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Title: My Ten Years in a Quandary
Author: Robert C Benchley (1889-1945)
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Language:  English
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Title: My Ten Years in a Quandary
Author: Robert C Benchley (1889-1945)

My Ten Years in a Quandary



First published 1936.

Table of Contents

The Lost Locomotive
"Take the Witness!"
The New Strokes
Contributors to This Issue
Dog Libel
The Rope Trick Explained
Toddling Along
No Pullmans, Please!
Mysteries from the Sky
The Evil Eye
Stop Those Hiccoughs!
Bad News
Isn't It Remarkable?
Do Dreams Go by Opposites?
My White Suit
Wear-Out-a-Shoe Week
Nature's Noises
Owl Data
As They Say in French: Other Times, Other Customs
Nature's Prizes
Our Noisy Ghosts
Movie Boners
Let's Not Dance This!
The French, They Are--
Duck, Brothers!
What--No Budapest?
 MacGregor for Ataman!
Do We Sleep Enough?
High Life Among the Birds
Do You Make These Mistakes?
The Word "Three"
Read and Eat
Talking Dogs
My Trouble
Hollywood's Loss
Lights, Please!
Did You Know That----
Mutiny on the "Bounty"
The Dangers of Bass-Singing
Lucky World
"Name, Please?"
Eat More Worry
Keep a Log
Lost Youth
The Ice-Breaker
The Piano-Playing Record
Fun with Animals
The Children's Hour
Back to Mozart
My Orchard
Hedgehogs Wanted
Comes the Eclipse
Autographs for Sale
Health and Work
Experience Meeting
Rule of Thumb
Quick Quotations
Spy Scares
Mistaken Notions
Maxims from the Chinese
The Rule of 87
Jolly Good Fellows
Taking Up the Cudgels
Special Sale!
Aboard for Dementia Praecox
For Release Monday
One Minute, Please
Who Did It?
Prodigal Sea-Lions
London's Oldest Rink
Robot Rats
End of the Chanticleer!
Waiting for Bad News
Judgment-Day Rehearsal
What to Loll In
Blizzard Hysteria
The Moth Invasion
Don't Get Lost!
Artist's Model Succumbs
Those Dicta
The Vigil
Haircut, Please!
The Flying Flea
The Camel Market
The Curse Shortage
First Aid
No More Nightmares
Ominous Announcements
"East, West, Home's Best!"
No More Bananas
You Mr. Grown-Up!
Sluggards, Ahoy!
Sweet Solitude
Penguin Feud
Coffee Versus Gin
The Early Worm
Truffle Poisoning
My Untold Story

The Lost Locomotive

The day that Mr. MacGregor lost the locomotive was a confusing
one for our accountants. They didn't know whom to charge it to.

"We have an account here called 'Alterations,'" said the head
accountant (Mr. MacGregor). "We might charge it to that. Losing a
locomotive is certainly an alteration in something."

"I am afraid that you are whistling in the dark, Mr. MacGregor,"
I said quietly.

"The point is not what account we are going to charge the lost
locomotive to," I continued. "It is how you happened to lose it."

"I have already told you," he replied, with a touch of asperity,
"that I haven't the slightest idea. I was tired and nervous
and--well--I lost it, that's all!"

"As a matter of fact," he snapped, "I am not at all sure that the
locomotive is lost. And, if it is, I am not at all sure that I
lost it."

                         *  *  *  *  *

"I don't think that we need go into that point," I replied. "When
a man takes a locomotive out and comes back without it, and is
unable to explain what has become of it, the presumption is that
he, personally, has lost it. How did you like those tangerines we
had for lunch?"

"Only fair," MacGregor answered.

"You see?" I said. "You are getting cynical."

We have had a great deal of trouble about Mr. MacGregor's growing
cynical. He looks at things with a bilious eye. It is bringing
down the morale of the office force, and there are whole days at
a time when we don't sell a thing.

                         *  *  *  *  *

"How often do you take that medicine I gave you?" I asked him.

MacGregor winced slightly. "Hot-diggidy!" he replied.

"That is not an answer to my question," I said, sternly.

"What were we just talking about?" he asked.

"You mean the tangerines?" I said, his cynicism still rankling in
my mind.

"No," he replied. "Before that."

We both thought for a minute.

"Well, it couldn't have been very important," I said, laughing.
This got him in good humor and we swung forward, double-time,
along the road to work.

"Take the Witness!"

Newspaper accounts of trial cross-examinations always bring out
the cleverest in me. They induce day dreams in which I am the
witness on the stand, and if you don't know some of my imaginary
comebacks to an imaginary cross-examiner (Doe vs. Benchley:
482-U.S.-367-398), you have missed some of the most stimulating
reading in the history of American jurisprudence.

These little reveries usually take place shortly after I have
read the transcript of a trial, while I am on a long taxi ride or
seated at a desk with plenty of other work to to. I like them
best when I have work to to, as they deplete me mentally so that
I am forced to go and lie down after a particularly sharp verbal
rally. The knowledge that I have completely floored my adversary,
and the imaginary congratulations of my friends (also imaginary),
seem more worth while than any amount of fiddling work done.

During these cross-questionings I am always very calm. Calm in a
nice way, that is--never cocky. However frantic my inquisitor may
wax (and you should see his face at times--it's purple!), I just
sit there, burning him up with each answer, winning the
admiration of the courtroom, and, at times, even a smile from the
judge himself. At the end of my examination, the judge is crazy
about me.

Just what the trial is about, I never get quite clear in my mind.
Sometimes the subject changes in the middle of the questioning,
to allow for the insertion of an especially good crack on my
part. I don't think that I am ever actually the defendant,
although I don't know why I should feel that I am immune from
trial by a jury of my peers--if such exist.

I am usually testifying in behalf of a friend, or perhaps as just
an impersonal witness for someone whom I do not know, who,
naturally, later becomes my friend for life. It is justice that I
am after--Justice and a few well-spotted laughs.

Let us whip right into the middle of my cross-examination, as I
naturally wouldn't want to pull my stuff until I had been
insulted by the lawyer, and you can't really get insulted simply
by having your name and address asked. I am absolutely fair about
these things. If the lawyer will treat me right, I'll treat him
right. He has got to start it. For a decent cross-examiner, there
is no more tractable witness in the world than I am.

Advancing toward me, with a sneer on his face, he points a finger
at me. _(I have sometimes thought of pointing my finger back at
him, but have discarded that as being too fresh. I don't have to
resort to clowning.)_

                         *  *  *  *  *

Q--You think you're pretty funny, don't you? (I have evidently
just made some mildly humorous comeback, nothing smart-alecky,
but good enough to make him look silly.)

A--I have never given the matter much thought.

Q--Oh, you haven't given the matter much thought, eh? Well, you
seem to be treating this examination as if it were a minstrel

A _(very quietly and nicely)_--I have merely been taking my cue
from your questions. _(You will notice that all this presupposes
quite a barrage of silly questions on his part, and pat answers
on mine, omitted here because I haven't thought them up. At any
rate, it is evident that I have already got him on the run before
this reverie begins.)_

Q--Perhaps you would rather that I conducted this inquiry in baby

A--If it will make it any easier for you. _(Pandemonium, which
the Court feels that it has to quell, although enjoying it
obviously as much as the spectators.)_

Q _(furious)_--I see. Well, here is a question that I think will
be simple enough to elicit an honest answer: Just how did you
happen to know that it was eleven-fifteen when you saw the

A--Because I looked at my watch.

Q--And just why did you look at your watch at this particular

A--To see what time it was.

Q--Are you accustomed to looking at your watch often?

A--That is one of the uses to which I often put my watch.

Q--I see. Now, it couldn't, by any chance, have been ten-fifteen
instead of eleven-fifteen when you looked at your watch this
time, could it?

A--Yes, sir. It could.

Q--Oh, it _could_ have been ten-fifteen?

A--Yes, sir--if I had been in Chicago. _(Not very good, really.
I'll work up something better. I move to have that answer
stricken from the record.)_

                         *  *  *  *  *

When I feel myself lowering my standards by answering like that,
I usually give myself a rest, and, unless something else awfully
good pops into my head, I adjourn the court until next day. I can
always convene it again when I hit my stride.

If possible, however, I like to drag it out until I have really
given my antagonist a big final wallop which practically curls
him up on the floor (I may think of one before this goes to
press), and, wiping his forehead, he mutters, "Take the witness!"

As I step down from the stand, fresh as a daisy, there is a round
of applause which the Court makes no attempt to silence. In fact,
I have known certain judges to wink pleasantly at me as I take my
seat. Judges are only human, after all.

My only fear is that, if I ever really am called upon to testify
in court, I won't be asked the right questions. That _would_ be a
pretty kettle of fish!

The New Strokes

It will be interesting to see what the new season will bring out
in the way of novel swimming strokes. I'll bet it involves the
use of an auxiliary motor strapped on the shoulders. When I was
learning to swim, people just swam. The idea was to keep afloat
and, in an orderly fashion, to get somewhere if possible. If
there was nowhere you wanted to get to, you just swam quietly
'round and 'round until your lips got blue. Then you went in.

The stroke that I was first taught was known as the "breast, or gondola,
stroke." High out of the water by the bows. It was dignified and stately
and went something like this: "One-two-three-sink! One-two-three-sink!"
The legs were shot out straight behind, like a frog's, except that they
were not good to eat.

Then the more sporting among the swimming crowd took to swimming
tipped over on one side, with one ear dragging in the water. This
was considered very athletic, especially if one arm was lifted
out of the water at each stroke. But even then the procedure was
easygoing, pleasant, and more of a pastime than a chore. It was
considered very bad form to churn.

But with the advent of the various "crawls," swimming took on
more the nature of a battle with the elements. You had to lash at
the water, tear at the waves with your teeth, snort and spit,
kick your feet like a child with tantrums and, in general, behave
as if you had set out deliberately to drown yourself in an
epilepsy. It became tiring just to watch.

I never learned the names of the new strokes as they came along,
but I gather that the instructions for some of them must read:

_The Australian Wrench:_ Place the head under water up to the
shoulder blades. Bring the left arm up, over and around the neck
until the fingers of the left hand touch the right cheek (still
under water). Shove the right arm sideways and to the left until
the right shoulder touches the chin. Then shift arm positions
suddenly, and with great splashing, propelling the body through
the water by lashing upward and downward with the feet and legs.
The head is kept under water during the entire race, thereby
eliminating both wind-resistance and breathing. It is bully fun.

_The Navajo Twist:_ Rotate the entire body like a bobbin on the
surface of the water, with elbows and knees bent. Spit while the
mouth is on the up-side. Inhale when it is under. This doesn't
get you much of anywhere, but it irritates the other swimmers and
makes it difficult for them to swim.

_The Lighthouse Churn:_ Just stand still, in water about up to
your waist, and beat at the surface with your fists, snorting and
spitting at the same time. This does nothing but make you
conspicuous, but, after all, what is modern swimming for?

Contributors to This Issue

Unfortunately the current issue of our magazine has had to be
abandoned because of low visibility and an epidemic of printers'
nausea, but we felt that our readers would still want to know a
little something of the private lives of our contributors. At any
rate, here we go:

ELWOOD M. CRINGE, who contributed the article _Is Europe?_ is a graduate
of Moffard College and, since graduation, has specialized in high
tension rope. He is thirty-two years old, wears a collar, and his
hobbies are golf, bobbing for apples, and junket.

HAL GARMISCH, author of _How It Feels to Be Underslung_, writes:
"I am young, good-looking and would like to meet a girl about my
own age who likes to run. I have no hobbies, but I am crazy about

MEDFORD LAZENBY probably knows more about people, as such, than
anyone in the country, unless it is people themselves. He has
been all over the world in a balloon-rigged ketch and has a
fascinating story to tell. _China Through a Strainer_, in this
issue, is not it.

                         *  *  *  *  *

ELIZABETH FEDELLER, after graduation from Ruby College for
Near-Sighted Girls, had a good time for herself among the
deserted towns of Montana and writes of her experiences in a
style which has been compared unfavorably with that of Ernest
Hemingway. She is rather unattractive looking.

On our request for information, GIRLIE TENNAFLY wrote us that he
is unable to furnish any, owing to a short memory. He contributed
the article on _Flanges: Open and Shut_, which is not appearing
in this issue.

We will let ESTHER RUBRIC tell about herself: "Strange as it may
seem," writes Miss Rubric, "I am not a 'high-brow,' although I
write on what are known as 'high-brow' subjects. I am really
quite a good sport, and love to play tennis (or 'play at' tennis,
as I call it), and am always ready for a good romp. My mother and
father were missionaries in Boston, and I was brought up in a
strictly family way. We children used to be thought strange by
all the other 'kids' in Boston because my brothers had beards and
I fell down a lot. But, as far as I can see, we all grew up to be
respectable citizens, in a pig's eye. When your magazine accepted
my article on _How to Decorate a Mergenthaler Linotype Machine_,
I was in the 'seventh heaven.' I copied it, word for word, from

DARG GAMM is too well known to our readers to call for an
introduction. He is now at work on his next-but-one novel and is
in hiding with the Class of 1915 of Zanzer College, who are
preparing for their twentieth reunion in June.

answer our request for manuscripts.

Dog Libel

A friend of mine who calls himself a dachshund is furious over an
article he has just read in a scientific paper purporting to give
the essential qualities of a good dachshund. He finds himself
libelled by implication.

"I think I could sue," said my friend. "This man here has said,
in effect, that I am not a real dachshund."

"I wouldn't sue," I advised, cautiously. "In the first place, you
would have to show that you had been damaged by the publication
of the article. Your standing in this household is just the same
as it was before the article was written. We won't go into just
what your standing is, but it remains unchanged at any rate.

"Furthermore," I added, sagely, "the magazine, pushed to the
wall, might dig up a lot of ugly stories which you might not
relish having told in court. You are not immaculate, you know.
Remember that Seelyham named 'Arthur.'"

"That was just wrestling in fun," my friend said. "I meant him no

                         *  *  *  *  *

"Just the same," I warned, "it wouldn't look very well in the
tabloids. And, anyway, the case wouldn't come up for a year or
so, and even then it would drag on, with appeals and reappeals,
until you were flat broke. I couldn't do very much to help you
out with the costs, you know."

This rather sobered him up, I thought. He had evidently been more
or less counting on me to back him in this crack-brained suit of

"Listen to this!" he said, trying to swing me into his own
irrational state of mind. He spread the paper out on the floor
with his paw and adjusted his spectacles. (He wears them only for
very fine print.)

I am afraid that this account is getting to sound just a mite
whimsical, what with dogs wearing spectacles and talking like
people. My only excuse is that it is an actual stenographic
account of a conversation and is designed only to show the
futility of libel suits.

                         *  *  *  *  *

"Listen to this," he said (we will leave out the spectacles this
time): "'The special work of a dachshund is to enter a badger
hole and hold the attention of the animal until it can be dug

"I never saw a badger," he said, without looking up from the
paper, "much less try to hold its attention. How do you hold a
badger's attention, anyway?"

"I shouldn't think that it would be very hard," I said. "You
could make faces, or just say 'Look, badger!' I don't imagine
that a badger's mind wanders easily, once the badger has caught
sight of something."

"That is beside the point, anyway," he said, crossly. "The point
is that I do not go into badger-holes myself. Does that, or does
it not, imply that I am not a real dachshund?"

"You are too touchy," I said. "There must be plenty of real
dachshunds in this country who don't go near a badger-hole from
one year's end to the other. No jury in the world would count
that as a personal slur on you."

                         *  *  *  *  *

"Very well, then-here is another crack: 'The hind legs should be
strong and capable, and viewed from behind must go down straight
and by no means show the turning in at the heel known as
cow-hocks. This is very common and very bad.' Why doesn't he
mention my name and be done with it? Why doesn't he come right
out and say Friedel Immerman is not a genuine dachhund?"

"Could you prove in a court of law that you are a genuine
dachshund?" I asked, trying not to be brutal about it.

He turned in disgust and walked away without deigning a reply. As
he disappeared through the door I distinctly saw the "turning in
at the heel known as cow-hocks. Very common and very bad."

It probably is just as well that he dropped the suit.

The Rope Trick Explained

In explaining this trick, I need hardly say that it is known as
"the Indian rope trick." That is the only trick that everyone
explains, as well as the only trick that no one has ever seen.
(Now don't write in and say that you have a friend who has seen
it. I know your friend and he drinks.)

For readers under the age of three (of whom, judging from several
letters at hand, I have several) I will explain that "the Indian
rope trick" consists in throwing a rope into the air, where it
remains, apparently unfastened to anything, while a boy climbs up
to the top. Don't ask me what he does then.

This trick is very easy to explain. The point is that the boy
gets up into the air somehow and _drops the rope down to the
ground_, making it look as if the reverse were true. This is only
one way to do it, however. There are millions of ways.

                         *  *  *  *  *

While in India, a friend of mine, a Mr. MacGregor, assisted me in
confusing the natives, in more ways than one. We dressed up in
Indian costume, for one thing. This confused even us, but we took
it good-naturedly.

Then I announced to a group of natives, who were standing
open-mouthed (ready to bite us, possibly) that Mr. MacGregor and
I would perform the famous Indian Rope Trick under their very
noses. This was like stealing thunder from a child.

Stationing myself at the foot of a rope which extended upward
into the air with no apparent support at the other end, I
suggested to Mr. MacGregor that he climb it.

"Who--me?" he asked, hitching his tunic around his torso.

This took up some time, during which part of our audience left.
The remainder were frankly incredulous, as was Mr. MacGregor. I,
however, stuck to my guns.

"Up you go, MacGregor!" I said. "You used to be in the Navy!"

                         *  *  *  *  *

So, like a true yeoman, Mr. MacGregor laid hands on the rope and,
in a trice, was at its top. It wasn't a very good trice,
especially when viewed from below, but it served to bring a gasp
of astonishment from the little group, many of whom walked away.

"Come on in--the water's fine!" called Mr. MacGregor, waving from
his pinnacle (one waves from one's pinnacle sideways in India).

"Is everything fast?" I called up at him.

"Everything fast and burning brightly, sir!" answered Mr.
MacGregor, like a good sailor.

"Then--_let 'ergo!_" I commanded, sounding Taps on a little horn
I had just found in my hand.

And, _mirabile dictu_, Mr. MacGregor disappeared into thin air
and _drew the rope up after him!_ Even I had to look twice. It
was a stupendous victory for the occult.

                         *  *  *  *  *

"Are there any questions?" I asked the mob.

"What is Clark Gable like?" someone said.

"He's a very nice fellow," I answered. "Modest and unassuming. I
see quite a lot of him when I am in Hollywood."

There was a scramble for my autograph at this, and the party
moved on, insisting that I go with them for a drink and tell them
more about their favorite movie stars. There is a native drink in
India called "_straite-ri_" which is very cooling.

                         *  *  *  *  *

It wasn't until I got back to our New York office that I saw Mr.
MacGregor again, and I forgot to ask him how he ever got down.

Toddling Along

What is the disease which manifests itself in an inability to
leave a party--any party at all--until it is all over and the
lights are being put out? It must be some form of pernicious

No matter where I am, if there are more than four people
assembled in party formation, I must always be the last to leave.
I may not be having a very good time; in fact, I may wish that I
had never come at all. But I can't seem to bring myself to say,
"Well, I guess I'll be toddling along."

Other people are able to guess they'll be toddling along. One by
one, and two by two, and sometimes in great groups, I watch them
toddle along, until I am left, with possibly just my host to keep
me company. Sometimes even my host asks me if I mind if he
toddles along to bed. When this happens, I am pretty quick to
take the hint.

I have often thought of hiring a little man to go about with me,
just to say to my host:

"Well, old Bob thinks he'll be toddling along now." It's that
initial plunge that I can't seem to negotiate. It isn't that I
_can't_ toddle. It's that I can't _guess_ I'll toddle.

                         *  *  *  *  *

I suppose that part of this mania for staying is due to a fear
that, if I go, something good will happen and I'll miss it.
Somebody might do card tricks, or shoot somebody else. But this
doesn't account for it all. It is much deeper seated than that.

The obvious explanation to an analyst would be that I have an
aversion to going _home_, because I have a sister fixation or am
subconsciously in love with my parrot and am seeking an escape.

This, as I am so fond of saying to analysts, is not true. I would
much rather be at home than at most parties. In fact, I don't go
to many parties, and for that very reason.

My diagnosis would be that it is a sign of a general break-up. I
have difficulty in starting to do anything, but once started, I
can't stop. I find myself at a party and I have to stay at a
party until I am put out.

The next step is, I am afraid, that I won't be able to find
myself at all.

Oh, well.

No Pullmans, Please!

I suppose that it is just looking for trouble on my part, but
what are they going to do with all the old Pullman cars when the
streamliners come into general use? I hope that they don't try to
palm one of them off on me.

I simply couldn't take care of an old Pullman. I haven't got the
space, in the first place. It's all I can do to find room for my
big bag after I have unpacked it. Imagine trying to crowd a
pullman in, too!

Neither have I the inclination. I see no reason why I should be
made to take over something that I really don't want, do you? And
yet I have a horrible premonition that some day soon they are
going to drag around a car named "Gleeber's Falls" or "Angostura"
and ask me to give it a home.

                         *  *  *  *  *

The first time I read about the advent of the new type of
sleeping car, I said, quick as a flash: "Here it comes! I get the
old ones!" They've got to do _something_ with all those
"Laburnums" and "Latvias." And I always seem to get things like
that. "Give it to old Bob," people say, when they are tearing
down their houses. "It will be just right for his room!"

I am to blame, in a way, for a long time ago I set out to furnish
a room in a sort of knickknack fashion. I even invited
contributions from my friends. But what I meant was contributions
that I could use. I didn't mean that I was starting a whaling
museum or that I planned to build more rooms. I had more or less
in mind a mid-Victorian study of the "what-not" variety. Well, I
got my "what-nots."

                         *  *  *  *  *

It began with little articles to line up on top of a bookcase,
miniature geese, little men with baskets, shells with eggs in
them and broken stags. I also was not averse to hanging oddments
on the walls. My friends entered into the spirit of this
admirably. Every one had fun but the lady who dusted.

Then people began looking around town for heavier gifts. It got
to be a game. Trucks began arriving with old busts of Sir Walter
Scott, four-foot statues of men whose shirtfronts lit up when
attached to an electric connection, stuffed owls and fox terriers
that had lain too long at the taxidermist's. This phase ended
with the gift of a small two-headed calf in a moderate state of

From then on the slogan became: "Send it to Benchley!" Wrecking
concerns were pressed into service, and chipped cornices from the
old Post Office, detached flights of stairs, hitching posts and
railings began pouring in. Every day was like Christmas in
Pompeii. The overflow went into the bedroom and I started
sleeping under an old spinet, covered over with a set of
bead-curtains which had been brought to me from a bordello in

                         *  *  *  *  *

The friendly mood in which the game started changed gradually to
one of persecution. The idea began to embarrass me and to make it
impossible for me to move about. On several occasions it became a
matter for the police, and once the Missing Persons Bureau took a
hand in it and searched my room for a runaway college girl. They
found nothing, however, but three Chinese laborers who had been
smuggled into the country and delivered to my place in a
caterer's wagon.

So perhaps I have a right to be worried about those out-of-date
Pullmans. I have had stranger things foisted on me. I think that
this time I will put my foot down. At the first sign of a Pullman
being brought up the stairs I will bolt the door, leaving my
friends to their own devices with it. I don't want any more truck
in this room, much less a full-blown Pullman, and, ungracious as
it may seem, I don't intend to have it.

Mysteries from the Sky

I think that I am violating no confidence when I say that Nature
holds many mysteries which we humans have not fathomed as yet.
Some of them may not even be worth fathoming.

What, for instance, do we know of the many strange things which
fall from the sky? I don't mean old overshoes and snaffle-bits,
which everybody knows about, but those large masses of nergium
and philutium which are always dropping out of nowhere onto
Kansas and Oklahoma.

They have never been actually identified as nergium and
philutium, because I made those names up, but they certainly are
some form of calci-colocate (Cb2Ci2M3) or Sneeden's Disease. When
subjected to a white heat this substance explodes with a loud
bang (Ba2Ng2) and is never seen or heard of again. And see if I

                         *  *  *  *  *

The most famous deposit of this kind occurred near Dormant,
Kansas, in 1846. Following a heavy thunderstorm during the night
workers in the fields were more surprised than pleased to find
that a whole new State had been added to the Union right on top
of their wheat, apparently having dropped from the sky. This made
it necessary to elect two more Senators to go to Congress and to
have one more State fair each year. All this resulted in the
Civil War.

The so-called "rain of frogs" in North Dakota in 1859 was another
mix-up. Enoch Kaffer, a farmer, was walking along the road near
Oyster Bed one day when he was hit on the head by a falling frog.
On looking up to see where it had come from, he was hit over the
eye with another frog. Deciding that it was time to get out of
there, he started to run, but soon found himself pelted on all
sides by a rain of frogs, all in an ugly humor.

On reaching home Kaffer told his experience to his wife, who
divorced him. That she had a certain amount of right on her side
was shown by subsequent investigations which disclosed no sign of
any frogs or even frog footprints in the neighborhood of where he
had been. Kaffer himself, however, stoutly maintained his
innocence and finally went insane.

                         *  *  *  *  *

Another somewhat similar case is recorded in what was then Indian
Territory. An Indian by the name of Ferguson was missing from his
home for two days, and on finally returning said that he had been
delayed by being hit by a falling meteorite which had come
flaming through the sky at him as he was crossing a field.

As proof of his story he displayed an ugly cut across the bridge
of his nose and a black eye. There was also a cigarette burn on
the forefinger and a corresponding one on the middle finger of
his right hand. The odd part about this incident is that the next
day an enormous meteorite was discovered half-buried in the field
he had crossed, where it is to be seen to this day. The Indian,
however, disappeared.

These are only a few of the mysteries which Nature has up her
sleeve to drop down on us if we get fresh and try to stand up
straight. In the face of them we ought either to be very humble
or else get good and sore.

The Evil Eye

Next to our own system of justice, that in vogue in the interior
of Africa has the most laughs in it. They work on the Evil Eye
Theory, and the complications that arise from being accused of
having the Evil Eye are ludicrous in the extreme.

Mr. MacGregor was accused of having the Evil Eye, that Summer we
were in Africa, and my sides ached at the antics he had to go
through to prove his innocence. (As a matter of fact, he was
guilty, and it cost us plenty to buy the witch doctor, or
prosecutor, off.)

                         *  *  *  *  *

The witch doctor came to me first and told me that I had better
get my friend out of town, as several housewives had claimed that
he was going around looking at their cooking and spoiling it.
(MacGregor had been in trouble several times in America on the same

I said that our defense would be that the cooking would have been
bad anyway, and that this was just an alibi on the part of the
housewives, but the witch doctor said we couldn't get away with
that. He said that the only way that MacGregor could prove his
innocence would be to walk over red hot stones.

So I went to MacGregor and said:

"There is talk going around town about your having the Evil Eye."

"That's not the Evil Eye," he replied, rubbing it. "That's just
hangover. I'm off that native stuff from now on."

                         *  *  *  *  *

"It's not as simple to explain away as all that," I said. "The
witch doctor says that you've got to give proof that you haven't
got it."

"Will he come here, or do I have to go to his office?" asked
MacGregor, still in the dark as to the seriousness of the

"All you have to do is go out in the public square and walk over
some red hot stones," I explained.

"How far is the public square?" he asked. "I haven't got all day,
you know."

"You go right down our street and turn to the left," I said.
"They're heating the stones up now. You can leave your shoes
here, as you have to go barefoot."

"That's a horse of a different color," said MacGregor, taking off
his shoes. "Suppose I get slivers on the way down there?"

"Go down on your bicycle," I suggested.

                         *  *  *  *  *

"It looks to me like a fool's errand," he said. But off he went
on his bicycle to the public square, like the old Navy man that
he is. I have always said that there's no training for a boy like
the Navy.

I stayed at home, as MacGregor had left a lot of work undone (I
am always the fall guy who ends up by doing the work around the
house), and besides, I wasn't going to stand around and watch
MacGregor make a monkey of himself in public.

I was in the middle of a nap when he got back, so he tiptoed
around for a while in order not to awaken me. The guy has his
sweet side, too. When I woke up I asked him how it went.

"O. K.," he said. "I ad-libbed a little and got some laughs that
weren't on the routine." Always clowning, MacGregor is.

"What about the Evil Eye?" I asked.

"Just a little in the right one," he replied. "Nothing that
glasses won't correct. What's for supper?"

"Don't make a god of your stomach, MacGregor," I replied.

This got him sore, and he didn't speak until we got back to

Stop Those Hiccoughs!

Anyone will be glad to admit that he knows nothing about
beagling, or the Chinese stock market, or ballistics, but there
is not a man or woman alive who does not claim to know how to
cure hiccoughs. The funny thing is that the hiccoughs are never
cured until they get darned good and ready.

The most modest and unassuming man in the world becomes an
arrogant know-it-all in the presence of hiccoughs--in somebody

"Don't be silly," he says, patronizingly. "Just put your head
under your arm, hold a glass of water against the back of your
neck, and count to five hundred by fives without taking a breath.
It never fails."

                         *  *  *  *  *

Then, when it _has_ failed, he blames you. "It's absolutely
sure-fire if you only follow my directions," he says. He also
implies darkly that what is ailing you is not just merely
hiccoughs. "My method can't be expected to cure drunkenness, you
know," he says.

To date, I have been advised to perform the following feats to
cure hiccoughs:

Bend the body backward until the head touches the floor, and
whistle in reverse.

Place the head in a pail of water and inhale twelve times deeply.

Drink a glass of milk from the right hand with the right arm
twisted around the neck until the milk enters the mouth from the
left side.

Hop, with the feet together, up and down a flight of steps ten
times, screaming loudly at each hop.

Roll down a long, inclined lawn, snatching a mouthful of grass up
each time the face is downward.

I have tried them all, with resultant torn ligaments, incipient
drowning, lockjaw and arsenic poisoning, but, each time, at the
finish of the act, and a few seconds of waiting while my mentor
says, triumphantly: "See! What did I tell you?" that one, big
hiccough always breaks the tension, indicating that the whole
performance has been a ghastly flop.

                         *  *  *  *  *

My latest fiasco came as the result of reading the prescription
of a Boston doctor, and almost resulted in my being put away as
an irresponsible person. "All that the sufferer has to do," wrote
the doctor, "is to blow up an ordinary paper bag, as if to
explode it and then hold it over the mouth and nose tightly,
breathing in and out of the bag instead of in and out of the open

This, according to the doctor, creates an excess of carbon
monoxide gas in the bag, which is breathed over and over again,
acting on a nervous center of the brain and curing the hiccoughs.

Being alone in the room at the time, I blew the bag up and held
in tightly over my face, including not only my mouth and nose,
but my eyes as well, like a gas-mask. I subjected myself to this
treatment for possibly three minutes, walking around the room at
the same time to keep from getting bored.

                         *  *  *  *  *

When I removed the bag I found myself the object of the silent
but terrified scrutiny of my wife, who had entered the room
without my knowing it, and who had already motioned for
corroborating witnesses from the next room, two of whom were
standing in the doorway, transfixed.

My explanation that I was curing hiccoughs did not go very big,
as what I had obviously been doing was walking around the room
alone with a paper bag over my head. This is _not_ a good sign.

Incidentally, I still have my hiccoughs.

Bad News

There are certain days when I don't want to hear about certain
things. Do you know what I mean?

Today I do not want to hear about fur-bearing trout. The very
words "fur-bearing trout" are offensive to me, either in print or
in the spoken word. So today I read that a man has reported to
the Anglers' Club that he has discovered a fur-bearing trout.
That's the way my whole life has been.

At first I thought that I wouldn't read about it. "This is a free
country," I said to myself, smiling sadly. "You don't have to read
anything you don't want to read. Skip it, and go on to the next page.
Keeping abreast of current events is one thing--masochism is another."

                         *  *  *  *  *

But that old New England streak in me, that atavistic yearning
for a bad time if a bad time is possible, turned my eyes down
into the column which was headed:

             _Its Pelt Is Called Sure Goitre Cure_

And here I am--not only thinking about it but actually writing
about it. I may not be able to finish, but here I am, passing the
unhappy news on to you.

William C. Adams, director of fish and game activities of the
State Conservation Commission of New York, is the authority.
Passing up, for the moment, just what fish and game activities
call for direction, let us accept Mr. Adams as a man who knows
his piscatorial onions. He has everything to lose and nothing to
gain by frightening me with a cock-and-bull story about
fur-bearing trout. He says:

"Deep in the lakes of Yellowstone, where the waters are so cold
they never freeze, looking you straight in the eye, has been
discovered this peculiar denizen of the deep. Its fur has been
found extremely useful in the prevention of goitre. When
collected into a neckpiece the possibilities are unlimited."

                         *  *  *  *  *

This would seem an understatement. The possibilities of a
neck-piece made of trout pelts would not only be unlimited--they
would be staggering. It could easily drive the wearer crazy, just
by her thinking of what she had on. It would start a civil war.

"What is that lovely fur you have on, my dear?"

"That is unborn trout. My husband caught them."

Pistol shots ring out, brother takes up arms against brother, the
country dissolves rapidly into chaos.

I feel that such news as this which Mr. Adams brings should be
kept from the public. It does no one any good to know that there
are such things as fur-bearing trout. If the pelts are good for
goitre, let goitre sufferers take advantage of them under another
name, such as "piscarin" or "troutoxin." If neckpieces must be
made of them, let us go to the French for the _mode_ and call
them _fourrure de truite_.

But please let's not go about talking of "fur-bearing trout" or
"trout pelts." At any rate, not today.

Isn't It Remarkable?

On a recent page of colored reproductions of tomb-paintings and
assorted excavations from holes in ancient Egypt there appears a
picture of a goose with the following rather condescending

_Remarkably Accurate and Artistic Painting of a Goose from
Pharaoh Akhenaten's Palace, Drawn 3300 Years Ago._

What I want to know is--why the "remarkable"? Why is it any more
remarkable that someone drew a goose accurately 3300 years ago
than that someone should do it today? Why should we be surprised
that the people who built the Pyramids could also draw a goose so
that it looked like a goose?

                         *  *  *  *  *

As a matter of fact, the goose in this particular picture looks
more like a goose than that of many a modern master. Just what we
think we are, in this age of bad drawing, to call an Egyptian
painting "remarkably accurate and artistic" I don't know, but we
have got to get over this feeling that anything that was done
correctly in 1000 B. C. was a phenomenon. I say that we have got
to get over it, but I don't know how.

People managed to drag along in ancient Egypt, from all that we
can gather. They may not have known about chocolate malted milk
and opera hats, but, what with one thing and another, they got
by. And, presumably, every once in a while somebody felt like
drawing a goose. And why not? Is there something exclusively
twentieth century about the art of goose-drawing?

We are constantly being surprised that people did things well
before we were born. We are constantly remarking on the fact that
things are done well by people other than ourselves. "The
Japanese are a remarkable little people," we say, as if we were
doing them a favor. "He is an Arab, but you ought to hear him
play the zither." Why "but"?

                         *  *  *  *  *

Another thing, possibly not exactly in this connection, but in
line with our amazement at obvious things. People are always
saying: "My grandfather is eighty-two and interested in
everything. Reads the paper every day and follows everything."

Why shouldn't he be interested in everything at eighty-two? Why
shouldn't he be _especially_ interested in everything at
eighty-two? What is there so remarkable about his reading the
paper every day and being conversant on all topics? If he isn't
interested in everything at eighty-two when is he going to be? (I
seem to be asking an awful lot of questions. Don't bother
answering them, please.)

It is probably this naive surprise at things that keeps us going.
If we took it for granted that the ancient Egyptians could draw a
goose accurately, or that Eskimos could sing bass, or that
Grandpa should be interested in everything at eighty-two, there
wouldn't be anything for us to hang our own superiority on.

And if we couldn't find something to hang our own superiority on
we should be sunk. We should be just like the ancient Egyptians,
or the Eskimos, or Grandpa.

Do Dreams Go By Opposites?

Two or three fishermen have written in asking this department if
it believes that dreams go by opposites. I am still trying to tie
up their question in some way with fishing, but I can't quite
figure it out. I don't even know that they were fishermen.

However, I think that it is safe to say that dreams do go by
opposites; otherwise, how do you explain the steamboat?

I have a record of a dream in my files which ought to put an end
to any doubt on the matter. It was a dream reported to our Dream
Clinic by a man who has since settled down and become the father
of a family, and, therefore, does not want his name used. (He
isn't ashamed of the dream, but the family didn't pan out very

                         *  *  *  *  *

According to this man (and there is no reason to doubt his word),
he had been worried about business matters for several days
preceding the dream, and had decided to just get into bed and
pull the covers up around his head. This was around noon.

He had no intention of going to sleep, but, what with one thing
and another, he dozed off, and before he could stop himself was
dreaming at a great rate. In his dream he was in a large,
brilliantly lighted public dining-room with all his clothes on.
This, in itself, marks the dream as unusual. He not only had his
clothes on, but he was not running for a train. This, he thought,
was funny, but paid little attention to it at the time.

It seemed to him that he sat fully clothed in this public
dining-room, not running for a train--in fact, not doing anything
at all for quite a long time, although probably it was for the
fraction of a second, really. Then he woke up in a cold sweat. He
was so unnerved by this dream that he took off all his clothes,
went to a public dining-room and ran for a train, which was just
at that moment leaving the cloak room. He missed it.

Now, here was a dream which worked out in exactly the opposite
fashion in his waking experience. This we will call Case A. The
man's name will be furnished on request. It was George A.

                         *  *  *  *  *

Case B is almost as strange and equally impressive in proving
that dreams go by opposites. A woman was the dreamer in this case
(though, aren't we all?) and she is very anxious to give her
name, and to waltz with someone, if possible.

In her dream she was in a greenhouse full of exotic plants, which
was on a sort of funicular, running up and down the side of a
mountain. The mountain was just a shade narrower than the
greenhouse, so the ends of the greenhouse jutted out on either
side, making it difficult for automobile traffic, which was very
heavy at this point, to pass.

In the greenhouse with the woman was a deaf elk which had got in
somehow through a hole in the screen. The elk couldn't hear a
word that the woman was saying, so she just went on with her
tapestry-weaving, as she had to have the job finished before the
greenhouse got to the top of the mountain on its 11 o'clock trip.
(That is, 11 o'clock from the foot of East Fourteenth street,
where it started.)

                         *  *  *  *  *

Now, the amazing thing about all this was that exactly the
opposite thing happened to the woman the very next day. She was
_not_ in a funicular greenhouse; she did _not_ see a deaf elk,
and she knew nothing about tapestry-weaving.

Laugh that off, Mr. Scientist!

My White Suit

I have a white suit which I am either going to give away or have
dipped. I can't seem quite to swing it.

Other men wear white suits in Summer and it doesn't seem to
bother them. But my white suit seems to be a little whiter than
theirs. I think also that it may have something written on the
back of it, although I can't find it when I take the suit off.

Maybe I don't put it on right. I am sure that all the buttons are
buttoned in their proper order, but it doesn't seem to hang as it
should. The man who made it for me seemed satisfied, but I think
that he was in a hurry to get home. In it I have the feeling of
being a sky-writer who can't spell.

I put it on and get as far as the front door, where I catch a
glimpse of myself in the mirror. If I didn't know otherwise I
would think that I had been wired for electricity and that at
eight o'clock the President was going to press a button lighting
me up for the San Diego Exposition.

                         *  *  *  *  *

Once out in the daylight I either come back into the house and
change or rush into a taxi and crouch in the darkest corner. If,
through sheer bravado, I walk, little children run away
whimpering and I feel that policemen are going to ask me for my
hawker's license. The world and I seem to be at cross purposes.

When I see anyone I know coming on the same side of the street I
start giggling nervously, and as they come into the picture beat
them to it with some such remark as:

"It's white!"

"What's white?" they say, not being in on the secret.

"My suit," I say. "I thought I'd put on a white suit."

"So I see," they say, and into that remark I read anything from
mild amusement to downright contempt. Incidentally, on those days
when I choose to wear my white suit every other man in the county
is dressed in blue serge. This I jot down as a fashion note.

I suppose that such self-consciousness is a form of egotism--that
I should think that anyone knows at all what I have on or cares.
But that rig is too white; I know that. I have an old brown thing
which suits my mood better.

Wear-Out-a-Shoe Week

There is a movement on foot to shut down the radio for one
evening a week, or one week an evening, so that people will go
out on the streets more.

Once they are out on the streets the theory is that they will
wear out more shoes, thereby giving employment to 186,000 people
in the shoe industry alone. Incidentally they might also drop
into a poolroom and help along the chalk industry.

Why are economists always so concerned with shoes? It amounts to
fetichism. When they want to make a point it is always illustrated by
the number of pairs of shoes that a given number of people will wear out
over a given period. Just as in the old arithmetics it was always that A
and B were sawing wood or swimming up-stream, in practical economic
problems it is always that shoes are being worn out. Doesn't anyone ever
care about socks?

                         *  *  *  *  *

"It has been estimated," says Mr. Irving Caesar, in his petition
to the Federal Government to shut down the radio occasionally,
"that the life of a pair of shoes is 2,500 hours. If fifteen
million pairs of shoes have been inactive for one hour it means
that the shoe industry has lost fifteen million shoe-hours--and
the life of a pair of shoes being 2,500 hours, the shoe industry
has lost 6,000 pairs of shoes."

That's an awful lot of shoes to lose. Just think how you feel
when the porter doesn't bring _one_ pair of shoes back to you in
a Pullman, and then multiply that by 6,000. The wonder is that
the shoe industry isn't crazy mad.

Personally, shoes do not bother me much. I sometimes just carry
mine around with me in a green baize bag and put them on when I
want to make a smart appearance. I don't suppose I wear out a
pair of shoes in thirty years. I get sick of them and I throw
them at pigeons, but I never wear them out. This is because I am
what is known as "the sedentary type."

                         *  *  *  *  *

If, however, the economic theory back of this move to shut down the
radio for one night a week is to make people wear out their shoes, I
have an even better plan. Why not let them stay at home and listen to
their old radio if they want to, but, while they are listening have them
hold a pair of shoes against a grindstone? There is an old Chinese
proverb which says: "There are more ways than one to wear out a pair of
shoes," and I think it is a very good motto for each and every one of us
to take as a guide for our daily lives.

But here again we come to the old problem which worries me so
much. Every theory of economic good is based on _my_ wearing out
shoes, on _my_ looking in store windows, on _my_ spending money.
I have never yet encountered a plan for an economic Utopia which
included anyone's reading a piece by Benchley in the paper or
even asking Benchley out to dinner. In the Perfect State,
Benchley pays.

I suppose it all works out right in the end. I'd be paying
anyway. But I resent having it set forth as a dictum.

And, anyway, when I am at home of an evening I don't turn on the
radio. I don't wear out my shoes. I am just a parasite--a paying

Nature's Noises

Throughout the ages there have been natural phenomena which have
been attributed by the common people (and a few college
graduates) to murmurings of the Great Spirit or noisy protests
from Valhalla. These have later turned out to be nothing but the
cold water faucet dripping into the kitchen sink, or the 11:45
from Portland rumbling over a ledge of rock five miles away.

Some of these queer sounds from lakes and moors have, however,
had a deeper significance. They have come from actual convulsions
of Nature, and an actual convulsion of Nature is no fun. I know,
because I had a relative once who was one.

                         *  *  *  *  *

Take, for instance, the famous "Mumbling Mountain" of Pico,
Alaska. Every month or so (excepting February, which has
twenty-eight) the inhabitants of Pico heard a loud mumbling like
a man talking in his sleep. All of this rapscallion business
seemed to come from a nearby mountain, known as Nearby Mountain.

This was naturally attributed to the customary mutterings of the
Mountain God, angry because he found himself covered with wet
misty clouds. You can hardly blame him.

However, thanks to a Dr. Reney, of the Alaska Electric Light and
Power Co., it has been discovered that the sounds really came
from a new glacier, which was (and still is, unless it has
changed its mind) getting ready to start out on a tour of North
America. This will make the map of North America look pretty
silly, so you'd better not laugh. You wait and see!

                         *  *  *  *  *

Scientists have, for years, shaken their heads until they ached,
over the sound which has come from the skies at Twombley,
England. Some of the scientists have said: "Pay no attention to
it! You're drunk!" Others have given it as their opinion that it
was tops in ominousness. Still others have gone out and got drunk
themselves when they heard it.

It has turned out to be simply an echo from the surrounding
hills. It is the echo of an old man's voice, screaming. This
doesn't help the inhabitants of Twombley much, as you may well
imagine, for it has been going on, sporadically, for one hundred
and thirty years. The old man shouldn't be screaming that loudly
at this late date. A lot of people are still hoping for another

                         *  *  *  *  *

Everyone knows about the "Singing Clam Flats of Garkley," in the
outskirts of Gersta, North Wales. On moonlight nights, these clam
flats have definitely been heard to hum. Naturally, it was laid
to the clams, as Welch miners are great singers, too. In fact,
quite a number of Welch clams were taken on a concert tour with a
Welchmen's chorus, but they didn't come through as clearly as was

Now, science tells us that these singing clam flats are really
not due to clams at all, but the gradual shifting of Wales into
Ireland. There has got to be a great deal of bickering before
that happens, I'll tell you!

So the next time you hear a mountain giggling or a lake bottom
turning over on its side, don't just say: "It's the gods who are
restless!" You get your things packed up and ask for your hotel
bill. Those sounds _mean_ something.

Owl Data

A graduate student in the Ornithology Department of Cornell
University is looking for data on horned owls. He is writing a
thesis for his doctorate on "Is the Horned Owl a Friend or an
Enemy of the Farmer?" and wants people to send in their

I do not know so much about the farming end of it, but I can testify
that the horned owls in my room are definitely unfriendly. I sometimes
wish that I had never let them in.

                         *  *  *  *  *

There are only two of them, and so I don't suppose that any
extensive conclusions can be drawn. They may just be two
particularly unfriendly owls by nature. I, too, may not be doing
my part. It takes two or three to make a quarrel. Possibly if I
were to throw them a smile now and then they would be more

But I don't feel like smiling at them. They don't inspire
friendliness. They just sit and look at me all night and sleep
all day. I have even tried sleeping during the day myself and
going out at night, just to get away from their everlasting
scrutiny, but that isn't a natural way to live. I can't rearrange
my whole life just for a couple of horned owls.

                         *  *  *  *  *

I asked Mr. MacGregor what to do about them, and he said that he
didn't know.

"Is that all you've got to say?" I asked him.

"It's all for the present," he replied. He didn't seem to want to
talk about them very much.

"Do you think we'd like them any better if they were stuffed?" I

"No," he said shortly.

So I dropped the subject and tried to forget. The owls were
sitting on the top of a bookcase at the time, and I put a screen
up in front of them. This helped a little, but it was almost
worse at night to look at the screen and know that they were
sitting behind there with their eyes wide open, even though I
couldn't see them. A couple of nights I even thought I heard them

                         *  *  *  *  *

Finally, one day, I said to MacGregor, "I don't think you're
doing very much to help this situation."

"What situation is that?" he asked.

"The owl situation," I said.

"Had you thought of moving to another house?" he asked. Mr.
MacGregor doesn't sleep here, and so the thing had not reached
the proportions in his mind that it had in mine. He has no owls
out where he sleeps.

"That's all very well for you to say," I snapped back, my nerves
finally giving way, "but how are we going to move the bookcase?
Who's going to take the screen down, in the first place?"

"I guess you're right," said MacGregor, and turned and walked

That is where the matter stands today. I am afraid that I haven't
been able to give much help to the Cornell student, but I _will_
give him two horned owls if he wants them--if he will come and
get them.

As They Say in French: Other Times, Other Customs

No matter how doggy an institution may be in its beginnings,
sooner or later it gets into general circulation. Now they are
playing polo in Hollywood and wearing polo coats in the Ozarks.

Some of us older boys can remember back to the days when it was
considered putting on the dog to have dinner at night. In New
England, at any rate, what was known as "the heavy meal" came in
the middle of the day, and anyone who asked you to "dinner" at
supper-time would wear lorgnettes.

                         *  *  *  *  *

It seems hard to believe now, but the grapefruit was once
considered an item of diet which only the president of the Wire
Works could have for breakfast. After years and years of being
thrown away in Florida as inedible, the grapefruit suddenly took
on class. To say to a waiter: "Just bring me a grapefruit first!"
marked one as a man of the world and something of a gourmet.

The joke about grapefruit squirting in the eye came in shortly
after the people who made jokes started blowing themselves to
grapefruit. The joke has lasted longer than the prestige of the

                         *  *  *  *  *

The very word "weekend" was not so long ago used only by Anglophiles.
You were going British if you spoke of a "weekend" and you were
downright insufferable if you went on one. One of our more classy
magazines got its start as a patrician publication by having an article
on "Weekending in the Country" every month. A lot of solid, God-fearing
Americans wouldn't have the paper on their tables.

And, speaking of affecting British mannerisms and habits, who
remembers when cuffs on a man's trousers brought down the jibe:
"It's raining in London?" Only "Cholly-off-the-pickleboat" wore
white ducks, and, to jump ahead a bit, several prominent citizens
today are on record as having once said that they would as soon
wear a skirt as a wristwatch.

                         *  *  *  *  *

It was only a few years ago that the fussy traveler had to
specify "a room with a bath," and even then did it under his
breath for fear that people would think he was on his honeymoon
and showing off. Incidentally, the introduction of twin beds into
family life was held to be just a touch swanky and possibly an
indication that the upper classes were drifting toward an effete
civilization. To step into the next room for a minute, when a man
threw in a casual remark about "after my shower this morning" he
was quite likely to be under suspicion not only of boasting about
a daily bath, but even more of trying to let people know that he
was in daily touch with a _shower_ bath. The early use of showers
by athletes prevented any taint of effeteness, but the owning of
a shower was more or less a matter for boasting.

In leaving these erstwhile indications of snobbery, let us ask
who remembers when tomato juice in the morning was a sign that a
man had been drinking the night before?

Oh, well--_autres temps, autres moeurs_--which, in itself, is a
form of affectation. Perhaps. Someday, everyone will be using
French phrases.


A couple of years ago I had occasion to complain of a certain
form of California bird-life which was sitting on a tree under my
window and making the night hideous by never giving the same
bird-call twice. I counted a hundred and four different calls
before I went mad, all the calls obviously from the same bird.

But that year I was in a room on the third floor. This year my
room is right on the ground, flush with the bushes. And this year
that same bird is back with a whole new routine. Furthermore, he
is out to get me. And when I say "get me," I mean actual physical
violence, or mayhem.

                         *  *  *  *  *

He must have read what I wrote about him that time or else some
busybody told him. At any rate, he has a definite grudge in mind
and has a campaign mapped out whereby he can get me down. His
plan is, evidently, to shatter my nerves during the night and
then attack me in my weakened condition in the daytime.

Two years ago he had a line of calls which, although diversified,
still sounded like a bird. This year he has gone in for _vox
humana_ numbers. He crowds in against the screen and moans.
Sometimes he giggles. Sometimes he simply says, in a low voice,
"Wait till I get you outside."

                         *  *  *  *  *

Yesterday, after a night of sitting by the window and shouting
"Go away!" I went for a walk in the Petit Trianon back of my
house. There was my bird, sitting on a branch, eyeing me. It is
an evil black color, with bushy eyebrows and a one-sided leer.

I walked by without a word and tried to act as if I had noticed
nothing during the night. But no sooner was my back to him that I
heard the whir of wings and felt a heavy body brush by my collar
on its way through the air. I ducked, and he banked sharply to
the right, circling my head and grazing my other shoulder. I
broke into a dignified leap and ran back into the house.

I can see him now, sitting out there on the tree, biding his
time. All last night there was a new note of triumph in his
program. He has broken my morale and he knows it.

What I want to know is--can I call the police and ask for an
escort or has a taxpayer no rights?

Nature's Prizes

As some Frenchman has said, translating at sight into English as
he went: "Each one to his taste"; but, with all the things there
are to go out after in the world, I think that Dr. Ditmars is
going out after the least attractive. At least, they would be to

Dr. Ditmars, head of The Bronx Zoo, is going on an expedition to
the Caribbean Sea, and, believe it or not, he is hoping and
praying that he comes back with the following treasures:

One Surinam toad, which, according to Dr. Ditmars, "looks as if
an elephant had stepped on it, and has small beady eyes, like
pin-points." This is all right, I suppose, so long as Dr. Ditmars
thinks he wants it.

One Giant Horned Frog which attains a length of more than ten
inches. "It is bright green, has long yellow horns, barks like a
dog, and can inflict a very severe bite. It is apt to jump at you
and bite you with no warning whatever." Not at _me_, Dr. Ditmars,
not at _me_. He couldn't jump that far.

One tropical spider or _Grammostola lomgimanca_, which is three
times as large as the common tarantula. In addition to being very
active, this spider is also very poisonous, and its bite may have
a fatal result.

One tree frog of the Harlequin family, highly colored. "Their
skins exude a poison which is used by Indians in northeastern
South America to tip their arrows. The venom is said to be as
deadly as strychnine if it enters the bloodstream, and is fatal
within ten minutes."

                         *  *  *  *  *

Now Dr. Ditmars' aim is not to keep as far away from these pets
as possible, but actually to go out and _get_ them. He wants to
bring them back to The Bronx Zoo, although, so far, no residents
of The Bronx have issued statements in the matter. It looks like
a good year for house screens in The Bronx.

The only one of Dr. Ditmars' quarries which could hold my
attention at all is the Surinam toad "which looks as if an
elephant had stepped on it." I'd rather like to look at that, and
then look right away again.

The Surinam toad also has quite a cute trick in disposing of its
eggs. (All this is, of course, according to Dr. Ditmars. It comes
like a bolt from the blue to me.) The female lays the eggs in the
water, each egg floating by itself. The male then takes them, one
by one, in his flipper and imbeds them in the back of the female,
where a retaining membrane immediately forms. The young frogs
remain on this refuge until they can take care of themselves.
More than two hundred eggs have been found on the back of a
single female.

                         *  *  *  *  *

Well, as the Frenchman said, "Each one to his taste." I couldn't
go for that sort of thing myself--but then, I couldn't go for any
of the other of Dr. Ditmars' hobbies.

Our Noisy Ghosts

In an ill-advised moment last night I began reading an article
called _Three Months in a Haunted House_. I merely wanted to find
out why anyone would stay three months in a haunted house, or
three minutes, for that matter. We are supposedly free agents.

The whole thing ended by my putting on my clothes and going over
to spend the rest of the night in the waiting room of the Grand
Central Terminal. Even over there I had to ask the man to put on
a few more lights. They start cutting down on electricity along
about 3 a. m., and it gets a little gloomy.

While I was tagging along at the heels of the cleaning men, from
one side of the room to the other, I got to thinking in a more or
less sane manner about the difference between modern ghosts and
those which haunt castles in Europe, or drift up and down
deserted wings of large estates in Scotland. Modern ghosts are so

                         *  *  *  *  *

At just what age does a ghost stop being noisy and throwing
things and settle down to dignified haunting? It must have
something to do with immaturity in the ghost-world, for only the
youngsters seem to take delight in crashing about as if they were
drunk. You never hear any of the ghosts in the Tower of London
behaving like hoodlums. Of course it may be a matter of breeding.

All accounts of haunted houses today tell of sounds of furniture
being thrown downstairs, dishes and spoons being clattered
together, and sometimes even actual physical violence, with all
the ghosts entering the room and spinning the bed around or
yanking off the covers. You would think that Jack Oakie was in
the house. Ghosts who have died within the past fifty years all
seem to have had grudges against people, or else a tendency to
practical joking. They all seem to have been people who, when
they were alive, went around pushing other people off rafts into
the water, or putting rubber frogs into beer-glasses.

You don't catch any of those nice people who haunt Glamis Castle
putting on acts like that. They take a little stroll up and down
a corridor or along a battlement; sometimes they just appear at a
window for a second and then disappear. Once in a great while
they clank a chain or two, but not in a spirit of mischief. You
can't help clanking a chain if it is attached to you.

                         *  *  *  *  *

The chief characteristics of a ghost who has attained a certain
amount of dignity are repression and beauty. All the lady ghosts
are tall and sad, and the men seem to have gone to some good
school. Our modern ghosts wouldn't be tolerated in one of those
old castles for a minute.

And you will notice that the twentieth-century tin-pan throwers
and bed-bouncers never show themselves. If we could see them,
I'll bet they wear turtle-necked sweaters and caps. They probably
know that once they let anyone catch sight of them they will be
so unimpressive that the ghost-racket will be spoiled for them
and they will be kicked out into the yard.

Maybe I have gone a little too far. Mind you, I don't say that
there can't be ladies and gentlemen among present-day ghosts. I
am sure there are. I certainly meant no offense to modern ghosts
as a class. They're the ones I'll have to deal with, and I hope
that they haven't got me wrong in this little article.

All I meant to say was that times have changed. You know--animal
spirits, and boys will be boys. I was really only kidding anyway.

Movie Boners

One of the most popular pastimes among movie fans is picking out
mistakes in the details of a picture. It is a good game, because
it takes your mind off the picture.

For example (Fr. _par example_) in the picture called "One Night
Alone--for a Change," the Prince enters the door of the poolroom
in the full regalia of an officer in the Hussars. As we pick him
up coming in the door, in the next shot, he has on chaps and a
sombrero. Somewhere on the threshold he must have changed. This
is just sheer carelessness on the part of the director.

                         *  *  *  *  *

In "We Need a New Title for This," we nave seen Jim, when he came
to the farm, fall in love with Elsie, although what Elsie does
not know is that Jim is really a character from another picture.
The old Squire, however, knows all about it and is holding it
over Jim, threatening to expose him and have him sent back to the
other picture, which is an independent, costing only a hundred
thousand dollars.

Now, when Jim tells Elsie that he loves her (and, before this, we have
already been told that Elsie has been in New York, working as secretary
to a chorus girl who was just about to get the star's part on the
opening night) he says that he is a full-blooded Indian, because he
knows that Elsie likes Indians. So far, so good.

But in a later sequence, when they strike oil in Elsie's father
(in a previous shot we have seen Elsie's father and have learned
that he has given an option on himself to a big oil company which
is competing with the old Squire, but what the old Squire does
not know is that his house is afire) and when Elsie comes to Jim
to tell him that she can't marry him, the clock in the sitting
room says ten-thirty. When she leaves it says ten-twenty. That
would make her interview minus ten minutes long.

                         *  *  *  *  *

In "Throw Me Away!" the street car conductor is seen haggling
with the Morelli gang over the disposition of the body of Artie
("Muskrat") Weeler. In the next shot we see Artie haggling with
the street-car conductor over the disposition of the bodies of
the Morelli gang. This is sloppy cutting.

In "Dr. Tanner Can't Eat" there is a scene laid in Budapest.
There is no such place as Budapest.

What the general public does not know is that these mistakes in
detail come from the practice of "block-booking" in the moving
picture industry. In "block-booking" a girl, known as the
"script-girl," holds the book of the picture and is supposed to
check up, at the beginning of each "take" (or "baby-broad"), to
see that the actors are the same ones as those in the previous

The confusion comes when the "script-girl" goes out to lunch and
goes back to the wrong "set." Thus, we might have one scene in
_The Little Minister_ where everybody was dressed in the costumes
of _The Scarlet Empress_, only _The Little Minister_ and _The
Scarlet Empress_ were made on different "lots" and at different

It might happen, even at that.

Let's Not Dance This!

Somehow I do not thrill to the idea that "every form of life is
dancing to celestial music," as a well-known but giddy-minded
astronomer has stated. Aside from presenting a rather ludicrous
picture, it is too tiring to think of. I don't like to dance, and
I _won't_ dance, celestial music or no celestial music!

It seems as if a greater part of my life has been spent in
avoiding dancing. When I was little I used to feign measles and
fallen arches on Saturday afternoons when the dreaded time came
to put the patent leather pumps into the green baize bag and
toddle off to dancing school. I had some pretty clever ruses up
my sleeve, but there is no record of their ever having worked.

                         *  *  *  *  *

Incidentally, I believe that the barbarous custom which prevailed
at the turn of the century of forcing boys into Saturday
afternoon dancing school was responsible for the middle-aged
generation of terpsichore-haters whom we see cowering in corners
or hitching heavily around dance floors today.

After a Saturday morning of rolling around in the dirt and
skinning knee-caps, what red blooded man of eight or nine would
not rebel at being called in, given a hot bath in the middle of
the day and crowded into a black suit, merely to spend a sunny
afternoon indoors with a bunch of girls in blue sashes? It's a
wonder that any of us even got married.

Once herded into the torture hall, however, we had ways and means
of avoiding the ultimate degradation of actually dancing.
Determined groups of stags would barricade themselves in the
boys' dressing room and defy adult pleadings until it became .a
case for calling out the militia. And, even when dragged out into
action, there were subtle forms of sabotage such as losing a pump
or lacerating the insteps of our partners, which soon broke down
the opposition and sent us back to the lockers in triumph.

Following the dancing-school period came the parties where
someone, after supper, was always rolling back the rugs and
turning on the gramophone. The minute I saw a rug being so much
as turned up at one corner I was out on the porch like a wild,
hunted thing, even though it was the dead of Winter, and many a
night I have stood jammed against a waterspout in the dark while
searching parties brushed by me with bloodhounds.

                         *  *  *  *  *

It wasn't so much that they wanted me to dance as it was their
vicious determination that, at a party, nobody shall ever be let
off anything. There is no one so unfeeling as a hostess who is
set on having the young folks enjoy themselves.

With the years has come that sweet respite from regimentation in matters
of merrymaking, and I can now say quite frankly, "Go away, Twinkletoes,
and keep away! Grandpa's sitting right here!" Or, better yet, I can get
up and give them a taste of their own medicine for one lap around the
floor, after which any alternative that I suggest is greeted with a
grateful look and limping acquiescence. But my first instinct is still
to rush to the boys' room when I hear the music start.

                         *  *  *  *  *

So, when astronomers tell us that every form of life is dancing
to celestial music and that the earth and the sun set up a rhythm
which we cannot escape I settle back in my chair with a confident
smile and order scrambled eggs and bacon.

"You go ahead and dance to the celestial music," I say to my
group. "I have escaped stronger forces than the earth and the sun
in my day. I have braved the thin red line of disapproving
mothers seated along the wall at dancing school. I have eluded
the most eagle-eyed of hostesses at young people's parties. I
have definitely established myself as a non-dancer in some of the
dancingest circles of my day. The only time that any celestial
influence gets me on my feet will be when it swoops me up for

The French They Are ----

I was talking the other day to my friend who happens to be a
dachshund about this new restaurant in Paris where they cater
exclusively to dogs. It is in the Champs Elysees, a very good
location, he tells me, for a smart eating place.

"They call it _Au Colisee_," he said, "although the significance
of the name eludes me. I suppose that's the French of it.
Hysterical exaggeration." (My friend comes from just outside

"I suppose it's all right, if they want to do it," he continued,
"but I see no reason for going sissy in it. Look at this!" He
read from a menu which some German friend had sent him for his

"_La Patee de Bouky!_ I'll give you ten guesses what _La Patee de
Bouky_ is. It's soup, rolls and potatoes! That's _La Patee de

                         *  *  *  *  *

He then gave an imitation of an effeminate dog ordering _La Patee
de Bouky_. He overdid it a little, but I got his point.

"Where I come from that dish would be called by a real
name--_Kartoffelsuppe mit Brotchen_. There's a name you can get
your teeth into! _La Patee de Bouky!_ Faugh!"

"The French like to dress things up," I said.

"I don't mind their dressing up," he replied, "but they needn't
make a drag out of it. Here's another! . . . _Le Regal de Nica_.
Do you know what _Le Regal de Nica_ is?"

"I'm sorry, I never tried it," I replied, almost dreading to

"_Le Regal de Nica_ turns out to be clear soup, new carrots, and
meat ground up very fine. Now, there's a good, sensible dish, fit
for any man to eat. But you can't go in and ask for _Le Regal de
Nica_, now can you?"

"I don't suppose that French dogs mind it as much as you would,"
I said. "You have a different background."

                         *  *  *  *  *

"French dogs don't mind _any_thing, I have found out," he replied
testily. "They even let people put fur pieces on them."

"I noticed you out with a sweater on the other day," I said.

"Oh, that old green thing!" he snorted, trying not to show his
embarrassment. "I've had that six years. I used to play hockey in
it in Germany."

"Hockey or no hockey, you appeared on the street in a sweater.
All that I'm trying to prove is that you can't ever judge a man
by what he has on."

"Maybe not," said my friend, turning back to his menu to change
the subject. "But you can judge a man by what he orders in a
restaurant. And I ask you if you would like to hear me ask a
waiter for this (_looking up and down the card for something he
had evidently been saving as a trump_)--here it is! _La Dessert
de Nos Toutous!_"

"_Toutous?_" I asked, incredulously.

"I said _Toutous_," he replied, sneering. "In case you don't
know, _Toutou_ is a pet name for a dog. It is equivalent to your
'bow-wow,' only less virile. I repeat--would you like to hear me
go into a restaurant and order _Dessert de Nos T outous?_"

"No, I wouldn't," I said, shortly. He won.

Duck, Brothers!

Next month will be a bad one for those people who bruise easily,
as meteor showers are predicted. It will be well for everyone to
travel by subway as much as possible, or, at any rate, to hug up
close to the buildings while walking along the street. Those
meteors can hurt!

To forestall indignant letters from astronomers and ex-meteors
let me say that I know the difference between meteors and
meteorites, and that meteorites are the only ones that could hurt
if they hit you. But, the way things are going today, it is safe
to assume that what would ordinarily be a harmless meteor shower
in normal years will end up by being, in this year of grace, a
full-fledged rain of ten-ton flame-balls, each one headed
directly for the corner of the street on which you and I are
standing. I know where I'm not wanted.

                         *  *  *  *  *

On the map of the heavens I note a group of something called "Delphinus"
which has the nickname "Job's Coffin." I have a hunch that my meteorite
is coming from "Job's Coffin," straight as a die for the back of my
neck. I can feel it now! o-o-o-O-O-O-MMM-ONG-O! And the next thing I
know I shall be MgO:FeO or part of an anorthite stick-pin ("Very rare,
sir; dug out of a meteorite which fell in the 20th century. ")

The best part about a meteorite (I always try to look on the
bright side) is that you can hear it coming. The sound has been
variously described as that of "the bellowing of oxen," "the
roaring of a fire in a chimney" and "the tearing of calico." I
certainly hope that mine doesn't sound like the tearing of
calico, as that is a sound that drives me crazy. I would almost
rather be hit by the meteorite without any warning. (Cross that
out, Miss Schwab, please.)

                         *  *  *  *  *

I suppose that the thing to do when you see a meteorite hurtling
through the air at you is to stand like an outfielder until you
see just what direction it is taking, and then, instead of
running _for_ it, run sharply to the right or left. You would
have to decide immediately whether it was going to be right or
left and _stick to it_, as any attempt at broken-field running
would be silly.

You might keep looking up every now and then as you ran, just to
make sure that there wasn't a companion piece coming along with
the one you were dodging, but the main idea would be to keep
running. This is only a tentative plan that I have worked out. I
might think up some other scheme on the spur of the moment.

Without being a fatalist, however, I suppose that there isn't
much sense in planning ahead on evading a meteorite. If you are
going to get hit you are going to get hit, and there's an end to
it (which is putting it mildly). The best one can do is keep a
stiff upper lip and not let the women folk know that you are
worried. Just the same, I'll be glad when the March meteor
showers are over and we can all come out into the open again.
Still, I suppose that if it isn't meteorites it will be something

What----No Budapest?

A few weeks ago, in this space, I wrote a little treatise on
"Movie Boners," in which I tried to follow the popular custom of
picking technical flaws in motion pictures, detecting, for
example, that when a character enters a room he has on a bow tie
and when he leaves it a four-in-hand.

In the course of this fascinating article I wrote: "In the
picture called 'Dr. Tanner Can't Eat' there is a scene laid in
Budapest. There is no such place as Budapest."

                         *  *  *  *  *

In answer to this I have received the following communication
from M. Schwartzer, of New York City:

"Ask for your money back from your geography teacher. There is such a
place as Budapest, and it is not a small village, either. Budapest is
the capital of Hungary. In case you never heard of Hungary, it is in
Europe. Do you know where Europe is? Respectfully yours," etc.

I am standing by my guns, Mr. Schwartzer. There is no such place
as Budapest. Perhaps you are thinking of Bucharest, and there is
no such place as Bucharest, either.

                         *  *  *  *  *

I gather that _your_ geography teacher didn't tell you about the
Treaty of Ulm in 1802, in which Budapest was eliminated. By the
terms of this treaty (I quote from memory):

"Be it hereby enacted that there shall be no more Budapest. This
city has been getting altogether too large lately, and the coffee
hasn't been any too good, either. So, no more Budapest is the
decree of this conference, and if the residents don't like it
they can move to some other place."

This treaty was made at the close of the war of 1805, which was
unique in that it began in 1805 and ended in 1802, thereby
confusing the contestants so that both sides gave in at once.
Budapest was the focal point of the war, as the Slovenes were
trying to get rid of it to the Bulgks, and the Bulgks were trying
to make the Slovenes keep it. This will explain, Mr. Schwartzer,
why there is no such place as Budapest.

                         *  *  *  *  *

If any word other than mine were needed to convince you that you
have made a rather ludicrous mistake in this matter, I will quote
from a noted authority on non-existent cities, Dr. Almer Doctor,
Pinsk Professor of Obduracy in the university of that name. In
his _Vanished Cities of Central Europe_ he writes:

"Since 1802 there has been no such place as Budapest. It is too
bad, but let's face it!"

Or, again, from _Nerdlinger's Atlas_ (revised for the Carnation
Show in London in 1921):

"A great many uninformed people look in their atlases for the
city of Budapest and complain to us when they cannot find it. Let
us take this opportunity to make it clear that there is no such
place as Budapest and has not been since 1802. The spot which was
once known as Budapest is now known as the Danube River, by

                         *  *  *  *  *

"I would not rebuke you so publicly, Mr. Schwartzer, had it not
been for that crack of yours about my geography teacher. My
geography teacher was a very fine woman and later became the
mother of four bouncing boys, two of whom are still bouncing. She
knew about what happened to Budapest, and she made no bones about

"In future communications with me I will thank you to keep her
name out of this brawl."

MacGregor for Ataman!

"What is the news this morning, Mr. MacGregor?" I asked, peering
around from behind a hangover. "Just give me the keywords."

"It says here," replied MacGregor, catering to my whim, "that the
Don Cossacks who have been exiled in this country since the
Russian revolution are going to elect a new Ataman this month."

"I know why you read me that item," I countered, and got the
desired answer: "Why?"

"So that you could say 'At-a-man!'"

MacGregor blushed furiously.

"Go ahead and say it anyway," I said, my generous side coming to
the fore.

"At-a-man!" murmured MacGregor, making believe he hadn't said it.

                         *  *  *  *  *

"And now I have a surprise for you!" I said, getting up off the
floor. "You are going to be a candidate for the office of Cossack

"But I am not a Cossack," protested MacGregor, weakening.

"You have the spirit of a Cossack," I replied. "With boots and a
sabre and a Persian lamb hat you could ride down peasants in the
grand manner."

"I don't think so," he said, ruminatively. "And besides, I
couldn't run for Ataman right now. We have too much work piled up
here in the planetarium."

"'The work can wait,'" I said, quoting our business motto. "I am
backing you for Cossack Ataman, and you would do well not to look
a gift horse in the mouth."

                         *  *  *  *  *

"What do I have to do to get votes?" asked MacGregor, pulling on
his mittens.

"Just go around among the exiled Cossacks in town," I explained,
"and tell them that you are a candidate. Threaten them, if

"With what?" he asked.

"Just glare at them," I said.

"How's this?" asked MacGregor, glaring.

"Another rehearsal and you'll have it down cold," I said,
although I had my doubts.

But I'll be darned if MacGregor didn't go out and get enough
votes to be elected.

Do We Sleep Enough?

Does the average man get enough sleep? What is enough sleep? What
is the average man? What is "does"?

It is said that Napoleon was able to go for days without sleep
and then make up for it with a sleep of twenty-four hours'
duration. The temptation is to say "And look at Napoleon now!"
but that would be not only an oldfashioned crack but an
irrelevant one. Napoleon happens to be doing all right now, in a
bigger tomb than any of us sleepy-heads will ever get.

Some people claim that they can do with four hours' sleep,
without explaining what they mean by "do with." Do what with? I
can do all kinds of things with fifteen minutes' sleep, including
gagging, snorting and getting my head caught between the couch
and the wall, but don't boast about it.

Napoleon is said to have ... Sorry!

                         *  *  *  *  *

A man who goes to bed, let us say, at seven in the evening, or
even seven-fifteen, can get his eight hours' sleep and still have
from three a. m. (or 3:15 a. m.) on to do what he wants in. He
can milk cows, cut ice, or, if he happens to live in New York, go
up to Harlem for the early show. Then there are always long walks
in the country.

But even eight hours' sleep do not do any good if they are spent
wondering what it is that is lying across the foot of the bed
just over your ankles. Unfortunately I am without a dog at
present, so there is no way for me to explain to myself what it
is that lies across my ankles just after I get to sleep. All that
I can do is hope that it is someone that I know.

                         *  *  *  *  *

There are several different schools in the question of what
position is the most restful during sleep. Some claim that one
arm should be wrapped around the head (to keep curiosity-seekers
from discovering who is in the bed) and the other extended
backward so that the hand clutches the electric-light switch, in
case screamers or chain-rattlers get into the room. This leaves
the feet to be arranged at the pleasure of the sleeper.

Others are convinced that a really recuperative night can be
spent only by sitting bolt upright in bed, with the eyes open and
a large blunderbuss across the knees. In this proposition it is
best to keep the lights on, as clicking them on and off
constantly makes quite a racket which is likely to disturb the

I, personally, like to sleep with my head out the window and my feet in
a tepid foot-bath (72 degrees). Thus I am able to watch up and down the
street and, at the same time, draw the circulation away from my head,
where it is so unhappy.

                         *  *  *  *  *

Infants need the most sleep, and, what is more, get it. Stunning
them with a soft, padded hammer is the best way to insure their
getting it at the right times.

As a person gets older he needs less and less sleep, until by the
time he is ninety-five or a hundred it doesn't make any
difference whether he gets any sleep at all. This scientific fact
accounts for the number of nonagenarians one sees on the street
at three and four in the morning. Or maybe it is just that they
look like nonagenarians.

The best way to induce sleep is to take off all the clothes, get
into some comfortable sleeping garment and lie down in bed. You
can then always get up, put on some comfortable hunting togs and
go out and run down a fox.

High Life Among the Birds

Being terrified of birds myself, I have, naturally, a morbid
interest in all their more horrendous activities. It is a form of
masochism in which the patient suffering from "aviaphobia"
actually _seeks out_ bird-shocks, and asks people questions about
the most revolting birds they have known.

It was with considerable revulsion and consequent excitement,
therefore, that I read in Mr. D. B. Wyndham Lewis' column in the
_London Daily Mail_ of a recent bird debauch in England which
must give pause to even the most sanguine of bird-lovers.

(Mr. D. B. Wyndham Lewis, by the way, is one of the few remaining
madmen of the bulldog breed, and is not, by even the most
literate, to be confused with the other Wyndham Lewis, who, so
far as I have ever been able to ascertain, has never had more
than a sober thought in his head.)

                         *  *  *  *  *

"By an unfortunate oversight," writes Mr. _D. B._ Wyndham Lewis,
"a bird-lover of my acquaintance replenished the bird bath in his
lawn the other evening from a jug of melted ice in which lingered
a few cocktail dregs."

"The birds," he said, "mopped it up avidly and swarmed around
shouting for more; and at length there was great excitement and
babbling in the trees, with bursts of sardonic laughter. My
friend who has an ear for bird talk, overheard a truculent
blackbird proposing to fly to Kensington and peck the stuffing
out of Peter Pan, and a very noisy nightingale boasting at the
top of its voice that 'we microphone artists' could lay an egg in
Sir John Reith's hat any old time, and nothing said."

"In a word," he said, "it was just like any other cocktail party
except that nobody fell down."

                         *  *  *  *  *

If Mr. D. B. Wyndham Lewis had not brought the matter up in his
succinct summary I should probably have kept my promise never to
mention the occasion on which two guinea hens of my acquaintance
made perfect fools of themselves through liquor. They apologized
the next day, and I said to forget it. However, as I have since
learned that the guinea hens in question ended up in an asylum, I
have no compunctions now.

It came about through a spilled keg of hard cider, but, so far as
I know, that has never been an excuse. The guinea hens got drunk.
We might as well face it. They were drunk.

My fear of birds increases in direct proportion to their
personality. Birds who mind their own business find me very
tractable, but a bird who sets out to impress me soon learns that
he has the police to deal with. I am incapable of handling the
affair myself, but I know where to go for help.

                         *  *  *  *  *

These two guinea hens, once they realized their advantage,
deliberately set out to hector me. They were like two drunken
"townies" hanging around the drug store as unprotected girls go
by. First, they annoyed me with remarks; then they actually set
in motion after me and tried to trip me up. One of them even left
the ground and struck me on the hip, while the other laughed

I am frank to admit that I ran into the barn and told on them. I
said to the man in there: "Has it got so that a man of forty
can't walk through your barnyard without being attacked by
drunks?" Then I went into the harness room until the scene was

As I say, they apologized the next day, but I want Mr. D. B.
Wyndham Lewis to know that we, in America, have our problems of
drunkenness among birds, too. In England they seem to carry their
liquor better, that's all.

Do You Make These mistakes?

A great many people use faulty English without knowing it. Ain't

How many times, for instance, have you wanted to use the word
"eleemosynary" and haven't been able to do so without laughing?
So you have used "whom" instead, thinking that it means the same
thing. Well, it don't--doesn't.

Probably one of the most prolific causes of mistakes in spoken
English is the use of intoxicating liquors. "Impftubbibble" is
not good English, and you know it. Neither is "washerti'?" And
yet you hear educated people say these words in the best circles,
and think nothing of it. It is merely a slovenly way of speaking,
induced by an even more slovenly way of drinking.

                         *  *  *  *  *

The English language is derived from the Latin, Greek, French,
Saxon, Spanish and Yiddish. That is why English is such a
difficult language for foreigners to learn. Arabs and Turks are
completely at sea with it.

But there is no reason why you should be at sea. All that is
needed is a few hours' practice every day, being careful not to
bend the knees. Just keep saying to yourself, over and over
again, "I _shall_ speak good English!" Before long, you will find
yourself saying: "I _will_ speak good English!" or possibly just:
"The hell with it!"

Try taking a pencil and jotting down the number of times during
the day that you find yourself making the following common
mistakes in everyday English:

I didn't ought to have went.

Whom am I? (for where am I).

Sure, I'll sign! What is it?

My private telephone number is Bogardus 9-476. (This is a very
common mistake.)

Heil Hitler!

Id vork geleddi ompta id imny. (The worst English imaginable.)

You, may think that these little slips, and others like them, do
not matter in ordinary conversation. "I make myself understood,
don't I?" you may say. Ah, but do you?

                         *  *  *  *  *

Napoleon failed to take Moscow until it was a mass of ruins
because he said: "Take your time, Joe!" instead of "Hurry up,
Joe!" to the man who had charge of the army. Just the difference
of three little words.

A man in Colorado was hanged for murder because in a written
statement he said, "I did it," instead of "I didn't do it." If he
had known the most elementary rudiments of English he wouldn't
have made such a monkey of himself.

If I had known the most elementary rudiments of English I
wouldn't have written "the most elementary rudiments." So you

The Word "Three"

I don't know whether you care or not, but etymological circles
are in an uproar. They have just discovered what the word "three"
comes from.

They have known the derivation of all the other words in the
number-table (as, for example, "two" from "Tuesday," or the
second day in the week if you don't count Sunday as the first,
and "five" from the god Woden, or Thor, or Buttercup, and so
forth and so forth), but they have never been able to figure out
where the word "three" came from.

                         *  *  *  *  *

A little fellow from the University of Welf discovered it. He
doesn't speak English himself, but he is awfully interested in
people who do. It was during one of these periods (I should have
told you that he has periods when he looks up words) that he
found out about the word "three." He was looking up the word
"tree" and, not speaking English well, he thought that it was
pronounced "three." You can see how that might very well be.

The word "three" comes to us direct from the French, collect. The
original word was (and still is) _tri_, which means a sorting,
or, as in card-playing, a deal. Thus, one would say: "Give me a
_tri_," or "How is your _tri?_" meaning "Give me a deal" or "How
is your deal?" If one were really speaking in French, of course,
all the other words in the sentence would be French, too. (i.e.,
"_Donnez-moi un tri_" or "_Votre tri, ça marche?_")

Just how the word _tri_ got into the French language is a mystery
which occupies practically nobody's attention at the moment. It
is supposed to have come from the Creole patois of New Orleans,
and was used to signify hurry or lethargy. The old form of the
word was _blo_, which gradually was shortened into _tri_. Later
the whole word was dropped from the language by a rising vote.

                         *  *  *  *  *

The Normans brought the word into England just before the Norman
Conquest. In their use of it an extra syllable was added, making
it _triouille_, meaning white-bait or Roger crab. We still are no
nearer than we were to finding out how it came to mean three of
anything. Don't think that I'm not just as worried as you are.

With the advent of water-power and the subsequent water-pistol,
Luke (Luke was the fellow I was speaking of a few yards back)
didn't know what to do. Unless I am greatly mistaken, this
paragraph belongs in another article.

Well, anyway, the people who are making up the English language
found themselves with names for every digit except "three." And,
as there were three of quite a lot of things (Marx Brothers,
blind mice, wishes and cent stamps) it got increasingly
embarrassing not to have a word to express "three." They tried
using the word "four," but it ended only in confusion, especially
when addition or subtraction was at stake.

                         *  *  *  *  *

Suddenly someone said: "Why don't we take the word _tri_ from the
French? They'll never miss it, and they owe it to us anyway."
This seemed like a logical plan, and everybody but one man agreed
to it. He later committed suicide when he found out how
successfully it had worked out. "I was a blind fool," he wrote.

As it sounded rather common to say _tri_, they put in an _h_ and
substituted a double _e_ for the _i_. This made as pretty a "three" as
you could wish, and from that day on it was a part of the language. They
tried it out in a little rhyme: "One-two-three--buckle my shoe," and it
went so well that soon everybody was saying it.

Frankly, I don't know whether I like it as a word or not. It
still sounds a little slangy.

 Read and Eat

I have always secretly admired people who could read a newspaper
while eating. It bespeaks co-ordination, dexterity and automatic
digestion, none of which attributes I seem to possess. It also
gives one an air of being a man of affairs, and I long ago
abandoned the attempt to look like a man of affairs. I even find
it difficult, some mornings, to look like a man.

In the first place, I can't seem to get the newspaper fixed
right, even in one of those racks which super-service hotels
sometimes provide for the purpose. One corner gets into the
butter, another into the marmalade, and, even if I do manage to
fold it so that certain headlines are visible, they are either on
stories that I don't want to read or I have to unfold the whole
thing again in a minute or two in order to keep on reading.

                         *  *  *  *  *

In the meantime, what of breakfast? I like my breakfast, and I
like it hot. A cold egg is like a pretty good curate. While I am
balancing my newspaper, and folding it and unfolding it, and
knocking over cream pitchers and salt cellars, and getting
everything set to read two paragraphs of a full column story, the
Grim Reaper has stalked in among my breakfast dishes, laying his
icy hand on egg and muffin alike. There is no news story in the
world that is worth that.

Let us say, however, that I have finally found a story that holds
my attention, that enough of it is exposed to view to be read
consecutively for two minutes, and that I have taken a bite of
bacon and toast. I read, and, as I read, I chew, leaning over at
an angle to the left, so that my lapel rests neatly in the egg.

It is my particular misfortune to be unable to do all these
things at the same time. If a point in my story fascinates me I
stop chewing. If I don't actually stop chewing I go ahead
automatically, with no relish for the food, and might as well be
saving money and chewing on a rubber washer. It is a dull, stolid
mockery of eating, blessing neither him that gives nor him that

                         *  *  *  *  *

If the story continues interesting I keep my eyes glued on the
paper and grope tentatively for my coffee cup. I know that it
should be near my right hand, but, beyond that, I am willing to
try out any old location. I dip my fingers, first, lightly on the
edge of the toast-dish; next, like a butterfly alighting, on the
rim of my water glass; then, as if by intuition, directly into
the coffee itself. This brings me to my senses, and I take my
eyes from the newspaper and go about my business, which, after
all, is eating my breakfast.

Others, more dexterous than I, may be able to swing both reading
and eating at the same time. I am more the _gourmet_ type and
like my food. If the breakfast is good--and most breakfasts
are--I prefer to concentrate on that and let my newspaper reading
go until later.

Of course, there are mornings when I don't want any breakfast.
Then I can catch up on my reading.

Talking Dogs

There is a story going the rounds of a man who was driving a
horse up hill with a heavy load, his dog running along beside the

Suddenly the horse stopped short in his tracks and spoke:
"Listen! I'm sick of this!" he said. "I don't pull this load
another step."

"Well, I'll be darned!" said the man, taken aback. "I never heard
a horse talk before."

"Neither did I," said the dog.

Now, this story may seem a little fantastic to the layman, but,
from the data that I have been able to gather, the thing is not
beyond the realm of possibility. At any rate, not the dog's end
of it. The man's remark seems a little far-fetched.

                         *  *  *  *  *

There was a 12-year-old Great Dane named "Boulderwall" who died a
few years ago in Rhode Island. She could make herself understood,
according to the report, "to a limited extent," by intoning her
"bow-wow and r-r-ow." It didn't say to whom she could make
herself understood, but it must have been an awfully nice
person--or a heavy drinker.

Thus, when Boulderwall wanted water, she said: "Wow-r-r." That's
better than a lot of us are able to do at times. I would have
liked to try her out on "two two-and-a-half-minute eggs," but
possibly she didn't like eggs. When "wow-r-r-r" is the best you
can do for "water," you're not likely to be eating much, anyway.

                         *  *  *  *  *

The most famous talking dog was "Princess Jacqueline" (they all
seem to have been ladies), a French bull who lived in Maine. The
Princess had a vocabulary of about twenty words which she could
form into sentences. This I definitely would _not_ have cared to
hear. One word, yes, but a whole sentence and I might be tempted
to drop whatever I was doing and leave the room by the window.
I'm no fool, as the fellow said.

A conversation between Boulderwall and Princess Jacqueline might
have been interesting to listen in on, provided you happened to
be feeling in tip-top shape yourself that day. Boulderwall had
the size but the Princess had the vocabulary, so, unless the
thing degenerated into a brawl, the odds would have been on the
Princess to get her point across.

I had a dog once who could sing _Come, Josephine, in My Flying
Machine_, but I had to get rid of him. (This is the first time I
have ever told anyone about it.) He flatted badly on the "up she
goes!" and that sort of thing gets on one's nerves after a while.

I still like taciturn dogs better than the gabby kind.

My Trouble

What is it, do you suppose, when your throat closes up and you
stop breathing? Am I a victim of an inferiority complex?

I am a boy of 46, partly white, and stand in my stocking feet. I haven't
had a drink since Repeal, as I believe in the Constitution. (I did have
something made from potatoes, a white liquid which my old Russian nurse
called wodka, but it didn't seem to have any effect. A-ha-ha-ha-ha-hee!)

Now it turns out that, when I lie down to go to sleep, my throat
closes up and I stop breathing. This idiosyncrasy brings me, like
a flash, out of bed and onto my feet in the middle of the floor,
looking for the electric light. (We have had electric lights ever
since they were invented, although we are thinking now of going
back to gas.)

                         *  *  *  *  *

What I want to know is--am I unusual for my age? Do all boys of
46 stop breathing when they go to bed? Should I see a specialist?

When I first noticed that I wasn't breathing I paid no attention
to it, thinking that it was a figment of my imagination. "Of
course you're breathing," I said to myself, gasping for breath;
"look at your clothes over the chair there! Those aren't the
clothes of a man who isn't breathing." This reassured me for a
while. I even got up and put on my clothes and walked, very fast,
to the City Line, taking the trolley back.

Then I began to think: "Who are you to say that you are breathing
when you're not?" I had no answer to this. I had evidently got in
over my depth. When you can't answer your own questions it is
time to stop.

                         *  *  *  *  *

I took my case to a psychoanalyst. "I stop breathing when I lie
down," I said, smiling. "What is that?"

"It is a form of jumpiness," he said. "You stop breathing when
you lie down."

"I know that," I said. "I was the one who told you.."

"That's right, I guess you were," said the psychoanalyst.

"All I want to know is--what is it?" I insisted. (I am an
insisting cuss.)

"You have a phobia," he said. "You are afraid of stopping
breathing when you lie down."

"Well, I'll be a son-of-a-gun," I said. "You certainly have hit
the nail on the head. Just watch me!" So I lay down and stopped

"See--what did I tell you?" he said.

                         *  *  *  *  *

This sobered me for a minute. The psychoanalyst took it in his

"All that you need to do," he said, "is to breathe when you lie

"You mean inhale and exhale?" I asked.

"That's one way of putting it," he said, smiling tolerantly.

"I guess you're right at that," I said. "Just inhale and exhale."

"When you are lying down," he added.

"Ah--there's the catch," I replied, catching.

"You are just making things more difficult for yourself," he
said. "Go home, and come back to me tomorrow."

"I not only won't come back to you tomorrow," I said, "but I
won't go home."

I still want to know what it is when your throat closes up and
you stop breathing when you lie down.

Hollywood's Loss

As a movie actor, I pride myself on being untemperamental and
easy to work with, but there are some things that an artist
simply cannot take. One of them is a puppy who wants to hog every

I have been working in a picture (contemptuously known in the
trade as a "short subject") in which it was unfortunately
necessary to employ a Scottie pup. He was more or less intended
as a "straight man" for me. He doesn't even rate second billing.
He is just an extra, when you come right down to it.

The trouble was that he didn't know his place. He thought that he
was the star. I don't mind sharing a scene with another actor. In
fact, I often step aside and let others take the limelight--if I
feel that it is for the good of the picture. I will not, however,
be imposed upon.

This particular dog has had no picture training. In fact, he has
had no training at all, being in the neighborhood of two months
old. He was hired for the part simply because of his size, which
is negligible. We wanted a dog who would look futile, and he
seemed, at the time, to fill the bill.

                         *  *  *  *  *

He turned actor on me, however. Once on the set, he became
insufferable. Every scene that we had together he crabbed by
backing me upstage, "catching flies" (the theatrical term,
meaning to distract attention from the speaker) and even walking
right off the scene during my big speeches. At the age of two
months, he knew more tricks of scene stealing than a stock
company actor.

I finally complained to the director--something that I have never
had to do before. I simply said: "Choose between this newcomer
and me. Either he gives me common courtesy during my scenes, or I
walk out."

The director took the matter to the Front Office and they had a
conference on it. The result was that I was informed that they
felt that they had a "find" in the puppy, and that I could do as
I liked.

I just want it understood why I am leaving the motion picture
business. I will not play "straight" to a Scottie puppy, and I
don't feel that I am being unreasonable.

From now on these dispatches will be dated "New York."

Lights, Please!

Oh, dear, now they've gone and discovered a woman who lights up!
And just as things were getting back to normal again! Why can't
they stop poking around?

The story of this "luminous woman" appears in the _London
Illustrated News_, so it can't be a publicity gag. They've got a
whole page about her, taken from _L'Illustrazione Italiana_, with
charts and spectra and a cute photograph of Mrs. Anna Monaro, who
is the eccentric lady in question.

Mrs. Monaro lives in Pirano, Italy, and lights up only at
intervals. She doesn't keep glowing all the time, but they
haven't got her perfected yet. Think how long it took Edison to
get his electric bulb to working. When they get Mrs. Monaro so
that she will give off a steady light Mussolini is going to press
a button from Rome to start the grand illumination.

                         *  *  *  *  *

People sleeping in the room with Mrs. Monaro (and, oddly enough,
Mr. Monaro doesn't seem to figure in the testimony, although, of
course it's none of my business. Mr. Monaro is a fisherman who
takes long trips), were the first to notice the phenomenon. While
asleep, Mrs. Monaro gave off a light from her thorax. You may
well imagine that there was little more sleeping done in that
room that night. Italians are so excitable.

Doctors and priests and a man from the electric light company
were rushed to Pirano, and the humble fisherman's wife became the
center of scientific discussion, first, over all Italy, then over
all Europe, and now on this page. The discussion on this page,
however, will probably give you less idea of just what goes on in
Mrs. Monaro's thorax than the scientific discussions in Europe. I
frankly am still pretty much in the dark about it.

                         *  *  *  *  *

They put "Miss Electricity 1934" under observation, and found
that her little spells occur only when she is asleep, which makes
it rather tough for her, as she can't look down and see it. Maybe
it is just as well. I could do without that little excitement if
I were Mrs. Monaro.

The doctors have decided, rather half-heartedly, that she is of such a
highly sensitive nature that, when she has been emotionally upset during
the day, her visceral functions are unbalanced, her combustion is
increased and the radiating power of the blood given a terrific boost.
So far I understand what they are saying, but----

Mrs. Monaro, being very religious, also does a lot of fasting,
"which promotes the concentration of sulphides, which, although
normally opaque, become luminous when struck by the ultra-violet
radiations of the blood."

The doctors add that "given propitious experimental conditions,
the phenomenon might be reproduced artificially."

Not in me, it won't be! I'll stick to the oldfashioned electric
light, thank you.

Did You Know That----

Did you know that:

Ice is really not ice at all, but a vegetable organism which
forms on the surface of water to _prevent_ it from freezing

An ordinary hen's egg is the result of hypnotism?

If you take a ton of anthracite coal (ordinary anthracite) and
press it, you can use it as "pressed anthracite" for blacking up
in minstrel shows?

Mount Washington, of the Presidential Range, is really a
depression in the earth's surface which looks high only because
the surrounding country is so much lower?

The great general Hannibal was really a woman, and a
five-foot-two woman at that?

One year's supply of that other condiment that comes in the
second jar on a horse-radish cruet, would not cover one square
foot of a city the size of Rochester, N. Y.?

No one has ever actually _seen_ Brooklyn Bridge? It is merely an
action of light waves on the retina of the eye.

Eel-grass, such as is now used to entangle oars, was once a
delicacy in Egypt?

If you were to inhale steadily for fifteen minutes, without once
exhaling, your head would touch the floor in back of you?

Frederick the Great once gave a walking stick to Voltaire which
bent double every time he leaned his weight on it, which was the
reason that Voltaire was such a cynic?

The reason why it always says "twenty minutes past eight" on
those big watches that hang outside jewelers' shops is because
that is actually the time at the particular moment when you are
looking at it?

                         *  *  *  *  *

These and four hundred thousand other fascinating facts, you will
find in a little booklet called _How to Roll a Hoop_, which I am
preparing for a few friends as a birthday surprise to myself. I
am verifying each fact as I write it in, which explains why it is
taking me such a terribly long time to get the booklet out.

Or hadn't you noticed that it _was_ taking me a long time?

Mutiny on the "Bounty"

"If we had a goat," I said to Mr. MacGregor, "it would solve all
our problems."

"A what?" he asked, without looking up.

"A goat," I repeated.

"It would solve what?" he asked again, still marking down

"All our problems." (He evidently hadn't heard anything I said
the first time except the words "would solve.")

There was quite a long silence during which Mr. MacGregor went
out and bought some sport shirts. I tended shop.

When he came back he walked straight through the office with his
bundle and into the planetarium.

"Who would take care of the goat?" he finally asked, from the
other room.

"Well," I replied, "technically it would come in your
department--Public Works. I would take it over, however, on any
day when you might be sick or nervous. You would find me very
willing to help, I assure you."

He said no more, but I heard a sound of clicking once, like
suitcase snaps being snapped. It seemed a little odd that
MacGregor should be in there snapping suitcase snaps, so I
dismissed it as an improbability. "It is most likely just the
wind," I thought.

                         *  *  *  *  *

However, hearing nothing for several hours after that, I went
into the planetarium. It was empty. Mr. MacGregor had left by the
door leading into the Rose Bowl.

On the table was a note. "I am running away from home," it read,
"to go to sea." The old Navy urge had been too strong for him.

I was a little hurt, but disgust was predominant in my mind.
Loyalty to me, the amassing of a great fortune from the business,
his brown hat (which he had left in the front office), all these
meant nothing to him. Obviously the man was incompetent.

Within two hours private detectives (paid out of my own pocket)
had him back in the office again. They had found him just as he
was enlisting.

I thought it best not to say anything about his escapade. He
seemed a little subdued.

"About that goat," I said. "When we get it----"

"I bought a goat on the way home from the recruiting station,"
said Mr. MacGregor. "He's out in the car."

So everything worked out all right.

The Dangers of Bass-Singing

A great many people wish that they could sing bass. In fact, a
great many people think that they _are_ singing bass when what
they are really doing is growling the air an octave or two below
the rest of the group. A really good bass is the hardest drunk to

And yet, how many people know the dangers which confront a
bass-singer? The occupational diseases known to insurance
companies as "the basso-profundo risk"--what of them? One must
pay the penalty for singing bass just as for all the other
pleasures of the flesh.

In the first place, you are likely to get your chin caught
underneath the knot of your necktie. This is no simple matter to
set aright. I knew of a man once who, on the three final
"zum-zum-zum's" of "Kaintucky Babe," got what they call "cast,"
in horse parlance, and had to be carried, with his chin tucked in
his collar, all the way from the boat-house, where he was
singing, to a blacksmith's shop.

                         *  *  *  *  *

Several years ago a picture appeared in _Punch_ which showed an
elderly, benevolent gentleman stopping in front of a group of
small boys who seemed to be singing Christmas carols. The
smallest of the waifs (and he was so small as to be hardly worth
including in the picture at all) was holding his handkerchief to
his face in evident distress.

"What is the matter, my little man?" asked the old gentleman, in
the manner of old gentlemen in _Punch_ pictures. "Why are you

"'E's not cryin'," replied the leader of the carolers. "'E just
tried to sing bass and it made 'is nose bleed."

Now that may seem a very funny joke to you (or it may not, but if
it doesn't, never darken my door again), but it represents
without a doubt one of the things which a bass-singer has got to
watch out for. A rupture of the delicate membranes of the nose
and throat, or a too great strain put upon the blood vessels, and
bass-singing can transform a place into a shambles.

                         *  *  *  *  *

The eyes, too, come in for their share of punishment. In
executing a really good descent into the lower register the eyes
must either be closed (by far the safest method) or rolled back
into the head as the brow goes forward. If the singer persists in
looking at his audience while his chin is in his collar he is
running the risk of permanent dislocation of the eyeballs, which
will give him a rather horrid look when he raises his head again.

Among other ills to which the bass-singer is heir are
"chest-mouse," caused by teeth dropping into the chest at the
lowest note and staying there; "ascending larynx," which means,
that as the other organs are lowered the larynx remains constant,
giving it the effect of rising into the throat and choking the
operator; and actual Death, or Hoxie's Disease, caused by the
stoppage of all functions except that of bass-singing.

The question is: "Is it worth it?"

Lucky World

When you come to think of it, the wonder is not that there are so
many jammed automobile fenders, bad motion pictures, sore
throats, divorces and wars, but that there aren't _more_ of them.
We are living in a world that is shot through with luck, that's

The next time you are up in a tall building looking for a place
to jump from, just take a peek over at a couple of busy traffic
intersections below. Then figure out how many of those drivers
should be at large on the street at all, much less at the wheel
of an automobile. Then make your jump.

                         *  *  *  *  *

When you consider that the world is full of men who can't stoop
over to tie their shoes without bumping their heads, women to
whom left and right are interchangeable as a matter of principle,
young people whose parents are still wondering when they are
going to develop mentally beyond the age of nine--all driving
automobiles--then the logical ending to the whole situation is
for all the automobiles in the world to pile up on top of one
another at one big cross-road.

I, myself, am aghast at the possibilities of such a catastrophe
when I think of what might happen in my own case if Nature really
took its course when I am at the wheel, and there must be
millions of people driving who are no better equipped than I am
to guide a motor vehicle through any more of an emergency than a
sudden light breeze.

When I consider what would result in the way of pictorial
entertainment if I, myself, were asked to direct, photograph, cut
or supervise a motion picture, I marvel at the success with which
thousands of other people, many of them in my class, turn out
pictures which actually hang together, make some sense, and show
up on a screen. It amounts to a phenomenon not without the
suspicion of black magic.

                         *  *  *  *  *

Consider the number of young people all over the world who are
getting married, day in and day out, for no other reason than
that someone of the opposite sex looks well in a green jersey or
sings baritone, and then tell me that Divorce has reached
menacing proportions. The surface of Divorce has not been
scratched yet. We are lucky that _everyone_ isn't divorced.

Look at the people in the Congress, or the Chamber of Deputies,
or the Parliament in London, and listen to what they say. The
only logical ending to it all is that the world is headed for
dementia praecox, with all the buildings tumbling down, all the
water works shooting up into the air and all the citizens bumping
into each other with trays of hot soup.

And yet automobiles dodge each other as if by magic, passable
motion pictures are produced, many people stay married all their
lives and actually don't seem to mind, and only occasionally does
hell break loose entirely.

                         *  *  *  *  *

It's a pretty lucky old world we live in, when you consider its

"Name, Please?"

In reading books about Russians or the ancient Romans, there is
an extra hazard which makes the going very difficult for us old
plodders. The names of the characters don't mean a thing.

For example, a Roman Emperor's name may have been Tiberius
Claudius Drusus Nero Germanicus (it was, as a matter of fact),
which gave quite a lot of leeway for anyone who wanted to call
him quickly. The only trouble was that his uncle's name was
Tiberius, and his brother's name was Germanicus, and his
successor's name was Nero, all probably ending in the other four

A Russian character's name could very well be Stepan Nikolaevitch
Gubaryov, and he be called Grisha, which is the nickname for Gregory. Or
sometimes he is called Stepan, sometimes Nickolaevitch, sometimes
Gubaryov, or sometimes just Pishtchalkin, meaning "Boy with the Long Ear

                         *  *  *  *  *

It would be only poetic justice if a bunch of Russians should
find themselves in a novel about ancient Rome. Confusion would
be, for the moment, rife.

Vasily Ivanovitch Popof Tchitchorna Grushenkov comes to see Caius
Gallus Drusus Postumus Galba on business.

"May I speak to Gallus?" he asks the secretary.

"What name shall I say?" asks the secretary.

"Popof," he replies.

In a few minutes the secretary announces: "Drusus will see you

"I said I wanted to see Gallus."

"That's Drusus."

"Gallus is Drusus, eh? That's fine! Oh, and, by the way, if a
call comes for Grushenkov, please tell them that I am here and
will be leaving in about half an hour."

"I beg your pardon, but I thought you said your name was Popof?"

"I did. Popof is Grushenkov--same thing."

"I see. And, if I might suggest, it would be better if you left
word that you would be through in fifteen minutes. I know that
Postumus has an appointment in that time."

"I am caring what Postumus has? I'm calling on Gallus."

"Sorry, sir, but Postumus is Gallus, you know."

"O. K.! Postumus, Gallus, Drusus--so long as I get in."

                         *  *  *  *  *

He enters the inner sanctum and the following greeting takes

"Hi, Galba!"

"Well, I'll be darned--Vasily!"

The natural outcome would be that the Russian's daughter marries
the Roman's son, and they have a little boy named Vasily Caius
Ivanovitch Gallus, Popof Drusus Tchitchorna Postumus Grushenkov,
Galba, or "Jimmy," for short.

Eat More Worry

And now it turns out that we must worry! Worry is the new health
fad. That much-maligned emotion has come into its own as a
body-builder, along with yeast-eating, nudism and bending over
twenty times to touch second base.

All this comes from a doctor of psychology, so it must come
pretty straight. Doctors of psychology are the ones who have been
telling us all along not to worry, so they certainly ought to
know what's what in the worry racket.

"When we worry," says the doc, "every gland in the body pours
energizing juices into the brain. It is the body's way of
preparing the mind to meet an emergency. The biological purpose
of worry is to enable you to get up steam."

                         *  *  *  *  *

Following are a set of worrying exercises for sluggish natures.
Get those energizing juices to flowing!

_Position No. 1._--On arising stand facing an open window. (Not
too wide open, as, if you get to worrying too well, you may fly
out.) Place the hands lightly on the hips and think: "On the
fifteenth that big insurance premium comes due. On the fifteenth
the income tax is due. On the fifteenth I shall be just eight
hundred dollars short of meeting them." Repeat this ten times and
then exhale.

_Position No. 2._--Lie flat on your back, with your legs in the
air, and run over in your mind the age at which you find
yourself, the amount of money you have saved, the probable number
of years left, and what chances you will have of getting a
ten-year guest-card at the Home for Aged Men. As soon as the
energizing juices have reached your feet lower them and adopt a
sitting posture on the floor. Sit that way all day, with your
chin in your hand.

_Position No. 3._--Stand in front of a mirror and look at your

_Position No. 4._--Wake yourself up in the middle of the night,
lie flat on your back in bed and look at the ceiling. Then figure
out just how you would get out of the house in case of fire, what
you would do first if that pain in your side should turn out to
be acute appendicitis, or how you would face an actual werewolf.

_Position No. 5._--Just stop to think about anything.

                         *  *  *  *  *

If you will conscientiously follow these instructions day by day,
supplemented by our special worry-gland tablets, which are
guaranteed to pour energizing juices into the brain, it will be
no time at all before you are a new man, and one that you will
not like.

Keep a Log

In planning that automobile trip upcountry this Summer don't
forget to consult those notes you made last year when going over
the same route. They're in that combination log-book and Japanese
fan that you took along for just that purpose.

These notes, most of which were jotted down _en route_, seem to
have been made with the wrong end of the pencil. They are part
lead-markings and part wood-carvings. It would be fun to dig up
that pencil today, just to take a look at it and see where the
lead stopped and the wood began.

To make things harder you apparently made the notes while taking
part in a hill-climbing contest, when the car was at an angle of
forty-five degrees. They are the work of a man in rather
desperate straits to keep himself in his seat, to say nothing of
indulging in the luxury of writing. You _couldn't_ have been as
drunk as that.

                         *  *  *  *  *

The first one, jotted down with great difficulty, was made
opposite the name of the town, East Mipford, fifteen miles from
your starting place. It says, as nearly as you can make it out,
simply "East Mipford." This would seem rather silly. Presumably
you already knew the name of the town, as it was right there in
the map in plain letters. Why jot it down again in that round,
boyish hand of yours? Possibly you were just practicing
handwriting. God knows you needed practice!

Anyway, there is "East Mipford" and, opposite it, "East Mipford,"
so East Mipford it is. It's a good thing to know, at any rate.

The next bit of puzzle work was jabbed into the paper at
Orkington. Here you saw fit to write "No sporfut." Either this
was meant as a warning that, at Orkington, one can get no
"sporfut" or that it is dangerous to "sporfut" in or around,
Orkington. If you had some clearer idea of what "sporfut" was you
would know better how to regulate your passage through Orkington
this year. The lack of "sporfut" last year must have been quite a
trial to you, otherwise you wouldn't have made a note of it.
Well, better luck this time!

                         *  *  *  *  *

At Animals' Falls you had what was designated as "lunch," which is
pretty easy to figure out. After it, however is written "Gleever
House--Central Hotel--Animals' Falls Spa." It must have been a pretty
good "lunch" to have included all three restaurants, and, as you made no
designation of which was best, the only thing to do is try them all
again this time.

Perhaps you will remember, after ordering at the Gleever House,
that it was the Central Hotel which was the best. Perhaps you
meant that all three were rotten and that you should go on to the
next town before eating. The only way to find out is to try.

From then on you are confronted by such notations as "fresh cob"
at Turkville (which may mean "fresh cop" or good "fresh corn on
the cob"), "Emily" at North Neswick (which may be where you left
Emily off), and "steening chahl" at Lurding, which obviously
means nothing. You arrived at your destination, according to the
log, at "27 o'clock."

                         *  *  *  *  *

That is the value of a log-book. It makes the second trip seem so
much more exciting.

Lost Youth

Just to show how things can go on under one's very nose without
one's being aware of them, I find that I was in Worcester, Mass.,
when the first giraffe ever to be brought to the United States
was shown first on the Worcester Common. And now is the first
time I ever knew of it!

Now, a giraffe is not an animal that one sees for the first time
without looking twice. A giraffe, no matter how you look at it,
is out of the ordinary. And the first giraffe ever to be seen in
the United States must have made more of an impression on
Worcester Common than just an ordinary four-footed friend
pattering along. Worcester isn't as blase as all that.

Of course, I was only three years old at the time, but a child three
years old has ears. I knew the words to _Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay_. I surely
could have been trusted with the information that there was a giraffe
down on the Common, especially when no one had ever seen a giraffe

                         *  *  *  *  *

I always knew that my father was a phlegmatic man, but I didn't
realize that he was as phlegmatic as that. His office was in the
City Hall, which backed right up on the Common, and from his
window he certainly could have seen that something was up.

I can hardly believe that when he came home to dinner and my
mother asked him: "What was the news downtown today?" he said:
"Nothing much. Oh, yes, there was an animal out on the Common
with a neck that reached up into the trees and all covered over
with spots. A giraffe, I think they said. . . . What's for dinner

Why wasn't I taken down to see it? I was taken to watch fireworks
on the Fourth of July, and hated it. I was taken to the circus,
and all that the circus had to offer was some old elephants and
tigers that everybody had seen before. But they held out on me
when a real attraction came to town. Maybe they thought it would
be over my head, and so help me I didn't mean to write it that
way. (However, you notice that I'm letting it stand.)

It is very lucky that I didn't happen to be out for a stroll by
myself and discover that giraffe without any warning. Still, I
suppose that, at the age of three, nothing surprises one. But
I'll bet that there was many a man in Worcester who went on the
wagon for good in 1893.

                         *  *  *  *  *

The same news story that broke the news to me that I had missed
the first giraffe in 1893, stated that the first elephant was
brought to this country in 1796 by Captain Jacob Crowninshield,
of Salem, Mass. (Massachusetts seems to have gone in for
frightening folks.)

However little impression the first giraffe may have made on
Worcester or my father, I wouldn't want to have been in Salem on
the night when the first elephant put in an appearance. Three
years old or not, I'll bet I should have remembered _that_!

The Ice-Breaker

Today I heard a man say to his parrot: "Roll over!" and the
parrot rolled over. This set me to thinking.

What would be the first thing you would do if you wanted to make
a parrot roll over, short of rolling it over yourself? I can
understand possibly teaching a parrot to speak, but how would you
approach the problem of making it roll over?

Would you go right up to it and say: "Roll over!" and then wait?
I don't quite see the common ground that one could get on with a
parrot as a starter for such an experiment. There must be some
initial move to be made and I am glad that I am not the one who
has to make it.

It is these initial moves that get me down. What is the very
first thing a man does when he sets out to build a bridge? How do
you decide where to dig the first shovelful of earth in making a
road? On the first day of work in erecting a skyscraper, what is
the very first move made?

I could probably build a bridge or erect a skyscraper--or even
teach a parrot to roll over--if someone would get the job started
for me, but I know perfectly well that, if I were handling any
one of these enterprises I would spend the first day gazing into
space, trying to figure out how to begin. Fortunately, as yet, no
one has come to me with a skyscraper to be erected or a bridge to
be built, and, as I am in my middle forties now, it doesn't look
as if anyone is going to.

Still, you can't ever tell. Joseph Conrad didn't begin to write
until he was forty. Napoleon never even saw a steamboat until he
was fifty-eight. Mozart never wrote a bar of music until he was
ninety. Anything can happen, but it usually doesn't.

I am still worrying about that parrot. Did the parrot come to the
man, maybe, and say: "Teach me to roll over!"? That, at least,
would have broken the ice.

Oh, well, I've got better things to do than worry about breaking
the ice with a parrot--but right now I can't think what they are.

The Piano-Playing Record

A Mr. John Strickland, of Blackpool, England, claims to have set
a new world's record for consecutive hours of piano-playing. He
played for 122 1/2 hours without a stop. I haven't really checked
yet, but I think that the woman in the next apartment to mine is
worth grooming as a challenger. She has the spirit, all right,
and it would only be a question of wind.

Posing as merely an interested observer and student of
long-distance piano-playing, I have written Mr. Strickland,
asking him a few questions. What I really had in mind was finding
out his technique, so that I could steal its best features in a
system of training for the woman in the next apartment. A rather
dirty trick, but all's fair in love and, etc.

                         *  *  *  *  *

Here are the questions I asked him, together with his answers:

_Q_. What goes on in your mind during the 122 1/2 hours?

_A_. I try not to think any more than I can help. That is a
pretty long time for consecutive thinking. I more or less run
over in my mind the main points of English history from the
Norman Conquest to the Reform Act, and try to figure out how they
would have been changed if Englishmen had all been colored. Then
I go over the whole thing again, making believe that England was
under water all of the time. This gets pretty fascinating along
about the Wars of the Roses.

For relaxation I just sit and wonder what I'm doing at the piano,
anyway. You see, I really wanted to be a marine architect.

_Q_. What tunes do you play?

_A_. I begin with _Chop Sticks_ and run along with that for a day
or two, shifting octaves every four hours. This gives quite a bit
of variety. Then I go into _The Skaters_ waltz, of which I know
only the air and one chord of the bass. I find that popular music
of the ballad type lends itself easily to repetition, as most of
the songs are alike, and I have fun trying to figure out which
one it is that I am playing.

_Q_. How do you take your meals?

_A_. How do you take _yours_?

_Q_. You needn't be so surly about it!

_A_. You mind your business, then!

_Q_. How do you handle complaints from neighbors?

_A_. I have no neighbors any more.

_Q_. Don't your hands get tired?

_A_. When they do I lean over and play with my chin. When that
gets tired I play first with my right cheek and then with my

_Q_. What--no foot-work?

_A_. Now you are just being silly!

_Q_. How do you train for a long-distance exhibition?

_A_. For one like my 122 1/2-hour record-breaker I run a
trial-heat of 122 1/2 hours, just to get the hang of the thing.

_Q_. Do you think that the whole thing is worth while?

_A_. There you have me!

                         *  *  *  *  *

Being a man of science, and understanding the spirit of my
research, Mr. Strickland appends an anecdote of his early years
of piano-playing when he was in school. There was a rule in the
college which he attended forbidding "music between the hours of
ten and one." In calling Mr. Strickland to task one day the dean
wrote: "I am afraid that, for purposes of discipline, your
piano-playing must be regarded as music."

I am forwarding Mr. Strickland's replies to my questionnaire to
the lady in the next apartment. I hope that she will stop long
enough to read it.

Fun with Animals

The news that a small, blackfoot penguin in the New York Aquarium
had sprained its ankle when it stepped on a marshmallow served
only to remind us that no one of God's creatures, however smart,
is immune from loss of dignity. No one is infallible.

If anyone ought to be able to walk along without slipping, it is
a penguin. Accustomed to treading the slippery surfaces of the
globe with considerable assurance, if not manner, the penguin is
one animal from whom you would expect accurate footwork.

And yet one small marshmallow, undoubtedly left there by an
admirer, threw this penguin to the tune of a sprained ankle.

I worked on a motion picture once with a penguin named Eddie.
Eddie put on quite a lot of airs for himself as a stroller, but I
never saw him walk ten feet without tripping over a cable or
something, and tripping rather badly, too. When Eddie tripped, he
fell, and fell heavily, but he was always up again in a thrice,
pretending that he had just been clowning.

There is a great satisfaction to us clumsy humans when we see an
animal that is supposed to surpass us in skill making a monkey of

                         *  *  *  *  *

I am still gloating over a blackbird that I saw, with my own
eyes, in as disgraceful a bit of flying as any novice ever put

I was sitting in an automobile by the side of the curb when this
bird swooped down. With some idea, evidently, of making a
two-point landing, just to show off. Well, just as his feet hit
the sidewalk, one of them slipped out from under him, and I was a
witness to the remarkable sight of a full-grown, adult bird
falling on its tail. A vaudeville comic couldn't have taken a
neater spill.

The chagrin and humiliation of that blackbird were gratifying to
see. He got back his balance immediately and tried to act as if
nothing had happened, but he knew that I had seen him and he was
furious. He was off in the air again right away, but not before I
had sneered: "Nya-ya!" at him and called "Get a horse!"

Everyone ought to see a bird slip on its tail at least once. It
is a gratifying experience and one good for the soul.

The Children's Hour

I don't want to be an alarmist, but I think that the Younger
Generation is up to something. I think that there is a plot on

I base my apprehension on nothing more definite than the fact
that they are always coming in and going out of the house,
without any apparent reason. When they are indoors, they sit for
a while without doing anything much. Then they suddenly decide to
go out again for a while. Then they come in again. In and out--in
and out.

Of course, this applies only to Saturdays and vacation time. I
don't know what they do at school but presumably they stay put.
They can't just wander in and out of classrooms and school
buildings as they do at home.

                         *  *  *  *  *

This foot-loose tendency is most noticeable during Spring and
Summer vacations. Let us say that two or three of them leave the
house right after breakfast. In answer to the question: "Where
are you going this morning?" they say: "Oh, just around."

In half an hour they are back, with possibly three others. They
don't talk. They just come in. Sometimes they sit down in various
attitudes of abandon. Sometimes they walk slowly around the room.
Sometimes they just stand and lean against the wall. Then, after
perhaps five minutes of this, they start outdoors again in a

This goes on all day. Each time they return, they have two or
three new ones with them, but there seems to be no reason why
fresh members have come. They don't act as if it made any
difference to them _where_ they were. They do not even appear to
enjoy each other's company very much. They are very quiet about
it all, except for slamming the screen door. It is ominous.

                         *  *  *  *  *

All that I can figure out is that they are plotting a revolution.
When they go out, I think that they work secretly on laying
cement foundations for gun-bases, or even lay mines. Then they
come indoors to look around and see if the old folks have begun
to suspect anything yet. Assuring themselves that all is well,
someone gives the signal and they are off again to their

I don't think that anyone but mothers and fathers of adolescent
families will know what I mean, but I have spoken to several
parents about it and they have all noticed the same thing. There
is a restlessness abroad among the Young Folk, but it is a quiet,
shambling sort of restlessness which presages a sudden bugle call
some day, at which they will all spring into action.

                         *  *  *  *  *

All that I ask is that they let me in on their plans. It would
help if they were noisier about the thing and did a little
yelling now and then. It's this constant coming in and going out
of the house like slippered Moslems fomenting a revolt that gets
me down.

All I hope is that they start something--anything--before I am
too old to run.

Back to Mozart

Some time ago, in this space, I attempted to cheer up others, who
felt Life closing in on them with nothing accomplished, by
writing that Napoleon never saw a steamboat until he was
fifty-eight and that Mozart never wrote a bar of music until he
was ninety.

A very pleasant lady correspondent has written in to ask me if
there has not been some mistake. She has always understood, she
says, that Mozart died at the age of thirty-five and that he
began to compose at the age of four.

I don't believe that we can be thinking of the same Mozart. The
Mozart that I meant was Arthur Mozart, who lived at 138th street
until he died, in 1926, at the age of ninety-three.

This Mozart that I referred to was a journeyman whistler, who
went about from place to place, giving bird calls and just plain
whistles. He was a short, dark man, with a mustache in which
everyone claimed he carried a bird. After his death this was
proven to be a canard. (This is not a pun on the French word for
"duck." He didn't carry a duck there, either.)

                         *  *  *  *  *

Up until the age of ninety, however, Arthur had never composed
anything for himself to whistle, always relying on the well-known
bird calls and popular airs of the day. That is, they were
popular until Arthur gave them a workout.

But just before his ninetieth birthday, the Mozarts got together
and decided that "Grampa Arthur," as they called him, ought to
unbelt with a little something for posterity. So they gave him a
pitch-pipe, and stood around waiting for him to swallow it.

But, instead of swallowing it, Mozart went into the next room and
worked up a fairly hot number for woodwinds and brasses, called
"Opus No. 1," because it was such hard work. It was a steal from
Debusset, but the cadenzas were Mozart's. He also went into the
coda right after the first six bars.

This Arthur Mozart is the one I had reference to in my article.
The Mozart that my correspondent refers to was evidently a
prodigy of some sort, if he composed at the age of four. He also
must have worked on one of the night-club pianos like Harry
Richman's. Maybe it was Harry Richman!

All this shows what comes of not giving initials when you mention
a name in print. But how was I to know that there were two
Mozarts who were composers?


A warning has gone out from the Conservation Commission against
too sanguine investment in frog farms. I am one of the most
warnable people alive, but I don't have to be told to look out
for frog farms. I know about them.

Mr. MacGregor and I started a frog farm on a small scale only
last year, but somehow we couldn't seem to make a go of it. I
don't think that Mr. MacGregor used the right tactics with the
frogs personally. Having been in the Navy during the War he was
accustomed to being obeyed. You can't yell "Avast!" at a frog and
expect it to avast, or even to stand at attention. MacGregor was
too gruff with them.

Possibly we didn't have the right sort of corral for them. We
used the next room. It was nice and light in the next room, and
we had pans of water and dog biscuit around everywhere but they
didn't seem happy. They never moved around much except when Mr.
MacGregor went in to take care of them.

                         *  *  *  *  *

The first day that we had the frog farm, MacGregor put on a pair
of overalls and went in to do the chores. In a minute he came
out, disspirited:

"I can't make them hold still," he said, in a hurt tone.

"What do you want them to hold still for?" I asked, trying to get
at the bottom of the trouble quietly, instead of flying into a
panic right at the start.

"How are you going to bathe a frog if it won't hold still?" he
asked. "Just as I get squatted down, it hops half way across the

"Maybe you ought to set it up on a table in front of you," I
suggested. "Then you wouldn't have to squat down. I'd jump half
way across the room myself if you squatted down beside me."

"No danger of that," he said testily. "You think it's fun to
chase a frog all around a room with a stool. Here you sit in this
room, 'taking care of the books,' as you say----"

                         *  *  *  *  *

"Somebody's got to take care of the books if we're going to run a
farm scientifically," I replied. "Modern farming isn't the
haphazard thing it was when you were a boy, you know."

"Well, supposing I take care of the books for a while and you do
the chores." MacGregor was getting sullen. "What have you got to
put in the books, anyway? We haven't made a sale yet."

"I'm working up a bill head," I replied very calmly. And I showed
him a nicely lettered bill head reading:

                     MacGregor & Benchley
                          FINE FROGS

"Is that all you're going to say--just _Fine Frogs?_" he asked.
"What do you want to say--_Fine Frogs, You Bet_, or _Fine Frogs
for Fussy Folk?_" There was a note of exasperation in my voice.

"I mean _what kind_ of fine frogs? What are they for--fighting,
breeding, steeplechasing----?"

                         *  *  *  *  *

This brought up a question which we hadn't thought of
before--just what were our frogs going to be sold for? We
couldn't hope to get along on just the frogs' legs market, and
practically no one has a frog as a pet these days.

"Let's go into the stables and see what they do best," I
suggested. "Take off your overalls and put on your puttees, and
we'll take a look at the stock."

On arriving in the next room, however, our problem was solved for
us. There were no frogs at all. We looked under the chairs and
the filing cabinet, and even out the window, but the frogs had
gone. Our bubble had burst.

So we dissolved partnership and went out of business. But we
still keep the next room shut off--just in case.

My Orchard

I used to think that I was fairly adaptable to any unfamiliar
circumstances in which I might find myself. Give me ten or
fifteen minutes to get fully awake and I could make the best of a
jail cell in Port Said or the Center Court at Wimbledon. I say
the "best," I mean _my_ best.

But I cannot believe that I am even making my best out of the
present situation. I find myself the lessee of several orange,
lemon and tangerine trees, which grow in the back yard of a house
that I have rented, and adaptable as I am, I cannot seem to get
the swing of it.

I have had gardens before, but they were vegetable gardens, where
things grew in and on the ground--when they grew at all. But
these things are up above my head, and they belong to _me_--for a
few months. I might as well have been given the use of a captive

I go out into the yard and look up at them from one side, and
then walk around and look up at them from the other side. Then I
walk back into the house. This has been going on for days.

                         *  *  *  *  *

As I stand looking at them I realize that they are oranges and
lemons all right. I have seen oranges and lemons growing before.
But these are _my_ oranges and lemons. And they are up so high.
It is an impossible situation.

I suppose that I could pick some of them, but that would be a
violation of something, I don't know what. When I need oranges
and lemons I will buy them through the recognized channels. No
lease in the world could possibly make it legitimate for me to
break off one of those stems. It is probably a throw-back to the
days when I used to get chased for robbing pear trees.

So every day I go out and look up at my oranges and lemons. Then,
overcome with the futility of anything so tangible and so high
off the ground belonging to me, I walk back into the house again.
Oddly enough, these little excursions into my orchard throw me
off balance for the rest of the day. I don't know where I stand
about _any_thing.

                         *  *  *  *  *

Unfortunately, I am living alone at the time, and so have no one
to confide in. If there were only some one to come out with me
and say: "They aren't yours, anyway. They really belong to the
people who own the house," then I would be relieved.

As it stands, I am in a rather serious state of maladjustment.

Hedgehogs Wanted

An advertisement in a London paper reads: "5,000 Hedgehogs
Wanted." Of course, it's none of my business, especially as it is
an Englishman that wants them, but I trust that I may speculate
to myself without giving offense.

One hedgehog I could understand, or possibly two, to keep each
other company. There is no accounting for taste in pets, and I
suppose you could get as attached to a hedgehog as you could to a
dog, if you went about it in the right way. I, personally, would
prefer a dog, but then, I'm dog-crazy.

But 5,000 hedgehogs seem to be overdoing it a bit. When you get
up into the thousands with hedgehogs you are just being silly, it
seems to me. And, aside from the looks of the thing, there is the
very practical angle that you might very well find yourself

                         *  *  *  *  *

There must be something that hedgehogs do that I don't know about
that makes them desirable to have around in large numbers. They
may keep away flies, or eat moths, or even just spread out in a
phalanx and prevent workmen from lying down on the ground, or
picnic parties from camping out on private property. Whatever
their special function, it must be preventive.

Of course, there may be something in the back of the man's mind
about quills. He may be forming a gigantic toothpick combine or
starting a movement back to the old quill pen. In this case, he
has his work cut out for him. Shearing, or plucking, or shaving
5,000 hedgehogs is going to be no sinecure. And he is going to
run out of swear-words the first day. Just the plain, ordinary
"ouch" is going to get him nowhere.

On the whole, my advice would be to give the whole project up,
whatever it is. Unless, of course, the advertisement has been
answered already and he has his 5,000 hedgehogs on his hands. In
that case, I don't know _what_ to advise.


Professor Klaus Hansen, of Norway, has announced that he recently
drank a 98 per cent solution of "heavy water" (H O) without
experiencing any ill effects. That's what he thinks. That's what
the man said who first drank an Alexander cocktail (one-half gin,
one quarter creme de Cacao, one-quarter sweet cream).

The professor admitted that he had "to fight against hysteria"
when he saw a mouse that drank heavy water at the same time show
signs of illness immediately after the experiment. The mouse was
no fool, obviously. He didn't even have to fight against

                         *  *  *  *  *

Of course, I would have to fight against hysteria if I simply saw
a mouse. Following a drink of heavy water, or even vodka, the
presence of a mouse in the room would give me the tip-off. Next
would come the muskrats, then the mongeese, and then, in sly
succession, the larger, more vivid animals. When one is
experimenting with a new drink the fewer livestock there are
around the better.

However, there is one item in the cable from Norway which makes
me think that Professor Hansen may have hit on something. It is
in the form of a follow-up, and it reads:

"Professor Klaus Hansen, of Oslo University, was so pleased today
with his first quaff of heavy water that he ordered two litres
(2.1134 quarts) more, valued at 20,000 kroner (about $5,080), for
further experiments."

Now, in the first place, that runs into money. You don't order
drinks "for further experiments" at $2,000 a throw unless there
are certain pleasing features connected with it. It says that
"Professor Hansen was so pleased," which is probably the
scientific way of saying that "Professor Hansen was still

Of course, someone else is paying the check, but, even at that,
there is a lordly, free-handed air about the ordering that
indicates that heavy water is not a depressant, at any rate.

And what about the mouse? Does he get in on the "future
experiments," or does he go back on scotch and plain water, just
because he got a little sick on his first drink? He took just the
same chance that the professor did. He may not have held it so
well, but, if it is as good as it seems to be, he certainly ought
to be given another whack at it. Maybe he just drank his first
one too fast. He was just a kid.

                         *  *  *  *  *

Until the price comes down it doesn't look as if many of us will
get a chance to see what there is in heavy water that "pleased"
Professor Hansen so. The formula is simple--just two parts more
hydrogen than there is in ordinary water.

We might be able to whip up a tubful in the kitchen some time and
give it a try, with a little orange bitters. I don't suppose that
it would stand much shaking. That hydrogen is tricky stuff.

                         *  *  *  *  *

On the whole, it might be better to wait for the reports on the
professor's next session with it. He may think now that he wants
some more, but, when the time comes and he gets the glass to his
lips, he may string right along with the mouse.

Often one _thinks_ that one has had a good time with some new
drink, but when the showdown comes for a repeat a slight
repulsion sets in, and one realizes that the good time came from
the singing or the company. Drinks get an awful lot of credit in
retrospect that they don't deserve.

However, here's to Professor Hansen for taking the chance, and
here's to the University of Oslo for being such a charming host
to the tune of 20,000 kroner! And here, also, is to the mouse!

Comes the Eclipse

I don't want to be an alarmist, but there is going to be a total
eclipse of the moon at 11:09 P. M. on July 15th, visible from all
cars. The time is Eastern Standard. The moon is that same old
yellow thing.

There is also going to be a partial eclipse of the sun on July
30th, but it will be invisible in the United States, so go right
ahead with whatever you are doing at the time. You can look, if
you want to, but you will hurt your eyes.

                         *  *  *  *  *

On the night of July 15th, at 11:09 P. M., I am planning to have
quite a time, if I can manage to stay up that late and get
out-of-doors. That getting out-of-doors is going to be the tough
part. At 11:09 P. M. things are just beginning to get good

But it seems to me that here will be a chance to do a lot of
things that I have wanted to do, but have been held back from by
fear of publicity. I have arranged a little schedule, beginning
at 10:12 P. M., when the eclipse begins, and ending at 1:47 A.M.,
when the eclipse ends.

At 10:12 I will put on my white suit, which I don't seem able to
wear in the daytime without blushing, and go out into the garden.

Once in the garden I will pick some flowers. I have had a little
hesitancy about picking flowers in the garden in the daytime, or
moonlight, because I don't know quite what the procedure is. Do
you lurch heavily into the flowers until they break off or do you
shoot them off with an air rifle? At 10:15, on that night I shall
get them off somehow and I don't want anyone to peek.

                         *  *  *  *  *

As the eclipse progresses I am going to start a gramophone and
waltz. I have always wanted to waltz, but there has always been
too much light. I think that I might be very good, but, on the
other hand, I might be a disappointment. I will try it without a
partner at first, and then if I think that it is going well I may
send for a local girl to come in by the hour.

I think that then I will get my rowing machine out from under my
bed and take it into the garden and row on it. I have had that
rowing machine now for three years and have never been able to
bring myself to work it, for fear that a son or somebody might
come in and see me. When the eclipse is at its darkest I shall
start rowing. I may not get much exercise in that short time, but
at least, I shall have used the machine once.

There are several books I want to read and faces I want to make
in those minutes between 10:12 P. M. and 1:47 A. M., and I might
even knit a little.

All in all it looks like a big night for me.

Autographs for Sale

A copy of _The Autograph Review_ which has just come to hand
(having evidently been in my pocket since 1930, as that is the
date on it) presents a slightly more dignified side of the
current scramble for autographs than we get from those little
brown people who infest the entrances to theatrical and motion
picture premieres.

In _The Autograph Review_ are listed some of the choice items
which may be had by sending a nominal sum to the editor. For

Item No. 1---SHAW, GEORGE BERNARD. Fine short A. L. S. (Autograph
Letter Signed), one page, on card of Holyhead Hotel, March 28,
1913. To Maurice Bourgeois. Shaw writes that he is on his way to
Ireland for an Easter vacation and that his movements are very
uncertain and undecided. Signed in full .................. $25.00

Item No. 8--HOUSMAN, LAURENCE. Singular A. L. S. in which Housman
demonstrates his mania for self-effacement. He explains that he
broke with John Lane, the publisher, because Lane used his
photograph for purposes of journalistic advertising. A most
curious letter ........................................... $13.50

Item No. 9--LARCOM, LUCY. Original A. MSS. S. of her poem, _What
Is It?_ One very full page, oblong quarto. The poem contains
forty lines ............................................... $9.00

And so it goes, on through fifty items, ranging an impressiveness
from a $50 Oscar Wilde to a collection of eight signatures,
including Benjamin F. Butler, Henry Wilson and W. A. Buckingham,
for seventy-five cents. The paper alone is worth that.

                         *  *  *  *  *

I, too, have a collection of signatures which I will gladly turn
over to the editor of _The Autograph Review_, or will sell direct
from this office. The prices listed are subject to indefinite

Item No. 1--McGRATH, LUCIUS G. Deputy Sheriff in Westchester
County. Short A. L. S., one page. To the editor of this column.
McGrath states that he has been through the files and can find no
record of my ever having paid that $9.82 fine on my 1932 State
income tax. He gives an indication that he has the next step in
mind. Very interesting .................................... $0.11

Item No. 2--STEWART, DONALD OGDEN. An especially curious cheque
for $3.50, returned from the Bankers' Trust Company for
verification of signature. The "O" in the name "Ogden" has four
concentric circles in connection with it, as if the writer had
got going and couldn't stop. A valuable item for collectors of
unusual letter "O's" ...................................... $3,40

Item No. 3--ROOSEVELT, PHILIP J. Short A. L. S. written to editor
of this column. In his more formal manner, Roosevelt suggests
payment of annual dues to Signet Society of Harvard University,
as of June, 1911. Very old ................................ $0.10

                         *  *  *  *  *

Item No. 4--IMBRIE, LESTER W. Long, closely-written A. L. S. on
ruled paper, in pencil. In it, Imbrie implies that he is at
present being shadowed by agents of the Hapsburgs with the idea
of seizing him and putting him on the throne of Austria. He says
that he does not want to be put on the throne of Austria, as he
gave up all that sort of thing when he abdicated in 1840 to take
up active work in the "Kingdom Come" movement. He feels that he
is just on the verge of success in bringing about the Day of
Judgment and doesn't want to be taken off the job at this crucial
moment. He suggests that the editor of this column do something
about it, or, at any rate, get in touch with the Hapsburgs. From
then on the meaning is not quite clear. Odd example of Spencerian
penmanship ...................................... Cartage charges

Item No. 5--MANUSCRIPT. First draft of present article with
author's corrections and large ginger ale blister ..............
................................... Price optional with purchaser.

Health and Work

A rather horrible bit of news has just come to this desk. We are
informed that the eminent surgeon Dr. G. W. Crile has gone on
record as saying that "with proper attention to health a person's
active life in business should extend to the age of eighty
years." What is this man Crile--an alarmist?

In the first place, how can a person give "proper attention to
health" and still remain in "active life in business"? It is hard
enough just to remain in active business without monkeying around
with your health. "Let well enough alone" would be my advice to
anyone with an active business.

Furthermore, what is so tantalizing about the idea of staying in
active business life until the age of eighty? I know that there
are supposed to be veterans who simply have to patter down to the
office or the foundry every day, just out of sheer love of the
thing, but they must also have some other reason for their
devotion to work. There must be someone at home who gets on their

                         *  *  *  *  *

Anyone who has given what Dr. Crile calls "proper attention to
health" should, by the age of fifty, be so sick of his work that
he can't even glance through the trade papers without gagging.
Any further exertion on his part is either because of necessity
or is just sheer affectation.

Don Herold once wrote some _obiter dicta_, in the course of a
book on something else, which have always been a great comfort to
me. At the bottom of a page, in small italic type apparently
dropped there by the printer, he said simply: "Work is a form of
nervousness." It had no connection with the rest of the page, but
it might have been made into a book by itself.

Mr. Herold is the man who also wrote that during the trying
period when his young daughter was having her teeth straightened
her mouth looked like the back of a telephone switchboard. This,
together with his epic exposé of work, qualifies him, in my mind,
for the position of the Moses of our generation.

                         *  *  *  *  *

"Work is a form of nervousness." Just think that over. It has the
wisdom of the ages in it. And then think of Dr. Crile's threat
that, with proper attention to health, a man can still be active
in business at eighty. How are the other people in the office
going to like having a nervous octogenarian lunging about the

The thing to do is to make so much money that you don't have to work
after the age of twenty-seven. In case this is impracticable, stop work
at the earliest possible moment, even if it is at a quarter past eleven
on the morning of the day when you find you do have enough money. Then
will be time enough to pay proper attention to your health. What is the
sense of being in good health if you have to work?

Experience Meeting

One of these days I have got to go and see a doctor about my
cigarette smoking. I am slowly but surely losing the knack.

The thing has crept up on me insidiously. I didn't realize that I
was smoking fewer and fewer cigarettes each day until I found
that I had been carrying around an unopened pack in my pocket for
three weeks. That sort of thing gets one after a while, you know.

I started out all right. I began, in the customary manner, with
cubebs and bamboo. (When you broke the bamboo you found blood
from your tongue in it. Hot dog!) Then sweet fern, dried leaves
and, finally, a real cigarette! I was a regular boy, all right!

                         *  *  *  *  *

For quite a while I carried on, and seemed to be well set in the
cigarette habit. I even had a favorite brand, although, as I look
back on it now, I realize that I wasn't what you would call a
slave to it. Another brand substituted in my mouth while I was
day-dreaming and I wouldn't have known the difference.

Then I began to find myself lighting cigarettes and putting them
down on ash trays and forgetting them. There was something about
lighting a cigarette that gave one a debonair look, but once I
had looked debonair I was through for the day.

But after a few days I found myself stopping even that. I carried
cigarettes about with me; admirers from all over the world gave
me cigarette cases which I constantly left on my bureau, and I
gave all the indications of being a cigarette smoker, except that
I didn't smoke the cigarette.

One of the things that has contributed to my present condition
is, I think, my inability to typewrite, or do anything else, with
a cigarette in my mouth. I see other boys working away with a fag
hanging from the corners of their lips, but, when I try it, the
smoke gets up my nose and into my eyes and I can't see the paper.
Even smoke from a cigarette which is lying in an ash tray has a
way of seeking out my nose, no matter which way the wind is
blowing. Maybe it's my nose that's at fault.

Whatever the reason, I now realize, too late, that I am a
confirmed non-cigarette smoker.

                         *  *  *  *  *

Possibly if the cigarette companies would change their
advertising I might reform. If they should say: "Bamboos Are
Definitely Injurious to the Health," or "Smokes Wear You Down to
a Nub," or "Light a Blazer and Shorten Your Life," then I might
take the habit up again. All my other habits have proven
disastrous through the centuries. Possibly all that I need is a
little encouragement.


Fathers, god-fathers and uncles will be glad to learn that baby
specialists have now decided that the child is given beneficial
exercise by being shifted about from one position to another in
the holder's arms. This will eliminate a great many dirty looks
and much kidding at the male relative's expense.

No male relative, in his right mind, ever takes a baby to hold of
his own free will. The very thought of dropping it, a thought
which is always present, is enough to reduce all his vital organs
to gelatin. Some female always suggests it. "Let Joe hold him for
a minute. Hold him, Joe!"

So, Joe, sweating profusely, picks the infant up and becomes a
figure of fun. "Look at how Joe's holding him, Bessie! Like he
was a golf bag!" "Poor kid--put him down, Joe!" "Look out,
Joe--you'll strangle him!" Lynching is on in the air.

                         *  *  *  *  *

But now Joe can come back with the excuse that he is giving the
baby exercise. "You women hold him in that one position all the
time, and his body doesn't develop symmetrically. Ask any one who

For male relatives who find it necessary for one reason or
another to hold a baby, the following positions are suggested as
being most beneficial to the child's development and most
conducive of apprehension on the mother's part.

If the child has to be lifted from its crib by the father or
uncle, the old-fashioned way of reaching down and grabbing it
under the arms should be discarded. The male relative should get
into the crib with the child, and lie on his back (his own back),
taking the child on his chest and rising to a sitting posture.
Then call for someone else to come and lift both father and child
from the crib at once.

                         *  *  *  *  *

In taking the baby from the arms of someone else, as at the
christening or general family gathering, grasp one of the child's
ankles firmly in the right hand and tell the other person to let
go. The child will then swing, head down, from the other person's
arms, and can be twirled in a semi-circle, in the manner of an
adagio dancer, until the arc is completed, and the child lands
across the uncle's shoulder, the latter, if possible, still
holding firmly onto the ankle. This will develop the child's leg,
and give it poise.

For just ordinary holding, a good bit of exercise can be worked
into a method whereby the male relative holds the child by both
wrists and lets it hang down in front of him, swinging slowly
back and forth like a pendulum. It can then be tossed high into
the air and caught, or not, as Fate will have it.

A still better way to develop the child is to have _it_ hold the
male relative.

Rule of Thumb

A lot of us who were brought up on rhymes to aid us in memorizing
academic rules and guides to living, find, as the years go by,
that we are stuck with a lot of jingles with the key word
missing. This can cause a lot of trouble.

I remember perfectly that "thirty days hath September, April,
June and----," but whether it is "November" or "December" is a
mystery to me, and, although I have never been in a position
where an extra day in a month, or an extra month in the year,
made much difference one way or the other, I don't like to be in
the dark like that.

I am letter perfect, except for one detail, on the old mariner's
maxim: "---- skies at night, sailors' delight; ---- skies in the
morning, sailors take warning." All that I _don't_ remember is
what color sky it is--blue, red or gray. Fortunately, I gave up
my early idea of going to sea, otherwise all my clients might
have ended up on the rocks and reeking of seaweed, especially as
my only other nautical rule is "Mackerel skies and mares' tails
make good sailors ---- ---- their sails." The nub of this advice
is whether to "pull down" or "put up" their sails. That one point
eludes me.

                         *  *  *  *  *

In spelling, I need every aid to memory that man can devise and
even then I can whip up a few novelties by myself. I am more the
inspirational type of speller. I work on hunches rather than mere
facts, and the result is sometimes open to criticism by purists.

So it really is a matter for serious pause on my part when I
remember "_i_ before _e_, except after ----" and am then
confronted with _c, d, e, g, p, t_ and _v_ as possible rhymes.
Also, I am not even sure whether it is "_i_ before _e_" or "_i_
after _e_." This practically vitiates the rule as a guide to
spelling, whatever virtues it may have as a jingle.

In the study of foreign languages, I am equipped with several
rhythmic grammatical rules which mean nothing, because I have
forgotten the pay-off. In German, I can swing along on _aus,
ausser, bei, mit, nach, seit, von_ and _xu_, and I know that
these words all are followed by the same case. But is it dative
or accusative? That's what I can't remember!

In Latin (which, fortunately, I am not called upon to use in my
work-a-day routine) I can recite _ad, ante, con, in, post, prae,
pro, sub_ and _super_, but, if you ask me whether it is the
accusative, ablative, gerundive or putative case that follows
them, I blush prettily and say, "See my lawyer!" You can't expect
a man to remember _every_thing!

                         *  *  *  *  *

In the matter of drinking (which, thank Heaven, I do not have to
worry about, now that we have repeal!) there are several rhymes
which can cause quite a bit of trouble.

                       _Beer before wine,
                        Everything fine!_

is all right as a slogan, unless you happen to think that it
might be: "Beer _after_ wine."

There is a world of difference there, my hearties! Ask any
stomach specialist!

The trouble with rhymed rules is that the important words don't
rhyme. The whole thing has got to be done over again, I'm afraid.

Quick Quotations

The surest way to make a monkey of a man is to quote him. That
remark in itself wouldn't make any sense if quoted as it stands.
The average man ought to be allowed a quotation of no less than
three sentences, one to make his statement and two to explain
what he meant. Ralph Waldo Emerson was about the only one who
could stand having his utterances broken up into sentence
quotations, and every once in a while even he doesn't sound so
sensible in short snatches.

                         *  *  *  *  *

Take _par_ (for) _example_, one of those newspaper columns of
"Quotations of the Week," which has just dropped onto my desk,
after a three-hour hunt for it on my part.

Granted that some of them wouldn't stack up very high even if
they were quoted in full, they can't _all_ be as fatuous as they

"What the world needs more than anything else is a
revolution--but it must be a revolution of love."--_General
Evangeline Booth_.

"Sex to me is something very high. It is a divine thing, and it
is romantic, and that is the way I feel about it. And I think
that is what I mean to the public. Allure, in a high way, because
that is the manner in which I have portrayed it."--_Mae Murray_.

(Miss Murray got four sentences and still didn't quite do herself
justice--or maybe she did.)

"Life does not come all in one piece like cheese; it more resembles
linked sausages, a series of events on a string."--_Harold Bell Wright_.

(One has a horrible suspicion that Mr. Wright's remark really
ended with that.)

"When you come right down to it, perhaps there are other things
in life besides sex."--_Professor R. P. Sears_.

(One can be equally sure that Professor Sears was pretty sore
when he saw just that one sentence quoted. It probably was part
of a sly dig.)

"I'm really mentally lazy. I have to drive myself to write. But
there's something inside that keeps nagging me to go on."--_Mary

                         *  *  *  *  *

Probably each one of these people, if confronted with the
quotation, would say: "Well, yes, I did say that, but I didn't
mean it the way it sounds. What I meant was----"

So sure-fire is the fatuousness inherent in the average
single-sentence quotation that several humorous publications have
columns headed "You're Telling Us," in which embarrassed public
characters may read their own remarks used as fun-fodder. A
remark like: "I can't take a nap in the middle of the day," with
Mr. Justice Hughes' name after it, would look pretty silly all by

The best way to do, if you are one of those unfortunate people
who are likely to be quoted in print, is to say everything you
have to say in one long, periodic sentence, so that it can't be
broken up.

Or, better yet, say nothing at all. (Don't quote me as having
said that.)

Spy Scares

Whenever you read about the unearthing of a big international spy
ring in some European country, you may be pretty sure that the
government of that country has been naughty and is trying to give
the people something else to think about for a minute or two.

"O-o-oh! Look over there!" the government is saying. "See dat
dreat bid spy!" And, while the public is looking, it tries to
cram a bunch of incriminating letters and contracts down the
drain pipe. It's an old gag, but a good one.

Of course, every government has spies in every other country, and
every other country knows about them. It is merely a form of
international courtesy, like exchange professors. So long as the
spies don't actually block traffic or blow up the newer
buildings, they can snap their cameras and rattle their
blueprints to their hearts' content. In fact, they give a rather
nice cosmopolitan air to the streets.

                         *  *  *  *  *

Now, if a government can get out of a jam simply by crying
"Spy-ring! Spy-ring!" why can't individuals work the same
strategy? There must be some spies in your own neighborhood that
you could use in a pinch.

Let us say that you are due home for dinner at seven. What with
one thing and that other thing, you are delayed until possibly
one-thirty in the morning, just too late for the roast lamb. You
don't want any dessert.

"What did you think we were having tonight--a watch night
service?" says the Little Woman, barely opening her mouth to say

Don't you say a word. Just look serious.

"I suppose they were rebuilding the office and you got walled up
in the masonry," she continues. "You were lucky to get out at
all, I suppose."

                         *  *  *  *  *

Now is the time. "This is not the occasion for flippancy," you
say. "Our country, your country and my country, is in peril."

This is a new one, and it has her stopped for a minute.

"What do you know about your friend Mrs. Geefer?" you continue,
taking out your notebook and pencil.

"I know that she thinks that a two-spades bid means that she is
to pass," comes the answer, without thinking. Then the eyes
narrow. "What's this Mrs. Geefer element being injected into the
conversation? What has she got to do with a half-past one
dinner?" "Mrs. Geefer is right now being kept under surveillance
as a member of an international spy-ring. She, and a man named
Wilcensic, are agents for the Soviet government."

"What did they do--make you head of the Secret Service? Is that
what kept you so late?"

"We won't discuss my part in this affair. I am under sealed
orders. The question is--do you care enough about your country's
welfare to co-operate in tracking down this spy-ring?"

"You can go out into the kitchen and track down a coffee ring if
you want something to eat; that's what you can track down. Or did
they have food, too, at that brewers' track meet you were at?"

                         *  *  *  *  *

Things can go on like this until breakfast time or you can go out
and make believe round up Mrs. Geefer yourself for your country.
But the chances are that you will get nowhere with your spy
scare. You have to have a bigger territory to work in.

That's one of the advantages of being a government instead of
just a private liar.

Mistaken Notions

If there is one thing that I resent (and there is), it is to be
told that I resent being told anything. It drives me crazy.

I can take criticism and suggestions as well as anybody. In fact,
the wonder is that I keep my head as well as I do, with all the
criticism and suggestions that I get. But, frankly, I have just
lost my temper and pretty badly, too. I have been told that I am

Somebody in a Sunday paper has got together a list of "mistaken
notions," or things which ignorant people believe to be true, but
which, according to this upstart, have no basis in fact at all. I
find that I myself believe practically every one of them, which
makes it more or less of an affair of honor between the author of
the article and me.

                         *  *  *  *  *

His article is entitled: "How Badly Misinformed Are You About
These Things?" The very tone of the title itself is offensive.
"Misinformed," indeed! I think that I am the best judge of
whether I am misinformed or not, and I'll take no back talk out
of a Sunday feature writer.

The first point on which I am supposed to be "misinformed" is my belief
that shaving makes hair grow faster. Well, Mr. Feature-writer, I happen
to _know_ that it does. He says that experiments have proved that it
doesn't. And I ask you to read what his so-called "experiments" consists

"Any skeptic," he says, making a deliberate crack at me, "can
test this easily by letting his whiskers grow for a year, cutting
them off and weighing them, and then comparing this weight with
the weight of bits of whisker shaved off every day for another
year and carefully washed and saved."

In the first place, what does he mean by an "easy" test? Washing,
saving and weighing whiskers over a period of two years wouldn't
leave much time for anything else, although a man who would set
out to wash, save and weigh his whiskers would probably not have
much of anything else to do with his time. Certainly nobody would
employ such a man on any other kind of job. Nobody would want to
have him even around the house.

In the second place, I happen to know that shaving does make hair
grow faster, so Mr. Smart Alec can just wash, save and weigh his
own whiskers and see if it makes any difference to me in my

                         *  *  *  *  *

Another thing on which I am supposed to be "misinformed" is my
belief that rainy weather is the cause of rheumatism and
rheumatic pains. I don't know about its being the cause exactly,
but I just wish that the author of that piece could have my knee
on a good damp day. I wish that he could have it on _any_ day, as
a matter of fact, but I don't necessarily want to take his knee
in exchange.

I'll bet he has an awful knee. I'll bet that he is a very
disagreeable person to live with, constantly going about and
saying: "You're misinformed--you're misinformed."

I am furthermore told not to believe that pin pricks with a brass
pin are poisonous, that night air is injurious to sick people,
that lightning never strikes twice in the same place, that
dishonest people usually have a narrow space between their eyes
and that fright to a mother before a baby is born is liable to
mark the child in some way.

                         *  *  *  *  *

All right, I may believe these things and I may not, but from now
on they are a part of my credo. I'll take no dictation from some
whippersnapper on a newspaper. "Misinformed," am I? I'll
misinform _him_.

Maxims from the Chinese

Three crows are there, if only there were three crows. . . . Oh,
well, anyway----!

                         *  *  *  *  *

The wise man moves fast, yet a great many times it is hard to
catch him. This is because he has no soul. This is because he
lives up there with all those radicals.

                         *  *  *  *  *

It is rather to be chosen than great riches, unless I have
omitted something from the quotation.

                         *  *  *  *  *

One day Lee Fee was walking along the countryside, with his hands
on his elbows. He was thinking, thinking, thinking. So far he has
failed to interest us as a character.

"I am wondering," said Lee Fee aloud, in case anyone was asking
him. "I am wondering what comes after W.'" And, as he wondered,
Lee Fee walked, and, as he walked, he wondered, and pretty soon
he didn't know _what_ he was doing.

Soon he came to Lee Fee, walking in the opposite direction. This
put a stop to his monkey-business. He was good and scared. But he
said: "Well, easy come, easy go!" and tried to brush by' himself.
But that is no easier than it seems.

"We are getting nowhere," said the eastbound Lee Fee to the
west-bound Lee Fee. "Let's see if we can't come to some
compromise. We are both sensible men, and there is a saying of
Confucius that the sensible man goes but a short distance with
himself before taking his own temperature. It is also said that
eggs do not roll sideways. There is also an old saying----"

But when Lee Fee looked up, Lee Fee was gone. He just couldn't
take it. Too much wisdom gets on the wise man's nerves.

                         *  *  *  *  *

It is often difficult to tell whether a maxim means something, or
something means maxim.

                         *  *  *  *  *

Three women were keeping house. It was too rainy. The First Old
Woman said: "What wouldn't I give for three wishes at this very minute!"

"Well, what _wouldn't_ you give?" asked the Second Old Woman.

"I wouldn't give my new silk coat, and I wouldn't give the roast
pigeon in my oven, and I wouldn't give _that_," replied the First
Old Woman, snapping her fingers.

"And why wouldn't you give any of these things for three wishes?"
asked the Third Old Lady, who had heard nothing of what was going

"Because, even if I had three wishes," replied the First Old
Woman, dying, "what chance would there be of their being

A wish without the giver is bare.

                         *  *  *  *  *

The wise man thinks once before he speaks twice.


"I have never really given the matter much thought," said Mr.
MacGregor. (I had asked him how he would like to climb the

"Well, here we are in Switzerland on business," I said, "and
there's the Matterhorn. What are you doing--day-dreaming?"

He opened his eyes very wide. "Who--me?" he asked.

Sometimes it is very difficult to hold MacGregor's attention. It
isn't that he is not interested, but he doesn't seem to be able
to express it. Some slip-shod habit of mind carried over from the
Navy, I suppose.

"It looks like a set-up for you," I said. "Lots of people risk
their lives every year climbing the Matterhorn, and there you
sit, like a bump on a log. It ought to be your dish."

                         *  *  *  *  *

"Climbing mountains never interested me very much," said
MacGregor, opening and shutting his watchcase.

"That's a very sub-thyroid attitude of mind," I said. "It's
people like you who don't climb mountains."

"I guess you're right," he replied, sadly. "But I was always
interested in Burton Holmes and his capers."

"There--you see?" I said, a little more harshly than I meant to.
"You started out in--where was it?"

"Malden, Massachusetts," said MacGregor filling in an
embarrassing pause.

"You started out in Malden, Massachusetts, with a definite
interest in Burton Holmes. Then you got soft. You let liquor get
the upper hand, and you thought it was smart to be a dilettante.
If you had one ounce of stamina in you--to say nothing of
consideration for our business--you would be up there on that
mountain this minute, claiming it for the United States."

"Somebody owns it already, don't they?" asked MacGregor, in
perfectly horrible English.

"If it isn't one excuse it's another," I said, going back to my
paper. "Do as you like about it. I've had my say. I've done all
any friend could do. You are your own worst enemy."

                         *  *  *  *  *

From where I sit writing I can see the Matterhorn, snow-capped,
although it is only January. And, as I raise my binoculars to my
eyes, I can discern a little figure trudging up the side of an
enormous crag--the wrong crag, by the way, if one wishes to get
to the top of the mountain.

But, anyway, MacGregor has won his fight with himself.

The Rule of 87

The trouble with modern civilization is that we have too many
rules. Take, for example, what is known as "the Rule of 87"
recently dragged out at the birth of quintuplets in Ontario and
of (pardon me if I ask to see the data) sextuplets in Inotest,

The Rule of 87, doubtless the work of fanatical reformers, is as
follows: "One twin birth occurs to approximately 87 single
births; one triplet to about 7,569 singles (87 squared); one
quadruplet to about 658,503 singles (87 cubed); one quintuplet to
about 57 million singles (87 to fourth power); one sextuplet to
about five billion singles (87 to fifth power)."

That's the rule. That's what we are supposed to abide by, whether
we want to or not. By whose authority was the "Rule of 87"
promulgated! I should like to know. Probably, it was put over
while the boys were away at war.

                         *  *  *  *  *

How long are we to stand for this arbitrary rule that a man can't
be the father of quintuplets until 57 million other people have
had one baby each? Is this Russia, or Germany we are living in?
Are we mice or are we men?

One of the sad features of this bondage to statisticians is that
it takes the heart out of an ordinary man. What's the sense in
going ahead, if the figures are against you, if you are stymied
by a "Rule of 87"? Where does initiative come in?

Remember Frank Tinney, who was afraid to have a fourth child
because he had heard that every fourth child in the world was a
Chinaman. Is that any way to get new members?

                         *  *  *  *  *

I would not be one to set myself against constituted
authority--unless constituted authority set itself against me.
Then I, naturally, would demand my rights. (My rights, at the
last inventory, consisted of the right to inhale and exhale, and
to wear the top button of my coat buttoned.)

But I do protest against the Cossack rule of the statisticians.
Supposing that, right now, I should decide that I wanted to be
the father of sextuplets, and had a pretty good idea of how to
set about it. Would the fact that sextuplets had already been
born in Inotest, Rumania, hold me back, just because there had
not been five billion single babies born since that date? No,
_citoyens_, I am a free agent! I happen not to _want_ to be the
father of sextuplets, which is the only reason that I am not an

                         *  *  *  *  *

And there is a point which the promulgators of the oppressive
"Rule of 87" have possibly never considered. Only one father--or
mother--in five billion _wants_ to promote sextuplets. Think that
over on your legislator!

Jolly Good Fellows

At a dinner of the Dante Society in London several years ago the
Poet Laureate of England had proposed the toast and the
toastmaster had given his all to the announcement: "Ladies and
gentlemen--the toast is Dante!"

There was a slight pause, and then the pianist, feeling that
something was expected of him, crashed through with "For He's a
Jolly Good Fellow!"

The same thing happened only recently to the Bishop of London.
"On rising to reply," says a newspaper account, "he was received
with loud cheers and the singing of 'For He's a Jolly Good

                         *  *  *  *  *

The same thing happens in the United States every time a group of
men (and, Heaven help us, sometimes women, too) feel like paying
especial tribute to some poor guy who wishes he were dead at that
very moment.

In the first place, no words could be less appropriate, and
everybody feels this fact as he finds himself singing them. That
is why everybody is so embarrassed and so glad when the whole
horrid affair is over. Even the incorrigible song-leader who has
struck it up must wish, by the time he has reached the third "For
He's a Jolly Good Fellow" that he had not got quite so hearty.

I don't know in which case the words, "jolly good fellow" are
more embarrassing, in the case of Dante and the Bishop of London
or in the case of some tough mug who is being feted for having
won the heavyweight championship of the Navy. I think that
probably the latter blushes more. Anyone calling him a "jolly
good fellow" to his face would have to take the consequences.

                         *  *  *  *  *

For a nation of people who are so crazy mad about giving each
other testimonial dinners we have a remarkable paucity of virile,
up-to-date song tributes. They all seem to have been composed in
1870, when people made puns in Latin and Greek, and it was
considered pretty devilish to lead a cow up in the chapel bell
tower. Even the music dates back to Sir Arthur Sullivan and the
days when Marlborough was taking himself off to war.

Take, as another example, the drinking song beginning: "Here's to
Blevitch, he's true blue!" True blue! What kind of talk is that
for a bunch of 1936 drunks?

And the last line: "When he wants to get to heaven, he will go
the other way!" Do you suppose that they mean "H--l?"

"Hail, Hail, the Gang's All Here!" does manage to keep in the
vernacular pretty well for an old number, but, even in that, all
but the most emancipated singers say "What the heck do we care?"
And "Hail, hail!" is not a paean of praise to any one person,
anyway. It is every man for himself as the hero.

                         *  *  *  *  *

The point is that we have outgrown the old formal group
toast-to-music and don't know it. That is why nobody writes any
new ones. That is why it is so embarrassing to sing the old ones.

If we have to sing at testimonial dinners let it be "Down by the
Old Mill Stream," with no names mentioned.

Taking up the Cudgels

Somebody named Sir Shah Sulaiman, of Allahabad, India, has seen fit to
challenge Professor Albert Einstein's Theory of Relativity. In the
absence of Professor Einstein, I am taking the liberty of replying in
his behalf.

Einstein's value of the deflection of light from a star as it
comes past the sun is 1.75. Sir Shah Sulaiman's prediction of
value is between 2.32 and 2.45.

_My answer to Sir S. S.:_ You're crazy.

Einstein's value of the amount of shifting towards red of the
spectrum of the light from the limb of the sun is: .0084. Sir S.
S. predicts that it will be found to be .00676.

_My answer:_ Poppycock.

Sir S. S.'s third prediction concerns the elements of orbits of
planets. He says that the value for the advance of the perihelion
of planet Mercury is less than estimated by Newcomb.

_My answer:_ Where is Allahabad, India, anyway? And who asked
_you_ to butt in on this? We were getting along very nicely with
Prof. Einstein, who has proven himself to be an extremely
pleasant gentleman and an all-around good egg. He also plays the
violin. What can _you_ play?

                         *  *  *  *  *

That is the trouble with discovering something worth while.
Sooner or later some fly-by-night chief justice of India (that's
what Sir Shah is, a chief justice) comes along and says that you
are all wrong, and that he has discovered something better that
will also cure head colds. It's enough to make a man like
Einstein throw the whole thing up and just sail boats all the
rest of his life.

Of course, it's none of my business, but, being in more or less
the same line of work as Einstein (writing), I feel that we all
ought to stand together.

Prof. Einstein probably will have something more to add to his
own defense than what I have outlined here, but this will serve
as an opening gun in the rebuttal.

I also hereby offer to meet Sir Shah in public debate.

Special Sale!

In the welter of disturbing dispatches from overseas, the
following item from the London _Observer_ is vaguely reassuring:

"A recent paragraph (here) mentioned the sale by Robert
Hope-Johnson of his moustache to Lord Esme Gordon at the old
Pelican Club, and speculated as to the fate of the ornament."

This, in a way, calms everything down. Not only the fact that
Robert Hope-Johnson could sell his moustache to Lord Esme Gordon
at the Pelican Club, but the fact that the _Observer_ could
speculate "as to the fate of the ornament" in times like these,
lends a sort of common sense to the affairs of the world which
they sadly need.

Furthermore, the _Observer_ is happy to state that it has been
informed by a correspondent that "the hirsute relics were sent to
Rowland Ward, who mounted them in a case of velvet and silver,
with a suitable lyric inscription appended, and the trophy
occupied a place of honor upon the walls of the club."

The correspondent adds that the famous moustache of Mr.
Herman-Hodge (now Lord Wyfold) "is, I am pleased to say, as fine
as ever."

                         *  *  *  *  *

There is, obviously, more here than meets the eye of the American
reader. This barter of rare moustaches is evidently something
that causes no more comment among British clubmen than the
exchange of a stuffed boar's head for three dick-dick antlers.
The spirit behind the whole thing seems charming.

But what is confusing is, if Mr. Hope-Johnson possessed such a
spectacular set of moustaches, why did he feel that he must sell
them to Lord Esme Gordon? Was it in payment of some old gambling
debt, or had they belonged to Lord Esme in the first place and
were only farmed out?

And why sell them instead of paying rent? And what is Mr.
Hope-Johnson doing now? Surely he can raise another set and sell
them for more.

What I want to see is a photograph of Mr. Hope-Johnson before he
went commercial.

All Aboard for Dementia Praecox

It is a little terrifying, with all that I have to do this week,
to discover that I have a _dementia praecox_ into the bargain.
"What next?" I often ask myself.

There is no doubt about the _dementia praecox_. I've got it, all
right. The only question now is, can I swing the other things
that I have to face? A good case of _dementia praecox_ is about
enough for one week.

I got my data from a report submitted at the American Psychiatric
Association. This report said that _dementia praecox_ can be
helped by oxygen treatment. And, in passing, the report just
happened to mention the symptoms of _dementia praecox_. Not that
any of its readers would find it applicable to themselves--just
in passing, you know.

Early stages: (1) "Defective judgment." Well, I could keep you
here all night giving examples of my defective judgment that
would make your blood curdle. I couldn't even judge a sack-race.
On this count I qualify hands down.

(2) "Retarded perception." I didn't even know that the fleet was
in until I read _Time_ ten days later.

(3) "Restrictions in the field of attention." My attention can be
held only by strapping me down to a cot and sitting on my chest.
Even then my eyes wander.

(4) "Deficiency of ethical inhibitions." I took a course in
ethics once, but I didn't do very well in it. We didn't know
about "inhibitions" in my day. They came in with horn-rimmed
glasses and Freud. We just said "Yes, please," or "No, thanks,"
and let it go at that. I don't know whether I've got "ethical
inhibitions" or not. Just try me once, that's all.

(5) "Silly laughter." I hold the Interscholastic (New England),
Intercollegiate, East Coast Amateur and Open Professional cups
for silly laughter. I laugh at anything except a French clown.
You can't be sillier than that.

                         *  *  *  *  *

Among the more advanced symptoms of _dementia praecox_ I find to
my horror the following:

(1) "Lack of skill in motor performance." I was asked to
surrender my license while driving an old Model T Ford in 1915
because I could not co-ordinate in time to press the clutch at
just the right moment. I also had a little trouble with "right"
and "left." Next to "silly laughter," "lack of skill in motor
performance" is my forte.

(2) "Stupor." We need not go into this. The last thing that I
remember clearly is that elaborate parade for Admiral Dewey under
the arch at Twenty-third street. Since then I have more or less
taken things easily. In addition, I can say only that there are
hundreds of people willing to bet that I have never had my eyes
open. I have no proof to the contrary.

So _dementia praecox_ it is, boys! And may the best man win!

For Release Monday

Our Publicity Department submits the following items of interest
(of interest to our Publicity Department) concerning a few of our
authors. In case you do not want to print them, they go awfully
well with peanut butter.

                         *  *  *  *  *

How does an author work when he has been put in a strait-jacket
by relatives? This question is answered by Germer C. Arsh, author
of "Brimmer Grows a Goatee and Other Sonnets," to be published in
the Fall by the Aesophagus Press. "I just lie there and think
very hard," he says, "and pretty soon the book is written by my

                         *  *  *  *  *

Lingard M. Lilacs, author of "Penny Wise, Pound of Cat Meat," to
be published in the Fall by the Aesophagus Press, is probably the
only short, blond man to be taken for Primo Carnera. He was taken
for Carnera, along with a dozen Easter eggs, but Carnera couldn't
see his way clear to using any of them.

                         *  *  *  *  *

"Never try to set a thief to catch a thief, or to throw good
money after bad," says Robert Wrist, in the third chapter of
"Don't Open on Christmas!" (Aesophagus Press.) "I am sick and
tired of trying." Mr. Wrist's book is now in its first edition.

                         *  *  *  *  *

Quite a controversy has arisen, and died down, over Marian
Querey's statement that women are more allergic to horsehairs
than men. "I can't go near a horse," said Miss Querey, "without
sneezing, due to the fine particles of horsehair that are in the
air. I know lots of girls who are the same way but only one man."
The answer is, according to our opponents, that Miss Querey knows
only one man anyway.

Miss Querey's new book, _April Asthma_, will be published in the
Fall by the Aesophagus Press.

                         *  *  *  *  *

"Arabian is the easiest language in the world to learn, next to
Choctaw," says the Princess Ludovica von Preepos und Schnurbart,
whose novel, _Tight Grows the Eel-Grass_, is already being
considered for rejection by the Aesophagus Press. "All you have
to do is remember that all verbs meaning 'to inhale' take the

                         *  *  *  *  *

Remember, all of these items are absolutely free for your use,
together with libel liability and a big kiss.

One Minute, Please

About an hour ago the telephone bell rang. I answered it after a

A very brisk young woman said, "Wait a minute, please," but she
didn't mean the "please." What she obviously meant was just "Wait
a minute!"

Now this is a thing that especially irks me. When I am called by
a secretary who doesn't tell me who is calling, but says, "Wait a
minute" and then goes off somewhere for five minutes, I hang up.

So I hung up. "They'll call back," I said to myself, and stood
waiting by the instrument.

I tried to read the paper I had in my hand, but couldn't
concentrate. Each second I could hear that bell ringing, only it
didn't ring. I sat down by the telephone. "There's no sense in
going back into the other room," I thought. "It'll come any
minute now." But it didn't.

                         *  *  *  *  *

The sound of a telephone bell which ought to ring any minute, but
doesn't, is much worse than the actual thing. By this time I was
definitely on edge. I was also in a frenzy to know who the caller
had been.

Finally I went into the other room. "That'll bring them," I said
to myself, sagely. I know how those things work.

But I overestimated their perversity this time. Even when I sat
down in a low, easy chair, difficult to get out of, it didn't
work. As a final ruse I lay down on a couch and pretended to be
asleep. No bell.

I thought of calling Central and asking who had called me, but
that would be weak. Anyway, Central couldn't tell me. I thought
of calling all my friends and asking them if they had just
called, but that would be pretty futile on the face of it. I
thought of putting the whole matter out of my mind, but that was
impossible. I was obsessed.

                         *  *  *  *  *

It has been an hour now and I have been pacing up and down the
room gnawing at my nails. Obviously whoever it was is not going
to call back. In a weak attempt to restore my peace of mind I am
using this space as a

                     PERSONAL COLUMN
           At five-thirty on the afternoon of Tuesday,
           June 25, _who called me on the telephone?_

Who Did It?

The parlor game of "Detective" got off to a flying start a few
months ago, but what it needs now are some fresh problems. Not
having any personal problems of my own I am taking the liberty of
making up a few:

1. A man leaves his home in the morning to go to work. An hour
later he is found back in his own bed with a nasty scalp wound.
His clothes are folded neatly over a chair. He is unable to talk,
but a colored man, who is in bed with him, also with a bad scalp
wound, says that he doesn't know who his buddie is, having never
seen him before. The police arrest the housekeeper. Why?

_Answer:_ Because she was a notorious counterfeiter.

                         *  *  *  *  *

2. A baggage master in a small railway station detects something
suspicious about a large box which has been lying in the baggage
room for three years. He opens it and finds a mummified fox
terrier. Around the dog's neck is a tag reading: "Please return
to John Grunch, 78 North Creep Street, Noky, Idaho."

The police go to the address and are told that Mr. Grunch doesn't
live there any more. What should the next move be?

_Answer:_ Try 356 Welkin Drive and ring Dunker's bell.

                         *  *  *  *  *

3. Three men are sitting at a table playing "gummidge." A says:
"I have seven stops." B says: "I have three leaves and a throw."
C says: "I win! I have two reekers." There is only one reeker in
a "gummidge" pack. Who won?

_Answer:_ Joe Louis.

Prodigal Sea-Lions

Two letters written to the bedeviled editor of the _London Sunday
Times_ have stirred old memories in my breast, and if the editor
of the _Sunday Times_ doesn't mind I will take them off his

The first, from a Mr. Ernest Blaikley, of Stanley Gardens, N. W.
3, begins: "Recently, at a well-known circus, I saw the
performing sea-lions. As I watched their extraordinary balancing
feats I could not help wondering to what use they put this
peculiar gift in their wild state."

Without knowing it, Mr. Blaikley has hit upon a very tender subject with
me. It has to do with my first job after leaving college, and therefore
my first failure at a job. On "coming down" from the university I was
employed by an oil spermery-and-refining company, to do just exactly
what Mr. Blaikley has been wondering about. I was assigned the job of
finding out some use for the peculiar balancing gift of sea-lions.

                         *  *  *  *  *

Of course, my company was concerned primarily with whales and
their by-products, but it had been found that the seals in the
whaling territory were seriously impeding operations by sitting
around in the way of the whalers and just swinging back and forth
with their noses in the air. "Find those animals something to
balance on their noses," said the captain of the whaling fleet in
his monthly report, "or I shall go crazy."

So I went up into the seal district and tried putting various
light objects on the noses of the seals as they swung back and
forth. This is very hard to do, you will find. I tried the
conventional rubber ball, but discovered that it is only seals
with actor-blood in their veins that will go for the rubber ball.
The ones we see in circuses are dyed-in-the-wool hams, who like
to show off and revel in public applause. Your average sea-lion,
the sea-lion-in-the-street, doesn't give a hoot whether anyone
sees him or not--and I shouldn't think that he would, everything

So you will see that my assignment was not an easy one, for not
only was I unable to get the seals to hold still enough for me to
get anything started balancing on their noses, but I couldn't
make them see the importance of trying to balance things for
themselves. They just didn't seem to care that they had this
peculiar gift (which Mr. Blaikley has noticed, too, and wondered
about), or that it was going to waste. And you just can't help
anyone who refuses to help himself. Any social worker will tell
you that.

So I simply sent in my report, which read: "Complete indifference
on part of seals to waste of balancing gift. Recommend abandoning
whole project." Naturally, I was not given another assignment,
and if Mr. Blaikley wants to take a try at it my old desk is
still vacant, I understand.

                         *  *  *  *  *

The other letter to the _Sunday Times_ deals with a controversy
which has been raging over the site, and name, of the earliest
indoor skating rink in London, and I am afraid that I have not
left quite room enough to take it up now. Perhaps at our next
session we can deal with it. In the meantime I will go over my
records more carefully, for I am a little hazy on one or two
points. We might all of us read up a bit on Early Indoor Skating
Rinks of London, and then I shall not be talking to such a lot of
lunkheads on the subject as might otherwise be the case.

London's Oldest Rink

If you don't mind, we will now take up the second of two letters
to the _London Sunday Times_ which held me spellbound when I
first read them, the other having been apropos the lack of things
for seals to balance on their noses when in their wild state.

The letter which we will use as a basis for today's seminar is
from Sir Algernon Law, and reads as follows:

"Sir--it must have been in the mid-seventies that Mr. Gamgee
started his indoor ice-rink off the King's Road, Chelsea. My
brothers, Major (later Major-General) F. T. A. Law and Mr. Ernest
Law, used to skate there. But it was poorly attended. When my
brother Ernest came in the afternoon, he would ask: 'Has anyone
been here?' The reply would often be: 'Only the marquess and the

"The marquess was Clanricarde, a timid performer, who used to fly from
the brusque movements of the major, who had learnt to skate on the Peiho
River in 1861. As the 'major' became a lieut.-colonel on October 1,
1877, Mr. Gamgee's venture was apparently the earliest of its kind in
this country."

                         *  *  *  *  *

Sir Algernon is cockeyed. The first indoor skating rink in London
was not Mr. Gamgee's comparatively modern venture, but one
situated in the old Baker Street Bazaar, adjoining the original
Madame Tussaud's Exhibition. This flourished in 1845, when Sir
Algernon's Mr. Gamgee (granting that there could have been a
person named Gamgee) was a mere child, and probably a very
disagreeable child, too.

My grandfather, Corporal Benchley (later Private Benchley) used
to skate there and has left abundant correspondence to prove it.
Almost anything can be proved by my grandfather's correspondence,
as he liked to write, and was interested in practically
everything. A lot of it he wrote in a jaunting-car, however,
which makes it read almost like music.

                         *  *  *  *  *

However, I have before me a note made by him in 1845, just
previous to his falling down in the old Baker Street Rink. It
reads: "I guess I'll fall down now--Boomp! There I go!"

In his diary, under a date which seems to be 1456, but couldn't
be, he writes: "When I went to the rink to skate today, I asked
the Duke of Chichester, who sweeps off the ice, if anyone had
fallen down more often than I had the day before. 'Dey's nobody
here but jes' us chickens!' replied the old Duke, referring to a
Negro story current at the time. So we joined hands and skated
around the rink once together, then backwards as far as we were
able, which, I am convulsed to say, wasn't very far."

This makes it clear, I think, that indoor ice-skating was already
an established fad in London as early as 1845, or, if we take the
date in my grandfather's diary as authentic, 1456. In 1456,
however, the Wars of the Roses were just beginning and it
wouldn't have been cold enough for much skating. And I am sure
that my grandfather was not four hundred and four years old when
he died in 1860, or we kids would have been told something about

I think that I have shown enough to prove Sir Algernon Law wrong,
with his Mr. Gamgee and 1877, and, unless the British aristocracy
has gone completely to pot, he will apologize.

Robot Rats

It's all right with me if people want to construct robots to do
the work of men. In fact, I could use a good robot right this
minute. But I can't see the sense of making robot rats.

Some one has gone and made a robot rat. Maybe it is because I
don't quite understand what they are going to use a robot rat
for, but the whole thing seems to be a little unnecessary. I
don't like rats anyway.

This "rat" is described as a sort of "three-wheeled roller skate,
loaded with small motors, electromagnets and switches," which, I
will admit, must be an improvement over the ordinary house, or
wharf, rat in appearance. It shouldn't send timid folks leaping
into chairs at any rate.

But I still can't figure out the need for having done it at all.
The robot rat is so constructed that, when set on a track and
adjusted to take the wrong turn at a switch, it learns a lesson
from having bumped up the dead-end and the next time takes the
right turn of its own accord.

This is very cute of it, but wouldn't it have been simpler to
have adjusted it to take the right turn in the _first_ place? Why
subject it to the humiliation of bumping up the dead-end at all?

                         *  *  *  *  *

I don't know anything at all about machinery, and I am sure that
the whole thing has a purpose and a very valuable one. (The end
of the article I read about it was torn off, so I just got the
main idea without the explanation of why it was considered

I do know that, for the present, there are several mechanical appliances
that I want more than a robot rat which is deliberately maladjusted just
for the sake of watching it do the whole thing over again correctly. If
anyone does give me one for Christmas I warn the scientific world that I
will fix it to take the _correct_ turn the first time, thereby spoiling
the experiment.

I will also change the name from "rat" to "roller skate."

End of the Chanticleer!

For the benefit of those who find themselves unable to sleep
through the early morning clarion call of the rooster (sometimes
called "The Herald of the Dawn," among other names), I will
recount how I, single-handed, put an end to this chanticleer
business for at least one morning.

In telling my story I may have to make myself seem to be cutting
a rather strange figure, but I am willing to be misunderstood if
I can spread the word that the Lord of the Barnyard need no
longer also be the Lord of the Bedroom, and that a man, by
striking out with some spirit, can meet a rooster in single
combat, and win.

                         *  *  *  *  *

Returning home late from a Grange meeting, I was shown to the
guest-room which, as it turned out, was abutting the poultry
reservation. I had barely found my pillow (it was a small one and
easily lost) and closed my eyes (also small and easily lost) when
Sir Rooster began to put on his act. "Cock-a-doodle-do" is the
way it is printed, but that is a euphemism.

At first I thought that the bird was in bed with me, but, after a
careful pawing with my hands and feet, I decided that he was
outside. It then became a matter for direct action on my part.
With a determination which I seldom display in crises, I got out
of bed and, putting on the tops of my pajamas, went out into the

I took my stand by the wire enclosure and waited. Several of the
hens paid me the courtesy of a glance, but the rooster was
gathering himself for another onslaught at the silences and did
not see me. I was calmness itself.

                         *  *  *  *  *

Then it came--a rousing, throaty crow, which he doubtless thought
was causing me to writhe on my couch inside the guest-house. I
did not leave him long in his fool's paradise. I answered him
with a louder and throatier crow which practically tore my
tonsils from their moorings, but which also sent my antagonist
toppling to one side in surprise and chagrin. The battle was on!

Every time he crowed I would crow back, going him one better.
Once I even carried the fight into his own territory and crowed
first. This sent him into a fever of inferiority, believe it or
not. The Cock of the Walk befuddled, confused, and a tantrum of

The hens took it rather hard. Not only were they being terrified
personally (I saw to that, in my odd moments), but their hero was
being mocked, ridiculed, and outplayed at his own game. They ran
to and fro in despair, but I was not to be put off by any
considerations of chivalry. I even did a few hen cackles to put
_them_ in _their_ places. It was a complete rout in favor of the
forces of law and order.

                         *  *  *  *  *

It was not long before I waited in vain for a "cock-a-doodle-do"
to set me off into my own. The rooster was licked and he knew it.
A few hens were still loyal to him and tried to curry favor by
running back to him and saying, "The man's drunk! Pay no
attention to him." But I wasn't drunk, unless it was with power,
and the Old Devil knew it.

So, still in the tops of my pajamas, I made my triumphal entry
back into the guest-house and took a well-deserved nap, with no
sound from the hen-yard except a few scattered cluckings from
discontented poultry who were talking it over. The Big Shot was
silent, probably committing suicide.

I found out at luncheon, however, that I had awakened everyone
else in the household, which somehow was never completely under
the spell of the illusion that I was a rooster. Well, in every
great cause some few innocent heads must fall.

Waiting for Bad News

Ever since last Summer I have been waiting for a decision in a
case which affects me rather seriously. Is there, or is there
not, such a thing as a tribal pow-wow of prairie chickens? If
there is, I'm through!

I read of it first in _Time_, although it is evidently an age-old
custom--or a superstition. That's what I want to know--is it a
custom or a superstition? _Time_ said that it was a superstition,
and then someone wrote in and said that it was on the level. I
haven't slept a wink since.

                         *  *  *  *  *

For the benefit of those who do not know what a prairie chicken
pow-wow is I will quote from _Time's_ disturbing account of what
three men saw on a prairie in Saskatchewan, one of the men being
an ex-premier of that province.

"In double file, with every one in step, twenty black-and-white
streaked grouse strutted forward, keeping perfect time. As one
they hopped as neatly back. Forward again, and with heads bobbing
the two front couples swung to left and right, wheeled fanwise,
fell in at the rear. Four times the figure was repeated, until
the rear couples were once more in their places. Now odd couples
did a left face, even couples a right face, and the two lines
moved apart. An about-face brought them back together. Then all
faced front and again the double file moved forward--one, two,
three, four; one, two, three, four."

Superstition or not, it isn't reassuring to know that anyone
could even _think_ he saw that! I don't like even to copy it out.

                         *  *  *  *  *

But then somebody wrote into _Time_ and said that it wasn't a
superstition at all, and gave some sort of explanation for it,
having to do, I think, with mating time. I remember reading it
hurriedly and thinking: "I'll study this later, when I'm feeling
better." And then I lost it.

That was during the Summer, and here it is almost Winter and I am
still in the dark about it. Do prairie chickens do a Portland
Fancy in groups of twenty or don't they? It sometimes seems as if
I should go mad worrying about it!

_Time_ said it was a myth, handed down from the Indians, and that
people in Saskatchewan didn't believe it any more. Then this man
wrote in and said that it was a well-known fact. And the
ex-premier and two other men swore that they saw it from their
automobile. Nothing further has come out about it. That's where
the matter stands--it may, or it may not, be true. It's the
uncertainty of the thing!

                         *  *  *  *  *

I put out my light each night and try to think of church picnics
when I was a child and of die quiet streets of Rothenburg,
Germany. I run over the score of _lolanthe_ and try to remember
the members of my class in the Fourth Grade. I say to myself:
"You are your own worst enemy if you let yourself think of
prairie chickens!"

But in spite of all this the prairie chickens come, all twenty of
them, in double file, with every one in step. Forward and back,
first couples to the right, second to the left, "ladies change"
(or was it "ladies' chain"?) and "balance your partners!" Then,
"All face Benchley! March! One, two, three, four; one, two,
three, four!" It is horrible!

It's the backward steps that terrify me the most. Birds shouldn't
take steps forward and then steps backward--_in tempo!_ They
shouldn't take steps backward anyway, not even in a myth.

                         *  *  *  *  *

I am writing this in the hope that the man who wrote to _Time_
will see it and put me out of my misery. If such a thing exists I
might as well know it and make my plans accordingly.

All that I pray is, when the truth is broken to me, I don't end
up in the middle of my bedroom floor doing the steps myself.

Judgment-Day Rehearsal

Fate, that saucy minx, has ordained that, for the past three
Summers, I should live in a section of the country where
thunderstorms are practically unknown. _(Note to Chamber of
Commerce: How about a parking permit, boys?)_

This has been all right with me, as I list thunderstorms
eighteenth in my category of favorite pranks of Nature. There is
something tricky about a thunderstorm that I don't like. Three
Summers without one have been so much velvet.

Yesterday morning, however, I was awakened by the sound of
thunder. A morning thunderstorm, in any section of the country,
is an ominous piece of business. When you haven't heard thunder
for three years it has somewhat the effect on the pores as the
sound of Gabriel's trumpet.

At first I thought that it was an earthquake. _(Note to Chamber
of Commerce: Never mind about that parking permit.)_ I had heard
earthquakes sound like thunder at first, so I watched the
pictures on the wall like a hawk. Not a very alert hawk, I will
admit, for I dozed off almost immediately.

Then the rumble came again, this time nearer, and I decided that
it wasn't an earthquake. I was rather disappointed, in a way, as
I sleep on the ground floor and am fairly agile, in spite of my
enormous weight. Agility counts for nothing in a thunderstorm.

                         *  *  *  *  *

As the storm came nearer I began to realize that I hadn't made
the most of my three years' immunity. In fact, I hadn't done a
single thing about cleaning up my life. I was, if anything, an
even more logical target for lightning than the last time I was
within range. And thunderstorms don't creep up on you at seven
o'clock in the morning in a non-thunderstorm country for nothing,
you know.

I lined up a rather panicky schedule of reforms which I would put
into effect if I got out of this scrape without being made the
focal point for an electrical display. It involved what is known
in municipal circles as a "clean-up in all departments."

But as the storm suddenly petered out and went off in the other
direction nothing much has come out of it yet. I may have three
years more, and these things can't be rushed.

What to Loll In

The problem of what to wear while lolling about the house on a
hot Sunday afternoon is becoming more and more acute as the
fashions in lolling garments change. The American home is in
danger of taking on the appearance of an Oriental bordello.

There was a time when on a hot Sunday afternoon the various
members of the family retired to their respective rooms and just
plain "stripped down." It wasn't a family group that John Singer
Sargent would have wasted much time over, but it kept the air
currents passing back and forth over the epidermis.

There were several drawbacks to this nudist policy, however. It
more or less prevented games of bridge and group singing, and
caused the house to ring with cries of, "Keep out of here, will

It also made it difficult to find places to sit down. Chairs and
sofas developed unsuspected bristles, and one had more or less to
keep walking up and down while reading, unless there happened to
be an old-fashioned, cool-surfaced horsehair sofa handy. Even
then there were several spots on its surface that had to be

But with the advent of fancy beach togs and diaphanous sports
rigs it became possible to wear something that passed for
clothing and yet to keep cool. Unfortunately, however, these
exotic-looking outfits were designed for use on beaches, where
yellow sands and blue waves and multi-colored umbrellas make them
a bit less conspicuous. They do _not_ go well in a city
apartment, or a country cottage, on a Sunday afternoon.

                         *  *  *  *  *

On such Sundays as the family are not at the beach or at the
swimming-pool, the living-room becomes the scene of what might be
a Pagan rout, if there were any rout. We see Mother and the girls
arrayed as if they were about to be sold at auction, prosaically
reading the Sunday papers, while Daddy and the boys moon about,
like the Pirates of Penzance, in gay stripes and flaming
bandanas, cool, perhaps, but obviously on the lookout for a dance
boat on a Venetian lagoon.

It is the effect on the family morale that is the danger of this
home masquerade. Everyone is at home, but is dressed for
somewhere else. The furniture seems shabby. The four walls close
in. Personalities clash and fist fights set in.

It would be much better if everyone went to his room and
stripped, as Grandpa used to do.

Blizzard Hysteria

From my seat in a snow-bank, where I happened to be taking it
easy last week for a minute before starting to look for my right
shoe again, I laughingly remembered a threat that I made early in

"If we don't get any more snow this Winter than we have had the
past five years, I am packing up and going to Canada for a month.
I'm a snow-baby," I said, ruggedly, "and I'm going to get some
snow for myself this year or know the reason why."

Well, I got my snow, and without having to go any nearer Canada
than the north windows of my house. Sometimes I couldn't even get
within two feet of my north windows.

                         *  *  *  *  *

I shall be particularly glad this year when it stops blizzarding,
as then we won't have so much trouble with Joe. Joe is a friend
of mine who gets blizzard hysteria. As soon as a real blizzard
sets in, he goes St. Bernard on us.

The only difference between him and the famous mountain dogs is
that, instead of the St. Bernard going out to look for lost
travelers in the snow, we all have to go out in the snow and look
for the St. Bernard. The only feature of the old St. Bernard
tradition that he has retained is the keg of brandy around his

                         *  *  *  *  *

When the first blizzard of the present season started, I noticed
a strange light come into Joe's eye. He went to the window and
looked out at the whirling snow, and I saw his left foot start to
paw around slightly. "Looks like a real one," he said. Then,
after a pause, he repeated: "Yes, sir! A real one!" This was
around lunch time.

"I guess I'll get out the team," he said, softly, "and mush up to
Jack and Charlie's for a bite to eat." That was the last I saw of
him until Thursday.

Later that afternoon, I did get a report from him. He called on
the telephone and said, in a voice quivering with excitement:
"Come on out and play, you old stick-in-the-mud, you! The snow's
a foot deep!" I asked him where he was, and he said "Latitude
45--Longitude 54."

In about an hour he called up again and said that the horses were
all down in the streets and that Shearer's Dry Goods Store was on
fire. "Get your sled and come on out!" was his final shout, as he
hung up. In a field-communique along about six, he announced that
shipping was tied up and that he didn't think he could bring the
"Sarah H. Walton" in until morning. At ten that night his wife
called up and asked if I knew where Joe was.

                         *  *  *  *  *

On Thursday, Joe was very dispirited. "I don't see how it could
have happened," he said. "I don't know anybody in New Rochelle."
We both agreed that a little vacation once every ten years or so
did a man no harm, especially, as Joe said, as it would be ten
years before we had another blizzard. As he said this he walked
to the window, and I heard him moan. It was snowing again.

"I guess I'd better get home before it gets too deep," said Joe.
This was about four in the afternoon. At six he called up and
said: "Get your sled out! This looks like a real one!"

This time we got the searching parties out early, but it was hard
going and he got to Montclair, New Jersey, before we caught him.
He had built himself a snow fort and kept us at bay with
snow-balls for quite a while.

And so it has gone all Winter. Much as I like snow, I dread to
see each successive blizzard starting, for it means a night out
with the dog sleds. Joe himself dreads it more than we do, and
hides under the bed whenever he sees the first flakes come
swirling down. But he can't seem to win out. This year, Spring
will have a doubly grateful significance for everyone, I guess.

The Moth Invasion

One day, a few weeks ago, certain sections of New York City found
themselves in the midst of a flurry of tiny, white moths. A lot
of people thought at first that it was snow, but as the
thermometer read 97 at the moment, this theory was discarded as

It has been my great good luck to talk with one of the moths
himself, one who got separated from the swarm and flew in at my
window. Being rather unnerved by his experience, he felt that he
wanted to talk to somebody about it. He gave me quite a different
angle on the Big Moth Invasion of 1935.

"We were flying along, the rest of the bunch and I," he said,
"when, all of a sudden, the air ahead of us seemed full of great,
hulking shapes impeding our passage.

"Harry, my pal, who was flying alongside of me, took one look and
said: 'Hello, what's all this? A phenomenon?'

"I could hardly see a wing before my face for the great swarm of
woolen-covered bodies that pushed up against us, and, for a
moment, I thought that Harry was right. 'A phenomenon as ever I
saw,' I said. 'Just pay no attention, Harry, and we'll be out of
it in a minute.'"

                         *  *  *  *  *

"Then one of the boys, who had studied anthropology in school,
spoke up and said that it was nothing but a settlement of human
beings, who, on hot days, sometimes appear in large numbers and
beat themselves blindly against whatever happens to be in their
way. 'We just happen to have run into a bit of hard luck,' he

"Well, sir, we flew along for a while, and these things seemed to
get thicker and thicker. One of them, lunging ahead right in
front of me, caught me plumb in the eye, so that I couldn't see
for a minute.

"'Let's fly out of here!' I yelled to Harry and the rest of the
boys. 'I can't take it. Let's get a little altitude and see if we
can't fly over it!'

"But Harry had caught one of those New Yorkers (the special breed
of human that was proving such a pain in the neck to us) right by
the windshield of his automobile, and couldn't get him loose.
'This guy is blinding me!' he yelled back at me. Things were
beginning to look pretty serious."

                         *  *  *  *  *

"So I ups and turns into a sharp left at about fifty feet, and,
the next thing I know I'm through the window and here in your
office. . . . Got a drink?"

I gave him a hooker of straight rye.

"That's better," he said, coughing. "Do you have these things
around here much?"

 "Quite a bit," I said. "They come out with the sunshine."

"O. K.," said the moth, poising himself on the window ledge.
"Next time I'll make a detour. What's the name of this place

"New York," I replied.

"That's right. New York! I ought to remember that--my mother was
a Yorkshire Gypsy. Well, toodle-oo! I'll be seein' yer!" And he
was off to join his squadron.

Don't Get Lost!

If you are one of those helpless people who are constantly
getting lost, and just standing still and sobbing, the coming
season holds out great hope for you. The stars are going to be
unusually bright this Summer. You can't get lost if you know the
stars--unless, of course, you can't see the stars.

People usually get lost more easily in Summer than they do in
Winter, because they find themselves in stranger places in
Summer. Anyone who, in Winter, gets lost in his own street, or
even five blocks from his own street (which is as far away as any
sensible man gets in Winter), will not be benefited by looking at
any stars. What he needs is a nice, sympathetic cop.

But in the Summer you get to stumbling around in fields, or on
the beach looking for horseshoe-crabs, and, along about eleven
o'clock in the evening, you are quite likely to find yourself
tripping over an old cigaret-butt of yours that you dropped half
an hour before on the way home. Anyone is likely to do that, so
don't get downhearted. You're nobody's fool.

                         *  *  *  *  *

If you find yourself lost during the last two weeks of July (you
have simply got to know, in a general way, what time of the month
it is, or I can be of no help to you), look in the skies for the
brightest star, which will be Jupiter. Then you can say: "That's
Jupiter!" So far, so good.

Now, work backward. I don't mean walk backward, but say to
yourself: "Jupiter should be right over our house--a little to
the left." You will have to have figured this out before leaving
the house, but that's the fun of the thing. There will be so much
figuring out to do before you leave the house that you may not
leave at all, and then you won't even get lost.

Therefore, if Jupiter is right over your house and a little to
the left, the thing for you to do now is to walk, very carefully,
toward Jupiter--and a little to the right. This will land you
nicely in the old north creek.

                         *  *  *  *  *

Or, if you happen to get lost during the middle of August
(between the 11th and the 21st, to be exact--don't count on it if
it happens to be the 22nd), you must look for Venus. Venus is
unusually bright just after sunset, so lay your plans to get lost
just after sunset. All you have to know is just what relation
Venus bears to the spot you are headed for and--presto--there you
are--still lost!

Of course, if you get lost indoors, in a strange house, and can't
find the bathroom, it will do you no good to stick your head out
the window to look for a star. Neither can you count on the
heavens if you find yourself lost in your own bed, with the
footboard where the headboard ought to be. In such emergencies as
these you will simply have to use your wits.

But, in general, there is no excuse for a good woodsman or a good
mariner getting lost in the Summer time, unless, of course, he
_wants_ to get lost. That can happen, too.


Henri Lababage, the inventor of crêpes Suzette, arrived in town
today, parcel post. His version of the invention of the famous
dessert is a simple and wholly credible one:

"I was chef at the Sulphur Baths at Oxnard," he said, blushing
furiously. "King Edward VII, then known to his intimates as the
Prince de Galles, came to me and he say: 'Henri,' he say, 'make
me a crêpe Suzette!' So I make him three crêpes Suzette.

                         *  *  *  *  *

Campari Janos, famous Hungarian maître-d'hôtel, was talking the
other night in front of a mirror. There were a lot of us sitting
around, singing gypsy songs ("Hi-ya!") and going to town.

"Who is that mysterious-looking ingot?" asked someone, doubtless
I (or me) pointing to Janos.

"That is the inventor of crêpes Suzette," was the reply, scarcely
audible over the reflexes. "He named them after Suzette, a famous
_pot au feu_ of his day."

                         *  *  *  *  *

"You ask me how I came to invent crêpes Suzette," said Hyman
Shrink, opening his vest. "I am telling you."

"I was a stranger in town and so was the Prince of Wales, then
known as King Edward VII to his intimates. He asked me why I
didn't make a pancake which would taste like an orange, only with
a pancake flavor.

"'Why don't _you?_'" I asked him right back. "But finally he
wheedled me into doing it, and that is how crêpe Suzettes were

                         *  *  *  *  *

A man who was arrested at the corner of Sixth ave., New York, and
Michigan blvd., Chicago, yesterday, on the charge of being too
alert-looking, told the jail matron that he was the inventor of
crêpes Suzette.

"I was King Edward at the time," he replied, "and it seemed to be
the only thing to do. Suzette was one swell gal."

                         *  *  *  *  *

As a matter of fact, _I_ invented crêpes Suzette, and I did it by
getting so gosh-darned sick of old-fashioned wheatcakes that
everything went black before my eyes, and when I came to--there
were crêpes Suzette.

King Edward VII had nothing to do with it.

Artist's Model Succumbs!

A strange case has just come to light involving an artist's model
in London, who, to date, has not been able to drive one man mad.
She hasn't been able even to drive one man to drink. The police
are working on it now.

Dorine LaBoeuf was the only daughter of a poor laborer, and was
born in a thatched hut, or hutched thatch, in Normandy. Or
hatched thutch.

She was noted for her beauty, even in those days--which will give
you some idea. Later she married and settled down in Lyons and
never went to London at all. So, you will see, we have started
off with the wrong girl. She has nothing to do with the story at
all, and I don't know what I was thinking of.

                         *  *  *  *  *

The girl _I_ mean was born in Kansas City, but was fatter than
Dorine LaBoeuf as a child. She was so fat that they despaired of
her life at one time, but when she got to London (_how_ she got
to London is another story--and a better one) she calmed down a
little and got a job as an artist's model. She posed for
automobile accessories and moccasins.

Now, everyone knows that an artist's model is quite likely to
drive men mad, and end up as a dope feind. (_i_ before _e_,
except after _c_.) This girl, in spite of her great beauty and
collection of time-tables, couldn't even manage to end up as a
dope fiend. (The proofreader caught it this time.)

I hope I'm not boring you.

She posed and she posed and she posed, but nobody ever even
threatened to kill _her_, much less himself. It was the slowest
year for suicides that London had had since Chelsea became the
Greenwich Village of America.

                         *  *  *  *  *

We are now getting around slowly to the unpleasant fact that this
girl was not so hot-looking. She thought she was, and the man at
the desk thought she was fair (that's the way he phrased it:
"She's fair"), but that was where it ended.

I don't know why I'm telling you all this, except that you asked
me to tell you the story of the London model who didn't drive men
mad. You don't remember that, do you? I suppose that next you'll
be saying that you aren't even reading this.

Well, all fooling aside now! This girl is actually in London at
this minute, and I can prove it. And do you know who she is? She
is the wife of a very prominent man, who offered me a great deal
of money (three dollars) if I would keep it out of the papers.

But once a newspaperman, always a newspaperman, and a good
"story" (newspaper jargon for "cub") is more important than all
the money in the world. That's why newspapermen are so poorly

Those Dicta

Scientists would get a lot farther with me if they didn't
generalize so dogmatically. For every general dictum that they
issue, at least three exceptions can be found right in my own

A Soviet psychologist has come out with one which sends me into
paroxysms of rage every time I think about it.

"Brain sensitivity varies with the seasons," he says. "In the
Spring the sensitivity of the brain is greatest, which explains
why mankind always feels better in the Spring."

"Mankind," eh? Well, I, and at least eight other people that I
happen to know, feel lousy in the Spring and top-hole in the
Fall, and what do you know about that, you Communistic old
doctor, you? Just because _you_ happen to feel best in the Spring
it turns out that "mankind" feels best in the Spring.

I don't know anything about my brain sensitivity (and,
apparently, you don't, either), but I do know that I reach my low
point in May and am my peppiest in October. And I flatter myself
that I am a member of that group which is known, euphemistically,
as mankind. Not a member in very good standing, perhaps, but good
enough to have a vote on the seasons. And I didn't give you my
proxy, either.

Another dictum which makes me see red is the one issued by all
scientific analysts of humor, namely that the universal joke, the
one thing that all "mankind" thinks is funny, is the sight of
some one else slipping on a banana peel and falling. They always
use this banana peel as the example, which is a tip-off in
itself, on their own range of humor.

Now, I _don't_ happen to think that it is funny to see anyone
else slip on a banana peel and fall, and I know several other
people who don't, either. I don't claim that we are right in
this. All that I claim is that it is not the "universal joke."
And I'll thank the learned humor-analysts not to go around saying
that "everyone" laughs at it, and basing their theories on that

"Mankind feels best in the Spring." "Everyone laughs at a man
slipping on a banana peel." "All dreams are based on sex."
"Self-preservation is the first law of mankind." With possibly
fifty million exceptions.

The trouble with the specialists in what mankind does or does not
do is that they don't get around enough with mankind.

The Vigil

Not content with saddling me with a blood-thirsty bird, who sits
in the tree outside my window and threatens me, the Fates have
now visited me with a love-sick dog, who sits day and night on my
doorstep and mopes. It is too much.

Up until last week I had, as a house guest, a very respectable
and (I must admit) attractive girl dog, a spaniel of a light
mocha hue, who was not without a certain ingenuous flirtatious
charm. She made contacts in the neighborhood, and once there were
rumors of an engagement.

Nothing came of it, however, and last week her owner, concerned with
more mundane matters, took her away to visit the Yosemite, where, I have
no doubt, she divides her time between a contemplation of the grandeur
of Nature and minor affairs of the heart.

But she has left behind her a very sad and rather elderly
spaniel, who sits and sits on every doorstep that I have, waiting
for her return. He must belong to someone in the neighbor hood,
for I remember having seen him for a long time romping about with
the other boys. But he romps no longer, and he, apparently, never
goes home.

He has large, rheumy eyes, like a nonagenarian and he looks at me
as I pass in and out of the house with an accusing stare, as if
to say: "What have you done with her, you cad?" I have almost
come to believe, myself, that I am responsible for something.

He is not a physically attractive dog. He is on the brown and
white side and I think a little too large for a spaniel. From
lying about so much on our doorsteps and in the flower beds, he
is, by now, quite unkempt.

I have tried shooing him away, rather crossly. I have said to him
in so many words: "She is no longer here, my lad. My advice to
you would be to forget her. But, even if you cannot forget her,
do go home and cease haunting me."

But he doesn't go home. No matter how late I come in (and it was
almost midnight last night, I guess, because the sun was coming
up) there he is on the doorstep, looking at me with those
accusing eyes. It is getting on my nerves. God knows I have done
nothing to his girl.

I almost like the bird, now. At least, the bird comes right out
with it.

Haircut, Please!

Among other things that I am finding it increasingly difficult to
get, is a haircut. I just can't seem to bring myself to make the
first move.

In my more _soigné_ days I had no difficulty in walking right
into a barber shop every Tuesday (I chose Tuesday because it is
the day that _Variety_ comes out) and saying, in ringing tones,
"Haircut, please." Those were the days when I was known as "Beau

But gradually, as my life became more sedentary, I began to find
it difficult to leave the house until after the barber shops had
closed. Those that were open in the evening somehow didn't have
the knack of fixing my peculiar hair-line in back so that I
didn't look like a shepherd.

It got to be once every two weeks instead of once every week, and then
once every three weeks. Now, for the greater part of each month, I give
the impression of having just come from Oberammergau to look for a job.
In Hollywood, it is just taken for granted that I am working in "Mutiny
on the Bounty."

                         *  *  *  *  *

Several times I have tried having a barber come into my place and
cut my hair, since it is obvious that I am never going to be able
to get out to his place. This luxury, however, suffuses me with a
sense of decadence, and I feel that all I need is three or four
dancing girls to bring about the Revolution, with me at the
bottom of the pile. Also, it takes quite a lot of nerve to call
the barber.

The thing has now reached a stage where it is practically a
phobia. When, by some convulsion of Nature, I do find myself in
front of a barber shop in the daytime, I stand and look inside,
hoping that all the chairs are occupied.

If they are not, I sometimes wait until they are. Then I go on my
way with an easy conscience. I guess that the answer is that I
shall have to learn to cut my own hair. I am dreading that phase.

Flying Flea

There are some compensations for being in the middle generation.
The chances are that none of us will ever have to operate a
"flying flea" in our daily routine.

The "flying flea" is a wingless autogiro which is destined,
according to some people whom I do not trust, to be the means of
transportation for the business man of the future. (That is, if
there is any business in the future.)

In the "flying flea" the pilot can drive along the highway, as in
an automobile, until he reaches a field. Up to this point I
string along with the inventor. It is after the thing reaches the
field that I am wondering about.

"Here he will take off," says the prospectus, "aided by a new
jump feature recently perfected. Like a flea, the giro will jump
upward from 15 to 25 feet. Then, before it can drop back, the
propeller will take hold and normal flight begin."

                         *  *  *  *  *

The catch, as I see it, comes in that "before it can drop back."
If I know propellers, they are not always sure-fire on the first
spin. And, when you are 15 to 25 feet up in the air, the first
spin is more or less what counts. There really isn't time to fool
around with a second or third.

They should have left the words "before it can drop back" out of
the sales talk. They emphasize too strongly the possibility of
the Law of Gravitation's having its way with the giro. The
propeller may not work the first time, but the Law of Gravitation
is usually pretty reliable on the first crack out of the box.

I guess a man would feel pretty silly, after having made a leap
like a flea up into the air for 15 or 20 feet, to find that was
as far as he was going, and that the return trip to earth was
setting in almost immediately. The humiliation alone would be

However, being more or less wedded to the bicycle, I expect to be
spared any such dispiriting experience with a "flying flea" It
is comforting to be sure of something in this unpredictable


The discovery of phobias by the psychiatrists has done much to
clear the atmosphere. Whereas in the old days a person would say:
"Let's get the heck out of here!" today he says: "Let's get the
heck out of here! I've got claustrophobia!"

Most everybody knows the name of the phobia that he has
personally, and it is a great comfort to him. If he is afraid of
high places, he just says: "Oh, it's just my old acrophobia," and

If he is afraid of being alone he knows that he has monophobia
and has the satisfaction of knowing that he is a pathological
case. If he keeps worrying, in the middle of a meal, about the
possibility of being buried alive, he can flatter himself that he
has taphephobia, and that it is no worse than a bad cold.

                         *  *  *  *  *

But there are some honeys among the phobias that don't get much
publicity. There is, for example, phobophobia, which is the fear
of having a phobia, even though you may not have one at the
moment. This takes the form of the patient sitting in terror and
saying to himself: "Supposing I should be afraid of food, I would
starve to death!" Not a very pretty picture, you will admit.

Then there is kemophobia, or the fear of sitting too close to the
edge of a chair and falling off. People with kemophobia are
constantly hitching themselves back in their chairs until they
tip themselves over backward. This gives the same general effect
as falling off the chair frontward, so they find themselves in a

Then there is goctophobia, or the fear of raising the hand too
far and striking oneself in the face, with the possibility of
putting an eye out. These patients keep their hands in their
pockets all the time and have to be fed by paid attendants. A
nasty complication arises when they also have nictophobia, or
fear of paid attendants.

                         *  *  *  *  *

Some of the other little known phobias are octophobia, or fear of
the figure 8; genophobia, or the fear of being burned on
door-handles; kneebophobia, or the fear that one knee is going to
bend backwards instead of forwards some day, and optophobia, or
the dread of opening the eyes for fear of what they will see.

Tell us your phobias and we will tell you what you are afraid of.

The Camel Market

The New South Wales correspondent of the _International News
Service_ forwards the disquieting news that a man named Manning,
living in Newcastle, N. S. W., has just bought a camel at auction
for the small sum of $1.25, or five shillings. There are two ways
of looking at this.

Five shillings is not a good price for a camel, even though these
are not boom days. In fact, it comes under the head of starvation
prices. The camel market in New South Wales cannot be glutted. It
is more than likely that this was the only camel in the country.
What price Recovery if an exclusive camel drags down only five
shillings at an auction?

                         *  *  *  *  *

On the other hand, the affair has its brighter side. The camel
was the property of the Shire Council, which had impounded it.
(The correspondent doesn't say how it happened to be there for
the Shire Council to impound, but there may have been a previous
story which I didn't catch.) The fact that the camel was put up
at auction at all shows that the Shire Council felt that things
were picking up in the Newcastle district. They could have just
ignored it.

I wish that there had been more about the auction itself. Just
what is the selling talk for a camel in New South Wales? How
would an auctioneer go about stimulating frantic bidding?

"Gentlemen! Here is a camel!" Then what? "How much am I bid for
this marvelous camel? Denizen of the desert, the Arabian's best
friend, sometimes called 'the Crouching Horse of Sandyland!' How
much am I bid for this indispensable pet?"

                         *  *  *  *  *

"Look at him, gentlemen! Mount him if you wish! . . . No, my good
man, not that way--you face _front_--that's right! Is that a
mount worth owning? Tell the gentlemen what you see from up
there. The ocean? You hear, gentlemen? Mr. Manning says that he
can see the ocean from his seat on this camel! Is that something,
or isn't it?"

"Do I hear four shillings?"

_Mr. Manning (from the camel's back):_ "Four shillings!"

"Fine! Four shillings bid for this exquisite camel! Do I hear

_Mr. Manning:_ "Five shillings!"

"Good! Mr. Manning has bid five shillings against himself! Do I
hear six? . . . Going--going--at five shillings--_sold_ to Mr.
Manning for five shillings!"

_Mr. Manning pays his five shillings and rides off._

                         *  *  *  *  *

The next news story we shall look for is the one telling what Mr.
Manning did with the camel.

The Curse Shortage

The art of cursing people seems to have lost its tang since the
old days when a good malediction took four deep breaths to
deliver and sent the outfielders scurrying toward the fence to

The best we seem able to do nowadays is some sissy cliché like:
"May all your children be acrobats!" after which we laugh and buy
drinks all around to show that there is really no hard feeling.
We just don't seem to care any more whether anyone is properly
cursed or not.

                         *  *  *  *  *

The last real, cellophane-wrapped curse that came to my attention
was delivered at the start of the World War by an ardent and
zealous Greek patriot, and Eleutherios Venizelos was the lucky
boy. The patriot was cross at M. Venizelos because he was
pro-Ally, and this is how he showed his irritation:

"Against this traitor Venizelos we have invoked the following
injuries: the ulcers of job, the whale of Jonah, the leprosy of
Naaman, the bite of Death, the shivering of the dying, the
thunderbolt of Hell and the malediction of God and man."

"And," he might have added, "a bad head cold."

The good man went even farther, caught up in the spirit of the
thing. "We shall call for the same injuries upon those who at the
coming elections shall vote for the Traitor Venizelos, and we
shall further pray for their hands to wither and for them to
become deaf and blind."

                         *  *  *  *  *

It was obvious that the patriot was taking sides in the election,
or at any rate, had leanings. The funny part of it was that
Venizelos won out and, so far as anyone could notice with his
clothes on, contracted none of the troubles wished on him, not
even the whale of Jonah. He didn't do it so well in his recent
revolution, but he looked all right in the news reels. Maybe the
curse was on a long-term endowment plan, falling due in 1940.

At any rate we are getting nowhere with our present-day
milk-and-water maledictions. Either we ought to wish everybody
well or think up some original, four-motored curses. Perhaps the
telegraph companies could put their Fathers' Day men to work on
it and give us a list to choose from.

First Aid

Not being much of a haemophile and being fairly immune against
infection from anything smaller than B-B shot, I do not keep
abreast of the antiseptic procession. Unless a germ starts trying
to wrestle, I usually let him alone on me. I find that he goes
away sooner or later.

But when the subject of tetanus or sunburn or medicine chests
creeps into a dinner conversation, as it often does just before
the salad, I am appalled at my medieval faith in what seems to be
witches' brews and black magic. All of my little cure-alls have
evidently been discredited as long ago as March, 1935.

                         *  *  *  *  *

I always take my tip on emergency remedies from those "in the
know." There was a time when anything that was cut had to be
dipped immediately in, let us say, "Cut-a-Mint." No first-class
medicine cabinet was without "Cut-a-Mint." So I lay in a stock of

This would be, perhaps, in June. By the following October, some
random investigator, looking through my medicine chest for dental
floss, would say in horror: "You don't use 'Cut-a-Mint,' do you?
Didn't you know that it actually _spreads_ cuts? Didn't you read
the latest bulletin of the Bleeders' Research Division?"

Well, I have so much Latin to read during the week that I hadn't
got around to the bulletin, but I am willing to take any expert
advice (which is why 1929 was such a bad financial year for me,
having been a Virgo child), so I would throw away all my
"Cut-a-Mint" and lay in a stock of "Hypo-Haemo," the new
antiseptic. "They used it all during the War, you know," was the
recommendation, and certainly anything that they used all during
the War must have been O.K., because the War was a great success.

But by the time I had a chance to use my "Hypo-Haemo" some
investigators had got out a report exposing it as nothing but tea
with a little developing fluid in it, and the smart ones were off
on another tack--just plain chloride of lime with a wintergreen
odor. You rub it in.

                         *  *  *  *  *

I have about decided that when I cut myself, or cut anyone else,
I will just forget about it and let Nature take its course. I
suppose that they have found out something about Nature by now.
There is certainly plenty to find out.

No More Nightmares

There is a new treatment for nightmares (I never knew about the
old one as a matter of fact) which involves the use of perfumes,
will power and music, any of which you can procure at your
dealer's. Just ask for a "nightmare kit."

The nightmare victim lies down on a couch and relaxes--a tough
assignment right at the start for a nightmare victim. His face is
covered with four layers of gauze, muffling nose, mouth, eyes and
ears. So far it looks as if we were on the wrong track.

But, get this! Jasmine and tuberose perfumes are then dropped on
the gauze and symphony music is played. If the symphony orchestra
happens to be out on tour at the time or you haven't got enough
chairs in the house, chamber music will do. Someone could even
just hum a symphony, I suppose.

                         *  *  *  *  *

The patient then becomes somnolent, according to the prospectus,
although what probably happens is that he is smothered into
insensibility. He is supposed to run through a routine of
day-dreams, carefully selected in advance, retracing the ideals
of the patient's youth, such as playing shortstop for the Red Sox
or running a canoe rental landing.

He lies in this state for half or three-quarters of an hour, with
a soft gong sounding from time to time. (Quite a lot of props are
needed for this nightmare cure. It is strictly a rich man's
treatment.) The gong is the signal to change dreams. No matter
where you are in the action of one day-dream you change to
another when the gong sounds. This, I should think, would cause
neurasthenia and general debility, but I guess the doctors know

One of the changes is the conscious introduction of the nightmare
itself. The patient forces his imagination to go through with the
nightmare, daring it to do its worst. The jasmine and tuberose
are, in the meantime, getting in their work, but the symphony
orchestra has knocked off at five and gone home.

                         *  *  *  *  *

This treatment is not only for bad dreams, but "depression
insomnias, anxiety, moderate stupors and confusion." I'll take a
book of ten tickets for treatments for confusion, please, with an
extra hour on Saturdays for a moderate stupor.

Ominous Announcements

To the man who has been out late the night before, or even to
just the nervous man who winces at unusual commotions, there is
no more upsetting announcement than: "The expressmen are here for
the trunks!"

Better never go away for the Summer than face the arrival of the
expressmen for the trunks on a jumpy morning. It isn't so much
what the expressmen do _after_ they get into the room. It is the
shock of the announcement that they are downstairs and on their
way up! It is like seeing a comet rushing toward the earth at a
million miles a second.

                         *  *  *  *  *

In the first place, the trunks are very likely not quite ready,
which makes for confusion, and confusion is just the thing you do
not want on that particular morning. "Above all things, no
confusion!" you have said, as you agreed to get up out of bed
that morning. "No confusion, and a minimum of crashing about,
please!" And here are the expressmen!

Then the trunks always seem to be too heavy for the helpers. They
must run across some pretty heavy trunks in their day's work and,
after all, it is their work and they knew what it was going to be
like when they went into it, but yours is evidently more than
even an expressman's helper could be expected to face. What have
you got in it--rocks?

This attitude on their part does not help you in your own mental
strain. You feel every tug on their muscles, as if it were on
your own, and the sweat starts from your own forehead as they
finally grunt their way out of the room, neatly chipping off a
large segment from the door jamb. It would have been simpler to
have carried the trunk down yourself.

                         *  *  *  *  *

Another announcement of almost equal implications to the man who
dreads disruption of the regular, easy flow of household life is:
"The plumber's here to fix the bathroom!"

He couldn't wait until afternoon, when you might be feeling
better. Oh, no! He must come at crack of dawn, with all his
instruments and blow-torches, like a fiend from hell. The water
must be shut off, pipes must be hammered and banged, and, above
all, strangers will be poking their heads in and out of doors
where you are accustomed to seeing only familiar faces.

Strange faces peering out from the bathroom can be pretty
frightening if you are not in good health or spirits.

                         *  *  *  *  *

On the whole, it is better for the man who craves the Old Order
of Things on any particular morning to go down in the cellar and
sit. Then, probably, he will hear from the head of the stairs:
"The man's here to fix the hot-water heater!"

"East, West, Home's Best!"

In case your house or apartment has begun to pall on you and you
are getting sick of the same old molding and the same old windows
every day, just notify an agent that he may bring people around
to look the place over for rental. You'll want to stay then, just
out of spite.

People who are doing what is known as "looking at" an apartment
are unpleasant people in the very nature of things. They are
passing judgment on a place in which you have, for better or for
worse, been living for some time. 'There's an insult, right

In the first place they always come "to look" when you are in
your bare feet, or have half your face covered with lather. You
may have thought that you kept the place fairly tidy, but the
minute the "lookers" come in the door it takes on, even in your
eyes, the appearance of a house in one of William Faulkner's
novels, where poor mountain-whites have been inbreeding and
cooking pork chops for generations. You can tell that it wouldn't
surprise them to see an old sheep stagger out of a corner.

                         *  *  *  *  *

Then they begin. You try to pay no attention and to give them the
run of the place by themselves, but you hear them whispering, or
see them exchange glances. It's those glances that get your back
up. Whatever you may pretend to be doing while they are looking
(and it usually is something spurious, like winding your watch or
patting down sofa cushions which don't need patting) you are
burning up as you go through the motions.

"I suppose this is the dining-room," the woman says. (She
_supposes_ it is the dining room! It's got a dining-room table
and chairs and a sideboard in it, hasn't it? What does she
want--a steaming roast ox spread out for her?)

"It's not very light, is it?" (It's light enough for _you_, old
girl! You can stand a few shadows, with that pan!)

"It might be a little more cheerful with other curtains." (One of
the reasons you want to leave may have been the dark dining room,
but it now seems like a sun parlor to you. Other curtains,

                         *  *  *  *  *

Then they pass on into the kitchen, where they think they are out
of earshot.

"Helma would never work here, I know." (And who is Helma to
refuse to work in _your_ kitchen? Better cooks than Helma have
managed to whip themselves into working there.)

Then you hear an "Ugh!" No remark--just an "Ugh!" There certainly
is nothing in that kitchen to go "Ugh!" about, unless she has got
into the icebox and doesn't like cold beets. She'd better get out
of that icebox or you'll have the police on her. She's not
renting cold beets from you. She's not renting anything from you,
if you have your way. You're going to stay right there yourself.

As they come back surprising you at your pillow patting you ask
if they want to have you show them the bedrooms. The woman smiles
a nasty smile and says no, they won't put you to that trouble, as
they have almost decided (_an exchange of glances_) that the
place is not quite large enough for them. They have a little
girl, you see. Well, it must be a pretty big little girl to crowd
them, in a place this size. Pretty big, and pretty disagreeable.

                         *  *  *  *  *

So they leave, with polite thanks, which do not fool you for a
minute, and you come back into the dear little nest that you call
Home, and that you are going to call Home for at least another
year, God willing.

But you do take a little look into the kitchen to see what that
"Ugh!" was for.

No More Bananas

It is perhaps presumptuous for any one of us to say just what he
will or will not do with the remaining days allotted to him, but
I think that I may safely predict this: I am off bananas,

More in the nature of a whim than anything else (I really don't
need to take off _much_ weight possibly ten or twelve pounds here
and there, now that the bathing suit season is coming on), I
started last week on what is known as the "banana and skimmed
milk diet," or the Johns Hopkins glide. I am no longer on it,
but, even after a three days' work-out, I swear that if a banana
so much as crosses my path, I will shoot it down like a dog.

As I understood it, you took two bananas and a glass of skimmed
milk three times a day for two weeks. Then you bought yourself a
white mess-jacket and a wide black sash, and chased Clifton Webb
for the concavity prize. That was what I heard.

I started on a Monday morning with my two bananas and a glass of
skimmed milk. To make things harder, I never liked bananas very
much, anyway. Two-thirds of the way down even one banana I am
willing to concede defeat smilingly and give the rest to the
nearest monkey. Here were _two_ bananas. And two more for lunch.
And two more for dinner. I began to look upon the skimmed milk as
more or less of a cordial. Then my friends began:

"It isn't two bananas three times a day; it's three bananas twice
a day. I read it in a medical journal."

"You're crazy to do it that way. You are supposed to stay in bed
the whole two weeks and have the bananas rubbed into your arm."

"Bananas and skimmed milk! You know what that'll do to you, don't
you? Just turn your liver to rubber, that's all!"

"I know of a girl who tried that diet, and, when they cut her
open, they found that she was all coated over inside with banana

"I hope you're sure that the bananas are not too hard. The action of
milk on hard bananas when they get in your stomach together--well, go
ahead with it if you want to."

                         *  *  *  *  *

Now, all this time I was none too happy as it was, without
outside heckling on the subject. I began cutting my bananas up
into cubes for one meal, into diamonds for the next, and finally
I mashed them up with the milk into a cocktail shaker and gave
myself quite a party. That was the evening of the second day.

It was on the third day that I decided to call the whole thing
off. I got up in the morning and fell down while trying to get
into my slippers. As I ate my three-and-a-half-minute bananas,
with a dash of Worcestershire on them, and drank my cup of
steaming hot skimmed milk (dated), I glanced over the morning





Such were the headlines that greeted my eye. I put my paper down.
"Juliette," I called out as loudly as my enfeebled condition
would allow, "a plate of ham and eggs, wheat cakes and coffee,
_with_ cream! And if you have any of the roast pork left over
from last night, put a piece on the plate with the muffins. I
want to wrap it up in a banana-skin and take it to the office for
my lunch."

                         *  *  *  *  *

And that, kiddikins, is why you must never mention bananas in
front of Grandpa if you don't want a good, swift clout across
your pretty little mouths.

You Mr. Grown-Up!

One of the eight things which are supposed to be wrong with the
present generation of adults (not including the mere fact of
being in the present generation of adults, which is no small
handicap in itself) is that we didn't learn enough about the
science of physics when we were young. Well, it might as well be
that as anything.

All of this is being remedied in the coming generation, thanks to
the model laboratories where children are being taught to do
little tricks which involve the principle of light refraction and
the coefficient of linear expansion. The best of it is that they
don't know that they are being taught anything. They just think
they're playing with eggs and matches.

                         *  *  *  *  *

Here is a list of problems which any kiddie in the modern
laboratory can do. It is printed in the paper under the heading:
"Mr. GrownUp, Can You Do These Things?" Well, "Mr. Grown-Up"
isn't my name, in the first place. And I _can_ do these things,
in the second. I may mess things up a little, but I'll get them
done somehow. No child of six is going to get ahead of me.

_1. Can you place a shelled, hard-boiled egg in the mouth of a
milk bottle, and, without touching it, cause it to plop into the

Sure I can. I haven't figured it out yet, but I'll do it if I
have to use a robin's egg. (Ha-ha--you hadn't thought of that,
had you, Mr. SixYear-Old?)

_2. Tell why a stick, placed in water at an angle, appears to be
bent at the surface._

What makes you think it does? (That's telling 'em, eh, Fat Lady?)

_3. Produce a series of sounds like chimes with a piece of string
and a teaspoon._

Hit the teaspoon repeatedly with the piece of string until it
does give off a series of sounds like chimes. This is just a
matter of perseverance. It may take quite a while, but before
long you'll kid yourself into thinking you hear chimes, whether
you do or not. What's so great about chimes, anyway?

_4. Make innumerable images of one object with two mirrors._

That's easy.

_5. Tell why a balloon, only partly inflated, will apparently
fill up when held tightly over the top of a milk bottle filled
with steam._

Because it _does_ fill up. You didn't expect me to fall backward
at that one, did you?

_6. Make a lighted candle seem to be burning inside a glass of

Place the candle inside the glass of water and light it.

                         *  *  *  *  *

Well, that cleans up Mr. Grown-Up's part of the examination. Now
we'll ask Mr. Six-Year-Old some questions.

Sluggards, Ahoy!

At a recent so-called "hobby exhibit" in New York a young man
entered as his hobby a colony of ants. I remember thinking at the
time: "Well, sir----"

Presumably the young man, who was specializing in zoology, took
up ants as a hobby because he subscribed to the age-old theory
that Man has a great deal to learn from the ants. As a matter of
fact the only thing that I ever learned from an ant was not to
try to carry too big a crumb on my back or I would walk sideways.

And now along comes as smart an ant-watcher as Professor Julian
Huxley, who says that we humans can not only hold our own with
ants, but possibly might be able to slip over a couple of tricks
on them once in a while.

                         *  *  *  *  *

"One of the important differences between a human being and a
termite is the matter of size," says Professor Huxley, cracking
down with a dictum. "_Important_ difference," Professor? It's
colossal! It's the difference between my sleeping in my bed or an
ant's sleeping there, that's all.

"If we had ants as big as fox terriers and wasps as big as
eagles," continues Dr. Huxley--but there I left him. I don't want
to know what the end of that sentence was. And I don't want
anyone ever to begin a sentence that way again, either--at least,
not within my hearing.

The comforting thing about Prof. Huxley's lecture was the
statement that we really don't have to learn anything from the
ant. We can go our way and the ant can go his. Contrary to our
teachings, we do not have to be bending over all the time
studying how the ants do it.

                         *  *  *  *  *

Human beings and ants have a great many things in common,
however. They are the only organisms which have rubbish heaps,
slaves and domestic animals, and which make war with military
precision. Which brings me to a remark of Mrs. Patrick Campbell's,
as what doesn't?

Mrs. Campbell was sitting at dinner next to an ant-watcher, who
was telling, at considerable length, about the remarkable
organization of ant communities.

"They have teams and working units, with sub-divisions of labor,"
he said. "An ant community even has an army."

"No navy, I suppose?" asked Mrs. Campbell.

Which just about fixes the ants.

Sweet Solitude

Every man owes it to himself (and his friends) to get away
entirely alone in an isolated shack every so often, if only to
find out just what bad company he can be.

I don't mean just getting upstairs alone for an evening and
reading bound volumes of _Harper's Weekly_ without answering the
telephone. There's quite a lot of kick in that, and one ought to
come downstairs the next morning a better man.

What I mean is an isolation that would make Thoreau on Walden
Pond look like a bookmaker at a racetrack. I mean to have
somebody drive you out to a shack on a sand dune and then drive
off without you, calling back, "See you Thursday!" Let's
see--Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday--Hey,
Eddie--come back!

                         *  *  *  *  *

Here's the thing you always thought you'd like to do--get away
from it all! Just settle down absolutely alone by yourself and
check up. Take my advice and _don't ever check up!_ Take my
advice and settle down right in the middle of Piccadilly Circus
with a good book.

The first thing you do is to go around front and take a look at
the ocean. That's a big ocean all right. Just a shade _too_ big,
if you ask me. Now go around back and look at the moors. Yes,
sir--there are the moors! Now what?

Well, you might as well start in on that bag of books you
brought. You wanted to catch up on your reading. All right,
_catch_ up on it! Go ahead--_catch_ up! You're so fond of
reading--go ahead, read a book.

                         *  *  *  *  *

Let's see, the rest of Saturday, all of Sunday, Monday, Tuesday.
Don't go on that way, or you'll go crazy. Maybe you'll go crazy
anyway. Maybe you were crazy before, and now you're going sane.
Maybe that's the top of your head flying off--or was it just a
gull going by? Suppose it were a gull _with_ the top of your
head! What about a good, loud scream?

You could scramble yourself some eggs. That's a good idea, even
if it is only four o'clock in the afternoon. It's something to
do, at any rate. Scrambled eggs--ambled screggs--drangled
geggs--smammbled mreggs--grambled smeggs. So this is the mind
which God gave you to work things out with! This is called
"communing with yourself"!

Heigh-ho! Eggs over! My, my--here it is a quarter to five of a
Saturday (Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, _Thursday_)
afternoon. Almost bedtime. Why not? You're here for a rest.
Sleep, they say, knits up the raveled sleeve of care, the death
of each day's life, sore Labour's bath, balm of hurt minds, great
Nature's second course, chief nourisher in life's feast. Not bad!

                         *  *  *  *  *

Now would be a good time to think. Think about what? There must
be lots of things to think about. Name _one_! Life. . . . All
right, think about Life, you're so crazy about thinking. . . . I
guess that _was_ the top of your head that gull had. . . . And
will he be sore when he finds out that it isn't a fish!

Bed at five-thirty . . . eight good hours of sleep, and up with a
bound at one-thirty A. M. ready for another day! Anyway, it's
Sunday. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, _Thursday_! How about
scrambling some eggs? Scrambled eggs--ambled screggs . . . come,
come! No more of _that_!

A look at the ocean . . . a look at the moors . . . a look at the
bag of books . . . a look at yourself in the mirror . . . Boo! You
pretty thing! See how far you can stick your tongue out. . . . See
if you can raise one eyebrow and lower the other. . . . See if you
can look like Bismarck. . . . You _are_ Bismarck! . . . Hi-ya, Bismarck!


_(Editor's Note: This fragment of manuscript was found floating
in a bather off Santa Barbara.)_

Penguin Feud

There is bad news from the Toledo (Ohio) Zoo. Admiral and Jake,
the two penguin buddies, have had a falling out. They don't

Admiral and Jake were recently acquired from the South Polar
regions, where they were popular favorites and, according to
South Polar gossip, inseparable. They even insisted that they be
booked together at the Toledo Zoo, for, as Admiral said when
approached for the engagement: "Jake and I are like that!"

On arriving in Toledo they were put in the same pen (at their request),
and when Admiral went into the pool for his
morning-noon-afternoon-and-evening dip Jake went, too. Sometimes it was
Jake who went first, with Admiral following. (We mustn't give you the
idea that Jake was just the weakling of the combination. The two were
equally interested in each other.)

                         *  *  *  *  *

I am taking this all on the word of the Zoo authorities, but it
is also said that Admiral and Jake took strolls together around
the pen and discussed the latest news from the South Polar
regions in a temperate, though definitely intimate, manner. So
far as the police can learn, there was never a sign of personal
animosity, never a harsh word or an ugly look. There was even
some idea of changing their names to Damon and Pythias.

Then--like a bolt from the blue--something happened! Whether it
was something that Admiral said, or something that Jake didn't
say, no one will ever know. The fact remains that the other day
they definitely severed relations. No brawling, you understand.
Just an agreement to disagree.

Admiral now takes his plunge alone, and Jake waits until he is
through. Jake totters back and forth on his constitutional, and
Admiral watches from his club window until Jake has finished and
then whips out for a brisk walk alone. If they happen to meet
they look the other way. Jake bows slightly.

                         *  *  *  *  *

I took the liberty of interviewing them for my paper, but I must
confess that I could get nothing from either one. Both being
Harvard men, they preferred to let the matter go without
publicity. After all, what concern is it of the outside world?

I quote Jake first: "There is really nothing in the story at all.
Admiral and I are still great friends. It is true that we do not
see each other as much as we did, but what of that? I am sure
that I speak for Admiral as well as for myself when I say that,
should the occasion arise for a joint effort in behalf of some
common cause, I would gladly coöperate--to the extent of tending
my name with his."

Admiral was perhaps more personal: "Jake is--or was--too good a
friend of mine for me to imply that the reason for our split-up
was due to his insufferable curiosity. 'What are you doing
tonight?' 'Who was that you were talking to?' 'Where did you get
that fish?' I simply could not stand it, that's all! But please
do not print anything that would hurt Jake. I am sure that things
will be straightened out, and that we shall be back together
again before long. I mean too much to Jake for him to let me go."

                         *  *  *  *  *

When shown the above statement of Admiral's, Jake merely said:
"That's what _he_ thinks!"

In the meantime, the officials of the Toledo Zoo are in a
quandary. Should they put Admiral and Jake in two separate pens
or just let them work it out for themselves? Sometimes these
things go on for months, and, after all, Admiral and Jake were
hired as a team.

Coffee Versus Gin

What is it with these people at Cornell and other hotbeds of
medical research that they are always monkeying around with
experiments on liquor? They are always trying to find out how
many cubic centimeters of alcohol you can take before the
salivary glands start drying up, or how much black coffee it
takes to counteract the effects of a shot of gin. What do you

Presumably drinking is a carefree occupation; at any rate while
you are drinking. If it isn't a lark, it certainly isn't anything
else. It certainly isn't practical; we know that. I don't suppose
you would find one man in a hundred who has made a nickel by
taking a drink.

So why all this "cubic centimeter" talk? Why go at it so
hard-headedly? Why drag in the salivary glands? _We_ know they
dry up. You don't have to work in a Cornell laboratory to know

                         *  *  *  *  *

The particular experiments which have thrown me into such a
fever-heat of indignation had to do with the use of coffee as an
antidote for liquor. Seventy-five cubic centimeters of gin
followed immediately by ten grams of coffee in a half pint of
water and the gin had no effect. I've got a better scheme than
that. Don't take the seventy-five centimeters of gin at all.
Think of all the coffee you'd save!

And, incidentally, I consider coffee greatly overrated as a
stimulant: It has never kept me awake yet and it has never
started me off with a bang in the morning. A lot of people say:
"I'm no good in the morning until I've had my coffee." I'm no
good in the morning even _after_ I've had my coffee.

This old-wives' superstition that a cup of black coffee will "put
you on your feet" with a hangover is either propaganda by the
coffee people or the work of dilettante drinkers who get giddy on
cooking-sherry. A man with a _real_ hangover is in no mood to be
told "Just take a cup of black coffee" or "The thing for you is a
couple of aspirin." A real hangover is nothing to try out family
remedies on. The only cure for a real hangover is death.

                         *  *  *  *  *

On such rare occasions as I feel called upon to work late at
night, a cup of black coffee taken at midnight acts as an
instantaneous soporific. Two cups and I oversleep in the morning.
I like coffee, but it soothes me. And that is one thing I don't

The same people who tell you that a cup of black coffee will put
you "on your feet" are also the ones who go around recommending a
"good dose of castor oil" for a broken leg. (Why must it always
be a _good_ dose of castor oil? There is no such thing as a
"good" dose of castor oil.) They tell you how to cure hiccoughs,
and swear by a glass of hot milk in cases of insomnia. They are
nice, kindly people, but you will usually find that they lead
fairly sheltered lives. They don't get around much in real
suffering circles.

And Cornell or no Cornell, I still don't believe that ten grams
of coffee in a half pint of water will offset seventy-five cubic
centimeters of gin. How much is seventy-five cubic centimeters of
gin, anyway?

The Early Worm

Early rising has several points in its favor, such as getting
first crack at the bathroom and the best of the coffee brew, but
it is likely to lead to melancholia if you happen to be with a
week-end group of late sleepers. One can roam about alone just so
long, and then madness sets in.

The man who finds himself, either because of abundant health or
an uncomfortable bed, up early in the morning on a house-party or
boat trip, is at first suffused with a glow of superiority. If he
is in a position to take a swim alone in the crisp morning air he
becomes well-nigh insufferable, or would be if there were anyone
awake to suffer from his manner.

                         *  *  *  *  *

Then comes the tough part. He tiptoes around, listening at the
various doors to find out if anyone else is awake. Gad! how can
people sleep like that! There is nothing so brutish as someone
asleep when you are up and bathed and coffeed. It shakes one's
respect for human nature, that's what it does.

Waking people up deliberately is a little drastic, but there are
other ways of disturbing their slumber so that possibly they may
awaken by themselves. Stumbling over chairs, playing the radio,
or even a well-spotted coughing spell have been known to
accomplish this, but you can't count on it. Usually the best you
can get is the weak satisfaction of hearing someone roll over.

                         *  *  *  *  *

There are always four or five books on a shelf in a beach-house
or sailboat, but somehow they never seem to fit in with a 9 A.M.
mood. _The Golden Ostrich, Lost Heritage, Lady Alice's Compact_
and _Modern Clipper Ships_, all of them looking as if they had,
at some time, been dipped in brine, usually constitute the
lay-out, with possibly a copy of last week's _New Yorker_ with
the cover torn off.

Then it is when brooding sets in. You have no right to be off on
this junket, anyway, with all that work to do at home. The office
may be calling for you at this very minute. The house may be on
fire. Your embezzlement may have been discovered. What are you
making of your life, anyway?

Pacing up and down, smoking innumerable cigarettes, shadow
boxing--none of these expedients serve to calm you. But they wear
you out, so that by the time the other members of the party have
come peering out for breakfast you are overcome with a belated
drowsiness and sleep like a tired child during whatever
excitement may follow.

Truffle Poisoning

One of the easiest forms of pretense to break down is the
pretense of enthusiasm for exotic foods. Just bring on the exotic
foods. When a man opens his eyes very wide and says, "Boy, what I
couldn't do to a rasher of Japanese rollmops right now!" get him
a rasher of Japanese rollmops and see what he does to them. The
chances are that he can't gag down more than three mouthfuls.

Almost everyone has some little dish that he talks a lot about
liking, because it is either hard to get or hard to swallow. But
when they are confronted with their dream dish, it very often
turns out that nausea flies in the window.

                         *  *  *  *  *

I used to rave a lot about truffles. (Incidentally, while raving,
I mispronounced the word.) Now, all that I actually knew about
truffles was that they came as a fixing to several very tasty
dishes. I had never really tasted a truffle on the hoof, but I
had read about them, and talked as if all Paris knew of my
craving for them.

Then, one night, I had my bluff called. A friend, with whom I was
dining, said: "You ought to be very happy tonight. I see that
they have truffles _au nature_ on the menu." I said: "Oh, boy!"

There being very few things that I cannot eat with relish, I had
every reason to believe that I could carry on with a truffle,
even though I had never tasted one.

                         *  *  *  *  *

And I probably could have made a go of it if I had been in top
form that night. But I was more in the mood to be pampered, and a
plain truffle, although considered a delicacy, is not exactly
succulent. It turned out to be some thing on the order of edible
pumice, or a small, black sponge. It had no sauce. Just the
pumice. But I had to dig in and look as much like an ecstatic
epicure as I could, smacking my lips and making French gestures
with my free hand, while my companion watched with what I thought
I detected to be high glee.

I was cured of my truffle talk, but I still have several dishes
that I pretend to crave and which I hope I never have to eat
under close scrutiny. One of them is _tête de veau_, or the head
of a calf served with the brains, ears and eyes.

If you ever hear me raving about _tête de veau_, it will pay you
to order me one and watch.

My Untold Story


For the benefit of those who are not following the startling
"untold stories" of the down-fall of gun molls, scarlet women and
other celebrities they are currently unfolding in the newspapers,
I will give a brief resume of my own untold story, telling, in
every sordid detail, of how I came to New York, an innocent young
man from New England, and couldn't get myself seduced, even into
taking a glass of beer, for love nor money.

I arrived in New York (for my second try at it) on New Year's
Day, 1916. How memorable that day turned out to be in my life may
be judged from the fact that I just had to look it up. I would
have said that it was 1917.

I was inexperienced in the ways of the world, being only
twenty-six at the time and having seen nothing of life except
that in a very tough preparatory school, four years in a college
notorious for its high living, and a few more years knocking
about in a chain of New England mills. I had also worked for a
year in New York, before.

                         *  *  *  *  *

So, you will see, New Year's Day, 1916, found me wide-eyed and
innocent, although I had heard that New York was full of pitfalls
for young men like me. I remember asking the policeman, just
outside the Grand Central Terminal where I could find the nearest
pitfall. He told me that, it being a legal holiday, the pitfalls
were all closed.

I neither drank nor smoked, and my experience with women was
limited to being married and having one child. But I had heard
that, in New York, I should probably be forced to drink if I
wanted to keep up with the fast social set of the day. I was
prepared, however, to put up a stiff fight.

Being a reporter on a daily newspaper ("the worst reporter, even
for his age, in New York," was the affectionate epithet applied
to me), I was immediately plunged into the gay life of a
newspaper office and the clubs that went with it. Here I met such
well-known bon-vivants of the day as Franklin P. Adams, Charles
Hansom Towne, Deems Taylor, Arthur Folwell, Izzy Kaplan, Irwin
Edman--none of whom drank.

                         *  *  *  *  *

I shall never forget my first "party" in the famous "Tower Room"
of Franklin P. Adams, in the old _World_ building. The room had
been designed by the International Pulp and Paper Company, and
was a veritable bower of copy-paper, spittoons and wall calendars
for 1914. I knew, when "Frank," as he was called, invited me,
that I was about to see life at last. Poor little me!

Some of the fellows had already assembled, Folwell, Taylor, Edman
and Kaplan, and soon the cry was: "Everybody over to Dewey's for
lunch." Dewey's was a down-town restaurant, famous at that time
for its freshly made grape juice. They pressed the grapes right
in the window and you could go in and drink your fill. And you
may be sure that we all did!

I was a little disappointed at not being offered any hard liquor
so that I could refuse it, but the grape juice and steamed cod
were so delicious that I soon forgot my little worries and joined
in with the rest. It was soon time to go back to the paper to
work, where I was assigned to "cover" a banquet of the New
Hampshire Society, which was being held that evening at the old
Waldorf-Astoria! It was my first big assignment!


On being told that I was no longer a reporter on the _Tribune_
(that would be the old _Tribune_, introduced by P. T. Barnum into
this country with great success at Castle Garden, now the
Aquarium) I was in a quandary, as you may well imagine. I had
been two years in New York, associating with a group of men who
were, for the most part, teetotallers, and I had not even learned
to drink. Neither could I inhale very well.

I didn't tell Mama that I had lost my job, as Mama was up in New
England, and I had no one to go to with my troubles except
several wealthy men who had offered to lend me money. I hated to
accept money from men, however, as you know how that looks when
it comes out in the papers at the trial. So I compromised by
borrowing a hundred from one, two hundred from another, and fifty
cents from a third. I shall never forget their kindness.

                         *  *  *  *  *

Fortunately for me, one of them also got me a position as
press-agent which paid twice as much as my old newspaper job had
paid and threw me at once into the maelstrom of theatrical life
on Broadway. Here, at last, it looked as if my dreams of being
seduced into some form of wickedness were coming true. You know
that theatrical crowd in New York! Hot dickety!

If I were to list all the famous people I met in my life in the
theatre, you wouldn't believe me. William A. Brady (my employer);
Mrs. William A. Brady (Grace George); A. O. Brown (at that time
manager of the Playhouse); Charlie, the carriage-starter; Miss
Healy; Julius Cohen (at that time representative of the
theatrical advertising agency, now dramatic critic of the _New
York Journal of Commerce_); and Lionel Atwill. Here was life with
a vengeance for poor little me!

I told Mama that I was working for the B. R. T., as I didn't want
her to worry. To this day she doesn't know that I was in the
employ of a theatrical producer. Neither does the theatrical

                         *  *  *  *  *

My office was on the top floor of the Playhouse in the famous
"Tower Room." Here I sat all day, amid piles and piles of old
newspapers and photographs of road companies of Mr. Brady's _Way
Down East_, and typed out stories about how Bernstein came to
write _L'Elevation_, the play which Miss George was doing at that
time. I also wrote some stories about _The Man Who Came Back_,
which was then on the road. The theatre was "getting me," I could
tell that.

They didn't like to have me backstage much, but I used to hang
around the box-office quite a bit, as I felt that there I was
getting a little closer to the smell of grease paint and "the
world of make-believe." Mr. Brown was also very good company, and
I had no one to talk to up in the famous "Tower Room."

At last, however, Mr. Brown's patience wore out, as the
box-office was very small, and, finally, on one matinee day, he
asked me why I didn't get out of the way. I had no good answer to
this, so I went over to the Capehart Theatrical Advertising
Agency and talked with Julius Cohen for a little while.

                         *  *  *  *  *

I think that Mr. Brown regretted his brusqueness a little, for he
was really very kindhearted, and one Saturday night he said to
me, smiling: "The show closes next Saturday night. You close

So that ended my Broadway career for a while, and still I had not
been seduced. In all my stay among "the white lights" (two
months) I had spoken to only one woman, Miss Healy, up in the
office. She was very nice. As Miss George was always very busy, I
had met no actresses.

So far, New York had not got its talons into me.


As I walked out of the Playhouse that cold November night, a
discharged press-agent, I realized that I was not only broke but,
what was worse, unsullied. Neither Newspaper Row nor the Gay
White Way had even lifted a finger to drag me down. What was the
matter with me, anyway? Wasn't I pretty enough?

But around the corner lay the grim spectre of army life, which
has been the downfall of so many young men. My turn was coming,
although I did not know it. When I think, that, on that November
night of 1917, I had been able neither to get myself lured into
taking a drink nor into any wild orgies with women, I smile a wry
smile. For, by the end of the war, I had been no more successful.

Having been, at the time of the draft, the father of an
exceptionally dependent child, I was placed in what was known as
"Class 1-A," or the Sitting Pretty Group. However, it was an
imminent necessity for me to get a job of some kind in order to
keep a family alive; so a good friend (who shall be nameless, as
I have forgotten his name) got me a position (civilian) in
Washington, with the Aircraft Board. So, packing up milk
containers and diapers, we marched away from the Great City which
had failed so miserably as a Hell Hole.

My field headquarters during the war were in Room 911 of the
Munsey Building, Washington, D. C., in the very heart of the
district which presented so many pitfalls to the young man on
leave. On one corner was the New Willard Hotel, with no bar, and
on another corner the Capitol Lunch, where egg sandwiches at all
hours of the day and night were a constant temptation. The
trolley ride out to Chevy Chase each evening was also a rather
riotous experience.

The Aircraft Board having been given quite a bit of publicity
about airplanes which seem never to have been shipped to France,
my job was to keep all mention of airplanes out of papers until
the affair had blown over. So I sat in Room 911 all day and read
all the papers in the United States. It was gruelling work, and
sometimes I would come into my office with my shoes caked with
the red mud in which our Chevy Chase house was built, but I never
whimpered, if I do say so myself. I was waiting for someone to
offer me a drink, so that my morale could crack. But no one ever
did, darn it!

                         *  *  *  *  *

Among the famous war characters who didn't offer me a drink or
suggest that I step out with _mademoiselles_ were Mr. Payne and
Mr. Horton, who worked in the Aircraft Board office; Mr. Howard
Coffin, the chairman (who once inveigled me up to his house for
tea, which turned out to be tea), and the Washington newspaper
correspondents, who wouldn't have given me a drink if they had
had one. I also once talked to a man in uniform, but, as he was a
major-general, he said nothing about sin.

So there was poor little Me, having been through the mill of
newspaper work, theatrical work, and war work, and still as
virginal in the ways of the world as when I left Mama in
Worcester. I was, frankly, discouraged. Was I never to see Life?


As you may well imagine, I was, by this time, a pretty
discouraged boy at my vain attempts to taste even a dreg of life.
When a boy reaches the age of thirty without having had even a
glass of beer or a sly wink from a pair of roguish eyes, things
begin to look pretty black for his career as a man-about-town.

So it was with high excitement that I made my first trip to
Hollywood, the Sin Capital of the World. "Here it comes at last!"
I giggled to myself. "Life in the raw, and then down-down-down!"
I could hardly wait.

I shall never forget my first night in Hollywood. I had taken a
room at a hotel, and with me was Marc Connelly, a tea merchant,
who had knocked around the world quite a bit, and George Jessel,
a romantic actor of that period (1926). We had dined wisely, but
not very well, and were in the mood for about three-quarters of
an orgy. The only trouble was that we were all just a little
sleepy. At first, that California air gets you that way.

                         *  *  *  *  *

Mr. Jessel said that he knew a beautiful girl that he would call
up. "We'll have a million laughs," he said. A million laughs
wasn't my idea of what constituted a Hollywood orgy, but I
figured it out that everyone didn't necessarily have to laugh all
the time.

He called the number of the beautiful girl, and while he was
waiting he reassured us again. "She's the most beautiful girl you
ever saw," he said. Then, after a long wait, he added, "She's so
beautiful she isn't at home!"

So he called another number, that of a well-known movie actress.
My heart went like a tackhammer! A movie actress! She turned out
to be at home, but just about to go to bed. "On the set at nine
tomorrow, you know," she said.

While George called some other actresses' numbers, Marc and I
tried to see who could recall the oldest popular song. It was
great fun! Then, all of George's numbers being either out or on
the point of going to bed, we hit upon a great plan for the rest
of the evening.

"Let's go over to Henry's and get an egg sandwich!" said Marc.
Like a flash we were off, and ten o'clock saw us in the middle of
our second egg sandwich, washed down with an equal number of
beakers of milk. (Henry's was the only place in Hollywood that
stayed open after nine-thirty, so we were in great good luck to
find it.)

And so it went during my whole stay in the Movie Capital. Work
all day with Ray Griffiths, who didn't drink and who kept
bachelor quarters at the Los Angeles Athletic Club ("open house,"
we called it), dinner at six-thirty and bed at nine-thirty,
reading last Thursday's New York paper from cover to cover. I
gained eleven pounds and forgot how to inhale cigarets. (It is a
funny thing, but, once I had lost the knack of inhaling, I lost
interest in cigarets, and have never smoked them since.)

                         *  *  *  *  *

I met lots of movie actors and actresses, but I guess that I got
into the wrong set, for they were all crazy about tennis and
early rising. The nearest I got to temptation was once when I
went out of the movie colony to Santa Barbara to be best man at
Donald Ogden Stewart's wedding and got water on the knee. But I
did that all by myself. Nobody tempted me. Sometimes now I think
of those quiet evenings in Hollywood under the reading lamp and
wonder if it wouldn't be better if I had stayed there among the
orange juice.


Paris! What magic lies in those words!

I could hardly sleep on my first day in Paris, but, as there was
nothing much else to do, I turned in at about three in the
afternoon, shortly after the arrival of the boat-train, and
managed to tear off about fifteen hours. (It had been a very
rough crossing, during which I had met no interesting people, and
I was dead tired.)

The next morning the sun rose gray and foggy, and I put in a
long-distance call for America, just to talk with Mama. (Mama had
not come along on the trip, being no fool.)

Then--what to do? The Galleries Lafayette, Cook's, the American
Express, all these were names to conjure with. So I conjured with
them for a while and then went out for a walk. This broke up the
day nicely, especially as it began to rain, and I had to run for
it, I can tell you. As our hotel was on a side street, through
which no one had passed since the days of the Commune, I,
fortunately, had plenty of room in which to run. But was I out of
breath! Hotdickety!

                         *  *  *  *  *

That evening I was all agog, except for my dress tie, which I had
lost somewhere. We were going to the Folies Bergères! Here
anything might happen. I had always heard that the Folies
Bergères was very immoral, and there was a pretty good chance
that I should be grabbed up by one of those French _cocottes_ and
dragged off to some hell-hole, willy _and_ nilly. I might not
have made much of a hit with the _demi-monde_ in my own country,
but I saw no way out of a complete collapse of my moral fibre
now. I even dashed a bit of cologne on my lapel.

After I got back from the Folies Bergères I read a copy of
_Collier's_ that I had bought on a newsstand and had a really
good night's sleep. There was a corking good story in _Collier's_
about a man who owned a sheep-dog that barked when the house
caught fire. I shall never forget it.

Day followed day in Paris, a typically French trick. In my desire
to see life I went to the Louvre, but it was closed on account of
the theft of the Mona Lisa, which had occurred just that week. I
went to Napoleon's Tomb, but there was nothing doing there. It
was _la grande semaine_ in Paris, and the chestnut trees were all
dying off. _Zut alors!_

                         *  *  *  *  *

My nights were spent in looking for adventure, which I found in
various forms. A place called Mitchell's, on Montmartre, served
wheatcakes and sausages just like those in New York, and over on
the Left Bank, the home of the Bohemians, I found a man from
Worcester who was studying book-binding and wanted to know all
about the home folks. He introduced me to a drink which was
something like iced tea without the kick. The ham sandwiches were
also pretty bad.

July 1 in Paris! Would wonders never cease? Would I ever get back
to New York?


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