Punch, January 16, 1907


The scene is the billiard-room of a country-house belonging to a hostess whose name appears in the “Society Column” with sickening regularity. In chairs round the fire are seated our old friends, Freddie, Bobbie, and Claude. Freddie and Claude are smoking. Bobbie is reading aloud M. Pol de Léon’s article in the “World” on the virtues of the Smart Set.

Bobbie. Knew it was all rot—Father Vaughan, you know, and all that. Here’s feller crackin’ us up all round. Listen to this. “The work of the Smart Set has been that of slowly filing from the wrists of English social life the fetters of the vulgar and pompous social ideas of an earlier period.”

Claude. Talking of wrists, by the way, how’s yours, Freddie?

Freddie. Top-hole, thanks. Took it out of the sling this morning. Be able to use it in a day or two.

Bobbie. Let’s see, was it tobogganing downstairs or the soccer in the drawing-room?

Freddie. Soccer. Young Ivor barged me over on to a table-full of china. Tried to save the blessed thing, and came down on my hand. Sprained it badly.

Claude. Tell you what it is, that feller oughtn’t to be allowed to play in a drawing-room. He charges like a pro.

Bobbie. His way of “filing the fetters,” I suppose.

Freddie. All very well, but when it comes to a thirteen-stone feller putting his shoulder into your ribs and shoving, I’m all for “the vulgar and pompous social ideas of an earlier period.”

Claude (meditatively). Rum those days must have been! I don’t see how they filled in the evenings then.

Freddie. No booby-traps, what?

Claude. My word, we’ve taught ’em a lot. We’re—what d’you call ’em?—pioneers.

Bobbie. Reformers.

Freddie. Martyrs, sometimes. Don’t forget my wrist.

Bobbie (taking up his paper again). Chap goes on. Says we’ve made a stand against “the stupid conventions of an unreal respectability.”

[The door opens silently, and a Mysterious Hand flings a paper bag, which hits Claude and bursts, covering him with flour.

Claude (with emotion). Here, I say! I mean—— Hang it!

Bobbie (approvingly). Good shot that, for a girl.

Freddie. Now, a few years ago I shouldn’t wonder if a feller mightn’t have cut up rough at a little thing like that.

Claude. But, I say, look here!——

Bobbie (shocked). Don’t tell us you’re going to get stuffy! You aren’t in favour of “the stupid conventions of an unreal respectability,” surely?

Freddie (judicially). Besides it was probably that de Battleaxe girl. And you know you did throw your soup at her at dinner last night.

Claude (slightly mollified). Oh well——

Bobbie. That’s right. Stout fellow. Now, let’s see, where was I? “Unreal respectability.” Oh, yes——

Freddie. One second. Where are the cigars? Make a long arm, Claude. Thanks.

[The application of matches to the cigars causes three sharp and simultaneous explosions. The reformers look at one another from under singed eyebrows. Faint and silvery laughter filters through the door.

All. Rather smart, what?

Bobbie (dauntlessly resuming his reading). “The Smart Set have demonstrated that it is the best form to be natural and entirely unaffected.”

Freddie (fingering his face in a gingerly manner). All the same, I wish the demonstrations weren’t so confoundedly painful.

Claude (swallowing a mouthful of scorched flour). Same here.

(Scene closes.)



Unsigned story as printed; credited to P. G. Wodehouse in the Index to Vol. 132 of Punch.