The World, December 11, 1906
[“The invasion of sport by an incongruous spirit of fastidiousness and luxury leads us to shirk the laborious side of sport.”—Baily’s Magazine.]
[The scene is the billiard room at Oldschool Towers. A pleasant wood-fire is glowing in the grate. The time is afternoon. In front of the fire is a table with a decanter and syphons, and a box of cigars. In easy chairs on either side of the table are reclining Lord Adamant and the Hon. Jack Hardman.]
Lord A. Decent cigars, these.
Jack. Top-hole. I haven’t a word to say against Oldschool as a host, as far as the indoors arrangements are concerned. But when it comes to the shooting—— (Shudders reminiscently.)
Lord A. My word, yes. (Shivers.)
Jack. He’s a good old chap, but I can’t stick his mediæval notions of sport. (Impressively.) I simply—cannot—stick—them.
Lord A. We were wise to cut it when we did. I suppose he will be stuffy about it, but one must bear with him, I suppose. My dear old boy, you’ll hardly believe me, but when I got to my stick at that last drive I found that I was expected to stand in an absolute puddle!
Jack. Hasn’t Oldschool ever heard of a cold in the head? Doesn’t he know what coughs are?
Lord A. (mournfully, as who should say “Ichabod”). It’s the same everywhere. ’Pon my word, these men seem to think one’s made of leather. At Aes-Triplex’s the other day, so young Putty-Smith was telling me, there was no end of unpleasantness simply because some fellows who’d been put in a warm corner didn’t see the fun of getting gun-headache, and, instead of shooting, made up a four and played Bridge under the hedge.
Jack. There’s a place I know where they give you a cold lunch.
Lord A. (incredulously). Rot!
Jack. Fact, really. And object if your loader reads novels to you while you’re waiting.
Lord A. I don’t see the point of all this beastly ruggedness.
Jack. Another place I know you have to walk between the beats. No motors. Oh, no.
Lord A. It’s the unreasonableness of these men that I object to. I’m perfectly willing to shoot. No man more so. But I’m not a sort of beastly mixture of steel and indiarubber. Take a thing that happened to me at old Robur’s last year, for instance. He wanted me to walk bang across a field of roots. It was early in the morning, mark you, and the dew wasn’t off them. I put it to him straight. “I am as fond of sport as any man,” I said. “But, dash it all, I’m not a dare devil.”
Jack. It beats me why they don’t have neat gravel paths in these turnip-fields. Not necessarily right across them, if they didn’t wish it. One wouldn’t mind stretching a point, and going a bit out of one’s way.
Lord A. No. One always wants to be reasonable.
Jack. Seen that new shooting-stick everyone’s talking about?
Lord A. The Compacto-Sybaritico? Rather! Ordered one last week. Always have wanted a back to lean against.
Jack. And the padding.
Lord A. And the place at the side of the chair for a long glass and a syphon.
Jack. And the foot-rest.
Lord A. Wonder who invents these things. Dashed clever feller, whoever he was. Made a fortune, I shouldn’t wonder.
Jack. Talking of inventions, chap I know has a great idea of a portable stove. Fill it up with coke or something before you start, and your loader wheels it about for you.
Lord A. Ought to be money in that. Cold feet are the curse of sport.
Jack. Lots of men use those foot-warmers they give you in trains. They’re all right as long as the water keeps warm. Hullo, here’s Flabley. You chucked it, too, Flabley?
Tom Flabley (pulling up another chair, and sinking into it). Rather. Bit of skin off my left little toe. Thought I’d better get back and rest it.
Lord A. Only thing to do. Worst thing possible to give a thing like that a chance. Where are the others?
Flabley. Gutlesse and De Gennerit left when I did. Nasty East wind just sprung up. Oldschool’s still at it.
Lord A. Really? Wonderful old Johnny!
Jack. ’Stonishing chap!
Lord A. Match?
Flabley. Decent cigars, these.
(Scene closes.) p. g. wodehouse.
Dan Garrison points out that Wodehouse gives a nod to Horace here in the names “Aes-Triplex” and “old Robur” above. In Ode I.3, line 9, Illi robur et aes triplex, Horace is saying that whoever first took to sea had oak and triple bronze around his chest.