Let me explain that odd subject line. This post exists for one reason: to make search engines come up with a quick and definite answer for anyone who encounters the phrase "walking like Agag" in the Ngaio Marsh novel Death of a Peer, which was originally (and better) titled A Surfeit of Lampreys, and turns to the internet for an explanation. It took me a while to find one.
Here is the context in which the phrase appears:
At their first meeting Dr. Kantripp had warned Alleyn that Lady Wutherwood was greatly shaken. "I suppose she is," Alleyn had said; "one expects that, but you mean something else, don't you?" And Kantripp, looking guarded, muttered about hysteria, possible momentary derangement, extreme and morbid depression. "In other words, a bit dotty," Alleyn grunted. "Curtis had better have a look at her, if you don't mine." He left the doctors together and afterwards accepted Dr. Curtis' view that Kantripp was walking like Agag....
The reference is to 1 Sam 15:32. In the King James version, which is almost certainly what Inspector Alleyn would have known, it goes like this:
Then said Samuel, Bring ye hither to me Agag the king of the Amal'ekites. And Agag came unto him delicately. And Agag said, Surely the bitterness of death is past.
So Alleyn means something akin to "walking on tiptoe," or maybe "walking on eggshells" when those are used metaphorically in reference to someone's conversation: speaking carefully, in short. Dr. Kantripp is not saying outright, but strongly suggesting, that Lady Wutherwood is in fact a bit dotty.
Apparently that translation is now considered inaccurate, at least by some translators. Here's how it goes in the New American Bible:
Afterward Samuel commanded, “Bring Agag, king of Amalek, to me.” Agag came to him struggling and saying, “So it is bitter death!” (NAB)
According to both translations, Agag in the first was quite mistaken and in the second quite right about what was coming: the next thing that happens is that he is "hewed...in pieces before the Lord."
The book is excellent. I took it with me on a long flight last weekend and didn't finish it, and sat down with it as soon as I could after I got home. My old paperback edition has a blurb claiming that Marsh writes better than Agatha Christie, and I'm inclined to agree, though it's been a long time since I read anything by Christie.
The story involves a rich, charming, feckless family, the Lampreys. They're delightfully portrayed in the way that only the British can do, possibly because they're the only nation that produces people like them. I wondered if the word "lamprey" meant the same thing in England that it does here, and I deduce from the original title that it must, though the family, who can be fairly considered somewhat parasitic, is not monstrous. On the other hand, it certainly suggests that Marsh didn't consider them, at bottom, very charming.
Not, unfortunately, the edition I read, but art work more accurate than many mystery novel covers.
The current edition. Not especially appropriate art, except for the Art Deco vibe.