The Club At Its Worst by Christopher Morley

Story type: Essay

A barbecue and burgoo of the Three Hours for Lunch Club was held, the club’s medical adviser acting as burgoomaster and Mr. Lawton Mackall, the managing director, as jest of honour. The news that Lawton was at large spread rapidly through the city, and the club was trailed for some distance by an infuriated agent of the Society for the Deracination of Puns. But Lawton managed to kick over his traces, and the club safely gained the quiet haven of a Cedar Street chophouse. Here, when the members were duly squeezed into a stall, the Doctor gazed cheerfully upon Endymion and the Secretary who held the inward places. “Now is my chance,” he cried, “to kill two bards with one stone.”

Lawton, says the stenographic report, was in excellent form, and committed a good deal of unforgivable syntax. He was somewhat apprehensive when he saw the bill of fare inscribed “Ye Olde Chop House,” for he asserts that the use of the word “Ye” always involves extra overhead expense–and a quotation from Shakespeare on the back of the menu, he doubted, might mean a couvert charge. But he was distinctly cheered when the kidneys and bacon arrived–a long strip of bacon gloriously balanced on four very spherical and well-lubricated kidneys. Smiling demurely, even blandly, Lawton rolled his sheave of bacon to and fro upon its kidneys. “This is the first time I ever saw bacon with ball bearings,” he ejaculated. He gazed with the eye of a connoisseur upon the rather candid works of art hanging over the club’s corner. He said they reminded him of Mr. Coles Phillips’s calf-tones. The Doctor was speaking of having read an interesting dispatch by Mr. Grasty in the Times. “I understand,” said Lawton, “that he is going to collect some of his articles in a book, to be called ‘Leaves of Grasty’.”

Duly ambered with strict and cloudy cider, the meal progressed, served with humorous comments by the waitress whom the club calls the Venus of Mealo. The motto of the club is Tres Horas Non Numero Nisi Serenas, and as the afternoon was still juvenile the gathering was transferred to the waterfront. Passing onto the pier, Lawton gazed about him with admirable naivete. Among the piles of freight were some agricultural machines. “Ha,” cried the managing director, “this, evidently, is where the Piers Plowman works!” The club’s private yacht, white and lovely, lay at her berth, and in the Doctor’s cabin the members proceeded to the serious discussion of literature. Lawton, however, seemed nervous. Cargo was being put aboard the ship, and ever and anon there rose a loud rumbling of donkey engines. The occasional hurrying roar of machinery seemed to make Lawton nervous, for he said apprehensively that he feared someone was rushing the growler. In the corridor outside the Doctor’s quarters a group of stewardesses were violently altercating, and Lawton remarked that a wench can make almost as much noise as a winch. On the whole, however, he admired the ship greatly, and was taken with the club’s plans for going cruising. He said he felt safer after noting that the lifeboats were guaranteed to hold forty persons with cubic feet.

By this time, all sense of verbal restraint had been lost, and the club (if we must be candid) concluded its session by chanting, not without enjoyment, its own sea chantey, which runs as follows:–

I shipped aboard a galleass
In a brig whereof men brag,
But lying on my palliass
My spirits began to sag.

I heard the starboard steward
Singing abaft the poop;
He lewdly sang to looard
And sleep fled from the sloop.

“The grog slops over the fiddles
With the violins of the gale:
Two bitts are on the quarterdeck,
The seamen grouse and quail.

“The anchor has been catted,
The timid ratlines flee,
Careening and carousing
She yaws upon the sea.

“The skipper lies in the scupper,
The barque is lost in the bight;
The bosun calls for a basin–
This is a terrible night.

“The wenches man the winches,
The donkey men all bray–“
… I hankered to be anchored
In safety in the bay!