Punch, October 28, 1903
[A correspondent of the Daily Mail suggests that public-school boys should be taught to play Bridge, as it would be better if they employed their evenings in games of skill than in “idle talk.”]
From the “Christmas Book Reviewer” of next year.
In The Boys of St. Asterisk’s Mr. Thingummy has written one of the best stories of public-school life that it has been our good fortune to read for a long time. The error into which the majority of books of this type fall is that they fail to keep abreast of the times. Nothing changes so rapidly as a public school. Mr. Thingummy has avoided this error. His plot is not only exciting, but thoroughly true to life. Vincent Trevelyan, his hero, is a finely-drawn character, and few boys will read without a thrill the chapter which relates how, having lost all his pocket-money at shilling nap in the dormitory of which he is prefect, he goes to dinner with the Headmaster and wins from that gentleman at unlimited Loo enough to recoup himself twice over.
But many of the other chapters are equally good. Here is an example of Mr. Thingummy’s style. A card party has just broken up in confusion. The scene is the Bully’s study.
“ ‘Fetch me my red-hot poker,’ roared the Bully, with a hideous imprecation, seizing the Little-Delicate-One by the heels and dashing his head with frightful violence against the study wall. The Sneak, who did odd jobs of this sort for the Bully in exchange for three kicks a day and a comfortable home, bounded off to execute the commission. ‘You little brute, you,’ he continued, addressing the limp and unconscious form on the floor. ‘What do you mean by it, eh? I’ll teach you to trump my ace. Where’s that poker?’
“ ‘Where you won’t get it,’ cried a clear, musical voice, and a lithe young form, with blue eyes and curly yellow hair, sprang into the room.
“ ‘Trevelyan!’ roared the Bully (with a hideous imprecation). ‘What do you want? Get out of my study.’
“ ‘Not till we have settled accounts, Jasper Grogsmith,’ replied our hero, in a firm, quiet voice.”
For the subsequent proceedings, which are of the most exciting nature, we must refer our readers to the book itself. The Bully is defeated, but speedily obtains his revenge. The chief event of the year, the competition for the Jones Bridge Prize, is to be decided, and the hero and his friend Charles meet the Bully and the Sneak in the last round. The excitement is intense, but to the general disappointment the hero and his friend Charles are defeated. They attribute their reverse in their sportsmanlike way to the superior skill of their opponents, but it is remarked by the spectators that every time the Bully or his partner declares, they invariably have all the trumps or else all the aces between them. This gives rise to suspicions, and after a series of enthralling incidents it is discovered that they have cheated, and they are unmasked and publicly expelled by the Headmaster, who forthwith hands over the prize to Charles and the hero, and the book ends.
In addition to the more important dramatis personæ there are a host of entertaining minor characters. The Eccentric Boy, who plays cricket and football, is a capital study, as is the Headmaster, who on one occasion canes a boy for making clubs trumps with a No Trump hand. We can cordially recommend The Boys of St. Asterisk’s to all parents who wish to give their sons the opportunity of reading healthy, manly literature. The book is sure to be widely popular.
Unsigned article as printed; credited to P. G. Wodehouse in the Index to Vol. 125 of Punch, though wrongly listed in the Index as on p. 389 rather than p. 289. Omitted, perhaps for that reason, from McIlvaine’s bibliography, but listed in the Addendum to McIlvaine, without the ‘III.’