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The Sunny Side
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THE SUNNY SIDE

BY A. A. MILNE

Author of "If I May," "The Dover Road," "Mr. Pim Passes By," etc.

1922



TO OWEN SEAMAN

AFFECTIONATELY IN MEMORY OF NINE HAPPY YEARS AT THE "PUNCH" OFFICE



CONTENTS

CHAPTER

INTRODUCTION TO THE AMERICAN EDITION

I. ORANGES AND LEMONS

II. MEN OF LETTERS

III. SUMMER DAYS

IV. WAR-TIME

V. HOME NOTES

VI. A FEW GUESTS

VII. AND OTHERS



INTRODUCTION

My publisher wants me to apologize for—"introduce" was the kindly word he used—this collection of articles and verses from Punch. I do so with pleasure.

Among the many interests of a long and varied career

No, I don't think I shall begin like that.

It was early in 1871

Nor like that.

Really it is very difficult, you know. I wrote these things for a number of years, and—well, here they are. But just to say "Here they are" is to be too informal for my publisher. He wants, not a casual introduction, but a presentation. Let me tell you a little story instead.

When war broke out, I had published three of these books in England, the gleanings of nine years' regular work for Punch. There are, I understand, a few Americans who read Punch, and it was suggested to me that a suitable collection of articles from these three books might have some sort of American sale. So I made such a collection, leaving out the more topical and allusive sketches, and including those with a more general appeal. I called the result "Happy Days"—an attractive title, you will agree—and in 1915 a New York publisher was found for it.

This is a funny story; at least it appeals to me; so I won't remind myself of the number of copies which we sold. That was tragedy, not comedy. The joke lay in one of the few notices which the book received from the press. For a New York critic ended his review of "Happy Days" with these immortal words:

"Mr. Milne is at present in the trenches facing the German bullets, so this will probably be his last book."

You see now why an apology is necessary. Here we are, seven years later, and I am still at it.

But at any rate, it is the last of this sort of book. As I said in a foreword to the English edition: "It is the last time because this sort of writing depends largely upon the irresponsibility and high spirits of youth for its success, and I want to stop before (may I say 'before'?) the high spirits become mechanical and the irresponsibility a trick. Perhaps the fact that this collection is final will excuse its air of scrappiness. Odd Verses have crept in on the unanswerable plea that, if they didn't do it now, they never would; War Sketches protested that I shouldn't have a book at all if I left them out; an Early Article, omitted from three previous volumes, paraded for the fourth time with such a pathetic 'I suppose you don't want me' in its eye that it could not decently be rejected. So here they all are."

One further word of explanation. You may find the first section of this book—"Oranges and Lemons"—a little difficult. The characters of it are old friends to that limited public which reads my books in England; their earlier adventures have been told in those previous volumes (and purposely omitted from "Happy Days" as being a little too insular). I feel somehow that strangers will not be on such easy terms with them, and I would recommend that you approach them last. By that time you will have discovered whether you are in a mood to stop and listen to their chatter, or prefer to pass them by with a nod.

A.A. M.



THE SUNNY SIDE



I. ORANGES AND LEMONS



I.

THE INVITATION

"Dear Myra," wrote Simpson at the beginning of the year—"I have an important suggestion to make to you both, and I am coming round to-morrow night after dinner about nine o'clock. As time is so short I have asked Dahlia and Archie to meet me there, and if by any chance you have gone out we shall wait till you come back.

"Yours ever,

"SAMUEL

"P.S.—I have asked Thomas too."

* * * * *

"Well?" said Myra eagerly, as I gave her back the letter.

In deep thought I buttered a piece of toast.

"We could stop Thomas," I said. "We might ring up the Admiralty and ask them to give him something to do this evening. I don't know about Archie. Is he—"

"Oh, what do you think it is? Aren't you excited?" She sighed and added, "Of course I know what Samuel is."

"Yes. Probably he wants us all to go to the Zoo together ... or he's discovered a new way of putting, or—I say, I didn't know Archie and Dahlia were in town."

"They aren't. But I expect Samuel telegraphed to them to meet him under the clock at Charing Cross disguised, when they would hear of something to their advantage. Oh, I wonder what it is. It must be something real this time."

Since the day when Simpson woke me up at six o'clock in the morning to show me his stance-for-a-full-wooden-club shot I have distrusted his enthusiasms; but Myra loves him as a mother; and I—I couldn't do without him; and when a man like that invites a whole crowd of people to come to your flat just about the time when you are wondering what has happened to the sardines on toast—well, it isn't polite to put the chain on the door and explain through the letter-box that you have gone away for a week.

"We'd better have dinner a bit earlier to be on the safe side," I said, as Myra gave me a parting brush down in the hall. "If any further developments occur in the course of the day, ring me up at the office. By the way, Simpson doesn't seem to have invited Peter. I wonder why not. He's nearly two, and he ought to be in it. Myra, I'm sure I'm tidy now."

"Pipe, tobacco, matches, keys, money?"

"Everything," I said. "Bless you. Goodbye."

"Good-bye," said Myra lingeringly. "What do you think he meant by 'as time is so short'?"

"I don't know. At least," I added, looking at my watch, "I do know. I shall be horribly late. Good-bye."

I fled down the stairs into the street, waved to Myra at the window ... and then came cautiously up again for my pipe. Life is very difficult on the mornings when you are in a hurry.

At dinner that night Myra could hardly eat for excitement.

"You'll be sorry afterwards," I warned her, "when it turns out to be nothing more than that he has had his hair cut."

"But even if it is, I don't see why I shouldn't be excited at seeing my only brother again—not to mention sister-in-law."

"Then let's move," I said. "They'll be here directly."

Archie and Dahlia came first. We besieged them with questions as soon as they appeared.

"Haven't an idea," said Archie, "I wanted to bring a revolver in case it was anything really desperate, but Dahlia wouldn't let me."

"It would have been useful too," I said, "if it turned out to be something merely futile."

"You're not going to hurt my Samuel, however futile it is," said Myra. "Dahlia, how's Peter, and will you have some coffee?"

"Peter's lovely. You've had coffee, haven't you, Archie?"

"Better have some more," I suggested, "in case Simpson is merely soporific. We anticipate a slumbering audience, and Samuel explaining a new kind of googlie he's invented."

Entered Thomas lazily.

"Hallo," he said in his slow voice. "What's it all about?"

"It's a raid on the Begum's palace," explained Archie rapidly. "Dahlia decoys the Chief Mucilage; you, Thomas, drive the submarine; Myra has charge of the clockwork mouse, and we others hang about and sing. To say more at this stage would be to bring about a European conflict."

"Coffee, Thomas?" said Myra.

"I bet he's having us on," said Thomas gloomily, as he stirred his coffee.

There was a hurricane in the hall. Chairs were swept over; coats and hats fell to the ground; a high voice offered continuous apologies—and Simpson came in.

"Hallo, Myra!" he said eagerly. "Hallo, old chap! Hallo, Dahlia! Hallo, Archie! Hallo, Thomas, old boy!" He fixed his spectacles firmly on his nose and beamed round the room.

"We're all here—thanking you very much for inviting us," I said. "Have a cigar—if you've brought any with you."

Fortunately he had brought several with him.

"Now then, I'll give any of you three guesses what it's all about."

"No, you don't. We're all waiting, and you can begin your apology right away."

Simpson took a deep breath and began.

"I've been lent a villa," he said.

There was a moment's silence ... and then Archie got up.

"Good-bye," he said to Myra, holding out his hand. "Thanks for a very jolly evening. Come along Dahlia."

"But I say, old chap," protested Simpson.

"I'm sorry, Simpson, but the fact that you're moving from the Temple to Cricklewood, or wherever it is, and that somebody else is paying the thirty pounds a year, is jolly interesting, but it wasn't good enough to drag us up from the country to tell us about it. You could have written. However, thank you for the cigar."

"My dear fellow, it isn't Cricklewood. It's the Riviera!"

Archie sat down again.

"Samuel!" cried Myra. "How she must love you!"

"I should never lend Simpson a villa of mine," I said. "He'd only lose it."

"They're some very old friends who live there, and they're going away for a month, and the servants are staying on, and they suggested that if I was going abroad again this year—"

"How did the servants know you'd been abroad last year?" asked Archie.

"Don't interrupt, dear," said Dahlia. "I see what he means. How very jolly for you, Samuel."

"For all of us, Dahlia!"

"You aren't suggesting we shall all crowd in?" growled Thomas.

"Of course, my dear old chap! I told them, and they're delighted. We can share housekeeping expenses, and it will be as cheap as anything."

"But to go into a stranger's house," said Dahlia anxiously.

"It's my house, Dahlia, for the time. I invite you!" He threw out his hands in a large gesture of welcome and knocked his coffee-cup on to the carpet; begged Myra's pardon several times; and then sat down again and wiped his spectacles vigorously.

Archie looked doubtfully at Thomas.

"Duty, Thomas, duty," he said, thumping his chest. "You can't desert the Navy at this moment of crisis."

"Might," said Thomas, puffing at his pipe.

Archie looked at me. I looked hopefully at Myra.

"Oh-h-h!" said Myra, entranced.

Archie looked at Dahlia. Dahlia frowned.

"It isn't till February," said Simpson eagerly.

"It's very kind of you, Samuel," said Dahlia, "but I don't think—"

Archie nodded to Simpson.

"You leave this to me," he said confidentially. "We're going."



II.

ON THE WAY

"Toulon," announced Archie, as the train came to a stop and gave out its plaintive, dying whistle. "Naval port of our dear allies, the French. This would interest Thomas."

"If he weren't asleep," I said.

"He'll be here directly," said Simpson from the little table for two on the other side of the gangway. "I'm afraid he had a bad night. Here, garcon—er—donnez-moi du cafe et—er-" But the waiter had slipped past him again—the fifth time.

"Have some of ours," said Myra kindly, holding out the pot.

"Thanks very much, Myra, but I may as well wait for Thomas, and—garcon, du cafe pour—I don't think he'll be—deux cafes, garcon, s'il vous—it's going to be a lovely day."

Thomas came in quietly, sat down opposite Simpson, and ordered breakfast.

"Samuel wants some too," said Myra.

Thomas looked surprised, grunted and ordered another breakfast.

"You see how easy it is," said Archie. "Thomas, we're at Toulon, where the ententes cordiales come from. You ought to have been up long ago taking notes for the Admiralty."

"I had a rotten night," said Thomas. "Simpson fell out of bed in the middle of it."

"Oh, poor Samuel!"

"You don't mean to say you gave him the top berth?" I asked in surprise. "You must have known he'd fall out."

"But, Thomas dear, surely Samuel's just falling-out-of-bed noise wouldn't wake you up," said Myra. "I always thought you slept so well."

"He tried to get back into my bed."

"I was a little dazed," explained Simpson hastily, "and I hadn't got my spectacles."

"Still you ought to have been able to see Thomas there."

"Of course I did see him as soon as I got in, and then I remembered I was up above. So I climbed up."

"It must be rather difficult climbing up at night," thought Dahlia.

"Not if you get a good take-off, Dahlia," said Simpson earnestly.

"Simpson got a good one off my face," explained Thomas.

"My dear old chap, I was frightfully sorry. I did come down at once and tell you how sorry I was, didn't I?"

"You stepped back on to it," said Thomas shortly, and he turned his attention to the coffee.

Our table had finished breakfast. Dahlia and Myra got up slowly, and Archie and I filled our pipes and followed them out.

"Well, we'll leave you to it," said Archie to the other table. "Personally, I think it's Thomas's turn to step on Simpson. But don't be long, because there's a good view coming."

The good view came, and then another and another, and they merged together and became one long, moving panorama of beauty. We stood in the corridor and drank it in ... and at intervals we said "Oh-h!" and "Oh, I say!" and "Oh, I say, really!" And there was one particular spot I wish I could remember where, so that it might be marked by a suitable tablet—at the sight of which Simpson was overheard to say, "Mon Dieu!" for (probably) the first time in his life.

"You know, all these are olive trees, you chaps," he said every five minutes. "I wonder if there are any olives growing on them?"

"Too early," said Archie. "It's the sardine season now."

It was at Cannes that we saw the first oranges.

"That does it," I said to Myra. "We're really here. And look, there's a lemon tree. Give me the oranges and lemons, and you can have all the palms and the cactuses and the olives."

"Like polar bears in the arctic regions," said Myra.

I thought for a moment. Superficially there is very little resemblance between an orange and a polar bear.

"Like polar bears," I said hopefully.

"I mean," luckily she went on, "polar bears do it for you in the polar regions. You really know you're there then. Give me the polar bears, I always say, and you can keep the seals and the walruses and the penguins. It's the hallmark."

"Right. I knew you meant something. In London," I went on, "it is raining. Looking out of my window I see a lamp-post (not in flower) beneath a low, grey sky. Here we see oranges against a blue sky a million miles deep. What a blend! Myra, let's go to a fancy-dress ball when we get back. You go as an orange and I'll go as a very blue, blue sky, and you shall lean against me."

"And we'll dance the tangerine," said Myra.

But now observe us approaching Monte Carlo. For an hour past Simpson has been collecting his belongings. Two bags, two coats, a camera, a rug, Thomas, golf-clubs, books—his compartment is full of things which have to be kept under his eye lest they should evade him at the last moment. As the train leaves Monaco his excitement is intense.

"I think, old chap," he says to Thomas, "I'll wear the coats after all."

"And the bags," says Thomas, "and then you'll have a suit."

Simpson puts on the two coats and appears very big and hot.

"I'd better have my hands free," he says, and straps the camera and the golf-clubs on to himself. "Then if you nip out and get a porter I can hand the bags out to him through the window."

"All right," says Thomas. He is deep in his book and looks as if he were settled in his corner of the carriage for the day.

The train stops. There is bustle, noise, confusion. Thomas in some magical way has disappeared. A porter appears at the open window and speaks voluble French to Simpson. Simpson looks round wildly for Thomas. "Thomas!" he cries. "Un moment," he says to the porter. "Thomas! Mon ami, it n'est pas—I say, Thomas, old chap, where are you? Attendez un moment. Mon ami—er—reviendra—" He is very hot. He is wearing, in addition to what one doesn't mention, an ordinary waistcoat, a woolly waistcoat for steamer use, a tweed coat, an aquascutum, an ulster, a camera and a bag of golfclubs. The porter, with many gesticulations, is still hurling French at him.

It is too much for Simpson. He puts his head out of the window and, observing in the distance a figure of such immense dignity that it can only belong to the station-master, utters to him across the hurly-burly a wild call for help.

"Ou est Cooks's homme?" he cries.



III.

SETTLING DOWN

The villa was high up on the hill, having (as Simpson was to point out several times later) Mentone on its left hand and Monte Carlo on its right. A long winding path led up through its garden of olives to the front door, and through the mimosa trees which flanked this door we could see already a flutter of white aprons. The staff was on the loggia waiting to greet us.

We halted a moment out of sight of the ladies above and considered ourselves. It came to us with a sudden shock that we were a very large party.

"I suppose," said Archie to Simpson, "they do expect all of us and not only you? You told them that about half London was coming?"

"We're only six," said Myra, "because I've just counted again, but we seem about twenty."

"It's quite all right," said Simpson cheerfully. "I said we'd be six."

"But six in a letter is much smaller than six of us like this; and when they see our luggage—"

"Let's go back," I suggested, suddenly nervous. To be five guests of the guest of a man you have never met is delicate work.

At this critical moment Archie assumed command. He is a Captain in the Yeomanry and has tackled bigger jobs than this in his time.

"We must get ourselves into proper order," he said. "Simpson, the villa has been lent to you; you must go first. Dahlia and I come next. When we arrive you will introduce us as your friends, Mr. and Mrs. Mannering. Then turning to Myra you say, 'Mr. Mannering's sister; and this,' you add, 'is her husband.' Then—er—Thomas—"

"It will be difficult to account for Thomas," I said. "Thomas comes at the end. He hangs back a little at first; and then if he sees that there is going to be any awkwardness about him, he can pretend he's come on the wrong night, and apologize and go home again."

"If Thomas goes, I go," said Myra dramatically.

"I have another idea," I said. "Thomas hides here for a bit. We introduce ourselves and settle in, and have lunch; and after lunch we take a stroll in the garden, and to our great surprise discover Thomas. 'Thomas,' we say, 'you here? Dear old chap, we thought you were in England. How splendid! Where are you staying? Oh, but you must stop with us; we can easily have a bed put up for you in the garage.' And then—"

"Not after lunch," said Thomas; "before lunch."

"Don't all be so silly," smiled Dahlia. "They'll wonder what has happened to us if we wait any longer. Besides, the men will be here with the luggage directly. Come along."

"Samuel," said Archie, "forward."

In our new formation we marched up, Simpson excited and rehearsing to himself the words of introduction, we others outwardly calm. At a range of ten yards he opened fire. "How do you do?" he beamed. "Here we all are! Isn't it a lovely—"

The cook-housekeeper, majestic but kindly, came forward with outstretched hand and welcomed him volubly—in French. The other three ladies added their French to hers. There was only one English body on the loggia. It belonged to a bull-dog. The bull-dog barked loudly at Simpson in English.

There was no "Cook's homme" to save Simpson this time. But he rose to the occasion nobly. The scent of the mimosa inspired him.

"Merci," he said, "merci. Oui, n'est ce pas! Delightful. Er—these are—ces sont mes amis. Er—Dahlia, come along—er, Monsieur et Madame Mannering—er—Myra, la soeur de Monsieur—er—where are you, old chap?—le mari de la soeur de Monsieur. Er—Thomas—er—" (he was carried away by memories of his schoolboy French), "le frere du jardinier—er—" He wheeled round and saw me; introduced me again; introduced Myra as my wife, Archie as her brother, and Dahlia as Archie's wife; and then with a sudden inspiration presented Thomas grandly as "le beau-pere du petit fils de mes amis Monsieur et Madame Mannering." Thomas seemed more assured of his place as Peter's godfather than as the brother of the gardener.

There were four ladies; we shook hands with all of them. It took us a long time, and I doubt if we got it all in even so, for twice I found myself shaking hands with Simpson. But these may have been additional ones thrown in. It was over at last, and we followed the staff indoors.

And then we had another surprise. It was broken to us by Dahlia, who, at Simpson's urgent request, took up the position of lady of the house, and forthwith received the flowing confidences of the housekeeper.

"Two of us have to sleep outside," she said.

"Where?" we all asked blankly.

We went on to the loggia again, and she pointed to a little house almost hidden by olive-trees in a corner of the garden below us.

"Oh, well, that's all right," said Archie. "It's on the estate. Thomas, you and Simpson won't mind that a bit, will you?"

"We can't turn Samuel out of his own house," said Myra indignantly.

"We aren't turning him; he wants to go. But, of course, if you and your young man would like to live there instead—"

Myra looked at me eagerly.

"It would be rather fun," she said. "We'd have another little honeymoon all to ourselves."

"It wouldn't really be a honeymoon," I objected. "We should always be knocking up against trippers in the garden, Archies and Samuels and Thomases and what not. They'd be all over the place."

Dahlia explained the domestic arrangements. The honeymooners had their little breakfast in their own little house, and then joined the others for the day at about ten.

"Or eleven," said Thomas.

"It would be rather lovely," said Myra thoughtfully.

"Yes," I agreed; "but have you considered that—Come over this way a moment, where Thomas and Simpson can't hear, while I tell you some of the disadvantages."

I led her into a quiet corner and suggested a few things to her which I hoped would not occur to the other two.

Item: That if it was raining hard at night, it would be beastly. Item: That if you suddenly found you'd left your pipe behind, it would be rotten. Item: That if, as was probable, there wasn't a proper bathroom in the little house, it would be sickening. Item: That if she had to walk on muddy paths in her evening shoes, it would be—

At this point Myra suddenly caught the thread of the argument. We went back to the others.

"We think," said Myra, "it would be perfectly heavenly in the little house; but—" She hesitated.

"But at the same time," I said, "we think it's up to Simpson and Thomas to be English gentlemen. Samuel, it's your honour."

There was a moment's silence.

"Come along," said Thomas to Simpson, "let's go and look at it."

* * * * *

After lunch, clean and well-fed and happy, we lay in deck-chairs on the loggia and looked lazily down at the Mediterranean.

"Thank you, Samuel, for bringing us," said Dahlia gently. "Your friends must be very fond of you to have lent you this lovely place."

"Not fonder than we are," said Myra, smiling at him.



IV.

BEFORE LUNCH

I found Myra in the hammock at the end of the loggia.

"Hallo," I said.

"Hallo." She looked up from her book and waved her hand. "Mentone on the left, Monte Carlo on the right," she said, and returned to her book again. Simpson had mentioned the situation so many times that it had become a catch-phrase with us.

"Fancy reading on a lovely morning like this," I complained.

"But that's why. It's a very gloomy play by Ibsen, and whenever it's simply more than I can bear, I look up and see Mentone on the left, Monte Carlo on the right—I mean, I see all the loveliness round me, and then I know the world isn't so bad after all." She put her book down. "Are you alone?"

I gripped her wrist suddenly and put the paper-knife to her throat.

"We are alone," I hissed—or whatever you do to a sentence without any "s's" in it to make it dramatic. "Your friends cannot save you now. Prepare to—er—come a walk up the hill with me."

"Help! Help!" Whispered Myra. She hesitated a moment; then swung herself out of the hammock and went in for her hat.

We climbed up a steep path which led to the rock-village above us. Simpson had told us that we must see the village; still more earnestly he had begged us to see Corsica. The view of Corsica was to be obtained from a point some miles up—too far to go before lunch.

"However, we can always say we saw it," I reassured Myra. "From this distance you can't be certain of recognizing an island you don't know. Any small cloud on the horizon will do."

"I know it on the map."

"Yes, but it looks quite different in real life. The great thing is to be able to assure Simpson at lunch that the Corsican question is now closed. When we're a little higher up, I shall say, 'Surely that's Corsica?' and you'll say, 'Not Corsica?' as though you'd rather expected the Isle of Wight; and then it'll be all over. Hallo!"

We had just passed the narrow archway leading into the courtyard of the village and were following the path up the hill. But in that moment of passing we had been observed. Behind us a dozen village children now trailed eagerly.

"Oh, the dears!" cried Myra.

"But I think we made a mistake to bring them," I said severely. "No one is fonder of our—one, two, three ... I make it eleven—our eleven children than I am, but there are times when Father and Mother want to be alone."

"I'm sorry, dear. I thought you'd be so proud to have them all with you."

"I am proud of them. To reflect that all the—one, two ... I make it thirteen—all these thirteen are ours, is very inspiring. But I don't like people to think that we cannot afford our youngest, our little Philomene, shoes and stockings. And Giuseppe should have washed his face since last Friday. These are small matters, but they are very trying to a father."

"Have you any coppers?" asked Myra suddenly. "You forget their pocket-money last week."

"One, two, three—I cannot possibly afford—one, two, three, four—Myra, I do wish you'd count them definitely and tell me how many we have. One likes to know. I cannot afford pocket-money for more than a dozen."

"Ten." She took a franc from me and gave it to the biggest girl. (Anne-Marie, our first, and getting on so nicely with her French.) Rapidly she explained what was to be done with it, Anne-Marie's look of intense rapture slowly straightening itself to one of ordinary gratitude as the financial standing of the other nine in the business became clear. Then we waved farewell to our family and went on.

High above the village, a thousand feet above the sea, we rested, and looked down upon the silvery olives stretching into the blue ... and more particularly upon one red roof which stood up amid the grey-green trees.

"That's the Cardews' villa," I said.

Myra was silent.

When Myra married me she promised to love, honour and write all my thank-you-very-much letters for me, for we agreed before the ceremony that the word "obey" should mean nothing more than that. There are two sorts of T.Y.V.M. letters—the "Thank you very much for asking us, we shall be delighted to come," and the "Thank you very much for having us, we enjoyed it immensely." With these off my mind I could really concentrate on my work, or my short mashie shots, or whatever was of importance. But there was now a new kind of letter to write, and one rather outside the terms of our original understanding. A friend of mine had told his friends the Cardews that we were going out to the Riviera and would let them know when we arrived ... and we had arrived a week ago.

"It isn't at all an easy letter to write," said Myra. "It's practically asking a stranger for hospitality."

"Let us say 'indicating our readiness to accept it.' It sounds better."

Myra smiled slowly to herself.

"'Dear Mrs. Cardew,'" she said, "'we are ready for lunch when you are. Yours sincerely.'"

"Well, that's the idea."

"And then what about the others? If the Cardews are going to be nice we don't want to leave Dahlia and all of them out of it."

I thought it over carefully for a little.

"What you want to do," I said at last, "is to write a really long letter to Mrs. Cardew, acquainting her with all the facts. Keep nothing back from her. I should begin by dwelling on the personnel of our little company. 'My husband and I,' you should say, 'are not alone. We have also with us Mr. and Mrs. Archibald Mannering, a delightful couple. Mr. A. Mannering is something in the Territorials when he is not looking after his estate. His wife is a great favourite in the county. Next I have to introduce to you Mr. Thomas Todd, an agreeable young bachelor. Mr. Thomas Todd is in the Sucking-a-ruler-and-looking-out-of-the-window Department of the Admiralty, by whose exertions, so long as we preserve the 2 Todds to 1 formula—or, excluding Canadian Todds, 16 to 10—Britannia rules the waves. Lastly, there is Mr. Samuel Simpson. Short of sight but warm of heart, and with (on a bad pitch) a nasty break from the off, Mr. S. Simpson is a litterateur of some eminence but little circulation, combining on the cornet intense wind-power with no execution, and on the golf course an endless enthusiasm with only an occasional contact. This, dear Mrs. Cardew, is our little party. I say nothing of my husband.'"

"Go on," smiled Myra. "You have still to explain how we invite ourselves to lunch."

"We don't; we leave that to her. All we do is to give a list of the meals in which, in the ordinary course, we are wont to indulge, together with a few notes on our relative capacities at each. 'Perhaps,' you wind up, 'it is at luncheon time that as a party we show to the best advantage. Some day, my dear Mrs. Cardew, we must all meet at lunch. You will then see that I have exaggerated neither my husband's appetite, nor the light conversation of my brother, nor the power of apology, should any little contretemps occur, of Mr. Samuel Simpson. Let us, I say, meet at lunch. Let us—'" I took out my watch suddenly.

"Come on," I said, getting up and giving a hand to Myra; "we shall only just be in time for it."



V.

THE GAMESTERS

"It's about time," said Simpson one evening, "that we went to the tables and—er—" (he adjusted his spectacles)—"had a little flutter."

We all looked at him in silent admiration.

"Oh, Samuel," sighed Myra, "and I promised your aunt that you shouldn't gamble while you were away."

"But, my dear Myra, it's the first thing the fellows at the club ask you when you've been to the Riviera—if you've had any luck."

"Well, you've had a lot of luck," said Archie. "Several times when you've been standing on the heights and calling attention to the beautiful view below, I've said to myself, 'One push, and he's a deader,' but something, some mysterious agency within, has kept me back."

"All the fellows at the club—"

Simpson is popularly supposed to belong to a Fleet Street Toilet and Hairdressing Club, where for three guineas a year he gets shaved every day, and has his hair cut whenever Myra insists. On the many occasions when he authorizes a startling story of some well-known statesman with the words: "My dear old chap, I know it for a fact. I heard it at the club to-day from a friend of his," then we know that once again the barber's assistant has been gossiping over the lather.

"Do think, Samuel," I interrupted, "how much more splendid if you could be the only man who had seen Monte Carlo without going inside the rooms. And then when the hairdresser—when your friends at the club ask if you've had any luck at the tables, you just say coldly, 'What tables?'"

"Preferably in Latin," said Archie. "Quae mensae?"

But it was obviously no good arguing with him. Besides, we were all keen enough to go.

"We needn't lose," said Myra. "We might win."

"Good idea," said Thomas. He lit his pipe and added, "Simpson was telling me about his system last night. At least, he was just beginning when I went to sleep." He applied another match to his pipe and went on, as if the idea had suddenly struck him, "Perhaps it was only his internal system he meant. I didn't wait."

"Samuel, you are quite well inside, aren't you?"

"Quite, Myra. But, I have invented a sort of system for roulette, which we might—"

"There's only one system which is any good," pronounced Archie. "It's the system by which, when you've lost all your own money, you turn to the man next to you and say, 'Lend me a louis, dear old chap, till Christmas; I've forgotten my purse.'"

"No systems," said Dahlia. "Let's make a collection and put it all on one number and hope it will win."

Dahlia had obviously been reading novels about people who break the bank.

"It's as good a way of losing as any other," said Archie. "Let's do it for our first gamble, anyway. Simpson, as our host, shall put the money on. I, as his oldest friend, shall watch him to see that he does it. What's the number to be?"

We all thought hard for several moments.

"Samuel, what's your age?" asked Myra, at last.

"Right off the board," said Thomas.

"You're not really more than thirty-six?" Myra whispered to him. "Tell me as a secret."

"Peter's nearly two," said Dahlia.

"Do you think you could nearly put our money on 'two'?" asked Archie.

"I once made seventeen," I said. "On that never-to-be-forgotten day when I went in first with Archie—"

"That settles it. Here's to the highest score of The Rabbits' wicket-keeper. To-morrow afternoon we put our money on seventeen. Simpson, you have between now and 3.30 to-morrow to perfect your French delivery of the magic word dix-sept."

I went to bed a proud but anxious man that night. It was my famous score which had decided the figure that was to bring us fortune ... and yet ... and yet....

Suppose eighteen turned up? The remorse, the bitterness! "If only," I should tell myself—"if only we had run three instead of two for that cut to square-leg!" Suppose it were sixteen! "Why, oh why," I should groan, "did I make the scorer put that bye down as a hit?" Suppose it were thirty-four! But there my responsibility ended. If it were going to be thirty-four, they should have used one of Archie's scores, and made a good job of it.

At 3.30 next day we were in the fatal building. I should like to pause here and describe my costume to you, which was a quiet grey in the best of taste, but Myra says that if I do this I must describe hers too, a feat beyond me. Sufficient that she looked dazzling, that as a party we were remarkably well-dressed, and that Simpson—murmuring "dix-sept" to himself at intervals—led the way through the rooms till he found a table to his liking.

"Aren't you excited?" whispered Myra to me.

"Frightfully," I said, and left my mouth well open. I don't quite know what picture of the event Myra and I had conjured up in our minds, but I fancy it was one something like this. At the entrance into the rooms of such a large and obviously distinguished party there would be a slight sensation among the crowd, and way would be made for us at the most important table. It would then leak out that Chevalier Simpson—the tall poetical-looking gentleman in the middle, my dear—had brought with him no less a sum than thirty francs with which to break the bank, and that he proposed to do this in one daring coup. At this news the players at the other tables would hastily leave their winnings (or losings) and crowd round us. Chevalier Simpson, pale but controlled, would then place his money on seventeen—"dix-sept," he would say to the croupier to make it quite clear—and the ball would be spun. As it slowed down, the tension in the crowd would increase. "Mon Dieu!" a woman would cry in a shrill voice; there would be guttural exclamations from Germans; at the edge of the crowd strong men would swoon. At last a sudden shriek ... and the croupier's voice, trembling for the first time for thirty years, "Dix-sept!" Then gold and notes would be pushed at the Chevalier. He would stuff his pockets with them; he would fill his hat with them; we others, we would stuff our pockets too. The bank would send out for more money. There would be loud cheers from all the company (with the exception of one man, who had put five francs on sixteen and had shot himself) and we should be carried—that is to say, we four men—shoulder high to the door, while by the deserted table Myra and Dahlia clung to each other, weeping tears of happiness....

Something like that.

What happened was different. As far as I could follow, it was this. Over the heads of an enormous, badly-dressed and utterly indifferent crowd Simpson handed his thirty francs to the croupier.

"Dix-sept," he said.

The croupier with his rake pushed the money on to seventeen.

Another croupier with his rake pulled it off again ... and stuck to it.

The day's fun was over.

* * * * *

"What did win?" asked Myra some minutes later, when the fact that we should never see our money again had been brought home to her.

"Zero," said Archie.

I sighed heavily.

"My usual score," I said, "not my highest."



VI.

THE RECORD OF IT

"I shall be glad to see Peter again," said Dahlia, as she folded up her letter from home.

Peter's previous letter, dictated to his nurse-secretary, had, according to Archie, been full of good things. Cross-examination of the proud father, however, had failed to reveal anything more stirring than "I love mummy," and—er—so on.

We were sitting in the loggia after what I don't call breakfast—all of us except Simpson, who was busy with a mysterious package. We had not many days left; and I was beginning to feel that, personally, I should not be sorry to see things like porridge again. Each to his taste.

"The time has passed absurdly quickly," said Myra. "We don't seem to have done anything—except enjoy ourselves. I mean anything specially Rivierish. But it's been heavenly."

"We've done lots of Rivierish things," I protested. "If you'll be quiet a moment I'll tell you some."

These were some of the things:

(1) We had been to the Riviera. (Nothing could take away from that. We had the labels on our luggage.)

(2) We had lost heavily (thirty francs) at the Tables. (This alone justified the journey.)

(3) Myra had sat next to a Prince at lunch. (Of course she might have done this in London, but so far there has been no great rush of Princes to our little flat. Dukes, Mayors, Companions of St. Michael and St. George, certainly; but, somehow, not Princes.)

(4) Simpson had done the short third hole at Mt. Agel in three. (His first had cleverly dislodged the ball from the piled-up tee; his second, a sudden nick, had set it rolling down the hill to the green; and the third, an accidental putt, had sunk it.)

(5) Myra and I had seen Corsica. (Question.)

(6) And finally, and best of all, we had sat in the sun, under a blue sky above a blue sea, and watched the oranges and lemons grow.

So, though we had been to but few of the famous beauty spots around, we had had a delightfully lazy time; and as proof that we had not really been at Brighton there were, as I have said, the luggage labels. But we were to be able to show further proof. At this moment Simpson came out of the house, his face beaming with excitement, his hands carefully concealing something behind his back.

"Guess what I've got," he said eagerly.

"The sack," said Thomas.

"Your new bests," said Archie.

"Something that will interest us all," helped Simpson.

"I withdraw my suggestion," said Archie.

"Something we ought to have brought with us all along."

"More money," said Myra.

The tension was extreme. It was obvious that our consuming anxiety would have to be relieved very speedily. To avoid a riot, Thomas went behind Simpson's back and took his surprise away from him.

"A camera," he said. "Good idea."

Simpson was all over himself with bon-hommy.

"I suddenly thought of it the other night," he said, smiling round at all of us in his happiness, "and I was just going to wake Thomas up to tell him, when I thought I'd keep it a secret. So I wrote to a friend of mine and asked him to send me out one, and some films and things, just as a surprise for you."

"Samuel, you are a dear," said Myra, looking at him lovingly.

"You see, I thought, Myra, you'd like to have some records of the place, because they're so jolly to look back on, and—er, I'm not quite sure how you work it, but I expect some of you know and—er—"

"Come on," said Myra, "I'll show you." She retired with Simpson to a secluded part of the loggia and helped him put the films in.

"Nothing can save us," said Archie. "We are going to be taken together in a group. Simpson will send it to one of the picture papers, and we shall appear as 'Another Merry Little Party of Well-known Sun-seekers. Names from left to right: Blank, blank, Mr. Archibald Mannering, blank, blank.' I'd better go and brush my hair."

Simpson returned to us, nervous and fully charged with advice.

"Right, Myra, I see. That'll be all right. Oh, look here, do you—oh yes, I see. Right. Now then—wait a bit—oh yes, I've got it. Now then, what shall we have first? A group?"

"Take the house and the garden and the village," said Thomas. "You'll see plenty of us afterwards."

"The first one is bound to be a failure," I pointed out. "Rather let him fail at us, who are known to be beautiful, than at the garden, which has its reputation yet to make. Afterwards, when he has got the knack, he will be able to do justice to the scenery."

Archie joined us again, followed by the bull-dog. We grouped ourselves picturesquely.

"That looks ripping," said Simpson. "Oh, look here, Myra, do you—No, don't come; you'll spoil the picture. I suppose you have to—oh, it's all right, I think I've got it."

"I shan't try to look handsome this time," said Archie; "it's not worth it. I shall just put an ordinary blurred expression on."

"Now, are you ready? Don't move. Quite still, please; quite—"

"It's instantaneous, you know," said Myra gently.

This so unnerved Simpson that he let the thing off without any further warning, before we had time to get our expressions natural.

"That was all right, Myra, wasn't it?" he said proudly.

"I'm—I'm afraid you had your hand over the lens, Samuel dear."

"Our new photographic series: 'Palms of the Great.' No. 1, Mr. S. Simpson's," murmured Archie.

"It wouldn't have been a very good one anyhow," I said encouragingly. "It wasn't typical. Dahlia should have had an orange in her hand, and Myra might have been resting her cheek against a cactus. Try it again, Simpson, and get a little more colour into it."

He tried again and got a lot more colour into it.

"Strictly speaking," said Myra sadly, "you ought to have got it on to a new film."

Simpson looked in horror at the back of his camera, found that he had forgotten to turn the handle, apologized profusely, and wound up very gingerly till the number "2" approached. "Now then," he said, looking up ... and found himself alone.

* * * * *

As I write this in London I have Simpson's album in front of me. Should you ever do us the honour of dining with us (as I hope you will), and (which seems impossible) should there ever come a moment when the conversation runs low, and you are revolving in your mind whether it is worth while asking us if we have been to any theatres lately, then I shall produce the album, and you will be left in no doubt that we are just back from the Riviera. You will see oranges and lemons and olives and cactuses and palms; blue sky (if you have enough imagination) and still bluer sea; picturesque villas, curious effects of rocks, distant backgrounds of mountain ... and on the last page the clever kindly face of Simpson.

The whole affair will probably bore you to tears.

But with Myra and me the case of course is different. We find these things, as Simpson said, very jolly to look back on.



II. MEN OF LETTERS



MEN OF LETTERS

JOHN PENQUARTO

A TALE OF LITERARY LIFE IN LONDON

(Modelled on the hundred best Authors.)

I

John Penquarto looked round his diminutive bed-sitting-room with a feeling of excitement not unmixed with awe. So this was London! The new life had begun. With a beating heart he unpacked his bag and set out his simple belongings.

First his books, his treasured books; where should he put them? It was comforting to think that, wherever they stood, they would be within reach of his hand as he lay in bed. He placed them on the window-sill and read their titles again reverently: "Half-Hours with our Water-Beetles," "The Fretworker's Companion" and "Strenuous Days in Simla." He owed everything to them. And what an air they gave the room!

But not such an air as was given by his other treasure—the photograph of Mary.

Mary! He had only met her once, and that was twenty years ago, at his native Polwollop. He had gone to the big house with a message for Mr. Trevena, her ladyship's butler: "Mother's respects, and she has found the other shirt-front and will send it up as soon as it is dry." He had often taken a similar message, for Mrs. Penquarto did the washing for the upper servants at the Hall, but somehow he had known that to-day was going to be different.

There, just inside the gates, was Mary. He was only six, but even then he knew that never would he see again anything so beautiful. She was five; but there was something in her manner of holding herself and the imperious tilt of her head which made her seem almost five-and-a-half.

"I'm Mary," she said.

He wanted to say that he was John, but could not. He stood there tongue-tied.

"I love you," she went on.

His heart beat tumultuously. He felt suffocated. He longed to say, "So do I," but was afraid that it was not good English. Even then he knew that he must be a writer when he grew up.

She leant forward and kissed him. He realized suddenly that he was in love. The need for self-expression was strong upon him. Shyly he brought out his last acid-drop and shared it with her. He had never seen her since, but even now, twenty years after, he could not eat an acid-drop without emotion, and a whole bag of them brought the scene back so visibly as to be almost a pain.

Yes, he was to be a writer; there could be no doubt about that. Everybody had noticed it. The Vicar had said, "Johnny will never do any good at Polwollop, I fear"; and the farmer for whom John scared rooks had said, "Thiccy la-ad seems daft-like," and one after another of Mrs. Penquarto's friends had given similar testimony. And now here he was, at twenty-six, in the little bed-sitting-room in Bloomsbury, ready to write the great novel which should take London by storm. Polwollop seemed a hundred years away.

Feverishly he seized pen and paper and began to wonder what to write.



II

It was near the Albert Memorial that the great inspiration came to him some weeks later. Those had been weeks of mingled hope and despair; of hope as he had fondled again his treasured books and read their titles, or gazed at the photograph of Mary; of despair as he had taken off his belt and counted out his rapidly-decreasing stock of money, or reflected that he was as far from completing his novel as ever. Sometimes in the search for an idea he had frequented the restaurants where the great Samuel Johnson himself had eaten, and sometimes he had frequented other restaurants where even the great Samuel Johnson himself had been unable to eat. Often he had gone into the British Museum and leant against a mummy-case, or taken a 'bus to Chelsea and pressed his forehead against the brass-plate which marked Carlyle's house, but no inspiration had come. And then suddenly, quite close to the Albert Memorial, he knew.

He would write a novel about a boy called William who had lived in Cornwall, and who came to London and wrote a novel, a novel of which "The Westminster Gazette" said: "This novel undoubtedly places the author in the front rank of living novelists." William's novel would be a realistic account of—yes, that was it—of a boy called Henry, who had lived in Cornwall, and who came to London and wrote a novel, a novel of which "The Morning Post" said: "By this novel the author has indubitably established his claim to be reckoned among the few living novelists who count." But stay! What should this novel of Henry's be about? It would be necessary to describe it. For an hour he wrestled with the problem, and then he had another inspiration. Henry's novel would be about a boy called Thomas who had lived in Cornwall and who came to London and wrote a novel {about a boy called Stephen who had lived in Cornwall, and who came to London and wrote a novel (about a boy called Michael who had lived in Cornwall, and who came to London and wrote a novel (about a boy called Peter, who had lived in Cornwall, and ...) ...

And so on.

And every one of the novels would establish the author's right to be reckoned, etc., and place him undoubtedly in the very front rank.

It was a stupendous idea. For a moment John was almost paralysed at contemplation of it. There seemed to be no end to his novel as he had planned it. Was it too much for his powers?

There was only one way to find out. He hurried back to his bed-sitting-room, seized a pen and began to write.



III

It was two years later. For the last fortnight John Penquarto had stopped counting the money in his belt. There was none left. For a fortnight now he had been living on the belt itself.

But a great hope had always sustained him. One day he would hear from the publisher to whom he had sent his novel a year ago.

And now at last the letter had come, and he was seated in the office of the great Mr. Pump himself. His heart beat rapidly. He felt suffocated.

"Well, Mr. Penquarto," said the smiling publisher, "I may say at once that we like your novel. We should have written before, but we have only just finished reading it. It is a little long—about two million eight hundred thousand words, I reckon it—but I have a suggestion to make which will meet that difficulty. I suggest that we publish it in half a dozen volumes, stopping, for the first volume, at the Press notices of (say) Peter's novel. We find that the public likes these continuous books. About terms. We will send an agreement along to-morrow. Naturally, as this is a first book, we can only pay a nominal sum on account of royalties. Say ten thousand pounds. How will that suit you?"

With a heart still beating John left the office five minutes later and bought a new belt. Then he went to a restaurant where Goldsmith had never been and ordered a joint and two veg. Success had come!



IV

I should like to dwell upon the weeks which followed. I should like to tell of John's emotion when he saw his first proofs and of the printer's emotion when he saw what a mess John had made of them. I should like to describe how my hero's heart beat during the anxious days of waiting; to picture to you his pride at the arrival of his six free copies, and his landlady's surprise when he presented her with one. Above all, I should like to bring home to you the eagerness with which he bought and opened "The Times Literary Supplement" and read his first review:

"'William Trewulliam—The First Phase.' By John Penquarto, 7-1/2 by 5-1/4, 896 pp., Albert Pump. 9s. n."

I have no time to go into these matters, nor have I time in which to give at length his later Press cuttings, in which there was displayed a unanimity of opinion that John Penquarto was now in the front rank of living novelists, one of the limited number whose work really counted. I must hurry on.

It was a week after the publication of "William Trewulliam," the novel which had taken all London by storm. In all the drawing-rooms of Mayfair, in all the clubs of Pall Mall, people were asking each other, "Who is John Penquarto?" Nobody knew—save one.

Lady Mary knew. It was not the name Penquarto which had told her; it was—yes, you have guessed—the scene at the beginning of the book, when William Trewulliam meets the little Anne and shares his last raspberry-drop with her. Even under this disguise she recognized that early meeting. She pierced beneath the imagination of the novelist to the recollection of the man. John Penquarto—of course! Now she remembered the name.

It had always been a mystery to her friends why Lady Mary had never married. No girl in Society had been more eagerly courted. It was whispered that already she had refused more than one Archbishop, three Newspaper Proprietors and a couple of Dukes. Something, she scarcely knew what, told her that this was not love. She must wait. As she dressed to go to the Duchess of Bilberry's "At Home," she wondered if she would ever meet John Penquarto again, and if he had altered.

"Mary!"

It was John speaking. He had seen her the moment she came in at the door. Something—was it the Duchess's champagne at dinner?—had reminded him of the acid-drop they had eaten together and this had brought back his memories in a flood. To-night he would meet her again. He knew it instinctively. Besides, it was like this that William Trewulliam had met Anne again, and Henry Polhenery had met Sarah, and Thomas Pentummas had met Alice, and—well, anyhow he knew.

"John!"

It was Mary speaking. Perhaps you had guessed.

"You knew me?" (This is John. It was his turn.)

"I knew you." (Said Mary.)

"Do you remember—"

Mary blushed, and John did not deviate from the healthy red colour which he had maintained throughout the conversation. In spite of his success he was never quite at ease in society at this period of his life. Nor were Henry Polhenery and Thomas Pentummas. They remained handsome but awkward, which was why women loved them so.

"I love you," (John speaking.)

"I think I must have always loved you." (Mary going it.)

He took her hand in his.

Nobody noticed them. They were as much alone as if they had been at the National Gallery together. Many of the guests were going through similar scenes of recognition and love-making; others were asking each other if they had read "William Trewulliam" yet, and lying about it others again were making for the buffet. John and Mary had the world to themselves....



V

They were married a month later. John, who did not look his best in a frock-coat, had pleaded for a quiet wedding, and only the Duchess of Bilberry and Mr. Pump were present at the simple ceremony which took place at the Bloomsbury registry-office. Then the happy couple drove away.

And where are they spending the honeymoon?

Ah, do you need to ask?

"At Greenwich?" No, fathead, not at Greenwich.

"At Clacton-on-Sea?" Look here, I don't believe you're trying. Have another shot....

Yes, dear reader, you are right. They are going back to Polwollop.

It might be a good plan to leave them there.



THE COMPLETE DRAMATIST

I take it that every able-bodied man and woman in this country wants to write a play. Since the news first got about that Orlando What's-his-name made L50,000 out of "The Crimson Sponge," there has been a feeling that only through the medium of the stage can literary art find its true expression. The successful playwright is indeed a man to be envied. Leaving aside for the moment the question of super-tax, the prizes which fall to his lot are worth something of an effort. He sees his name (correctly spelt) on 'buses which go to such different spots as Hammersmith and West Norwood, and his name (spelt incorrectly) beneath the photograph of somebody else in "The Illustrated Butler." He is a welcome figure at the garden-parties of the elect, who are always ready to encourage him by accepting free seats for his play; actor-managers nod to him; editors allow him to contribute without charge to a symposium on the price of golf balls. In short he becomes a "prominent figure in London Society"—and, if he is not careful, somebody will say so.

But even the unsuccessful dramatist has his moments. I knew a young man who married somebody else's mother, and was allowed by her fourteen gardeners to amuse himself sometimes by rolling the tennis-court. It was an unsatisfying life; and when rash acquaintances asked him what he did, he used to say that he was for the Bar. Now he says he is writing a play—and we look round the spacious lawns and terraces and marvel at the run his last one must have had.

However, I assume that you who read this are actually in need of the dibs. Your play must be not merely a good play, but a successful one. How shall this success be achieved?

Frankly I cannot always say. If you came to me and said, "I am on the Stock Exchange, and bulls are going down," or up, or sideways, or whatever it might be; "there's no money to be made in the City nowadays, and I want to write a play instead. How shall I do it?"—well, I couldn't help you. But suppose you said, "I'm fond of writing; my people always say my letters home are good enough for 'Punch.' I've got a little idea for a play about a man and a woman and another woman, and—but perhaps I'd better keep the plot a secret for the moment. Anyhow it's jolly exciting, and I can do the dialogue all right. The only thing is, I don't know anything about technique and stagecraft and the three unities and that sort of rot. Can you give me a few hints?"—suppose you spoke to me like this, then I could do something for you. "My dear Sir," I should reply (or Madam), "you have come to the right shop. Lend me your ear for ten minutes, and you shall learn just what stagecraft is." And I should begin with a short homily on

SOLILOQUY

If you ever read your "Shakespeare"—and no dramatist should despise the works of another dramatist; he may always pick up something in them which may be useful for his next play—if you ever read your "Shakespeare," it is possible that you have come across this passage:

"Enter Hamlet.

Ham. To be, or not to be—"

And, so on in the same vein for some thirty lines.

These few remarks are called a soliloquy, being addressed rather to the world in general than to any particular person on the stage. Now the object of this soliloquy is plain. The dramatist wished us to know the thoughts which were passing through Hamlet's mind, and it was the only way he could think of in which to do it. Of course, a really good actor can often give a clue to the feelings of a character simply by facial expression. There are ways of shifting the eyebrows, distending the nostrils, and exploring the lower molars with the tongue by which it is possible to denote respectively Surprise, Defiance and Doubt. Indeed, irresolution being the keynote of Hamlet's soliloquy, a clever player could to some extent indicate the whole thirty lines by a silent working of the jaw. But at the same time it would be idle to deny that he would miss the finer shades of the dramatist's meaning. "The insolence of office, and the spurns"—to take only one line—would tax the most elastic face.

So the soliloquy came into being. We moderns, however, see the absurdity of it. In real life no one thinks aloud or in an empty room. The up-to-date dramatist must certainly avoid this hallmark of the old-fashioned play.

What, then, is to be done? If it be granted, first, that the thoughts of a certain character should be known to the audience, and, secondly, that soliloquy, or the habit of thinking aloud, is in opposition to modern stage technique, how shall a soliloquy be avoided without damage to the play?

Well, there are more ways than one; and now we come to what is meant by stagecraft. Stagecraft is the art of getting over these and other difficulties, and (if possible) getting over them in a showy manner, so that people will say, "How remarkable his stagecraft is for so young a writer," when otherwise they mightn't have noticed it at all. Thus, in this play we have been talking about, an easy way of avoiding Hamlet's soliloquy would be for Ophelia to speak first.

Oph. What are you thinking about, my lord?

Ham. I am wondering whether to be or not to be, whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer—

And so on, till you get to the end, when Ophelia might say, "Ah, yes," or something non-committal of that sort. This would be an easy way of doing it, but it would not be the best way, for the reason that it is too easy to call attention to itself. What you want is to make it clear that you are conveying Hamlet's thoughts to the audience in rather a clever manner.

That this can now be done we have to thank the well-known inventor of the telephone. (I forget his name.) The telephone has revolutionized the stage; with its aid you can convey anything you like across the footlights. In the old badly-made play it was frequently necessary for one of the characters to take the audience into his confidence. "Having disposed of my uncle's body," he would say to the stout lady in the third row of the stalls, "I now have leisure in which to search for the will. But first to lock the door lest I should be interrupted by Harold Wotnott." In the modern well-constructed play he simply rings up an imaginary confederate and tells him what he is going to do. Could anything be more natural?

Let us, to give an example of how this method works, go back again to the play we have been discussing.

Enter Hamlet. He walks quickly across the room to the telephone, and takes up the receiver impatiently.

Ham. Hallo! Hallo! I want double-nine—hal-lo! I want double-nine two—hal-lo! Double-nine two three, Elsinore.... Double-nine, yes.... Hallo, is that you, Horatio? Hamlet speaking. I say, I've been wondering about this business. To be or not to be, that is the question; whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows—What? No, Hamlet speaking. What? Aren't you Horatio? I want double-nine two three—sorry.... Is that you, Exchange? You gave me double-five, I want double-nine.... Hallo, is that you, Horatio? Hamlet speaking. I've been wondering about this business. To be or not to be, that is the—What? No, I said, To be or not to be.... No, "be"—b-e. Yes, that's right. To be or not to be, that is the question; whether 'tis nobler—

And so on. You see how effective it is.

But there is still another way of avoiding the soliloquy, which is sometimes used with good results. It is to let Hamlet, if that happen to be the name of your character, enter with a small dog, pet falcon, mongoose, tame bear or whatever animal is most in keeping with the part, and confide in this animal such sorrows, hopes or secret history as the audience has got to know. This has the additional advantage of putting the audience immediately in sympathy with your hero. "How sweet of him," all the ladies say, "to tell his little bantam about it!"

If you are not yet tired (as I am) of the Prince of Denmark, I will explain (for the last time) how a modern author might re-write his speech.

Enter Hamlet with his favourite boar-hound.

Ham. (to B.-H.). To be or not to be—ah, Fido, Fido! That is the question—eh, old Fido, boy? Whether 'tis nobler in—how now, a rat! Rats, Fido, fetch 'em—in the mind to suffer the slings and—down, Sir!—arrows—put it down! Arrows of—drop it, Fido; good old dog—

And so on. Which strikes me as rather sweet and natural.

Let us now pass on to the very important question of

EXITS AND ENTRANCES

To the young playwright, the difficulty of getting his characters on to the stage would seem much less than the difficulty of finding them something to say when they are there. He writes gaily and without hesitation "Enter Lord Arthur Fluffinose," and only then begins to bite the end of his penholder and gaze round his library for inspiration. Yet it is on that one word "Enter" that his reputation for dramatic technique will hang. Why did Lord Arthur Fluffinose enter? The obvious answer, that the firm which is mentioned in the programme as supplying his trousers would be annoyed if he didn't, is not enough; nor is it enough to say that the whole plot of the piece hinges on him, and that without him the drama would languish. What the critic wants to know is why Lord Arthur chose that very moment to come in—the very moment when Lady Larkspur was left alone in the oak-beamed hall of Larkspur Towers. Was it only a coincidence? And if the young dramatist answers callously, "Yes," it simply shows that he has no feeling for the stage whatever. In that case I needn't go on with this article.

However, it will be more convenient to assume, dear reader, that in your play Lord Arthur had a good reason for coming in. If that be so, he must explain it. It won't do to write like this:—-

Enter Lord Arthur. Lady Larkspur starts suddenly and turns towards him.

Lady Larkspur. Arthur! You here? (He gives a nod of confirmation. She pauses a moment, and then with a sudden passionate movement flings herself into his arms.) Take me away, Arthur. I can't bear this life any longer. Larkspur bit me again this morning for the third time. I want to get away from it all. [Swoons.]

The subsequent scene may be so pathetic that on the hundredth night it is still bringing tears to the eyes of the fireman, but you must not expect to be treated as a serious dramatist. You will see this for yourself if you consider the passage as it should properly have been written:—

Enter Lord Arthur Fluffinose. Lady Larkspur looks at him with amazement.

Lady Larkspur. Arthur, what are you doing here?

Lord Arthur. I caught the 2.3 from town. It gets in at 3.37, and I walked over from the station. It's only a mile. (At this point he looks at the grandfather clock in the corner, and the audience, following his eyes, sees that it is seven minutes to four, which appears delightfully natural.) I came to tell Larkspur to sell Bungoes. They are going down.

Lady Larkspur (folding her hands over her chest and gazing broodingly at the footlights). Larkspur!

Lord Arthur (anxiously). What is it? (Suddenly.) Has he been ill-treating you again?

Lady Larkspur (flinging herself into his arms). Oh, Arthur, Arthur, take me away!

And so on.

But it may well be that Lord Larkspur has an intrigue of his own with his secretary, Miss Devereux, and, if their big scene is to take place on the stage too, the hall has got to be cleared for them in some way. Your natural instinct will be to say, "Exeunt Fluffinose and Lady Larkspur, R. Enter Lord Larkspur and Miss Devereux, L." This is very immature, even if you are quite clear as to which side of the stage is L. and which is R. You must make the evolutions seem natural. Thus:—

Enter from the left Miss Devereux. She stops in surprise at seeing Lord Arthur and holds out her hand.

Miss D. Why, Lord Arthur! Whatever—

Lord A. How d'you do? I've just run down to tell Lord Larkspur to—

Miss D. He's in the library. At least he—

Lord A. (taking out his watch.) Ah, then perhaps I'd better—

[Exit by door on left.]

Miss D. (to Lady L.). Have you seen "The Times" about here? There is a set of verses in the Financial Supplement which Lord Larkspur wanted to—(She wanders vaguely round the room. Enter Lord Larkspur by door at back.) Why, here you are! I've just sent Lord Arthur into the library to—

Lord L. I went out to speak to the gardener about—

Lady L. Ah, then I'll go and tell Arthur—[Exit to library, leaving Miss Devereux and Lord Larkspur alone.

And there you are. You will, of course, appreciate that the unfinished sentences not only save time, but also make the manoeuvring very much more natural.

So far I have been writing as if you were already in the thick of your play; but it may well be that the enormous difficulty of getting the first character on has been too much for you. How, you may be wondering, are you to begin your masterpiece?

The answer to this will depend upon the length of the play, for upon the length depends the hour at which the curtain rises. If yours is an 8.15 play you may be sure that the stalls will not fill up till 8.30, and you should therefore let loose the lesser-paid members of the cast on the opening scene, keeping your fifty-pounders in reserve. In an 8.45 play the audience may be plunged into the drama at once. But this is much the more difficult thing to do, and for the beginner I should certainly recommend the 8.15 play, for which the recipe is simple.

As soon as the lights go down, and while the bald, stout gentleman is kicking our top-hat out of his way, treading heavily on our toes and wheezing, "Sorry, sorry," as he struggles to his seat, a buzz begins behind the curtain. What the players are saying is not distinguishable, but a merry girlish laugh rings out now and then, followed by the short sardonic chuckle of an obvious man of the world. Then the curtain rises, and it is apparent that we are assisting at an At Home of considerable splendour. Most of the characters seem to be on the stage, and for once we do not ask how they got there. We presume they have all been invited. Thus you have had no difficulty with your entrances.

As the chatter dies down a chord is struck on the piano.

The Bishop of Sploshington. Charming. Quite one of my favourites. Do play it again. (Relapses into silence for the rest of the evening.)

The Duchess of Southbridge (to Lord Reggie). Oh, Reggie, what did you say?

Lord Reggie (putting up his eyeglass). Said I'd bally well—top-hole—what?—don'cherknow.

Lady Evangeline (to Lady Violet, as they walk across the stage). Oh, I must tell you what that funny Mr. Danby said. (Doesn't. Lady Violet, none the less, trills with happy laughter.)

Prince von Ichdien, the well-known Ambassador (loudly, to an unnamed gentleman). What your country ought to do—(He finishes his remarks in the lip-language, which the unnamed gentleman seems to understand. At any rate he nods several times.)

There is more girlish laughter, more buzz and more deaf-and-dumb language. Then

Lord Tuppeny. Well, what about auction?

Amid murmurs of "You'll play, Field-Marshal?" and "Auction, Archbishop?" the crowd drifts off, leaving the hero and heroine alone in the middle of the stage.

And then you can begin.

But now I must give you a warning. You will never be a dramatist until you have learnt the technique of

MEALS

In spite of all you can do in the way of avoiding soililoquies and getting your characters on and off the stage in a dramatic manner, a time will come when you realize sadly that your play is not a bit like life after all. Then is the time to introduce a meal on the stage. A stage meal is popular, because it proves to the audience that the actors, even when called Charles Hawtrey or Owen Nares, are real people just like you and me. "Look at Mr. Bourchier eating," we say excitedly to each other in the pit, having had a vague idea up till then that an actor lived like a god on praise and greasepaint and his photograph in the papers. "Another cup, won't you?" says Miss Gladys Cooper; "No, thank you," says Mr. Dennis Eadie—dash it, it's exactly what we do at home ourselves. And when, to clinch matters, the dramatist makes Mr. Gerald du Maurier light a real cigarette in the Third Act, then he can flatter himself that he has indeed achieved the ambition of every stage writer, and "brought the actual scent of the hay across the footlights."

But there is a technique to be acquired in this matter as in everything else within the theatre. The great art of the stage-craftsman, as I have already shown, is to seem natural rather than to be natural. Let your actors have tea by all means, but see that it is a properly histrionic tea. This is how it should go:—

Hostess. How do you do? You'll have some tea, won't you? [Rings bell].

Guest. Thank you.

Enter Butler.

Hostess. Tea, please, Matthews.

Butler (impassively). Yes, m'lady. (This is all he says during the play, so he must try and get a little character into it, in order that "The Era" may remark, "Mr. Thompson was excellent as Matthews." However, his part is not over yet, for he returns immediately, followed by three footmen—just as it happened when you last called on the Duchess—and sets out the tea.)

Hostess (holding up the property lump of sugar in the tongs). Sugar?

Guest (luckily). No, thanks.

Hostess replaces lump and inclines empty teapot over tray for a moment; then hands him a cup painted brown inside—thus deceiving the gentleman with the telescope in the upper circle.

Guest (touching his lips with the cup and then returning it to its saucer). Well, I must be going.

Re-enter Butler and three Footmen, who remove the tea-things.

Hostess (to Guest). Good-bye; so glad you could come. [Exit Guest.]

His visit has been short, but it has been very thrilling while it lasted.

Tea is the most usual meal on the stage, for the reason that it is the least expensive, the property lump of sugar being dusted and used again on the next night. For a stage dinner a certain amount of genuine sponge-cake has to be made up to look like fish, chicken or cutlet. In novels the hero has often "pushed his meals away untasted," but no stage hero would do anything so unnatural as this. The etiquette is to have two bites before the butler and the three footmen whisk away the plate. Two bites are made, and the bread is crumbled, with an air of great eagerness; indeed, one feels that in real life the guest would clutch hold of the footman and say, "Half a mo', old chap, I haven't nearly finished"; but the actor is better schooled than this. Besides, the thing is coming back again as chicken directly.

But it is the cigarette which chiefly has brought the modern drama to its present state of perfection. Without the stage cigarette many an epigram would pass unnoticed, many an actor's hands would be much more noticeable; and the man who works the fireproof safety curtain would lose even the small amount of excitement which at present attaches to his job.

Now although it is possible, in the case of a few men at the top of the profession, to leave the conduct of the cigarette entirely to the actor, you will find it much more satisfactory to insert in the stage directions the particular movements (with match and so forth) that you wish carried out. Let us assume that Lord Arthur asks Lord John what a cynic is—the question of what a cynic is having arisen quite naturally in the course of the plot. Let us assume further that you wish Lord John to reply, "A cynic is a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing." It has been said before, but you may feel that it is quite time it was said again; besides, for all the audience knows, Lord John may simply be quoting. Now this answer, even if it comes quite fresh to the stalls, will lose much of its effect if it is said without the assistance of a cigarette. Try it for yourself.

Lord John. A cynic is a man who, etc....

Rotten. Now try again.

Lord John. A cynic is a man who, etc.... [Lights cigarette.]

No, even that is not good. Once more:—-

Lord John (lighting cigarette). A cynic is a man who, etc.

Better, but leaves too much to the actor.

Well, I see I must tell you.

Lord John (taking out gold cigarette case from his left-hand upper waistcoat pocket). A cynic, my dear Arthur (he opens case deliberately, puts cigarette in mouth, and extracts gold match-box from right-hand trouser) is a man who (strikes match) knows the price of (lights cigarette)—everything, and (standing with match in one hand and cigarette in the other) the value of—-pff (blows out match) of (inhales deeply from cigarette and blows out a cloud of smoke)—nothing.

It makes a different thing of it altogether. Of course on the actual night the match may refuse to strike, and Lord John may have to go on saying "a man who—a man who—a man who" until the ignition occurs, but even so it will still seem delightfully natural to the audience (as if he were making up the epigram as he went along); while as for blowing the match out, he can hardly fail to do that in one.

The cigarette, of course, will be smoked at other moments than epigrammatic ones, but on these other occasions you will not need to deal so fully with it in the stage directions. "Duke (lighting cigarette). I trust, Perkins, that..." is enough. You do not want to say, "Duke (dropping ash on trousers). It seems to me, my love..." or, "Duke (removing stray piece of tobacco from tongue). What Ireland needs is..."; still less "Duke (throwing away end of cigarette). Show him in." For this must remain one of the mysteries of the stage—What happens to the stage cigarette when it has been puffed four times? The stage tea, of which a second cup is always refused; the stage cutlet, which is removed with the connivance of the guest after two mouthfuls; the stage cigarette, which nobody ever seems to want to smoke to the end—thinking of these as they make their appearances in the houses of the titled, one would say that the hospitality of the peerage was not a thing to make any great rush for....

But that would be to forget the butler and the three footmen. Even a Duke cannot have everything. And what his chef may lack in skill his butler more than makes up for in impassivity.



A POETRY RECITAL

It has always been the privilege of Art to be patronized by Wealth and Rank. Indeed, if we literary and artistic strugglers were not asked out to afternoon tea sometimes by our millionaire acquaintances, it is doubtful if we should be able to continue the struggle. Recently a new (and less expensive) method of entertaining Genius has become fashionable in the best circles, and the aspiring poet is now invited to the house of the Great, not for the purpose of partaking of bodily refreshment himself, but in order that he may afford spiritual refreshment to others. In short, he is given an opportunity of reciting his own works in front of the Fair, the Rich and the Highly Born, and making what he can out of it in the way of advertisement.

Let us imagine that we have been lucky enough to secure an invitation to one of Lady Poldoodle's Poetry At-Homes, at her charming little house in Berkeley Square.

The guests are all waiting, their eyes fixed in eager anticipation on the black-covered throne at the farther end of the room, whereon each poet will sit to declaim his masterpiece, when suddenly Lord Poldoodle is observed to be making his way cautiously towards a side-door. Fortunately he is stopped in time, and dragged back to his seat next to the throne, from which he rises a moment later to open the proceeding.

"Ladies and gentlemen," he says, "we are met here this afternoon in order to listen to some of our younger poets who will recite from their own works. So far, I have always managed to avoid—so far, I have been unavoidably prevented from attending on these occasions, but I understand that the procedure is as follows. Each poet will recite a short sample of his poetry, after which, no doubt, you will go home and order from your bookseller a complete set of his works."

Lady Poldoodle goes quickly over to him and whispers vigorously.

"I find I am wrong," says our host. "Full sets of the author's works can be obtained on the way out. There is, however, no compulsion in the matter, and, if you take my advice—well, well, let us get on. Our first poet"—here he puts on his glasses, and reads from a paper on the table in front of him—"is Mr. Sydney Worple, of whom you—er—have—er—doubtless all heard. At any rate you will hear him now."

Mr. Sydney Worple, tall and thin, wearing the sort of tie which makes you think you must have seen him before, steps forward amidst applause. He falls back into the throne as if deep in thought, and passes a hand across his hair.

Mr. Worple (very suddenly) "Dawn at Surbiton."

"Where?" says a frightened voice at the back.

"H'sh!" says Lady Poldoodle in a whisper. "Surbiton."

"Surbiton" is passed round the back seats. Not that it is going to matter in the least.

Mr. Worple repeats the title, and then recites in an intense voice these lines:

Out of the nethermost bonds of night, Out of the gloom where the bats' wings brush me, Free from the crepitous doubts which crush me, Forth I fare to the cool sunlight;

Forth to a world where the wind sweeps clean, Where the smooth-limbed ash to the blue stands bare, And the gossamer spreads her opalled ware— And Jones is catching the 8.15.

After several more verses like this he bows and retires. Lady Poldoodle, still mechanically clapping, says to her neighbour:

"How beautiful! Dawn at Surbiton! Such a beautiful idea, I think."

"Wasn't it sublime?" answers the neighbour. "The wonderful contrast between the great pageant of nature and poor Mr. Jones, catching—always catching—the 8.15."

But Lord Poldoodle is rising again. "Our next poet," he says, "is Miss Miranda Herrick, whose work is so distinguished for its—er—its—er—distinction."

Miss Herrick, dressed in pale green and wearing pincenez, flutters in girlishly. She gives a nervous little giggle, pushes out her foot, withdraws it and begins:

When I take my bath in the morning—

The audience wakes up with a start. "When you take your what!" says Lord Poldoodle.

Miss Herrick begins again, starting this time with the title.

LIFE

When I take my bath in the morning, When I strip for the cool delight, And the housemaid brings Me towels and things, Do I reck of the coming night?

A materially-minded man whispers to his neighbour that he always wonders what's for breakfast. "H'sh!" she says, for there is another verse to come.

When my hair comes down in the evening, And my tired clothes swoon to the ground, Do I bother my head, As I leap in bed, Of the truth which the dawn brings round?

In the uncomfortable pause which follows, a voice is heard saying, "Does she?" and Lady Poldoodle asks kindly, "Is that all, dear?"

"What more could there be?" says Miss Herrick with a sigh. "What more is there to say? It is Life."

"Life! How true!" says the hostess. "But won't you give us something else? That one ended so very suddenly."

After much inward (and outward) wrestling Miss Herrick announces:

A THOUGHT

The music falls across the vale From nightingale to nightingale; The owl within the ivied tree Makes love to me, makes love to me; But all the tadpoles in the pond Are dumb—however fond.

"I begin to think that there is something in a tadpole after all," murmurs Lord Poldoodle to himself, as the author wriggles her way out.

"After all," says one guest to another, "why shouldn't a tadpole make love as much as anybody else?"

"I think," says her neighbour, "that the idea is of youth trying vainly to express itself—or am I thinking of caterpillars? Lord Poldoodle, what is a tadpole exactly?"

"A tadpole," he answers decisively, "is an extremely immature wriggling creature, which is, quite rightly, dumb."

Now steps forward Mr. Horatio Bullfinch, full of simple enthusiasm, one of the London school. He gives us his famous poem, "Berkeley Square."

The men who come from the north country Are tall and very fair, The men who come from the south country Have hardly any hair, But the only men in the world for me Are the men of Berkeley Square.

The sun may shine at Colchester, The rain may rain at Penge; From low-hung skies the dawn may rise Broodingly on Stonehenge. Knee-deep in clover the lambs at Dover Nibble awhile and stare; But there's only one place in the world for me, Berkeley—Berkeley Square.

And so on, down to that magnificent last verse:

The skylark triumphs from the blue, Above the barley fields at Loo, The blackbird whistles loud and clear Upon the hills at Windermere; But oh, I simply LOVE the way Our organ-grinder plays all day!

Lord Poldoodle rises to introduce Mr. Montagu Mott.

"Mr. Mott," he says, "is, I am told, our leading exponent of what is called vers libre, which means—well, you will see what it means directly."

Mr. Mott, a very ugly little man, who tries to give you the impression that he is being ugly on purpose, and could easily be beautiful if he were not above all that sort of thing, announces the title of his masterpiece. It is called "Why Is the Fat Woman's Face So Red?" Well, what else could you call it?

Why is the fat woman's face so red? Is it because her stays are too tight? Or because she wants to sneeze and has lost her pocket handkerchief? Or only because her second son (The engineer) Is dying of cancer. I cannot be certain. Yet I sit here and ask myself Wonderingly Why is the fat woman's face so red?

It is generally recognized that, in Mr. Mott, we have a real poet. There are loud cries of "Encore!" Mr. Mott shakes his head.

"I have written no more," he says in a deep voice. "I have given you the result of three years' work. Perhaps—in another three years—" He shrugs his shoulders and walks gloomingly out.

"Such a sweet idea," says Lady Poldoodle. "I sit here and ask myself—wonderingly! How true! How very true!"

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