Friday, September 20, 2013

365 Poems in 365 Days: Rascals

The Rascals' Club is fictional and in Piccadilly
It exists to hold posh eccentrics from my stories
It looks sensible but is really very silly
Designed as a place for conversational ease

The Rascals' Club has appeared in some of my early 20th century pieces, and in two more recently, one of which is here! Poem number 217.

Thursday Morning at the Rascals Club, Piccadilly, London

“I say Carstairs. You don’t mind if I have a word, do you?”

Carstairs folded his copy of The Times and placed it on the table beside him. “Not at all. The Circumspect Room is for conversation.”

He made a wide gesture indicating the curved wooden wall of the room, the many windows offering a fine view of Green Park. Despite the early hour several gentlemen were in conference near the newspaper rack.

“Thank you,” said Beaufort, taking a seat. A club servant appeared at his side. “Sir?” he murmured.

“Coffee, please Johnson.”

 Johnson vanished leaving behind only a whispered “Certainly sir.” Beaufort leant over the table towards Carstairs.

“What do you think of this Schneemann fellow?”

Carstairs rubbed his chin. “An interesting man. His tales, while outrageous, have at least a whiff of truth about them. He has money, although not as much as is generally suspected. The most unexpected people introduce him about society, but are glad to pass him on, as though they only associate with him from necessity. He has a wide knowledge of many topics, including metallurgy, the liquor trade, crypto-zoology and, unless I mistake his stance, fencing. He is popular with the ladies, both the inexperienced and the more mature. He uses too much hair oil, but would be good looking if it weren’t for the scar and that dagger of a nose.

“In all I suspect him of being a rogue, an upstart, a blackmailer and a thief.”

Beaufort nodded. “Much as I thought. He is applying for membership of the club. I will be blackballing his application.”

Carstairs blinked in astonishment. “Good lord. Why ever would you do that?”

“Quite apart from the details you’ve just informed me of, he is a greasy Hun with an obsession for women’s shoes.”

Carstairs leaned back. “Just so. But, Beaufort, this is the Rascal’s Club. Money and style are all we insist on for members, so almost everyone here has a whiff of the outrĂ© about them.  Reverend Blake hasn’t been sober since the Boer War. Sir Belvedere holds race meetings where the mounts are yaks and llamas. Duff-Wilson has been known to enter the boxing ring, dressed only in a corset and bloomers.”

“Not forgetting you and I.”

“Indeed. Your promising military career was cut short by charges of conduct unbecoming an officer with the general’s wife.”

“Also his sister. Of course, your escapades as an enquiry agent for certain scandal ridden parties have made you quite notorious – although that’s nothing compared to the fact it’s known that you have actually charged money for your services like a common lawyer or accountant.”

“Mmm,” said Carstairs, stroking his grey silk cravat. “All of us are men of the world, so to speak. Our peccadilloes are common knowledge. In a club of ne’er-do-wells Schneemann can hardly do any harm, and you and I can keep an eye on his activities.

“Now imagine if he inveigled his way into another, more conventional institution. He would run roughshod over the dullards and naifs, driving them to ruin or worse, depending on his inclinations. Much better by far to let him join us here, where any damage can be limited and we can entertain ourselves undoing his schemes.”

Beaufort pondered this. “So you contend that Rascals is where Schneemann would be most appropriately placed, and where he will do least mischief.”

“Certainly,” said Carstairs, suddenly unsure.

“Smithie! Come, join us.” Beaufort called over the amiable looking young man. “We were just talking about Schneemann. You were with him in the card room last night. Do you think he should be elected to the club?”

“Of course, of course. He is the most fascinating raconteur and a dab hand at Russian Whist. I would encourage you all to join in electing him as he will undoubtedly be an ornament to Rascals.”

“I see,” said Beaufort. “You make an excellent case. I do have one question however. After last night’s wagers, exactly how much money do you owe him?”

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