Cocktail time, p.1
Cocktail Time, p.1P. G. Wodehouse
Table of Contents
Praise for the Author
About the Author
By the Same Author
Extract: Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves
The P G Wodehouse Society (UK)
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' Marian Keyes
'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' Lynne Truss
'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' Julian Fellowes
'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?' Susan Hill
'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' John Humphrys
'The incomparable and timeless genius – perfect for readers of all ages, shapes and sizes!' Kate Mosse
'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' Alan Ayckboum
'Wodehouse was quite simply the Bee's Knees. And then some' Joseph Connolly
'Compulsory reading for anyone who has a pig, an aunt – or a sense of humour!' Lindsey Davis
'I constantly find myself drooling with admiration at the sublime way Wodehouse plays with the English language' Simon Brett
'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' Simon Callow
'Quite simply, the master of comic writing at work' Jane Moore
'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' Christopher Hitchens
'Wodehouse is so utterly, properly, simply funny' Adele Parks
'To dive into a Wodehouse novel is to swim in some of the most elegantly turned phrases in the English language' Ben Schott
'P.G. Wodehouse should be prescribed to treat depression. Cheaper, more effective than valium and far, far more addictive' Olivia Williams
'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 Punch and the Globe. 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
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The train of events leading up to the publication of the novel Cocktail Time, a volume which, priced at twelve shillings and sixpence, was destined to create considerably more than twelve and a half bobsworth of alarm and despondency in one quarter and another, was set in motion in the smoking-room of the Drones Club in the early afternoon of a Friday in July An Egg and a Bean were digesting their lunch there over a pot of coffee, when they were joined by Pongo Twistleton and a tall, slim, Guards-officer-looking man some thirty years his senior, who walked with a jaunty step and bore his cigar as if it had been a banner with the strange device Excelsior.
'Yo ho,' said the Egg.
Yo ho,' said the Bean.
'Yo ho,' said Pongo. 'You know my uncle, Lord Ickenham, don't you?'
'Oh, rather,' said the Egg. Yo ho, Lord Ickenham.'
'Yo ho,' said the Bean.
'Yo ho,' said Lord Ickenham. 'In fact, I will go further. Yo frightfully ho,' and it was plain to both Bean and Egg that they were in the presence of one who was sitting on top of the world and who, had he been wearing a hat, would have worn it on the side of his head. He looked, they thought, about as bumps-a-daisy as billy-o.
And, indeed, Lord Ickenham was feeling as bumps-a-daisy as he looked. It was a lovely day, all blue skies and ridges of high pressure extending over the greater part of the United Kingdom south of the Shetland Isles: he had just learned that his godson, Johnny Pearce, had at last succeeded in letting that house of his, Hammer Lodge, which had been lying empty for years, and on the strength of this had become engaged to a perfectly charming girl, always pleasant news for an affectionate godfather: and his wife had allowed him to come up to London for the Eton and Harrow match. For the greater part of the year Lady Ickenham kept him firmly down in the country with a watchful eye on him, a policy wholeheartedly applauded by all who knew him, particularly Pongo.
He seated himself, dodged a lump of sugar which a friendly hand had thrown from a neighbouring table, and beamed on his young friends like a Cheshire cat. It was his considered view that joy reigned supreme. If at this moment the poet Browning had come along and suggested to him that the lark was on the wing, the snail on the thorn, God in His heaven and all right with the world, he would have assented with a cheery 'You put it in a nutshell, my dear fellow! How right you are!'
'God bless my soul,' he said, 'it really is extraordinary how fit I'm feeling today. Bright eyes, rosy cheeks, and the sap rising strongly in my veins, as I believe the expression is. It's the London air. It always has that effect on me.'
Pongo started violently, not because another lump of sugar had struck him on the side of the head, for in the smoking-room of the Drones one takes these in one's stride, but because he found the words sinister and ominous. From earliest boyhood the loopiness of this uncle had been an open book to him and, grown to man's estate, he had become more than ever convinced that in failing to add him to their membership list such institutions as Colney Hatch and Hanwell were passing up a good thing, and he quailed when he heard him speak of the London air causing the sap to rise strongly in his veins. It seemed to suggest that his relative was planning to express and fulfil himself again, and when Frederick Altamont Cornwallis Twistleton, fifth Earl of Ickenham, began to express and fulfil himself, strong men – Pongo was one of them – quivered like tuning forks.
'The trouble with Pongo's Uncle Fred,' a thoughtful Crumpet had once observed in this same smoking-room, 'and what, when he is around, makes Pongo blench to the core and call for a couple of quick ones, is that, though well stricken in years, he becomes, on arriving in London, as young as he feels and proceeds to step high, wide and plentiful. It is as though, cooped up in the country all the year round with no way of working it off, he generates, if that's the word I want, a store of loopiness which expends itself with terrific violence on his rare visits to the centre of things. I don't know if you happen to know what the word "excesses" means, but those are what, the moment he sniffs the bracing air of the metropolis, Pongo's Uncle Fred invariably commits. Get Pongo to tell you some time about the day they had together at the dog races.'
Little wonder, then, that as he spoke, the young Twistleton was conscious of a nameless fear. He had been so hoping that it would have been possible to get through today's lunch without the old son of a bachelor perpetrating some major outrage on the public weal. Was this hope to prove an idle one?
It being the opening day of the Eton and Harrow match, the conversation naturally turned to that topic, and the Bean and the Egg, who had received what education they possessed at the Thames-side seminary, were scornful of the opposition's chances. Harrow, they predicted, were in for a sticky week-end and would slink home on the morrow with their ears pinned back.
'Talking of Harrow, by the way,' said the Bean, 'that kid of Barmy Phipps's is with us once more. I saw him in there with Barmy, stoking up on ginger pop and what appeared to be cold steak-and-kidney pie with two veg.'
'You mean Barmy's cousin Egbert from Harrow?'
'That's right. The one who shoots Brazil nuts.'
Lord Ickenham was intrigued. He always welcomed these opportunities to broaden his mind and bring himself abreast of modern thought. The great advantage of lunching at the Drones, he often said, was that you met such interesting people.
'Shoots Brazil nuts, does he? You stir me strangely. In my time I have shot many things – grouse, pheasants, partridges, tigers, gnus and once, when a boy, an aunt by marriage in the seat of her sensible tweed dress with an airgun – but I have never shot a Brazil nut. The fact that, if I understand you aright, this stripling makes a practice of this form of marksmanship shows once again that it takes all sorts to do the world's work. Not sitting Brazil nuts, I trust?'
It was apparent to the Egg that the old gentleman had missed the gist.
'He shoots things with Brazil nuts,' he explained.
'Puts them in his catapult and whangs off at people's hats,' said the Bean, clarifying the thing still further. 'Very seldom misses, either. Practically every nut a hat. We think a lot of him here.'
'Well, it's a great gift.'
'Nonsense,' said Lord Ickenham. 'Kindergarten stuff. The sort of thing one learns at one's mother's knee. It is many years since I owned a catapult and was generally referred to in the sporting world as England's answer to Annie Oakley, but if I had one now I would guarantee to go through the hats of London like a dose of salts. Would this child of whom you speak have the murder weapon on his person, do you suppose?'
'Bound to have,' said the Egg.
'Never travels without it,' said the Bean.
'Then present my compliments to him and ask if I might borrow it for a moment. And bring me a Brazil nut.'
A quick shudder shook Pongo from his upper slopes to the extremities of his clocked socks. The fears he had entertained about the shape of things to come had been realized. Even now, if his words meant what they seemed to mean, his uncle was preparing to be off again on one of those effervescent jaunts of his which had done so much to rock civilization and bleach the hair of his nearest and dearest.
He shuddered, accordingly, and in addition to shuddering uttered a sharp quack of anguish such as might have proceeded from some duck which, sauntering in a reverie beside the duck pond, has inadvertently stubbed its toe on a broken soda-water bottle.
'You spoke, Junior?' said Lord Ickenham courteously.
'No, really, Uncle Fred! I mean, dash it, Uncle Fred! I mean really, Uncle Fred, dash it all!'
'I am not sure that I quite follow you, my boy.'
Are you going to take a pop at someone's hat?'
'It would, I think, be rash not to.
The first lesson your big game hunter learns, when on safari, is to watch and wait, and Lord Ickenham showed no impatience as the minutes went by and the only human souls that came in sight were a couple of shopgirls and a boy in a cloth cap. He was confident that before long something worthy of his Brazil nut would emerge from the Demosthenes Club, which stands across the street from the Drones. He had often lunched there with his wife's half-brother, Sir Raymond Bastable, the eminent barrister, and he knew the place to be full of splendid specimens. In almost no place in London does the tall silk headgear flourish so luxuriantly.
'Stap my vitals,' he said, enlivening the tedium of waiting with pleasant small-talk, 'it's extraordinary how vividly this brings back to me those dear old tiger-shooting days in Bengal. The same tense expectancy, the same breathless feeling that at any moment something hot may steal out from the undergrowth, lashing its top hat. The only difference is that in Sunny Bengal one was up in a tree with a kid tethered to it to act as an added attraction for the monarch of the jungle. Too late now, I suppose, to tether this young cousin of your friend Barmy Phipps to the railings, but if one of you would step out into the street and bleat a little... Ha!'
The door of the Demosthenes had swung open, and there had come down the steps a tall, stout, florid man of middle age who wore his high silk hat like the plumed helmet of Henry of Navarre. He stood on the pavement looking about him for a taxi-cab – with a sort of haughty impatience, as though he had thought that, when he wanted a taxi-cab, ten thousand must have sprung from their ranks to serve him.
Cocktail Time by P. G. Wodehouse / Humor have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes