Authors: P G Wodehouse
'The ultimate in comfort reading because nothing bad ever happens in P.G. Wodehouse land. Or even if it does, it's always sorted out by the end of the book. For as long as I'm immersed in a P.G. Wodehouse book, it's possible to keep the real world at bay and live in a far, far nicer, funnier one where happy endings are the order of the day'
'You should read Wodehouse when you're well and when you're poorly; when you're travelling, and when you're not; when you're feeling clever, and when you're feeling utterly dim. Wodehouse always lifts your spirits, no matter how high they happen to be already'
'P.G. Wodehouse remains the greatest chronicler of a certain kind of Englishness, that no one else has ever captured quite so sharply, or with quite as much wit and affection'
'Not only the funniest English novelist who ever wrote but one of our finest stylists. His world is perfect, his stories are perfect, his writing is perfect. What more is there to be said?'
'One of my (few) proud boasts is that I once spent a day interviewing P.G. Wodehouse at his home in America. He was exactly as I'd expected: a lovely, modest man. He could have walked out of one of his own novels. It's dangerous to use the word genius to describe a writer, but I'll risk it with him'
'The incomparable and timeless genius – perfect for readers of all ages, shapes and sizes!'
'A genius . . . Elusive, delicate but lasting. He created such a credible world that, sadly, I suppose, never really existed but what a delight it always is to enter it and the temptation to linger there is sometimes almost overwhelming'
'Wodehouse was quite simply the Bee's Knees. And then some'
'Compulsory reading for anyone who has a pig, an aunt – or a sense of humour!'
'I constantly find myself drooling with admiration at the sublime way Wodehouse plays with the English language'
'I've recorded all the Jeeves books, and I can tell you this: it's like singing Mozart. The perfection of the phrasing is a physical pleasure. I doubt if any writer in the English language has more perfect music'
'Quite simply, the master of comic writing at
'To pick up a Wodehouse novel is to find oneself in the presence of genius – no writer has ever given me so much pure enjoyment'
John Julius Norwich
'P.G. Wodehouse is the gold standard of English wit'
'Wodehouse is so utterly, properly, simply funny'
'To dive into a Wodehouse novel is to swim in some of the most elegantly turned phrases in the English language'
'P.G. Wodehouse should be prescribed to treat depression. Cheaper, more effective than valium and far, far more addictive'
'My only problem with Wodehouse is deciding which of his enchanting books to take to my desert island'
Ruth Dudley Edwards
The author of almost a hundred books and the creator of Jeeves, Blandings Castle, Psmith, Ukridge, Uncle Fred and Mr Mulliner, P.G. Wodehouse was born in 1881 and educated at Dulwich College. After two years with the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank he became a full-time writer, contributing to a variety of periodicals including
He married in 1914. As well as his novels and short stories, he wrote lyrics for musical comedies with Guy Bolton and Jerome Kern, and at one time had five musicals running simultaneously on Broadway. His time in Hollywood also provided much source material for fiction.
At the age of 93, in the New Year's Honours List of 1975,
he received a long-overdue knighthood, only to die
on St Valentine's Day some 45 days later.
Some of the P.G. Wodehouse titles to be published
by Arrow in 2008
The Inimitable Jeeves
Carry On, Jeeves
Very Good, Jeeves
Thank You, Jeeves
Right Ho, Jeeves
The Code of the Woosters
Joy in the Morning
The Mating Season
Ring for Jeeves
Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit
Jeeves in the Offing
Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves
Much Obliged, Jeeves
Aunts Aren't Gentlemen
Leave it to Psmith
Uncle Fred in the Springtime
Pigs Have Wings
Service with a Smile
A Pelican at Blandings
Meet Mr Mulliner
Mr Mulliner Speaking
The Clicking of Cuthbert
The Heart of a Goof
The Luck of the Bodkins
A Damsel in Distress
The Small Bachelor
The Adventures of Sally
Money for Nothing
The Girl in Blue
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Published by Arrow Books 2008
1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2
Copyright by The Trustees of the Wodehouse Estate
All rights reserved
This electronic book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher's prior consent in any form other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser
First published in the United Kingdom in 1938 by Herbert Jenkins Ltd
The Random House Group Limited
20 Vauxhall Bridge Road, London, SW1V 2SA
Addresses for companies within The Random House Group Limited can be found at:
The Random House Group Limited Reg. No. 954009
A CIP catalogue record for this book
is available from the British Library
was a glorious morning of blue and gold, of fleecy clouds and insects droning in the sunshine. What the weather-bulletin announcer of the British Broadcasting Corporation, who can turn a phrase as well as the next man, had called the ridge of high pressure extending over the greater part of the United Kingdom south of the Shetland Isles still functioned unabated. Rabbits frisked in the hedgerows. Cows mused in the meadows. Water voles sported along the river-banks. And moving a step higher in the animal kingdom, the paying guests at Sir Buckstone Abbott's country seat, Walsingford Hall in the county of Berkshire, were all up and about, taking the air and enjoying themselves according to their various tastes and dispositions.
Mr Chinnery was playing croquet with Mrs Folsom. Colonel Tanner was telling Mr Waugh-Bonner about life in Poona, fortunate that he had started talking first and thus prevented Mr Waugh-Bonner telling him about life in the Malay States. Mrs Shepley was knitting a sock. Mr Profitt, whose backhand game needed polishing, was practising drives against a wall. Mr Billing was having a sun bath. And the stout young American, Tubby Vanringham, a towel about his neck, was crossing the terrace on his way down to the river.
Prudence Whittaker, Sir Buckstone's invaluable secretary, came out of the house, tall and slender and elegant. Directing an austere look at Tubby's receding back, she spoke in a cold crisp voice which sounded in the drowsy stillness like ice tinkling in a pitcher:
The stout young man turned. He stopped, looked and stiffened, frigidly raising his eyebrows in a manner that indicated surprise and displeasure. After what had occurred a week ago, he had supposed that it was clearly understood between this girl and himself that they were no longer on speaking terms.
'Well?' he said distantly.
'Might I ask if you are going to bathe?'
'From the houseboat?'
'Yup. From the 'ouseboat.'
Miss Whittaker's nose quivered for a brief instant. Surprisingly, considering the classical regularity of the features in which it was set, it was a tiptilted, almost a perky nose. But her voice remained cold and level.
'I did not say "'ouseboat".'
'Yes, you did.'
'I did nothing of the kind. I would no more dream of saying "'ouseboat" than I would of employing a vulgarism like "Yup" when I meant "Yes," or saying "mustash" when I meant "mous-tarsh," or "tomayto" when I meant "tomarto," or—'
'Oh, all right, all right. What about it, anyway?'
'I merely wished to inform you—'
'I suppose,' said Tubby, with sudden
esprit de l'escalier –
the thrust was one which should have been delivered a week earlier – 'that when you go out to lunch with that boy friend who
sends you jewellery, you say, "Oh, Percy, will you pass the potartoes!"'
Miss Whittaker's delicately modelled lips tightened, but she neither affirmed nor denied the charge.
'I merely wished to inform you that you cannot bathe from the houseboat.'
'Oh, no? Why not?'
'Because it is occupied. It has been let for the remainder of the summer.'
It had been Tubby Vanringham's intention to preserve throughout this distasteful scene an aloof hauteur, but this bit of bad news shook him from his proud detachment. The houseboat which lay moored at the foot of Sir Buckstone's water meadows was the only place for miles around where you could swim in the nude, and about the only place, unless you walked to the old bridge outside Walsingford Parva, where you could dive from a height into deep water.
'Oh, gee!' he said, dismayed. 'Has it?'
'Quate. And its tenant will naturally expect to enjoy privacy. He will not want to look out of his window and see strangers – fat strangers,' said Miss Whittaker, specifying more exactly – 'hurling themselves past it. So you must do your bathing elsewhere. That was all I wished to say. Good morning, Mr Vanringham.'
She withdrew into the house, gliding in that genteel way of hers, like a ladylike swan; and Tubby, after standing where he was for a moment, frowning darkly, walked on, kicking pebbles.
His soul, as he walked, was a black turmoil of conflicting emotions. This woman had treated him in a way which would have made even a man with so low an opinion of the sex as the late Schopenhauer whistle incredulously, but though he scorned
and loathed her, he was annoyed to discover that he loved her still. He would have liked to bounce a brick on Prudence Whittaker's head, and yet, at the same time, he would have liked – rather better, as a matter of fact – to crush her to him and cover her face with burning kisses. The whole situation was very complex.
His aimless steps took him in the direction of the stable yard, and if any proof were required of the depths of sombre introspection into which he had been thrust, it is provided by the fact that he had passed the archway giving access to it before he became aware of the loud and booming voice which was speaking on the other side. A full quarter of a minute had elapsed before it penetrated to his consciousness and caused him, first, to halt, then to turn back and investigate. His soul might be in a turmoil, but he did not want to miss anything interesting.
The voice, which he had recognized by now as that of his host, Sir Buckstone Abbott, had dropped to a sullen rumble, but as he reached the archway, it rose again to its full strength.
He peeped in, and saw that Sir Buckstone was talking to his daughter Imogen, better known in the circles in which she moved as Jane.
Sir Buckstone Abbott seemed to be in the grip of something resembling frenzy. Sunshine and the fresh breezes which swept over the uplands on which he lived had imparted to his face a healthy red. This had now deepened to mauve, and even from a distance it was possible to see the glare in his eyes. The idea Tubby got was that the old boy was driving his daughter from his door for having erred – an impression which was heightened by the other's words.
'Ass!' he was saying, just as any father would to an erring daughter, towering over the girl as she crouched before him. 'Fool! Imbecile! Fathead!'
But it was not shame and remorse that had been causing Jane Abbott to crouch. One of those fascinating minor ailments, to which it was so subject, had developed in the interior organs of her Widgeon Seven two-seater, and she had been stooping over it with a spanner. She now rose, revealing herself as a small, slim, pretty girl of twenty, with fair hair and a boyish jauntiness of carriage. In her cornflower-blue eyes was the tender light which comes into the eyes of women when they are dealing with a refractory child or a misguided parent.
'Buck up, Buck,' she urged. 'Be a little soldier.'
'Oh, come on. Where's your manly spirit?'
'Crushed. Utterly crushed.'
'Nonsense. I keep telling you that everything's going to be all right.'
'That's what your mother says,' said Sir Buckstone, impressed by the coincidence.
'And what mother thinks today, Manchester thinks tomorrow. I'll get it fixed. Leave it to me.'
'But these sharks have always got the law behind them. They're noted for it. You can bet that Busby—Oh, my God, there's Chinnery!' said Sir Buckstone, and disappeared nimbly. Though solidly built and of an age when the joints tend to lose their limber resilience, he was always very quick on his feet when he saw one of his paying guests approaching. Especially Mr Chinnery, to whom he owed money.
Tubby came into the stable yard, mystified. A thirst for knowledge had caused him momentarily to forget about his blighted life.
'What on earth was all that?' he asked.
'I thought he seemed a little upset. Why was he calling you a fathead?'
Jane laughed. She had an attractive laugh, and an attractive way of screwing up her eyes when she used it. Several men had noticed this. Tubby noticed it now, and for an instant the idea of falling in love with her flitted through his mind. Then he put the thought aside. He could have done it without difficulty, but he was through with women. Women had let him down once too often, and he was not going to put his battered heart within kicking distance of the foot of even so apparently trustworthy a girl as Jane. From now on, he proposed to model his sex relations on those of a Trappist monk.
'He wasn't calling me a fathead. He was talking to himself.'
'The old-fashioned soliloquy?'
'Well, why was he calling himself a fathead?'
'Because he's been one. He's made an ass of himself, poor lamb. I'm furious about it, really, and if he hadn't been so crushed and miserable and gashing himself with knives like the priests of Baal, I'd have ticked him off properly. He should never have dreamed of doing such a thing, with money so tight. Imagine, Tubby! With overdrafts snapping at his heels and the wolf practically glued to the door, what do you think Buck goes and does? Publishes a book at his own expense.'
'His, of course, you idiot.'
Tubby was looking grave, like one who has discovered a hitherto unsuspected blemish in an estimable character.
'I didn't know your father wrote books.'
'Just this one. About his big-game hunting binges in the old days.'
'Oh, not a novel?' said Tubby, relieved.
'No, not a novel. A book called "My Sporting Memories". And when the thing was finished, he started sending it to publishers, who one and all promptly gave it the bird.'
'Now, who was talking to me about publishers the other day?'
'After about the tenth rebuff, I told him that he had better reconcile himself to the idea that there wasn't a big popular demand and shove it away in a drawer. But Buck never knows when he's licked. He said he would have one more pop.'
'Oh, we Abbotts are like that. British.'
'And then what?'
'The next man he sent the manuscript to – a blighter named Busby – offered to publish it if Buck would put up the cash. And he couldn't resist the craving to see himself in print. He raised two hundred pounds – where he got it from is more than I can imagine – and that was that. The book duly appeared, all red and gold, with a frontispiece of Buck with a rifle in his hand standing with one foot on a lion.'
'That sounds to me like the happy ending. Came the dawn, is the way I should describe it.'
'It was not an end, but a beginning. Mark the sequel. This morning a totally unexpected extra bill comes in from this hound Busby for ninety-six pounds, three and eleven, for what he calls "incidental expenses connected with the office".'
'Not so hot.'
'It stunned poor old Buck like a blackjack. He came tottering to me with the document. He said he didn't know what the expression "incidental expenses connected with the office" meant, and I explained that it meant ninety-six pounds, three and eleven. He asked me if I could let him have the money as a
loan out of my savings from my dress allowance, and I said, "What savings?" And then he said, well, what was he to do, and I said I was going up to London this morning, so give me the bill, I said, and I will go and see this Busby.'
'What can you do?'
'The idea is to try to get him to trim the thing a little.'
'How do you expect to swing that?'
'Oh, I shall plead and weep and clasp my hands. It might work. It does in the movies.'
Tubby was concerned. He had a brotherly, protective affection for this girl.
'But, gosh, Jane, the guy's most likely a fat, double-chinned, pot-bellied son of Belial with pig's eyes and a licentious look. He'll probably try to kiss you.'
'Well, that ought to be good for the three and eleven.'
They started to stroll toward the archway. Tubby stopped short, in the manner of one who slaps his brow.
'Busby? Are you sure it's Busby?'
'Am I sure! The name is graven on my heart. J. Mortimer Busby, with a "Cr" after it. Why?'
'Well, it's rather an odd coincidence. I remember now who was talking to me about publishers. It was my brother Joe. I saw him about a year ago, and he said he was going to work for somebody in the publishing racket. And I'm pretty sure the name was Busby. Unless,' said Tubby, who liked to leave a margin for error, 'it was something else.'
'You seem a bit vague.'
'Well, you know how it is. You meet a guy and he tells you something, and you say, "Oh yes?" and then you go away and forget about it. Besides, I had had a late night. I was half asleep when I met my brother Joe.'
'I didn't know you had a brother Joe.'
'Oh, sure,' said Tubby, with a touch of the smugness of a man of property 'I've got a brother Joe all right.'
'Why haven't I heard of him till now?'
'I guess he just hasn't happened to crop up.'
'Big brother or little brother?'
'Odd I've never heard your stepmother speak of him.'
'Not so odd,' said Tubby. 'She hates his gizzard. He cleared out and left home when he was twenty-one. I've always had the idea that she slung him out. I don't know. I was away when they had the big fight. When I came back, he'd gone.'
'Didn't you make inquiries?'
'Sure, I made inquiries. Until she told me that if I didn't keep my trap shut and mind my own business, I could leave, too, and start in as an office boy in the fish-glue business.'
'That sealed your lips?'
'You bet it sealed my lips. Sealed them good.'
'Well, I hope your brother Joe isn't working for Busby, because Busby would contaminate him.'
'Oh, I don't know,' said Tubby optimistically. 'Probably Joe would contaminate Busby. He's a great guy. As tough as they make 'em.'
They passed through the archway on to the terrace, and found it graced by the presence of Miss Prudence Whittaker. The secretary had come out of the house again to get a breath of air. Observing Tubby, she started to go in, plainly feeling that it was not much use getting breaths of air when that air was polluted. Tubby, on his side, clenched his fists and drew in his breath with a sharp hiss, his face the while taking on a Byronic gloom.