Fr. Dudley’s Humor

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Fr. Dudley’s humor in his novels is lively, but can’t be adequately illustrated because it is situational and built upon character development.

Still, this is an example from Pageant of Life (1932).  Cyril Rodney had been raised Protestant, but his father was not very religious even though his mother was devout and anti-Catholic.  As a young man, Cyril went for a visit at the home of his friend, Anselm Thornton (who went on to become the “Masterful Monk”).

[Cyril] had been (Thornton never forgot it) appalled at finding the whole family at Mass next morning in the private chapel which he entered in mistake for the breakfast-room; Thornton, on his knees, had looked up to see him staring bewilderedly and then hurriedly escaping with a frightful frown.  There had been worse to follow.

At breakfast, the chaplain, whom Cyril had been watching shyly, had remarked something about “missionaries” and a “leper fund.” Afterwards, in the hall, Cyril had lounged up to him, with a finger on a sovereign in his waistcoat-pocket— “May I see you a minute, sir?” The chaplain, unwarned that Cyril was not a Catholic and misunderstanding, had led him to the chapel, going in ahead, entered the confessional-box, sat down and waited…

Thornton had run into Cyril coming back into the hall looking perplexed and awkward: “That Padre of your has got into some cupboard place in there. Might give him that for those Johnnies of his, will you? Can’t get at him.”  Thornton had gone in with the sovereign to look for the chaplain, returned quickly, and collapsed on a chair with yells of laughter…

Another example is this scene from The Coming of the Monster (1936):  I modified the format into a script for use in a discussion group.

Setting: the railing on the deck of a passenger ship going from America to England. The 3 people at the railing are:

Captain Louis Vivien is a French intelligence officer (probably in his early 30‘s)…a devout Catholic with “sharp features and humorous, watchful eyes.”

Verna Wray is a striking woman of 22. Although an unchurched Anglican, she had incurred the wrath of her wealthy family by rejecting marriage with a man of even more status and wealth–because he had written a book of intellectual pretensions proposing temporary, and open, marriages.  She has also bluntly turned down the chance to be a “show girl” (vice an actress) in Hollywood movies.

Terry Harcourt is a woman of strong Catholic convictions and a lively sense of humor.  She is older than Miss Wray (but probably not as old as Louis Vivien).  They are roughly equal in social rank, and the friends share a flat in London.

A “poilu” is a French infantry man.

A “Bureau” on a ship of that era was to assist passengers in various ways.

Narrator:  The man was absorbed in the haze. Very carefully, he turned his head to find the younger of the two doing the same.  They both hurriedly returned to the haze.  An atmosphere of acute self-consciousness appeared to pervade all three of them.  The girl suddenly began to laugh.  He faced her, with a smile hesitating on his lips.  The girl plunged:

Verna Wray:  “Rather silly, this? Let’s introduce ourselves.”

Narrator:  He laughed too:

Louis Vivien:  “That is a good idea. But perhaps I am a bad man.”

Verna Wray:  “We’ve decided that you’re a nice man.  This is Miss Harcourt.  I think you had better shake hands–it will look better.  That lady is watching.”

Narrator:  He took the cue, and also Miss Harcourt’s out-stretched hand.  His eyes returned to the younger:

Louis Vivien:  “You are Miss Wray–Miss Verna Wray?”

Verna Wray:  “And you are Captain Vivien–Captain Louis Vivien?…Yes they’re very obliging at the Bureau…No, you mustn’t shake hands with me. I’m introducing you and Miss Harcourt. The idea is that we’ve already met…I think I’m doing this rather well.”

Narrator:  She looked carelessly about.

Verna Wray:  “The lady in the spectacles is wondering whether I’m a vamp.”

Louis Vivien:  “Vamp?”

Verna Wray:  “Sorry. Of course–you’re French. Vamp?  A film female–an ensnarer.  Miss Harcourt was a vamp before she was my staid companion.”

Terry Harcourt:  “Verna, you’re the limit!”

Louis Vivien:  “Perhaps you are a–film star. I am right?”

Narrator:  Verna assumed hauteur:

Verna Wray:  “No, indeed not! Is that why you wanted to talk?”

Louis Vivien:  “I beg your pardon. It is the straw hair–the eyes.”

Verna Wray:  “Flaxen, please. Is that why you wanted to talk?”

Narrator:  Captain Louis Vivien indicated the tea-tables under the awning:

Louis Vivien:  “We will all have tea together, and I will tell you why.  But you will promise not to vamp me?  Come on.”

Narrator:  He led the way there, ordered tea from a waiter, and invited them to sit down with:

Louis Vivien:  “I am doing this rather well.  Is that not so?  The lady in the spectacles is saying to herself–he is a nice, kind uncle.”

Terry Harcourt:  “The lady in the spectacles is saying to herself–the niece is abnormally excited about the uncle.”

Verna Wray:  “Terry, how dare you! Captain Vivien, no tea for the staid companion!”

Narrator:  He smiled indulgently:

Louis Vivien:  “I will tell you why I have wanted to talk to you.”

Narrator:  Verna leaned forward:

Verna Wray:  “Yes, do!”

Louis Vivien:  “Because I say to myself–she wants to talk to me.”

Verna Wray:  “Really! Captain Vivien!”

Louis Vivien:  “Very well. It is because I have remembered you.”

Verna Wray:  “Remembered me?”

Louis Vivien:  “I have seen you in Paris, after the War.  I have seen you for just one minute.”

Verna Wray:  “Paris?”

Louis Vivien:  “There was a French officer talking with a poilu at the corner of a Place, and there was a little girl with flaxen hair who was listening.”

Narrator:  She was watching his face perplexedly.

Louis Vivien:  “At night. Under a light. Opposite Le Gande Hotel.”

Narrator:  Her eyes were suddenly alight.

Verna Wray:  “Yes!…I do!…And the French officer was arguing with the poilu about the Bolsheviks, and the little girl was wondering who they were.  And the French officer turned, and their eyes met.  And she looked away, blushing…It was you?…Terry, this is an absolute romance!”

Narrator:  Terry remarked drily:

Terry Harcourt:  “And the lady in the spectacles is wondering why the little girl with the flaxen hair failed to recognize her uncle in Paris.”

Narrator:  Verna raised her voice:

Verna Wray:  “Uncle Louis! And I never knew you!”

Narrator:  She added in a sotto voce:

Verna Wray:  “But this is thrilling!…I was a school girl then–in Paris.”

Louis Vivien:  “At dinner last night I say to myself–I have seen her somewhere.  This morning, I say to myself–it is the schoolgirl with the flaxen hair, who is now a woman.”

Verna Wray:  “You remember me? You must have been thinking about me ever since…Terry, this is a super-romance.”

Narrator:  He shrugged his shoulders:

Louis Vivien:  “The schoolgirl has remembered the French officer? She has been thinking about him ever since. This is a very great romance.”

Verna Wray:  “Captain Vivien!”

Louis Vivien:  “This is–what do you say?–Quits!…Here is the tea coming.  Yes, she is most interested–the lady in spectacles.”

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