Would I let you down in our time of viral tsouris?
Well, yes, I might…but I’m not going to. Instead, try some jollity from Dorothy Sayers who, in her short mystery “Nebuchadnezzar,” describes a game of what seems to be a variety of charades. You don’t have to figure out what the characters are getting at to find it funny:
Bob drew back the curtains, thrust out a dishevelled head, announced: “The Nebuchadnezzar has four letters,” and disappeared again. In the distance was heard a vigorous bumping and a voice called out, “There’s a clothesline in the kitchen!” Somebody standing near the door of the room switched off the lights, and the damask curtains were drawn aside for the acting of the first letter.
A Japanese screen at the back of the stage, above which appeared the head of Lavinia Forbes, elegantly attired in a silk scarf, bound round the forehead with a cricket-belt, caused Mrs. Lester, always precipitate, to exclaim, “Romeo and Juliet–balcony scene!” Everybody said “Hush,” and the supposed Juliet, producing from behind the screen a mirror and lipstick, proceeded to make up her face in a very lavish manner. In the middle of this, her attention appeared to be distracted by something in the distance. She leaned over the screen and pointed eagerly in the direction of the landing, whence, indeed, some remarkable noises were proceeding. To her, amid frenzied applause, entered, on hands and knees, the twins, Peter and Paul Barnaby, got up regardless of expense in fur coasts worn with the hair outside, and champing furiously upon the clothes-line. Attached to them by stout luggage-straps was a basket-chair, which, after ominous hesitation and creaking between the door-posts, was propelled vigororously into the room by unseen hands, so that the charioteer–very gorgeous in scarlet dressing-gown, striped sash and military sabre, with a large gravy-strainer inverted upon his head–was nearly shot on to the backs of his steeds, and was heard to mutter an indignant “Steady on!” through his forest of crêpe beard. The lady, from behind the screen, appeared to harangue the driver, who replied with a vulgar and regrettable gesture. A further brief exchange of pantomime led to the appearance of two stout parties in bath-robes and turbans, who proceeded to hoist the lady bodily over the screen. Somebody said, “Look out!,” the screen rocked and was hastily held up by one of the horses, and the victim was deposited on the floor with a thud, and promptly died with a considerable amount of twitching and gasping. The charioteer cracked his umbrella across the backs of his horses and was drawn round the room and off again in a masterly manner. A loud barking from the wings heralded the arrival of three savage door-mats, who, after snuffling a good deal over the corpse, started to devour it in large gulps as the curtain fell.