“Seeing a Large Cat” & “The Ape Who Guards the Balance”



by Elizabeth Peters

Published 1997, 1998

There are two big things about the Amelia Peabody series that I have been really enjoying.  The first is Amelia herself – witty, entertaining, insightful, intelligent, an excellent wife, and responsible mother – her voice in these stories is a delight.  The second is the way that time actually passes.  I can remember reading Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys as a girl and thinking that they must have had a very busy year, since all 50-odd stories seemed to happen at the same time (“18-year-old Nancy Drew drove her blue convertible down the road…”  did every story start that way??).  Some mystery series do have a passage of time, but since they read very independently, you don’t really notice (think of Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot, for instance).  But others, like the Amelia Peabody books, actually build on one another, adding information and characters with each book.  The characters change and grow as well.

And so, by the time we reach Seeing a Large Cat, the children under the care of the Emersons – Ramses (their own son), Nefret (their adopted daughter), and David (an Egyptian boy who, through a series of events, now lives with their family) – are reaching adulthood.  Being the independent and clever youth that they are (and having the Emersons as their main adult influence, I’m sure), they aren’t content to sit back and let Emerson and Amelia have all the fun.  And so, with this book, we start to see much more of an involvement of the younger characters.  One of the ways that Peters does this is to introduce the voice of Ramses as well as Amelia’s.

After the first few books, Peters began to represent herself, through “Editor’s Notes”, as merely the editor of the Emerson’s papers.  Peters informs us that she has the charge of sifting through and editing not only Amelia’s journals and manuscripts, but other letters and diaries as well.  In Seeing a Large Cat we not only reading from Amelia’s personal record, but also from “Manuscript H,” a third-person account, which we later find is written by Ramses (no real surprise).  In The Ape Who Guards the Balance, Amelia’s account and Manuscript H are the main sources of information, but there are also several letters written by Nefret as well.

While I have, in many ways, enjoyed the introduction of some new perspectives, it has been a bit strange to listen to other accounts of the Emersons.  Especially in Seeing a Large Cat, it often felt as though the introduction of Manuscript H greatly reduced Amelia’s involvement in the story, and tended to make her appear much more ridiculous and unbelievable.  I will say, though, that I am on the third book that includes Manuscript H (Guardian of the Horizon) and do feel as though Peters has somewhat regained her stride, using the multiple voices to complement one another instead of ridicule.

One other point of interest from The Ape Who Guards the Balance – there is a very intriguing scene where Amelia is really forced to do a bit of self-examination.  David has fallen in love with Emerson’s niece, and while Amelia loves David dearly, she really has to come to grips with the fact that she is not nearly as open-minded or free of prejudice as she has always believed herself to be – she doesn’t think that the marriage of David, an Egyptian, is appropriate to her niece, and Englishwoman.  Peters deals with this topic very well, I thought, as we see Amelia trying to brush it under the rug, pretending that that isn’t the reason she objects to the marriage (“It’s because they’re too young!”) and, in the end, being strongly reminded of the fact that people are people no  matter their race or origin, and that an Egyptian (in this case) is just as capable of possessing a high moral code, a chivalrous attitude, and the willingness to lay down his life for another, as anyone else.

Dear Mr. Darcy



by Amanda Grange

Published 2012

Okay, I admit it: I’m a sucker for a good Pride & Prejudice retelling/sequel.  Tragically, there are FAR more bad ones than there are good ones.  Some of the ones that are delightful ideas involve rather graphic love scenes (Abigail Reynolds…  her ideas are really intriguing; her stories frequently just smut).  Just not my thing.  But every once in a while, I’ll find one actually worth the reading.  And Dear Mr. Darcy falls into that category for me.

Basically, Grange uses letters to tell the entire story of Pride & Prejudice, and she uses this format to give us insights into characters whose perspectives are not always explored in the original story.  By starting a few years before P&P opens, Grange also allows us to see how the death of Mr. Darcy’s father shaped a great deal of his future thoughts, words, and actions.  The letters also incorporate some found in the original story (think: Mr. Collins’s letter to Mr. Bennet), although not all of them (for instance, Mr. Darcy’s letter to Elizabeth after his disastrous proposal in Kent).  Grange also explores some of the more minor characters (like Mary), and gives some plausible reasons/pen-pals by creating a family that actually owns Netherfield, but is forced to lease it out.  (By making one of the daughters of this family Elizabeth’s friend, Grange creates another person in whom Elizabeth can confide, as Charlotte does not always fit the bill.  There are also daughters who are friends of Mary – surprisingly entertaining – and Lydia/Kitty.)

All in all, this is a frivolous, fun, clean little romp through the characters of Pride & Prejudice, and, for once, one that I don’t think would make Austen turn in her grave.  4/5.

The Cat-Nappers



by P.G. Wodehouse

Published 1974

And so we arrive at the final volume of Bertie/Jeeves adventures.  I don’t know that Wodehouse necessarily intended it to be the final volume (although he was in his 90’s when he wrote it, so he had to have at least suspected that it could be), and it is filled with precisely the sort of entanglements and misunderstands that compound every Wodehouse novel.

I have really, REALLY enjoyed reading all of the Bertie books in their published order.  While I had read almost all of them at one time or another, it had always been rather haphazard and slapdash, just grabbing up whatever one happened to be handy.  While each one reads independently without any trouble, reading them in order has really increased my enjoyment of each book.  Seeing characters reappear and watching background stories chase from one book to another just adds to the delight and the understanding of exactly how big of a pickle Bertie is in this time.

As always, Wodehouse’s knack of perfect description has to the potential to make me laugh out loud:

He couldn’t have been more emotional if he had been a big shot in the Foreign Office and I a heavily veiled woman diffusing a strange exotic scent whom he had caught getting away with the Naval Treaty.


The aunt to whom I alluded was my good and deserving Aunt Dahlia, not to be confused with my Aunt Agatha who eats broken bottles and is strongly suspected of turning into a werewolf at the time of the full moon.  Aunt Dahlia is as good a sort as ever said “Tally Ho” to a fox … If she ever turned into a werewolf, it would be one of those jolly breezy werewolves whom it is a pleasure to know.

Pure gold, folks.

As an aside, I accidentally checked out a large-print edition, so I felt like I was flying through this book.

The alternate title for this book is also its final line, and, to me, truly sums up not only this story, but every story Wodehouse ever wrote:  “Aunts aren’t gentlemen.”

Critical Reaction



by Todd M. Johnson

Published 2013

This book was provided to my by Bethany House free of charge in exchange for an unbiased review.  And, luckily for them, I liked it!

So this is a thriller about a young attorney, Emily, who gets a desperate call from a long-lost friend, Kieran.  Kieran is in the middle of a lawsuit – he is suing his employer, a nuclear energy company because, while at work, there was an explosion and he inhaled…  something.  The company is being super sketchy about the details.  With the help of Emily’s semi-estranged father (who is also an attorney), they begin to gather evidence for their case – and find out that this whole thing is way bigger than they suspected.

Let’s be honest – I don’t know anything about nuclear energy, nuclear bombs, or anything else that begins with “nuclear.”  So I’m not going to try and review this book based on its factuality.  It read logically and that’s important to me.  What the company was doing, how they were doing it, why they were doing it – all of that made sense, so even if the science is whack (which what do I know?  Maybe it’s spot on!), the story hangs together pretty well.

However, this this whole second level involving these Native Americans and the way the nuclear energy is impacting the environment and all of these things and that part got rather fuzzy.  In the end, it seemed to distract rather than add to the plot, especially when they’re all dashing about bareback on half-wild mustangs without bridles through the desert at night.  I was actually more mentally critical of those kinds of details than I was on the nuclear stuff, although maybe that’s because I’ve spent more time on horseback than I have developing nuclear bombs.

The relationships in this book irked me a bit.  Emily and her dad have this strained relationship because he was super busy when she was little etc etc etc and then when her mom got sick and eventually died he just ignored poor Emily…  I honestly end up feeling more on the dad’s side, because he’s been working to reach out to her and show that he’s sorry for things in the past and, up until this point where she has to have his help, Emily’s been basically ignoring him.  I’m so sorry that your dad was so busy taking care of his wife whom he loved devotedly that he didn’t have time to listen to how you did on a college exam.  From my perspective, Emily seemed a bit too demanding and unforgiving as regards her dad.  Throughout the book, this whole relationship is kind of a big deal, but then it sort of fizzles out in the end and we’re left to more or less assume that the rift has been healed and all is well.

Emily and Kieran, of course, fall in love.  However, this is also just background.  There are no quiet conversations about the future, no scenes in which the characters profess to love each other, nada.  We basically know they’re in love because Emily’s dad keeps thinking I’m not sure it’s a good idea for Emily to be in love with Kieran when so much is uncertain.  It would have been nice to have just a smidge more of the love story, or to have no love story at all instead of just a vague insinuation of one.

HOWEVER I felt that this book was paced excellently.  There were definitely times when I could barely put it down.  I was reading this in tandem with The War that Ended Peace and that was working super well.  I’m way more inspired to read ten pages of non-fiction when I know another chapter of a thriller is waiting for me as a reward.  The chapters were short and snappy (my favorite kind) leaving me always thinking that I could read just one more before turning out the light.  The courtroom scenes are good.  Sometimes those can drag a bit, but these were very well done.

The author also does a good job of telling us what the “bad guys” are up to – just enough information to add to the tension.  There is also another plot line following another character who was involved in the explosion and his story also paces well.

This is a Bethany House book, but there is zero religion, other than a few desperation prayers.  No idea what the religious affiliations of these characters are.  That’s fine, and I appreciated that the Bethany House label did guarantee that this was just a good thriller with no cursing or sex – I hate it when thrillers seem to think that the only way they can build tension is by f*ing everything in sight.

Overall, this book is getting a 4/5.  I would have boosted it to a 5, but the ending was a bit of a cop-out.  There was SO MUCH BUILD UP and then whoops!  Epilogue!  Everyone’s happy.  Awww, happy feelings.  The end.  It was a very abrupt ending, and I just felt a little bit gypped after I had invested so much into the characters and their lives.  Still, the pacing was good, the story was gripping, and the whole thing a great deal of fun.

World War II: The Axis Assault, 1939-1942



Editor: Douglas Brinkley
Chapter Introductions:  David Rubel

Published:  2003

So this book is a “New York Times Living History” book, and I’m having trouble finding out if these are actually a thing, or if just happens to be this one and Volume II of World War II.  Regardless, this book was pretty nifty.

Basically, the book is divided into parts and the parts are divided into chapters.  Each part is some big stage of the war (or leading up to the war), and then the chapters are events that were part of  that stage.  In each chapter, there is a brief introduction of the event, then a copy of an article from The New York Times that covered that event, and then some other primary document – a transcript of a speech, a copy of a letter, a series of telegrams, etc.  While obviously you are still getting some biased information (someone is deciding which primary documents you read), it was still super interesting to read some of these documents for myself, especially speeches given by FDR, Hitler, and Churchill.  I’ve always been down on FDR, so I enjoyed reading this speeches and picking them apart on my own.  ;-)

The newspaper articles are interesting as well.  We read them with the 20/20 (sort of) vision of looking at the past, so it’s intriguing to read articles that were written when the person writing didn’t know what was going to happen next.  There are loads of pictures as well, and this was, overall, just an excellent way to get an overview of the war, and to be reminded that when history is happening, the future is uncertain.  I have Volume 2 on my shelf and am looking forward to reading it.

Between Shades of Gray



by Ruta Sepetys

Published 2011

This is a story about a Lithuanian girl named Lina who, in 1941, is arrested by the Russians and sent to a prison camp.  This book is journal from the years she spent there, suffering from exposure, starvation, and brutal treatment by the Russian soldiers.  While this book is a work of fiction, the author’s parents (or at least one…  the back cover is a bit vague…) were Lithuanian refugees, thus leading to the author’s desire to give this often-forgotten story a voice.

THE STORY IS VERY SAD.  Sometimes this sounds stupidly obvious, but it’s true.  There’s not a lot of happy moments in this book.  People die.  People wish they were dead because their lives are so horrible.  This is a story of injustice, of prejudice, of desperation, of despair.  There is not happy ending, just a vague epilogue that implies that Lina and her brother eventually are freed.

For me, all prison camp stories end up being compared to The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom, one of my favorite books of all time.  And most fall short because they lack the same sense of hope that ten Boom’s story gives.  I think that it is because ten Boom tells her story from a place of faith: even though terrible things happen to her and her family (and when she is rather old, too – at an age where you sit back and assume that your life will continue to be just as adventureless and peaceful as it has been for the last six decades or so), ten Boom has already realized that most valuable of secrets: man can destroy your body, but not your soul.  Lina realizes this as well, and is able to find joy and escape in her drawing.  However, Lina never takes that next step – in which one must realize that only God can truly protect and keep that soul safe.  Thus, where ten Boom’s story is full of the confidence and true joy of someone whose soul is secure, Lina’s tale never loses the desperation of one frantically trying to cling to that soul herself.

Still, it is an excellent read, poignant and thought-provoking, and an excellent reminder of the evils of which man is capable.

The Hippopotamus Pool



by Elizabeth Peters

Published 1996

Frequently, when I am reading a series, I will publish one review for multiple books.  However, having just completed the book that follows The Hippopotamus Pool (Seeing a Large Cat), I feel that it begins a sort of new feel to the books (which I will discuss more whenever I get around to reviewing it – I always seem to be so behind!).  And so, The Hippopotamus Pool stands alone.

In this edition of the Emerson Family Adventures, Amelia and her husband make one of their greatest discoveries of all time – the tomb of an Egyptian queen.  A few years have passed since we last saw the family in The Snake, the Crocodile, and the Dog, and the whole family is back together again in Egypt, including the Emerson’s adopted daughter, Nefret.  The family is also joined by Emerson’s brother, Walter, and his wife, Evelyn.  Their marriage is in a bit of a rough spot following the death of their infant the year before, but Amelia is confident that some time back out on a dig will remind them of their love.

This was another fun, entertaining, lively mystery.  The narration is a delight, the dialogue frequently hilarious, and the characters are very real.  I am not usually much of a fan of first person narratives (hopefully I haven’t already gone into this while reviewing another of these books, lol), but Amelia reads like a very real individual.  Somewhere around this book or perhaps the one before, Peters begins to represent herself as merely the editor of Amelia’s journals and other documents (this ramps up in Seeing a Large Cat with the addition of “Manuscript H”), and it’s actually quite believable, as Amelia is delightfully realistic.  Peters, who did not originally intend to make Amelia’s character the star of a series (the first book has a very independent, here-we’ll -wrap-up-with-an-epilogue kind of feel), is able to use her role as “editor” to deal with any discrepancies with dates/ages (e.g. Amelia tells us that she is in her 30’s – she actually says the exact age but I can’t remember what – in the first book.  Well this gets awkward 15 books later) by blaming them on Amelia.

These books are a lot of fun, although at times the endings are almost too casual – I sometimes feel like various characters or plot lines have gotten kind of brushed off.  For instance, in this book the whole Walter-and-Evelyn-are-going-through-a-rough-time is a big deal at the beginning of the book, but the end it just kind of fizzles out as “Well of course they still love each other because Walter almost died and now Evelyn has been reminded of her love” except we don’t really see that per se in the characters’ actions.

Still, on the whole, I definitely recommend these as an excellent read.

“Midwinter Nightingale” and “The Witch of Clatteringshaws”



by Joan Aiken

Published 2003, 2005

And so here we have the final books of the Wolves series.  Sadly, I can’t say that I am disappointed to see the end of them.  While I enjoyed the humor at times, and Dido’s character, the series became stranger and more violent as it went (especially for children’s books – and these are usually in the juvenile library, not the YA).

In these two books, Dido returns as the main character.  They are shorter than most of the other books in the series – both of them together are about the same size as Cold Shoulder Road or Dido and Pa.   Unfortunately, they are just as confusing as some of the earlier books.  First off, the two books before this one – Is and Cold Shoulder Road  – were about Dido’s younger sister, Isadora.  In Midwinter Nightingale, we get basically no contact with them – Dido is kidnapped as soon as she arrives in England, and we are left to assume that the characters we met and adventured with in the previous two books are fine.

In these books, Aiken is even more casual about killing off characters.  There are several minor characters who are introduced and seemingly having played their part, are casually disposed of, as though the author was unable to think of any other way of getting on with the story without them.  The whole concept of good/bad guys is more or less eradicated, as virtually everyone seems to just be striving for their own power and glory, except for Simon, who goes from being the intelligent, forward-thinking fellow that he was towards the beginning of the series to being an incredibly passive character who worries about his future but doesn’t seem to do anything to change it.  Deaths are violent: people are speared, poisoned, crushed, thrown off of towers, in carriages that drive into ravines, eaten by wolves, drowned, buried alive, and killed in any other number of dreadful ways.  You’ll note that it’s a long list: that’s because a lot of people die.  A lot.

The end of the whole series seems quite weak.  Most of these books have been about people plotting to overthrow the king.  In the last book, through a series of events, Simon has been crowned king.  But his position is, as I mentioned, very passive.  The king has no power, no control, nothing.  So why has everyone else been trying to attain this position?  He leads an entire army to fight a battle simply because he’s bored and wants out of the castle.  The king of the invading nation challenges him to play a chess-like game.  Instead of building tension, the whole situation devolves into them just playing this game, and when it looks like Simon is going to win, the other king just makes a compromise about the whole invasion thing and everyone goes home (???).  I don’t know.  Both of these books were very confusing and dull.

Overall, it’s been a disappointment to read these books.  I love Wolves of Willoughby Chase so very much, and have enjoyed some of Aiken’s other works, like Jane Fairfax (a retelling of Emma) and The Five-Minute Marriage was such a delight that I have several of her other period novels on my TBR list.  But the rest of the Wolves series just fell apart in my opinion, becoming more disjointed, confusing, violent, and depressing with each book.




by Jo Baker

Published 2013

So this is a story about the servants at Elizabeth Bennett’s home of Longbourn.  There’s the housekeeper, Mrs. Hill, and her husband who works as the groom/butler/whathaveyou, and two girls, Sarah and Polly.  While the Bennett girls may have complained about their lack of money and entertainment, those who live belowstairs understand what it truly is to be poor and to work wretchedly long hours.  This book isn’t really a retelling of Pride and Prejudice because the main story has nothing to do with Elizabeth or her sisters; they are the background characters in this tale.

First, the pros:  I think that Baker did a good job of not destroying Austen’s characters.  Instead, the characters we tend to like from the original (like Elizabeth and Jane) are only more likable in this story, as they (unsurprisingly) treat their servants with kindness and respect.  Baker even goes a step further – some of the characters who are rather unlikable in most versions of the story (like Mrs. Bennett and Mr. Collins) are portrayed as people deserving more of sympathy than censure.  I have never felt more in charity with Mrs. Bennett as I did in this story.  She was just as annoying, but somehow more human.

But the cons – First off, Baker never tells us how old Sarah and Polly are.  After several chapters, we finally get an idea that Sarah is older – perhaps even close to twenty – while Polly is still fairly young, probably 10-12.  But it was a bit difficult to really get into the story and understand the perspectives with absolutely no concept of their ages.

The language was a bit crude.  Not overwhelming swearing or anything like that; it was just as though the author felt the need to constantly remind us that life is real under the stairs.  We don’t sugarcoat stuff.  So we have to use words (in both conversations and narrative) like piss and shit, e.g. “She slipped in some hog shit,” or “the baby smelled of milk and piss.”  It just got old after a while.  Apparently urine and manure can only be referred to as piss and shit, and apparently we have to talk about them ALL THE TIME.  Like this:

He wandered around a while, looking for, and failing to find, the necessary house: Polly passed by some minutes later, with a basket of peas from the kitchen garden, and saw him pissing in the shrubbery.

That sentence has NOTHING to do with anything.  It literally feels like she just wrote that sentence so she could work “pissing” into the narrative yet again.

It also felt like the author had gotten a list of modern necessities for writing a historical novel in 2013.  

  • Man who is secretly gay but of course no one suspects and he’s the nicest guy ever because he’s gay and spends his time sneaking out to sleep with other random gay dudes?  We got that covered.  (I mean, seriously:  “[he] died, as he had been promised that he would, at Longbourn – and died as he would have wished to, in the embrace of his lover, a hard-handed labourer or middle years from the next farm along…”  The description goes on, but I won’t make you suffer through it.  This guy didn’t need to be gay.  He’s not even that important of a character.  But we aren’t allowed to write books without a token gay person any more so.
  • Black man who is extremely cultured and ambitious?  We got that.  I’m not saying that there aren’t cultured black people, or that we can’t include them as characters in a book.  But this guy just felt so fake, like she finished writing the book and was like, “Oh my gosh!  I don’t have any black people in my story!  I’d better fix that!”  And while all the rest of the servants are barely literate, the black guy just happens to be the only one who has aspirations and is super intelligent.  I really, truly, am not saying that there aren’t ambitious, intelligent black people or that you can’t write about them; it just is so aggravating to see them written in such a cliched way.
  • Girl who has to take her own fate into her hands and hunt for her man because he’s too much of a goon to come for her?  We got that, too!  Of course the man who supposedly loves and cherishes her disappears without a trace and never bothers to send her a letter.  So she has to set out into the wide world alone to find him herself!  (Alone, unchaperoned, young female wandering around 19th century England?  Seriously!?)  And that part of the story we basically skip.  She leaves to find him.  Next chapter – she finds him!  Woot!  Weeks have passed where she’s been traveling alone, but we conveniently skip all of that.
  • Pregnant unmarried girl forced to give up her baby because her above-stairs lover won’t take care of it?  Check.  Although I have to say that the part where this woman realizes that she actually loves this baby and doesn’t want to give him up is the only part of the book I truly enjoyed.  The writing is beautiful.  

In the witching hour of a winter night, she brought forth a tiny scrap of a boy, who opened blue-black eyes and studied her with a sleepy wisdom, and whose suckling was a dragging ache in her breast, and whose tiny ruddy fists kneaded at her as though he was quite deliberately reshaping her and making her into someone altogether new.  What had hitherto seemed a problem to be solved was not revealed to be the answer: the very fact of the child made everything that had gone before shift and ripple and settle differently, because it all now led to this, and him.  And he was a perfect as a syllabub, or a pillowslip straight off the line.

I really love that paragraph.

  • Pre-marital sex that’s totally fine because “we’re in love!”?  Double check.  All I have to say is – really?
  • Pedophile?  We’ve even got one of those!

I could go on, but the point is, there was way too much 21st century mixed up in this tale to make it truly enjoyable for me.  Add to that the fact that she has Sarah go with Elizabeth to Pemberly after Elizabeth’s marriage, and then goes out of her way to make it appear as though all is not well there – that Elizabeth is distressed and homesick and that Darcy is as grumpy and un-lover-like as ever.  Then Sarah leaves Pemberly to go find her true love who’s ignored her for over a year, and we never hear anything more about the Darcys (because the story isn’t about them), and really, would it have been so difficult to make so that Darcy and Elizabeth were having a happy marriage instead of deliberately making it sound as though things were depressing?

And really, that was the problem with the whole book.  It was plain depressing.  Everyone’s story was sad.  No one was happy.  No one was happy, or had any prospect of happiness.  Perhaps Sarah and her man, but at the same time – I just wasn’t feeling it.  He was dishonest with her, lied about his past, than ran away from it, and never bothered to check after her or let her know that he was alive or where he had gone – is that really a man who is going to make a good husband??  The book was choppy, with lots of flashbacks and back stories.  It was always in third person, but jumped a lot to tell the thoughts of various characters, making it difficult to know who the story was really about – Mrs. Hill?  Sarah?  Polly?  James?  It ended up being about all of them, and so it was a bit overwhelming and not as interesting.  

That, combined with the rough language and casual references to sex (because we’re REAL below-stairs!) left me with no warm feelings towards this story.  The whole book felt like Baker was trying far too hard to shove the differences between the above-and-below stairs lives into my face, with the conclusion being that everyone is miserable, and that doesn’t really lend itself to relaxing reading.  1/5.


So I’ve read three more P.G. Wodehouse books late, and rather than telling you how amazing they are (because they ARE), I’m just going to post up some quotes.  :-D  (Please note that I am “block quoting” every-other one so you can tell where one ends and new one begins, because I am positive that you will read them ALL.)

As an aside, it is SO MUCH FUN to read the Jeeves/Wooster books in order.  I had no idea how much they built on each other, but all the characters who revolve through his pages make a lot more sense reading the books in chronological order.  Even though each is perfectly readable as a stand-alone (that’s how I have always read them before!), the pleasure and humor is greatly added to by reading them in order.  Guys, these books are SO FUNNY.  The quotes below, while they make you smile, won’t make you laugh out loud as reading them in their proper context will.  I promise.  As the quote on the front cover on one edition assures you:  “It’s impossible to be unhappy while reading the adventures of Jeeves and Wooster.”  And that, my friends, is the truth.

I’ve seen him a couple of times in the [Rugby] arena and was profoundly impressed by his virtuosity.  Rugby football is more or less a sealed book to me, I never having gone in for it, but even I could see that he was good …  Like the Canadian Mounted Police, he always got his man, and when he did so the air was vibrant with the excited cries of morticians in the audience making bids for the body.  [1]

And so it came about that some five minutes later I stood once more outside the Blue Room with Bobbie beside me …  Knowing that Bobbie would be on sentry-go made all the difference.  Any gangster will tell you that the strain and anxiety of busting a safe are greatly diminished if you’ve a lookout man ready at any moment to say “Cheese it, the cops!”  [2]

“Do you recall telling me once about someone who told somebody he could tell him something which would make him think a bit?  Knitted socks and porcupines entered into it, I remember.”

“I think you may be referring to the ghost of the father of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, sir.  Addressing his son, he said, ‘I could a tale unfold whose lightest word would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood, make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their spheres, thy knotted and combined locks to part and each particular hair to stand on end like quills upon the fretful porpentine.”

“That’s right.  Locks, of course, not socks.  Odd that he should have said porpentine when he meant porcupine.  Slip of the tongue, no doubt, as so often happens with ghosts.”  [2]

“I’ve seldom had a sharper attack of euphoria.  …  Mind you, I don’t know how long it will last.  Too often it is when one feels fizziest that the storm clouds begin doing their stuff.”

“Very true, sir.  Full many a glorious morning have I seen flatter the mountain tops with sovereign eye, kissing with golden face the meadows green, gilding pale streams with heavenly alchemy, Anon permit the basest clouds to ride with ugly rack on his celestial face and from the forlorn world his visage hide, stealing unseen to west with this disgrace.”

“Exactly,”  I said.  I couldn’t have put it better myself.  “One always has to budget for a change in the weather.”  [3]

“She’s like one of those princesses in the fairy tales who set fellows some task to perform, as it might be scaling a mountain of glass or bringing  her a hair from the beard of the Great Cham of Tartary, and gave them the brush-off when they couldn’t make the grade.”

I recalled the princesses of whom he spoke, and I had always thought them rather fatheads.  I mean to say, what sort of foundation for a happy marriage is the bridegroom’s ability to scale mountains of glass?  A fellow probably wouldn’t be called on to do it more than about once every ten years, if that.  [3]

It was one of those heavy, sultry afternoons when Nature seems to be saying to itself, “Now shall I or shall I not scare the pants off these people with a hell of a thunderstorm?”  [3]


[1] Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves, 1962

[2]  How Right You Are, Jeeves, 1960

[3]  Much Obliged, Jeeves, 1971