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A WODEHOUSE MISCELLANY
Published 2018 by Blackmore Dennett
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
SOME ASPECTS OF GAME-CAPTAINCY
AN UNFINISHED COLLECTION
THE NEW ADVERTISING
MR. LUCIEN LOGROLLER'S LATEST
THE DYSPEPSIA OF THE SOUL
THE SECRET PLEASURES OF REGINALD
MY BATTLE WITH DRINK
IN DEFENSE OF ASTIGMATISM
SPECTACLES OF FATE
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
THE HAUNTED TRAM
WHEN PAPA SWORE IN HINDUSTANI
TOM, DICK, AND HARRY
JEEVES TAKES CHARGE
DISENTANGLING OLD DUGGIE
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 pièce de résistance 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.
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!"
"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
* * * * *
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?"
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.
"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.
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.
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."