CARD playing is very much in fashion at the present time. When carried on in moderation and at suitable hours, it furnishes a pleasant form of amusement to which there can be no reasonable objection. When accompanied by gambling, it produces most unfortunate results; even the competition for valuable prizes, has a very unfavorable effect on character and temper, as Mary E.Wilkins Freeman has cleverly shown in one of her recent stories. Playing cards for money has had a vogue with certain people in this country. But the fashion will not last long, as it has already been seen to produce so much evil. Most American hostesses do not permit gambling to be carried on beneath their roofs. Even those who do, provide one or more tables for guests that object to playing for money. To give a card party and expect every one to take part in gambling, is considered very bad form. It is thought best to choose odd and pretty trifles of small intrinsic value, as prizes. Sometimes these are not shown until the conclusion of the play. The modern method of awarding the consolation prizes by lot is fairer than the old way.
Since card parties are usually informal affairs the invitations are given verbally, over the telephone or in an informal note.
Those who wish to be invited must cultivate amiability and learn to take defeat philosophically. Mr. X— is very fond of bridge, although he does not play for money. He finds it very difficult to arrange for his favorite game, and wonders why people do not ask him to their parties. The explanation is very simple, though no one likes to make it to Mr. X—. He becomes so deeply interested in the game that he treats it as a serious matter. He finds so much fault with his partner that she does not wish to play with him again. Those who are careless or inattentive, certainly try the patience of their fellow players; but courtesy and good sense alike demand that we shall not consider the mistakes in a game played for amusement as grievous sins. Many people dislike very much to have a game discussed, even at its conclusion. Expert players sometimes like to talk over the different points, but care should be taken to avoid criticism and acrimony. No talk about a game should be allowed while it is in progress.
Card parties may be given either by themselves, or as annexes to other entertainments. Thus one may be invited to a bridge dinner or to a luncheon card party. The latter is very popular in summer; or a hostess may ask her friends to come in the afternoon or in the evening for bridge only. In the latter case men also may be invited. They are usually too busy to go to entertainments in the daytime. After a lunch or dinner no refreshments need be provided, except Apollinaris or lemonade, to which sandwiches may be added. These are passed to the guests at the card table. Some hostesses provide ices also, in the evening. Tea may be served at an afternoon affair, although card devotees are apt to begrudge the time which it takes to pour out and drink a hot beverage. Where a lady asks her friends to come after dinner, she usually has a little supper for them, unless the affair is very small and informal.
One can usually hire card tables from a furniture store or from a caterer's establishment, Ordinary small tables may be used, if they are large enough to seat four and are of the proper height. A cloth should be thrown over each of them, so that the cards will not slip. Care must be taken to have the seats comfortable and of the right height. Dining-room or bedroom chairs are better than the low ones ordinarily used in a drawing-room — or little gilt chairs may be hired.
The lights must be carefully arranged so that every one can see well, without being dazzled. A shaded electrolier, candelabrum or kerosene lamp may be placed on a stand near the players, but never on the card table itself. The room should be well ventilated without exposing any one to a draft. To sit through a long evening with a current of air blowing on one's back, is both dangerous and disagreeable.
The cards must always be fresh, and for a large party they must be new and of polished board, so that they will not stick together. Very thin cards should not be used, as these are semi-transparent, when the light strikes them in a certain way. Gilt edges are objection-able because they tarnish and soil the hands. For bridge rather narrow cards are sold, although elderly people with poor eyesight like the large old-fashioned shape.
Hard pencils that make a light, faint mark should be strenuously avoided.
There should be plenty of good, well-sharpened ones, as well as bridge scores or scoring tablets.
For progressive euchre, punches and score cards are used. The hostess attends to the punching herself or deputes the task to some of her friends. Where the game is not progressive, counters are provided.
She does not play herself at a regular card party unless to fill a vacant place, since it is necessary for her to be free to receive late-corners and to see after the wants of her guests. One should be punctual at an entertainment of this sort, as it upsets the arrangements for people to come in late, after the tables have been made up. Unless a new quartette can be arranged, there is nothing for the tardy guest to do but talk to his hostess, or look on at the games already in progress.
This is apt to be annoying to the players, for the looker-on (who proverbially sees most of the game) finds it hard to keep silence. Of course, he is in honor bound to refrain from saying, or looking anything, about the cards. He must keep a perfectly stolid face, otherwise he may betray some secret of the hand he is watching, to one of the other players.
The hostess should not allow the playing to occupy the entire evening, unless her guests are devotees of the card table. Most people like to be free to talk and to move about the rooms for a time.
( Originally Published 1911 )
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