SOME ASPECTS OF GAME-CAPTAINCY
AN UNFINISHED COLLECTION
THE NEW ADVERTISING
THE SECRET PLEASURES OF REGINALD
MY BATTLE WITH DRINK
IN DEFENSE OF ASTIGMATISM
PHOTOGRAPHERS AND ME
A PLEA FOR INDOOR GOLF
THE ALARMING SPREAD OF POETRY
MY LIFE AS A DRAMATIC CRITIC
THE AGONIES OF WRITING A MUSICAL COMEDY
ON THE WRITING OF LYRICS
THE PAST THEATRICAL SEASON
DAMON AND PYTHIAS: A Romance
THE HAUNTED TRAM
WHEN PAPA SWORE IN HINDUSTANI 
TOM, DICK, AND HARRY 
JEEVES TAKES CHARGE 
DISENTANGLING OLD DUGGIE 
SOME ASPECTS OF GAME-CAPTAINCY
To the Game-Captain (of the football variety) the world is peopled by three classes, firstly the keen and regular player, next the partial slacker, thirdly, and lastly, the entire, abject and absolute slacker.
Of the first class, the keen and regular player, little need be said. A keen player is a gem of purest rays serene, and when to his keenness he adds regularity and punctuality, life ceases to become the mere hollow blank that it would otherwise become, and joy reigns supreme.
The absolute slacker (to take the worst at once, and have done with it) needs the pen of a Swift before adequate justice can be done to his enormities. He is a blot, an excrescence. All those moments which are not spent in avoiding games (by means of that leave which is unanimously considered the peculiar property of the French nation) he uses in concocting ingenious excuses. Armed with these, he faces with calmness the disgusting curiosity of the Game-Captain, who officiously desires to know the reason of his non-appearance on the preceding day. These excuses are of the “had-to-go-and-see-a-man-about-a-dog” type, and rarely meet with that success for which their author hopes. In the end he discovers that his chest is weak, or his heart is subject to palpitations, and he forthwith produces a document to this effect, signed by a doctor. This has the desirable result of muzzling the tyrannical Game-Captain, whose sole solace is a look of intense and withering scorn. But this is seldom fatal, and generally, we rejoice to say, ineffectual.
The next type is the partial slacker. He differs from the absolute slacker in that at rare intervals he actually turns up, changed withal into the garb of the game, and thirsting for the fray. At this point begins the time of trouble for the Game-Captain. To begin with, he is forced by stress of ignorance to ask the newcomer his name. This is, of course, an insult of the worst kind. “A being who does not know my name,” argues the partial slacker, “must be something not far from a criminal lunatic.” The name is, however, extracted, and the partial slacker strides to the arena. Now arises insult No. 2. He is wearing his cap. A hint as to the advisability of removing this piece de resistance not being taken, he is ordered to assume a capless state, and by these means a coolness springs up between him and the G. C. Of this the Game-Captain is made aware when the game commences. The partial slacker, scorning to insert his head in the scrum, assumes a commanding position outside and from this point criticises the Game-Captain’s decisions with severity and pith. The last end of the partial slacker is generally a sad one. Stung by some pungent home-thrust, the Game-Captain is fain to try chastisement, and by these means silences the enemy’s battery.
Sometimes the classes overlap. As for instance, a keen and regular player may, by some more than usually gross bit of bungling on the part of the G.-C., be moved to a fervour and eloquence worthy of Juvenal. Or, again, even the absolute slacker may for a time emulate the keen player, provided an opponent plant a shrewd kick on a tender spot. But, broadly speaking, there are only three classes.
AN UNFINISHED COLLECTION
A silence had fallen upon the smoking room. The warrior just back from the front had enquired after George Vanderpoop, and we, who knew that George’s gentle spirit had, to use a metaphor after his own heart, long since been withdrawn from circulation, were feeling uncomfortable and wondering how to break the news.
Smithson is our specialist in tact, and we looked to him to be spokesman.
“George,” said Smithson at last, “the late George Vanderpoop—-”
“Late!” exclaimed the warrior; “is he dead?”
“As a doornail,” replied Smithson sadly. “Perhaps you would care to hear the story. It is sad, but interesting. You may recollect that, when you sailed, he was starting his journalistic career. For a young writer he had done remarkably well. The _Daily Telephone_ had printed two of his contributions to their correspondence column, and a bright pen picture of his, describing how Lee’s Lozenges for the Liver had snatched him from almost certain death, had quite a vogue. Lee, I believe, actually commissioned him to do a series on the subject.”
“Well?” said the warrior.
“Well, he was, as I say, prospering very fairly, when in an unlucky moment he began to make a collection of editorial rejection forms. He had always been a somewhat easy prey to scourges of that description. But when he had passed safely through a sharp attack of Philatelism and a rather nasty bout of Autographomania, everyone hoped and believed that he had turned the corner. The progress of his last illness was very rapid. Within a year he wanted but one specimen to make the complete set. This was the one published from the offices of the _Scrutinizer_. All the rest he had obtained with the greatest ease. I remember his telling me that a single short story of his, called ‘The Vengeance of Vera Dalrymple,’ had been instrumental in securing no less than thirty perfect specimens. Poor George! I was with him when he made his first attempt on the _Scrutinizer_. He had baited his hook with an essay on Evolution. He read me one or two passages from it. I stopped him at the third paragraph, and congratulated him in advance, little thinking that it was sympathy rather than congratulations that he needed. When I saw him a week afterwards he was looking haggard. I questioned him, and by slow degrees drew out the story. The article on Evolution had been printed.
“‘Never say die, George,’ I said. ‘Send them “Vera Dalrymple.” No paper can take that.’
“He sent it. The _Scrutinizer_, which had been running for nearly a century without publishing a line of fiction, took it and asked for more. It was as if there were an editorial conspiracy against him.”
“Well?” said the man of war.
“Then,” said Smithson, “George pulled himself together. He wrote a parody of ‘The Minstrel Boy.’ I have seen a good many parodies, but never such a parody as that. By return of post came a long envelope bearing the crest of the _Scrutinizer_. ‘At last,’ he said, as he tore it open.
“‘George, old man,’ I said, ‘your hand.’
“He looked at me a full minute. Then with a horrible, mirthless laugh he fell to the ground, and expired almost instantly. You will readily guess what killed him. The poem had been returned, _but without a rejection form!_”
THE NEW ADVERTISING
“In Denmark,” said the man of ideas, coming into the smoking room, “I see that they have original ideas on the subject of advertising. According to the usually well-informed Daily Lyre, all ‘bombastic’ advertising is punished with a fine. The advertiser is expected to describe his wares in restrained, modest language. In case this idea should be introduced into England, I have drawn up a few specimen advertisements which, in my opinion, combine attractiveness with a shrinking modesty at which no censor could cavil.”
And in spite of our protests, he began to read us his first effort, descriptive of a patent medicine.
“It runs like this,” he said:
Timson’s Tonic for Distracted Deadbeats Has been known to cure
We Hate to Seem to Boast,
Many Who have Tried It Are Still Alive
* * * * *
Take a Dose or Two in Your Spare Time It’s Not Bad Stuff
* * * * *
Read what an outside stockbroker says: “Sir–After three months’ steady absorption of your Tonic I was no worse.”
* * * * *
We do not wish to thrust ourselves forward in any way. If you prefer other medicines, by all means take them. Only we just thought we’d mention it–casually, as it were–that TIMSON’S is PRETTY GOOD.
“How’s that?” inquired the man of ideas. “Attractive, I fancy, without being bombastic. Now, one about a new novel. Ready?”
MR. LUCIEN LOGROLLER’S LATEST
The Dyspepsia of the Soul
The Dyspepsia of the Soul
The Dyspepsia of the Soul
Don’t buy it if you don’t want to, but just listen to a few of the criticisms.
THE DYSPEPSIA OF THE SOUL
“Rather … rubbish.”–_Spectator_
“We advise all insomniacs to read Mr. Logroller’s soporific pages.”–_Outlook_
THE DYSPEPSIA OF THE SOUL
Already in its first edition.
“What do you think of that?” asked the man of ideas.
We told him.
THE SECRET PLEASURES OF REGINALD
I found Reggie in the club one Saturday afternoon. He was reclining in a long chair, motionless, his eyes fixed glassily on the ceiling. He frowned a little when I spoke. “You don’t seem to be doing anything,” I said.
“It’s not what I’m doing, it’s what I am _not_ doing that matters.”
It sounded like an epigram, but epigrams are so little associated with Reggie that I ventured to ask what he meant.
He sighed. “Ah well,” he said. “I suppose the sooner I tell you, the sooner you’ll go. Do you know Bodfish?”
I shuddered. “Wilkinson Bodfish? I do.”
“Have you ever spent a weekend at Bodfish’s place in the country?”
I shuddered again. “I have.”
“Well, I’m _not_ spending the weekend at Bodfish’s place in the country.”
“I see you’re not. But—-”
“You don’t understand. I do not mean that I am simply absent from Bodfish’s place in the country. I mean that I am _deliberately_ not spending the weekend there. When you interrupted me just now, I was not strolling down to Bodfish’s garage, listening to his prattle about his new car.”
I glanced around uneasily.
“Reggie, old man, you’re–you’re not–This hot weather—-”
“I am perfectly well, and in possession of all my faculties. Now tell me. Can you imagine anything more awful than to spend a weekend with Bodfish?”
On the spur of the moment I could not.
“Can you imagine anything more delightful, then, than _not_ spending a weekend with Bodfish? Well, that’s what I’m doing now. Soon, when you have gone–if you have any other engagements, please don’t let me keep you–I shall not go into the house and not listen to Mrs. Bodfish on the subject of young Willie Bodfish’s premature intelligence.”
I got his true meaning. “I see. You mean that you will be thanking your stars that you aren’t with Bodfish.”
“That is it, put crudely. But I go further. I don’t indulge in a mere momentary self-congratulation, I do the thing thoroughly. If I were weekending at Bodfish’s, I should have arrived there just half an hour ago. I therefore selected that moment for beginning not to weekend with Bodfish. I settled myself in this chair and I did not have my back slapped at the station. A few minutes later I was not whirling along the country roads, trying to balance the car with my legs and an elbow. Time passed, and I was not shaking hands with Mrs. Bodfish. I have just had the most corking half-hour, and shortly–when you have remembered an appointment–I shall go on having it. What I am really looking forward to is the happy time after dinner. I shall pass it in not playing bridge with Bodfish, Mrs. Bodfish, and a neighbor. Sunday morning is the best part of the whole weekend, though. That is when I shall most enjoy myself. Do you know a man named Pringle? Next Saturday I am not going to stay with Pringle. I forget who is not to be my host the Saturday after that. I have so many engagements of this kind that I lose track of them.”
“But, Reggie, this is genius. You have hit on the greatest idea of the age. You might extend this system of yours.”
“I do. Some of the jolliest evenings I have spent have been not at the theatre.”
“I have often wondered what it was that made you look so fit and happy.”
“Yes. These little non-visits of mine pick me up and put life into me for the coming week. I get up on Monday morning feeling like a lion. The reason I selected Bodfish this week, though I was practically engaged to a man named Stevenson who lives out in Connecticut, was that I felt rundown and needed a real rest. I shall be all right on Monday.”
“And so shall I,” I said, sinking into the chair beside him.
“You’re not going to the country?” he asked regretfully.
“I am not. I, too, need a tonic. I shall join you at Bodfish’s. I really feel a lot better already.”
I closed my eyes, and relaxed, and a great peace settled upon me.
MY BATTLE WITH DRINK
I could tell my story in two words–the two words “I drank.” But I was not always a drinker. This is the story of my downfall–and of my rise–for through the influence of a good woman, I have, thank Heaven, risen from the depths.
The thing stole upon me gradually, as it does upon so many young men. As a boy, I remember taking a glass of root beer, but it did not grip me then. I can recall that I even disliked the taste. I was a young man before temptation really came upon me. My downfall began when I joined the Yonkers Shorthand and Typewriting College.
It was then that I first made acquaintance with the awful power of ridicule. They were a hard-living set at college–reckless youths. They frequented movie palaces. They thought nothing of winding up an evening with a couple of egg-phosphates and a chocolate fudge. They laughed at me when I refused to join them. I was only twenty. My character was undeveloped. I could not endure their scorn. The next time I was offered a drink I accepted. They were pleased, I remember. They called me “Good old Plum!” and a good sport and other complimentary names. I was intoxicated with sudden popularity.
How vividly I can recall that day! The shining counter, the placards advertising strange mixtures with ice cream as their basis, the busy men behind the counter, the half-cynical, half-pitying eyes of the girl in the cage where you bought the soda checks. She had seen so many happy, healthy boys through that little hole in the wire netting, so many thoughtless boys all eager for their first soda, clamoring to set their foot on the primrose path that leads to destruction.
It was an apple marshmallow sundae, I recollect. I dug my spoon into it with an assumption of gaiety which I was far from feeling. The first mouthful almost nauseated me. It was like cold hair-oil. But I stuck to it. I could not break down now. I could not bear to forfeit the newly-won esteem of my comrades. They were gulping their sundaes down with the speed and enjoyment of old hands. I set my teeth, and persevered, and by degrees a strange exhilaration began to steal over me. I felt that I had burnt my boats and bridges; that I had crossed the Rubicon. I was reckless. I ordered another round. I was the life and soul of that party.
The next morning brought remorse. I did not feel well. I had pains, physical and mental. But I could not go back now. I was too weak to dispense with my popularity. I was only a boy, and on the previous evening the captain of the Checkers Club, to whom I looked up with an almost worshipping reverence, had slapped me on the back and told me that I was a corker. I felt that nothing could be excessive payment for such an honor. That night I gave a party at which orange phosphate flowed like water. It was the turning point.
I had got the habit!
I will pass briefly over the next few years. I continued to sink deeper and deeper into the slough. I knew all the drugstore clerks in New York by their first names, and they called me by mine. I no longer even had to specify the abomination I desired. I simply handed the man my ten cent check and said: “The usual, Jimmy,” and he understood.
At first, considerations of health did not trouble me. I was young and strong, and my constitution quickly threw off the effects of my dissipation. Then, gradually, I began to feel worse. I was losing my grip. I found a difficulty in concentrating my attention on my work. I had dizzy spells. I became nervous and distrait. Eventually I went to a doctor. He examined me thoroughly, and shook his head.
“If I am to do you any good,” he said, “you must tell me all. You must hold no secrets from me.”
“Doctor,” I said, covering my face with my hands, “I am a confirmed soda-fiend.”
He gave me a long lecture and a longer list of instructions. I must take air and exercise and I must become a total abstainer from sundaes of all descriptions. I must avoid limeade like the plague, and if anybody offered me a Bulgarzoon I was to knock him down and shout for the nearest policeman.
I learned then for the first time what a bitterly hard thing it is for a man in a large and wicked city to keep from soda when once he has got the habit. Everything was against me. The old convivial circle began to shun me. I could not join in their revels and they began to look on me as a grouch. In the end, I fell, and in one wild orgy undid all the good of a month’s abstinence. I was desperate then. I felt that nothing could save me, and I might as well give up the struggle. I drank two pin-ap-o-lades, three grapefruit-olas and an egg-zoolak, before pausing to take breath.
And then, the next day, I met May, the girl who effected my reformation. She was a clergyman’s daughter who, to support her widowed mother, had accepted a non-speaking part in a musical comedy production entitled “Oh Joy! Oh Pep!” Our acquaintance ripened, and one night I asked her out to supper.
I look on that moment as the happiest of my life. I met her at the stage door, and conducted her to the nearest soda-fountain. We were inside and I was buying the checks before she realized where she was, and I shall never forget her look of mingled pain and horror.
“And I thought you were a live one!” she murmured.
It seemed that she had been looking forward to a little lobster and champagne. The idea was absolutely new to me. She quickly convinced me, however, that such was the only refreshment which she would consider, and she recoiled with unconcealed aversion from my suggestion of a Mocha Malted and an Eva Tanguay. That night I tasted wine for the first time, and my reformation began.
It was hard at first, desperately hard. Something inside me was trying to pull me back to the sundaes for which I craved, but I resisted the impulse. Always with her divinely sympathetic encouragement, I gradually acquired a taste for alcohol. And suddenly, one evening, like a flash it came upon me that I had shaken off the cursed yoke that held me down: that I never wanted to see the inside of a drugstore again. Cocktails, at first repellent, have at last become palatable to me. I drink highballs for breakfast. I am saved.
IN DEFENSE OF ASTIGMATISM
This is peculiarly an age where novelists pride themselves on the breadth of their outlook and the courage with which they refuse to ignore the realities of life; and never before have authors had such scope in the matter of the selection of heroes. In the days of the old-fashioned novel, when the hero was automatically Lord Blank or Sir Ralph Asterisk, there were, of course, certain rules that had to be observed, but today–why, you can hardly hear yourself think for the uproar of earnest young novelists proclaiming how free and unfettered they are. And yet, no writer has had the pluck to make his hero wear glasses.
In the old days, as I say, this was all very well. The hero was a young lordling, sprung from a line of ancestors who had never done anything with their eyes except wear a piercing glance before which lesser men quailed. But now novelists go into every class of society for their heroes, and surely, at least an occasional one of them must have been astigmatic. Kipps undoubtedly wore glasses; so did Bunker Bean; so did Mr. Polly, Clayhanger, Bibbs, Sheridan, and a score of others. Then why not say so?
Novelists are moving with the times in every other direction. Why not in this?
It is futile to advance the argument that glasses are unromantic. They are not. I know, because I wear them myself, and I am a singularly romantic figure, whether in my rimless, my Oxford gold-bordered, or the plain gent’s spectacles which I wear in the privacy of my study.
Besides, everybody wears glasses nowadays. That is the point I wish to make. For commercial reasons, if for no others, authors ought to think seriously of this matter of goggling their heroes. It is an admitted fact that the reader of a novel likes to put himself in the hero’s place–to imagine, while reading, that he is the hero. What an audience the writer of the first romance to star a spectacled hero will have. All over the country thousands of short-sighted men will polish their glasses and plunge into his pages. It is absurd to go on writing in these days for a normal-sighted public. The growing tenseness of life, with its small print, its newspapers read by artificial light, and its flickering motion pictures, is whittling down the section of the populace which has perfect sight to a mere handful.
I seem to see that romance. In fact, I think I shall write it myself. “‘Evadne,’ murmured Clarence, removing his pince-nez and polishing them tenderly….'” “‘See,’ cried Clarence, ‘how clearly every leaf of yonder tree is mirrored in the still water of the lake. I can’t see myself, unfortunately, for I have left my glasses on the parlor piano, but don’t worry about me: go ahead and see!” … “Clarence adjusted his tortoiseshell-rimmed spectacles with a careless gesture, and faced the assassins without a tremor.” Hot stuff? Got the punch? I should say so. Do you imagine that there will be a single man in this country with the price of the book in his pocket and a pair of pince-nez on his face who will not scream and kick like an angry child if you withhold my novel from him?
And just pause for a moment to think of the serial and dramatic rights of the story. All editors wear glasses, so do all theatrical managers. My appeal will be irresistible. All I shall have to do will be to see that the check is for the right figure and to supervise the placing of the electric sign
SPECTACLES OF FATE
BY P. G. WODEHOUSE
over the doors of whichever theatre I happen to select for the production of the play.
Have you ever considered the latent possibilities for dramatic situations in short sight? You know how your glasses cloud over when you come into a warm room out of the cold? Well, imagine your hero in such a position. He has been waiting outside the murderer’s den preparatory to dashing in and saving the heroine. He dashes in. “Hands up, you scoundrels,” he cries. And then his glasses get all misty, and there he is, temporarily blind, with a full-size desperado backing away and measuring the distance in order to hand him one with a pickaxe.
Or would you prefer something less sensational, something more in the romantic line? Very well. Hero, on his way to the Dowager Duchess’s ball, slips on a banana-peel and smashes his only pair of spectacles. He dare not fail to attend the ball, for the dear Duchess would never forgive him; so he goes in and proposes to a girl he particularly dislikes because she is dressed in pink, and the heroine told him that she was going to wear pink. But the heroine’s pink dress was late in coming home from the modiste’s and she had to turn up in blue. The heroine comes in just as the other girl is accepting him, and there you have a nice, live, peppy, kick-off for your tale of passion and human interest.
But I have said enough to show that the time has come when novelists, if they do not wish to be left behind in the race, must adapt themselves to modern conditions. One does not wish to threaten, but, as I say, we astigmatics are in a large minority and can, if we get together, make our presence felt. Roused by this article to a sense of the injustice of their treatment, the great army of glass-wearing citizens could very easily make novelists see reason. A boycott of non-spectacled heroes would soon achieve the necessary reform. Perhaps there will be no need to let matters go as far as that. I hope not. But, if this warning should be neglected, if we have any more of these novels about men with keen gray eyes or snapping black eyes or cheerful blue eyes–any sort of eyes, in fact, lacking some muscular affliction, we shall know what to do.
PHOTOGRAPHERS AND ME
I look in my glass, dear reader, and what do I see? Nothing so frightfully hot, believe me. The face is slablike, the ears are large and fastened on at right-angles. Above the eyebrows comes a stagnant sea of bald forehead, stretching away into the distance with nothing to relieve it but a few wisps of lonely hair. The nose is blobby, the eyes dull, like those of a fish not in the best of health. A face, in short, taking it for all in all, which should be reserved for the gaze of my nearest and dearest who, through long habit, have got used to it and can see through to the pure white soul beneath. At any rate, a face not to be scattered about at random and come upon suddenly by nervous people and invalids.
And yet, just because I am an author, I have to keep on being photographed. It is the fault of publishers and editors, of course, really, but it is the photographer who comes in for the author’s hate.
Something has got to be done about this practice of publishing authors’ photographs. We have to submit to it, because editors and publishers insist. They have an extraordinary superstition that it helps an author’s sales. The idea is that the public sees the photograph, pauses spell-bound for an instant, and then with a cry of ecstasy rushes off to the book-shop and buys copy after copy of the gargoyle’s latest novel.
Of course, in practice, it works out just the other way. People read a review of an author’s book and are told that it throbs with a passion so intense as almost to be painful, and are on the point of digging seven-and-sixpence out of their child’s money-box to secure a copy, when their eyes fall on the man’s photograph at the side of the review, and they find that he has a face like a rabbit and wears spectacles and a low collar. And this man is the man who is said to have laid bare the soul of a woman as with a scalpel.
Naturally their faith is shaken. They feel that a man like that cannot possibly know anything about Woman or any other subject except where to go for a vegetarian lunch, and the next moment they have put down the hair-pin and the child is seven-and-six in hand and the author his ten per cent., or whatever it is, to the bad. And all because of a photograph.
For the ordinary man, the recent introduction of high-art methods into photography has done much to diminish the unpleasantness of the operation. In the old days of crude and direct posing, there was no escape for the sitter. He had to stand up, backed by a rustic stile and a flabby canvas sheet covered with exotic trees, glaring straight into the camera. To prevent any eleventh-hour retreat, a sort of spiky thing was shoved firmly into the back of his head leaving him with the choice of being taken as he stood or having an inch of steel jabbed into his skull. Modern methods have changed all that.
There are no photographs nowadays. Only “camera portraits” and “lens impressions.” The full face has been abolished. The ideal of the present-day photographer is to eliminate the sitter as far as possible and concentrate on a general cloudy effect. I have in my possession two studies of my Uncle Theodore–one taken in the early ‘nineties, the other in the present year. The first shows him, evidently in pain, staring before him with a fixed expression. In his right hand he grasps a scroll. His left rests on a moss-covered wall. Two sea-gulls are flying against a stormy sky.
As a likeness, it is almost brutally exact. My uncle stands forever condemned as the wearer of a made-up tie.
The second is different in every respect. Not only has the sitter been taken in the popular modern “one-twentieth face,” showing only the back of the head, the left ear and what is either a pimple or a flaw in the print, but the whole thing is plunged in the deepest shadow. It is as if my uncle had been surprised by the camera while chasing a black cat in his coal-cellar on a moonlight night. There is no question as to which of the two makes the more attractive picture. My family resemble me in that respect. The less you see of us, the better we look.
A PLEA FOR INDOOR GOLF
Indoor golf is that which is played in the home. Whether you live in a palace or a hovel, an indoor golf-course, be it only of nine holes, is well within your reach. A house offers greater facilities than an apartment, and I have found my game greatly improved since I went to live in the country. I can, perhaps, scarcely do better than give a brief description of the sporting nine-hole course which I have recently laid out in my present residence.
All authorities agree that the first hole on every links should be moderately easy, in order to give the nervous player a temporary and fictitious confidence.
At Wodehouse Manor, therefore, we drive off from the front door–in order to get the benefit of the door-mat–down an entry fairway, carpeted with rugs and without traps. The hole–a loving-cup–is just under the stairs; and a good player ought to have no difficulty in doing it in two.
The second hole, a short and simple one, takes you into the telephone booth. Trouble begins with the third, a long dog-leg hole through the kitchen into the dining-room. This hole is well trapped with table-legs, kitchen utensils, and a moving hazard in the person of Clarence the cat, who is generally wandering about the fairway. The hole is under the glass-and-china cupboard, where you are liable to be bunkered if you loft your approach-shot excessively.
The fourth and fifth holes call for no comment. They are without traps, the only danger being that you may lose a stroke through hitting the maid if she happens to be coming down the back stairs while you are taking a mashie-shot. This is a penalty under the local rule.
The sixth is the indispensable water-hole. It is short, but tricky. Teeing off from just outside the bathroom door, you have to loft the ball over the side of the bath, holing out in the little vent pipe, at the end where the water runs out.
The seventh is the longest hole on the course. Starting at the entrance of the best bedroom, a full drive takes you to the head of the stairs, whence you will need at least two more strokes to put you dead on the pin in the drawing-room. In the drawing-room the fairway is trapped with photograph frames–with glass, complete–these serving as casual water: and anyone who can hole out on the piano in five or under is a player of class. Bogey is six, and I have known even such a capable exponent of the game as my Uncle Reginald, who is plus two on his home links on Park Avenue, to take twenty-seven at the hole. But on that occasion he had the misfortune to be bunkered in a photograph of my Aunt Clara and took no fewer than eleven strokes with his niblick to extricate himself from it.
The eighth and ninth holes are straightforward, and can be done in two and three respectively, provided you swing easily and avoid the canary’s cage. Once trapped there, it is better to give up the hole without further effort. It is almost impossible to get out in less than fifty-six, and after you have taken about thirty the bird gets visibly annoyed.
THE ALARMING SPREAD OF POETRY
To the thinking man there are few things more disturbing than the realization that we are becoming a nation of minor poets. In the good old days poets were for the most part confined to garrets, which they left only for the purpose of being ejected from the offices of magazines and papers to which they attempted to sell their wares. Nobody ever thought of reading a book of poems unless accompanied by a guarantee from the publisher that the author had been dead at least a hundred years. Poetry, like wine, certain brands of cheese, and public buildings, was rightly considered to improve with age; and no connoisseur could have dreamed of filling himself with raw, indigestible verse, warm from the maker.
Today, however, editors are paying real money for poetry; publishers are making a profit on books of verse; and many a young man who, had he been born earlier, would have sustained life on a crust of bread, is now sending for the manager to find out how the restaurant dares try to sell a fellow champagne like this as genuine Pommery Brut. Naturally this is having a marked effect on the life of the community. Our children grow to adolescence with the feeling that they can become poets instead of working. Many an embryo bill clerk has been ruined by the heady knowledge that poems are paid for at the rate of a dollar a line. All over the country promising young plasterers and rising young motormen are throwing up steady jobs in order to devote themselves to the new profession. On a sunny afternoon down in Washington Square one’s progress is positively impeded by the swarms of young poets brought out by the warm weather. It is a horrible sight to see those unfortunate youths, who ought to be sitting happily at desks writing “Dear Sir, Your favor of the tenth inst. duly received and contents noted. In reply we beg to state….” wandering about with their fingers in their hair and their features distorted with the agony of composition, as they try to find rhymes to “cosmic” and “symbolism.”
And, as if matters were not bad enough already, along comes Mr. Edgar Lee Masters and invents _vers libre_. It is too early yet to judge the full effects of this man’s horrid discovery, but there is no doubt that he has taken the lid off and unleashed forces over which none can have any control. All those decent restrictions which used to check poets have vanished, and who shall say what will be the outcome?
Until Mr. Masters came on the scene there was just one thing which, like a salient fortress in the midst of an enemy’s advancing army, acted as a barrier to the youth of the country. When one’s son came to one and said, “Father, I shall not be able to fulfill your dearest wish and start work in the fertilizer department. I have decided to become a poet,” although one could no longer frighten him from his purpose by talking of garrets and starvation, there was still one weapon left. “What about the rhymes, Willie?” you replied, and the eager light died out of the boy’s face, as he perceived the catch in what he had taken for a good thing. You pressed your advantage. “Think of having to spend your life making one line rhyme with another! Think of the bleak future, when you have used up ‘moon’ and ‘June,’ ‘love’ and ‘dove,’ ‘May’ and ‘gay’! Think of the moment when you have ended the last line but one of your poem with ‘windows’ or ‘warmth’ and have to buckle to, trying to make the thing couple up in accordance with the rules! What then, Willie?”
Next day a new hand had signed on in the fertilizer department.
But now all that has changed. Not only are rhymes no longer necessary, but editors positively prefer them left out. If Longfellow had been writing today he would have had to revise “The Village Blacksmith” if he wanted to pull in that dollar a line. No editor would print stuff like:
Under the spreading chestnut tree
The village smithy stands.
The smith a brawny man is he
With large and sinewy hands.
If Longfellow were living in these hyphenated, free and versy days, he would find himself compelled to take his pen in hand and dictate as follows:
In life I was the village smith,
I worked all day
I retained the delicacy of my complexion Because
I worked in the shade of the chestnut tree Instead of in the sun
Like Nicholas Blodgett, the expressman. I was large and strong
I went in for physical culture
And deep breathing
And all those stunts.
I had the biggest biceps in Spoon River.
Who can say where this thing will end? _Vers libre_ is within the reach of all. A sleeping nation has wakened to the realization that there is money to be made out of chopping its prose into bits. Something must be done shortly if the nation is to be saved from this menace. But what? It is no good shooting Edgar Lee Masters, for the mischief has been done, and even making an example of him could not undo it. Probably the only hope lies in the fact that poets never buy other poets’ stuff. When once we have all become poets, the sale of verse will cease or be limited to the few copies which individual poets will buy to give to their friends.
MY LIFE AS A DRAMATIC CRITIC
I had always wanted to be a dramatic critic. A taste for sitting back and watching other people work, so essential to the make-up of this sub-species of humanity, has always been one of the leading traits in my character.
I have seldom missed a first night. No sooner has one periodical got rid of me than another has had the misfortune to engage me, with the result that I am now the foremost critic of the day, read assiduously by millions, fawned upon by managers, courted by stagehands. My lightest word can make or mar a new production. If I say a piece is bad, it dies. It may not die instantly. Generally it takes forty weeks in New York and a couple of seasons on the road to do it, but it cannot escape its fate. Sooner or later it perishes. That is the sort of man I am.
Whatever else may be charged against me, I have never deviated from the standard which I set myself at the beginning of my career. If I am called upon to review a play produced by a manager who is considering one of my own works, I do not hesitate. I praise that play.
If an actor has given me a lunch, I refuse to bite the hand that has fed me. I praise that actor’s performance. I can only recall one instance of my departing from my principles. That was when the champagne was corked, and the man refused to buy me another bottle.
As is only natural, I have met many interesting people since I embarked on my career. I remember once lunching with rare Ben Jonson at the Mermaid Tavern–this would be back in Queen Elizabeth’s time, when I was beginning to be known in the theatrical world–and seeing a young man with a nobby forehead and about three inches of beard doing himself well at a neighboring table at the expense of Burbage the manager.
“Ben,” I asked my companion, “who is that youth?” He told me that the fellow was one Bacon, a new dramatist who had learned his technique by holding horses’ heads in the Strand, and who, for some reason or other, wrote under the name of Shakespeare. “You must see his _Hamlet_,” said Ben enthusiastically. “He read me the script last night. They start rehearsals at the Globe next week. It’s a pippin. In the last act every blamed character in the cast who isn’t already dead jumps on everyone else’s neck and slays him. It’s a skit, you know, on these foolish tragedies which every manager is putting on just now. Personally, I think it’s the best thing since _The Prune-Hater’s Daughter_.”
I was skeptical at the moment, but time proved the correctness of my old friend’s judgment; and, having been present after the opening performance at a little supper given by Burbage at which sack ran like water, and anybody who wanted another malvoisie and seltzer simply had to beckon to the waiter, I was able to conscientiously praise it in the highest terms.
I still treasure the faded newspaper clipping which contains the advertisement of the play, with the legend, “Shakespeare has put one over. A scream from start to finish.”–Wodehouse, in _The Weekly Bear-Baiter_ (with which is incorporated _The Scurvy Knaves’ Gazette_).
The lot of a dramatic critic is, in many respects, an enviable one. Lately, there has been the growing practice among critics of roasting a play on the morning after production, and then having another go at it in the Sunday edition under the title of “Second Swats” or “The Past Week in the Theatre,” which has made it pretty rocky going for dramatists who thus get it twice in the same place, and experience the complex emotions of the commuter who, coming home in the dark, trips over the baby’s cart and bumps his head against the hat stand.
There is also no purer pleasure than that of getting into a theatre on what the poet Milton used to call “the nod.” I remember Brigham Young saying to me once with not unnatural chagrin, “You’re a lucky man, Wodehouse. It doesn’t cost you a nickel to go to a theatre. When I want to take in a show with the wife, I have to buy up the whole of the orchestra floor. And even then it’s a tight fit.”
My fellow critics and I escape this financial trouble, and it gives us a good deal of pleasure, when the male star is counting the house over the heroine’s head (during their big love scene) to see him frown as he catches sight of us and hastily revise his original estimate.
THE AGONIES OF WRITING A MUSICAL COMEDY
Which Shows Why Librettists Pick at the Coverlet
The trouble about musical comedy, and the reason why a great many otherwise kindly and broadminded persons lie in wait round the corner with sudden scowls, their whole being intent on beating it with a brick the moment it shows its head, is that, from outside, it looks too easy.
You come into the crowded theatre and consider that each occupant of an orchestra chair is contributing three or four cents to the upkeep of a fellow who did nothing but dash off the stuff that keeps the numbers apart, and your blood boils. A glow of honest resentment fills you at the thought of anyone having such an absolute snap. You little know what the poor bird has suffered, and how inadequate a reward are his few yens per week for what he has been through. Musical comedy is not dashed off. It grows–slowly and painfully, and each step in its growth either bleaches another tuft of the author’s hair or removes it from the parent skull altogether.
The average musical comedy comes into being because somebody–not the public, but a manager–wants one. We will say that Mr. and Mrs. Whoosis, the eminent ballroom dancers, have decided that they require a different sphere for the exhibition of their talents. They do not demand a drama. They commission somebody to write them a musical comedy. Some poor, misguided creature is wheedled into signing a contract: and, from that moment, his troubles begin.
An inspiration gives him a pleasing and ingenious plot. Full of optimism, he starts to write it. By the time he has finished an excellent first act, he is informed that Mr. and Mrs. Whoosis propose to sing three solos and two duets in the first act and five in the second, and will he kindly build his script accordingly? This baffles the author a little. He is aware that both artistes, though extremely gifted northward as far as the ankle-bone, go all to pieces above that level, with the result that by the time you reach the zone where the brains and voice are located, there is nothing stirring whatever. And he had allowed for this in his original conception of the play, by making Mrs. Whoosis a deaf-mute and Mr. Whoosis a Trappist monk under the perpetual vow of silence. The unfolding of the plot he had left to the other characters, with a few ingenious gaps where the two stars could come on and dance.
He takes a stiff bracer, ties a vinegar-soaked handkerchief round his forehead, and sets to work to remodel his piece. He is a trifle discouraged, but he perseveres. With almost superhuman toil he contrives the only possible story which will fit the necessities of the case. He has wrapped up the script and is about to stroll round the corner to mail it, when he learns from the manager who is acting as intermediary between the parties concerned in the production that there is a slight hitch. Instead of having fifty thousand dollars deposited in the bank to back the play, it seems that the artistes merely said in their conversation that it would be awfully jolly if they _did_ have that sum, or words to that effect.
By this time our author has got the thing into his system: or, rather, he has worked so hard that he feels he cannot abandon the venture now. He hunts for another manager who wants something musical, and at length finds one. The only proviso is that this manager does not need a piece built around two stars, but one suited to the needs of Jasper Cutup, the well-known comedian, whom he has under contract. The personality of Jasper is familiar to the author, so he works for a month or two and remoulds the play to fit him. With the script under his arm he staggers to the manager’s office. The manager reads the script–smiles–chuckles–thoroughly enjoys it. Then a cloud passes athwart his brow. “There’s only one thing the matter with this piece,” he says. “You seem to have written it to star a comedian.” “But you said you wanted it for Jasper Cutup,” gasps the author, supporting himself against the water-cooler. “Well, yes, that is so,” replies the manager. “I remember I did want a piece for him then, but he’s gone and signed up with K. and Lee. What I wish you would do is to take this script and twist it to be a vehicle for Pansy Glucose.”
“Pansy Glucose?” moans the author. “The ingenue?” “Yes,” says the manager. “It won’t take long. Just turn your Milwaukee pickle manufacturer into a debutante, and the thing is done. Get to work as soon as you can. I want this rushed.”
All this is but a portion of the musical comedy author’s troubles. We will assume that he eventually finds a manager who really does put the piece into rehearsal. We will even assume that he encounters none of the trials to which I have alluded. We will even go further and assume that he is commissioned to write a musical comedy without any definite stellar personality in mind, and that when he has finished it the manager will do his share by providing a suitable cast. Is he in soft? No, dear reader, he is not in soft. You have forgotten the “Gurls.” Critics are inclined to reproach, deride, blame and generally hammer the author of a musical comedy because his plot is not so consecutive and unbroken as the plot of a farce or a comedy. They do not realize the conditions under which he is working. If is one of the immutable laws governing musical plays that at certain intervals during the evening the audience demand to see the chorus. They may not be aware that they so demand, but it is nevertheless a fact that, unless the chorus come on at these fixed intervals, the audience’s interest sags. The raciest farce-scenes cannot hold them, nor the most tender love passages. They want the gurls, the whole gurls, and nothing but the gurls.
Thus it comes about that the author, having at last finished his first act, is roused from his dream of content by a horrid fear. He turns to the script, and discovers that his panic was well grounded. He has carelessly allowed fully twenty pages to pass without once bringing on the chorus.
This is where he begins to clutch his forehead and to grow gray at the temples. He cannot possibly shift musical number four, which is a chorus number, into the spot now occupied by musical number three, which is a duet, because three is a “situation” number, rooted to its place by the exigencies of the story. The only thing to do is to pull the act to pieces and start afresh. And when you consider that this sort of thing happens not once but a dozen times between the start of a musical comedy book and its completion, can you wonder that this branch of writing is included among the dangerous trades and that librettists always end by picking at the coverlet?
Then there is the question of cast. The author builds his hero in such a manner that he requires an actor who can sing, dance, be funny, and carry a love interest. When the time comes to cast the piece, he finds that the only possible man in sight wants fifteen hundred a week and, anyway, is signed up for the next five years with the rival syndicate. He is then faced with the alternative of revising his play to suit either: a) Jones, who can sing and dance, but is not funny; b) Smith, who is funny, but cannot sing and dance; c) Brown, who is funny and can sing and dance, but who cannot carry a love-interest and, through working in revue, has developed a habit of wandering down to the footlights and chatting with the audience. Whichever actor is given the job, it means more rewriting.
Overcome this difficulty, and another arises. Certain scenes are constructed so that A gets a laugh at the expense of B; but B is a five-hundred-a-week comedian and A is a two-hundred-a-week juvenile, and B refuses to “play straight” even for an instant for a social inferior. The original line is such that it cannot be simply switched from one to the other. The scene has to be entirely reconstructed and further laugh lines thought of. Multiply this by a hundred, and you will begin to understand why, when you see a librettist, he is generally lying on his back on the sidewalk with a crowd standing round, saying, “Give him air.”
So, do not grudge the librettist his thousand a week or whatever it is. Remember what he has suffered and consider his emotions on the morning after the production when he sees lines which he invented at the cost of permanently straining his brain, attributed by the critics to the impromptu invention of the leading comedian. Of all the saddest words of tongue or pen, the saddest–to a musical comedy author–are these in the morning paper: “The bulk of the humor was sustained by Walter Wiffle, who gagged his way merrily through the piece.”
ON THE WRITING OF LYRICS
The musical comedy lyric is an interesting survival of the days, long since departed, when poets worked. As everyone knows, the only real obstacle in the way of turning out poetry by the mile was the fact that you had to make the darned stuff rhyme.
Many lyricists rhyme as they pronounce, and their pronunciation is simply horrible. They can make “home” rhyme with “alone,” and “saw” with “more,” and go right off and look their innocent children in the eye without a touch of shame.
But let us not blame the erring lyricist too much. It isn’t his fault that he does these things. It is the fault of the English language. Whoever invented the English language must have been a prose-writer, not a versifier; for he has made meagre provision for the poets. Indeed, the word “you” is almost the only decent chance he has given them. You can do something with a word like “you.” It rhymes with “sue,” “eyes of blue,” “woo,” and all sorts of succulent things, easily fitted into the fabric of a lyric. And it has the enormous advantage that it can be repeated thrice at the end of a refrain when the composer has given you those three long notes, which is about all a composer ever thinks of. When a composer hands a lyricist a “dummy” for a song, ending thus,
Tum, tum, tum,
the lyricist just shoves down “You, you, you” for the last line, and then sets to work to fit the rest of the words to it. I have dwelled on this, for it is noteworthy as the only bright spot in a lyricist’s life, the only real cinch the poor man has.
But take the word “love.”
When the board of directors, or whoever it was, was arranging the language, you would have thought that, if they had had a spark of pity in their systems, they would have tacked on to that emotion of thoughts of which the young man’s fancy lightly turns in spring, some word ending in an open vowel. They must have known that lyricists would want to use whatever word they selected as a label for the above-mentioned emotion far more frequently than any other word in the language. It wasn’t much to ask of them to choose a word capable of numerous rhymes. But no, they went and made it “love,” causing vast misery to millions.
“Love” rhymes with “dove,” “glove,” “above,” and “shove.” It is true that poets who print their stuff instead of having it sung take a mean advantage by ringing in words like “prove” and “move”; but the lyricist is not allowed to do that. This is the wretched unfairness of the lyricist’s lot. The language gets him both ways. It won’t let him rhyme “love” with “move,” and it won’t let him rhyme “maternal” with “colonel.” If he tries the first course, he is told that the rhyme, though all right for the eye, is wrong for the ear. If he tries the second course, they say that the rhyme, though more or less ninety-nine percent pure for the ear, falls short when tested by the eye. And, when he is driven back on one of the regular, guaranteed rhymes, he is taunted with triteness of phrase.
No lyricist wants to keep linking “love” with “skies above” and “turtle dove,” but what can he do? You can’t do a thing with “shove”; and “glove” is one of those aloof words which are not good mixers. And–mark the brutality of the thing–there is no word you can substitute for “love.” It is just as if they did it on purpose.
“Home” is another example. It is the lyricist’s staff of life. But all he can do is to roam across the foam, if he wants to use it. He can put in “Nome,” of course, as a pinch-hitter in special crises, but very seldom; with the result that his poetic soul, straining at its bonds, goes and uses “alone,” “bone,” “tone,” and “thrown,” exciting hoots of derision.
But it is not only the paucity of rhymes that sours the lyricist’s life. He is restricted in his use of material, as well. If every audience to which a musical comedy is destined to play were a metropolitan audience, all might be well; but there is the “road” to consider. And even a metropolitan audience likes its lyrics as much as possible in the language of everyday. That is one of the thousand reasons why new Gilberts do not arise. Gilbert had the advantage of being a genius, but he had the additional advantage of writing for a public which permitted him to use his full vocabulary, and even to drop into foreign languages, even Latin and a little Greek when he felt like it. (I allude to that song in “The Grand Duke.”)
And yet the modern lyricist, to look on the bright side, has advantages that Gilbert never had. Gilbert never realised the possibilities of Hawaii, with its admirably named beaches, shores, and musical instruments. Hawaii–capable as it is of being rhymed with “higher”–has done much to sweeten the lot–and increase the annual income of an industrious and highly respectable but down-trodden class of the community.
THE PAST THEATRICAL SEASON
And the Six Best Performances
by Unstarred Actors
What lessons do we draw from the past theatrical season?
In the first place, the success of _The Wanderer_ proves that the day of the small and intimate production is over and that what the public wants is the large spectacle. In the second place, the success of _Oh, Boy!_–(I hate to refer to it, as I am one of the trio who perpetrated it; but, honestly, we’re simply turning them away in droves, and Rockefeller has to touch Morgan for a bit if he wants to buy a ticket from the speculators)–proves that the day of the large spectacle is over and that what the public wants is the small and intimate production.
Then, the capacity business done by _The Thirteenth Chair_ shows clearly that what the proletariat demands nowadays, is the plotty piece and that the sun of the bright dialogue comedy has set; while the capacity business done by _A Successful Calamity_ shows clearly that the number of the plotty piece is up.
You will all feel better and more able to enjoy yourselves now that a trained critical mind has put you right on this subtle point.
No review of a theatrical season would be complete without a tabulated list–or even an untabulated one–of the six best performances by unstarred actors during the past season.
The present past season–that is to say, the past season which at present is the last season–has been peculiarly rich in hot efforts by all sorts of performers. My own choice would be: 1. Anna Wheaton, in _Oh, Boy!_ 2. Marie Carroll, in the piece at the Princess Theatre. 3. Edna May Oliver, in Comstock and Elliott’s new musical comedy. 4. Tom Powers, in the show on the south side of 39th Street. 5. Hal Forde, in the successor to _Very Good, Eddie_. 6. Stephen Maley, in _Oh, Boy!_
You would hardly credit the agony it gives me to allude, even in passing, to the above musical melange, but one must be honest to one’s public. In case there may be any who dissent from my opinion, I append a supplementary list of those entitled to honorable mention: 1. The third sheep from the O. P. side in _The Wanderer_. 2. The trick lamp in _Magic_. 3. The pink pajamas in _You’re in Love_. 4. The knife in _The Thirteenth Chair_. 5. The Confused Noise Without in _The Great Divide_. 6. Jack Merritt’s hair in _Oh, Boy!_
There were few discoveries among the dramatists. Of the older playwrights, Barrie produced a new one and an ancient one, but the Shakespeare boom, so strong last year, petered out. There seems no doubt that the man, in spite of a flashy start, had not the stuff. I understand that some of his things are doing fairly well on the road. Clare Kummer, whose “Dearie” I have so frequently sung in my bath, to the annoyance of all, suddenly turned right round, dropped song-writing, and ripped a couple of hot ones right over the plate. Mr. Somerset Maugham succeeded in shocking Broadway so that the sidewalks were filled with blushing ticket-speculators.
Most of the critics have done good work during this season. As for myself, I have guided the public mind in this magazine soundly and with few errors. If it were not for the fact that nearly all the plays I praised died before my review appeared, while the ones I said would not run a week are still packing them in, I could look back to a flawless season.
As you can see, I have had a very pleasant theatrical season. The weather was uniformly fine on the nights when I went to the theatre. I was particularly fortunate in having neighbors at most of the plays who were not afflicted with coughs or a desire to explain the plot to their wives. I have shaken hands with A. L. Erlanger and been nodded to on the street by Lee Shubert. I have broadened my mind by travel on the road with a theatrical company, with the result that, if you want to get me out of New York, you will have to use dynamite.
Take it for all in all, a most satisfactory season, full of pregnant possibilities–and all that sort of thing.
DAMON AND PYTHIAS
Since Earth was first created,
Since Time began to fly,
No friends were e’er so mated,
So firm as JONES and I.
Since primal Man was fashioned
To people ice and stones,
No pair, I ween, had ever been
Such chums as I and JONES.
In fair and foulest weather,
Beginning when but boys,
We faced our woes together,
We shared each other’s joys.
Together, sad or merry,
We acted hand in glove,
Until–’twas careless, very–
I chanced to fall in love.
The lady’s points to touch on,
Her name was JULIA WHITE,
Her lineage high, her scutcheon
Untarnished; manners, bright;
Complexion, soft and creamy;
Her hair, of golden hue;
Her eyes, in aspect, dreamy,
In colour, greyish blue.
For her I sighed, I panted;
I saw her in my dreams;
I vowed, protested, ranted;
I sent her chocolate creams.
Until methought one morning
I seemed to hear a voice,
A still, small voice of warning.
“Does JONES approve your choice?”
To JONES of my affection
I spoke that very night.
If he had no objection,
I said I’d wed Miss WHITE.
I asked him for his blessing,
But, turning rather blue,
He said: “It’s most distressing,
But _I_ adore her, too.”
“Then, JONES,” I answered, sobbing, “My wooing’s at an end,
I couldn’t think of robbing
My best, my only friend.
The notion makes me furious–
I’d much prefer to die.”
“Perhaps you’ll think it curious,” Said JONES, “but so should I.”
Nor he nor I would falter
In our resolve one jot.
I bade him seek the altar,
He vowed that he would not.
“She’s yours, old fellow. Make her As happy as you can.”
“Not so,” said I, “you take her– You are the lucky man.”
At length–the situation
Had lasted now a year–
I had an inspiration,
Which seemed to make things clear. “Supposing,” I suggested,
“We ask Miss WHITE to choose?
I should be interested
To hear her private views.
“Perhaps she has a preference–
I own it sounds absurd–
But I submit, with deference,
That she might well be heard.
In clear, commercial diction
The case in point we’ll state,
Disclose the cause of friction,
And leave the rest to Fate.”
We did, and on the morrow
The postman brought us news.
Miss WHITE expressed her sorrow
At having to refuse.
Of all her many reasons
This seemed to me the pith:
Six months before (or rather more) She’d married Mr. SMITH.
THE HAUNTED TRAM
Ghosts of The Towers, The Grange, The Court, Ghosts of the Castle Keep.
Ghosts of the finicking, “high-life” sort Are growing a trifle cheap.
But here is a spook of another stamp, No thin, theatrical sham,
But a spectre who fears not dirt nor damp: He rides on a London tram.
By the curious glance of a mortal eye He is not seen. He’s heard.
His steps go a-creeping, creeping by, He speaks but a single word.
You may hear his feet: you may hear them plain, For–it’s odd in a ghost–they crunch. You may hear the whirr of his rattling chain, And the ting of his ringing punch.
The gathering shadows of night fall fast; The lamps in the street are lit;
To the roof have the eerie footsteps passed, Where the outside passengers sit.
To the passenger’s side has the spectre paced; For a moment he halts, they say,
Then a ring from the punch at the unseen waist, And the footsteps pass away.
That is the tale of the haunted car; And if on that car you ride
You won’t, believe me, have journeyed far Ere the spectre seeks your side.
Ay, all unseen by your seat he’ll stand, And (unless it’s a wig) your hair
Will rise at the touch of his icy hand, And the sound of his whispered “Fare!”
At the end of the trip, when you’re getting down (And you’ll probably simply fly!)
Just give the conductor half-a-crown, Ask who is the ghost and why.
And the man will explain with bated breath (And point you a moral) thus:
“‘E’s a pore young bloke wot wos crushed to death By people as fought
As they didn’t ought
For seats on a crowded bus.”
WHEN PAPA SWORE IN HINDUSTANI
“That infernal dog of yours—-”
“Yes, that infernal dog of yours has been at my carnations again!”
Colonel Reynolds, V.C., glared sternly across the table at Miss Sylvia Reynolds, and Miss Sylvia Reynolds looked in a deprecatory manner back at Colonel Reynolds, V.C.; while the dog in question–a foppish pug–happening to meet the colonel’s eye in transit, crawled unostentatiously under the sideboard, and began to wrestle with a bad conscience.
“Oh, naughty Tommy!” said Miss Reynolds mildly, in the direction of the sideboard.
“Yes, my dear,” assented the colonel; “and if you could convey to him the information that if he does it once more–yes, just once more!–I shall shoot him on the spot you would be doing him a kindness.” And the colonel bit a large crescent out of his toast, with all the energy and conviction of a man who has thoroughly made up his mind. “At six o’clock this morning,” continued he, in a voice of gentle melancholy, “I happened to look out of my bedroom window, and saw him. He had then destroyed two of my best plants, and was commencing on a third, with every appearance of self-satisfaction. I threw two large brushes and a boot at him.”
“Oh, papa! They didn’t hit him?”
“No, my dear, they did not. The brushes missed him by several yards, and the boot smashed a fourth carnation. However, I was so fortunate as to attract his attention, and he left off.”
“I can’t think what makes him do it. I suppose it’s bones. He’s got bones buried all over the garden.”
“Well, if he does it again, you’ll find that there will be a few more bones buried in the garden!” said the colonel grimly; and he subsided into his paper.
Sylvia loved the dog partly for its own sake, but principally for that of the giver, one Reginald Dallas, whom it had struck at an early period of their acquaintance that he and Miss Sylvia Reynolds were made for one another. On communicating this discovery to Sylvia herself he had found that her views upon the subject were identical with his own; and all would have gone well had it not been for a melancholy accident.
One day while out shooting with the colonel, with whom he was doing his best to ingratiate himself, with a view to obtaining his consent to the match, he had allowed his sporting instincts to carry him away to such a degree that, in sporting parlance, he wiped his eye badly. Now, the colonel prided himself with justice on his powers as a shot; but on this particular day he had a touch of liver, which resulted in his shooting over the birds, and under the birds, and on each side of the birds, but very rarely at the birds. Dallas being in especially good form, it was found, when the bag came to be counted, that, while he had shot seventy brace, the colonel had only managed to secure five and a half!
His bad marksmanship destroyed the last remnant of his temper. He swore for half an hour in Hindustani, and for another half-hour in English. After that he felt better. And when, at the end of dinner, Sylvia came to him with the absurd request that she might marry Mr. Reginald Dallas he did not have a fit, but merely signified in fairly moderate terms his entire and absolute refusal to think of such a thing.
This had happened a month before, and the pug, which had changed hands in the earlier days of the friendship, still remained, at the imminent risk of its life, to soothe Sylvia and madden her father.
It was generally felt that the way to find favour in the eyes of Sylvia–which were a charming blue, and well worth finding favour in–was to show an intelligent and affectionate interest in her dog. This was so up to a certain point; but no farther, for the mournful recollection of Mr. Dallas prevented her from meeting their advances in quite the spirit they could have wished.
However, they persevered, and scarcely a week went by in which Thomas was not rescued from an artfully arranged horrible fate by somebody.
But all their energy was in reality wasted, for Sylvia remembered her faithful Reggie, who corresponded vigorously every day, and refused to be put off with worthless imitations. The lovesick swains, however, could not be expected to know of this, and the rescuing of Tommy proceeded briskly, now one, now another, playing the role of hero.
The very day after the conversation above recorded had taken place a terrible tragedy occurred.
The colonel, returning from a poor day’s shooting, observed through the mist that was beginning to rise a small form busily engaged in excavating in the precious carnation-bed. Slipping in a cartridge, he fired; and the skill which had deserted him during the day came back to him. There was a yelp; then silence. And Sylvia, rushing out from the house, found the luckless Thomas breathing his last on a heap of uprooted carnations.
The news was not long in spreading. The cook told the postman, and the postman thoughtfully handed it on to the servants at the rest of the houses on his round. By noon it was public property; and in the afternoon, at various times from two to five, nineteen young men were struck, quite independently of one another, with a brilliant idea.
The results of this idea were apparent on the following day.
“Is this all?” asked the colonel of the servant, as she brought in a couple of letters at breakfast-time.
“There’s a hamper for Miss Sylvia, sir.”
“A hamper, is there? Well, bring it in.”
“If you please, sir, there’s several of them.”
“What? Several? How many are there?”
“Nineteen, sir,” said Mary, restraining with some difficulty an inclination to giggle.
“Eh? What? Nineteen? Nonsense! Where are they?”
“We’ve put them in the coachhouse for the present, sir. And if you please, sir, cook says she thinks there’s something alive in them.”
“Yes, sir. And John says he thinks it’s dogs, sir!”
The colonel uttered a sound that was almost a bark, and, followed by Sylvia, rushed to the coachhouse. There, sure enough, as far as the eye could reach, were the hampers; and, as they looked, a sound proceeded from one of them that was unmistakably the plaintive note of a dog that has been shut up, and is getting tired of it.
Instantly the other eighteen hampers joined in, until the whole coachhouse rang with the noise.
The colonel subsided against a wall, and began to express himself softly in Hindustani.
“Poor dears!” said Sylvia. “How stuffy they must be feeling!”
She ran to the house, and returned with a basin of water.
“Poor dears!” she said again. “You’ll soon have something to drink.”
She knelt down by the nearest hamper, and cut the cord that fastened it. A pug jumped out like a jack-in-the-box, and rushed to the water. Sylvia continued her work of mercy, and by the time the colonel had recovered sufficiently to be able to express his views in English, eighteen more pugs had joined their companion.
“Get out, you brute!” shouted the colonel, as a dog insinuated itself between his legs. “Sylvia, put them back again this minute! You had no business to let them out. Put them back!”
“But I can’t, papa. I can’t catch them.”
She looked helplessly from him to the seething mass of dogs, and back again.
“Where’s my gun?” began the colonel.
“Papa, don’t! You couldn’t be so cruel! They aren’t doing any harm, poor things!”
“If I knew who sent them—-”
“Perhaps there’s something to show. Yes; here’s a visiting-card in this hamper.”
“Whose is it?” bellowed the colonel through the din.
“J. D’Arcy Henderson, The Firs,” read Sylvia, at the top of her voice.
“Young blackguard!” bawled the colonel.
“I expect there’s one in each of the hampers. Yes; here’s another. W. K. Ross, The Elms.”
The colonel came across, and began to examine the hampers with his own hand. Each hamper contained a visiting-card, and each card bore the name of a neighbour. The colonel returned to the breakfast-room, and laid the nineteen cards out in a row on the table.
“H’m!” he said, at last. “Mr. Reginald Dallas does not seem to be represented.”
Sylvia said nothing.
“No; he seems not to be represented. I did not give him credit for so much sense.” Then he dropped the subject, and breakfast proceeded in silence.
A young gentleman met the colonel on his walk that morning.
“Morning, colonel!” said he.
“Good-morning!” said the colonel grimly.
“Er–colonel, I–er–suppose Miss Reynolds got that dog all right?”
“To which dog do you refer?”
“It was a pug, you know. It ought to have arrived by this time.”
“Yes. I am inclined to think it has. Had it any special characteristics?”
“No, I don’t think so. Just an ordinary pug.”
“Well, young man, if you will go to my coachhouse, you will find nineteen ordinary pugs; and if you would kindly select your beast, and shoot it, I should be much obliged.”
“Nineteen?” said the other, in astonishment. “Why, are you setting up as a dog-fancier in your old age, colonel?”
This was too much for the colonel. He exploded.
“Old age! Confound your impudence! Dog-fancier! No, sir! I have not become a dog-fancier in what you are pleased to call my old age! But while there is no law to prevent a lot of dashed young puppies like yourself, sir–like yourself–sending your confounded pug-dogs to my daughter, who ought to have known better than to have let them out of their dashed hampers, I have no defence.
“Dog-fancier! Gad! Unless those dogs are removed by this time to-morrow, sir, they will go straight to the Battersea Home, where I devoutly trust they will poison them. Here are the cards of the other gentlemen who were kind enough to think that I might wish to set up for a dog-fancier in my old age. Perhaps you will kindly return them to their owners, and tell them what I have just said.” And he strode off, leaving the young man in a species of trance.
“Sylvia!” said the colonel, on arriving home.
“Do you still want to marry that Dallas fellow? Now, for Heaven’s sake, don’t start crying! Goodness knows I’ve been worried enough this morning without that. Please answer a plain question in a fairly sane manner. Do you, or do you not?”
“Of course I do, papa.”
“Then you may. He’s the furthest from being a fool of any of the young puppies who live about here, and he knows one end of a gun from the other. I’ll write to him now.”
“Dear Dallas” (wrote the colonel),–“I find, on consideration, that you are the only sensible person in the neighbourhood. I hope you will come to lunch to-day. And if you still want to marry my daughter, you may.”
To which Dallas replied by return of messenger:
“Thanks for both invitations. I will.”
An hour later he arrived in person, and the course of true love pulled itself together, and began to run smooth again.
TOM, DICK, AND HARRY
This story will interest and amuse all cricketers, and while from the male point of view it may serve as a good illustration of the fickleness of woman and the impossibility of forecasting what course she will take, the fair sex will find in it an equally shining proof of the colossal vanity of man.
“It’s like this.”
Tom Ellison sat down on the bed, and paused.
“Whack it out,” said Dick Henley encouragingly.
“We’re all friends here, and the password’s ‘Portland.’ What’s the matter?”
“I hate talking to a man when he’s shaving. I don’t want to have you cutting your head off.”
“Don’t worry about me. This is a safety razor. And, anyhow, what’s the excitement? Going to make my flesh creep?”
Tom Ellison kicked uncomfortably at the chair he was trying to balance on one leg.
“It’s so hard to explain.”
“Have a dash at it.”
“Well, look here, Dick, we’ve always been pals. What?”
“Of course we have.”
“We went to the Empire last Boatrace night together—-”
“And got chucked out simultaneously.”
“In fact, we’ve always been pals. What?”
“Of course we have.”
“Then, whenever there was a rag on, and a bonner in the quad, you always knew you could help yourself to my chairs.”
“You had the run of mine.”
“We’ve shared each other’s baccy.”
“In short, we’ve always been pals. What?”
“Of course we have.”
“Then,” said Tom Ellison, “what are you trying to cut me out for?”
“Cut you out?”
“You know what I mean. What do you think I came here for? To play cricket? Rot! I’d much rather have gone on tour with the Authentics. I came here to propose to Dolly Burn.”
Dick Henley frowned.
“I wish you’d speak of her as Miss Burn,” he said austerely.
“There you are, you see,” said Tom with sombre triumph; “you oughtn’t to have noticed a thing like that. It oughtn’t to matter to you what I call her. I always think of her as Dolly.”
“You’ve no right to.”
“I shall have soon.”
“I’ll bet you won’t.”
“Ten to one in anything.”
“Done,” said Tom. “I mean,” he added hastily, “don’t be a fool. There are some things one can’t bet on. As you ought to have known,” he said primly.
“Now, look here,” said Dick, “this thing has got to be settled. You say I’m trying to cut you out. I like that! We may fairly describe that as rich. As if my love were the same sort of passing fancy that yours is. You know you fall in love, as you call it, with every girl you meet.”
“Very well. If the subject is painful we won’t discuss it. Still, how about that girl you used to rave about last summer? Ethel Something?”
“A mere platonic friendship. We both collected autographs. And, if it comes to that, how about Dora Thingummy? You had enough to say about her last winter.”
“We were on good terms. Nothing more. She always sliced with her brassy. So did I. It formed a sort of bond.”
There was a pause.
“After all,” resumed Dick, “I don’t see the point of all this. Why rake up the past? You aren’t writing my life.”
“You started raking.”
“Well, to drop that, what do you propose to do about this? You’re a good chap, Tom, when you aren’t making an ass of yourself; but I’m hanged if I’m going to have you interfering between me and Dolly.”
“Look here,” said Dick. “Cards on the table. I’ve loved her since last Commem.”
“So have I.”
“We went up the Char together in a Canader. Alone.”
“She also did the trip with me. No chaperone.”
“Twice with me.”
“She gave me a couple of dances at the Oriel ball.”
“So she did me. She said my dancing was so much better than the average young man’s.”
“She told me I must have had a great deal of practice at waltzing.”
“In the matter of photographs,” said Tom, “she gave me one.”
“Do you mean ‘also’ or ‘a brace’?” inquired Tom anxiously.
“‘Also,'” confessed Dick with reluctance.
A third pause.
“I tell you what it is,” said Tom; “we must agree on something, or we shall both get left. All we’re doing now is to confuse the poor girl. She evidently likes us both the same. What I mean is, we’re both so alike that she can’t possibly make a choice unless one of us chucks it. You don’t feel like chucking it, Dick. What?”
“You needn’t be more of an idiot than you can help.”
“I only asked. So we are evidently both determined to stick to it. We shall have to toss, then, to settle which is to back out and give the other man a show.”
“Toss!” shouted Dick. “For Dolly! Never!”
“But we must do something. You won’t back out like a sensible man. We must settle it somehow.”
“It’s all right,” said Dick. “I’ve got it. We both seem to have come here and let ourselves in for this rotten little village match, on a wicket which will probably be all holes and hillocks, simply for Dolly’s sake. So it’s only right that we should let the match decide this thing for us. It won’t be so cold-blooded as tossing. See?”
“Whichever of us makes the bigger score today wins. The loser has to keep absolutely off the grass. Not so much as a look or a remark about the weather. Then, of course, after the winner has had his innings, if he hasn’t brought the thing off, and she has chucked him, the loser can have a look in. But not a moment before. Understand?”
“It’ll give an interest to a rotten match,” said Dick.
Tom rose to a point of order.
“There’s one objection. You, being a stodgy sort of bat, and having a habit of sitting on the splice, always get put in first. I’m a hitter, so they generally shove me in about fourth wicket. In this sort of match the man who goes in fourth wicket is likely to be not out half a dozen at the end of the innings. Nobody stays in more than three balls. Whereas you, going in first, will have time for a decent knock before the rot starts. Follow?”
“I don’t want to take any advantage of you,” said Dick condescendingly. “I shan’t need it. We’ll see Drew after breakfast and get him to put us both in first.”
The Rev. Henry Drew, cricketing curate, was the captain of the side.
Consulted on the matter after breakfast, the Rev. Henry looked grave. He was taking this match very seriously, and held decided views on the subject of managing his team.
“The point is, my dear Ellison,” he said, “that I want the bowling broken a bit before you go in. Then your free, aggressive style would have a better chance. I was thinking of putting you in fourth wicket. Would not that suit you?”
“I thought so. Tell him, Dick.”
“Look here, Drew,” said Dick; “you’ll regard what I’m going to say as said under seal of the confessional and that sort of thing, won’t you?”
“I shall, of course, respect any confidence you impart to me, my dear Henley. What is this dreadful secret?”
“So you see,” he concluded, “it’s absolutely necessary that we should start fair.”
The Rev. Henry looked as disturbed as if he had suddenly detected symptoms of Pelagianism in a member of his Sunday-school class.
“Is such a contest quite—-? Is it not a little–um?” he said.
“Not at all,” said Dick, hastening to justify himself and friend. “We must settle the thing somehow, and neither of us will back out. If we didn’t do this we should have to toss.”
“Heaven forbid!” said the curate, shocked.
“Well, is it a deal? Will you put us in first?”
“Thanks,” said Tom.
“Good of you,” said Dick.
“Don’t mention it,” said Harry.
* * * * *
There are two sorts of country cricket. There is the variety you get at a country-house, where the wicket is prepared with a care as meticulous as that in fashion on any county ground; where red marl and such-like aids to smoothness have been injected into the turf all through the winter; and where the out-fielding is good and the boundaries spacious. And there is the village match, where cows are apt to stroll on to the pitch before the innings and cover-point stands up to his neck in a furze-bush.
The game which was to decide the fate of Tom and Dick belonged to the latter variety. A pitch had been mown in the middle of a meadow (kindly lent by Farmer Rollitt on condition that he should be allowed to umpire, and his eldest son Ted put on to bowl first). The team consisted of certain horny-handed sons of toil, with terrific golf-shots in the direction of square-leg, and the enemy’s ranks were composed of the same material. Tom and Dick, in ordinary circumstances, would have gone in to bat in such a match with a feeling of lofty disdain, as befitting experts from the civilised world, come to teach the rustic mind what was what.
But on the present occasion the thought of all that depended on their bats induced a state of nerves which would have done credit to a test match.
“Would you mind taking first b-b-ball, old man?” said Tom.
“All r-right,” said Dick. He had been on the point of making the request himself, but it would not do to let Tom see that he was nervous.
He took guard from Farmer Rollitt, and settled himself into position to face the first delivery.
Whether it is due to the pure air of the country or to daily manual toil is not known, but the fact remains that bowlers in village matches, whatever their other shortcomings, seldom fall short in the matter of speed. The present trundler, having swung his arm round like a flail, bounded to the crease and sent down a ball which hummed in the air. It pitched halfway between the wickets in a slight hollow caused by the foot of a cow and shot. Dick reached blindly forward, and the next moment his off-stump was out of the ground.
A howl of approval went up from the supporters of the enemy, lying under the trees.
Tom sat down, limp with joy. Dick out for a duck! What incredible good fortune! He began to frame in his mind epigrammatic sentences for use in the scene which would so shortly take place between Miss Dolly Burn and himself. The next man came in and played flukily but successfully