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首页 » 儿童英文小说 » Whist or Bumblepuppy » LECTURE X.
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“‘The time has come,’ the walrus said,
To talk of many things.’”

To become a fair whist-player[46] no wonderful attributes are required; common sense, a small amount of knowledge—easily acquired—ordinary observation of facts as they occur, and experience, the result of that observation—not the experience obtained by repeating the same idiotic mistakes year after year—are about all. To save you trouble, the experience of all the best players for the last hundred years has been collected into a series of maxims, which you will find in any whist book. These maxims you should[82] know,[47] but though you know every maxim that ever was written, and are “bland, passionate, deeply religious, and also paint beautifully in water-colours,” if among your other virtues the power of assimilating facts as they occur is not included, this will not avail you in the least.

Bumblepuppy—according to its own account—demands much more superfine qualities, e.g., inspiration, second-sight, instinct, an intuitive perception of false cards and singletons, and an intimate acquaintance with a mysterious and Protean Bogey called “the Game”—in short everything but reason[48]—(all these fine words, when boiled and peeled, turn out sometimes to mean ordinary observation, but more usually gross ignorance). So much for its theory; its practice is this—
Practice of Bumblepuppy.
“This is an anti-Christian game,
Unlawful both in thing and name.”—Hudibras.

(1) Lead a singleton whenever you have one.

(2) With two small trumps and no winning card lead a trump.


(3) Ruff a suit of which your partner clearly holds best, if you are weak in trumps.

(4) Never ruff anything if you are strong.

(5) Never return your partner’s trump if you can possibly avoid it, unless he manifestly led it to bring in a suit of which you led a singleton.

(6) Deceive him whenever you get a chance.

(7) Open a new suit every time you have the lead.

(8) Never pay any attention to your partner’s first discard, unless it is a forced discard (page 32); lead your own suit.

(9) Never force him under any circumstances unless you hold at least five trumps with two honours; even if you lose the rubber by it, play “the Game!”

(10) Devote all your remaining energies to looking for a signal in the last trick. If you are unable to discover which was your partner’s card—after keeping the table waiting for two minutes—enquire what trumps are, and lead him one on suspicion.

Play all your cards alike without emphasis or hesitation; how can you expect your partner to have any[84] confidence in your play when it is evident to him from your hesitation that you have no confidence in it yourself?

If your partner renounces, and you think fit to enquire whether he is void of the suit, do so quietly; don’t offer a hint for his future guidance by glaring or yelling at him.

Don’t ask idiotic questions; if you led an ace, and the two, three, and four are played to the trick, what is the use of asking your partner to draw his card? If you hold all the remaining cards of a suit, why enquire whether he has any?

Don’t talk in the middle of the hand.[49] However you may be tempted to use bad language—and I must admit the temptation is often very great—always recollect that though your Latin grammar[85] says “humanum est irasci,” the antidote grows near the bane, for—at the bottom of the very preceding page—it also says “pi orant taciti.”
“’Tis best sometimes your censure to restrain.”—Pope.

According to the wisest man who ever lived, “he that holdeth his peace is counted wise, and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.” Such a reputation appears cheap at the price; but—if you are of the opinion of J. P. Robinson that “they didn’t know everything down in Judee”—you can call your partner any names you like as soon as the hand is over.[50] You need not be at all particular what for, any crime of omission or commission, real or fancied, will do; if, after the game is ended, you discover that it might have been saved or won by doing something different, however idiotic, grumble at him.[51]


It is quite legitimate to revile him for not playing cards he never held; if he should have the temerity to point out that the facts are against you, revile the facts.

If there is a really diabolical mistake in the case, and you happen to have made it yourself, revile him with additional ferocity.


But never forget this! Before you proceed to give your partner a piece of your mind, always call your honours! for by neglecting this simple precaution, you will often lay yourself open to a crushing rejoinder; experto crede!

Failing any other grievance, you can always prove to demonstration—and at interminable length—that if his cards, or your cards, or both your cards, had been just the reverse of what they were, the result would have been different; this certainly opens a wide field for speculation, but it is neither an instructive nor entertaining amusement, though it kills time. “Oh, take one consideration with another, the whist-player’s lot is not a happy one.”

There is a theory which, according to some evil-disposed persons, may easily be made too much of—the injury to yourself being remote and doubtful, while the gratification of annoying him is certain and immediate—that abusing your partner, as having a tendency to make him play worse, is a mistake from a pecuniary point of view; of course it is a mistake, but not for such a paltry reason as that; take a higher stand-point! Whether you are winning or losing
“You should never let
Your angry passions rise.”—Watts.

Don’t cry!
“Ill betide a nation when
She sees the tears of bearded men.”


And you will have a beard yourself some time, if you don’t lead the penultimate of five. (See page 21.) Without exciting the slightest sympathy on the part of an unfeeling public, crying deranges the other secretions; the Laureate says tears are idle, and professes ignorance of their meaning; if he played whist he would know that they injure the cards and make them sticky.

Don’t play out of your turn, nor draw your card before that turn comes.

Don’t ride a hobby to death! In ordinary whist three prevailing hobbies are so cruelly over-ridden that I am surprised the active and energetic Mr. Colam has never interfered: these are—

(1) The penultimate of a long suit.

(2) The signal for trumps.

(3) Not forcing your partner unless you are strong in trumps—under any circumstances.

The first is, in the majority of cases, a nuisance;[52] the second is stated to simplify the game and to cause greater attention to be paid to it—practically the entire time of the players is taken up, either in[89] devising absurd signals or in looking for and failing to see them: the third is responsible for losing about as many games as anything I am acquainted with, though the constant and aimless changing of suits runs it close.

Is it any reason—because you have no trumps—that you should announce that circumstance early in the hand to the general public and prevent your partner making one? If he has them all, you cannot injure him; if he has not, the adversaries will play through him and strangle him: why is it that you are afraid to let your partner make a certain trick, though you are never afraid to open a new suit?

An impression is abroad that there is somewhere a law of whist to this effect: “Never force your partner at any stage of the game unless you yourself are strong in trumps.” Now there is no such thing.

Let us see what the authorities say on the point. “Keep in mind that general maxims pre-suppose the game and hand at their commencement, and that material changes in them frequently require that a different mode of play should be adopted.” “It is a general maxim not to force your partner unless strong in trumps yourself. There are, however, many exceptions to this rule, as

(1) If your partner has led a single card.

(2) If it saves or wins a particular point.

(3) If great strength in trumps is declared against you.

(4) If you have a probability of a saw.


(5) If your partner has been forced and did not lead trumps.

(6) It is often right in playing for an odd trick.

If your partner shows a weak game force him whether or not you are otherwise entitled to do it.”—Mathews.

With a weak trump hand force your partner:

“(1) When he has already shown a desire to be forced, or weakness in trumps.

“(2) When you have a cross ruff.

“(3) When you are playing a close game as for the odd trick, and often when one trick saves or wins the game or a point.

“(4) When great strength in trumps has been declared against you.”—Cavendish.

“Do not force your partner unless to make sure of the tricks required to save or win the game;

“Or, unless he has been already forced, and has not led a trump;

“Or, unless he has asked to be forced by leading from a single card, or two weak cards;

“Or, unless the adversary has led, or asked for trumps.”—Clay.

“Unless your partner has shown great strength in trumps, or a wish to get them drawn, or has refused to ruff a doubtful card, give him the option of making a small trump, unless you have some good reason for not doing so, other than a weak suit of trumps in your own hand.”—Art of Practical Whist.


With these extracts before you, perhaps you will dismiss from your mind the popular fallacy, that you are under any compulsion to lose the game, because your trumps are not quite so strong as you could wish.

Make a note of this.

Maxims were not invented for the purpose of preventing you from either saving or winning the game, though it is their unfortunate fate to be epitomized and perverted out of all reasonable shape: the ill-advised dictum, “Suppose the adversaries are four, and you, with the lead, have a bad hand. The best play is, in defiance of all system, to lead out your best trump;” was comparatively innocuous till some ingenious person, with a turn for abbreviation, altered it into “Whenever you hold nothing, lead a trump!” Use your common sense.[53]

I have gone into this matter at considerable length, because I am convinced that however many people, once affluent, are now in misery and want, owing to their not having led trumps with five—Clay gave the number as eleven thousand—a far larger number have been reduced to this deplorable condition, by changing suits and refusing on principle to save the game by forcing their partner.

Before quitting the subject, there is another branch of it worthy of a little consideration: when your[92] partner by his discard has shown which is his suit, and you hold two or three small cards in it, however strong you may be in trumps—unless everything depends on one trick—do you expect to gain much by forcing him and making yourself third player? though it is usual to play in this absurd way, is there any objection to first playing his suit and—as, ex hypothesi, you are strong in trumps—forcing him afterwards?

Play always as simply and intelligibly as you can!

In addition to your partner not being able to see your cards—in itself a disadvantage—he is by an immutable law of nature, much inferior in perception to yourself; you should bear this in mind and not be too hard on the poor fellow.

Never think![54] Know! Leave thinking to the Teuton:
“A Briton knows, or if he knows it not,
He ought.”—Cowper.

After the game has begun, the time for thinking has passed: as soon as a card is led it is the time for action, the time to bring to bear your previously acquired knowledge.


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