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Eggs, Beans, and Crumpets, by P.G. Wodehouse

chalicotherex's review

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4.0

The Stories 'Buttercup Day' and 'Ukridge and the Old Stepper' are phenomenal. The Bingo Little stuff is okay and the other stories forgettable. I think Bingo comes out on top too easily for my liking. He just falls into it. Whereas Stanley Featherstone Ukridge is a straight up vagrant who dreams big but whose plans always fall through.

This one's a bit long but it shows how masterful Wodehouse is with Ukridge:
Spoiler“I see you’ve got one,” he said.
“Got what?”
”One of those thingummies.”
“Oh, these? Yes. There was a girl with a tray of them in the front garden. It’s Buttercup Day. In aid of something or other, I suppose.”
“It’s in aid of me,” said Ukridge, the soft smile developing into a face-splitting grin.
“What do you mean?”
“Corky, old horse, said Ukridge, motioning me to a chair, “the great thing in this world is to have a good, level business head. Many men in my position wanting capital and not seeing where they were going to get it, would have given up the struggle as a bad job. Why? Because they lacked Vision and the big, broad, flexible outlook. But what did I do? I sat down and thought. And after many hours of concentrated meditation I was rewarded with an idea. You remember that painful affair in Jermyn Street the other day—when that female bandit got into our ribs? You recall that neither of us knew what we had coughed up our good money for?”
“Well?”
“Well, laddie, it suddenly flashed upon me like an inspiration from above that nobody ever does know what they are coughing up for when they meet a girl with a tray of flags. I hit upon the great truth, old horse—one of the profoundest truths in this modern civilization of ours—that any given man, confronted by a pretty girl with a tray of flags, will automatically and without inquiry shove a coin in her box. So I got hold of a girl I know—a dear little soul, full of beans—and arranged for her to come here this afternoon. I confidently anticipate a clean-up on an impressive scale. The outlay on the pins and bits of paper was practically nil, so there is no overhead and all that comes in will be pure velvet.”
A strong pang shot through me.
“Do you mean to say,” I demanded with feeling, “that that half-crown of mine goes into your beastly pocket?”
“Half of it. Naturally my colleague and partner is in on the division. Did you really give half-a-crown?” said Ukridge, pleased. “It was like you, laddie. Generous to a fault. If everyone had your lavish disposition, this world would be a better, sweeter place.
“I suppose you realize,” I said, “that in about ten minutes at the outside your colleague and partner, as you call her, will be arrested for obtaining money under false pretences?”
“Not a chance.” ;
“After which, they will—thank God!—proceed to pinch you.”
“Quite impossible, laddie. I rely on my knowledge of human psychology. What did she say when she stung you?”
“I forget. ‘Buy a buttercup’ or something.”
“And then?”
“Then I asked what it was all about, and she said, ‘Buttercup Day’.”
“Exactly. And that’s all she will need to say to- anyone. Is it likely, is it reasonable to suppose, that even in these materialistic days Chivalry has sunk so low that any man will require to be told more, by a girl as pretty as that, than that it is Buttercup Day?” He walked to the window and looked out. “Ah! She’s come round into the back garden,” he said, with satisfaction. “She seems to be doing a roaring trade. Every second man is wearing a buttercup. She is now putting it across a curate, bless her heart.”
“And in a couple of minutes she will probably try to put it across a plain-clothes detective, and that will be the end.’
Ukridge eyed me reproachfully. “You persist in looking on the gloomy side, Corky. A little more of the congratulatory attitude is what I could wish to see in you, laddie. You do not appear to realize that your old friend’s foot is at last on the ladder that leads to wealth. Suppose—putting it at the lowest figure—I net four pounds out of this buttercup business. It goes on Caterpillar in the two o’clock selling race at Kempton. Caterpillar wins, the odds being—let us say—ten to one. Stake and winnings go on Bismuth for the Jubilee Cup, again at ten to one. There you have a nice, clean four hundred pounds of capital, ample for a man of keen business sense to build a fortune on. For, between ourselves, Corky, I have my eye on what looks like the investment of a lifetime.”
“Yes?”
“Yes. I was reading about it the other day. A cat ranch out in America.”
“A cat ranch?”
”That’s it. You collect a hundred thousand cats. Each cat has twelve kittens a year. The skins range from ten cents each for the white ones to seventy-five for the pure black. That gives you twelve million skins per year to sell at an average price of thirty cents per skin, making your annual revenue at a conservative estimate three hundred and sixty thousand dollars. But, you will say, what about overhead expenses?”
“Will I?”
“That has all been allowed for. To feed the cats you start a rat ranch next door. The rats multiply four times as fast as cats, so if you begin with a million rats it gives you four rats per day per cat, which is plenty. You feed the rats on what is left over of the cats after removing the skins, allowing one-fourth of a cat per tat, the business thus becoming automatically self-supporting. The cats will eat the rats, the rats will eat the cats–”


On Australians:
Spoiler I don’t know if you have any pet day-dream, Corky, but mine had always been the sudden appearance of the rich uncle from Australia you read so much about in novels. The old-fashioned novels, I mean, the ones where the hero isn’t a dope-fiend. And here he was, looking as I had always expected him to look.

...

(The Australian uncle) said that, though he wasn’t any too keen on matrimony as an institution, he was broad-minded enough to realize that there might quite possibly be women in the world unlike his late wife. Concerning whom, he added that the rabbit was not, as had been generally stated, Australia’s worst pest.

...

"Good God! When I was in Africa during the Boer War a platoon of Australians scrounged one of my cast-iron sheds one night, but I never expected that that sort of thing happened in England in peace-time.”


On wooing:
SpoilerI look back on that moment, Corky, old boy, as one of the worst in my career. It is always a nervous business for a fellow to entertain for the first time the girl he loves and her father; and, believe me, it doesn’t help pass things off when a couple of the proletariat in shirt-sleeves surge into the room and start carrying out all the chairs. Conversation during the proceedings was, you might say, at a standstill; and even after the operations were over it wasn’t any too easy to get it going again.


On scrounging:
SpoilerCorky, a sudden bright light shone on me. I saw all. It was that word “scrounge” that did it. I remembered now having heard of Australia and its scroungers. They go about pinching things, Corky–No, I do not mean spring suits, I mean things that really matter, things of vital import like sundials and summer-houses—not beastly spring suits which nobody could tell you wanted, anyway, and you’ll get it back to-morrow as good as new.


SpoilerMrs. Bingo was a woman who wrote novels about girls who wanted to be loved for themselves alone, but she was not lacking in astuteness.

lordofthemoon's review

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4.0

Since I've never read any Wodehouse, I was asking around and someone in the office said he had a couple and brought them in for me. This is the first that I've finished. Eggs, Beans and Crumpets is a collection of nine short stories, mostly featuring some of Wodehouse's recurring characters (Bingo Little, Mr Mulliner and Ukridge are all present). Reading them in quick succession was actually a bit wearing after a while, particularly the Bingo Little stories, since they mostly followed the same formula, but they're wittily written and easy to read.

To be honest, I'm not actually sure if Wodehouse was being satirical in his stories or just reporting an exaggerated version of life for the upper classes in that time, but either way, I've enjoyed my first introduction to him, although in future I may space out his short stories a bit more.
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