Scraps Literary and Pictorial, December 5, 1902

WHEN the ladies have departed and the smoking has begun,

   When Robinson has spun his yarn and Smith worked off his pun—

In short, when conversation shows a tendency to drop,

I embark upon the narrative of Montmorency Plopp,

Of Habakkuk Caligula de Montmorency Plopp.

De Montmorency lived at Penge at the time of which I speak;

A clerk was he in a merchant’s firm at a pound and a half a week.

His exterior was singularly pleasing to the eye:

But the bitter drop in the cup of Plopp was the fact that he was shy.

He shunned his fellow-creatures. If addressed by any man,

He strove to speak, but gasped for breath, and paled beneath his tan.

Whenever he was introduced to any local belle,

He didn’t smile, but only felt excessively unwell.

His shyness was notorious, and every would-be wit

Sat up o’ nights till shocking hours composing jokes on it.

At last, in desperation, he resolved to make an end,

And went and told his troubles to a sympathetic friend.

“You’re shy?” observed the friend. Replied Caligula, “Quite true.”

“You also wish to cure yourself?” “Exactly so. I do.”

“Young man, become a cynic, and your lot will change, I vow.”

“Precisely,” said De Montmorency Habakkuk; “but how?”

“My stock of conversation is but meagre, as you know.

It’s principally ‘No’ and ‘Yes,’ the weather, ‘Ah’ and ‘Oh!’

With limitations such as these, I fancy you’ll admit

That if cast for the rôle of a cynical soul I should fail to make a hit.”

“Not so,” replied the sage old man; “my friend, this self-same meekness,

Which with pardonable error you at present deem a weakness,

This inability to speak, which seems to cause you grief,

Of cynicism’s weapons is undoubtedly the chief.

“In future, when folks speak to you, say neither ‘Ah’ nor ‘Oh,’

But simply raise your eyebrows—thus; or smile a little—so.

And if, to use a metaphor, you fail with your first shot

To hit success’s bull’s-eye, I’m a Dutchman—which I’m not.”

He ceased. Plopp’s eye with fire flashed, and he said “I understand,”

And he grasped his kind adviser very warmly by the hand,

“I’ll make my way without delay directly to the street,

And practise cynicism upon every one I meet.”

He did; and very shortly his affairs began to mend,

Within a week his cynic sneer left him without a friend.

Men ceased to speak of him as shy, and laugh at him; instead,

They never, never mention him, but simply cut him dead.

And as for me, when dinner’s o’er, and smoking has begun,

And Robinson has spun his yarn, and Smith worked off his pun,

And conversation seems to show a tendency to drop,

I embark upon the narrative of Montmorency Plopp,

Of Habakkuk Caligula de Montmorency Plopp.



Editor’s Note:
Printed unsigned in Scraps; Wodehouse entered this item in Money Received for Literary Work.
Thanks to Tony Ring for providing a copy of this item.