Saturday, October 17, 2009

Honeysuckle Cottage by P G Wodehouse

The only peril in this story is to read it whilst you're drinking a cup of tea.
'Do you believe in ghosts?' asked Mr Mulliner abruptly.
I weighed the question thoughtfully. I was a little surprised, for nothing in our previous conversation had suggested the topic.
'Well,' I replied, 'I don't like them, if that's what you mean. I was once butted by one as a child.'
'Ghosts. Not goats.'
The narrator tells Mr Mulliner about his distant cousin, James Rodman, who lived for a brief time in a haunted cottage. It was bequeathed to him by his aunt, the author Leila J Pinckney, who writes literature that he describes as 'Squashily Sentimental'. James writes sensational mystery stories with nasty men and weapons. Aunt Leila was keen on having James out of London as she was a great believer in the influence of environment.
She often asked him if he thought it quite nice to harp so much on sudden death and blackmailers with squints.
Coincidence has it that James was in the market for a country property when Aunt Leila dies so he quickly settles in at Honeysuckle Cottage. But when he tries to get back to his writing he keeps having the urge to write a beautiful lady into the story! Sinister landladies in a detective story have their place but what was this? Could James possibly be becoming soft?
A pretty, young girl, carrying a fluffy white dog, shows up at the cottage and there's an accident. The chivalrous James saves Rose Maynard from worse injury and on doctor's orders she is left to recuperate at the cottage. Suddenly, the doctor is describing his patient as 'an elfin child; a tender, fairy creature.' It's all frothy whip whenever anyone has anything to say! This all becomes very worrying to James as he is a confirmed bachelor and doesn't like where this is heading. Even the apple-cheeked housekeeper thinks this recent guest is 'like a blessed angel sitting there with her dear eyes all a-shining.'
But then, dashing Colonel Carteret, shows up looking for Rose. He held her father in his arms while he died during the war, promising to marry the angelic creature. James is off the hook...but wait! He saves Rose's fluffy dog from drowning which is an irresistible act to any woman. Dashing Colonel Carteret '0', James '1'. Unable to control himself, James has hold of Rose's hand as he tells her...
'Let me tell you a story. Once upon a time there was a lonely man who lived in a cottage all by himself...'
He stopped. Was it James Rodman who was talking this bilge?
'Yes?' whispered the girl.
Just then, William, James big lug of a dog jumps all over him breaking the spell! James leaves the cottage, never to return, but it has left an ineradicable mark on him.
His eyes to-day have that unmistakable look which is to be seen only in the eyes of confirmed bachelors whose feet have been dragged to the very brink of the pit and who have gazed at close range into the naked face of matrimony.
As a married woman I could be offended, but I'm not...just very amused. Deacon liked it too! He was whimpering while I was reading so I started to read out loud. Next thing I knew, he laid down and rolled on his side, listening contentedly, good boy. Perhaps for a little while we had Aunt Leila's ghost in our house!


  1. Somehow I think PD Wodehouse would be amused to know Deacon liked his story! :) I've only read one of Wodehouse's stories, though I have a couple books on my TBR pile....of course...haven't yet read them.

  2. I didn't know PGW wrote short stories too. Is this in a collection?

  3. What an adorable anecdote about Deacon!

  4. Danielle, Wodehouse is an author I'd like to read much more of when I've made a huge dent in what I already have. I think I've seen one or two of those newer edition hardcovers in your TBR pile...they're gorgeous!

    verity, This title appears in my Everyman's Ghost Story book but I've just had a peek on Amazon for some others. They do exist so keep your eye out for them. I have Saki's complete short story collection and those two are similiar in humour which is excellent indeed!

    Paperback Reader, Wasn't that cute? I thought he had gone to sleep but his eyes stayed open. I'm going to try this more often!

  5. Deacon and I may not see eye to eye on Hoops and Yoyo but we are on the same wavelength when it comes to Wodehouse:) I read your post and practically ran to my new collection to see if Honeysuckle Cottage was in it and it was...yea! I am going to save it for a Halloween night treat.

  6. Book Psmith, I'm so glad you have it, it was such a lovely story! If the collection you mean is the one shown on your most recent's gorgeous! Watch your chocolate fingers while turning pages on Halloween night, I know how that goes...two for you, one for me:)

  7. This was a wonderful post! I loved it. I went to check my book, The World of Mr. Mulliner, and Honeysuckle Cottage is in there. I must have read it but many years ago. I love those Mulliner stories. And I love what PGW says in the preface about reading no more than two or three a day. :<) What a wit, what a writer!!

  8. Deacon is a Wodehouse fan! I love it!!

  9. That sounds wonderful! I've never read any P G Wodehouse but have heard him raved about everywhere and as he has coined the hilarious phrase 'squashily sentimental' (I love that!) I think I would really love him - must pick up one of his books next time I see one on a charity shop shelf.

  10. Nan, So glad that you have this story in your collection! 'What a wit, what a writer' indeed.

    JoAnn, Isn't that funny! All this time I've been snapping on the leash and walking for an hour when perhaps all he wants is to be read to!

    Rachel, You would love him, and Saki is another. Usually, I seem to prefer female authors but the wit on these two make for deliciously wonderful reading.