So I Gave Up Bridge
Cheerful Eddie tells about his effort to make bridge a friendly game, and the dire result thereof
THE lady looked over at me and I knew she was annoyed. This lady looked right across the bridge table at me, and she said:
“My dear fellow, you must be an interesting man to live with.”
I said nothing. I give you my word, I said absolutely nothing at all. A fat man, especially a normal, happy fat man who has just bid five spades without a spade in his hand, should always be polite when a lady speaks to him. So I smiled at her. Do not smile at your partner after bidding five spades on a spadeless hand; not when it makes your partner think you have the ace. Never do it. Partners do not like being smiled at on these occasions.
This lady I speak of was quite upset. The situation affected her. She muttered words to herself, and she tapped with her fingers on the table.
She said, “Pardon me, I was just counting.” Then she told me I ought to be shot. She said this in a strained sort of voice, and after that she made five spades.
I congratulated her. “By gravy,” I said, “I really didn’t think you could do it.”
It was then that I began giving up bridge. I thought I ought to begin giving up bridge when my partner said she was so sorry for poor, dear Mrs. March having to live with a lunatic like me. “You should never,” she said, “be allowed in a decent home.”
So I knew I had better begin giving up bridge. Everybody she spoke to about it agreed with her. “And mind you,” she wailed, “he told me right out he didn’t think I could get it.” I was not really sorry. In a mean and secret manner, I was glad. It was the first step on the road to release. Just one further incident gave me complete freedom. After this higher incident I definitely gave up contract. I gave up bridge; I don’t play bridge any more. I am not asked to play bridge any more. So I don’t play it. That is what happened. People who give bridge parties don’t ask me any more. In fact, very few of the really serious bridgeplaying people speak to me. They claim I did them a great injury. Quite a few said I had insulted their intelligence. So they don’t even speak to me.
How to Become an Authority
BELIEVE me, these people are quite wrong. I did not insult their intelligence. I merely took their own approved suggestion and bought a book about bridge. I bought this book because the lady who had been my partner asked me to. She was standing on the verandah when I was saying good night to our hostess, and she said :
“Eddie, for the love of heaven, why don’t you buy a book and try and find out what it is all about.”
Several people said, “Hear, hear.” They said “Hear, hear” in deep, earnest tones. So I bought the book, and eventually I intend to read it. It is an expensive book, full of interesting diagrams and problems, and some rainy evening when I’m all alone I’ll read it. I did not tell our crowd that I was studying this book. They only thought I was studying it. They thought I was studying it because I told them 1 had this book and that it was an authority.
The real serious players in our crowd are kindly people at heart. They are nice to their neighbors. They give freely to the heathen, eagerly support the released convict redemption fund, and they speak hopefully and encouragingly to people striving upward toward better things, like learning the fine points of bridge. They are excellent citizens, therefore they thought I was studying bridge from the scientific standpoint. They said, “This man has been in the depths of the valley. He is making a come-back. Let us help him.” I could see that they were secretly impressed and were telling each other they did not think Eddie had it in him. The serious players did not ask me if I had it in me. They did not give me an opportunity to make a clean breast of it. They just caused me to lead myself along the sinful road until I was forced into a secret bridge life.
I was, indeed. I was old Eddie Deception in person. I just smiled wisely when listening to the serious players and hoped they wouldn’t ask questions. Yes, indeed. I used to get all nervous inside hoping they wouldn’t get too helpful. So I became a modest authority. If a man keeps silent long enough he automatically becomes an authority on the subject he keeps silent on. Many of our authorities have become authorities this way, and it is quite noticeable.
I practised on the women. When my wife told me that some of “the girls” were dropping in of an afternoon and that they would probably have a little game, I always made it a point to get home early. I did, indeed. I found that the publicity helped tremendously. Advertising certainly does get results. I always managed to arrive unexpectedly just before the grub came along. Then I watched the hands, passed the food and joined in the post-mortems.
That was my strong point. I joined in the post-mortems. When the girls were doubtful about what they should have played I horned in with, “Don't you think a small club lead on that seventh round would have been useful?” This was always safe. When bluffing in post-mortems, never pick any of the first five or last three rounds. Any of “the girls” can remember the first and last rounds of a hand, but those middle ones escape them. The last struggle for victory knocks those middle rounds clean out of their heads. It is safe to do your stuff with the middle rounds, and people say: “My, he follows every card. He is an authority.”
The girls were beginning to think that maybe the whole crowd was wrong the night of the spade bid. They began to think I had a keen analytical mind and that I must have
been worried about the stock market. People who should know me better were beginning to think I was a wonder and had that kind of a mind. Even my wife was impressed. She used to look at me in awe and say, “My goodness!” I was very happy. I was an authority, and it was nice to have a wife look at one in awe.
Afternoon Bridge is Fine
I WILL never agree that afternoon bridge is a demoralizing influence. The girls must have their bridge, and people who take a contrary view are thoughtless and selfish and have no regard whatever for the well-being of husbands. Afternoon bridge should be encouraged. Afternoon bridge is a mighty protection for the non-playing expert bridge husbands of the nation. A normal wife after a rousing afternoon of, “Pardon me, but what did you bid? ’ is usually in no mood for evening bridge. A normal wife is much too busy mulling over the dark and dirty news of the day, and wondering about the minus mentalities of the ladies in her group. Every wife thinks about these things after an
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afternoon of bridge, and it is comforting for a husband to know he is safe on the evenings of the afternoons a wife plays bridge.
I am opposed to evening bridge. I have unpleasant memories of evening bridge, and, as I say. I don’t play it any more. There I was doing my best when all of a sudden I was unconditionally released. No apologies were offered. I was eliminated by a band of angry matrons, and they were angry, if you get what I mean. The situation was not my fault. The hostess of the evening was altogether to blame. She invited me. She called up and said: “How about a friendly game Thursday night?” I claim she misled me. How was I to know she was just being polite. It was not a friendly game. It was a deadly earnest game, and, as I say, a lot of otherwise nice people became annoyed with me and don’t speak to me any more.
My wife has forgiven me. She says it was her fault. She says she should have just made me stay at home. She says she will never forgive herself. That is what she says. But I still maintain that our hostess was to blame. She should have told the truth when she called up. She should have said :
“Elddie, we are going to have one of these cutthroat, murderous bridge battles at my house Thursday evening. Come over if you feel tough and savage enough. We allow hitting in the clinches. Bring your own marked cards and make your own rules.” I would have understood that. I would have known what she meant immediately. The whole thing would have been clear to me. I would have stayed at home. This hostess was never deceptive before. Normally she is a nice, honest person, and she can make the best chocolate frosting I ever ate on a cake. It is a nice thick, companionable chocolate frosting, and it appeals to a fat man.
The Horrible Truth
WE ARRIVED at this party in a taxi.
That was the kind of party it was. It was the kind of a party you arrive at in a taxi, wearing a white birthday-present scarf between your overcoat and your dress collar, and hoping the more ribald of your more base acquaintances miss seeing you doing it.
I was paying this taxi off when the first seeds of my disgrace were sow'n. My wife for no reason at all said that auction was a nice, friendly sort of game. I thought, "That is good, we are going to play auction and be friendly.” I did not say this. I just thought it. Husbands are like that. Husbands are always jumping to conclusions.
My wife didn’t mean we were going to play auction and be friendly. No, indeed. She explained this afterward, when we were home again and I was hurrying to bed in the hope that time would do its stuff. Husbands know that time is always a great help on these occasions, provided you can get plenty of time. It was then that I realized that my wife had just been mourning the happy days when bridge was just bridge; the days when a person knew what he was going to play; the days Ixjfore it was necessary to have a working knowledge of the higher mathematics, lip reading, the fine points of table tipping, and half a dozen of these north, east, west, south diagrams from the sporting page pasted on the inside of the dress shirt cuffs.
My wife, in her own wifely way, was just saying that those were the days. That is all she was saying. I know that now and I agree with her. but at the time I jumped to a conclusion. I did indeed, and I was happy. I do like friendly people. Ï was happy, and I played friendly bridge. I played a cheerful, careful game. I said to myself: “Eddie, you honestly don’t want to be interesting to live with.” I said: “Be careful and keep smiling. Remember these people think you have been studying, and besides it’s dangerous for a fat man to be interesting to live with.” I said these things to myself and I talked happily to my partner, and it was right then I began to suspect that our hostess was
misleading and deceptive. My partner made me think hardly of our hostess. She interrupted me. She said :
“Pardon me. This is bridge.”
I said: “Yes, indeed. It is nice to have a friendly game, isn’t it?” I said this hopefully.
I said this, intimating that I was hoping for the best. I was an early depression optimist. I wasn’t anywhere near the corner.
My partner looked annoyed, and she approved of our opponents. She approved of them when they said I shouldn’t talk across the table. So this friendly game became serious. It became serious right on the first deal. You have no idea how serious it became. You have not, indeed.
I sat at table number seven. There were seven tables, and that is the number of the table I sat at. Partners came to table number seven and went away as quickly as they could. One lady asked me in the most earnest manner if I was getting along well with my work. She seemed to think I could not be doing very well, and that I would ultimately be a victim of the depression. She said: “Eddie, I honestly don’t know
how you hold your job.”
She said this in an eager, convincing tone. She seemed to think I should resign just to please her and go away forever. She added that she had so hoped to win the prize. The prize was a nice bowl, and she had so hoped to win it. It was this lady who exposed me. She doubted that I had been studying that authority on bridge. She doubted this right out loud, and she kept right on doubting it. I could hear her doubting it everywhere she went. No man who knew anything, she claimed, would raise a partner’s bid without a re-entry. “I bet,” she said, “he just bought that book and put it on a table where we could see it.” That is what she said, and people believed her. They certainly did, especially the good citizens who make a hobby of assisting the ticket-of-leave men.
The Lady Said, "Awk!"
TJTUSBANDS are no manner of use to a * * man in trouble. Not expert bridgeplaying husbands. They have no souls of 'their own. These husbands I speak of yield to their wives. In fact, they threw me to the angry matrons without lifting a hand. They just looked sad and superior and said, “Yes, dear,” when appealed to by a wife. A husband who can’t think of anything but “Yes, dear,” is a blight. They always make me long for the dear, old days when a wife addressed a husband as “mister,” and, waited until she was spoken to. Those must have been wonderful days for husbands.
So I sat at table seven, a shaking sort of a bridge leper. I sat at table seven and swore off bridge. I told this doubting person that she was right.
“Why,” I asked, “should I read a fool book like that? As a matter of fact,” I said, “I am writing a rule book of my own. It is,”
I added, “called ‘Friendly Bridge.’ ”
This partner behaved as if I’d been rude. She sniffed. She said I had ruined her score, and she sniffed. It is a terrible thing to be sniffed at by a partner. It broke my nerve. I said I was sorry. Saying “sorry” is a mistake. This partner just said: “Sorry be damned.” That is what she said, and I was hurt. I was not accustomed to having my sorrys be damned like that, and it hurt me.
I could see that I was a bridge leper, and that I had been found out. So I was hurt.
Cards change people. My grandmother told me a long time ago that cards were the devil’s playthings and that they changed people. I can agree with grandmother now. Grandmother, who never in her life touched a card, knew exactly what they did to people. Grandmother was right. Grandmother’s knowledge was almost suspicious.
I had always admired one of the ladies at that “friendly game.” This was a secret admiration of mine, and I admired her because she is unquestionably an artist. The things she can do with mushrooms, bits of
chicken and cream sauce! As I say, she is an artist and I admired her. We were friends. I had aforetime sung hymns of praise about her skill in her art, so we were friends. I was glad when I saw her coming to my table. I was bucked up. I thought, “She is a good scout, and this last session will be a friendly session.”
It wasn’t a friendly session. There really wasn’t any session. This lady, who was normally a friend of mine and a good cook and mother, just refused to ruin her score. She arrived at my table with her face flushed and her eyes shining. She was hot on the trail of the prize.
And then she saw me. She didn’t sit down. She held her score card up close to her breast as if she was protecting her child from a hungry wolf, and she said, “Awk!” That is the first thing she said. Just “Awk !” She denied afterward that she said this, but she snorted and it sounded to me like
“Awk!” Then she called me a fakir. She looked at me and she said: “You fakir, you. Your poor dear mother would be ashamed.”
All I said was that a lot of mothers should be. That is all I said, and she refused to play, and they averaged her score out and she won the bowl. She forgave me then. She held the bowl in her hands and she forgave me. She said the bowl would be so nice to serve ice cream in. I could, she said, come over to her house and help with the ice cream. I refused. I have my pride.
So I am not asked to play bridge any more.
I sleep much better of nights, and my blood pressure is slowly returning to normal. When I crave excitement I read about the Ottawa Qmference and the League of Nations. I think the present crop of world diplomats must be serious bridge. players.
They behave that way.
They do, indeed !