This "The Sunny Side" was written by A. A. (Alan Alexander) Milne in English language.
The Sunny Side
A. A. (Alan Alexander)
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Title: The Sunny Side
Author: A. A. Milne
September 12, 2004 [EBook #13441] Last updated: January 24, 2012
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THE SUNNY SIDE
BY A. A. MILNE
Author of "If I May," "The
Dover Road," "Mr. Pim Passes By," etc.
TO OWEN SEAMAN
MEMORY OF NINE HAPPY YEARS AT THE "PUNCH" OFFICE
INTRODUCTION TO THE AMERICAN EDITION
I. ORANGES AND LEMONS
II. MEN OF
III. SUMMER DAYS
V. HOME NOTES
VI. A FEW GUESTS
My publisher wants me to apologize for--"introduce" was the kindly
word he used--this collection of articles and verses from _Punch_. I do so with pleasure.
_Among the many interests of a long and varied career_--
No, I don't think I shall begin like that.
_It was early in 1871_--
Nor like that.
Really it is very difficult, you know. I wrote these things for
a number of years, and--well, here they are. But just to say "Here they are" is to be too informal
for my publisher. He wants, not a casual introduction, but a presentation. Let me tell you a little
When war broke out, I had published three of these books in England, the
gleanings of nine years' regular work for _Punch_. There are, I understand, a few Americans
who read _Punch_, and it was suggested to me that a suitable collection of articles from these
three books might have some sort of American sale. So I made such a collection, leaving out the
more topical and allusive sketches, and including those with a more general appeal. I called the
result "Happy Days"--an attractive title, you will agree--and in 1915 a New York publisher was
found for it.
This is a funny story; at least it appeals to _me_; so I won't remind myself of the
number of copies which we sold. That was tragedy, not comedy. The joke lay in one of the few
notices which the book received from the press. For a New York critic ended his review of
"Happy Days" with these immortal words:
"_Mr. Milne is at present in the trenches facing the
German bullets, so this will probably be his last book_."
You see now why an apology is
necessary. Here we are, seven years later, and I am still at it.
But at any rate, it is the last of this
sort of book. As I said in a foreword to the English edition: "It is the last time because this sort of
writing depends largely upon the irresponsibility and high spirits of youth for its success, and I
want to stop before (may I say 'before'?) the high spirits become mechanical and the
irresponsibility a trick. Perhaps the fact that this collection is final will excuse its air of
scrappiness. Odd Verses have crept in on the unanswerable plea that, if they didn't do it now,
they never would; War Sketches protested that I shouldn't have a book at all if I left them out; an
Early Article, omitted from three previous volumes, paraded for the fourth time with such a
pathetic 'I suppose you don't want _me_' in its eye that it could not decently be rejected. So here
they all are."
One further word of explanation. You may find the first section of this book--
"Oranges and Lemons"--a little difficult. The characters of it are old friends to that limited public
which reads my books in England; their earlier adventures have been told in those previous
volumes (and purposely omitted from "Happy Days" as being a little too insular). I feel somehow
that strangers will not be on such easy terms with them, and I would recommend that you
approach them last. By that time you will have discovered whether you are in a mood to stop
and listen to their chatter, or prefer to pass them by with a nod.
THE SUNNY SIDE
ORANGES AND LEMONS
"Dear Myra," wrote Simpson at the beginning of
the year--"I have an important suggestion to make to you both, and I am coming round to-
morrow night after dinner about nine o'clock. As time is so short I have asked Dahlia and Archie
to meet me there, and if by any chance you have gone out we shall wait till you come back.
"P.S.--I have asked Thomas too."
"Well?" said Myra eagerly, as I
gave her back the letter.
In deep thought I buttered a piece of toast.
"We could stop Thomas," I
said. "We might ring up the Admiralty and ask them to give him something to do this evening. I
don't know about Archie. Is he--"
"Oh, what do you think it is? Aren't you excited?" She sighed
and added, "Of course I know what Samuel _is_."
"Yes. Probably he wants us all to go to the
Zoo together ... or he's discovered a new way of putting, or--I say, I didn't know Archie and
Dahlia were in town."
"They aren't. But I expect Samuel telegraphed to them to meet him under
the clock at Charing Cross disguised, when they would hear of something to their advantage.
Oh, I wonder what it is. It _must_ be something real this time."
Since the day when Simpson
woke me up at six o'clock in the morning to show me his stance-for-a-full-wooden-club shot I
have distrusted his enthusiasms; but Myra loves him as a mother; and I--I couldn't do without
him; and when a man like that invites a whole crowd of people to come to your flat just about the
time when you are wondering what has happened to the sardines on toast--well, it isn't polite to
put the chain on the door and explain through the letter-box that you have gone away for a week.
"We'd better have dinner a bit earlier to be on the safe side," I said, as Myra gave me a parting
brush down in the hall. "If any further developments occur in the course of the day, ring me up at
the office. By the way, Simpson doesn't seem to have invited Peter. I wonder why not. He's
nearly two, and he ought to be in it. Myra, I'm sure I'm tidy now."
"Pipe, tobacco, matches, keys,
"Everything," I said. "Bless you. Goodbye."
"Good-bye," said Myra lingeringly. "What do
you think he meant by 'as time is so short'?"
"I don't know. At least," I added, looking at my
watch, "I do know. I shall be horribly late. Good-bye."
I fled down the stairs into the street, waved
to Myra at the window ... and then came cautiously up again for my pipe. Life is very difficult on
the mornings when you are in a hurry.
At dinner that night Myra could hardly eat for excitement.
"You'll be sorry afterwards," I warned her, "when it turns out to be nothing more than that he has
had his hair cut."
"But even if it is, I don't see why I shouldn't be excited at seeing my only
brother again--not to mention sister-in-law."
"Then let's move," I said. "They'll be here directly."
Archie and Dahlia came first. We besieged them with questions as soon as they appeared.
"Haven't an idea," said Archie, "I wanted to bring a revolver in case it was anything really
desperate, but Dahlia wouldn't let me."
"It would have been useful too," I said, "if it turned out to
be something merely futile."
"You're not going to hurt my Samuel, however futile it is," said Myra.
"Dahlia, how's Peter, and will you have some coffee?"
"Peter's lovely. You've had coffee, haven't
"Better have some more," I suggested, "in case Simpson is merely soporific. We
anticipate a slumbering audience, and Samuel explaining a new kind of googlie he's invented."
Entered Thomas lazily.
"Hallo," he said in his slow voice. "What's it all about?"
"It's a raid on the
Begum's palace," explained Archie rapidly. "Dahlia decoys the Chief Mucilage; you, Thomas,
drive the submarine; Myra has charge of the clockwork mouse, and we others hang about and
sing. To say more at this stage would be to bring about a European conflict."
"I bet he's having us on," said Thomas gloomily, as he stirred his coffee.
There was a
hurricane in the hall. Chairs were swept over; coats and hats fell to the ground; a high voice
offered continuous apologies--and Simpson came in.
"Hallo, Myra!" he said eagerly. "Hallo, old
chap! Hallo, Dahlia! Hallo, Archie! Hallo, Thomas, old boy!" He fixed his spectacles firmly on his
nose and beamed round the room.
"We're all here--thanking you very much for inviting us," I
said. "Have a cigar--if you've brought any with you."
Fortunately he had brought several with him.
"Now then, I'll give any of you three guesses what it's all about."
"No, you don't. We're all waiting,
and you can begin your apology right away."
Simpson took a deep breath and began.
lent a villa," he said.
There was a moment's silence ... and then Archie got up.
said to Myra, holding out his hand. "Thanks for a very jolly evening. Come along Dahlia."
say, old chap," protested Simpson.
"I'm sorry, Simpson, but the fact that you're moving from the
Temple to Cricklewood, or wherever it is, and that somebody else is paying the thirty pounds a
year, is jolly interesting, but it wasn't good enough to drag us up from the country to tell us about
it. You could have written. However, thank you for the cigar."
"My dear fellow, it isn't
Cricklewood. It's the Riviera!"
Archie sat down again.
"Samuel!" cried Myra. "How she must love
"I should never lend Simpson a villa of mine," I said. "He'd only lose it."
"They're some very
old friends who live there, and they're going away for a month, and the servants are staying on,
and they suggested that if I was going abroad again this year--"
"How did the servants know
you'd been abroad last year?" asked Archie.
"Don't interrupt, dear," said Dahlia. "I see what he
means. How very jolly for you, Samuel."
"For all of us, Dahlia!"
"You aren't suggesting we shall
all crowd in?" growled Thomas.
"Of course, my dear old chap! I told them, and they're delighted.
We can share housekeeping expenses, and it will be as cheap as anything."
"But to go into a
stranger's house," said Dahlia anxiously.
"It's _my_ house, Dahlia, for the time. I invite you!" He
threw out his hands in a large gesture of welcome and knocked his coffee-cup on to the carpet;
begged Myra's pardon several times; and then sat down again and wiped his spectacles
Archie looked doubtfully at Thomas.
"Duty, Thomas, duty," he said, thumping his
chest. "You can't desert the Navy at this moment of crisis."
"Might," said Thomas, puffing at his
Archie looked at me. I looked hopefully at Myra.
"Oh-h-h!" said Myra, entranced.
looked at Dahlia. Dahlia frowned.
"It isn't till February," said Simpson eagerly.
"It's very kind of
you, Samuel," said Dahlia, "but I don't think--"
Archie nodded to Simpson.
"You leave this to me,"
he said confidentially. "We're going."
ON THE WAY
"Toulon," announced Archie, as the train
came to a stop and gave out its plaintive, dying whistle. "Naval port of our dear allies, the
French. This would interest Thomas."
"If he weren't asleep," I said.
"He'll be here directly," said
Simpson from the little table for two on the other side of the gangway. "I'm afraid he had a bad
night. Here, _garcon_--er--_donnez-moi du cafe et_--er-" But the waiter had slipped past him
again--the fifth time.
"Have some of ours," said Myra kindly, holding out the pot.
much, Myra, but I may as well wait for Thomas, and--_garcon, du cafe pour_--I don't think he'll
be--_deux cafes, garcon, s'il vous_--it's going to be a lovely day."
Thomas came in quietly, sat
down opposite Simpson, and ordered breakfast.
"Samuel wants some too," said Myra.
looked surprised, grunted and ordered another breakfast.
"You see how easy it is," said Archie.
"Thomas, we're at Toulon, where the _ententes cordiales_ come from. You ought to have been
up long ago taking notes for the Admiralty."
"I had a rotten night," said Thomas. "Simpson fell out
of bed in the middle of it."
"Oh, poor Samuel!"
"You don't mean to say you gave him the top
berth?" I asked in surprise. "You must have known he'd fall out."
"But, Thomas dear, surely
Samuel's just falling-out-of-bed noise wouldn't wake you up," said Myra. "I always thought you
slept so well."
"He tried to get back into _my_ bed."
"I was a little dazed," explained Simpson
hastily, "and I hadn't got my spectacles."
"Still you ought to have been able to see Thomas
"Of course I did see him as soon as I got in, and then I remembered I was up above. So I
"It must be rather difficult climbing up at night," thought Dahlia.
"Not if you get a
good take-off, Dahlia," said Simpson earnestly.
"Simpson got a good one off my face," explained
"My dear old chap, I was frightfully sorry. I did come down at once and tell you how
sorry I was, didn't I?"
"You stepped back on to it," said Thomas shortly, and he turned his
attention to the coffee.
Our table had finished breakfast. Dahlia and Myra got up slowly, and
Archie and I filled our pipes and followed them out.
"Well, we'll leave you to it," said Archie to the
other table. "Personally, I think it's Thomas's turn to step on Simpson. But don't be long, because
there's a good view coming."
The good view came, and then another and another, and they
merged together and became one long, moving panorama of beauty. We stood in the corridor
and drank it in ... and at intervals we said "Oh-h!" and "Oh, I say!" and "Oh, I say, _really_!" And
there was one particular spot I wish I could remember where, so that it might be marked by a
suitable tablet--at the sight of which Simpson was overheard to say, "_Mon Dieu_!" for (probably)
the first time in his life.
"You know, all these are olive trees, you chaps," he said every five
minutes. "I wonder if there are any olives growing on them?"
"Too early," said Archie. "It's the
sardine season now."
It was at Cannes that we saw the first oranges.
"That does it," I said to
Myra. "We're really here. And look, there's a lemon tree. Give me the oranges and lemons, and
you can have all the palms and the cactuses and the olives."
"Like polar bears in the arctic
regions," said Myra.
I thought for a moment. Superficially there is very little resemblance
between an orange and a polar bear.
"Like polar bears," I said hopefully.
"I mean," luckily she
went on, "polar bears do it for you in the polar regions. You really know you're there then. Give
me the polar bears, I always say, and you can keep the seals and the walruses and the
penguins. It's the hallmark."
"Right. I knew you meant something. In London," I went on, "it is
raining. Looking out of my window I see a lamp-post (not in flower) beneath a low, grey sky. Here
we see oranges against a blue sky a million miles deep. What a blend! Myra, let's go to a fancy-
dress ball when we get back. You go as an orange and I'll go as a very blue, blue sky, and you
shall lean against me."
"And we'll dance the tangerine," said Myra.
But now observe us
approaching Monte Carlo. For an hour past Simpson has been collecting his belongings. Two
bags, two coats, a camera, a rug, Thomas, golf-clubs, books--his compartment is full of things
which have to be kept under his eye lest they should evade him at the last moment. As the train
leaves Monaco his excitement is intense.
"I think, old chap," he says to Thomas, "I'll wear the
coats after all."
"And the bags," says Thomas, "and then you'll have a suit."
Simpson puts on the
two coats and appears very big and hot.
"I'd better have my hands free," he says, and straps the
camera and the golf-clubs on to himself. "Then if you nip out and get a porter I can hand the
bags out to him through the window."
"All right," says Thomas. He is deep in his book and looks
as if he were settled in his corner of the carriage for the day.
The train stops. There is bustle,
noise, confusion. Thomas in some magical way has disappeared. A porter appears at the open
window and speaks voluble French to Simpson. Simpson looks round wildly for Thomas.
"Thomas!" he cries. "_Un moment_," he says to the porter. "Thomas! _Mon ami, it n'est pas_--I
say, Thomas, old chap, where are you? _Attendez un moment. Mon ami_--er--_reviendra_--" He
is very hot. He is wearing, in addition to what one doesn't mention, an ordinary waistcoat, a
woolly waistcoat for steamer use, a tweed coat, an aquascutum, an ulster, a camera and a bag
of golfclubs. The porter, with many gesticulations, is still hurling French at him.
It is too much for
Simpson. He puts his head out of the window and, observing in the distance a figure of such
immense dignity that it can only belong to the station-master, utters to him across the hurly-burly
a wild call for help.
"_Ou est_ Cooks's _homme_?" he cries.
The villa was
high up on the hill, having (as Simpson was to point out several times later) Mentone on its left
hand and Monte Carlo on its right. A long winding path led up through its garden of olives to the
front door, and through the mimosa trees which flanked this door we could see already a flutter
of white aprons. The staff was on the loggia waiting to greet us.
We halted a moment out of sight
of the ladies above and considered ourselves. It came to us with a sudden shock that we were a
very large party.
"I suppose," said Archie to Simpson, "they do expect all of us and not only you?
You told them that about half London was coming?"
"We're only six," said Myra, "because I've
just counted again, but we seem about twenty."
"It's quite all right," said Simpson cheerfully. "I
said we'd be six."
"But six in a letter is much smaller than six of us like this; and when they see
"Let's go back," I suggested, suddenly nervous. To be five guests of the guest of
a man you have never met is delicate work.
At this critical moment Archie assumed command.
He is a Captain in the Yeomanry and has tackled bigger jobs than this in his time.
"We must get
ourselves into proper order," he said. "Simpson, the villa has been lent to _you_; you must go
first. Dahlia and I come next. When we arrive you will introduce us as your friends, Mr. and Mrs.
Mannering. Then turning to Myra you say, 'Mr. Mannering's sister; and this,' you add, 'is her
"It will be difficult to account for Thomas," I said. "Thomas comes
at the end. He hangs back a little at first; and then if he sees that there is going to be any
awkwardness about him, he can pretend he's come on the wrong night, and apologize and go
"If Thomas goes, I go," said Myra dramatically.
"I have another idea," I said.
"Thomas hides here for a bit. We introduce ourselves and settle in, and have lunch; and after
lunch we take a stroll in the garden, and to our great surprise discover Thomas. 'Thomas,' we
say, '_you_ here? Dear old chap, we thought you were in England. How splendid! Where are
you staying? Oh, but you must stop with _us_; we can easily have a bed put up for you in the
garage.' And then--"
"Not after lunch," said Thomas; "before lunch."
"Don't all be so silly," smiled
Dahlia. "They'll wonder what has happened to us if we wait any longer. Besides, the men will be
here with the luggage directly. Come along."
"Samuel," said Archie, "forward."
In our new
formation we marched up, Simpson excited and rehearsing to himself the words of introduction,
we others outwardly calm. At a range of ten yards he opened fire. "How do you do?" he beamed.
"Here we all are! Isn't it a lovely--"
The cook-housekeeper, majestic but kindly, came forward
with outstretched hand and welcomed him volubly--in French. The other three ladies added their
French to hers. There was only one English body on the loggia. It belonged to a bull-dog. The
bull-dog barked loudly at Simpson in English.
There was no "Cook's homme" to save Simpson
this time. But he rose to the occasion nobly. The scent of the mimosa inspired him.
said, "_merci. Oui, n'est ce pas_! Delightful. Er--these are--_ces sont mes amis_. Er--Dahlia,
come along--er, _Monsieur et Madame Mannering_--er--Myra, _la soeur de Monsieur_--er--
where are you, old chap?--_le mari de la soeur de Monsieur._ Er--Thomas--er--" (he was carried
away by memories of his schoolboy French), "_le frere du jardinier_--er--" He wheeled round and
saw me; introduced me again; introduced Myra as my wife, Archie as her brother, and Dahlia as
Archie's wife; and then with a sudden inspiration presented Thomas grandly as "_le beau-pere
du petit fils de mes amis Monsieur et Madame Mannering_." Thomas seemed more assured of
his place as Peter's godfather than as the brother of the gardener.
There were four ladies; we
shook hands with all of them. It took us a long time, and I doubt if we got it all in even so, for
twice I found myself shaking hands with Simpson. But these may have been additional ones
thrown in. It was over at last, and we followed the staff indoors.
And then we had another
surprise. It was broken to us by Dahlia, who, at Simpson's urgent request, took up the position of
lady of the house, and forthwith received the flowing confidences of the housekeeper.
"Two of us
have to sleep outside," she said.
"Where?" we all asked blankly.
We went on to the loggia again,
and she pointed to a little house almost hidden by olive-trees in a corner of the garden below us.
"Oh, well, that's all right," said Archie. "It's on the estate. Thomas, you and Simpson won't mind
that a bit, will you?"
"We can't turn Samuel out of his own house," said Myra indignantly.
aren't turning him; he wants to go. But, of course, if you and your young man would like to live
Myra looked at me eagerly.
"It would be rather fun," she said. "We'd have
another little honeymoon all to ourselves."
"It wouldn't really be a honeymoon," I objected. "We
should always be knocking up against trippers in the garden, Archies and Samuels and
Thomases and what not. They'd be all over the place."
Dahlia explained the domestic
arrangements. The honeymooners had their little breakfast in their own little house, and then
joined the others for the day at about ten.
"Or eleven," said Thomas.
"It would be rather lovely,"
said Myra thoughtfully.
"Yes," I agreed; "but have you considered that--Come over this way a
moment, where Thomas and Simpson can't hear, while I tell you some of the disadvantages."
led her into a quiet corner and suggested a few things to her which I hoped would not occur to
the other two.
_Item_: That if it was raining hard at night, it would be beastly. _Item_: That if you
suddenly found you'd left your pipe behind, it would be rotten. _Item_: That if, as was probable,
there wasn't a proper bathroom in the little house, it would be sickening. _Item_: That if she had
to walk on muddy paths in her evening shoes, it would be--
At this point Myra suddenly caught
the thread of the argument. We went back to the others.
"We think," said Myra, "it would be
perfectly heavenly in the little house; but--" She hesitated.
"But at the same time," I said, "we
think it's up to Simpson and Thomas to be English gentlemen. Samuel, it's your honour."
was a moment's silence.
"Come along," said Thomas to Simpson, "let's go and look at it."
After lunch, clean and well-fed and happy, we lay in deck-chairs on the loggia and looked lazily
down at the Mediterranean.
"Thank you, Samuel, for bringing us," said Dahlia gently. "Your
friends must be very fond of you to have lent you this lovely place."
"Not fonder than we are,"
said Myra, smiling at him.
I found Myra in the hammock at the end of the
"Hallo," I said.
"Hallo." She looked up from her book and waved her hand. "Mentone on
the left, Monte Carlo on the right," she said, and returned to her book again. Simpson had
mentioned the situation so many times that it had become a catch-phrase with us.
reading on a lovely morning like this," I complained.
"But that's why. It's a very gloomy play by
Ibsen, and whenever it's simply more than I can bear, I look up and see Mentone on the left,
Monte Carlo on the right--I mean, I see all the loveliness round me, and then I know the world
isn't so bad after all." She put her book down. "Are you alone?"
I gripped her wrist suddenly and
put the paper-knife to her throat.
"_We_ are alone," I hissed--or whatever you do to a sentence
without any "s's" in it to make it dramatic. "Your friends cannot save you now. Prepare to--er--
come a walk up the hill with me."
"Help! Help!" Whispered Myra. She hesitated a moment; then
swung herself out of the hammock and went in for her hat.
We climbed up a steep path which
led to the rock-village above us. Simpson had told us that we must see the village; still more
earnestly he had begged us to see Corsica. The view of Corsica was to be obtained from a point
some miles up--too far to go before lunch.
"However, we can always say we saw it," I reassured
Myra. "From this distance you can't be certain of recognizing an island you don't know. Any small
cloud on the horizon will do."
"I know it on the map."
"Yes, but it looks quite different in real life.
The great thing is to be able to assure Simpson at lunch that the Corsican question is now
closed. When we're a little higher up, I shall say, 'Surely that's Corsica?' and you'll say, 'Not
_Corsica_?' as though you'd rather expected the Isle of Wight; and then it'll be all over. Hallo!"
We had just passed the narrow archway leading into the courtyard of the village and were
following the path up the hill. But in that moment of passing we had been observed. Behind us a
dozen village children now trailed eagerly.
"Oh, the dears!" cried Myra.
"But I think we made a
mistake to bring them," I said severely. "No one is fonder of our--one, two, three ... I make it
eleven--our eleven children than I am, but there are times when Father and Mother want to be
"I'm sorry, dear. I thought you'd be so proud to have them all with you."
"I _am_ proud of
them. To reflect that all the--one, two ... I make it thirteen--all these thirteen are ours, is very
inspiring. But I don't like people to think that we cannot afford our youngest, our little Philomene,
shoes and stockings. And Giuseppe should have washed his face since last Friday. These are
small matters, but they are very trying to a father."
"Have you any coppers?" asked Myra
suddenly. "You forget their pocket-money last week."
"One, two, three--I cannot possibly afford--
one, two, three, four--Myra, I do wish you'd count them definitely and tell me how many we have.
One likes to know. I cannot afford pocket-money for more than a dozen."
"Ten." She took a franc
from me and gave it to the biggest girl. (Anne-Marie, our first, and getting on so nicely with her
French.) Rapidly she explained what was to be done with it, Anne-Marie's look of intense rapture
slowly straightening itself to one of ordinary gratitude as the financial standing of the other nine
in the business became clear. Then we waved farewell to our family and went on.
the village, a thousand feet above the sea, we rested, and looked down upon the silvery olives
stretching into the blue ... and more particularly upon one red roof which stood up amid the grey-
"That's the Cardews' villa," I said.
Myra was silent.
When Myra married me she
promised to love, honour and write all my thank-you-very-much letters for me, for we agreed
before the ceremony that the word "obey" should mean nothing more than that. There are two
sorts of T.Y.V.M. letters--the "Thank you very much for asking us, we shall be delighted to
come," and the "Thank you very much for having us, we enjoyed it immensely." With these off
my mind I could really concentrate on my work, or my short mashie shots, or whatever was of
importance. But there was now a new kind of letter to write, and one rather outside the terms of
our original understanding. A friend of mine had told his friends the Cardews that we were going
out to the Riviera and would let them know when we arrived ... and we had arrived a week ago.
"It isn't at all an easy letter to write," said Myra. "It's practically asking a stranger for hospitality."
"Let us say 'indicating our readiness to accept it.' It sounds better."
Myra smiled slowly to herself.
"'Dear Mrs. Cardew,'" she said, "'we are ready for lunch when you are. Yours sincerely.'"
that's the idea."
"And then what about the others? If the Cardews are going to be nice we don't
want to leave Dahlia and all of them out of it."
I thought it over carefully for a little.
want to do," I said at last, "is to write a really long letter to Mrs. Cardew, acquainting her with all
the facts. Keep nothing back from her. I should begin by dwelling on the personnel of our little
company. 'My husband and I,' you should say, 'are not alone. We have also with us Mr. and Mrs.
Archibald Mannering, a delightful couple. Mr. A. Mannering is something in the Territorials when
he is not looking after his estate. His wife is a great favourite in the county. Next I have to
introduce to you Mr. Thomas Todd, an agreeable young bachelor. Mr. Thomas Todd is in the
Sucking-a-ruler-and-looking-out-of-the-window Department of the Admiralty, by whose exertions,
so long as we preserve the 2 Todds to 1 formula--or, excluding Canadian Todds, 16 to 10--
Britannia rules the waves. Lastly, there is Mr. Samuel Simpson. Short of sight but warm of heart,
and with (on a bad pitch) a nasty break from the off, Mr. S. Simpson is a _litterateur_ of some
eminence but little circulation, combining on the cornet intense wind-power with no execution,
and on the golf course an endless enthusiasm with only an occasional contact. This, dear Mrs.
Cardew, is our little party. I say nothing of my husband.'"
"Go on," smiled Myra. "You have still to
explain how we invite ourselves to lunch."
"We don't; we leave that to her. All we do is to give a
list of the meals in which, in the ordinary course, we are wont to indulge, together with a few
notes on our relative capacities at each. 'Perhaps,' you wind up, 'it is at luncheon time that as a
party we show to the best advantage. Some day, my dear Mrs. Cardew, we must all meet at
lunch. You will then see that I have exaggerated neither my husband's appetite, nor the light
conversation of my brother, nor the power of apology, should any little _contretemps_ occur, of
Mr. Samuel Simpson. Let us, I say, meet at lunch. Let us--'" I took out my watch suddenly.
"Come on," I said, getting up and giving a hand to Myra; "we shall only just be in time for it."
"It's about time," said Simpson one evening, "that we went to the tables and-
-er--" (he adjusted his spectacles)--"had a little flutter."
We all looked at him in silent admiration.
"Oh, Samuel," sighed Myra, "and I promised your aunt that you shouldn't gamble while you were
"But, my dear Myra, it's the first thing the fellows at the club ask you when you've been to
the Riviera--if you've had any luck."
"Well, you've had a lot of luck," said Archie. "Several times
when you've been standing on the heights and calling attention to the beautiful view below, I've
said to myself, 'One push, and he's a deader,' but something, some mysterious agency within,
has kept me back."
"All the fellows at the club--"
Simpson is popularly supposed to belong to a
Fleet Street Toilet and Hairdressing Club, where for three guineas a year he gets shaved every
day, and has his hair cut whenever Myra insists. On the many occasions when he authorizes a
startling story of some well-known statesman with the words: "My dear old chap, I know it for a
fact. I heard it at the club to-day from a friend of his," then we know that once again the barber's
assistant has been gossiping over the lather.
"Do think, Samuel," I interrupted, "how much more
splendid if you could be the only man who had seen Monte Carlo without going inside the
rooms. And then when the hairdresser--when your friends at the club ask if you've had any luck
at the tables, you just say coldly, 'What tables?'"
"Preferably in Latin," said Archie. "_Quae
But it was obviously no good arguing with him. Besides, we were all keen enough to
"We needn't lose," said Myra. "We might win."
"Good idea," said Thomas. He lit his pipe and
added, "Simpson was telling me about his system last night. At least, he was just beginning
when I went to sleep." He applied another match to his pipe and went on, as if the idea had
suddenly struck him, "Perhaps it was only his internal system he meant. I didn't wait."
you _are_ quite well inside, aren't you?"
"Quite, Myra. But, I _have_ invented a sort of system for
_roulette_, which we might--"
"There's only one system which is any good," pronounced Archie.
"It's the system by which, when you've lost all your own money, you turn to the man next to you
and say, 'Lend me a louis, dear old chap, till Christmas; I've forgotten my purse.'"
said Dahlia. "Let's make a collection and put it all on one number and hope it will win."
had obviously been reading novels about people who break the bank.
"It's as good a way of
losing as any other," said Archie. "Let's do it for our first gamble, anyway. Simpson, as our host,
shall put the money on. I, as his oldest friend, shall watch him to see that he does it. What's the
number to be?"
We all thought hard for several moments.
"Samuel, what's your age?" asked
Myra, at last.
"Right off the board," said Thomas.
"You're not really more than thirty-six?" Myra
whispered to him. "Tell me as a secret."
"Peter's nearly two," said Dahlia.
"Do you think you
could nearly put our money on 'two'?" asked Archie.
"I once made seventeen," I said. "On that
never-to-be-forgotten day when I went in first with Archie--"
"That settles it. Here's to the highest
score of The Rabbits' wicket-keeper. To-morrow afternoon we put our money on seventeen.
Simpson, you have between now and 3.30 to-morrow to perfect your French delivery of the
magic word _dix-sept_."
I went to bed a proud but anxious man that night. It was _my_ famous
score which had decided the figure that was to bring us fortune ... and yet ... and yet....
eighteen turned up? The remorse, the bitterness! "If only," I should tell myself--"if only we had
run three instead of two for that cut to square-leg!" Suppose it were sixteen! "Why, oh why," I
should groan, "did I make the scorer put that bye down as a hit?" Suppose it were thirty-four! But
there my responsibility ended. If it were going to be thirty-four, they should have used one of
Archie's scores, and made a good job of it.
At 3.30 next day we were in the fatal building. I
should like to pause here and describe my costume to you, which was a quiet grey in the best of
taste, but Myra says that if I do this I must describe hers too, a feat beyond me. Sufficient that
she looked dazzling, that as a party we were remarkably well-dressed, and that Simpson--
murmuring "_dix-sept"_ to himself at intervals--led the way through the rooms till he found a
table to his liking.
"Aren't you excited?" whispered Myra to me.
"Frightfully," I said, and left my
mouth well open. I don't quite know what picture of the event Myra and I had conjured up in our
minds, but I fancy it was one something like this. At the entrance into the rooms of such a large
and obviously distinguished party there would be a slight sensation among the crowd, and way
would be made for us at the most important table. It would then leak out that Chevalier Simpson-
-the tall poetical-looking gentleman in the middle, my dear--had brought with him no less a sum
than thirty francs with which to break the bank, and that he proposed to do this in one daring
_coup_. At this news the players at the other tables would hastily leave their winnings (or
losings) and crowd round us. Chevalier Simpson, pale but controlled, would then place his
money on seventeen--"_dix-sept_," he would say to the croupier to make it quite clear--and the
ball would be spun. As it slowed down, the tension in the crowd would increase. "_Mon Dieu_!" a
woman would cry in a shrill voice; there would be guttural exclamations from Germans; at the
edge of the crowd strong men would swoon. At last a sudden shriek ... and the croupier's voice,
trembling for the first time for thirty years, "_Dix-sept_!" Then gold and notes would be pushed at
the Chevalier. He would stuff his pockets with them; he would fill his hat with them; we others,
we would stuff our pockets too. The bank would send out for more money. There would be loud
cheers from all the company (with the exception of one man, who had put five francs on sixteen
and had shot himself) and we should be carried--that is to say, we four men--shoulder high to
the door, while by the deserted table Myra and Dahlia clung to each other, weeping tears of
Something like that.
What happened was different. As far as I could follow, it was
this. Over the heads of an enormous, badly-dressed and utterly indifferent crowd Simpson
handed his thirty francs to the croupier.
"_Dix-sept_," he said.
The croupier with his rake pushed
the money on to seventeen.
Another croupier with his rake pulled it off again ... and stuck to it.
The day's fun was over.
"What _did_ win?" asked Myra some minutes later, when the fact
that we should never see our money again had been brought home to her.
"Zero," said Archie.
"My usual score," I said, "not my highest."
THE RECORD OF IT
"I shall be
glad to see Peter again," said Dahlia, as she folded up her letter from home.
letter, dictated to his nurse-secretary, had, according to Archie, been full of good things. Cross-
examination of the proud father, however, had failed to reveal anything more stirring than "I love
mummy," and--er--so on.
We were sitting in the loggia after what I don't call breakfast--all of us
except Simpson, who was busy with a mysterious package. We had not many days left; and I
was beginning to feel that, personally, I should not be sorry to see things like porridge again.
Each to his taste.
"The time has passed absurdly quickly," said Myra. "We don't seem to have
done _anything_--except enjoy ourselves. I mean anything specially Rivierish. But it's been
"We've done lots of Rivierish things," I protested. "If you'll be quiet a moment I'll tell
These were some of the things:
(1) We had been to the Riviera. (Nothing could take
away from that. We had the labels on our luggage.)
(2) We had lost heavily (thirty francs) at the
Tables. (This alone justified the journey.)
(3) Myra had sat next to a Prince at lunch. (Of course
she might have done this in London, but so far there has been no great rush of Princes to our
little flat. Dukes, Mayors, Companions of St. Michael and St. George, certainly; but, somehow,
(4) Simpson had done the short third hole at Mt. Agel in three. (His first had
cleverly dislodged the ball from the piled-up tee; his second, a sudden nick, had set it rolling
down the hill to the green; and the third, an accidental putt, had sunk it.)
(5) Myra and I had seen
(6) And finally, and best of all, we had sat in the sun, under a blue sky
above a blue sea, and watched the oranges and lemons grow.
So, though we had been to but
few of the famous beauty spots around, we had had a delightfully lazy time; and as proof that we
had not really been at Brighton there were, as I have said, the luggage labels. But we were to be
able to show further proof. At this moment Simpson came out of the house, his face beaming
with excitement, his hands carefully concealing something behind his back.
"Guess what I've
got," he said eagerly.
"The sack," said Thomas.
"Your new bests," said Archie.
will interest us all," helped Simpson.
"I withdraw my suggestion," said Archie.
ought to have brought with us all along."
"More money," said Myra.
The tension was extreme. It
was obvious that our consuming anxiety would have to be relieved very speedily. To avoid a riot,
Thomas went behind Simpson's back and took his surprise away from him.
"A camera," he said.
Simpson was all over himself with bon-hommy.
"I suddenly thought of it the other
night," he said, smiling round at all of us in his happiness, "and I was just going to wake Thomas
up to tell him, when I thought I'd keep it a secret. So I wrote to a friend of mine and asked him to
send me out one, and some films and things, just as a surprise for you."
"Samuel, you _are_ a
dear," said Myra, looking at him lovingly.
"You see, I thought, Myra, you'd like to have some
records of the place, because they're so jolly to look back on, and--er, I'm not quite sure how you
work it, but I expect some of you know and--er--"
"Come on," said Myra, "I'll show you." She