The Worlds Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906. Vols. VIIX: British
A Rubber at Whist
By Francis Cowley Burnand (18361917)
From Happy Thoughts
CHILDERS proposes whist. I never feel certain of myself at whist; I point to the fact that they are four without me. Poss Felmyr says if I sit down hell cut in presently. I play? I reply, Yes, a little. I am Stentons partner; Englefield and Childers are against us. Sixpenny points, shilling on the rub. Stenton says to me, Youll score. Scoring always puzzles me. I know its done with half a crown, a shilling, a sixpence, and a silver candlestick. Sometimes one bit of money is under the candlestick, sometimes two.
First Rubber. Stenton deals; Childers is first hand; Im second. Hearts trumpsthe queen. Its wonderful how quick they are in arranging their cards. After Ive sorted all mine carefully, I find a trump among the clubs. Having placed him in his position on the right of my hand, I find a stupid Three of Clubs among the spades; settled him. Lastly, a King of Diamonds upside down, which seems to entirely disconcert me; put him right. Englefield says, Come, be quickStenton tells me not to hurry myself. I say Im quite ready, and wonder to myself what Childers will lead.
Childers leads the Queen of Clubs. I consider for a moment what is the duty of second hand; the word finessing occurs to me here. I cant recollect if putting on a three of the same suit is finessing; put on the three and look at my partner to see how he likes it. He is watching the table. Englefield lets it go, my partner lets it gothe trick is Childerss. I feel that somehow its lost through my fault. His lead againspades. This takes me so by surprise that I have to rearrange my hand, as the spades have got into a lump. I have two spades, an ace and a five. Let me see: If I play the five II cant see the consequence. If I play the ace it must win unless its trumped. Stenton says in a deep voice, Play away. The three look from one to the other. Being flustered, I play the ace; the trick is mine. I wish it wasnt, as I have to lead; Id give something if I might consult Poss, who is behind me, or my partner. All the cards look ready for playing, yet I dont like to disturb them. Let me think whats been played already. Stenton asks me if Id like to look at the last trick. As this will give me time, and them the idea that I am following out my own peculiar tactics, I embrace the offer. Childers displays the last trick; I look at it. I say, Thank you, and he shuts it up again. Immediately afterward I cant recollect what the cards were in that trick; if I did it wouldnt help me. They are becoming impatient.
About this time somebodys Queen of Diamonds is taken. I wasnt watching how the trick went, but I am almost certain it was fatal to the Queen of Diamonds; that is to say, if it was the Queen of Diamonds; but I dont like to ask. The next trick, which is something in spades, trumped by Englefield, I pass as of not much importance. Stenton growls, Didnt I see that hed got no more spades in his hand? No, I own I didnt. Stenton, who is not an encouraging partner, grunts to himself. In a subsequent round, I having lost a trick by leading spades, Stenton calls out, Why, didnt you see they were trumping spades? I defend myself; I say I did see him, Englefield, trump one spade, but I thought that he hadnt any more trumps. I say this as if I had been reckoning the cards as theyve been played.
I keep my trumps back till the last; theyll come out and astonish them. They do come out and astonish me. Being taken by surprise, I put on my king when I ought to have played the knave, and both surrender to the ace and queen. I say, Dear me, how odd! I think I hear Stenton saying sarcastically, in an undertone, Oh, yes; confoundedly odd. I try to explain, and he interrupts me at the end of the last deal but two by saying testily, Its no use talking; if you attend we may just save the odd.
My friend the Queen of Diamonds, who, I thought, had been played, and taken by some one or other at a very early period of the game, suddenly reappears out of my partners hand, as if she was part of a conjuring trick. Second hand cant follow suit and cant trump. I think I see what he intends me to do here. Ive a trump and a small club. When in doubt, I recollect the infallible rule, play a trump. I dont think any one expected this trump. Good play.
Happy Thought. Trump. I look up diffidently. My partner laughs, so do the others. My partners is not a pleasant laugh. I cant help asking, Why, isnt that right? its ours? Oh, yes, says my partner sarcastically, it is ours. Only, explains little Bob Englefield, youve trumped your partners best card.
I try again to explain that by my computation the Queen of Diamonds had been played a long time ago. My partner wont listen to reason. He replies, You might have seen that it wasnt. I return, Well, it couldnt be helped; well win the game yet. This I add to encourage him, though, if it depends on me, I honestly (to myself) dont think we shall.
Happy Thought. After all, we do get the odd trick. Stenton ought to be in a better humour, but he isnt; he says, The odd! we ought to have been three. Englefield asks me how honours are. I dont know. Stenton says, Why, you (meaning me) had two in your own hand. Oh, yes, I had. Id forgotten it. Honours easy, says Stenton to me. I agree with him. Now, Ive got to score with this confounded shilling, sixpence, half-crown, and a candlestick.
Happy Thought (while CHILDERS deals). Pretend to forget to score till next time. Englefield will have to do it, perhaps, next time, then watch Englefield. Just as I am arranging my cards from right to left
Happy Thought. To alternate the colours black and red, beginning this time with black (right) as spades are trumps. Also to arrange them in their rank and order of precedence. Ace on the right if Ive got oneyes; king next, queen nextand the hand begins to look very pretty. I can quite imagine whist being a fascinating gameStenton reminds me that Ive forgotten to mark one up.
Stenton says, Oh, go on. I look round to see what were waiting for, and Englefield answers me, Go on, its you; youre first hand. I beg their pardon. I must play some card or other, and finish arranging my hand during the round. Anything will do to begin with. Heres a two of spades, a little one, on my left hand; throw him out.
So, by the way, will my partner. In a polite moment I accept another cup of tea. I dont want it, and have to put it by the half-crown, shilling, and candlestick on the whist-table, where Im afraid of knocking it over, and am obliged to let it get quite cold, as I have to attend to the game.