The short story The Man, the Maid and the Miasma by P.G. Wodehouse ends with the following paragraphs:

He bent across the table.

'Isn't this like the old times?' he said. 'Do you remember the first time I ever ki–'

Just then the orchestra broke out.

The sentence I am wondering about is the last, "Just then the orchestra broke out". My first thought was that it was all a play in the theatre, because there were a few references to the theater in the story. Am I right, or is there a better explanation?

  • 7
    Without more context...hard to say. But isn´t it possible they were in a restaurant and the orchestra started up and began to play?
    – Cascabel
    Jul 15, 2017 at 17:42
  • 7
    @Cascabel: Hard to say? I'd have thought any meaning other than the one you suggested would require a ridiculously contrived context. The conductor decided he couldn't trust the orchestra to play John Cage's 4′33″ correctly, so he locked them all in the dressing-room. After conducting the piece "note perfect" for four and a half minutes he was feverishly anticipating thunderous applause for his performance. Just then the orchestra [smashed the dressing-room door and] broke out, making so much noise he abandoned any attempts to finish properly.
    – FumbleFingers
    Jul 15, 2017 at 18:03
  • 1
    @FumbleFingers I didn´t want to discount the possibility...or perhaps they were dining at the local hoosegow and the band was locked up for playing off-key...
    – Cascabel
    Jul 15, 2017 at 18:07
  • 1
    Here's the context: books.google.ae/…
    – NVZ
    Jul 15, 2017 at 18:07
  • 3
    Obviously, it was an orchestra of teenagers and they all broke out in pimples simultaneously.
    – Hot Licks
    Jul 15, 2017 at 18:18

2 Answers 2


They are having supper in a place with an orchestra - possibly a night club. This is mentioned earlier in the story:

'As a matter of fact,' he said, haughtily, 'I was to have had supper with a chorus-girl this very night.'

The orchestra is getting ready to play:

'Bob,' said the girl, as the first threatening mutters from the orchestra heralded an imminent storm of melody, …

Note the comparison to a storm.

break out

  1. to burst forth suddenly, as with a fire, a riot, giggling, shouting, etc. A fire broke out in the belfry. A round of giggling broke out when the teacher tripped.

a storm breaks (=begins):

A violent storm broke just as we reached the mountain.


Break out in the dictionary means:

to develop or emerge with suddenness or force Merriam-Webster

Some examples given are the fire broke out or the riot broke out, meaning, suddenly began.

So in this case, 'the orchestra broke out' means 'suddenly started playing'.

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