Sunday, February 27, 2011

P. G. Wodehouse - 9

From ‘The Man Upstairs and other Stories’

The right sort of people do not want apologies, and the wrong sort take a mean advantage of them.

Sellers’ habitual attitude now was that of the kindly celebrity who has arrived and wishes to give the youngsters a chance.

The youths of Melbourne were sturdy and honest. They were the backbone of England. England, in her hour or need, could have called upon them with the comfortable certainty that, unless they happened to be otherwise engaged, they would leap to her aid.

But they did not shine at small-talk. Conversationally they were a spent force after they had asked Mr Williams how his rheumatism was.

There are moments in a man’s life when, however enthusiastic a gardener he may be, his soul soars above vegetables. Tom’s shot with a jerk into the animal kingdom. The first present he gave Sally in his capacity of fiancĂ© was a dog.
It was a half-grown puppy with long legs and a long tail, belonging to no one species, but generously distributing itself among about six.

He broke off. Stirring things had begun to occur in the neighbourhood of his ankles, where Bill, the fox-terrier, had encountered an acquaintance, and, to the accompaniment of a loud, gargling noise, was endeavouring to bite his head off. The acquaintance, a gentleman of uncertain breed, equally willing, was chewing Bill’s paw with the gusto of a gourmet. An Irish terrier, with no personal bias towards either side, was dancing round and attacking each in turn as he came uppermost. And two poodles leaped madly in and out of the melee, barking encouragement.

They are white men who will be charmed to do a little thing like that for a sport like Archie.

What is it that makes men do perilous deeds? Why does a man go over Niagara Falls in a barrel? Not for his health. Half an hour with a skipping-rope would be equally beneficial to his liver. No; in nine cases out of ten he does it to prove to his friends and relations that he is not the mild, steady-going person they have always thought him. Observe the music-hall acrobat as he prepares to swing from the roof by his eyelids. His gaze sweeps the house. ‘It isn’t true,’ it seems to say. ‘I’m not a jelly-fish.’

Everyone liked Rollo – the great majority on sight, the rest as soon as they heard that he would be a millionaire on the death of his Uncle Andrew.

You’re the only real white man that’s ever happened to me……..George.

From ‘Sam the Sudden’

Willoughby Braddock was one of those unfortunate bachelors who are doomed to live under the thrall of either a housekeeper or a valet. His particular cross in life was his housekeeper, his servitude being rendered all the more unescapable by the fact that Mrs Lippett had been his nurse in the days of his childhood. There are men who can defy a woman. There are men who can cope with a faithful old retainer. But f there are men who can tackle a faithful old female retainer who has frequently smacked them with the back of a hairbrush, Willoughby Braddock was not one of them.

…….. he gazed about him from under the brim of a soft hat which could have been worn without exciting comment by any scarecrow.

‘ …….. I did not break into this charming little house. My presence, Mrs Braddock, strange as it may seem, is easily explained.’
‘Who are you calling Mrs Braddock?’
‘Aren’t you Mrs Braddock?’
‘You aren’t married to Mr Braddock?’
‘No, I’m not.’
Sam was a broad-minded young man.
‘Ah, well,’ he said, ‘in the sight of God, no doubt - ’
‘I’m the cook.’
‘Oh,’ said Sam, relieved, ‘that explains it.’

……… he went downstairs again, and so out on the broad trail that led to the premises of Messrs Matters & Cornelius, House Agents, of Ogilvy Street.

What Mr Matters would have thought of Sam as he charged breezily into the office a few minutes later we shall never know, for Mr Matters died in the year 1910. Mr Cornelius thought him perfectly foul.

‘I’ll get a dog,’ said Hash solemnly, ‘that’ll feed on nails and bite his own mother.’

He caught the Rev. Aubrey’s eye. He was looking as Sherlock Holmes might have looked had he discovered Doctor Watson stealing his watch.

From ‘Eggs, Beans and Crumpets’

Bingo, you see, is not a man who finds it easy to float a really substantial loan. People know too much about his financial outlook. He will have it in sackfuls some day, of course, but until he realizes on his Uncle Wilberforce – who is eighty-six and may quite easily go to par – the wolf, so far as he is concerned, will always be in or about the vestibule. The public is aware of this, and it makes the market sluggish.

‘The more human lives that aren’t saved, the better I shall like it. I loathe the human race. Any time it wants to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel, it will be all right with me.’

His whole aspect was that of a man who has unexpectedly been struck by lightening

‘Could you please lend me a tenner, Oofy, old man?’
‘No, I couldn’t.’
‘It would save my life.’
‘There,’ said Oofy, ‘you have put your finger on the insuperable objection to the scheme. I see no percentage in your being alive. I wish you were a corpse, preferably a mangled one. I should like to dance on your remains.’
Bingo was surprised.
‘Dance on my remains?’
‘All over them.’
Bingo drew himself up. He had his pride.
‘Oh?’ he said. ‘Well, in that case, tinkerty-tonk.’

‘………millionaire philatelist.’
‘Millionaire what?’ asked a Small Bass
‘Sir Leopold,’ explained Mr. Mulliner, ‘collected stamps.’
The Small Bass said that he always thought that a philatelist was a man who was kind to animals.
‘No,’ said Mr. Mulliner, ‘a stamp collector. Though many philatelists are, I believe, also kind to animals.’

He found Sir Aylmer in his study. Annabel was sitting by his side reading aloud to him from a recently published monograph on certain obscure ailments of the medulla oblongata. For the old man, though a mere gout patient, had pathetic aspirations towards higher things.

‘A cat ranch?’
‘That’s it. You collect a hundred thousand cats. Each cat has twelve kittens a year. The skins range from ten cents each for the white ones to seventy-five for the pure black. That gives you twelve million skins per year to sell at an average price of thirty cents per skin, making your annual revenue at a conservative estimate three hundred and sixty thousand dollars. But, you will say, what about overhead expenses?’
‘Will I?’
‘That has all been allowed for. To feed the cats you start a rat ranch next door. The rats multiply four times as fast as cats, so if you begin with a million rats it gives you four rats per cat, which is plenty. You feed the rats on what is left over of the cats after removing the skins, allowing one-fourth of a cat per rat, the business thus becoming automatically self-supporting. The cats will eat the rats, the rats will eat the cats -’
There was a loud knock upon the door.
‘Come in,’ bellowed Ukridge irritably. These captains of industry hate to be interrupted when in conference.

Tuppy [works in the Foreign Office], sterling fellow though he is, has his bad mornings. He comes down to the office and finds a sharp note from the President of Uruguay or someone on his desk, and it curdles the milk of human kindness within him. On these occasions he becomes so tight that he could carry an armful of eels up five flights of stairs and not drop one.

She came so close once that I could have hit her with an apple. Not that I did, of course.

He said that, though he wasn’t any too keen on matrimony as an institution, he was broad-minded enough to realize that there might quite possibly be women in the world unlike his late wife. Concerning whom, he added that the rabbit was not, as had been generally stated, Australia’s worst pest.

This new addition to our little party was a long, lean, Anglo Indian-looking individual. You know the type. Beige as to general colour-scheme and rather like a vulture with a white moustache.

From ‘A Wodehouse Miscellany and William Tell Told again’

In the good old days poets were for the most part confined to garrets, which they left only for the purpose of being ejected from the offices of magazines and papers to which they attempted to sell their wares. Nobody ever thought of reading a book of poems unless accompanied by a guarantee from the publisher that the author had been dead at least a hundred years. Poetry, like wine, certain brands of cheese, and public buildings, was rightly considered to improve with age; and no connoisseur could have dreamed of filling himself with raw, indigestible verse, warm from the maker.

…. One, Reginald Dallas, whom it had struck at an early period of their acquaintance that he and Miss Sylvia Reynolds were made for one another. On communicating this discovery to Sylvia herself he had found that her views upon the subject were identical with his own ………

……….. country cricket ………. And there is the village match, where cows are apt to stroll on to the pitch before the innings and cover-point stands up to his neck in a furze-bush.

…… I was trying to read a book Florence Craye had given me ……..we had got engaged ……… she was particularly keen on boosting me up a bit nearer her own plane of intellect. She was a girl with a wonderful profile, but steeped to her gills in serious purpose. I can’t give you a better idea of the way things stood than by telling you that the book she’d given me to read was called “Types of Ethical Theory,” and that when I opened it at random I struck a page beginning:-
The postulate or common understanding involved in speech is
certainly co-extensive, in the obligation it carries, with the
social organism of which language is the instrument, and the
ends of which it is an effort to subserve

All perfectly true, no doubt; but not the sort of thing to spring on a lad with a morning head.

I met Jeeves in the passage just outside ……….
“I felt I should tell you, sir, that somebody has been putting black polish on our brown walking shoes.”
“What! Who? Why?”
“I could not say, sir.”
“Can anything be done with them?”
“Nothing, sir.”
“Very good, sir.”

It was one of those still evenings you get in the summer, when you can hear a snail clear it's throat a mile away.

“Oh, Jeeves,” I said; “about that check suit.”
“Yes, sir?”
“Is it really a frost?”
“A trifle too bizarre, sir, in my opinion.”
“But lots of fellows have asked me who my tailor is.”
“Doubtless in order to avoid him, sir.”
“He’s supposed to be one of the best men in London.”
“I am saying nothing against his moral character, sir.”
“All right, Jeeves,” I said. “You know! Give the bally thing away to somebody!”
He looked down at me like a father gazing tenderly at the wayward child.
“Thank you, sir. I gave it to the under-gardener last night. A little more tea, sir?”

There was no sign of the aunt when I called – she had probably climbed a tree and pulled it up after her …………..

“Reginald,” she said, “I think I shall go raving mad.”
This struck me as a mighty happy solution of everybody’s troubles, but I felt it was too good to be true.

I knew just what would happen. Parbury and Stevens, the lawyers, simply looked at me as if I had been caught snatching bags. At least, Stevens did. And Parbury would have done it, too, only he had been dead a good time. Finally, after drinking me in for about a quarter of an hour, Stevens said that if I desired to address a communication to his client, care of this office, it would be duly forwarded. Good morning. Good morning. Anything further? No, thanks. Good morning. Good morning.

He was extraordinarily like Florence. He had just the same eyes. I felt boneless from the start.

……… the old man was making a noise like distant thunder, which I supposed was his way of chuckling.

The Swiss, against their Austrian foes,
Had ne’er a soul to lead ‘em,
Till Tell, as you’ve heard tell, arose
And guided them to freedom.
Tell’s tale we tell again – an act
For which pray no one scold us -
This tale of Tell we tell, in fact,
As this Tell tale was told us.