Thorne Smith.

Out o' luck; Biltmore Oswald very much at sea online

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a grasshopper on one's hands is something tremendous. And
as I stood gazing down into the grass a crowd gathered
around me and also gazed down into the grass. Of course
the crowd didn't see the grasshopper, but it earnestly hoped
to see something, so it added unto itself and gazed. Then
suddenly the thing happened. It hopped.

"See," says I proudly, "he will do it again."

"What?" asked an old man.

"Who?" cried some one.

"What'll he do again ?" another one called out.

"Stand back, lemme see!" a fourth one shouted.

"Watch," I commanded. "Watch close."

Again the grasshopper proved himself worthy of his name
and race by hopping.

"What did I tell you ?" I said as I walked away ; "he did
it, and if you watch carefully he'll do it again. In fact,"
I added, to heighten the mystery, "that's all he can do."

The crowd was still gazing as I departed. It is the
nature of crowds to gaze, and it is the nature of grass-
hoppers to hop, and I for one would not want it a bit dif-
ferent. "As it is, so it is," say I.

Oct. 3rd. — Met Gladys to-day and took her to tea.
Score by innings:


5 P.M,

5.15 P.M. 5.45

6 P.M.


Lemonade Ice Cream



Cakes CofFee


French Pastry

Sandwiches Cakes



Grand total

Demi Tasse




That girl has the most fluent appetite I ever encountered.
And the strange thing about it is that it seems to do her
good. Even her dog Dippy who is no slouch at eating
hands her the palm when it comes to a contest.

Oct. 9th. — Numerous important and painful things have
happened to me, but I am still quite vague about them all.
I remember sitting in a friend's apartment on my last lib-
erty feeling very hot and doing some particularly fancy
coughing, and then I remember some one getting up sud-
denly and looking at me in a peculiar, frightened way, then
I coughed again, laughed rather foolishly and it seems I was
then put to bed. From that time on, life assumed a cubist ex-
pression. I recall vividly oranges, a kind lady reading to
me while I traced a map of the western front from the
cracks in the plaster on the ceiling. There seemed to be
a certain quantity of broth and milk and a long procession
of glittering thermometers somehow connected to a doctor
with a pointed beard, a great deal of unnecessary heat cir-
culating around my anatomy and always a splendid accom-
paniment of coughing. At one time I remember mother
came swooning into the room and delivered an impassioned
dissertation on underwear, her favorite subject; and then
Polly, my sweetie, arrived and sat down beside me like a
thwarted nun and gave me to understand that she would
cheerfully sign a guarantee to forgive me all my past and
future sins if I would only get well, and then she went away


just as I was telling her about the sad case of a broken-
down elephant suffering from nervous prostration that had
come to me in the dark hours of the previous night and sat
heavily on my chest. She left, but I continued the story;
and the funny part of it was that I believed it, at least they
say I did.

Then one morning the doctor came and after listening
eagerly to the animated conversation of my lungs, asked me
how I would like to go to a hospital.

*'Don't be silly," says I, 'Tm very busy and I've a lot
of things to do."

"Get ready," says he, giving my left side an extra jab for
good luck, "get ready if you can, for the ambulance will be
here in fifteen minutes."

He departed and I arose more or less horrified and messed
heatedly around in a world of infinite space and no security
until a man in white suddenly appeared to me with a little
book in his hands and began to ply me with purely rudi-
mentary questions.

"What's your name?'* he asked in a bored voice.

"It doesn't matter about the name," I replied, "I won*t
be answering to it long.'*

"Perhaps not," he agreed cheerfully, "but this is official.'*

After that we departed the spot and I saw it no more. I
had to climb down six flights of stairs and they taxed me
greatly. I progressed with stately elaboration, considering
which landing would be the best to go to sleep on. The
man in white kept looking at me with an impatient scowl,
but made no effort to help me.

"Sorry, old chap," I said, to keep you from your pinochle,
"but only one boiler is working at present." The street was
lined with expectant and morbidly interested people.

"Wot cher got, mister?" one worthy asked.

"Fits,** I answered, "with a deadly complication of bu-
bonic plague. While I have been speaking I have given off
exactly 7,895,372 extremely nosey germs. You have gotten
many of them.**


After this I staggered to the ambulance and fell within.
At the hospital I was greeted by a flock of nurses who con-
voyed me to my room.

"Get undressed, sonny," said one of them while the rest
crowded cheerfully around the door,

"All right," says I, waiting for her to leave.

"All right," says she, not leaving.

"All right," says I, rather unhappily.

"Start in," says she in a business-like voice.

"You promise to marry me," says I, taking off my shoes.

"Oh," she says as light dawned upon her, "you want me
to go."

"Well, it would be easier," I admitted, and she withdrew,

I had just gotten down to my shirt, when the door burst
open and all the nurses in the world stood without regard-
ing me anxiously.

"Atta, boy," called one of them in tones of encourage-

"You*re doing fine," cried another.

"What*s so blooming wonderful about this?" says I, edg-
ing behind an open-work chair. "I have undressed myself
for a long time now — ever since Bridget left."

"Go to it," says one of them, and I was forthwith bundled
into bed, at which moment I drew a complete blank.

Oct. 1 2th. — Much better. I permitted Polly to kiss my
hand this evening. It was interestingly thin. Mother has
been shopping for a particularly thick brand of underwear
all afternoon against my departure. I told her to interview
Admiral Peary, who knew all about such things. She took
his name down and said she*d look him up in the telephone
book immediately. I have had a crisis and everything, but
I'm not going to die for quite some time, Fm told. That's

Oct. 13th. — Complications. The playful little pleurisy
has me in its clutches. It's one of those things that has to
be felt and not described. No sleep, no rest. Constant


misery. I asked the doctor if he was sure that I wasn't
going to die and when he said "Yes" I almost cried.

"Well, well, how are you feeling now?" asked the nurse
this morning as she swooped cheerfully into the room. I
had sat up all night with a hot water bottle and burned
myself in several places which were so intimate that I could
hardly indulge in the comfort of complaining about them.

"Well," says I, wearily, "after all the agony Fve been
through the least you could do would be to come across with
a little petting."

"You don't deserve to get well after that," says the nurse,
leaving the room with false dignity.

Oct. 17th. — Out of pain. Wonder how Fogerty is.
Hope he hasn't caught the "flu." Any one wishing to verify
the size and quantity of my illness needs only to look at
my chart. The fever page looks like a sketch of the Andes
Mountain range. Polly has just left. She's a beautiful
woman but a trifle too resolute.

Oct. 1 8th. — I almost cried when I left the hospital this
afternoon. I'd sort of gotten used to the place and the
life of an invalid. I thanked every one profusely, including
the elevator boy and told them that they had saved my
life. They admitted it, and I guess they did. The lady
whose apartment I used to get sick in had a hand in it, too.
She was first to the front and got all the good coughing,
and was eternally compromised in the eyes of two school-
teachers who lived in the next flat.

Oct. 19th. — Reported aboard today. No sympathy.
Why do they always say "The good ship so and so" ? I see
nothing good about a ship except the gangplank and "Lay
aft, liberty party!"

Oct. 23rd. — (In the general direction of France) Sick,
that's all; just plain sick.

Oct. 26th. — (Leaving the war) For full information
reread entry of Oct. 23rd.


Nov. 2nd. — (Near New York — ^maybe) The remarks
of Oct. 23rd and 26th still hold good.

Nov. 5th. — (New York) "Lay aft, liberty party!"
The Boatswain has just uttered those magic words. I find
no trouble in "laying aft." It's the best thing I do. Now
I shall proceed to let Polly admire me make away with a
pair of plutocratic steaks.

Nov. 1 2th. — Well, it's over; all, all over, and I haven't
any wound stripes on my arm. What an inglorious part I
have played in the war. I havCj fallen down and gotten sick
and made mistakes and boxed the compass and done endless
useless things, but haven't even seen a periscope. How I
will have to lie to my grandchildren, I can now under-
stand why poor, dear grandfather lies so abundantly about
his leg that got caught in a folding bed. He feels morally
obligated to posterity to tell about his heroic exploits in war.
I'll have to go through with it, too.

Last night was not a pretty night. People kissed me.
Everywhere I went I was kissed just as resoundingly as if
I had been the greatest hero. But they were never the
right people. I suspected them of having been rebuffed by
other sailors stronger than I. One very pretty girl kissed
me, however, and Polly almost bit her. After this we soon
went home, Polly abusing me all the way.

"Why didn't you stop her?" she asked bitterly.

"I was too tired, Polly," I replied. "You see for your-
self, dear, I can't help being what I am."

"If I thought you could," said Polly, "I'd have no respect
for you.'*

I chewed on this remark for quite some time. There's a
lot more in it than meets the eye. Women are that way.

Nov. 14th. — The old camp has been blighted by a swarm
of very new and bright assistant paymasters. Today I
visited it and found the woods full of them. Everywhere
I went they were lookiiig for their orders. "More pay-
masters than pay," mused I, looking bitterly at an approach-


ing swarm. As they passed me I saluted them gravely and
they returned my salute with gratitude.

The place is quite changed. I found any number of
Chiefs doing sentry duty. I guess the Ensigns are manning
the drags, but I did not actually see this. Everything is
being done to make it easy and comfortable for the ordinary

Mr. Fogerty, my old dog, was moderately glad to see
me. He was talking things over with Chief Larry near a
very imposing coal pile. Fogerty is very anxious to be
mustered out and get back into civil life. He has a couple
of families over at City Island to support, not to mention
a few down at New Rochelle and White Plains. He has
traveled far in his day, has Fogerty, and never have I met
a dog that so glories in his past indiscretion,

Nov. 1 6th. — (Looking backward) He was sitting on
the tool box of an automobile with his feet on the running
board, and strange to relate he was sitting in his stocking
feet. Placed carefully beside him were his large, expressive,
nobbed-nosed, navy shoes. Through the long slits of the
city fell the vast night, clamorous with the voices of people,
the honking of horns which sounded like a large flock of
disturbed geese passing southward through the night, and
from the river came the deep, vibrating notes of a host of
craft forming a sort of monotonous background of sound
for the shriller noise arising from the multitude. The
world moved through the streets of New York like an undu-
lating, sombre colored ribbon. There were no single pedes-
trians. There was no room for the solitary traveler. Hu-
manity, as if drawn by some vast magnet in the hands of
an irresponsible god, was squeezed and moulded into a solid
river of life, flowing and pouring confusedly wherever an
opening was presented. It was a flow of sound and un-
bridled triumphant rejoicing. Never in the history of the
world had there been such a river. For four years the peo-
ple that went to compose this mass had been held subdued


and in leash, fear ridden, wracked by doubts and hitherto
unknown bitterness, and now, on this night, the war was
over and the phantom that had hung like a shadow for so
long over their drab, every-day lives was being chased
back into the night on the wings of a great noise. Here
was the brutality of happiness divorced from all the cloying
niceties of so called civilization, expressive and true in its
sheer vulgarity and freedom. Here the numerous proprie-
ties enforced by modern society were shown up in their
true light as flimsy bits of drapery which man immediately
discards in the face of any strong emotion. The next day
the papers wrote indignant editorials on the coarseness and
immorality of the celebration, a fact which proved that even
in the face of evidence the editors still believe they can
control the hearts of men with the same ease and precision
with which type is run into the columns of their papers.
Men read these editorials ironically and went their way
rejoicing. Long after they were forgotten this great night
would spring up in their thought as a particularly pleasant
and thrilling memory, and they would tell their grand-
children about it in a discreetly abridged version.

As I read over these lines I have written I am wondering
whether I am starting a novel or writing a diary. Certainly
they sound novelesque. I think I might even show them
to Polly, that beautiful and gracious creature, as sarcastic as
she is sweet, which means some sarcasm at times. Yes, I
might even show them to her, so pleased am I with them,
if only to convince her that my literary leanings are really
not literary flounderings, as she takes so much pleasure in
assuring me every time I read her a poem composed to her
eyes and in her honor.

In the meantime, I am leaving a certain party sitting
quietly in his stocking feet on the tool box of an automobile.

"Sit down," said the certain party, seemingly oblivious to
all the turbulent masses seething around him.

"Sit down," he repeated, "me dogs hurt."


"Corns?" said I, sinking wearily to the running board of
the deserted car.

"Bunions," said the sailor moodily. "Terrible painful
after being stepped on."

"I can well imagine," I replied, sympathetically.

"No you can't," said the sailor in an injured voice as
though I was depreciating his pain. "No you can't," he
repeated, "unless you've ever had *em. Have yer?" he
added looking at me with much interest.

"No," I answered reluctantly, "but I know all about
them. We had a cook once named Nora and she had them
all the time."

"I guess she didn't have 'em any worse than mine," he
replied jealously.

"Oh, no," said I, "certainly not. I guess you've got the
worst attack of bunions a fellow ever had."

"Sure," said he, "you've said something."

We were quiet for awhile, busy with our own thoughts.
Mine were largely composed of Polly, whom I had just tak-
en home and faithfully promised to go to bed and keep off
the streets where the women insisted, despite my modest pro-
testations, upon kissing me, and here I was, breaking my
promise, sitting in the middle of Times Square with a sailor
afflicted of bunions while all the world swarmed round our

"Now I knew a guy," began the sailor, "as thought him-
self taken with bunions. In fact, he claimed to have had
the worst — "

And thus started a long discussion on the nature and
habits of the domestic bunion with which I will not trouble
the reader. For my part, I had very little to give to this
discussion and consequently was forced to listen to a lengthy
dissertation from the sailor, whose knowledge of the sub-
ject seemed well nigh inexhaustible. Thus, calmly in the
face of one of the largest, noisiest and most spontaneous
celebrations ever known in the history of such events we


sat and talked bunions, which perhaps, after all, is about
as good a thing to do as any in such circumstances.

After he had succeeded in convincing me that he was a
person deserving of the utmost solicitude, he became quite
cheerful and immediately forgetting his great affliction he
put on his shoes and we proceeded to talk of the sea and
ships as all real sailors do when they are thrown in each
other's company.

"Troopship, eh," he replied in response to my answer.
"You're lucky. All I've been doing is snooping around
the coast along with a lot of excitable furriners what went
loco every time a submarine was even so much as mentioned.
I got boiled on one of them southern islands once an' al-
most lost me ship. What a night ! Worse than this. Much

With this he thrust his arm into the after part of the
automobile and produced, much to my surprise, a pair of
golf clubs.

"See what they got in this machine," he said, looking
curiously at the sticks. "I guess they must be carpenters
or mechanics or something, although I dixln't ever see any
®f these instruments used in those trades. What do you
think they are?"

"Why, they are golf sticks,'* I replied amazed at his

"What are golf," he asked looking at me innocently.

"Golf," I answered. "Oh, golf is a sort of a game
indulged in by the so-called upper classes and practically
the entire population of Scotland and the Union League

"Oh, sure, I heard of it," he replied and reaching back
into the automobile once more he produced a thermos bottle.

"Oh, look," he exclaimed, his eyes growing large, "whatta
ye guess is in here?"

"Don't know," I replied. "Take a chance and open it."

He opened it and proceeded to sniff suspiciously.

"There's something in it," he whispered, his eyes dancing.








r r
-t r
■» r



P' n^

" 'see that window over there?' " — Pagg 51


Page 56


"Taste it," I answereH, hardly able to restrain my ex-

He tasted it and handed the bottle to me.

"Whatta ye think it is?" he said.

"I don't exactly know," I said, smacking my lips, "but
let's not inquire. As long as we don't know what we are
drinking we can't be blamed for drinking it, see?"

He looked at me and smiled.

"You're some wise guy all right," said he. "No wonder
you get along so well in the navy.'*

I shuddered at this remark.

"Don't feel so cold now, does it?" he said presently, after
the mysterious bottle had exchanged hands numerous times.

"No," says I, "I believe it's actually gotten warmer."

"Sure it's getting warmer all the time," he replied and
reached for the bottle.

After we had taken a couple of more tugs at the halyards
we found that we were against the bottom and we further
found that the running board of the automobile was no
longer large enough to hold us. In fact, the whole night
seemed a little cramped for our exuberant spirits.

"Let's play golf," suggested my friend.

"All right," I agreed readily, "but we've got to find a
golf ball."

"What's this?" he asked, producing one.

"That's the little thing," I replied, and together we set
oif in search of a place in which to play our game.

Right in the middle of the street we found such a place.
Owing to some unfinished street mending the people were
unable to crowd on to this small spot and so we had just
sufficient room for a swing.

"What do you do?" says he.

"I'll show you," says I, as I carefully set the ball and ad-
dressed it with the utmost politeness.

"See that window over there," I said, pointing to the
second story of a clothing shop across the street. "The one


all lighted up with the figure of a guy wearing the latest
Varsity cut 191 9* model in it?"

"Yeah," said he, still puzzled.

"Well, concentrate your attention on me and that win-
dow. I'm an old hand at this game."

With this I set myself, raised the club and brought it
down with a resounding whack upon the ball. It was one
of the cleanest, most powerful strokes I have ever made. It
would have found the green on any course in the world.
My only regret is that the window was in the way. But
the window was in the way. We could not follow the
course of the ball, but we had no difficulty in locating it.
There was a sudden, soul satisfying shattering of glass and
instantly thereafter the gentleman in the "varsity cut" clothes
became very much disturbed. His hat tilted over his in-
offensive wax nose and his out-board arm swung crazily.
Numerous people gazed up at the window, but no one
seemed to know or care from which direction the missile
had come.

"Lord," breathed my friend, "what a wallop!"

He ran back of the automobile and returned with another

"Let me try," he pleaded.

"Go to it," I said, giving him a few instructions and
feeling highly delighted over the success of my last shot.
"Don't worry about the window ; they're all insured."

His first half a dozen swings missed the ball completely
and only succeeding in arousing his ill temper and putting
more power in his arms. Suddenly he hit it. The departed
spirit of some great golf champion must have guided his

"Listen!" he gasped, as the sound of breaking glass fell
pleasantly upon the night.

The figure of an Egyptian king, sitting in envious ad-
miration before the figure of an upstanding young gentle-
man clad proudly in another style of "varsity cut" clothes,


suddenly crumbled up on his throne and seemed to lose all
interest in the object of his admiration.

This was too much for my friend. He almost broke down
from joy. He embraced me and danced around like the
not infrequently referred-to wild Indian.

"What a game!" he kept repeating. "What a game!
I'm going to buy me a lot of them funny little golf balls
and play it all me life."

We returned to the automobile with the clubs, but the
car had disappeared completely, and the spot thereof knew
it no more. From that time on this sailor man and I
wandered around the town in each other's company, get-
ting kisses and refreshments whenever the opportunity pre-
sented itself, which it did with a certain degree of frequency.
I must confess that for the time being I had completely
forgotten Polly and, furthermore, may it be set down to
my everlasting shame that I reported aboard with* my hat
tied on with some woman's automobile scarf and a golf
stick in my hand.

On my way to the ship I encountered an old woman
standing miserably on a corner in the dim, early morning
light. In one hand was a bucket, in the other she held a

"It's all over, mother," I cried. "It's all over."

But she merely stared before her.

"It's all over," I repeated, thinking to arouse the old lady.
"The war is over."

For a moment she continued to stare in that same dull
way into nothingness, then she turned on me with a slow,
crooked smile, and one thin, bony hand sought her eyes.
She bowed her head, and for some reason I felt sure there
were tears beneath that withered old hand.

"It's all over," I repeated softly to myself, and for the
first time the full, ironical significance of what I had been
shouting to the lonely old woman became clear to me, and
with that knowledge the joy of the past night grew sour
in my throat.


Nov. 1 8th. — Well, it's all over with me. Tim, Tony,
the Spider and myself have been detached from the ship
and ordered to report back to Pelham. How will I ever
be able to stand that place after having enjoyed the freedom
of the seas. We're to be released, I understand, but a
certain amount of vagueness is attached to this point. Al-
ready the Spider has begun to sandpaper his fingers. He
says that the rough work he has been doing while in the
Navy has completely ruined his hands for safe cracking.
His fingers fairly itch to get back on a good tough combina-
tion. Yesterday he relieved Tim of all his loose change
and handed it back to him later, saying he was merely get-
ting back into practice, and this morning he passed among
the ship's company, distributing little tokens he had re-
moved from certain of its members during the last trip.
From all sides he was greeted with expressions of admira-
tion on the part of those he had so honored. After the
ceremony he returned to us feeling both proud and reas-
sured. We treat him now in a friendly manner, but are
a trifle distant at the same time. The Spider has a habit of

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Online LibraryThorne SmithOut o' luck; Biltmore Oswald very much at sea → online text (page 3 of 7)