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A short story by George V. Hobart

John Henry On Bridge Whist

Title:     John Henry On Bridge Whist
Author: George V. Hobart [More Titles by Hobart]

I received a letter the other day that put me over the ropes.

I'll paste it up here just to show you that it's on the level:


Dear John:--I have never met you personally, but I've heard my brother, Teddy, speak of you so often that you really seem to be one of the family.

(Teddy talks slang something fierce.)

Dear John, will you please pardon the liberty I take in grabbing a two-cent stamp and jumping so unceremoniously at one who is, after all, a perfect stranger?

Dear John, if you look around you can see on every hand that the glad season of the year is here, and if you listen attentively you may hear the hoarse cry of the summer resort beckoning us to that burn from which no traveller returns without getting his pocketbook dislocated.

Dear John, could you please tell me how to play bridge whist, so that when I go to the seashore I will be armed for defraying expenses.

Dear John, I am sure that if I could play bridge whist loud enough to win four dollars every once in a while I could spend a large bunch of the summer at the seashore.

Dear John, would you tell a loving but perfect stranger how to play the game without having to wear a mask?

Dear John, I played a couple of games recently with a wide faced young man who grew very playful and threw the parlor furniture at me because I trumpeted his ace. I fancy I must have did wrong. The fifth time I trumpeted his ace the young man arose, put on his gum shoes, and skeedaddled out of the house. Is it not considered a breach of etiquette to put on gum shoes in the presence of a lady?

If you please, dear John, tell me how to play bridge whist.

Yours fondly,

P.S.--The furniture which he threw was not his property to dispose of.

When my wife got a flash of this letter she made a kick to the effect that it was some kind of a cypher, possibly the beginning of a secret correspondence.

It was up to me to hand Gladys the frosty get-back, so this is what I said:

Respected Madam:--I'm a slob on that bridge whist thing, plain poker being the only game with cards that ever coaxes my dough from the stocking, but I'll do the advice gag if it chokes me:

Bridge whist is played with, cards, just like pinochle, with the exception of the beer.

Not enough cards is a misdeal; too many cards is a mistake; and cards up the sleeve is a slap on the front piazza if they catch you at it.

You shouldn't get up and dance the snakentine dance every time you take a trick. It looks more genteel and picturesque to do the two-step.

When your opponent has not followed suit it is not wise to pick out a loud tone of voice and tell him about it. Reach under the table and kick him on the shins. If it hurts him he is a cheater; if it doesn't hurt him always remember that you are a lady.

Don't forget what is trumps more than eighteen times during one hand. The limit used to be twenty-six times, but since the insurance people have been playing Hyde and seek the best bridge whist authorities have put the limit down to eighteen.

It isn't wise to have a conniption fit every time you lose a trick. Nothing looks so bad as a conniption fit when it doesn't match the complexion, and generally it delays the game.

When the game is close don't get excited and climb up on the table. It shows a want of refinement, especially if you are not a quick climber.

Never whistle while waiting for someone to play. Whistling is not in good taste. Go over and bite out a couple of tunes on the piano.

When your opponent trumps an ace don't ever hit him carelessly across the forehead with the bric-a-brac. Always remember when you are in Society that bric-a-brac is expensive.

Don't lead the ten of clubs by mistake for the ace of trumps and then get mad and jump seventeen feet in the air because they refuse to let you pull it back.

In order to jump seventeen feet in the air you would have to go through the room upstairs, and how do you know whose room it is?

There, Gladys, if you follow these rules I think you can play the game of bridge whist without putting a bruise on the Monroe doctrine.

P.S.--When you play for money always bite the coin to see if it means as much as it looks.

The next day, in order to square myself with my wife for getting a letter I hadn't any use for, I went to one of those New York department stores to get her a birthday present.

Say! did you ever get tangled up in one of those department store mobs and have a crowd of perfect ladies use you for a door mat?

I got mine!

They certainly taught me the Rojestvensky glide, all right!

At the door of the department; store a nice young man with a pink necktie and a quick forehead bowed to me.

"What do you wish?" he asked.

"Well," I said; "I'm down here to get a birthday present for my wife. I would like something which would afford her great pleasure when I give it to her and which I could use afterwards as a pen-wiper or a fishing-rod."

"Second floor; to the right; take the elevator," said the man.

Did you ever try to take an elevator in a department store and find that 3,943 other American citizens and citizenettes were also trying to take the same elevator?

How sweet it is to mingle in the arms of utter strangers and to feel the gentle pressure of a foot we never hope to meet again!

I was standing by one of the counters on the second floor when a shrill voice crept up over a few bales of dry goods and said, "Are you a buyer or a handler?"

"I am looking for a birthday present for my wife," I answered. "I want to get something that will look swell on the parlor table and may, be used later on as a tobacco jar or a trouser stretcher!"

"Fourth floor; to the left; take the elevator!" said the lady's voice.

With bowed bead I walked away.

I began to feel sorry for my wife.

Nobody seemed to be very much interested whether she got a birthday present or not.

On the fourth floor I stopped at a counter where a lot of eager dames were pawing over some chinchilla ribbon and chiffon over-skirts.

It reminded me of the way our dog digs up the vegetables in the garden.

I enjoyed the excitement of the game for about ten minutes and then I said to the clerk behind the counter who was refereeing the match, "Can you tell me where I can buy a sterling silver birthday present for my wife which I could use afterwards as a night key or a bath sponge?"

"Fifth floor; to the rear; take the elevator!" said the clerk.

On the fifth floor I went over to a table where a young lady was selling "The Life and Libraries of Andrew Carnegie" at four dollars a month and fifty cents a week, and in three years it is yours if you don't lose the receipts.

She gave me a glad smile and I felt a thrill of encouragement.

"Excuse me," I said, "but I am looking for a birthday present for my wife which will make all the neighbors jealous, and which I can use afterwards as an ash-receiver or a pocket flask."

The young lady cut out the giggles and pointed to the northwest.

I went over there.

To my surprise I found another counter.

A pale young woman was behind it.

I was just about to ask her the fatal question when a young man wearing a ragtime expression on his face rushed up and said to the young lady behind the counter, "I am looking for a suitable present for a young lady friend of mine with golden brown hair. Could you please suggest something?"

The saleslady showed her teeth and answered him in a low, rumbling voice, and the man went away.

Then came an old lady who said, "I bought some organdie dress goods for a shirt-waist last Tuesday and I would like to exchange them for a music box for my daughter's little boy, Freddie, if you please!"

The saleslady again showed her teeth and the old lady ducked for cover.

After about fifty people had rushed up to the saleslady and then rushed away again, I went over and spoke to her.

"I am looking," I said, "for a birthday present for my wife. I want to get something that will give her a great amount of pleasure and which I can use later on as a pipe cleaner or a pair of suspenders!"

The saleslady fainted, so I moved over.

At another counter another young lady said to me, "Have you been waited on?"

"No," I replied; "I have been stepped on, sat on and walked on, but I have not yet been waited on."

"What do you wish?" inquired the young woman.

"I am looking for a birthday present for my wife," I said. "I want to buy her something that will bring great joy to her heart and which I might use afterwards as a pair of slippers or a shaving mug."

The young lady caught me with her dreamy eyes and held me up against the wall.

"You," she screamed; "you complete a total of 23,493 people who have been in this department store to-day without knowing what they are doing here, and I refuse to be a human encyclopaedia for the sake of eight dollars a week. On your way for yours!"

I began to apologize, but she reached down under the counter and pulled out a club.

"This," she said, with a wild look in her side lamps; "this is the happy summer season, but, nevertheless, the next guy that leaves his brains at home and tries to make me tell him what is a good birthday present for his wife will get a bitter swipe across the forehead!"

It was up to me, so I went home without a present.

[The end]
George V. Hobart's short story: John Henry On Bridge Whist