Short Stories
All Titles

In Association with Amazon.com

Home > Authors Index > Saki > Reginald > This page

Reginald, stories by Saki

Reginald's Christmas Revel

< Previous
Table of content
Next >
_ They say (said Reginald) that there's nothing sadder than
victory except defeat. If you've ever stayed with dull
people during what is alleged to be the festive season, you
can probably revise that saying. I shall never forget
putting in a Christmas at the Babwolds'. Mrs. Babwold is
some relation of my father's--a sort of to-be-left-till-
called-for cousin--and that was considered sufficient reason
for my having to accept her invitation at about the sixth
time of asking; though why the sins of the father should be
visited by the children--you won't find any notepaper in that
drawer; that's where I keep old menus and first-night

Mrs. Babwold wears a rather solemn personality, and has never
been known to smile, even when saying disagreeable things to
her friends or making out the Stores list. She takes her
pleasures sadly. A state elephant at a Durbar gives one a
very similar impression. Her husband gardens in all
weathers. When a man goes out in the pouring rain to brush
caterpillars off rose-trees, I generally imagine his life
indoors leaves something to be desired; anyway, it must be
very unsettling for the caterpillars.

Of course there were other people there. There was a Major
Somebody who had shot things in Lapland, or somewhere of that
sort; I forget what they were, but it wasn't for want of
reminding. We had them cold with every meal almost, and he
was continually giving us details of what they measured from
tip to tip, as though he thought we were going to make them
warm under-things for the winter. I used to listen to him
with a rapt attention that I thought rather suited me, and
then one day I quite modestly gave the dimensions of an okapi
I had shot in the Lincolnshire fens. The Major turned a
beautiful Tyrian scarlet (I remember thinking at the time
that I should like my bathroom hung in that colour), and I
think that at that moment he almost found it in his heart to
dislike me. Mrs. Babwold put on a first-aid-to-the-injured
expression, and asked him why he didn't publish a book of his
sporting reminiscences; it would be SO interesting. She
didn't remember till afterwards that he had given her two fat
volumes on the subject, with his portrait and autograph as a
frontispiece and an appendix on the habits of the Arctic

It was in the evening that we cast aside the cares and
distractions of the day and really lived. Cards were thought
to be too frivolous and empty a way of passing the time, so
most of them played what they called a book game. You went
out into the hall--to get an inspiration, I suppose--then you
came in again with a muffler tied round your neck and looked
silly, and the others were supposed to guess that you were
"Wee MacGreegor." I held out against the inanity as long as
I decently could, but at last, in a lapse of good-nature, I
consented to masquerade as a book, only I warned them that it
would take some time to carry out. They waited for the best
part of forty minutes, while I went and played wineglass
skittles with the page-boy in the pantry; you play it with a
champagne cork, you know, and the one who knocks down the
most glasses without breaking them wins. I won, with four
unbroken out of seven; I think William suffered from over-
anxiousness. They were rather mad in the drawing-room at my
not having come back, and they weren't a bit pacified when I
told them afterwards that I was "At the end of the passage."

"I never did like Kipling," was Mrs. Babwold's comment, when
the situation dawned upon her. "I couldn't see anything
clever in Earthworms out of Tuscany--or is that by Darwin?"

Of course these games are very educational, but, personally,
I prefer bridge.

On Christmas evening we were supposed to be specially festive
in the Old English fashion. The hall was horribly draughty,
but it seemed to be the proper place to revel in, and it was
decorated with Japanese fans and Chinese lanterns, which gave
it a very Old English effect. A young lady with a
confidential voice favoured us with a long recitation about a
little girl who died or did something equally hackneyed, and
then the Major gave us a graphic account of a struggle he had
with a wounded bear. I privately wished that the bears would
win sometimes on these occasions; at least they wouldn't go
vapouring about it afterwards. Before we had time to recover
our spirits, we were indulged with some thought-reading by a
young man whom one knew instinctively had a good mother and
an indifferent tailor--the sort of young man who talks
unflaggingly through the thickest soup, and smooths his hair
dubiously as though he thought it might hit back. The
thought-reading was rather a success; he announced that the
hostess was thinking about poetry, and she admitted that her
mind was dwelling on one of Austin's odes. Which was near
enough. I fancy she had been really wondering whether a
scrag-end of mutton and some cold plum-pudding would do for
the kitchen dinner next day. As a crowning dissipation, they
all sat down to play progressive halma, with milk-chocolate
for prizes. I've been carefully brought up, and I don't like
to play games of skill for milk-chocolate, so I invented a
headache and retired from the scene. I had been preceded a
few minutes earlier by Miss Langshan-Smith, a rather
formidable lady, who always got up at some uncomfortable hour
in the morning, and gave you the impression that she had been
in communication with most of the European Governments before
breakfast. There was a paper pinned on her door with a
signed request that she might be called particularly early on
the morrow. Such an opportunity does not come twice in a
lifetime. I covered up everything except the signature with
another notice, to the effect that before these words should
meet the eye she would have ended a misspent life, was sorry
for the trouble she was giving, and would like a military
funeral. A few minutes later I violently exploded an air-
filled paper bag on the landing, and gave a stage moan that
could have been heard in the cellars. Then I pursued my
original intention and went to bed. The noise those people
made in forcing open the good lady's door was positively
indecorous; she resisted gallantly, but I believe they
searched her for bullets for about a quarter of an hour, as
if she had been an historic battlefield.

I hate travelling on Boxing Day, but one must occasionally do
things that one dislikes. _

Read next: Reginald's Rubaiyat

Read previous: Reginald on Tariffs

Table of content of Reginald


Post your review
Your review will be placed after the table of content of this book