The Work of Greg Clark and Jimmie Frise

Tag: 1936 Page 1 of 4


“Let’s leave the rest of the mushrooms,” said Jim. “I feel a pain!”

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, September 5, 1936.

“Mushrooms,” said Jimmie Frise, “are now in season.”

“For me,” I replied, “mushrooms have no season. I like mushrooms on a nice rare steak. I like mushrooms on toast, soaked in their own butter gravy. But, most of all, I like mushrooms in June or January, February or December.”

“But you admit,” asked Jim, “that the best mushrooms are the ones you pick yourself in the woods and cook yourself, about nine p.m. at night at the conclusion of a lovely September day out in the open, mushroom hunting.”

“No, Jim,” I said, “I can’t say I do. As a matter of fact, I have never done that. But my feeling is, I prefer a good professionally grown mushroom that you can buy at any store to the wild article precisely as I prefer a nice piece of high grade beef to a hunk of wild venison.”

“I thought you were a sportsman,” sighed Jim.

“A man can be a sportsman,” I explained, “and still like good food. If your idea of a sportsman is one who sits out in a frozen bog all day nibbling dry sandwiches and then comes in to a good meal of lukewarm canned beans and tea that would make your toes open and shut or float an egg, then I am not a sportsman. I like good edible tasty food, that’s all.”

“Good edible tasty food,” said Jim, “makes me think of a dull, sickening thud or something. It makes me think of fat men who live in furnished rooms all alone and go through life gently and silently staring at everything and nobody knows their name. Good tasty food. It makes me think of the kind of woman you describe as a great little housekeeper. Ugh.”

“You like good food,” I protested.

“Yes, but now and then I like a little adventure,” said Jim. “I like to surprise my insides. Imagine being insides. Imagine spending your whole life at the mercy of somebody outside who does all the picking and choosing. And all you have to do every day for all your life is receive a lot of guck, always the same, never anything new, never any excitement.”

“Radishes,” I pointed out, “onions.”

“Pah,” said Jim. “I believe in giving my insides a surprise every now and then. I like to go to one of these Italian restaurants and eat one of those great big soup plates full of rubbery spaghetti, four feet long doused with meat sauce, red hot peppers, paprika and spices.”

“So do I,” I admitted. “Within reason.”

“Reason nothing,” said Jim. “You just ought to feel my insides when I start sliding that spaghetti down, all cool and smooth and hot and scratchy. Boy, my insides fairly shout with joy.”

“A tall thin cold glass of water,” I agreed, “often gives me that feeling of cheering.”

“A tin dipper full,” corrected Jim, “from a pump.”

“I never really can enjoy a drink from a pump,” I explained, “because of looking down the end of my nose for wrigglers or thinking of pollution.”

Jim studied me for a long moment.

Men Who Lived Gloriously

“There is no thrill,” said he, “like the wild thrill. No flavor like the gamey flavor. We are the flabby descendants of ages of men before us who lived gloriously on what they killed or picked up in the forest. It took us countless ages to arrive at roast beef and ham and eggs.”

“During which time,” I pointed out, “millions died in agony from eating the wrong thing.”

“If you like,” agreed Jim. “But certain things wake in us an ancient thrill, a sense of freedom, a feeling of reality, and among them are mushrooms and venison and partridges and speckled trout.”

“Hear, hear,” I confessed immediately.

“My suggestion is,” said Jim, “that this week-end, we go mushrooming. This is the time of year. Mushrooms are to be gathered at all times of the year, from spring to autumn. But the autumn is the best time.”

“How about toadstools?” I asked

“There are only a few poisonous species,” explained Jim. “And hundreds of edible species.”

“Jim, if there were only the one poisonous species,” I stated, “it would be too much.”

“Wait a minute,” said Jim. “I’ve got a government bluebook on mushrooms here somewhere. I’ll show you how simple it is.”

He hunted around through his files of old newspapers, straw hats, discarded suspenders, old snapshots he had lost for years, and so forth, the usual artist’s files, and then he produced the pamphlet.

“See,” he said, “it’s got pictures. Here’s one I’ve often eaten. Look. Deadly Agaric. No, no, but that one. That is deadly. Wait a minute. Here it is. See this lovely one. The Destroying Angel. No, no, wait a minute. That’s the worst one of all. I’ve got its picture right here. Somewhere.”

He thumbed through the pamphlet, showing me dozens of photographs of the worst-looking creations the Lord ever made. What day these flat, flabby, pallid things were made is not mentioned in the Good Book.

“Ah, here it is,” cried Jim, exhibiting a dreadful bulbous-looking monster that seemed to have a skin disease. This is the Shaggy Mane.”

“Has it got hair on it?” I protested.

“Certainly not,” said Jim. “That’s a poetic name for it. Nothing in nature has such poetic names as mushrooms. My boy, I assure you once you have tried mushroom hunting you will become a mushroom hunter for life. In the cool September weather, in the early morning when everything is fresh and dewy, you go forth into the woods and along the margins of meadows, searching on the ground for these quaint little elfin creations of nature. They are white and cream and tawny brown. Pearly and bluish. They grow secretly in the shadow of trees, along the edges of old logs, in clusters where the long grass suddenly thins. In olden days, the people thought the fairies made mushrooms for chairs and parasols. They thought where the rings of mushrooms grew the fairies had been dancing.”

“I wouldn’t wonder,” I said darkly.

“Mushroom hunting in September,” declared Jim, “is as delightful a pastime as bird watching in May. Besides, you can’t eat songbirds, but you can eat mushrooms.”

“I might go with you,” I said, “but only for the fresh air.”

“Here,” said Jim, turning to the government pamphlet again, “are the rules about how to avoid the poisonous species. Listen. It says, ‘Avoid fungi when in the button or unexpanded stage; also those in which the flesh has begun to decay, even if only slightly, and those that contain larvae or worm holes.”

“How delicious,” I said.

“Avoid all fungi which have stalks with a swollen base,” continued Jim, “surrounded by a cup-like or scaly envelope, especially if the gills are white.”

“It sounds like a snake and a fish combined,” I declared.

“Avoid all fungi,” continued Jim, eloquently, “having a milky juice, unless the milk is reddish.”

“Ah,” said I, “reddish milk is O.K. huh?”

“Avoid all fungi,” read Jim, “which have a bitter, unpleasant taste or an unpleasant odor.”

“I’d be sure to like those,” I agreed, “straight off.”

“You see,” said Jim. “Here it is in cold type, perfectly plain and simple. We can’t go wrong.”

“I tell you, Jim,” I said. “You collect mushrooms, and I’ll collect poison ivy.”

Baskets on Our Arms

But Jim is a man of imagination, and Saturday dawn he had me up and away to that country of beechwoods and pine and ash which lies amidst the limestone of Guelph and Georgetown, and across meadows soaked with dew we strode upward toward the skyline carrying baskets on our arms.

And sure enough, along the edge of a lovely beech wood we found in the meadow little encampments of the common mushroom. And I must confess that it was a pleasure to find them, and to kneel down and pick them, all firm and cool, and see how easily and crisply they broke apart, cap from stem. Jim and I soon had the bottoms of the baskets covered with them.

Into the woods we walked slowly, studying each tree trunk carefully, and finding amidst the pine woods the fluted stalk or Fall Morel, a curiously twisted and wrinkled thing like an old, old lady, but really only a day old; and incredibly yellow coral fungi which Jim said were beautiful to eat, but which looked to me like asparagus gone to the dogs.

On dead trees we found flat fungi as red as Chinese lacquer, and in a quiet and lovely grove of birch trees, already fading to yellow, we came upon a lonely little thing of beauty, white as alabaster, curved and beautiful as a child’s hand, rising like a dream out of the rotting earth mould.

“And here,” said Jim, proudly, “is my dear friend. Amanita Verna, the Destroying Angel. This frail and ghostly little plant has enough deadly poison in him to kill a tableful of guardsmen.”

So we looked at it for quite a few minutes and thought of our poor ancestors who didn’t have government pamphlets or any other knowledge, and then we kicked it to pieces and stamped on it, and wiped our boots on good wet meadow grass and went down afar to another beech-edged meadow to fill our baskets with the common mushroom.

Lunch we had with us in a box, and his we ate on one of those hills looking north across a thousand farms in autumn chintz. The afternoon we wasted splendidly turning up roads never seen before, and stopping at the gates of a hundred farms to see the apples on the trees, or observe the fat cattle or simply to try and guess what some distant farmer was doing. And usually we couldn’t guess.

And through the afternoon haze we turned homeward for the feast.

“Now comes,” said Jim, “the best part of mushroom hunting. Mushrooms are best the day they are picked.”

And his family being on a picnic, we went to Jim’s for the party. We sorted our baskets and set out only the choicest of our joint catch. Washed them and dried them. Put on aprons. Dedicated one whole pound of butter to the feast, and heated the big iron frying-pan.

“I’ll fry,” said Jim, “and you dance attendance on me. Heat the plates. Set the table.”

“Bread?” said I.

“Would you eat a woollen blanket with pate de fois gras?” demanded Jim. “Just mushrooms. Nothing else. This is a feast.”

And into the browning butter Jim sliced the plump mushrooms, where they swelled and curved and darkened and shrank. And on to an oven platter he ladled them out.

“Not done too much,” he explained, “yet not underdone.”

And, in due time, we had fried in butter enough of the succulent nubbins to make a fine black heap on two large plates and an odor so wild and strange and teasing as to make us almost perspire with expectancy.

“Fall to,” cried Jim.

And we fell to, as only men who have been abroad in September can fall. And with our forks we ladled up mouthfuls of the hot and buttery darkness and found them as they should be, chewy, yet tender,

To tell the truth, right at the very start, I imagined I detected a faint bitterness. I did not like to say anything about it, because after all it was a feast and Jim was full of pride. But after I had got down about half of my pile, I slowed up a bit and looked at Jim. And, to my horror, I caught Jim looking at me with a slight look of horror in his eyes.

“Do you – ah,” I said, “detect a slight bitterness?”

“I do,” said Jim, hollowly. We pushed our plates away.

“How soon,” I asked, huskily, “do the pains begin?”

“Sometimes,” said Jim, in a thin voice, “not for two days.”

We stared at each other. What a strange way for our long friendship to end. Boy and man, come Michaelmas, blame near a quarter century. And now toadstool gets us.

“Jim,” I said, “look through this basket here and see which of us is likely guilty. I would feel easier if I thought you had poisoned me rather than vice versa.”

“Let’s leave it,” said Jim, rising sharply to his feet and clutching his stomach. “Here come the pains.”

Sure enough pains.

“Call a doctor,” I commanded.

“No use, no use,” said Jim. “I don’t think there is a cure known for fungus poisoning.”

“Will it hurt much?” I enquired.

“After all,” said Jim, turning green, “does that matter?”

“You’re quite right,” I agreed, slipping back and getting a good grip of my central neighborhood.

And then Jim’s family walked in, loudly, gaily, full of picnic.

“What on earth,” they cried, “are you cooking in that iron frying-pan?”

“Mushrooms,” said we, concealing our agony bravely.

“Did you rinse it out, for goodness sake?” they asked.

“No,” said we.

“Well, it was full of laundry soap the last time I saw it,” said the family, loudly laughing. “And that was this morning. That hasn’t been a cooking pan for about ten years.”

“We didn’t eat any yet,” said Jim. “We were just going to, when you came in.”

“Ha, ha,” said I. “Wouldn’t that have been comic, if we had eaten any.”

But Jim, looking at me, took me by the arm and led me out the back kitchen into the garden, under the stars, and we two walked up and down, pausing now and again, and walking up and down, along the back or bushy end of the garden, until nearly ten o’clock.

Editor’s Notes: Greg and Jim describe spaghetti as a rare and unusual treat, as in the 1930s, Italian food would still be “ethnic food”.

“Dance attendance on me” is an archaic term meaning “obey every command I give”.

Michaelmas is a Christian feast day on September 29. So Greg is describing his friendship with Jim dating back 25 years by that date. This would date back to the early 1910s, which would make sense since Jim’s first comic in the Toronto Star was late in 1910, and Greg started working for the Star in 1912.

The Big Round-Up!

April 25, 1936

Thumbs Down!

March 7, 1936


There was no one in sight, but before our eyes, the sleigh moved uphill!

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, March 7, 1936.

“I’m hexed,” said Jimmie Frise.

“Which?” said I.

“Hexed,” repeated Jimmie. “It means bewitched. It is a word that comes from the Pennsylvania Dutch. It means somebody has put a hex on me.”

“Explain,” I invited.

“Well, now, this morning,” said Jim, nervously looking around the office, “just before daylight I was waked from a deep sleep by the telephone ringing loudly.”

“A nasty experience,” I admitted.

“I jumped out of bed,” said Jim, “half asleep. I had dropped my shoes beside the bed on retiring. As I leaped from bed I trod on one of my shoes. It rolled. I twisted my leg and fell in a loud heap all over the cold floor.”

“The telephone still ringing?” I inquired.

“Shrilly,” said Jim. “I scrambled to my feet, tried to get out the bedroom door to the hall and collided violently with a chair that someone had put there out of its place, fair in the middle of the room.”

“There is always a chair in a place like that,” I commented.

“Oh, no, there isn’t,” said Jim, again glancing cautiously around him. “So I picked myself up again, shoved the chair aside. And by this time I was angry. I knew the door was likely to be ajar. And I knew the chances were that I would bump into it. So, despite my hurry, and the fact that the telephone was still jangling fiercely…”

“Why didn’t you switch on the light?” I suggested.

“With the phone ringing, and the switch away across the room,” said Jim, angrily, “what else would I do but what I was doing? So I extended both my arms ahead of me. I felt my way towards the door. You have guessed it? Yes, the door was exactly between my extended arms, and I banged my nose and forehead savagely against the door edge.”

“Nothing more could happen,” I laughed heartily.

“Yes, it could,” said Jim. “For when I did reach the phone, whoever had wanted me was gone. All I heard was a buzz. I yelled hello, hello, and woke all my family up. They turned on lights and came and stood in the hall watching me.”

“Any more?” I inquired.

“Yes, plenty more,” said Jim, in a low voice. “As you know, Lillie has been very ill recently. I was afraid it was them trying to get me. So I dialed Lillie’s number. I heard the phone ringing and ringing. I waited, although I felt relieved that if nobody answered right away, it couldn’t have been Lillie’s folks trying to get us.”

Series of Comic Incidences

“So?” I encouraged, for Jim was growing more husky every second.

“So,” said Jim, with a long breath, “I heard the telephone lifted off the other end and a very sleepy voice said, ‘Yes.’ ‘Is that you, Fred?’ I asked. There was silence for a moment. ‘No,’ shouted the voice, this isn’t Fred!’ And banged the receiver up in my ear.”

“You tried again?” I begged.

“I certainly did,” said Jim, “because now I was anxious. So very carefully I dialed the number again. I heard it ring. To my great anxiety, it rang only four times before the receiver was snatched off and a voice like a mad bull yelled, ‘If it’s Fred you want, will you get the hell off my line!”

“That isn’t hexed,” I choked.

“So I looked up the number,” said Jim, “and dialed it right. And this time, Fred answered after about ten rings, and said no, he hadn’t been calling me and Lillie was fine, thanks.”

“So then,” I said, “your family was free to go back to bed again?”

“Not quite,” said Jim, grimly. “I started back to bed. There are three steps down in the hall between the front level and the back. I have taken those three steps thousands, yes, tens of thousands of times.”

“Don’t forget, you were a little upset,” I offered.

“I missed the lowest, or third, step,” said Jim, “came down heavily on the small rug, which skidded. And for the third time in five minutes landed like a thousand of brick on the floor of my own home.”

“Your family,” I supposed, “was rather tired of you by this time?”

“I lay there for quite a little while,” said Jim, “not swearing or anything, but just with a helpless sort of feeling, as if the inanimate world, the world of chairs, rugs, floors, telephones, were in active league against me. However, helpless and hopeless as I felt. I got up, carefully felt my way through the door, crept with outstretched arms towards my bed; and you can believe this or not, just as you please, but guess what?”

“What?” I asked.

“I again stepped on one of my shoes, it rolled the same as before, and with a final end utterly ridiculous collapse, I floundered right under my bed, and hurt my head on the floor.”

“Well, I’d say you were just a sound sleeper,” I submitted. “You don’t wake very easily. You were only half awake.”

“Awake,” hissed Jim. “Awake. I tell you, I was never more awake in my life. I was hexed, that’s what I was. Bewitched. Some queer, mischievous, wilful spirit, some sort of little goblin, or lesser devil, some evil spirit without any real power for evil, had me on the run.”

“A series of comic coincidences,” I laughed.

“I tell you,” said Jim, “the night is peopled with devils. Not big devils. Maybe the big devils are abroad, too, doing bigger and more evil things. But there are troops of lesser devils, like unseen monkeys, and they haunt the night, seeking out their victims and making them the butt of their jokes.”

“This is a fine build-up.” I declared, “to excuse your own clumsiness and stupidity.”

“I was hexed,” disagreed Jim. “And I assure you those simple Pennsylvania Dutch, in homely communion with the nature and the truth, knew what they were talking about when they worked out the theory of hexing.”

“Of course,” I submitted, “I am not one of those who scoff at all suggestion of the mystical and spiritualistic. But I think you are rather far-fetched in trying to blame your adventures early this morning on spirits.”

“Who else would I blame it on?” demanded Jim angrily. “Do you suppose it is just an ordinary thing for a man to be waked up in the middle of the night by a fake telephone call and then submitted to the most ridiculous persecution, all by accident?”

“I should say so,” I stated, judicially,

“Then,” sighed Jim, “you are a lot more old-fashioned than I thought. You belong to that cold and practical era that began with King George and ended with the big depression. You are a Georgian realist. You don’t believe in anything that can’t be bought or sold.”

“I have my ideals,” I stated.

“But you are most uncomfortable at the thought that there might be something beyond your control. Something you can’t bring to heel either with a machine, or law, or money.”

“It is a good, sound, sane material world,” I agreed.

But Jimmie got up from his chair, walked cautiously around his office, avoiding chairs, picking his feet up carefully and setting them down with equal care, and stood looking out over the city spread far below us.

“I think,” he said, “I will head for home early to-day. It isn’t a day I would want to be abroad after nightfall.”

“Poo-hoo,” I laughed.

When the garage telephoned me in mid-afternoon that my car would not be ready by supper time, I asked Jim if I could ride home with him. His eagerness was pitiable.

“I was thinking of inviting you to ride home with me,” he said. “Or else maybe I could ride home with you.”

“Tut, tut,” I said. “Jimmie, there are times when all of us are a little off our feed.”

But Jim just gave me a long look, as if he were trying to communicate something to me that words could not convey.

We knocked off at four and walked briskly down to Jim’s parking area and got into the big schooner which Jim drives. The day had darkened and nasty low-lying clouds promised snow or sleet.

“This is a night I’ll be settled down beside the grate fire,” said Jim, starting the engine. We drove out into Bay street and down to the water front. Dusty snow whirled off the barren fields, and we got into line with the early home-goers whose cars were already turning on their dim lights. “Brrrrrr!”

Not too fast, and letting scores of cars pass us. Jim drove westward, past the Prince’s Gate, curving out towards the sea wall where a gray lake heaved weirdly, and threw high sprays and spumes against the concrete. Down amidst the shuttered and abandoned amusement devices of Sunnyside we nosed, and a sense of desolation smote even me.

A Rather Eerie Spot

“What’s this ahead?” exclaimed Jim, sharply.

“An accident, it looks like,” I said, as we coasted into a thickening line of cars. “And a nasty one.”

Three cars were messed up in one of those skid confusions, and the highway rapidly filled with other cars coming both ways to effect a solid block in the traffic.

“Here,” said Jim, sharply, “we don’t want to get caught in any mix-up. I’ll drive up through High Park.”

So, looking out his rear window, Jim backed the old schooner to the turn up through High Park and in a moment we were free of the confusion, and turned up the westerly and little-used roadway through the park.

“If you are so leery,” I smiled, “I wouldn’t risk going through High Park on an evening like this.”

“Quickest way home,” said Jim briefly, stepping on the gas.

The road winds through the park. On either side, the gaunt trees stood with wide arms, as if lifting them in attitudes of horror. The curious gray light filled the hollows with rather sinister shadows. And then the tire gave out with a loud, shrill scream.

“Tire,” I said, as Jim collapsed on the steering wheel.

“Funny place for a tire to give out,” said Jim. “Why wouldn’t it give out on the highway?”

So I got out, and, while Jim scrabbled under the seat for tools, I casually pounded the spare.

“Jim,” I said, “your spare is flat, too.”

Jim came and stared at the spare.

“I had it filled yesterday,” he whispered.

“It’s flat now, look,” I demonstrated.

“I have no pump,” said Jim.

“Let’s wait for somebody to come by,” I said, “and get lift out to Bloor St. and send back a mechanic.”

“Wait nothing,” said Jim. “I’m going to do no waiting in this place.”

And indeed, when I came to look around, it was a rather eerie spot, the trees so curiously watchful, the small hills that completely shut us off seeming to raise their shoulders in a kind of glee. The wind made a hushing sound, and a tumble-weed suddenly started to roll along the side of the road so that Jim and I both made a grab for each other.

“If we aren’t going to wait,” I said, “what do you propose?”

“I propose,” said Jim, that we both start walking to Bloor St.”

And I saw him take a wrench and slip it up his coat sleeve. He locked the car. Away we started.

An Unnerving Sight

In the distance we could hear the hum and whir of traffic passing up the other park road, over a distant and concealing hill.

“Let’s walk over the hill and get a lift,” I said. “It’s quite a hike in this wind to Bloor St.”

“Okay,” said Jim, for the fields were more open than the road which skirted a valley filled with trees, bushes and shadows. “The sooner I get home the better.”

Half way across the field we came out on a little hillock and we both saw what we saw at the same instant.

It was a sleigh. A child’s sleigh. All alone in that vast expanse of white with no person, no object, no tree or bush or stump within sight, the little sleigh was slowly moving.

“Hhrrrmmmpphh,” I cleared my throat.

“So,” said Jim in a choked whisper. “So, we don’t get home!”

“It’s the wind, Jim,” I said comfortingly. “Some kid forgot his sleigh and the wind is blowing it.”

“The wind is against it,” whispered Jim.

“Hhhrrrruummpphh,” said I.

We watched the dreadful spectacle. A little sleigh, slowly, jerkily, but steadily crossing the white ground a few yards before us. Beckoning us. Stopping and starting and signalling us to follow. Follow it to some strange place, some nether world where the unseen creatures who were pulling it might have us at their mercy.

“Jim,” I said, “I apologize. I want to apologize right now before whatever happens, happens.”

“Hexed,” gasped Jim.

“I feel an awful desire,” I groaned, “to run and get on that sleigh and see where it would take me.”

“Just stand still,” sighed Jimmie, “as long as we can.”

The sweet sounds of Toronto traffic rattled and hummed over the hill only a little distance away. We could see, sense, feel the presence of the great city all around us. Yet here, in this desolate park, in a small gully, we stood and watched the ghostly sleigh with frozen stares.

It halted. It struggled.

On the far side of the hill appeared two small boys.

“Hey, mister,” they yelled across. “Loosen our sleigh when you come past.”

Jim and I raced to see who would loosen it first. We ran beside it as the little boys hauled it up to the top with the clothes line they were using.

“What’s the idea,” we demanded gaily when we reached the boys, “of hauling a sleigh on a rope that long?”

“It’s an idea,” said the larger small boy, “so we don’t have to drag it back up each time we go down. We slide down, see? Then we just walk up to the top and pick up the rope and we both pull. So it is nobody’s turn to drag it up, see?”

“A swell idea,” I enthused.

“On’y it didn’t work,” said the boy. “We were just dragging it home.”

“Let’s help,” said Jim and I.

So we set both small boys on their sleigh and hauled them up to Bloor St.

So we set both small boys on their sleigh and hauled them up to the road.

Editor’s Notes: Pennsylvania Dutch refers to the early German settlers of the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. They referred to themselves as Deutsch (for “German”) later corrupted to “Dutch”.

Spumes are defined as froth or foam, especially found on waves.

This story was repeated on January 15, 1944 as “Bewitched”, where the second illustration comes from.

Goose Hangs High

Jim hung head down, vainly attempting to unbuckle his skis…

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, February 1, 1936.

“Skis,” said Jimmie Frise, “are not enough.”

“They’re plenty,” I assured him.

“Once you find the stores filled with all kinds of gadgets,” said Jim, “you know skiing has arrived. For years, all that the stores sold were skis themselves, ski boots and ski poles. And skiing was nothing more than a sort of half-hearted hobby of the few. But all of a sudden, skiing takes on major proportions. It is becoming a cult. It has its uniform, its badges, its accessories. Why, I was in a little shop the other day that sells nothing but ski stuff.”

“Ye Ski Shoppe?” I asked.

“No,” said Jim. “It was just called Ski Art. And beside skis costing fifty bucks, made of some sacred wood found only in Lapland, they had two walls lined ten skis deep with skis of every sort and size. Big heavy jumping skis, slim, tooth-pick skis for racing. They had vast piles of ski jackets made of silk, satin, leather, pigskin, canvas and fur. All the colors of the rainbow. Then you could take your pick of ski harness ranging all the way from fifty cents to twenty dollars. There were ski harnesses so perfect that all you have to do is stand still and you go shooting over the snow at sixty miles an hour.”

“Pff, pff,” I protested.

“Then, ski wax,” said Jim. “All the way from Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland. They call it smearing. It comes in little tubes like shaving sticks, and in tin cans like floor wax, and in sardine tins, now that the world has gone ski nuts.”

“You can’t ski in the Congo,” I pointed out.

“They’ll be taking it up,” decreed Jim. “They’ll ski on the great, green, greasy Limpopo river. But there is one kind of wax for dry snow, another for wet snow, another for crusty snow and another for crinkly snow. Then there are ski poles you use for just ordinary ski-touring. And another kind for hills. Another kind for jumping and doing Hendrik Ibsens or whatever it is.”

“He was a dramatist,” I scorned.

“Don’t tell me,” cried Jim. “Let me guess. Then there are boots that lace and boots that buckle. There are boots with a great thick cowhide tongue that comes right across the front of the boot. Then there are canvas gaiters, red, white and blue. And ski mitts, ski toques, ski ensembles, scarf and belly bands. Comforters and stomachers, all knit in wild jig-saw designs.”

“I like knitted things,” I admitted. “Have they socks?”

“Long socks and short socks,” recounted Jim, “high mitts and short mitts, fairy-light canvas mitts with leather palms, and little woollen bands to go around your head with ear flaps to keep your ears snug against your head so your ears won’t slow you down when you are sliding.”

“It sounds nutty to me,” I agreed.

“Ski nuts,” said Jim. “It’s worse than golf ever was, even the year of the big wind.”

“What year was that?” I inquired.

“1929,” said Jim. “Golf is a mere piker’s game to skiing. Skiing has more gadgets than golf, tennis, lawn bowling and twinkle-twit put together.”

Gadgets and Twidgetts

“What’s twinkle-twit?” I begged.

“You hit dingus with feathers,” said Jim. “What you call it, badminton!”

“I kind of like the sound of skiing,” I confessed.

“No sport is any good,” said Jim, “unless there is a lot of gear, costume, gadgets and twidgetts to it. Like fishing.”

“You said it,” I agreed warmly. “But in the winter there isn’t any fishing.”

“Our last effort at skiing,” said Jim, “was somewhat frustrated by our attempt to keep pace with the young. I suggest if we do any, we get right away from the young people. The very sight of them, so muscular, so smooth and graceful, seems to dampen our spirits right at the start.”

“We could sneak off somewhere,” I suggested.

“I have in mind,” said Jim, “up around Belfountain. It will be grand to see a trout stream in winter, even if we come to grief on skis.”

“Jim, I appreciate this,” I informed him. “I think we have a memorable week-end in view.”

“I’ll borrow one of the daughter’s skis for you again?” asked Jim.

“If you please,” I said. “And I’ll attend to the gadgets myself.”

“We’ll shop together,” suggested Jim.

Thus we bought ski boots made so heavy, as the young gentleman explained, that no matter what you did you couldn’t land upside down. And we bought ski pants of a material so light, so windproof, so warm, that really you would think you had no pants on at all. And ski jackets, mine yellow, Jim’s red, that were a joy to wear, and so like the Olympic games advertisements did we look. And elbow high mitts, and a tiny woollen headstrap to keep our ears streamlined, and a canvas black cap like a brakeman’s. And ski wax, of several kinds, I favoring light fluffy snow and Jim, being more pessimistic by nature, favoring slushy, wet snow.

The only way to go skiing is to start at daybreak Saturday morning, after a large breakfast of ham and eggs, plum jam and thick toast. I am told the proper thing for a ski breakfast is a box of sardines. But with our breakfast stowed, Jim and I, scorning all questions from our various children of ski age, drove off for Belfountain. Soon the gray sludge and slush of Toronto was blooming into the glittering white snow of Halton county.

“We Canadians,” said Jim, “should sooner or later realize our affinity with northern nations and races, and drop from our hearts all memory of sultry southern climes. Do you realize that our clothes here in Canada are designed by Americans? And that the clothing trade centres in St. Louis?”

“Preposterous,” I assented.

“Our clothes,” declared Jim, “should be designed no farther south than Inverness or Stornoway. If we want to stay British, the least we should accept in the way of clothing, is what the Scotsmen of the north wear. Imagine us Canadians slowly congealing in garments and textiles decreed by gentlemen in St. Louis, Mo.?”

“Utterly absurd,” I agreed.

“These Norwegians,” said Jim, “are, latitudinally speaking our brothers.”

“I’m not much on sardines,” I protested. “And I should admit right away that I prefer the violins of Italy to the bagpipes of Ross and Cromarty.”

The Real Color of Canada

The white landscape wheeled past, the beautiful bare barns, the bleak and desolate homes of our country cousins staring haggardly from the pinched fields. Fences wove away, and dark patches of evergreens made color against the dazzling pale morning sky.

“The real color of Canada,” said Jim, gazing at it appreciatively. “Our artists wait patiently all year for a week of autumn leaves, and then go mad for few days, painting what they pretend is Canada. For eight brief weeks in summer, they paint like fury, getting the lush greens, the gay blues of water and sky. But they ignore the true Canada. The Canada of grays and grims, and pallid leadens and faded yellows and browns.

“You mean our artists should paint like those dull Flemish and English painters, in dampish, wet grays, grayish greens?”

“Not at all,” said Jim. “There is nothing dampish about our grayness. Our country is under a harsh, livid light. But there is no excuse for artists hiding in fear from Canada, the way it is for nearly ten months of the year, in order to paint it only in the brief summer and in the briefer autumn.”

“They paint snow,” I protested.

“Pink snow, mauve snow,” said Jim. “But snow is mostly gray, platinum, grim.”

“And splendid,” I said.

“And terrifying,” said Jim.

We were now climbing the Caledon mountain, and the highway sloped skyward, a chill came with every leap of the car over the snowy pavement, the morning blue was changing to a platinum sky, and there was a sense of shadow across the great valley behind us.

“Terrifying?” I laughed.

“Why,” asked Jim, “do we Canadians huddle along the southerly border of our great land? Why do our artists avoid, with furtiveness, the truth of our magnificent country? Why has no musician written us a noble symphony, a tone poem, even?”

“We’re young,” I explained.

“Because,” said Jim, menacingly, “all these great north lands are the last refuges of the mysterious, the magical, the dread. Because in Canada, as in Norway and Finland, there are trolls, like in Peer Gynt; and little people, such as the Irish dream about: and goblins and banshees; because Thor and Wotan are the gods of this vast country; because it is a land of legends where there are no legends yet; because, in the face of this country, artists are struck helpless.”

“Pooh,” said I.

“Why do we cuddle to our hearts the folk tales of those safe and sane little countries from which we came?” asked Jim. “Because we are afraid to sing our own songs. Why do we all try to love Canada with the love an Englishman has for England, or a Scotsman for Scotland or an Irishman for Ireland? Why don’t we love Canada the way a Canadian must love Canada?”

“Why?” I inquired, looking about at the fields which spread away at the top of Caledon Hill.

“Because,” hissed Jimmie, “because we are afraid to!”

There lay the gullies with their dark and forbidding cedars. There lay the rolling hills, with their small, unpainted farm houses and barns. There lay the bleak skylines. And the snow was not really white. It was only pallid.

“I love Canada,” I stated.

“You love it best,” sneered Jim, “when it looks most like Ireland or Scotland.”

“I love it the way it is,” I said. But as I spoke, the wind picked up a large ghostly wisp of snow and whirled it around into a shape, a phantom, which swept down upon us and engulfed the car, making hissing sound on the windows, and causing Jim to wobble the steering gear.

“See?” said Jim in a low voice. “What do you suppose that was?

“Pooh,” I laughed.

“The Indians,” said Jim, “used to call that a Wendigo. They knew what it was.”

“Where do we turn in here for Belfountain?” I inquired. “Let’s see what a dear familiar trout stream looks like in winter?”

But Jim’s words had caused the day to take on a gloomy and desolate aspect, and I leaned back and watched the passing landscape with troubled eye. It really was rather depressing.

Across every field we passed were the shining tracks of skis. And though it was only Saturday morning, we saw groups of cars parked, and across the ski-line, parties of skiers filed, each bearing a little knapsack, heading away for some sequestered glen of cedar where they could make a fire and boil a pail of tea, and eat their onion and cheese sandwiches.

Whirling Snow Ghosts

At last we drew aside at a lonely spot, where, in the distance, limestone cliffs rose darkly up, and half-hidden patches of sombre cedar told of hills and rolling country. And we slid out our skis, and buckled on our harness, and climbed barb wire fences and commenced a ski-tour.

Jim led. We toiled up slopes and slid down slopes. We came upon a chime of two or three hundred snow buntings, silent, faintly chippering little birds that rose like blown leaves off the snowy fields, to suddenly chop down again to earth, as if they were all connected by invisible threads. We followed them a mile, watching them rise and pitch down, and some of the sinister aspect of our native land was softened by these small buffy white creatures.

We startled out a couple of big jack rabbits immigrants like us from the Old Country – and with comically narrow backsides, they leaped with terror away from us, keeping straight on until they had crossed the farthest sky line.

“If we humans,” said Jim, resting, “find it hard to love Canada as it really is and spend so much time trying to imagine it otherwise, what about those poor jack rabbits, designed for the soft and humid climate of England, being dumped down here to make a fresh start.”

“Yet they grow bigger here than they do in England,” I stated.

“Maybe they have to,” said Jim grimly. And as he spoke, from over the scrubby tree tops floated, on wide wings, a gray-colored hawk, large, sinister, its beak tucked under its chin, and its baleful eyes staring downward, spying every square yard of snow. So intent was it, it did not notice us until it passed so near we heard the bitter hiss of its wings.

Jim waved his ski poles arrogantly at it and it banked wildly, as if contemplating the idea of stooping to one of us, probably the meatier of us.

“Track!” cried Jim giving himself a scoot with his poles across the snow.

But the higher we worked, the more grim loomed the limestone cliffs, the more darkly bronzed the cedars in the gullies. The wind was rising, and the ghostly whirls of snow seemed to seek out Jim and eddy around him spectrally. He laughed.

“They’re after you,” I laughed back. But immediately wished I had not laughed. Because even as I laughed, the sky seemed to darken slightly, a leaden sky, with no warmth, no kindliness in it.

“Let’s work to the top,” shouted Jim back to me, “and then we can slide down the far side, wherever it leads, and have lunch somewhere in shelter.”

“I think we have gone far enough,” I called back. “I’m winded.”

“Come on,” shouted Jim, shoving with his ski poles.

I saw another snow ghost, larger and bigger than ever, begin to gather itself, whirling and swirling madly, like a Dervish, and I paused to watch it. Straight at Jim it spun, growing bigger; and spectral arms seemed to reach out from it. I could almost hear a faint moaning sound from it….

“Jim,” I called sharply.

But with another shove, he plunged forward. The snow ghost caught him, wound itself around him. And then….

Jim vanished.

Vanished right off the pallid face of the earth. He faded, as the snow wraith embraced him. It passed. And Jim was gone.

I stood rock-still for a moment, blinking my eyes and swallowing. I tried to call. No sound came. I shoved myself with a heavy effort, a few feet forward. Then my voice returned and I shouted: “Jim.”

No answer. The white unbroken expanse of snow lay featureless except for the tracks of Jim’s two skis. And there they ended. The tracks just stopped.

Immensity, chill and dreadful and silent, surrounded me. Should I go forward and examine the snow for signs of giant wings? Or giant cloven hooves? Should I look for eagle marks as of some great god’s helmet?

I decided not. I decided the best thing to do was turn down hill and slide as fast as skis would carry me. And then, with plenty of loud, noisy, hearty help, make search for Jim, if search were of any avail.

But turning on skis is not easy. I was in process of turning, when I heard a faint call.

“Jim?” I replied.

“Hoy,” came the faint cry.

I slithered up the slope. Unseen from where I had stood, was a sudden sharp declivity and a limestone cleft, of which there are any number in the Belfountain neighborhood.

And in that cleft, hung by his skis in the limbs of leafless and stunted oak tree, was Jimmie head-down, vainly attempting to unbuckle his ski harness.

“Just a moment, my lad,” I shouted heartily, removing my skis and clambering down into the crevice. And in a couple of moments, Jim fell heavily to the snow beneath, uninjured but a little red in the face.

So we finished the climb, rode Valkyrie like down into the farther valley, built a fire and boiled a pail of tea and had onion sandwiches and Norsk cheese.

“Jim,” I said, as we sat on the bench made of skis and poles, “I see color in snow. I see mauve and pink.”

“I don’t,” said Jim.

“The country is full of color,” I cried. “Why, it’s just a splendor of green and blue and gray and mauve and …”

“White,” said Jim.

Editor’s Notes: Henrik Ibsen was a Norwegian playwright famous for his story Peer Gynt.

Belfountain is north-west of Toronto, situated in t he Caledon hills, where skiing still takes place.

People may be aware that the 1936 Summer Olympics took place in Nazi Germany, but the 1936 Winter Olympics took place in Germany as well, in the town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Bavaria. It was the last year in which the Summer and Winter Games both took place in the same country. Sonja Henie, the famous figure skater, won her third consecutive gold medal in that Olympics.

A Snow bunting is a small white bird seen in the north.

This story appeared in Greg Clark & Jimmie Frise Outdoors (1979).

Oh Canadaw!

Jim was the first to tumble out of the house as it lay on its side over the hole in the ice…

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, January 25, 1936.

“Oh, Canadaw,” sang Jimmie Frise, “de dum, de dum, de dum. Dum, dum, de dum…”

“Brrrrrr!” said I.

“As a matter of fact,” said Jim, “there are a lot of people living in Canada and calling themselves Canadians who ought to get the heck out of here.”

“Indeed,” said I.

Yes,” went on Jim, “they ought to go on back home to England, Scotland or Ireland or wherever their misguided parents came from. Or else they ought to migrate to California or some other sissy clime.”

“Is that so?” I argued.

“If a person finds,” said Jim, “that he can’t stand the climate, if he comes to the conclusion that a mistake has been made, even after two or three generations, he ought to quit beefing about the country and go on back home.”

“Home,” I snorted.

“Yes, home, wherever that is,” declared Jim. “Because to tell you the truth, there is not, in the whole vast round world, a more beautiful, entrancing, satisfying country than Canada. Where else can you show me a land where, without moving a muscle, you can enjoy the luscious beauty of the tropics in summer and the glorious splendor of the Arctic in winter? Less fortunate people than Canadians, and by Canadians I mean those who can take it, have to go to Switzerland in the winter for a little skiing, and then move a thousand miles to the south of France or Surrey or County Antrim for a little beauty in the summer?”

“A Canadian,” I admitted, “has to have a versatile hide.”

“Instead of agitating for more population,” stated Jim, “I recommend that we comb out of the country all the belly-achers who bawl all summer about the heat and who squeal all winter about the cold.”

“I wasn’t squealing,” I informed him. “I was merely saying that I would be glad to see the first of May. Which, by the way, Jim, comes on a Friday this year. That means, we leave Toronto Thursday night to be on the trout stream at sunrise Friday. And we’ve got the whole three days for the opening of the trout season!”

“It often puzzles me,” mused Jimmie, “that a man as fond of fishing as you are doesn’t go ice-fishing.”

“Ice-fishing,” I replied, “is for them as likes it. First of all, there is the long drive over wintry roads up to some place around Lake Simcoe. Then there is the locating of some queer old duck who owns a few fishing houses. Usually, you spend about three hours trailing him around a village of seventeen houses, and when you do find him, he has rented all his houses for the day.”

“Then,” said Jim, “there is the long walk, with icy wind digging in under your chin and forcing you to shut your eyes, while you cross glare ice two miles to the right spot where the fishing huts have been placed.”

“The huts,” I said, “are about four feet square. Inside is a bench, a stove made out of a gasoline can, and a hole in the ice about the size of a suit-case.”

“Correct,” said Jim. “And you inhale wood smoke from the gimcrack little stove; and if you check it down, you freeze; and if you let it burn up, you smother.”

The Herring Hole

“Yes,” I agreed, “and you sit, bent over in that tiny little shack, with nobody to talk to. And you dangle a line from your hand, baited with a minnow, down into the green depth. That shadowy, mysterious green depth; and hour by hour, as you sit there bent over, sniffling, coughing and peering, suddenly, suddenly your heart stands still…”

“A shadow,” said Jim. “A ghostly shadow stirs in that jade-green depth. Suddenly, like a streak of silver, a herring, soundless, swift, dreamlike, darts like a flicker of light, across the dimness!”

“Then,” I cried, “two, three, twenty, fifty, a thousand! The herring streaming, silent, soundless, glorious, beautiful, across your vision. Jimmie, let’s go! When can we leave for Simcoe?”

“We could leave now,” said Jim, distastefully eyeing his drawing board.

So we went, and through a dry blizzard that tinked small countless flakes of snow against our windshield, we drove up Yonge St. and far east around the bottom of Lake Simcoe and drew rein at one of those little villages which in summer are so busy, and in winter, so silent, sleeping.

At the gas station, we asked who owned fishing huts for rent and were given the name of a gentleman who spent part of his time snaring rabbits, part of it cutting wood, and the rest of it renting fishing huts. And as was expected, we spent all of an hour tracking him down in that hamlet of eleven silent white houses. We located him at last at the gas station, where he had been all the time sitting in the back, but nobody had noticed him.

“Gentlemen,” he said. “I’ve rented four of my five shacks this morning. But I have one left for this afternoon, and I was figuring on doing a little fishing myself. But I’ll let you have it, rather than see youse disappointed after your long drive.”

“Have they been catching any fish this last while?”

“It was real good about two weeks ago,” said he. “But they are getting plenty right now. I wouldn’t be surprised when we get out there to find they’ve had a record catch. This here hole I will take you to, there was 400 herring taken out of it three days ago.”

Jim and I exchanged a look. It was a matter of moments for Jim and me to change out of our city clothes into our mackinaw coats and leather topped rubbers. And all arcticked up, we joined the old man for the tramp across the icy waste to the fishing huts visible far out on the lake. There were about fifteen houses clustered together. Like dots they were in the afternoon blizzard. The wind raked across the ice and gathered a sort of concentrated chill. In us, the wind found something to cuddle to, for warmth. It fairly embraced us.

“Chah,” we breathed through bare teeth, bowing our heads and following the rapid footsteps of our guide.

The wind was stronger than ever, and by the time we got half way out to the fishing huts. I was for turning around and heading for any of the various parts of Scotland from which my misguided forebears came. I would even eat haggis. I would even sit, in a kilt, on the top of Ben Lomond.

But though I felt my brain congealing and trying to push, like the cream on a milk bottle, out the top of my head; and though my ears went numb and my cheeks ached with cold, we finally reached the fishing huts, and at our approach, a hairy-chested man in his undershirt stepped out of one of the tin shacks to welcome us.

“How’s she doing?” asked the old man guiding us.

“I got six herring and a whitefish,” said the stranger.

“Anybody else doing anything?”

“Everybody’s got a few,” said he. “There’s going to be a blow. You can tell. The fish are heading out deep.”

“Well, anyway,” said our guide, leading us down past a double row, a sort of street, of fish huts to one at the far end.

He lighted the gasoline can stove with kindling, I struggled inside the tiny cubicle to warm my frigid members, and the old chap, with a big chisel fastened to a rake handle, jabbed away the fresh ice out of the fishing hole in the floor of the hut. He scooped out the cracked ice and checked off the stove.

“If she don’t show you any fish in half an hour,” said he, “I’ll stick around and move you to a fresh hole. I know a hole over here a ways where two weeks ago, a party of us got 400 herring.”

Removing our heavy coats, Jim and I sat in the little hut, side by side, and prepared our lines. The lines were wound on a stick bobbin, and on the hook we impaled an inch-long minnow of which our guide left a lard-pail full.

So far back in our language that the schools think nobody but scholars are interested, there are tales of dragons and monsters inhabiting the depths of the sea; of Beowulf is one, and of the chill and slimy clasp of Grendl is another; and since we all come from little islands hemmed about by the sea, and since rooted in our very souls are the tales of the sea, and the dark humor of the sea, and the darker fear of it, there is a curious homesickness that touches us as we sit in the fishing hut watching down into the depths. For the first few moments of mesmeric staring in the window through the ice of a fishing hut, we are of this time and of this place; but presently, the faint forgotten legends of our blood begin to stir. That dim green window in the ice beckons. Down in its eerie kingdom, dreams abide. Within an hour of watching in that jadey half-light, a man goes fey. He is half tempted to lean a little too far forward, to pitch down and dive forever into the adventures of the past and of the future.

“Jiggle your bait,” said Jim, thickly, after the first hour.

“I haven’t seen so much as a mudcat,” I husked.

And for another half hour, we sat, jiggling and staring.

“Some, wind,” said Jim.

“It’s a gale,” I admitted. “I hope it will be behind us and not against us.”

A rap on our door roused us from our dozing.

“They’re biting over a bit,” shouted the old man. “I’ll go cut a hole for you. Get the shack on the runners.”

We donned our mackinaws and went out into the hurricane. Dusty snow was whirling and dirling. The houses next door were half obscured by the rushing mist of snow. The sleigh-like runners on which the fishing huts are moved about from place to place were leaning against our shack. With a shovel, we broke away the snow packed around the bottom of the hut. With a skillful tilt, Jim hoisted one end of the shack on to the runners.

“Where to now?” I cried, looking about for our guide. But in the blizzard he was nowhere to be seen. Out of all the other little shacks, merry smoke curled and eddied.

We shoved the little shack down the aisle of houses, the wind helping us. We turned it, and shoved it back. No sign of our old friend.

“Where’s he gone?” asked Jim, peering into the blast.

“Well, I’m not going to freeze,” I said, “let him come and get us when he’s ready.”

And I got inside the shack and fed a few more sticks into the fire. And in a jiffy, Jim joined me.

“Some climate,” said I.

“We’ll get fish in the next hole,” said Jim, unbuttoning his mackinaw. “You never get fish in the first hole, ice fishing.”

“Jim,” said I. “we’re moving.”

“So we are,” said Jim. “Maybe the old gent is pushing us to the new hole.”

We felt the house gliding smoothly across the ice, with tiny ribby sounds.

“Let him push,” said I.

We waited.

“Seems like quite a long push,” said Jim, reaching up to unlatch the door.

A Terrific Splash

And then I knew, by the smooth, racing, pebbly, humming sound of our runners on the ice that no human hand was pushing us.

“Kick her open,” I shouted.

“The button outside must have dropped,” cried Jim, thumping against the door. In the eerie flicker of the small fire, I could see he was putting his weight into it.

“Jim,” I bellowed.

For now I knew the wind had us, and the sound of the runners on the ice rose to a high and throbbing hum. The tiny shack seemed to lift like an ice boat on the arms of the gale, and loved it.

“Jim,” I cried, “get a pick. Get anything. Kick a board out.”

“That’s what I’m doing,” grunted Jim.

But the men who build fishing huts are lazy, patient men. When they nail on a board, they nail it on. We kicked. We joined forces and shoved. We rocked it. But we could not rock it over.

“Take it easy,” shouted Jim above the throbbing sound of the ice racing underneath our runners. “The whole lake is frozen over. Sooner or later we land up with a bump on shore.”

“Very well,” I agreed, “let us sit back and enjoy it. Do you suppose such a thing as this ever happened to anybody before?”

And Jim gallantly leaned forward and fed some more kindling into the stove.

We bumped over ridges, we careened over drifts. We slowed up and then gained speed. The wind had us, and the wind did what it liked.

“How far can we go?” I asked.

“If we hit the narrows,” said Jim, “we can go up Lake Couchiching. And if we go through a few locks, we can get down the Severn to the Georgian Bay. And once we are out there…”

“Jim,” I said, “I think I heard voices.”

We listened. Undoubtedly, there was shout.

“Hey,” yelled a voice, and something struck our walls.

Zip, said the runners. Zip, zip, and then a terrific splash.

“Good-bye, Jim,” I roared.

For green water was gushing up the hole in the floor through which we were lately fishing, and the big home-made sled on which the house had stood, started slipping away from under us.

Then outside, voices shouted unintelligibly. In chorus, Jim and I replied. We felt the fish house heave and fall, and we were flung on our backs as it rolled over. We heard a hand scrabbling with the button that locked us in.

And then glorious daylight burst upon us.

Jim was first out. The scene that met my gaze was enough to freeze an Eskimo’s marrow. Seven men with a team of horses were grouped about in attitudes of astonishment. They were cutting ice, and wide lanes of green water gaped before us. In one of them, our sled bobbled peacefully. And our shack lay on its back on the edge of the perilous gulf.

“Gentlemen,” I said to the group of rescuers. “On behalf of both of us, I wish to express our thanks.”

They grinned at us eagerly, and the two nearest us shook their heads.

“No spik,” said the first man, and the others added, “no spik.”

“Don’t speak English?” I asked.

“No spik,” they all agreed heartily. Such big, ruddy men they were. With wide faces and glowing cheeks and an air of might about them. The blizzard seemed to be agreeable to them, the way they stood up to it, eyes open.

“No spik?” I asked. “What are you? Italiano?”

“Suomen,” said the first one, and all the others nodded their heads and added “Suomen.”

“Finns, Jim,” I translated. “And I guess that dim shadow over there is land. What do you say if we head for land?”

“Land, ho,” agreed Jim.

So we shook hands, mitts and all, with our seven friends, and walked for the shore while they stood and gazed with amazement.

“Jim,” I said, as we neared what was undoubtedly terra firma, “what do you say if we hand this country over to the Finns?”

“Let’s stick around until May,” said Jim “before we decide.”

Editor’s Notes: Gimcrack refers to something that is poorly made but looks nice.

Mackinaw coats would be the traditional outdoorsmen outfit of the time for the winter.

Ben Lomond is a mountain in Scotland.

A lard-pail was a large metal pail lard was sold in at the time, like a paint can.

Ice cutters would be out cutting blocks of ice in the lake for storage in ice houses for the use in ice-boxes or other uses throughout the year.

This story appeared in Which We Did (1936).

Fake Magic

Into the tube after the rabbits they went…
Out from the hole in the table came the frightened rabbits, one right after the other…

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, December 5, 1936.

“Do you know anything,” asked Jimmie Frise, “about magic?”

“You mean black magic?” I inquired.

“I mean ordinary magic for kids,” said Jim. “Parlor magic. Tricks.”

“At one time,” I replied, “I was going to be a magician. I think that was when I was about fifteen.”

“Do you remember any tricks?” asked Jim.

“No, I gave up the magic idea,” I confessed, “after a few tries. I’m one of those people who wants to make the coin really disappear. If I flip the coin up my sleeve, I am the first to see through it.”

“There’s a kids’ party at my house,” said Jim, “and I was thinking I could put on some magic for them.”

“Between the two of us,” I suggested, “we could pull some magic.”

“Let’s get a book of magic,” said Jim, “and practice up some tricks. I think it would be swell if we could work out a little program of magic. We could not only do parties at our own homes, but we could render a nice favor to our friends, going about putting on children’s shows like that.”

We got a book of magic and it was wonderful the simple tricks we learned in no time. The card tricks and coin tricks are mostly done by quickness of the hand deceiving the eye, and neither Jim nor I were very good at that. Our eyes were too quick, and our hands not quick enough. However, we practiced these hand tricks patiently, and even though we couldn’t fool each other, we felt that we would at least fool children; especially small children.

It was, however, in the tricks of magic requiring devices that we discovered the most interesting field. For example, by fastening things to long pieces of elastic, we could make them vanish like lightning. Under our coats, we could fasten a handkerchief or a flower or a ball, the elastic holding it hidden. By a quick, careless swing of the hand, we could pull the object into view, in the hand. Then, with a kind of mumbo-jumbo and a wave of the hand, we simply let go of the object and it vanished past our elbow out of sight, so fast nobody would see it. After showing our empty hands, we made the casual, quick snatch and produced it again, apparently from the air.

So we had a very nice time, sitting around with all doors shut, practicing with cards and coins and elastics, and investigating the interesting realm of magic. We spent about $3.65 on all kinds of magic balls, vanishing cups, trick match boxes, and inside-out silk handkerchiefs that you could turn from red to blue by a simple movement of the hand. We developed these mechanical tricks to a high state of perfection, and the children’s party drew rapidly nigh.

“Jim,” I assured him, “we’ll be a knock-out.”

For a Grand Finale

“Kids are so hard to fool, nowadays,” said he. “They know it all. Even The little ones all have the oh yeah complex.”

“We’re short,” I suggested, “one big grand slam trick to wind our program up. We’ve got a nice lot of little ones that we can run through like seasoned veterans. But we ought to have a grand finale sort of act.”

“The nearer I get to the party,” said Jim, “the less confident I feel. Kids aren’t like they used to be. Once upon a time, adults used to be kept busy keeping things from the children. Nowadays, the children are busy keeping things from the adults.”

“My dear Jimmie,” I laughed, “we’ll roll them in the aisles with our act. We’re perfect. I assure you. That vanishing watch trick of yours will have them absolutely mystified. And as for my trick with the three red balls under the cup, I venture to say I could go on the stage with it.”

“I wish we had a rabbit act or something,” said Jim. “Or one of those sword acts where I put you in a box and stick a sword through it, only to find you vanished when the box is opened.”

“I prefer a rabbit act,” I agreed. “Maybe an act, with six rabbits. Like that one in the book where the six rabbits come out of the plug hat.”

“We could do that easily enough,” said Jim. “All we need is a table with a hole in the top and about fifteen feet of stove pipe.”

“I’m with you,” I exclaimed. “The grand finale. We get a cheap table and cut a hole the size of a stove pipe in the top. We run the stove pipe down along the floor into the kitchen. I feed the rabbits in the pipe and then shove the long wire with the piece of fox fur on the end of it, to chase them through to you.”

“I set the plug hat with the loose top,” said Jim, “on the table, covering the hole where the pipe emerges. The loose top falls aside, and as I make the magic passes, you start the rabbits coming. The wire chases them through, and out they come from the hat, like bullets out of a gun.”

“I can picture it, Jim,” I exulted.

“The only thing,” said Jim, “is the stove pipe. How could we conceal it from the kids? They’ll be all over the house before the show starts. They’ll see the stove pipe along the floor of the hall.”

“I tell you what,” I exclaimed. “Let’s use a cloth tube instead of stove pipe. We could sew up a long tube of cotton, and brace it with barrel hoops. Just a few minutes before this final act, while you are entertaining them, I’ll slip out to the hall and string out the cloth tube. Very quiet, see?”

“How would you scare the rabbits through?” asked Jim.

“If we made it big enough,” I cried, “I could come through the tube, chasing the rabbits ahead of me, and last of all, up through the table would come my head, wearing the hat.”

“Great,” agreed Jim. “Unique. Different. A real creation. The true magician is the one who invents or improves upon tricks.”

With little time to spare, Jim and I bought twenty-two feet of cotton sheeting and sewed it up, in secret, into a tube. From the grocer on the corner we got enough wooden hoops off old barrels to set them every four feet inside the cloth tube, tacking them in place. So that, closed up like a concertina, it was easy for me to handle alone.

We got an old pine table and cut a hole in its top just the size of a plug hat which we had given us by the widow of an Orangeman, and we so tapered the end of the cloth tube that it could be quickly fastened into the hole in the table, from beneath, with a wire ring. We practiced stringing the cloth tube silently and skillfully along the back hall from the living room doorway where Jim and I were to stage our magic performance.

“For fear of discovery,” explained Jim, “we’ll keep the rabbits in a box out in the yard, and we’ll hide the cloth tube on the shelf in the clothes closet. It will be only a matter of a minute for you to slip out, set up the cloth tube from my table to the kitchen, pick the rabbits from the box in the yard and pop them into the tube. Then you chase them through to me.”

“Perfect,” I said. “Letter perfect.”

The night of the party Jim and I donned our tuxedos for the occasion to give the correct magic tone. We were both on hand before six o’clock to arrange all our effects. And at six, the children began to arrive. Both boys and girls, all old friends of the neighborhood, who, after a few moments of remembering their parental warnings, and getting over the strangeness of seeing one another in their Sunday clothes, promptly let loose; and the familiar din of a children’s party filled the house,

The first item on the program was the party supper, which took a good three-quarters of an hour. Then there was a miniature movie, which, it seems, all the children had seen before several times. Then there were games for about twenty minutes, which ended up with two little girls crying because they didn’t get all the prizes, and two little boys staging a fight in the hall. And at last, came the great event of the evening, the Magic Hour, by Messrs. Frise and Clark. I must say, Jimmie and I were both trembling with excitement.

All the children were ranged on chairs and stools and benches in the living room, well back from the entrance from the hall; and in this entrance, Jimmie and I set our table.

“Now, children,” said Jim, the lights being dimmed, and soft music being located on the radio, “we are about to show you a few tricks of legerdemain which my assistant and I have learned in our travels in many parts of the world.”

“Birdseye Center,” said a boy’s voice.

Jim and I stood face to face behind the table, and began manipulating the red celluloid balls, Jim’s vanishing miraculously from between his outspread fingers while mine miraculously appeared. It was pretty well done, except that mine slipped a few times and I had to pick them up, as they rattled lightly on the floor.

“Let Pinkie Do It”

“Whhhooop,” comes a raspberry from the audience.

“Let Pinkie do it,” called a girl’s voice. “He can do it good.”

And Pinkie; a freckled little boy of about seven with red hair, came up and took the balls from me and manipulated them like lightning.

“Heh, heh, heh,” Jimmie and I applauded, to show him it was time for him to go back and sit down. But he kept on doing tricks with the red balls, making them vanish in his hands, plucking them out of his ears and from the back of my neck, until the house almost came down, and finally I had to give the little brat a pinch and hiss to him to go and sit down. Whose show was it, anyway?

We then did the colored handkerchief, and loud raspberries and cat calls greeted this performance; Jim hastily started picking the magic watch off his pant leg, where the watch is caught by a small pin projecting from it. But only loud jeers met all these efforts, while several of the boys crowded forward and seized the appurtenances of our art off the table and began doing the tricks we had been intending to do, only doing them better, if I must say it.

So Jim and I stood back, while the various boys put on the show.

“You see,” explained Jim, “one of the commonest Christmas and birthday presents during the past five years has been magic sets. All the big stores have departments now for selling magic and the salesmen are magicians who teach the kids the tricks.”

“Ah,” I told him, “but we’ve got one trick in the bag, thank heaven. Wait till they see the rabbits coming shooting out of that plug hat.”

In due time, the little boys had exhibited all our tricks, simultaneously, a sort of seven or eight-ring circus. They broke most of the things, snatching them from one another, and at last they wore everything out, and Jimmie stepped forward, calling for order.

“Now, children,” he laughed, “you have all had a good time, as we intended, performing these tricks which we provided you. But there is some magic you are not so familiar with. I grant these little common tricks are all very nice. But my assistant and I have prepared a little surprise for you.”

As Jim began this speech, I quietly slipped out through the dining room and into the hall. Lifted the concertina cloth tube down and loosened its hoops, and strung it along the hallway. Concealed behind the curtain draped over Jim’s table, I crawled in and fastened the tapered end of the cloth tube with a wire ring into the hole in the table.

With this to hold the tube firm, I backed up the hall, lifting the hoop-supported tube into shape and backed into the kitchen. There Jimmie and I had arranged some hooks in the wall to hold the other end of the tube taut, thus keeping the tunnel gaping open right through.

“This is a very mysterious trick,” I could hear Jim saying in a hushed voice. I place this hat, empty, as you all see, on the table like this. Now, in a few minutes, I shall make a mystic series of passes over this hat, and if I have the mystic rite right, out of that hat will come a rabbit. Maybe two rabbits. Maybe three. It all depends on how quiet you are as I begin the incantations.”

I slipped out the back door, where we had left the box with the six white rabbits we had rented from the bird store.

A strange sight met my eyes in the darkness. Around the wooden crate were grouped a regular pack of dogs. Jimmie’s Gordon setter, Gyp, was playing hostess.

She had apparently invited all the dogs in the neighborhood to the party, to smell the box full of rabbits.

There were spaniels and wire-haired terriers, Bostons and Pekes, a Chow, a young Newfoundland and sundry mutts, all sitting in a group around the rabbit box, some of them anxiously rising to sniff at the cracks.

“Hyah,” I snarled at them, but Gyp bounded happily to meet me, “Get away out of that, you …”

The box was heavy, but I lugged it to the back door. The whole party of dogs followed, anxiously and noisily jumping at the box, and ganging one another, with yips and growls. I managed to get the door open with only Gyp and one other dog getting past with me. Inside, I laid the box down until I had shooed Gyp and her friend out.

Carefully opening the box, I lifted the rabbits out two by two and set them inside the cotton tube a couple of feet.

Just as I stooped to enter the tube and chase the bunnies through, the back kitchen door burst open with the plunging of the dogs and in they came, yipping and snarling, a mob. I turned to meet them, but they were over and under and around me and into the tube.

All hushed, in the dim-lighted living room, the incantations were being recited by Jimmie, waving his wand.

There was a scuffle, a series of muffled yips and snarls.

Out of the plug hat popped a rabbit.

The hat was shot rolling.

One, two three, out from the hole in the table popped a sort of sausage string of rabbits, so fast they could hardly be seen, said Jim.

The dogs, trapped in the narrowed end of the cloth tube, writhed and fought furiously in the confusion. The ring came loose from the table. From under the table writhed a monstrous shape, a giant twisting serpent of ghostly white in the dimness.

The children rose in a screaming body and fled and leaped and clutched, while the bagful of dog twisted and snarled and writhed with a dreadful sound all over the living room, bumping, banging, while the little darlings leaped on chairs and screeched into the halls and up the stairs.

Jimmie and I dragged the tube out to the kitchen and then accompanied the dogs into the yard, where we remained for some time, until the last parent had called and taken her child away.

“Magic,” sighed Jimmie, “is great stuff.”

“Especially,” I explained, “If you have a magician working for you.”

From under the table writhed a monstrous shape, a giant twisting serpent of ghostly white.

Editor’s Notes: This story was repeated on December 4, 1943, under the title “Hocus Pocus” (with the artwork at the end).

An Orangeman is a member of the Orange Order in Canada. Orangeman played a major role in politics for a very long time, but declined after World War 2 as a result of more secularization and less association to Britain in society.

A concertina is a small bellows based musical instrument that was losing favour at the time, being replaced by accordions in popularity.

At a time when men wore suits all of the time, wearing a tuxedo would be considered “dressing up”. Greg and Jim could have owned them for attending fancy evening parties. Also note that the children were wearing their “Sunday clothes”, meaning that it was expected that they would also dress up for a party, in this case wearing their nice clothes they would wear to church.

Legerdemain is a phase meaning “sleight of hand” when doing tricks.

Since Jim’s dog Rusty is a recurring character in so many stories, it is a bit unusual that this one has Gyp, the Gordon Setter.

Let the Chips Fall

With a sway and a creak the tree started to fall – straight for the house…

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, October 17, 1936.

“What’s the good of a sunroom,” asked Jimmie Frise, “if a big tree shades it?”

“Build the sunroom somewhere else,” I explained.

“Cut the tree down, you mean,” said Jim.

“Nonsense,” I cried. “A tree takes longer to grow than you do. It takes a tree a hundred years to mature.”

“This tree,” said Jim, “was just a little bit of a thing when I bought the house. A slim little girl of a tree. Who would ever have suspected it of growing up into a great fat dowdy matron of a tree that would become a nuisance?”

“We’re all human,” I pointed out.

“It has grown higher than the house,” said Jim, “and it not only cuts off all the sun from the sunroom but the grass won’t grow under it any more. Its big fat arms wave and scratch at the roof. One of these days it is going to rip a cornice off. It’s got to go.”

“Jim,” I pleaded, “pause. You can cut off a branch here and there, if it offends. But if you cut that tree down, you will miss it as you would miss a member of your family at the table. A vacant chair.”

“It will be a great relief to see the thing gone,” said Jimmie. “Every time there is a thunderstorm we imagine the lightning hitting the tree and jumping across to the house, killing us all in bed. Fresh air will blow in our windows again. A dampness that has slowly been increasing on that side of our house will vanish, and the good sun will cleanse and brighten us.”

“A nest of robins in its hair,” I reminded him. “Lifts its leafy arms in prayer.”

“Caterpillars drop off it to the window sills,” stated Jim, “and crawl into the house. Black squirrels use it for a ladder to enter our home and chew nests under our eaves.”

“It will cost almost is much,” I declared, “to have the tree cut down as it will to remodel the house and put the sunroom on another corner.”

“I’ll cut it down myself,” said Jim.

“Once I had a tree cut down,” I said, “and it cost $38. Two Norwegian sailors came and scaled the tree like a mast, and started cutting it off from the top, a few feet at a time. I never saw anything so cruel and terrible in my life. This lovely tree, that had patiently thrust itself up, up, year by year, being patiently chopped off, from the top, hour by hour. It took them all afternoon to cut that tree down. And I missed it ever since.”

“Why did you have it cut down?” asked Jim.

“Because its roots were breaking into my drain pipes,” I answered. “Not because it gave me shade.”

“My tree has got to go,” said Jim. “It has outlived its usefulness and beauty. What we need is air.”

“I warn you, Jim,” I assured him. “I warn you. This sacrifice of all life in careless worship of our own needs is some day going to get us humans into a dreadful jam.”

“A tree is a tree,” said Jim.

“That Would Be a Swell Joke”

“It lives,” I declared. “It has life. It probably has feeling. And who knows but it may actually think.”

“Yeah,” agreed Jim. “I often hear it muttering.”

“Jim,” I insisted, “did you ever pause to think of the dreadful slaughter of life that man is responsible for? Think of the creatures mankind has destroyed in the past few millions of years in order to eat. The billions of deer, fowl, cattle, sheep, goats. The incalculable hordes of beasts, birds, fish, oysters. Just so merry little man might write his story on the stones of the earth.”

“Everything eats something,” said Jim. “If we hadn’t eaten them, wolves would have.”

“Ah,” I said, “think of all the things man has destroyed for which he had no earthly use, but just because they were in his way. The wolves, tigers, lions. The elephants. Poor, gentle elephants, doing no harm, yet man slaughtered them for their teeth.”

“We had to play billiards,” explained Jim, “and before we invented composition balls, all we had were ivory balls.”

“The buffalo,” I reminded him. “Once our plains were black with buffalo. So men went forth and slew them, leaving a thousand carcasses a day to rot on the prairie, while the hunters ripped off the hides and sold them for cheap leather in the east at a dollar a hide.”

“How could western farmers operate their wheat fields,” demanded Jim, “if there were a lot of buffalo stampeding all over the place?”

“And the passenger pigeon,” I recalled. “Just to make a holiday, men trapped these lovely wild creatures by the tens of thousands and caged them and sold them to the trap shooters, so that, on a Saturday afternoon, the sportsmen could go to the gun club and each shoot a hundred live birds.”

“If you had lived in Toronto in 1880,” said Jim, “you would have been glad of a little live-bird shooting to break the monotony.”

“To make our fields,” I cried loudly, “we burned and chopped and blasted the forests primeval. To make our fields, we destroyed the buffalo and the deer and all the wild things. For our sweet sake, we have chased and hunted and killed and exterminated not only billions of individual creatures given, like us, the divine blessing of life on this earth, but we have completely wiped out certain whole species.”

“Now that you come to mention it,” agreed Jim, “we have kind of hogged the show.”

“Hog is right,” I mused. “And now, by golly, having nothing else to chase and fight and kill, we are turning on each other. Look at the nations of the earth.”

“That would be a swell joke,” agreed Jim. “Having killed everything else, we kill ourselves.”

“Nature,” I stated, “is essentially humorous. Nature has played a lot of jokes in her time. The various proud races she has built up, and then let them drop in the mud. The species she has allowed to rule the roost, only to have them end up as monstrous and comic skeletons in a museum. I guess the dinosaurs didn’t realize they were comic, in the days they thrashed around the earth, making all living creatures flee in terror. But I get a big snicker out of them whenever I see their great waddling obscene bones in a museum.”

Jimmie Wields the Axe

“Do you think Nature really designed those dinosaurs?” asked Jim. “With clown frills around their necks, and faces like gargoyles, and limp necks seventeen feet long and thick legs three feet long?”

“I believe Nature is a joker,” I assured him. “And I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if she was busy right now playing a joke on men. I can’t think of any other reasonable explanation of the world as it is to-day. Somebody is having fun with us. It can’t be serious. It must be somebody’s idea of fun.”

“I guess a humorous basis for life would be just as good as a serious one,” said Jim. “If we could only persuade everybody, Hitler and Gen. Blanco and Stalin and everybody, that it was all a joke, then they wouldn’t be so serious about everything and we could all have fun and sleep easy.”

“The first thing you do, then,” I said, “is spare that tree and shift your sunroom to some other part of the house.”

“The tree,” said Jim, “is coming down. Do you know what we call that tree in our house? We call it Mussolini. It is coming down, with a crash. But I’ll tell you what I’ll do. If you give me a hand with it, I’ll plant a new baby tree in its place. Right in the same spot. A new baby tree, of any kind you like to choose.”

“I would as soon,” I said “shoot your dog as cut down your tree. Wait. You’ll find out.”

But the next evening, when I heard an axe ringing unaccustomed in our quiet neighborhood, I knew it was Jim. And, after listening to the sound that has for five thousand years been the most characteristic of all human sounds on this round earth, I felt a curious fascination growing in me and I went down the back lane the three doors that separate our homes, and there was Jim, swinging a bright blade. Already a great white gash showed in the hip of the beautiful tree.

“Which way,” I called, after watching Jim for several minutes, “do you intend it to fall?”

Jim rested from chopping and surveyed the tree.

“Back towards the lane,” said Jim. “I cut a big notch on this side, see? Then I go to the other side and cut a smaller notch a little above the other, so that when the weight begins to tell, the tree will fall towards the larger and lower notch.”

“Correct,” I agreed.

“A lot of good wood in this tree,” said Jim appraisingly. “I’ll saw up the trunk and larger branches. I bet I get three cord of lovely firewood.”

“A wood fire is a fine thing,” I admitted.

“To anybody that wanted a little wood,” said Jim. “I’d be glad to give those large limbs, if they would go to the trouble of sawing or chopping them off, after she’s down.”

“I’d be glad of the branches,” I submitted.

Jim stepped up, spat on his hands, and began to swing the axe again, in great sweeping blows, making big white chips leap out on to the lawn.

There is something graceful about swinging an axe. Graceful and satisfying. It uses all of a man. His arms, shoulders, back. His legs, thighs, calves, feet. A good swing of an axe is about as complete a use of the human body as can be imagined. It may be all this dreadful orgy of killing and chopping and cultivation was the result of early man discovering how nice it is to swing an axe. Maybe even war started from man liking the feel of an axe. Maybe.

“Jim,” I called, “if you need a hand.”

Jim took a few more extra heavy whangs and then let the axe fall, and rested.

“What’s that?” he asked.

“I say, if you would like a rest, I could take a few swings.”

“Certainly,” agreed Jim, stretching his shoulders.

I took the axe, and felt the slide of its smooth handle through my hands; felt the heavy bite of its blade into the gleaming wood. It is a sort of rhythm that makes good chop. You don’t heave and thump with an axe. You simply swing it, in a rhythmic and accelerating arc, allowing the weight of the blade to do the work, and concentrating the mind on the accuracy of the blow.

“Don’t widen the cut,” called Jim, who was standing admiring my work. “Keep to the same notch I was making.”

“Listen, boy,” I said, “my great-grandfather owned the hogs that hollowed out Hogg’s Hollow. Tell me about an axe!”

But in a minute, Jim stepped in and I handed it over to him.

“We’re not the right sizes,” he said, “to both work on the same notch. “You’ve widened this all out.”

“Good clean chips, though,” I said.

“I’ll have to even it out,” said he.

And with a few keen, upcurving strokes he joined the lower part of the notch where I was hitting to the larger notch he had made.

“You had better go around and start your higher notch now,” I warned him. For the big notch was more than half way through.

“I do a workmanlike job,” said Jim, pausing to study the notch and then stepping up and giving a series of neat, sharp chops to remove a few rough cuts.

A loud crack.

A creak, a squeak, and I saw the tree starting to sway. A sudden rending splitting sound, and the tree began to fall not towards the lane, but straight for the house.

We leaped aside, and as it fell, the unchopped side caused the trunk to swing a little, so that what it did strike was not the house but the sunroom, jutting out from the back. A side-ways swinging blow. And in a tremendous shower of glass and splintering frames, the sunroom collapsed like an orange crate.

There was a long moment of utters silence, such as always marks the fall of a noble tree, even in the lonely forest, where the wood choppers toil. And then the trouble began. Family, neighbors, that sort of thing.

“The point is,” said Jim, as he and I stood out in the lane while everybody else crowded around the tree and the hanging sunroom, “the point is, we had more or less decided to take your advice in the first place, and shift the sunroom around to the south side.”

“Then why did you chop down the tree?” I demanded.

“We thought we’d do both,” said Jim.

“Nature is humorous,” I suggested. “And often she’s very helpful.”

Editor’s Notes: $38 in 1936 is $730 in 2021.

Who is this Gen. Blanco, on par with Hitler and Stalin? Probably Luis Carrero Blanco, Francisco Franco’s right hand man. As the Spanish Civil War only started a few months earlier, maybe it was not clear who was in charge of the Nationalist side?

None o’ This ‘Ere, ‘Ere!

“I was getting enthusiastic in my speech, but they just stood and looked surlily at us….”

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, September 26, 1936.

“What do you like most,” asked Jimmie Frise, “about London?”

“No matter how funny you look,” I replied, “in London somebody always looks funnier.”

“True,” said Jim.

“And no matter how foolish you act,” I added, “somebody is always acting foolisher.”

“True,” cried Jim.

“The trouble with Toronto,” I explained, “is, that if the Almighty in His wisdom made you kind of goofy, you have a dreadful time, because everybody is down on you and trying to force you to be like them. You know: dress like a mouse and act like a rabbit?”

“Sure,” said Jim, as we promenaded along Piccadilly and looked in all the windows, especially fishing tackle.

“What do you like about London?” I inquired, so as to be mutual.

“I like everything,” cried Jim. “I like it because it is so old and because it is so young. I like all the eating you can do in London. At any time. I mean, you can have roast beef for breakfast if you like.”

“Rare roast beef for breakfast,” I agreed, “With pan roast potatoes and Yorkshire pudding.”

“What I like in London,” went on Jim, “is the way they have what they call a floor waiter on each floor of your hotel. You just push a button, beside the bed, and the waiter comes. Any time day or night. And you order.”

“Swell,” I admitted. “And don’t forget the telephones. Especially the pay telephones.”

“Marvellous,” admitted Jim. “When you consider what a nuisance our Canadian telephones are. So perfect. So dreadfully perfect that nothing can save you if somebody wants to get you or you foolishly want to get somebody. How many times do we call people up, in Canada, when we really hope they are out? But always, always we get them. Here in dear old London, the telephone is perfectly adjusted to human nature. Nobody can get you and you can’t get anybody. And when you fail, especially in the pay telephone, everybody is happy.”

“I’ve lost at least eighteen pence-wumpenny,” I declared, “in those pay phones. But what I like is the way they have these little public phone booths all over the streets. You don’t have to go into a store to use a pay phone, and raise some poor merchant’s hopes, only to dash them.”

“Four shillings and nuppence is what I’ve slid into those pay phones,” admitted Jim. “But I really wasn’t trying to get anybody. It was just for the pleasure of not getting anybody I did it. How gloriously free one is in London.”

“Jim,” I cautioned, “you better be careful of that English accent. Don’t let it get you.”

“Has anybody interfered with you yet, in London?” asked Jim joyously. “Or so much as given you a look? No. Never! Why? Because in London, you can’t do anything wrong. Whatever you do it’s your affair. That’s what I love.”

Riding on the Goods Lift

“This morning,” I recounted, as we arrived at Piccadilly Circus and turned north into Regent St., “I walked along the corridor of the hotel and came to the freight elevator, or goods lift, as they call it. I mistook it for the passenger lift, and rang the bell. The porter of the goods lift arrived at my floor, took one horrified look at me and slammed over the controls vanishing hurriedly down again. I was a little mystified. But remembering I was in London. I waited. In a moment, the goods lift returned, this time with another operator in it, one of the passenger operators, resplendent in uniform of light blue and gold. He opened the doors, stepped out, bowed me into the lift, and drove me down. I says to him, ‘What’s the idea?’ And he explained that the goods lift man was not allowed to transport passengers as he was not properly clothed. I asked the lad why the goods lift operator had not merely smiled and told me it was the goods lift and directed me to walk a little farther along the corridor. ‘I beg your pardon, sir,’ he says, ‘but orders is for one of us to take the goods lift when any gentleman wishes to come down.'”

“Yesterday afternoon,” related Jim, in his turn, “I got a little muddled up, thinking north was south and east was west, and all I was trying to do was see the Peter Pan statue in Kensington Gardens, so I asked a policeman. He walked seven blocks with me, to put me on the right track. I asked him if it wasn’t a little off his beat to go all this way with me. He looked very astonished. He says, ‘My first duty, sir, is to the citizens.’ I said, ‘Suppose there is a hold-up while you are away’. And he says, ‘What is a hold-up, sir?’ I explained to him, and he was intensely interested. He got all excited and flushed. ‘You mean to say, sir, that someone might actually walk into a shop with a pistol?’ I said ‘Sure.’ ‘How frightfully exciting. sir.’ said the cop. So I asked him what would happen in that case. ‘Ah,’ said he ‘they would wait until I returned.'”

“Really, Jim?” I asked.

“Really,” said Jim.

Which embarrassed us a little as often happens in London; so we looked in the windows of Regent St. for quite while, and saw shops in which there was nothing but leather; and vast shops filled with incredible beauty of silk; and a shop where nothing but toys are sold, and we got heavy hearts because we were so poor and yet had so many children; and tiny shops where they sold nothing but handkerchiefs, and you could pay five dollars for one hanky embroidered by the nuns of Lhasa, or sixpence for hankies all edged with forget-me-nots, and in due time we came to Oxford St., which is like Yonge St., and we turned west to walk to Hyde Park and the Marble Arch, where we used to put up, long, long ago, when we were little soldiers in the time of fury.

Not a Lifted Eyebrow

“What don’t you like about London?” asked Jim.

“All their soap,” I replied, “is flavored vanilla.”

“Vanilla?” exclaimed Jim.

“It smells like vanilla,” I assured him. “Anyway, I always have to take two baths, one with soap and then another to get the vanilla off me before I dare go out.”

“About the only thing I don’t like,” said Jim, “is the way they sell you an umbrella and then can’t teach you how to roll it. All the Englishmen I see are striding along with a bamboo handled umbrella as neat and tidy as a stick. Look at mine. It looks like a gamp. Look at yours. Yet when I asked the clerk who sold me this to show me how to roll it, you never saw such a mess he got into. He turned purple and began to perspire and glare around the shop so pitifully that I just snatched it from him and ran.

“What I would like to do,” declared Jim, “would be to make London give us a look. If I could just get one Englishman to call me down or bawl me out.”

“In Canada,” I agreed, “Old Countrymen are always bawling us out or telling us how.”

“Yeah,” explained Jim “but they are the ones that left the Old Country.”

“Well, we left the Old Country,” I pointed out.

“A long time back,” said Jim.

“Even so,” I objected.

And so we came to Hyde Park and after a long and tender look at old familiar vistas of the Bayswater Road where we had once on a time been so young and gay and proud and equal to all occasions such as death, we peregrinated, so to speak across by Hyde Park.

Listening to the Orators

“And now,” cried Jim, “let’s go listen to the orators. This is what we Canadians ought to do, before all else. Take a lesson in free speech.”

On a sort of cinder patch, a wide expanse as big as several tennis courts, with the trees and lawns of the great park behind it, were gathered the crowds that listen to orators. And on little ladders and portable pulpits and home-made platforms made of boxes, the orators were hard at it. We were disappointed to find that more than half of the speakers were evangelists. Curious-looking evangelists, bearded old men with distorted countenances, who roared fiercely with eyes tight shut; odd-looking young men with cruel mouths acidly spouting the eternal tendernesses of Judea; incredibly modernistic men speaking coldly in behalf of Roman Catholicism. Around each of them a throng of fascinated people, young and old, rich and poor. I think, privately that the crowds who do the listening in Hyde Park are those shy, speechless Englishmen and they are taking a lesson in talking.

But sure enough we found what we sought; the real challengers of free speech. Men in spare and ragged clothes and wild eyes, with the Jeremiah look, who roared and ranted ….

“I tell you wot,” cried one, with a voice like a diving aeroplane, “we’re governed by a lot of bloody merchants, Baldwin is a merchant, that’s wot he is. A bloody merchant. And wot do merchants sell? Goods? Never. They sell us, they sell our bodies and souls, they reckon up our unborn children and trade away our rotting mothers.”

“What poppycock,” I said to Jim. “Imagine Mr. Baldwin.”

He went on, talking about the revolution. With arms uplifted, he called upon us, the masses, to roise, roise, roise. He conjured us to slay, burn, fire; to cleanse the nation of the merchants, the bloody merchants.

“And the pound,” commented Jim, “at five dollars and seven cents. Some merchants, I should say.”

We went along to another of the mobs. This was a tall gaunt man in black, with a yellow face, who, in a voice as dry and distinct as a mathematics professor, was detailing the elementary principles, as he said, of practical communism. It consisted largely of the ownership of all the means of production by the state, plus a certain amount of firing squads; the emancipation of the masses from all the stupid follies they are capable of under so-called democracy, and the complete surrender of themselves, like in religion, to the state, plus a certain amount of pistoling of the resistant or rigid type who have not that lovely gift of surrender.

“Jim,” I said, after we had listened a little while to this Egyptian of the new school, “I’m going to make them a little speech.”

“Swell,” said Jim. “Be yourself.”

“I mean,” I said, “this is the famous Hyde Park. It will be nice to go back home and tell the boys we made a speech in Hyde Park. It would make it seem more real. Not that we had listened to free speech in Hyde Park but had made a free speech in Hyde Park.”

“Where’s your pulpit?” asked Jim, looking down at me.

We walked out to the street and in a moment found a barrow and from the man hauling it, bought, for fourpence, a fine strong empty box. This we carried back to the cinder court where nine orators held nine crowds spellbound.

We selected a nice clear patch and I got on the box.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” I said, as one addressing Massey Hall, “as a stranger to your fair city and to these islands, I feel called upon, after listening to some of the speakers here in Hyde Park, to bring to your attention a few facts which seem to be overlooked.”

Several people on the edges of the nearby groups turned on hearing my voice and strolled over to me. Jim stood amiably among them, a sort of capper for me, applauding at the end of each sentence, where you pause for applause. You know.

“For instance,” I laughed, “your pound, which we ordinarily can get for around $4.75 cents we now have to pay $5.07 cents for.”

Again Jimmie led the applause, but nobody followed. In fact, I observed on the faces gathering quietly around me an expression of chill, an unfriendly, a hostile look. And this, despite the fact that I was smiling in that beaming, chin-uplifted fashion that is so useful to Sunday school superintendents and candidates for the board of education.

“Fellow Britishers,” I declaimed, trying a new tack, “fellow Britishers, do you realize you live in one of the securest, freest, happiest, healthiest, most comfortable countries on the earth?”

“None of that there ‘ere,” shouted a large fat man right underneath me. I could have touched him.

“Sir,” I said.

“None of that there ‘ere,” he bellowed, rising on his toes and shouting right in my face.

“None of what?” I demanded indignantly. But I noticed all the others were craning their necks at me, staring angrily, and muttering unsympathetically.

“Bloody foreigner,” said a thin man in the crowd. Now dozens were joining my group Jim put his foot on my soap box, in a friendly way.

“You misunderstand me, gentlemen,” I cried, smiling intensely. “I was merely about to sing the praises of Britain, and of London, in particular. Your own dear old London.”

“Chuck him aht,” came a voice.

A sudden loud murmur swelled, and the crowd began to push and shove around me.

“Pull his box aht. Push ‘im off. Give im the bunt. Bloody foreigner. Tryin’ to come one over us, so he is.”

“I assure you,” I shouted.

“Wot right,” shouted the fat man, who now also had one foot on my soap box, “‘ave you buttin’ in ‘ere?”

“Isn’t this Hyde Park?” I asked furiously. “I thought this was the very altar of free speech.”

“Free speech?” scoffed the fat man and all the crowd growled. “Free speech! That stuff you was tryin’ to give us? We don’t want none o’ that there ‘ere.”

“Well, I’ll …” I said.

“‘Op it,” said the fat man, stepping back.

“Very well,” I said, with dignity.

“‘Ere,” he said. “Take your box.”

Jim took the box. They made a lane for us. They stood, watching us with narrow eyes. When we got a good start, I turned.

“Come out to Canada,” I yelled. “We’ll show you.”

Three or four of them made that sudden start as if to chase us. But they didn’t. So Jim took my arm and hurried me and we hailed a taxi and drove back down to where the tackle stores are.

The only dirty thing we did was leave the box in the taxicab.

Editor’s Notes: Stanley Baldwin was the Prime Minister of Britain at the time.

This story was part of the series that were published in 1936 when Greg and Jim went to Britain and then France for the dedication of the Vimy Memorial. Many old WWI veterans went from Canada as part of the “pilgrimage”, and the Toronto Star sent veterans from their staff to cover it.

Toronto Star veterans on the Vimy pilgrimage. Greg is the short one in the center with his hat askew, with Jimmie on his right, with the usual cigarette in his hand.

Polo Bears

“I leaned over my horse’s neck and armed a quick swoop of the ball …”

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, September 12, 1936.

“If we are going abroad,” said Jimmie Frise, “we ought to get evening clothes.”

“Dress suits?” I asked.

“Tails,” said Jim. “And even a frock coat for afternoon occasions.”

“It’s all very well for people with long legs like you,” I protested. “But you can have no idea of the way we short people feel about things like that. Tails. And frock coats. I can wear a tuxedo without being mistaken for a waiter more than two or three times in an evening. But in tails, or even a frock coat, I always look as if I were standing in mud up to my knees.”

“You can get away with a tuxedo in Canada,” said Jim, “but not in England. Suppose we get invited to Buckingham Palace?”

“Jimmie,” I said, “I am sorry I cannot wear tails.”

“Then,” stated Jim, “your future is restricted to the semi-formal. You can never become really great or famous. You are doomed for life to the fringe of things. You are forever an almost.”

“Do you mean to say,” I demanded, “that no matter how great I may become, even if I went into politics and in time became prime minister, that my refusal to wear certain kinds of monkey clothes would handicap me?”

“All I say is,” said Jim, “that if we go to England and get invited around to meet really big people, you can’t go without tails.”

“What if I went in tweeds?” I insisted. “Suppose I acted the part of an eccentric genius. You know, landed at the function in baggy tweeds, and smoking a pipe?”

“The butler would not let you in,” said Jim. “If you were a famous labor leader or a world famous portrait painter or poet, maybe yes. Maybe the butler would have special instructions. But remember, we’re just a couple of guys from Canada.”

“Well, then,” I said bitterly, “I guess I won’t be going abroad. That’s all.”

“Ah,” smiled Jim, “leave the big social functions to me. You can have plenty of fun looking in the windows of shops on the Strand and that sort of thing. You can spend your evenings sitting in the back seats of galleries of theatres. You’ll have a swell time. I’ll attend to the social end. If anyone asks for you, I’ll say you are unfortunately indisposed.”

“Indisposed to make a monkey of myself,” I declared. “What’s more, there are plenty of things in England besides standing about in self-conscious attitudes in drawing rooms. Some of the greatest fly fishers in the world are in England and Scotland. Suppose I get invited to go fishing on the Test or the Itchen? Will I need monkey suits there? Not me. My good old Canadian tweeds are plenty good enough. I’ve got a fishing coat or two that will make even an English duke sit up.”

“There is one thing about it,” said Jim, “you can meet the most important people in England in lots of places besides full dress functions. The races for example.”

“I don’t care for races,” I reminded him.

“Or,” said Jim, “at the tennis matches at Wimbledon. You don’t need to dress up for that. In fact, from pictures I’ve seen of the swells in the English society magazines, you look exactly like them. Kind of moth-eaten, as if you had slept outside the free pass gate all night.”

“Funny,” I agreed, “how the English all look like tramps at four p.m. and by eight p.m. they all look like the nobility.”

“We’d Be in Like a Duck”

“Or polo,” said Jim suddenly, “Hurlingham and polo! We can pretend to be big polo enthusiasts. And if anybody in the middle classes over there wishes to entertain us and asks us how, we can say we are nuts about polo. And after five or six visits, to Ranelagh or some of the swell polo grounds, we are sure to meet the upper classes. The English aren’t hard to meet after five or six tries.”

“Polo,” I said, “Polo. That’s the game you play with mallets on horseback, banging a ball around.”

“Listen,” said Jim. “you’re an old mounted rifles officer. I’m an old artillery gunner. We both know horses. I wonder how long it would take us to learn the rudiments of polo?”

“Jimmie,” I warned.

“Listen,” cried Jim, standing up so as to think easier. “I’ve got an idea. There are several guys I know around Toronto who play polo, sort of Suppose we get a half dozen lessons in polo? Don’t you see? In England, if you play polo, you are in. Like a duck.”

“Jimmie,” I warned him again.

“Why, it’s a cinch,” shouted Jim. “All we have to do is buy a polo outfit, the white britches and shirts, the helmet, boots and so forth. Far cheaper than a dress suit. And when anybody wants to entertain us, all we have to do is say we’d like a spot of polo, see? A couple of chukkers.”

“Chukkers?” I asked.

“It’s a polo term,” said Jim. “Like a hole of golf. Or a set of tennis. Or a period in hockey. Why my dear boy, this is brain wave. You know as well as I do that the English are simply nutty about polo. It is played only by the cream de la cream. I’ll call you major. You’d look magnificent in a polo kit.”

“But my dear boy,” I pointed out, “we’d have to play. And that would be the end of it.”

“Now, now,” said Jim. “Polo, like everything else, consists mostly of standing about the clubhouse verandas and lawns. We can laughingly assure everybody that we are dreadful dubs. You know the way. Laughingly. And then if we are dubs we can the rules are different in the part of Canada we come from. Anyway, we can ride furiously around the field on borrowed ponies.”

“Ponies?” I said. “Ah, that’s different.”

“They call the horses ponies,” said Jim. They’re pretty nearly full-sized horses. But the main thing is in our polo outfits. We would meet everybody, lords, dukes, bishops and everything. We’d be in. Like a duck. They wouldn’t expect a couple of colonials like us to be able to play really. But they would admire in us the ambition, anyway. It’s a swell idea.”

“I don’t like it,” I demurred. “I’d rather stick to fishing or the Kensington Museum and the Tower of London, and so forth.”

“Just like any tourist,” sneered Jim. “I thought you were a man of ambition. Little did I think that a few imaginary social barriers would beat a man of your radical mind. How on earth did you ever get to be a major in the war?”

“By all the tall officers getting killed,” I explained.

“You can choose,” said Jim, “between evening dress with tails or polo kit. One or the other. Otherwise you can resign yourself to the high spot of your trip being the London Zoo.”

Two Gentlemen From Canada

So he kept at it. Each day he would renew the attack. He even arranged to borrow a couple of riding horses. He even got friend to lend us a field on his farm. So finally, I submitted.

“It won’t do any harm,” I agreed, “to try it out. You may be night. Maybe there is the makings of a real polo player in me. I have been looking over these English society magazines the last few days and I see a lot of small men in the polo teams. And middle-aged men like me too. Majory looking little men. Maybe I’ve got it in me.”

“My boy,” said Jim, “I knew you had it in you. Instead of this trip abroad being a case of a couple of tourists trying to keep track of their laundry, you may be the means of getting us into the finest society. By George, we might even get our pictures in the society magazines. Two gentlemen from Canada who have been performing well at Ranelagh this season. You know the sort of thing?”

“Smiling haughtily,” I agreed. “Holding our helmets in the crook of our arms, right leg bent with foot turned out.”

“Right,” cried Jim.

Whereupon we took the afternoon off and went up beyond Summit to the farm of one of Jimmie’s race track friends. We took with us our old army breeches and a polo shirt, they call it, borrowed from our children, and also those sun helmets they wear. Jim had arranged with an acquaintance who belongs to the Hunt Club to borrow a couple of polo sticks, but when he went to borrow them they were locked up. So Jim brought a couple of croquet mallets which, he said, would do as well for practice purposes. And on our arrival at the farm, the handyman led us to the stable where two large horses were stalled.

“I thought you said ponies,” I accused Jim.

“Make the best of it,” said Jim. “I’ll take the larger one.”

But they were both large horses, and after examining them carefully, I took the one with the kindest expression. The handyman saddled them up and shortened the stirrups to the last hole for me, and we mounted.

“Here’s your mallet,” said Jim, handing me up the pretty thing.

“I can’t touch the ground with it,” I showed him, “even when I hang right out of the saddle.”

“Wait until we get into the excitement of the game,” counselled Jim.

We joggled and bumped down the lane to the field where the handyman opened a gate. Jim gave me one end of the field and he took the other.

“We’ll start in the middle,” he said, “and whoever hits the other’s fence first, wins the chukker.”

Riding Off Your Opponent

He tossed a rubber ball to the ground.

“Shoot,” he said, and swinging low, hit the ball a bang towards my fence. I geed my horse and playfully it see-sawed after Jimmie, but Jim, with the greatest of ease, beat me to the ball and with about six bangs, sent the ball against my fence and so took the first chukker.

“Now” said Jim, “put a little more vim into it. Get after me. The big thing in polo is to ride your opponent of the ball. When you see me with the ball, ride at me, put the shoulder of your horse at me, and push me aside, so as to get a fair swing at the ball.”

“Wait,” I said, “until I get my sea legs on this horse. It’s too high. I ought to have a longer mallet.”

“Go on,” scorned Jim. “Lean down. You can hit a ball that size.”

“Toss it in,” I said, we having teetered back to midfield.

Jim tossed the ball and with a quick swoop, I landed a neat crack, sending the ball through my horse’s legs towards Jim’s fence. We swung the steeds and galloped neck and neck thirty feet after the ball. Jim getting there first and hitting the ball back, I got my horse turned and beat Jim to it, but he charged his horse at mine, and shouldered us aside, stealing the shot, and making a terrific slam that carried the ball bounding down again towards my fence.

I felt my horse stiffen under me at this attack. He snorted and pawed the sod like a bull for a moment before I could get him under way again. So that Jim beat me easily to the ball, and scored another goal. But my horse was going beautifully by the time I neared Jim, and as Jim swung down to poke the ball under the rail fence, where it had stuck, my horse, whirling on its feet as we drew alongside, turned and lashed out a beautiful kick, which caught Jim’s horse in the ribs.

“Hey,” yelled Jim, as he struggled to recover his balance. His horse curvetted and danced angrily.

“I didn’t do it,” I called to him. “My horse did.”

“Cut that stuff out,” cried Jim. “Keep your horse in hand.”

“How did I know what he was going to do?” I demanded. “You butted us. So I suppose he thinks this is a free for all.”

“Keep him in hand,” commanded Jim, tapping the ball back to mid-field to start a third round.

I could see a nasty look on Jim’s horse’s face, however, as we curved around in mid-field for a fresh start. And when he called “go,” I felt my horse go all rubbery under me, and it sprang toward Jim. And Jim’s came, head down, toward us. And as we met, with mallets upswung for the stroke, both horses suddenly wheeled on their bunched feet and lashed at each other.

“Hey, hey,” we both yelled, rearing tight and kicking our heels into them.

Horses Are Militaristic

A horse, however, is a horse. And a polo pony probably takes years to learn that polo is a game for gentlemen, both two-legged and four-legged. And these two horses were just plain cross-country riders. Circling warily, with tails and heads up and snorting and neighing and blowing their noses violently like pugilists, they suddenly bunched themselves and charged again. Again Jim and I swung back our mallets for the ball. But again the horses whirled their hind ends to each other and lashed violently.

“Hey, hey,” we both roared again, jerking the reins and kicking their ribs and speaking horse words to them.

“Ride yours down the field away,” yelled Jim, “and we’ll quiet them.”

So I went to one end of the field and Jim to the other and we talked soothingly to them and slapped their necks comfortingly, and after a few minutes, we had them gentled and I called:

“O.K. now. Jim.”

So we rode quietly toward middle field where the ball still lay, and we watched each other’s horse warily. Their ears were twitching. Their necks arched. Their eyes shining with the effort to understand.

“Go,” said Jim, uplifting his mallet,

And with a squeal, the two horses crouched, leaped, whirled and kicked, and I felt a loud grunt as my horse landed a doozer on the ribs of Jim’s. Jim’s – its name was Nettie – screamed and as quick as a cat, turned with bared yellow teeth and, narrowly missing my knee, took a good fat hold of my horse’s hide. I could hear her teeth click.

“Wah, hah, hah,” roared my horse in an agonized bellow and broke away in a dreadful series of bucks and kicks and hump backs, punctuating each wild jump with a short squeal of fury.

“Ride away,” I heard Jim cry.

And seeing Nettie coming with neck outstretched. I kicked mine in the ribs, shook out the reins and let him run. Around and around the field we raced, Jim dragging on Nettie’s bit and I giving my horse all the encouragement of heel and hand and tongue I would muster.

Whenever we paused, Nettie would make a sudden furious charge, cutting corners, until the handyman came running down the lane.

“What is it?” he bellowed. “The battle of Waterloo?”

“Open the gate,” commanded Jim, in the best Ranelagh manner. And I rode my horse to safety.

In a moment, the handyman had me on shore. He led my horse to the stable. Jim then rode Nettie, all slathered with foam and furious of eye, down the lane and the handyman held her head while Jim slid off and sprang aside.

“I didn’t think they’d stand for polo,” said the handyman apologetically.

“I never understood cavalry before,” said Jim. “Now I can see what the charge of the Light Brigade meant. Or the battle of Agincourt. I always thought it was only the men that fought.”

“Ah,” said the handyman, “a horse is a militaristic beast.”

“You see, though,” said Jim to me, “what a thrilling game polo could be?”

“How much,” I asked, “is a dress suit with tails?”

Editor’s Notes: This story takes place just before they leave for Britain and France, for the Vimy pilgrimage. This was the trip taken by many veterans of WWI to the dedication of the Vimy memorial in France. Greg and Jim were sent with other Toronto Star veterans to cover it, and their next 4 stories would take place in England and France.

The Toronto Star veterans on the pilgrimage. Greg is in the center with his hat askew, with Jim to his right.

Though men wore suits regularly in the 1930s, more formal attire could be required for special evening events, thus the possibility of needing tails or frock coats.

Hurlingham and Ranelagh are old London sports clubs.

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