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Back to the Selborne Arms

Otis Skinner

Otis Skinner: 1. As Charles Surface in “The School for Scandal”. 2. Portraying Hajj in “Kismet”. 3. As Sancho Panza in Cervantes “Don Quixote”. 4. As Falstaff in “Henry IV”. 5. As he appeared in “Mister Antonio”. 6. As Denis Roulette in “Sire”. 7. As Falstaff in “Merry Wives of Windsor”. 8. As Phillipe Bridau in “The Honour of the Family”.

We crash near at the outskirts of Selborne. After lying around for a while, stunned, I remind Juan that we are gogaringly behind schedule, so after washing our wounds and refreshing ourselves with Vintage Interleven, Knockdhu, Talisker, and Glenburgie Private Reserve, we head for the Selborne Arms. Entering Selborne, Juan remarks on the old-fashioned aspect of the village and wonders if Dirk’s time machine is working, I tell him that English villages are always behind the times and Dirk’s machine will never work, as the scientists on Dirk’s team do nothing except attend conventions in exotic locations, which leaves no time for research.

Arriving at the pub, we find Roly and George in a terrible condition. Roly is stumbling around, bouncing off the walls, and George is laying, unconscious, under the table. Roly tells us that Sir John went off to get changed, as he says this, the door opens and a distinguished looking gentleman comes into the bar. Roly looks puzzled and tells me that he’s sure he has seen the man before somewhere, I tell Roly that he has definitely seen him before as he is Otis Skinner, one of our top agents who, between missions, does a little bit of acting, in fact, in practising his hobby, he appeared as Charles, Sancho, and all the other guests that Roly met in aunt Humperdink’s house.

Juan and Otis go to the bar to order some ale, while they do that, Roly tells me that George’s reluctance to paint birds in flight seems to have been softened by a great deal of drinking, and, showing me George’s latest painting, Roly says that he has successfully pestered George into painting a flying bird. Seeing George’s picture, I am inspired to quote one of my poems and, after slapping George until he wakes up, I recite ‘The House Martin’, a commentary on the flatulence of the delichon urbicum. Roly says my poem is rubbish, and George’s picture clearly isn’t of a house martin, it’s a swallow. I tell him I don’t care; the house martin looks like a swallow and flies like a swallow and probably smells like a swallow. George, groaning and rubbing his head, mumbles something about the martin and the swallow being completely different birds, and they don’t smell, so I recite my ‘Ode to a Waterlogged Duck’ instead. However, by the time I reach the twenty-second verse; “You were wet, my flapping, feathered, friend; this is why you met your sudden, sodden end. You were out of luck, dear duck; this is the sorry, soggy, truth. It was my hope that you would float, but, forsooth, you weren’t waterproof and, madly quacking in surprise, you slowly sank beneath the lake. Now, I sadly realise, washing you with soap, was a terrible mistake.” George is holding his hands over his ears, rocking backwards and forwards in distress and Roly is yelling at me to shut up, saying that my poetry is absolutely terrible. I bawl back at them that, if I can be bothered to look at their paintings, they should have the grace to listen to my poems, and I launch into my ‘Hero of Pamplemousses’, a eulogy in praise of my renowned ancestor, Captain Rufus Humperdink, the great dodo hunter. Inexplicably, this seems to upset George and Roly even more, George throws a half-eaten salmon at me and Roly chucks a pint of ale into my face; furious at such a waste of good vittles, I whack George over the head with the bass drone of my bagpipes, rendering him unconscious again. Roly tries to escape and, whirling my bagpipes, slipping and sliding on fish and spilt ale, yelling, and hurling things, we chase each other around the table, as fast as we possibly can.

Professor Humperdink’s Diary