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首页 » 儿童英文小说 » Whist or Bumblepuppy » LECTURE XI.
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“With some unmeaning thing, that they call thought.”—Pope.
“Think, and die.”—Shakespeare.

Never think!

Unless you have some remarkably good reason for taking your own course, do as you are told. If your partner leads a small trump, and you win the trick, return it at once:
“Gratia ab officio, quod mora tardat, abest.”

This is a much more simple and satisfactory plan than to proceed to think that he may have no more, or that the fourth player must hold major tenace over him; no one will admit more readily than I do that you are much the better player of the two, still, allow him to have some idea of the state of his own hand.

Don’t think whenever you see a card played that it is necessarily false.—“Nil sapienti? odiosius acumine nimio.”—Seneca.


As, on the whole, true cards are in the majority, you are more likely to be wrong than right, and the betting must be against you in the long run.
“My business and your own is not to inquire
Into such matters, but to mind our cue—
Which is to act as we are bid to do.”—Byron.

If you are blest with a sufficiently sharp eye to the left, you may occasionally know that a card is false, but knowledge acquired in that way I should not describe as thinking; I should use a quite different expression.

With the military gentleman who anathematized intellect I deeply sympathize. Profound thought about facts which have just taken place under your own eye is the bane of whist.

Why imitate Mark Twain’s fiery steed? Why, when it is your business to go on, “lean your head against something, and think?”

Whether you have seen a thing or not seen it, there can be no necessity for thought; recondite questions—such as whether the seven is the best of a suit of which all the others but the six are out, or whether a card is the twelfth or thirteenth—can be answered by a rational being in one of two ways, and two only; either he knows, or he does not know, there is no tertium quid; the curious practice of gazing intently at the chandelier and looking as intelligent as nature will permit—if not more so—though it is less confusing than going to the last trick for[95] information, and imposes upon some people, is no answer at all;[55] this, in whist circles, is called, or miscalled, thinking. It is not a new invention, for it has been known and practised from the earliest times. “There is a generation, O how lofty are their eyes; and their eyelids are lifted up.”—Proverbs, chap. 30, verse 13, B.C. 1,000. Pecksniff, who had an extensive acquaintance with the weaknesses of human nature, knew it; you and all other schoolboys are adepts at it.

In Greek the very name of man—ανθρωπο?—was derived from this peculiar method of feigning intelligence, and it was by no means unknown to the Romans.
“Pronaque cum spectent animalia c?tera terram,
Os homini sublime dedit c?lumque tueri.”

But, however ancient and venerable the practice may be, it is one of those numerous practices more honoured in the breach than in the observance; surely, looking on the table is more in accordance with the dictates of common sense than attempting to eliminate unknown quantities from a chandelier. In the one you have gas and probably water; on the other—lying open before you—the data required. I have now endeavoured, not to teach you either whist or bumblepuppy, but to point out a few of the differences between them, and to start you on the right[96] road. The first is a game of reason and common sense, played in combination with your partner; the second is a game of inspiration, haphazard, and absurdity, where your partner is your deadliest enemy. I have made a few extracts from Mathews—partly because I do not like novelties merely because they are novelties—partly to convince the bumblepuppist (if anything will convince him) that when he tells me the recognised plan is a new invention, introduced by Cavendish for his especial annoyance, he does not know what he is talking about; and partly to show you that since that book was written—eighty years ago—the main principles of Whist are almost unaltered.

The chapter on etiquette is since his time; but, although the game has been cut down one-half, take away from Mathews his slight partiality for sneakers—to be accounted for by the possibility of his partner at that remote period being even a more dangerous lunatic than yours is at present, and the consequent necessity for playing more on the defensive (for leading singletons, whatever else it may do, and however it may damage the firm, does not injure the leader)[56] take away from the play[97] of to-day its signal, its echo, and its penultimate of a long suit; (all excrescences of doubtful advantage for general purposes, and the last two more adapted to that antediluvian epoch when human life was longer)—and the continuity of the game is clear.[57] Whether Whist would gain anything by their omission I am unable to say; the attention, now always on the strain in looking for its accidents, would have a spare moment or two to devote to its essentials; whether it would do anything of the kind is another matter.

Those followers of Darwin and believers in the doctrine of evolution, to whom it is a source of comfort that an ascidian monad and not Eve was their first parent, must find the Whist table rather a stumbling block: they will there see uncommonly few specimens of the survival of the fittest. A cynic with whom I was once conversing on this subject, remarked that they were much more likely to come across the missing link.

The philosopher of Chelsea long since arrived at the unsatisfactory and sweeping conclusion, that the[98] population of these islands are mostly fools, and he has made no exception of the votaries of Whist. Still, it has the reputation of being a very pretty game, though this reputation must be based to a great extent on conjecture; for apart from its other little peculiarities—on some of which I have briefly touched—its features are so fearfully disfigured by bumblepuppy, that it is as difficult to give a positive opinion as to say whether a woman suffering from malignant small-pox might or might not be good looking under happier circumstances. The sublime self-confidence expressed in the distich—
“When I see thee as thou art,
I’ll praise thee as I ought,”

has not been vouchsafed to me, but if ever I obtain a clear view of it, I will undertake to report upon it to the best of my ability.

You may have heard that if you are ignorant of Whist you are preparing for yourself a miserable old age: it is by no means certain that a knowledge of it—as practised at this particular period—is to be classed with the beatitudes.


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