Samuel Marchbank’s Almanack by Robertson Davies

SANTA: You’re a reactionary!

ST. NICK: You’re a Red!

SANTA: I am not!

ST. NICK: Yes you are; you’ve even got a red suit on!

SANTA: Those are fighting words! (He swings at St. Nick with his bag of toys: St. Nick cracks him over the head with his crazier. As they fight the Spirit of Christmas is lowered from above the stage on a wire. She should be a skinny little girl with frizzled hair and a fairy wand.)

SPT. OF CH.: Oh, do not fight

On Christmas night;

Nor air your peeve

On Christmas Eve.

Silent night

Holy night

Saints should know

It’s wrong to fight.

(St. Nick,who cannot stand her voice a moment longer,kicks the Spirit of Christmas hard on the caboose. She screams, and spins rapidly on her wire. As she whirls she gores Santa’s stomach with her wand and two old sofa cushions from the Rectory fall out. Amid general confusion the curtain falls.)

You may find that some people will not like this play; they will say that it does not reflect the true Christmas Spirit. Tell them from me that if they think they can do better at short notice to go ahead.

Yours in the Yuletide Spirit,

S. Marchbanks.


To Amyas Pilgarlic, ESQ.

Dear Pil:

On Christmas Eve it is surely not indiscreet of me to confide the secrets of my Christmas List to you. As I told you earlier, I am giving Canadiana this year. Here is the list:

Uncle Fortunatus: an old drum, almost certainly used by troops in the 1837 rebellion. Both heads are gone, but can be easily replaced. All the decoration and regimental ornament have been worn, or rusted, away, but a skilful restorer could put them back again if we knew what they were. Spiteful people say it is an old cheese-box, but I have the true collector’s flair, and know it is a drum. Uncle will love it.

Brother Fairchild: an old Quebec heater, almost certainly the one around which the Fathers of Confederation sat when planning the future of this great Dominion. Who can say what historic spit may not cling to it? It is, in the truest sense, a shrine. As a stove, of course, it has seen its best days. Fairchild will be delighted.

Cousin Ghengis: A flag, used by a militia regiment which set out to quell the Riel Rebellion, but was detained in one of the bars in Toronto. It is a most interesting piece of work, which shows signs of having been an Orange Lodge banner before it was converted to its later purpose. It is rather stained with something which might be blood, though an analytical chemist says it still smells of whisky. Ghengis will be ecstatic.

Nephew Gobemouche: a stamp used by a Member of Parliament in mailing a letter from the Parliament Buildings. Such stamps are exceedingly rare, and a few philatelists deny that any genuine examples are in existence. I happen to know, however, that on September 12, 1896, the franking-machine was out of order for a few hours, and free stamps were given to members at the Parliamentary Post Office. Gobemouche will be tearful with pleasure.

Nephew Belial: a horn from Laura Secord’s famous cow. When blown it emits a musty smell but no sound. Belial will be livid.

And as for you, my dear friend — but no; you must wait until tomorrow to see what I have sent you.

A Merry Christmas!



IMPERFECT GROOMING / Met a man who, in casual conversation, referred to someone we both knew as “the sort of fellow who has never found out that you really can’t make a shirt do for more than one day.” This depressed me. I am always depressed in the presence of those who wear a clean shirt every day, bathe every day, never drop food on their fronts and always have their shoes shined and their trousers creased. I would fain be one of them. But alas, I never seem to be attending to what I am doing when I dress. Absent-mindedly I snatch whatever comes to hand; sometimes the effect is of a stunning elegance; more often it is not. If I bathe every day, especially in Winter, I develop a kind of all-over dandruff, and raw patches appear on my hide. I would love to be so clean that my presence was a reproach to lesser men, but I am not. I am not spectacularly dirty, either. I am just one of those people who has never completely convinced himself that a shirt will not do for more than one day. I comfort myself that in this I resemble Dr. Johnson, who only changed his shirt when his friends presented him with a petition; but alas, I have not the courage or determination to resemble him closely.

LET THE EAR JUDGE / Somebody in the States, I see, has conceived the notion of recording classics of literature on long-playing records. After listening to such a recording it would no longer be necessary to go through the fatigue of reading the Iliad, the Odyssey, Paradise Lost, the Divine Comedy, or any other exhausting work. It must be said for such a scheme that it would restore the ear as the first judge of poetry, and expose that false judge, the eye. But I doubt if many people would hear the great works often enough to get near the root of them.

CHRISTMAS CHEER / Finished my Christmas shopping. True, I finished it three weeks ago, but it is a job which I find requires finishing more than once. At the end of November I fought, bit and clawed my way through the shops, battling with savage women and bitten in the leg by cannibal children, and gathered enough assorted rubbish to fill, as I thought, my Christmas needs. But in the light of Christmas Week it has proved to be too little; my bosom is inflated, nigh to bursting, with Brotherly Love and eggnog, and today I sallied forth to shop again. The shops were almost empty, and although the clerks were a little vague and tended to hiccup when asked questions, I achieved my wishes in a short time and hurried home to decorate my tree. Preparatory to this task I nogged a couple of dozen eggs, and when visitors dropped in I was able to offer them a drink of the plushy, caressing fluid which does so much to take the bitterness out of Christmas. . . I have made my own angel for the top of the Christmas tree. As a delineator of the female form I tend to express myself in unmistakable terms; I like even an angel to appear as if she had some fun in her. In consequence my angel looks a little like Diana of the Ephesians, what with eggnog and one thing and another.

Christmas Merrymaking

(A bonus for party-loving readers of the Almanack)

Nothing serves to break the ice at Christmas so effectively as a good-humoured hoax or imposture perpetrated by some quickwitted member of the company upon an unsuspecting fellow guest. You may play the coveted role of wit, and earn the gratitude of your hostess, by thoroughly mastering the following simple, but effective jests.

Showing him your fountain pen, induce a fellow-guest to wager that it will not write any colour he cares to name. When he says (for example) “Green,” reveal nothing by your countenance but write the letters g-r-e-e-n upon a sheet of paper. Then appeal to the company at large as to whether you have not won your wager. His stupefaction will be very laughable. (If you are a lady, of course, you will wager half-a-dozen pairs of gloves rather than a sum of money.)

Another eminently “practical” joke is this: say to a fellow-guest (whom you have previously ascertained to be a philatelist) “Pardon me, sir (or if you are acquainted with him, “Colonel A,” or “Judge B”) but is it true that you collect stamps?” When he says “Yes,” bring your right shoe smartly down upon his left instep (or vice versa if you happen to be left-handed), saying at the same time, “Capital! Collect this one!” Whatever his feelings may be, the laughter of the company will certainly give him his cue to take this as a good joke upon himself, for no true gentleman wishes to be a spoilsport, embarrassing his hostess and clouding the delight of the company. (If a lady, be sure that you bring the heel of your shoe upon the instep of your “victim,” as you may otherwise turn your ankle and be forced to send for your carriage.)


(By ordinary surface mail but unstamped)

To Big Chief Marchbanks.

How, Marchbanks:

This one hell country, Marchbanks. No place for honest man. Listen. Last week I no money. Christmas come. I good Indian, Marchbanks. Baptized lots of times. Want to do right by Gitche Manitou on he birthday. Want for buy case lilac hair juice for drink Gitche Manitou health on birthday. No money. Every place Christmas shopper. All spend. All sad face. All think selfs happy. So I think I sell Christmas trees. One place I see plenty little trees. All blue. I get hatchet and cut down four. Then woman come to door of house. She say what I do? I say cut Christmas trees. Thief, she say — awful loud voice, Marchbanks, for skinny woman — I call cops. You cut my blue spruce. I grab trees. I run. Soon cops come in white car. Hey you, say cops. What you do in white car, I say. Sell ice cream, maybe. Ha! Joke, Marchbanks. Cops mad. So mad they get out of car. That awful mad for cop, Marchbanks. Take me police court. Little fellow at desk he say I been drinking. How I drink, I say, with no money. Little fellow belch. He been drinking Marchbanks. I smell, jail ten days he say, and belch again. I belch too, for show polite, Indian style. Another ten days for contempt, he say.

Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50

Categories: Davies, Robertson