The Big Book Drop - 471!
Once Upon a Time: Let's Catch Up

Fiction: 'The Literary Meet' by Edmund Lester Pearson


Dr. Gotthold, formerly librarian to H. H. Prince Otto of Grunewald, has very kindly forwarded a copy of the "Olympian Times" containing an account of the recent field day, gymkhana, and general meet of the Fictitious and Historical Characters' Amateur Athletic Association. It is reproduced here verbatim:

On the morning of the meet everyone was delighted to see that fair weather prevailed. As it was well known that the pious Æneas was going to act as one of the field judges, a good many persons had expected that his old enemy Æolus would contrive some kind of a kibosh in the shape of high winds. But nothing of the sort happened, and thousands streamed out to the grounds in the best of spirits.

The assemblage was a brilliant one. The "Times's" representative noticed a number of automobile parties. A magnificent new car belonging to Helen of Troy carried its fair owner, and a select party consisting of Iseult of Ireland, Mme. Anna Karenina, Paris, Tristram and Don Juan. Another car, belonging to Baron Chevrial, contained that nobleman, as well as Mr. Dorian Gray, Iago, and James Steerforth, Esq. A special railway car belonging to Crœsus, King of Lydia, brought a large party, including Omar Khayyam, Comus, Shylock and the Marquis of Carabas.

The football game was scheduled as the first event. The two teams came on the field at a dog-trot led by their respective captains. This was the line-up:

Achilles (Captain), l.e. r.e., Umslopogaas
Mercutio, l.t. r.t., Raffles
John Ridd, l.g. r.g., Learoyd
Ursus, c. c., Falstaff (Hercules)
Robinson Crusoe, r.g. l.g., Roderick Dhu
Sir Launcelot, r.t. l.t., Capt. Brassbound
Robin Hood, r.e. l.e., Hamlet (Captain)
Ulysses, q.b. q.b., S. Ortheris
Othello, r.h.b. l.h.b., Lars Porsena
Rawdon Crawley, l.h.b. r.h.b., Sydney Carton
T. Mulvaney, f.b. f.b., Hector


Officials: Referee, Sherlock Holmes; umpire, King Arthur; field judge, Henry Esmond; linesmen, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

We do not know who was responsible for the make-up of the teams, and we cannot enter into a detailed description of the game, but we must say that a more hopelessly one-sided affair we have never witnessed. The team captained by the Prince of Denmark had about as much chance against that led by the swift-footed son of Peleus as Miss Lindsay's Select School for Girls would against the Yale 'varsity.

Both teams were badly off for tackles, and while we do not wish to criticise the fairly good game played by Sir Launcelot and Captain Brassbound, we cannot help remarking that neither Mercutio nor Raffles had any business in that position.

We understand that Mr. Raffles formerly had some reputation as a cricketer, and we advise him to stick to that game. As for Mercutio (whose reputation, we believe, rests chiefly on a rather unsuccessful duel in Verona a number of years ago) it was plain that his was the weakest part of the line. Time and again Hector tore through Mercutio for big gains.

Indeed, if Hamlet had had the sense to keep pounding at left tackle his team might at least have scored one touchdown. But instead, Captain Hamlet would wander off between the plays, muttering to himself something about to punt or not to punt, and the quarter, Ortheris, was left to run the team alone.

This was unfortunate, for although Mr. Ortheris played a quick and snappy game himself, his signals were badly chosen. We believe that the climate of India, where he used to reside, affected him in some unfavorable manner, so that he is subject to occasional fits of madness. What with the peculiarity of the captain of his team in this respect, it seemed as if their side were badly handicapped. Umslopogaas played brilliantly at right end, but it was no use.

What in the name of common sense impelled their coach to put Sir John Falstaff at center? The day has gone by when weight is the only consideration in that position. Moreover, you cannot train for football on sack and capons. Ursus made the old knight look like thirty cents in counterfeit money. Luckily he was taken out at the end of the first period—wheezing badly—and Hercules took his place.

The game ended as might have been expected—34 to 0, in favor of Achilles's team.

The football game had occupied most of the morning, but after it was over there was still time for the spectators to witness some minor contests before luncheon.

Many wandered over to the tennis courts. A set of mixed doubles was in progress, with Lady Macbeth and Pudd'nhead Wilson opposed by Morgan le Fay and Mr. Isaacs. The Queen of Scotland and her partner from Missouri took a love set at the beginning of the match, but the second set was hotly contested, and finally went to Morgan le Fay and Mr. Isaacs, 7-5.

Morgan le Fay won ace after ace, proving herself the mistress of a very powerful and puzzling service, while Mr. Isaacs covered the court with the agility of a cat. They took the final set, and the match, winning easily with a score of 6-1.

Gentlemen's singles were also being played, and at the time when our representative had to leave the courts the tournament was practically won by Nathan Burke, as the only undefeated players remaining were Hugh Wynne and Alfred Jingle.

Under the trees near by, some games of cards were in progress. Miss Lily Bart was instructing Diana of the Crossways, Major Pendennis, and Mr. Pickwick in auction bridge.

Horatius, hearing the word "bridge" mentioned, hurried over to the table, but when he saw what was going on, lost his interest and walked away toward the golf links with Sir Patrick Spens.

At another table Mr. John Oakhurst seemed to have obliterated the color-line, for he was deeply engaged in a three-handed game of poker with Rev. Mr. Johnsing and Brother Cyanide Whiffles of the Thompson Street Poker Club.

Everybody was interested in aviation, and when the rumor got about that the aviators were going to make some flights there was a general rush toward the hangars. Only three made ascents, however—Darius Green, Icarus, and Peter Pan. The first tried one of his celebrated spiral descents, and of course came to the ground with a crash. His machine was a total wreck.

Icarus did not have much better luck—he was carried off to the hospital. He rose to an enormous height, and is said to have beaten all previous records for altitude, but something went wrong with his biplane, and he fell with terrible force.

King Arthur, his duties as umpire of the football game finished, challenged Macbeth to nine holes of golf, and beat the Scottish king, on his own heath, so to speak. King Arthur's drives were magnificent, showing that the arm that once wielded Excalibur had not weakened since its owner's retirement to the island valley of Avilion. They play very classy golf in Avilion.

Macbeth's putts were beautiful to watch, but as he usually arrived on the green in at least two strokes more than the monarch of the Round Table, they did him very little good. Twice on the drive he sliced, and the ball went wide into a grove of trees. When he asked his caddie the name of the grove, and the youth replied, "Birnam Wood, your Majesty," the former Thane of Cawdor turned pale and hammered the ground with his brassie.

When the royal players came to the ninth tee, Macbeth was heard to mutter, "What though I foozle, top, and slice, and thou opposed be now three up—yet will I try the last—lay on, Mac—I mean, it's your honor, Arthur!"

King Arthur did the difficult ninth hole in bogey, but poor old Macbeth plowed up the turf all along the fair green, and finally holed out amid a burst of Scotch profanity sad to hear.

Neither of their queens was present—her Majesty of Scotland being engaged, as we have said, on the tennis courts, while Queen Guinevere—well, it is enough for anyone to read the line-up of one of the football teams to know that Queen Guinevere was still lingering around the clubhouse, waiting for the players to come out. We have no wish to mention unpleasant things, and we abhor scandals—still facts are facts, and it is the duty of a conscientious newspaper to record them.

Down on the lake that expert submarine navigator, Captain Nemo, was entertaining a large crowd by the maneuvers of his celebrated boat, the Nautilus, and an exhibition of skillful paddling was offered by Hiawatha in his canoe.

The sound of revolver shots drew a number of spectators to see a match between Sherlock Holmes and The Virginian.

The greatest throng, however, surrounded a fencing bout between Cyrano de Bergerac and D'Artagnan. Cyrano had some dispute with the referee, before beginning, on the question of whether he should be allowed to compose a poem while he was fencing. He alleged that it was his custom to do so, and that he could not possibly appear at his best if the privilege were denied. His opponent objected, however.

"Just a ballade, monsieur," pleaded Cyrano, "or at least, a vilanelle."

"Cut out the poet business, Cy!" shouted someone—it is suspected that Chimmie Fadden was the man, and the referee so ruled. D'Artagnan was declared the winner of the match that followed.

After luncheon the whole assemblage were gathered about the diamond for the long expected game of baseball. This was to be played between two scrub teams known as "The Boys" and "The Old Men"—though some of the latter (notably Romeo and Richard Feverel) objected to the classification. These were the nines:

The Boys The Old Men
Tom Sawyer, 2b. Allan Quartermain, 2b.
Joe Harper, 3b. Natty Bumppo, r.f.
Tom Bailey, l.f. Friar Tuck, c.f.
Kim, c.f. Romeo, 1b.
Tom Brown, r.f. Sam Weller, s.s.
Jack Hall, s.s. Richard Feverel, l.f.
Frank Nelson, 1b. Tom Jones, 3b.
Mark the Match Boy, c. Don Quixote, c.
Huck Finn, p. Hotspur, p.

The Old Men banged into Huck Finn's delivery for three hits right at the start and came back for a couple more in the second inning. Huck, however, began to look better, and after the fourth he was swinging the ball over in great shape. The Old Men made but two hits in the last seven innings and none in the last five. Kim was the star on the attack. Up four times he made just that many hits, one going for a double.

One of Kim's drives came fast on a long bound and hit Romeo in the face. Kim drove in a pair of runs with his double and started the scoring for The Boys in the first inning, while in the sixth he himself came across with the tally which eventually proved the winning one.

Hotspur pitched a fair game. The greatest difference came in the defensive work of the teams. The Boys went through without a break.

Tom Jones had a case of the wabbles for The Old Men, and there was a lot of uncertainty about the work of the infield because of the breaks he made. The outfielders for The Old Men were also having trouble fielding the ball clean and throwing to the plate.

Sam Weller was the one chap on his team who was going at speed. He pulled off one play which belongs in the Hall of Fame, Joe Harper losing a hit and The Boys two runs as a result.

With Allan Quartermain and Leatherstocking down in the first inning, Friar Tuck fattened his batting average a bit by bunting and beating the throw to first. Romeo put the ball over Tom Brown's head up against the bleacher front and legged it around to third, while Friar Tuck scored, a fumble by Frank Nelson on Tom Brown's return cinching things. Sam Weller lambed a single to center and Romeo scored. Sam was out stealing a moment later.

Tom Sawyer got The Boys away in fine style with a smash to left for a single. Joe Harper drew a walk. Tom Bailey sacrificed, and Kim drove a hot grounder right through Allan Quartermain and wound up on second before the outfielders could get the leather back to the infield. Tom Sawyer and Joe Harper came home. Tom Brown popped up a foul to Romeo, and Kim was doubled off second after the catch.

Both teams kept right on scoring in the second. Dicky Feverel got The Old Men away well with a single and then stole second. Tom Jones put him on third with a sacrifice, and Don Quixote gave him the opportunity to score on a long fly to The Bad Boy. Hotspur whaled a fly over Kim's head. The famous scrapper tried to make it a home run, but was caught at the plate on Jack Hall's return.

In The Boys' half, after two had gone, Mark the Match Boy reached first on a fumble by Tom Jones. Huck Finn drove a single to right. Tom Sawyer put up a hot fly which Allan Quartermain failed to get, and Mark the Match Boy came home, Huck Finn going to third. Tom Sawyer stole second. Joe Harper drove a red-hot one over the bag at second, and it looked like a sure single and two more runs for the kids. Sam Weller went over for a sensational one-hand stop and threw Joe out at first. It was a phenomenal play. That settled the scoring until the sixth inning. Kim got a single, Tom Brown bunted and was safe when Tom Jones fumbled. Jack Hall sacrificed the pair along, and when Hotspur passed Frank Nelson the sacks were full. Mark the Match Boy raised a fly to Friar Tuck and Kim scored on the catch. Huck Finn fanned.

The Boys' final run came in the eighth on Jack Hall's single, Mark the Match Boy's grounder through the lion hunter, and a single by Tom Sawyer.

The score:

Innings 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9  
The Boys 2 1 0 0 0 1 1 1 .. 6
The Old Men 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .. 3


Edmund Lester Pearson (1880 - 1937) was a librarian and novelist. He is best known for his contributions to the "true crime" genre, including Studies in Murder, as well as The Old Librarian's Almanack, a humorous hoax pamphlet that garnered national reviews before being exposed. Pearson wrote a long-running newspaper column filled with the bibliographic exploits of a fictional librarian, including this story. "The Literary Meet" was later collected in The Librarian at Play (Small, Maynard and Company: 1911).

Image: The Library of Congress - Amateur championship game, Telling's Strollers vs. Hanna's Cleaners, Brookside Stadium, Sept. 20, 1914