Brit’s reference the other day to a chump reminded me of an old yarn first published in Slightly Bewildering Detective Anecdotage magazine, back in 1924, in a special “Criminally-Minded Bright Young Things” issue. The (anonymous) tale was entitled “The Chump And The Flapper”:
Fresh from a dancehall enormity, there was a chump and there was a flapper, and they sat in a rowing boat in the middle of a vast, vast lake. The lake was so big it might as well have been a sea, for neither the chump nor the flapper could see the shore. The chump thought he was fop, but the flapper knew she was a flapper.
“I am a flapper,” said the flapper, “and you are a chump.”
“I am not a chump,” said the chump, insulted, “I am a fop.”
“Either way,” said the flapper, “Hand me that oar. It is time we rowed home, for look!, the sun is setting, and if we do not row home we will be plunged into darkness out here in the middle of the vast, vast lake. Such a prospect gives me the collywobbles.”
Now you might protest that a world-weary demimondaine flapper is the last person in the world to get the collywobbles, and you would probably be correct. Be that as it may, the chump, being a chump, took her at her word, and handed her the oar, and grabbed hold of the other oar himself, and together they began to row. The flapper rowed with insouciant ease, and the chump rowed like a chump, that is to say, ineptly, so ineptly that instead of rowing home they rowed to the wrong side of the vast, vast lake. That is how the chump and the flapper found themselves, at nightfall, surrounded by a gaggle of murderous thugs lumbering about on the jetty of an ill-starred fishing village. There was much grunting from the thugs, most of whom were wielding clubs, and the clubs were spattered with blood and brains and the Lord knows what else.
“I think it would be a good idea for you to essay a tad of chumpery to distract the thugs,” said the flapper to the chump.
“Surely you mean a tad of foppery?” protested the chump.
“I mean what I say,” snapped the flapper, “And be quick about it, or we will be bashed by brutes!”
Wiping his hands on his plus-fours, the chump was about to engage in diverting chumpery when a police car screeched into view behind the murderous thugs, and out stepped Detective Inspector Cargpan! Yes, the so-called “spindly copper” had not, after all, plummeted to his doom over a waterfall in some Ruritanian princedom, for he was here, in this godforsaken fishing village, accompanied as usual by his troika of deceptively diffident bloodhounds, Bim, Bam, and Ubuntu!
Thus, on a moonlit jetty, ended the criminal careers of the chump and the flapper. Cargpan placed them in manacles and bundled them into the boot of his car, before driving off at inhuman speed up into the hills, leaving the thugs to smash the rowing boat, and the rowing boat’s oars, to smithereens.