An Excerpt from “Goodnight, Mr. Wodehouse”

The following, excerpted from the forthcoming Goodnight, Mr. Wodehouse, furnishes a peek into the world of Nell Stillman. Before the town of Harvester, Minnesota possessed a public library, folks left books and periodicals on a tall bookcase in the lobby of the Water and Power Compny that others might borrow them:

On an October afternoon when the air was extravagant with the scent of bonfires and apples, Hilly joined Nell to walk home from school, stopping at the Water and Power Company on their way. On a high shelf Nell spied Love Among The Chickens by someone named P.G. Wodehouse, a book left there by Cora, as it turned out.

Though she had no idea what she meant by it, Nell sighed, “Ah, yes,” and she pulled the book down. Well, one doesn’t often come across a title like that, she thought.

While Hilly leafed through an illustrated Wild West magazine, Nell opened the volume and read. The random scene took place on a golf course, the narrator noting, “I drove off from the first tee. It was a splendid drive. I should not say so if there were anyone else to say it for me. Modesty would forbid. But as there is no one, I must repeat the statement.”

Later, dawdling along Main Street casting an eye into store windows at goods she couldn’t afford, an irrational giddiness shook her, and her hand fluttered to her throat. Love Among The Chickens.

Mr. Wodehouse, as it happened, was an entirely new experience. He was delicious, lighter than air. Generous to a fault. He made her laugh as no man ever had. Surely, he wrote only for her. His rhythms, the way his wit kissed a phrase and sent it dancing, these warmed her like summer. She laughed aloud and fell in love again and again.

Since she had a great hunger to feel weightless and amused, to dismiss out of mind grubby envelopes and school boards and men who breezed off to state legislatures, Mr. Wodehouse came to live with her. No. She went to live with him, a friend who took her hand saying, “I’ll show you an innocent place, and I’ll be there when you need me.” A gentle man.