The World, February 26, 1907



[Scene: An ante-room in the Palace of the Absolute Amir. Several members of the private suite are standing about in attitudes of dejection. The foreheads of all are lined with care, and every eye has a nervous, haunted expression. There is an atmosphere of unrest. A door is opened in the distance, and the strains of “The Coon Band Contest” on a gramophone are heard, mingled with a low moaning sound, which ceases as the door is closed. All start, and shudder. The lines of care deepen.]

First Member of the Suite (after a painful pause). And it seems only yesterday that we were living our happy, pastoral lives in absolute ignorance of the terrors of civilisation.

Second Member of the Suite (with a sigh). Those were happy, happy days.

Third Member of the Suite. Do you remember how excited we all were when it got about that we were going to visit the English?

First Member. We jumped with joy.

Second Member. We sang—at least I did.

Third Member. We all sang.

First Member. We thought that the trip might tend to soften the—shall I say animal spirits—of our Omnipotent Master. We thought that the severity, If I may so describe it, of his methods might be mitigated to a certain extent. We looked toward an era when punishment by torture should be unknown.

Second Member (gloomily). We didn’t know when we were well off.

Third Member. Torture! Bah! What is a mere ten dozen with the business-end of a whangee to a true son of Afghanistan? A trifle.

First Member. I believe being hung up by the heels is rather jolly when you get used to it.

Second Member. I shouldn’t wonder if being roasted a bit isn’t rather a pleasant break in the monotonous routine of an everyday business career.

Third Member. And we used to grumble!

First Member (breaking a sad silence). That’s poor old Mahbub Ali, isn’t it, in that room? Anybody know what he did?

Fourth Member. Chap was telling me that he trumped the Amir’s ace at Bridge.

Second Member. I heard he gave the Amir out l.b.w. in the Palace v. Town match just as he was beginning to see the bowling a bit.

Third Member. You’re both wrong. I was there when it happened. The Amir was playing the piano, and hit a black note when he should have hit a white one, and the silly ass went and giggled. The Amir was furious. Sentenced him on the spot to a hundred and fifty cake-walks on the gramophone, to be followed, if he survived, by a humorous sketch.

All (horror-struck). No!

Third Member. Fact. Bit stiff, isn’t it?

First Member. I wish that English trip had never been suggested. Life’s getting perfectly impossible here. You heard what happened to my cousin, didn’t you? Talked to death by wild reciters. And all because he foozled his put on the eighth green when he was partnering the Amir in a foursome. They lost the match.

Third Member. And their opponents got fourteen days’ comic papers because they won. You don’t know where you are nowadays.

First Member. Give me the good old-fashioned flaying alive.

All. Same here.

First Member. One knew where one stood then.

All. Rather!

First Member. Hist!

[Enter the Amir.           

The Amir (smiling benignantly). Well, gentlemen, here you are, then. I’ve been looking for you. I’ve just learned a new tune on the mouth-organ. I want you to tell me exactly what you think of it.

All (dejectedly). Yes, your Majesty.

The Amir. And remember that, while I hate flattery, I am equally averse from hypercriticism. The penalty for both is—well, I won’t tell you now. I dare say you will find out later on.

All (shivering). Yes, your Majesty.

(Scene closes.)

p. g. wodehouse.