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Mr. Mulliner Speaking, Page 1

P. G. Wodehouse

  Table of Contents

  Praise For the Author

  About the Author

  By the Same Author

  Title Page

  Copyright Page











  Extract: Cocktail Time

  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 Ayckbourn

  '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 in the Offing

  Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves

  Much Obliged, Jeeves

  Aunts Aren't Gentlemen


  Cocktail Time

  Uncle Dynamite


  Something Fresh

  Leave it to Psmith

  Summer Lightning

  Blandings Castle

  Uncle Fred in the Springtime

  Full Moon

  Pigs Have Wings

  Service with a Smile

  A Pelican at Blandings

  Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit


  Meet Mr Mulliner

  Mulliner Nights

  Mr Mulliner Speaking


  The Clicking of Cuthbert

  The Heart of a Goof


  Piccadilly Jim


  The Luck of the Bodkins

  Laughing Gas

  A Damsel in Distress

  The Small Bachelor

  Hot Water

  Summer Moonshine

  The Adventures of Sally

  Money for Nothing

  The Girl in Blue

  Big Money


  Mr Mulliner Speaking

  This eBook is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licensed or publicly performed or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the publishers, as allowed under the terms and conditions under which it was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicable copyright law. Any unauthorised distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author's and publisher's rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.

  ISBN 9781409063773

  Version 1.0

  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 1929 by Herbert Jenkins Ltd

  Arrow Books

  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 Libr

  ISBN: 9781409063773

  Version 1.0

  Mr Mulliner Speaking


  The conversation in the bar-parlour of the Angler's Rest, which always tends to get deepish towards closing-time, had turned to the subject of the Modern Girl; and a Gin-and-Ginger-Ale sitting in the corner by the window remarked that it was strange how types die out.

  'I can remember the days,' said the Gin-and-Ginger-Ale, 'when every other girl you met stood about six feet two in her dancing-shoes, and had as many curves as a Scenic Railway. Now they are all five foot nothing and you can't see them sideways. Why is this?'

  The Draught Stout shook his head.

  'Nobody can say. It's the same with dogs. One moment the world is full of pugs as far as the eye can reach; the next, not a pug in sight, only Pekes and Alsatians. Odd!'

  The Small Bass and the Double-Whisky-and-Splash admitted that these things were very mysterious, and supposed we should never know the reason for them. Probably we were not meant to know.

  'I cannot agree with you, gentlemen,' said Mr Mulliner. He had been sipping his hot Scotch and lemon with a rather abstracted air: but now he sat up alertly, prepared to deliver judgement. 'The reason for the disappearance of the dignified, queenly type of girl is surely obvious. It is Nature's method of ensuring the continuance of the species. A world full of the sort of young woman that Meredith used to put into his novels and du Maurier into his pictures in Punch would be a world full of permanent spinsters. The modern young man would never be able to summon up the nerve to propose to them.'

  'Something in that,' assented the Draught Stout.

  'I speak with authority on the point,' said Mr Mulliner, 'because my nephew, Archibald, made me his confidant when he fell in love with Aurelia Cammarleigh. He worshipped that girl with a fervour which threatened to unseat his reason, such as it was: but the mere idea of asking her to be his wife gave him, he informed me, such a feeling of sick faintness that only by means of a very stiff brandy and soda, or some similar restorative, was he able to pull himself together on the occasions when he contemplated it. Had it not been for . . . But perhaps you would care to hear the story from the beginning?'

  People who enjoyed a merely superficial acquaintance with my nephew Archibald (said Mr Mulliner) were accustomed to set him down as just an ordinary pin-headed young man. It was only when they came to know him better that they discovered their mistake. Then they realised that his pinheadedness, so far from being ordinary, was exceptional. Even at the Drones Club, where the average of intellect is not high, it was often said of Archibald that, had his brain been constructed of silk, he would have been hard put to it to find sufficient material to make a canary a pair of cami-knickers. He sauntered through life with a cheerful insouciance, and up to the age of twenty-five had only once been moved by anything in the nature of a really strong emotion – on the occasion when, in the heart of Bond Street and at the height of the London season, he discovered that his man, Meadowes, had carelessly sent him out with odd spats on.

  And then he met Aurelia Cammarleigh.

  The first encounter between these two has always seemed to me to bear an extraordinary resemblance to the famous meeting between the poet Dante and Beatrice Fortinari. Dante, if you remember, exchanged no remarks with Beatrice on that occasion. Nor did Archibald with Aurelia. Dante just goggled at the girl. So did Archibald. Like Archibald, Dante loved at first sight: and the poet's age at the time was, we are told, nine – which was almost exactly the mental age of Archibald Mulliner when he first set eyeglass on Aurelia Cammarleigh.

  Only in the actual locale of the encounter do the two cases cease to be parallel. Dante, the story relates, was walking on the Ponte Vecchia, while Archibald Mulliner was having a thoughtful cocktail in the window of the Drones Club, looking out on Dover Street.

  And he had just relaxed his lower jaw in order to examine Dover Street more comfortably when there swam into his line of vision something that looked like a Greek goddess. She came out of a shop opposite the club and stood on the pavement waiting for a taxi. And, as he saw her standing there, love at first sight seemed to go all over Archibald Mulliner like nettlerash.

  It was strange that this should have been so, for she was not at all the sort of girl with whom Archibald had fallen in love at first sight in the past. I chanced, while in here the other day, to pick up a copy of one of the old yellowback novels of fifty years ago – the property, I believe, of Miss Postlethwaite, our courteous and erudite barmaid. It was entitled Sir Ralph's Secret, and its heroine, the Lady Elaine, was described as a superbly handsome girl, divinely tall, with a noble figure, the arched Montresor nose, haughty eyes beneath delicately pencilled brows, and that indefinable air of aristocratic aloofness which marks the daughter of a hundred Earls. And Aurelia Cammarleigh might have been this formidable creature's double.

  Yet Archibald, sighting her, reeled as if the cocktail he had just consumed had been his tenth instead of his first.

  'Golly!' said Archibald.

  To save himself from falling, he had clutched at a passing fellow-member: and now, examining his catch, he saw that it was young Algy Wymondham-Wymondham. Just the fellow-member he would have preferred to clutch at, for Algy was a man who went everywhere and knew everybody and could doubtless give him the information he desired.

  'Algy, old prune,' said Archibald in a low, throaty voice, 'a moment of your valuable time, if you don't mind.'

  He paused, for he had perceived the need for caution. Algy was a notorious babbler, and it would be the height of rashness to give him an inkling of the passion which blazed within his breast. With a strong effort, he donned the mask. When he spoke again, it was with a deceiving nonchalance.

  'I was just wondering if you happened to know who that girl is, across the street there. I suppose you don't know what her name is in rough numbers? Seems to me I've met her somewhere or something, or seen her, or something. Or something, if you know what I mean.'

  Algy followed his pointing finger and was in time to observe Aurelia as she disappeared into the cab.

  'That girl?'

  'Yes,' said Archibald, yawning. 'Who is she, if any?'

  'Girl named Cammarleigh.'

  'Ah?' said Archibald, yawning again. 'Then I haven't met her.'

  'Introduce you if you like. She's sure to be at Ascot. Look out for us there.'

  Archibald yawned for the third time.

  'All right,' he said, 'I'll try to remember. Tell me about her. I mean, has she any fathers or mothers or any rot of that description?'

  'Only an aunt. She lives with her in Park Street. She's potty.'

  Archibald started, stung to the quick.

  'Potty? That divine . . . I mean that rather attractive-looking girl?'

  'Not Aurelia. The aunt. She thinks Bacon wrote Shakespeare.'

  'Thinks who wrote what?' asked Archibald, puzzled, for the names were strange to him.

  'You must have heard of Shakespeare. He's well known. Fellow who used to write plays. Only Aurelia's aunt says he didn't. She maintains that a bloke called Bacon wrote them for him.'

  'Dashed decent of him,' said Archibald, approvingly. 'Of course, he may have owed Shakespeare money.'

  'There's that, of course.'

  'What was the name again?'


  'Bacon,' said Archibald, jotting it down on his cuff. 'Right.'

  Algy moved on, and Archibald, his soul bubbling within him like a welsh rabbit at the height of its fever, sank into a chair and stared sightlessly at the ceiling. Then, rising, he went off to the Burlington Arcade to buy socks.