" a scattered handful of quill pens "
Quill pens were pens fashioned out of feathers and sharpened to a point.
" his crusading valour against the paynim Cheeseman "
1490 painting of the Siege of Antioch, one of the battles of the Crusades
Conrad jokingly compares Sir Ethelred’s wrangles in the House of Commons with the Crusades, a series of military campaigns intended to bring Christianity to the Pagans (paynims) in the middle ages.
" in the little parlour of the Cheshire Cheese "
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese is a pub on Fleet Street in London. It was rebuilt after the Great Fire of London and the names of all the kings and queens who have reigned since it was built are written next to its door. A gloomy place with lots of tucked away corners, it was frequented by many writers including Alfred Tennyson and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
" The excellent husband of Winnie Verloc saw no writing on the wall "
Rembrandt's Belshazzar's Feast, painted in 1635
“The writing on the wall” is an expression signifying a warning of doom or harbinger of imminent danger.
It comes from the Book of Daniel in the Bible, in which divine writing appears during a feast foretelling the fall of the Babylonian empire.
" tying his pinafores – herself in a pinafore still "
Child in a pinafore in around 1910
A short, sleeveless garment worn by girls and very young children.
" Mentally she assumed the biblical attitude of mourning "
A reference to the Jewish mourning customs, derived from the Old Testament and other sacred texts, which urge mourners to step back from the world and distance themselves from everyday routine.