged in thought, and Old Nick watched him as he had so often watched the roulette ball as it spun around the board. So much that was vital depended on this young man's decision ... his loved son's release from a penniless girl. . . the securing by way of compensation for this girl, for whom from the first he had felt a paternal fondness, of a husband whose riches made the mind reel.


" I just wanted to say it's all right."

"I'm glad you think so. Try selling that thought to Kate."


jgs!! It had occasionally happened, for these moods of des­pondency come to all of us from time to time, that Jeff, viewing the human race, had found himself doing so with concern, regretting that he belonged to it and asking himself if Man could really be Nature's last word. German soldiers had often set his mind working along these lines, and so had the concierge at his lodgings in the Rue Jacob. But today, seated opposite Russell Clutterbuck at the luncheon table, he saw how wrong he had been to harbour such thoughts. The human race was all right. Any race that could produce a Russell Clutterbuck was entitled to slap itself on the chest and go strutting about with its thumbs in the armholes of its waistcoat and its hat on the side of its head.


"Well, it's very odd. I have a distinct recollection of having seen that girl before. But where?"

"Does it matter?"

"No, I suppose it doesn't," said Chester, and the little epurt of conversation died away. Mrs. Pegler resumed her sombre thoughts of Pierre Alexandre Boissonade, now classified in her mind as an incompetent bungler whom she should never have trusted with a mission calling for shrewdness, initiative and know-how, and Chester, slumped in his scat, sat listening to the steam-riveting in progress in­side his head and wondering how he was to get through this ghastly lunch alone and unaided. His emotions when a few minutes later he saw his sister Mavis approaching, followed by Freddie Carpenter, resembled those of the shipwrecked mariner who sights a sail. He was one of Freddie's warmest admirers, and would have been glad of his company at any time, but now the stalwart youth seemed to him sent from heaven. He greeted him with a warmth that threatened once again to detach his head from the parent spine.


;-) She kissed Freddie, who had been afraid of this but told himself with the splendid Carpenter fortitude that at such a time one has to take the rough with the smooth.
  There are some shocks so devastating that they afilict the recipient with a sort of catalepsy, depriving him or her of the power of speech and movement. For a full minute after her nephew had wandered away in the dreamy manner habitual with young men suffering from hangovers she stood as if, like Lot's wife, she had been turned into a pillar of salt. Then, recovering the use of her limbs, she went off to talk things over with Freddie.
tt! He was sprawled bonelessly in a chair at the far end of the room, gazing before him with what are usually described as unseeing eyes. When Mrs. Pegler, looming up at the table, took the chair beside him, he found it hard to focus her through the murky mist which was interfering with his powers of vision.
;-) Mrs. Pegler told herself that she must be calm . . . calm. All the woman in lier called imperiously to her to beat this man into a jelly with her bag, but she restrained the generous impulse. To put temptation out of her way, she placed the bag on the floor.
cs! cq? The ability to tell a story clearly and well is not given to all, and Freddie was one of those who had been overlooked in the distribution. He rambled and was obscure, and at the conclusion of his recital of the events of that fateful night Mrs. Pegler found herself as far as ever from grasping what Henry Weems, of the firm of Kelly, Dubinsky, Wix, Weems and Bassinger, would have called the minutiae.
te ;-) Freddie, unequal to pointing out that he had won two charming girls and was confronted in consequence with a choice between bigamy and a breach of promise suit, glowered in silence.
tt! Turning, he saw Mavis Todd. She was smiling happily, and how anyone could be smiling happily at at time like this was beyond Old Nick.


It was not air that Old Nick walked on as he returned to his seat, it was that bag again. His foot bumped against it once more, and this time he picked it up and subjected it to a dull-eyed scrutiny.

You cannot subject a bag containing half a million francs to even a dull-eyed scrutiny for long withoirt forming the impression that there is something inside it. Old Nick prodded the bag, and squeezed it, and his conviction deepened that there was cash in this bag. And if he knew anything of his former wife, of such cash there would be plenty. He was familiar with her practice, when in Casinos, of frequenting the big table in the hope, generally unfulfilled, of skinning the resident dagoes to the bone.

He sat down, meditatively fingering his chin. A thought had floated into his mind, and it was a thought that called for careful examination from every angle. He opened the bag and scanned its contents, and as he did so became aware of the Tempter at his elbow.

"I would," said the Tempter. "I wouldn't hesitate."

"You wouldn't?" said Old Nick.

"Not for an instant," said the Tempter. "You want capital for your Umbrella Club, and now that Freddie Carpenter has failed you, where else are you going to get it?"

"There is a good deal in what you say."

"And you'll only be borrowing the money. You can pay it back, once the Umbrella Club is a success. And if she has it with her at the big table, she's sure to lose it."


"So by taking it you will really be doing her a kindness."

"True. True. The only thing is--"

"Can you get away with it? That was what you were about to say, was it not? Of course you can get away with it. Why should anyone suspect you? Woman leaves bag on floor of Casino bar. A hundred people might have taken it. As I see it, you don't enter into the picture at all."

"I think you're right."

"I know I'm right. Here," said the Tempter briskly, " is what I would suggest. Pocket the money and hide the bag behind the cushion of your chair. Then everybody will be happy. Any questions?"

"None," said Old Nick.


tt He beamed at the lad behind the salver. He was aware of a sudden intense affection for the little fellow. He would have liked to ask him his name, his age and his favourite film star and if he hoped to become President some day. Thwarted in this by his ignorance of the French language, he was not cast down. There was something in the way the stripling was holding the salver that suggested to his mind that there were other modes of self-expression. Still beaming, he placed a mille note on it, and Ruritania's favourite Field-Marshal, thanking him profusely and Unintelligibly, withdrew to rejoin his army. And Freddie, having re-read the contents of the envelope, just to make sure that his first perusal had been correct, raised his eyes thankfully to heaven.


"Why, Freddie, I'm delighted."

"Me, too. You're sure," said Freddie in sudden alarm, "there isn't another on the way?"

"Another what?"

"Another of these inter-office mcmos saying you've changed your mind again and do want to marry me?"

Terry's gloom lightened a little. A conversation with Freddie always cheered her up.

"No, that's the last one. The five-star final."

"Well, that's swell," said Freddie, relieved. "You can understand it's quite a strain for a fellow, finding he's engaged to two girls at the same time."

"It must be. I suppose everything went black?"

"Blackish. Yup. Still, no need to talk about it now. There's one thing, though, that puzzled me a good deal. I couldn't make out what you wanted to marry me for."

"Why, Freddie, you're fascinating."

"I dare say, but it still doesn't make sense. You told, me you were that way about JefT." Terry felt, as Mrs. Pegler had done, a momentary urge to hit her companion over the head with her bag. Like Mrs. Pegler, she overcame it.

"When you are a little older, Freddie dear," she said patiently, "you will know that it sometimes happens that a girl is that way about a man, but the man isn't that way about her. I mean nothing in Jeff's life. You see, I haven't any money."


gt! "That's what the guide-books call Roville, the Jewel ofPicardy and the Mecca of the fashionable world. Though where they pick up these expressions, I couldn't tell you. I suppose they see them scrawled on walls and fences."
gt! Freddie's was a mind that liked to take its time over things, and it was not immediately that he perceived the flaw in her reasoning. He knew the flaw was there, but it eluded him. Then he got it.
met He hurried off, all zeal and anxiety to help, and some­thing stirred in Terry's heart. It was a small, faint hope, at the moment scarcely to be called a hope at all, but giving indications that if encouraged it would grow.
te After telephoning Room Service for the champagne, Terry sat for a while musing on Kate and wondering, for she was tender-hearted, what she could do to atone.
;-) When Mrs. Pegler, accompanied by a reluctant Chester Todd, burst into his office as he sat digesting his lunch, she had found Pierre Alexandre Boissonade in sombre mood, his brows bent, his fingers twitching, his manner that of one who is allergic to Peglers. Unjustly perhaps, he considered her responsible for the marron at which he had twice that morning caught M. Punez looking with what had seemed to him something gloating in his gaze, and not even the thought of the five hundred dollars which he had prudently secured in advance was enough to soften his conviction that she was a pest and a menace. He had a prejudice against Americans, and she did nothing to remove it.
  M. Boissonade refused to be diverted to a discussion of his eye. It was a subject on which he was reticent.
te It is never pleasan for a sensitive man to realize that his sins have found him1 out, and optimist though he was, skilled in detecting silver linings in the darkest of clouds, he could sec in the present crisis no ray of hope.
  His was not a high code of ethics . . . indeed, in the course of a chequered career he had frequently been guilty of actions which would have caused a three-card-trick man to purse his lips and shake his head ... but there were limits to what he could bring himself to do. He was prepared to steal-in what he considered a good cause-but it was im­possible for him to stand by unmoved and see a charming girl arrested for the theft. The code of the Maufringneuses, though somewhat shopworn in parts, was rigid on points like that.


First, she must be soothed and comforted, brought back to her gay self, assured that there was nothing in the world worth crying about like that. He found him­self able to move. He went to her and took her gently in his arms.

"Mon ange, mon trisor, qu'est ce que tu as?" he said, and for some minutes spoke uninterruptedly in French.

The treatment was effective. She shook herself like a dog coming out of water.


gs ;-) Hand the news on to the Commissaire. That'll astonish his weak intellect.


"He won't get it all."

"He'll get quite enough. More than enough. Authors are the only guys that make any money in this game. Nothing in it for the publishers. One of these days you'll see me selling pencils in the street. If I can afford to buy any pencils."



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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)