The Babe, B.A. - E. F. Benson - ebook

The Babe, B.A. written by E. F. Benson who was an English novelist, biographer, memoirist, archaeologist and short story writer. This book was published in 1897. And now republish in ebook format. We believe this work is culturally important in its original archival form. While we strive to adequately clean and digitally enhance the original work, there are occasionally instances where imperfections such as missing pages, poor pictures or errant marks may have been introduced due to either the quality of the original work. Despite these occasional imperfections, we have brought it back into print as part of our ongoing global book preservation commitment, providing customers with access to the best possible historical reprints. We appreciate your understanding of these occasional imperfections, and sincerely hope you enjoy reading this book.

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The Babe, B.A.


E. F. Benson

Table of Contents


I.—To Introduce.

II.—In Fellows’ Buildings.

III.—The Babe.

IV.—vs. Blackheath.

V.—The Work-club.

VI.—The Babe’s Picnic.

VII.—The Babe’s “Sapping.”

VIII.—A Game of Croquet.

IX.—Tea at the Pitt.

X.—Royal Visitors.

XI.—The Rehearsal.

XII.—A College Sunday.

XIII.—King’s Chapel.

XIV.—A Variety Entertainment.


XVI.—After Lunch.

XVII.—A Little Game.

XVIII.—The Confession.

XIX.—In the Fifties.

XX.—The Babe’s Minor Diversions.



XXIII.—The Lists.



Dear Toby:

It is fitting, and I hope you will not feel it otherwise, that your name should appear on the forefront of this little book, for you know best how much good humour went to the making of it, and how when it was read piecemeal, as it was written, to you, your native politeness, which I cannot admire too much, more than once prompted you to laugh. (Advt.) You will remember, too, when I first mentioned the idea of it to you, that with some solemnity we procured a large sheet of foolscap paper, and a blue pencil, and then and there set ourselves to put down all the remarkable and stirring events which happened to us in those four years we spent together at Cambridge; how we failed egregiously to recollect anything remarkable or stirring—pardon me, we remembered one stirring event, but decided not to treat the world to it—which had come within our personal experience, and thereupon cast, or as you said, “speired” about for any remarkable and stirring incident, which had happened, not, alas, to us, but to anybody else soever. Here again I may recall to you that we drew blank, and our sheet of paper was still virgin white, our blue pencil as sharp as ever, and the book no nearer conception than before.

Then it was that the uncomfortable conviction dawned on us, gradually illuminating our minds as some cloudy rain-slanted morning grows clear to half-wakened eyes, that in the majority of cases, remarkable and stirring events do not befall the undergraduate, and that if the book was to be made at all, it must be made of homely, and I hope wholesome, ingredients, a cricket ball, a canoe, a football, a tripos, a don, a croquet mallet, a few undergraduates, a Greek play, some work, and so forth. For it seemed to us that the superficial enquirer—and you, I vow, are even more superficially-minded than I—finds that these things are common to the experience of most men, but that when you begin to deal in spiritualities, heroes, century-making captains of eleven, chess blues, and higher aspirations, you desert the normal plane for the super-normal, where people like you and me have no business to intrude.

So that, now it is complete, you will find therein neither births, deaths, nor marriages, and though the Babe himself may have waxed a little out of proportion to our original scheme—he ought, for instance, never to have played Rugby for his University, as savouring too much of the hero—I have retained for him to the end that futility of mind, and girt him about with that flippant atmosphere, in which the truly heroic chokes and stifles. About the other characters I have no such confessions to make; they have successfully steered clear of all distinctions, bodily or mental; I have even omitted to state Ealing’s place in the tripos, and for this reason. He ought to have done better than the Babe, but the Babe got a second, and this leaves only one class where Ealing’s name would reasonably appear, and I altogether refuse to let him take a first.

Good-bye for the present: but you will be home for leave, will you not, in a month?

Believe me, my dear Toby,Ever your sincere friend,E. F. BENSON.

P. S.—I apologise for what I have said about your superficialness. It is, however, perfectly true.

I.—To Introduce.

The time has come, the showman said,To look at many things,At Deans and tea and men and BabesAt Cambridge and at King’s.

Light-blue Lyrics.

“And I maintain,” said Reggie, flourishing the Britannia-metal teapot (in order, it is supposed, to lend a spurious emphasis to the banalité of his sentiment), “that it’s better to have played and lost than never—”

The teapot—one of those in which the handle is invariably the hottest part—had just been filled up with boiling water, and a clear and fervid amber stream flew bounteously out of its spout on to the bare knees of one of those who had played and lost. Thereupon a confused noise arose, and Reggie’s sentence has never been finished.

After a short but violent interlude, the confused noise ceased by tacit consent, as suddenly as it had begun; Ealing helped Reggie to pick up the broken fragments that remained, and the latter had to drink his tea out of a pint glass.

“To think that a mere game of football should lead to such disastrous consequences,” he remarked. “Why does tea out of a glass taste like hot Gregory powder?”

“I never drank hot Gregory powder; what does it taste like?”

“Why, like tea out of a glass,” said Reggie brilliantly.

“Reggie, if you want to rag again, you’ve only got to say so.”

Ealing threw into a corner the napkin with which he had been drying his knees and stocking after the tea-deluge, and as he had finished, took out a pipe, and proceeded to fill it.

“That pig of a half-back caught me a frightful hack on the shin,” he said.

“Well, you kicked him in the stomach later on,” said Reggie consolingly. “That’s always something to fall back on. Besides he did it by accident, and it certainly looked as if you did it on purpose. Of course it may only have been sheer clumsiness.”

“Dry up. You didn’t funk as much as usual this afternoon.”

“I tried to, but I never had time. And I can funk as quickly as any man in England. Jack, it’s time for you to say something.”

Jack Marsden was the only one of the three who looked in the least like a gentleman at that moment. Ealing and Reggie were both in change, they both wore villainously muddy flannel knickerbockers, short enough to disclose villainously muddy knees, old blazers, and strong, useful, football boots with bars. Jack, who had taken no part in the confused noise, was sitting in a low chair reading Alice in Wonderland, and eating cake in the manner of a man who does not think about dinner.

“I wasn’t asleep,” he remarked. “I heard every word you fellows were saying.”

“Dormouse,” explained Ealing.

“Dormouse it is. Give me some more tea, Reggie.”

“I call it so jolly sociable to read a book when you come to tea,” remarked Reggie.

“So do I. Thanks. And another piece of cake.”

“Football’s a beastly game,” said Ealing.

“Especially when one is beaten. Here we are out of the Cup ties in the first round, and what one is to do now I don’t know. I can’t think why people ever play football.”

“I shall work,” said Ealing. “Have you seen the list of the subjects for the Mays? I think it must be meant for a joke. They have set all the classical authors I ever heard of, and nearly all I haven’t ever heard of.”

“I want a clean cup,” quoted Jack.

“You want a clean—” began Reggie slowly in a tone of virulent condemnation. But being unable to finish his sentence in an adequately insulting manner, he left Jack’s deficiencies to the imagination.

“He wants a clean pipe,” remarked Ealing. “It sounds like a kettle boiling.”

Jack shut up his book and yawned.

“You fellows are beastly funny,” he said. “I’m going back to Trinity to work. For why? I am dining with the Babe to-night.”

“The Babe has got markedly madder and several years younger since last term,” said Ealing. “And he was neither sane nor old to begin with. Tell him so with my love. Or I dare say Reggie and I will come round later.”

“Do. It is November the fifth. The Babe observes all feasts, whether civil or ecclesiastical. He says it would be a thousand pities to let these curious old customs lapse into disuse.”

“I wish the Babe wouldn’t use such beautiful language,” said Ealing.

“He only does it in his less lucid intervals. Good-bye. I’ll tell him you’re coming round about ten.”

Jack picked up his hat and stick and went off to his rooms in Trinity, where till half-past seven he drifted helplessly about like a ship-wrecked mariner, to whom no sail breaks the limitless horizon, in Thucydides’s graphic account of the Peloponnesian war. To Jack, however, it appeared that its chief characteristic was its length, rather than its interest, a criticism, the truth of which is rendered more and more probable every year by an enormous mass of perfectly independent, unbiassed critics. But being a short and stout young man, by no means infirm of purpose, he regarded that merely as a reason the more for beginning at once.

Reggie Bristow and Ealing sat on for an hour or so by the fire. They were old friends, and so they did not need to talk much. Reggie was a year the younger of the two, and he was now half-way through his first term at King’s. They had been at Eton five years together, where they had both extracted a good deal of amusement out of life, and perhaps a little profit. They were both exceedingly healthy, to judge by the superficial standards of examinations, rather stupid, and, in the opinion of those who knew them, on a much more important matter, very liveable-with. Furthermore, they both played games rather well, and, as was right, neither of them ever troubled his head about abstract questions of any sort or kind. Living was pleasant, and they proceeded to live.

Reggie had been performing this precarious feat with admirable steadiness for just nineteen years. Nature had gifted him with a pleasant face, and a healthy appetite had enabled him to show it to eminent advantage on the top of a tall body. He preferred talking to working, cricket to football, and lying in bed to “signing in” at 8 A.M. in the morning. He smoked a good many pipes every day, and blew smoke rings creditably. He played the piano a little, but his friends did not encourage him to take the necessary practice whereby he might play it any better. He was in fact perfectly normal, which is always the best thing to be.

“It’s a great bore, our being beaten,” he said, after a long pause, during which he had succeeded in blowing one smoke ring through another. “We were the best side really.”

“Of course we were, although we are blessed with a goal-keeper who hides behind the goal-posts, until a man has had his shot.”

“He stopped rather a hot one to-day.”

“Purely by accident. He peeped out from the goal-post too soon, and it struck him in the stomach. I hate being beaten by Pemmer, though I shouldn’t have minded if we’d lost to Trinity. The ground was in a filthy state too. One couldn’t get off.”

Reggie sighed.

“I’ve got to write to my father to-morrow,” he said, “and tell him my impressions of Cambridge. It will be a little difficult, because I haven’t got any.”

“Of course you haven’t. Only people in books have impressions. Describe the match to-day.”

“I’m afraid it wouldn’t interest him.”

“Well, describe King’s Chapel.”

“I might do that; perhaps he’s forgotten what it is like. Oh, yes, and I might describe some of the dons. I’m expected to be very earnest, you know, and the worst of it is I don’t know how.”

“Do you suppose one will ever become a responsible being?” asked Ealing.

“No, never,” said Reggie emphatically. “I grow sillier and sillier every day.”

“Well, you can’t get much sillier.”

Reggie shook his head.

“You wait a year or two,” he said. “I don’t suppose you can form the slightest impression of how foolish I can be if I like.”

“What are you going to do when you go down?”

“The Lord knows,” said Reggie. “I was considered remarkably bright for my age at one time.”

“Long ago?”

“Ages ago. I don’t suppose I’ve been considered bright for the last six years. Oh, by the way, they’ve put me into the Pitt.”

“How very imprudent of them!”

“Yes. There was a young man in the Pitt.”


“That’s all. It’s me, you know.”

Ealing got up and stretched slowly and luxuriously.

“I must go and change. I believe one oughtn’t to sit in wet things. But if one does it frequently enough, it doesn’t seem to hurt one, and the same remark applies to muffins.”

“I shall try sitting in a muffin,” said Reggie thoughtfully. “I never thought of it before.”

“Do. Are you going into Hall to-night?”

“Yes, unless you ask me to dinner.”

“I have no intention whatever of doing that,” said Ealing.

“Then we’ll both go into Hall. I propose to drink champagne out of a silver mug to make up for the tea out of a glass.”

“‘Not what I wish but what I want,’ as the Babe said the other day when he ordered six pairs of silk pyjamas.”

“Oh, the Babe has his points,” said Reggie.

Reggie’s rooms looked out on to a small court, bounded on two sides by the new college buildings, on one by that pellucid river, from which, as Wordsworth might have said, “Cambridge has borrowed its name,” and on the other by four or five big elm-trees. Beyond these lay the back lawn, growing a little rank just now with autumn rains, and above that the main buildings of the college, and the Chapel, which is quite worth describing even to the length of four sides of that smaller size of note-paper, which is found so eminently convenient a basis for the purpose of writing letters to relations.

His two rooms were on the third floor, opening the one into the other, and like all college rooms, were very thoughtfully supplied with an outer door which could only be opened from the inside, and by means of which the laborious student can shut himself off from sight and sound of the busy world around. During Reggie’s short stay at Cambridge it had, as far as he knew, only been used once, and on that occasion a playful friend, mistaking its real use, had shut him out, having previously ascertained that he had lost the key. This feat has at least the merit of simplicity, and it appears to lose none of its fascination however constantly repeated.

Inside, they were furnished with a small bookcase, occupied by débutant-looking classical books, several low chairs, which may best be described as rather groggy, and had been taken on from the previous owner at a high valuation, a piano of a harsh and astringent quality of tone, but plenty of it, several high chairs, and two tables. The smaller of these Reggie preferred to call his working table, the only explanation of which seemed to lie in the fact that somebody often sat on the edge of it when the chairs were full. Two or three school groups and a couple of engravings hung on the walls, and the chimney-piece was littered with things which reminded one of the delightfully vague word “remnants,” and consisted of candlesticks, pipes, old letters, loose matches, an ash tray, a clock which for the last month had been under the delusion that it was always ten minutes to four, an invitation to play in the Freshman’s football match, and another to see the Dean at five minutes to seven, a watch and watch-chain, sixpence, a lawn-tennis ball, a small wooden doll in hideous nakedness (no explanation forthcoming), a pen, and a cigarette.

It was a cold evening, and Reggie wandered in and out of his bedroom, in a state of betwixt and between, now clad only in a bath towel, later on in a pair of trousers and socks, in the fulness of time completely clothed. It still wanted five or ten minutes to seven, and he stood in front of the fire warming himself till Hall time, feeling in that deliciously half-tired, half-lazy mood which is the inimitable result of violent exercise. He rummaged aimlessly in the débris on the mantel-piece, and suffering the deserved fate of idle hands, found the Dean’s note about which he had genuinely forgotten. He gave vent to a resigned little sound, about half-way between a sigh and a swear, took up his gown and left the room.

II.—In Fellows’ Buildings.

King, nine, twa, do you play them so?Whae’s that a-calling?I dinna ken, and I do not knowWhae’s that a-calling sae sweet.

On the Border.

And one clear call for me.


Those Fellows of colleges, who live in college are, for obvious reasons, debarred from the matrimonial state, and should inspire greater respect in reflective minds than almost any other class of persons in this naughty world. For the most part they combine the morality of married men with the innocence of ideal bachelors. Their lives are for nine months or so of the year lived in the sequestered shades of pious and ancient foundations, unspotted by the world. Those who have relations fill their places in the domestic circle where their absence has no doubt rendered them doubly dear, at Christmas and Easter, or join those who have not, and pass their long vacation on the lower slopes of the Alps, or at quiet little sea-side places; some of them visit cathedrals during their unoccupied months, some the lakes, few or none, London, or if London, chiefly the reading-room at the British Museum. But there are exceptions to the most desirable rules, and even among Fellows of colleges there are a few who are reported to know “a thing or two.”

On Saturday night it often happened that Fellows of King’s asked their colleagues from other colleges to dine with them. After dinner they sat in the Combination Room for an hour or so, or they would break up into parties, which spent the evening at one or other of the Fellows’ rooms, and indulged in the mild dissipation of whist at three-penny points, which they seemed to find strangely exhilarating. One such party adjourned directly after dinner to the room of the Dean, Mr. Collins, who two hours before had remonstrated with Reggie for not attending a larger percentage of early Chapels or their equivalent. To undergraduates he was scholastic and austere, but among his own contemporaries he not infrequently relaxed into positive playfulness.

Mr. Stewart, a history tutor from Trinity, was one of his guests to-night, and Mr. Longridge, a Dean of the same college, another. About Mr. Longridge, all that need be said at present is that in body he was insignificant, and in mind, incoherent. But Mr. Stewart was a more conspicuous person both bodily and mentally: he was in fact one of the exceptions to the general run of his class, and he was credited, by report at least, with knowing not only a thing or two, but lots of things.

Just now, his long, languid form, attired altogether elegantly, was spread over a considerable area of arm-chair, his feet rested on the fender, and he was holding forth on certain subjects of the day, about which he was perfectly qualified to speak. The man with the incoherent mind was sitting near him, listening with ill-concealed impatience to his sonorous periods, and getting in a word edgewise occasionally. Mr. Collins was busy attending to the wants of his guests, and two of his friends from the same college, were sitting together on the sofa, resigned but replete.

“The luxury of modern times,” Mr. Stewart was saying, “is disgusting,—Chartreuse, please—simply disgusting. What business have men to clothe their floors in fabrics from Persia, their walls in other fabrics from Cairo and Algiers, or stamped leather, and paintings by Turner and Reynolds and, and Orchardson, their lamp-shades in lace and Liberty fabrics—Lace and Liberty sounds like a party catch-word—and leave their minds naked and unashamed? I myself aim at a studious simplicity—Thank you, I have brought my own cigarettes. Won’t you have one? They are straight from Constantinople—a studious simplicity. I live at Cambridge, while my natural sphere is London and Paris. I get up at seven, while nature bids me stay in bed till ten. I—”

Mr. Longridge could not bear it any longer. He sprang out of his chair as a cuckoo flies out of a cuckoo clock on the stroke of the hour, and adjusted his spectacles.

“Well, take the case of a man who, say, lived at Oxford. Supposing—or well, take another case—”

Mr. Stewart took advantage of a momentary pause to continue.

“Yes, of course, very interesting,” he said. “A delightful town, Oxford. A shadow of the romance of mediævalism still lingers about its grey streets, which is quite absent from the new red-brick buildings of St. John’s College, Cambridge. I remember walking there one morning with dear George Meredith, and your mention of Oxford recalled to me what he said. Poor dear fellow! He is the most lucid of men, but as soon as he puts pen to paper he is like an elephant that is lost in a jungle, and goes trumpeting and trampling along through wreaths and tangled festoons of an exotic style. Lord Granchester was staying there at the time—Sir Reginald Bristow he was then—”

“I had the pleasure of speaking to his son just before Hall,” remarked Mr. Stewart in professional accents.

“Reggie, is dear Reggie up here? How delightful! I remember him six or seven years ago. He was like one of Raphael’s angels.”

“What-was-it-that-George-Meredith-said?” asked the incoherent man, all in one word.

“One of Raphael’s angels,” pursued Mr. Stewart, taking not the slightest notice. “A face like an opening flower.”

“The flower has a stem six feet high now,” remarked Mr. Collins.

“Dear Reggie! And—and is he as fascinating as ever?”

Mr. Collins laughed.

“I have not known him long, so I cannot say how fascinating he is capable of being. And as a rule Deans and undergraduates don’t put out their full power of fascination in dealing with each other.”

“But whose fault is that?” said Mr. Stewart in a slow unctuous voice. “Surely we ought to be brothers, dear elder brothers to the undergraduates. I remember—”

Mr. Collins, who was obviously sceptical about George Meredith’s remark, and hoped that Stewart was going back to it, brightened up and interrogated, “Yes?” in an intelligent manner.

“I remember,” said Mr. Stewart still sublimely oblivious, “I remember that I myself used always to make friends, dear friends of the undergraduates when I was Dean. If one of them did not attend Chapel often enough, as often, that is, as our odious regulations require, I used to ask him to call for me on his way, and we used to go to Chapel together. One had a rich, lovely tenor voice. I—I forget his name, and I think he is dead.”

Mr. Longridge laughed monosyllabically but unkindly.

“It was very pleasant, very pleasant indeed, but to be Dean brings one into the wrong relation with undergraduates,” said Mr. Stewart. “And talking of music, I had a charming time at Bayreuth last year. We had Parsifal and Tannhäuser and the Meistersingers. Tannhäuser is the most wonderful creation. Like all of us, but more successfully than most, Wagner welds into one harmonious whole, the ugliness of sin and the beauty of holiness.”

Mr. Longridge—there is no other word—bridled.

“The beauty of holiness,” continued Mr. Stewart, chewing and masticating his words, so as to get the full flavour out of them, “a human soul capable of anything. Venusberg and Rome are alike interludes to him. He goes on his sublimely humorous way from Venusberg to Elizabeth, from Elizabeth to Venusberg, and neither produces any lasting effect. And how supremely natural the end is! He has left an almond rod at Rome, and because one of the pilgrims, one of a dowdy crew of middle-class pilgrims shows him an almond rod in blossom, he rushes to the conclusion that it is his. How illogical, but how natural! And he who has never had the courage of his opinions either at Venusberg or Rome, is ‘struck of a heap,’ as they say in suburban places, by the flowering almond rod, and instantly gives up the ghost. Maskelyne and Cooke could produce a bundle of flowering almond rods in half the time. We pay five shillings to see them all. Tannhäuser paid his life to see one. He died of joy at the sight of that flowering almond rod. And after all it was only artificial flowers twined round a stick.”

“Well, of course, if you choose to look at it in that way,” ejaculated Mr. Longridge.

“My dear Longridge,” said Mr. Stewart very slowly, “there is only one way to look at things, only one way.”

“Not at all, though you might very fairly say that there was only one man to look at in one way. Quot homines, tot sententiæ.”

“Dear old Longridge,” said Stewart with unctuous affection.

“You might just as well say,” continued Mr. Longridge, “that because there are people who are colour-blind, we none of us know green from red.”

There was perhaps nothing in the world which Mr. Longridge enjoyed so heartily as what he called a good, sharp argument. This usually consisted in his putting forward a great quantity of indefensible and irrelevant propositions himself, and then proceeding to show how indefensible they were: their irrelevancy needed no demonstration. He was a man of mixed mind.

“Dear old Longridge,” repeated Stewart. “Some people have the misfortune to be born colour-blind, and no doubt in the next world they will be extraordinarily keen-sighted. But until we have finished with this world, and I have not, we can leave colour-blind people altogether out of the question, can we not? In fact, I don’t know how they found their way in. Some things are green, others red, and if you call them by their wrong names, even your own friends must allow that you are no judge of colour.”

Mr. Longridge who was very near-sighted, seemed disposed to take this personally.

“But because I differ from you, in toto I may say, that is no proof that I am colour-blind. You might just as well say—well, to take another instance—”

“To take another instance,” said Mr. Stewart, “because you are sleepy, that is no reason why I should go to bed. In fact, I will have just a glass more of Chartreuse. What a lovely colour it is. A decadent, abnormal colour, the colour of a spoiled piece of soul-fabric. Yes, quite delicious. I spent a fortnight once in the monastery at Fécamp, full of dear, delightful, ascetic monks. I think they all put boiled peas in their shoes during the day, which must be horribly squashy, but they all drink Chartreuse after dinner, so they end happily. Dear, impossible Charles Kingsley used always to abuse monks—I suppose because he was tinged with asceticism himself. But I fancy there is no real objection to their marrying. Monks marry nuns, I think. How delightful to receive an invitation card—‘Monk and Nun Stewart.’”

The two other Fellows of King’s had subsided into the background altogether, and were discussing the chances of their various pupils in the next tripos. They had both refused Chartreuse, and took their coffee in a mixture of half and half with hot milk. The integral calculus on one side balanced an exceptional skill at Greek Iambics on the other, and they prattled on politely and innocently. It must be conceded that they felt but little interest in what they were talking about, but their interest on all subjects was diminutive and bird-like. They pecked and hopped away.

“But he showed me a copy of Iambics the other day,” said one, “with two final Cretics in it.”

Mr. Stewart caught the last words.

“What an epigram that ought to make!” he said, smiling broadly and benignly. “The insidious and final Cretic. I see him as a lean, spare man, with a cast in his eye.”

“It’s merely a false foot in Greek Iambics they are talking of,” said Longridge breathlessly.

“And a false foot,” continued Stewart, “cunningly concealed by patent leather boots. Thank you, Longridge, the picture is complete. And I have a Victor Hugo class in my room at half-past ten. We are reading Les Misérables—a—a prose epic. I must literally be going.”

“I should like to see a figurative going,” said Mr. Longridge, spitefully.

Mr. Stewart turned on him with mild forbearance.

“You can say you must be going and then stop,” he said. “Good night, good night. A most pleasant evening.”

There were now only four of them, so at their host’s proposal they settled down to whist. Mr. Longridge enquired eagerly whether it was to be long whist or short whist, but as no one had ever heard of either, it is to be presumed that they played medium, and it is certain they played mediocre whist. Mr. Longridge during the first deal, demonstrated quite conclusively that whist markers could be used either for whist or backgammon or bézique, always supposing you knew how to multiply by ten, or with somewhat less ease for registering the votes in the present election. This latter, however, appeared, as far as it was possible to follow him, to imply a knowledge of how to multiply by thirteen and divide by twenty-nine, a feat which all his hearers, with the exception of the mathematician, were hopelessly incapable of performing. This, however, was no detraction whatever from the abstract value of such a discovery.

Longridge was partner to Mr. Campbell, one of the hitherto silent guests, and Collins to Currey, who was cursed with the final Cretic pupil. And herein lay the sting of the affair, for Longridge’s studies in whist had got as far as the call for trumps, while his partner’s knowledge was confined to a complete acquaintance with the ordinal value of individual cards. Collins, however, was a sound player, and the only one present, excepting Longridge, who knew what a call for trumps meant. Longridge consequently stripped his hand naked, as it were, for the sole benefit of his adversary. The rest were as Teiresias, struck blind by the sight of five trumps unveiled.

With his habitual acumen the Dean of Trinity perceived this during the second rubber, and without communicating his discovery, as he was strongly tempted to do, played the higher of two cards instead of the lower so persistently in the first round, in order to deceive his adversary on the right, that before the game was three deals old he had irrevocably revoked. Holding the knave and nine of clubs he played the higher of the two on to the queen third hand, and deceived by his own acuteness supposed he had no more, and trumped the second round. Whereby his adversaries went out, a treble.

Reggie and Ealing, meantime, had spent a charming evening. Reggie had been pressed not to play the piano after Hall, and, instead, they had played billiards till just before ten, and then gone round to Malcolm Street to come down to dessert at the Babe’s dinner party.

As it was Guy Fawkes’s day, their course, so to speak, was mapped out for them beyond possibility of error, and Reggie had the prospect of being exactly six shillings and eight-pence poorer than he otherwise would have been, at about 10.30 on Monday morning.