The Quarrelsome Club

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The Quarrelsome Club  (1916) 
by Ellis Parker Butler

From the "Editor's Drawer" section of Harper's Magazine, Nov 1916. Illustrated by Peter Newell

The Quarrelsome Club


" AND instead of each applicant for membership being proposed by a proposer," said Scott, "he will have to be opposed by an opposer—by some one who really objects to having him in the club, and can give a good reason for it."

We were on the eight-fifteen, going to town, and Scott had dropped into my seat just as the train pulled out of the Westcote station. I can honestly say that of all the men in Westcote, Scott is the one I most thoroughly detest. He irritates me beyond measure; he is a self-centered, egotistical donkey, with a head like an empty peanut—but there! I can't talk about him. I always lose my temper when I do. Not another word about him!

I always read the morning paper on the way to town. I consider the opportunity to read the paper on my way to town the one redeeming feature of suburban life. I have told every one so and, thank goodness! every one understands how I feel. Scott knows this as well as any one. I have told him a hundred times, but he is such a consummate jackass, and so full of his own conceit. You know what I mean—he's forever thinking that what he has to say is more important than anything in the world. He comes with his idiotic ideas and sits beside a man and talks and talks and talks! But—there! It's no matter. Forget him.

This morning I had just opened my paper and begun to read when Scott entered the car and, seeing only forty or so empty seats, made a bee-line for the vacant one at my side, as the infernal nuisance always does. I can't understand the man. I've shown him in every way possible that I don't like him and that I don't want his company and that he is a nuisance, but he is always bothering me. I think he is thick-headed or something. He seems bright enough, too, to know better. But I won't talk about him. It drives me mad!

I snubbed him, of course. He came up with that cheerful business of: "Well, old man! and how is the boy this morning?" and I said, "Um!" and went on reading. He offered me a cigar, and I said: "No! smoke it yourself. I smoked one of those once!" You can't be too plain with a man like Scott. He has no tact, or whatever you call it. Brazen-faced, insistent, annoying— No matter. Least said soonest mended.

"Well, we've got the grand idea at last," Scott said. "Some of us talking about it last night. A new kind of club. It's to be the Quarrelsome Club. Rogers—"

I put down my paper for one moment. "Now, listen to me!" I said. "I don't want to hear anything about Rogers. I don't want to hear his name, even. Understand that? After what that man said to me about my dog in his garden, I'm through with him. I know when a man is a gentleman, and I know when he is not. That's all!"

"And Grieg," said Scott.

"Scott," I said, "what are you trying to do, annoy me? If you don't know it, I'll tell you now that I think that man Grieg ought to be run out of Westcote. I think he's a German spy: that's what I think of him. I don't want to hear anything about him,or talk to him, or be where he is. He's no gentleman, and I told him so to his face. I tried, in the plainest manner possible, to explain to him why Germany is wrong and why she is bound to be licked and— But no matter! The man is impossible!"

"And some others of us," Scott went on. "Our old bridge-club crowd, you know—"

"Stop it!" I said. "You needn't say another word. If that's the crowd, ex-cuse me! Of all the bunches of cheap, quarrelsome, provincial, petty - minded, ill - tempered—"


"I hoped you'd feel like that," said Scott, idiotically. "So we got to talking about Westcote, and the lack of social organizations, and we felt—all of us—there ought to be a club."

"Well, there is one, isn't there?" I said. "You've got the Teconic Club, or whatever that bunch of swelled-headed, would-be aristocrats call themselves, haven't you?"

"Yes, but this club of ours," said Scott, rapidly, "is to have nobody in it but the unclubable—the fellows nobody wants in a club. That's why we are going to call it the Quarrelsome Club. It is going to be just the opposite of any other club. Nobody can get into it that ought to be in a club. We'll have a room and meet there to quarrel and be nasty to one another. And instead of each applicant for membership being proposed by a proposer, he will have to be opposed by an opposer—by some one who really objects to having him in the club and can give a good reason for it."

"Well, I know one man I'd be mighty glad to oppose, "I said. "Harkins! I told that man just last night what I thought of him and the infernal racket he makes in his garage, right under my window. Why doesn't he get a decent car he doesn't have to be banging with a sledge-hammer all night? I tell you, there's a law against nuisances, and—"

"It will work like this," Scott went on: "somebody will mention a man's name, but unless he is so disliked that some member gets purple in the face just to hear his name, nothing more will be done about it. If some member does go purple in the face, he has the right to oppose the man mentioned. He opposes him and gets some one to second the opposition. Then he has to write a letter to the membership committee telling all the reasons why the opposed candidate should not be admitted—why he is not a fit companion for the members, what a vile temper he has, and so on. If he can convince the membership committee, that committee reports to the board that it will resign if the opposed candidate is admitted to the club. The board then posts the opposed candidate's name and recommends that he be not admitted. Then the club members vote on the candidate. If enough think he is not fit to associate with gentlemen—think he is ugly of disposition and quarrelsome, and sure to make trouble in the club—he is blackballed."


"Of all the nonsense—" I began, but Scott wouldn't stop.

"It's going to be an interesting club," he said. "I expect the steward will resign every day. We can't hope that the quarrelsomeness will amount to fist-fights every night, but we can count on that frequently. The house committee will have a delightfully frightful lot of trouble. We got it going last night—drew up the constitution and bylaws, and started with a dozen charter members."

"Umh!" I said, and picked up my paper again.

"Your name came up almost immediately," Scott said.

"Umh!" I said again.

"Quite a number of us opposed it quite violently," said Scott in that irritating, cheerful way of his.

"I don't care what or who—" I began, with some spirit.

"You were unanimously blackballed," said Scott, with what I felt was a coo of triumph. I turned and looked him full in the face.

"Scott," I said, "you needn't think you are angering me by coming to tell me this. I'm a good-natured, peaceable man, and you needn't think you can anger me by telling me you and your gang of cheap suburbanites don't want me to associate with you. I don't want to associate with you, if you care to know it. You can blackball me and be hanged! If you think I care that you have kept me out of your club—"

"But we haven't," said Scott. "The rules provide that no one is admitted to membership unless he is unanimously blackballed."

"Oh!" I said.

I think— I don't know what to think. I've been thinking all day. Scott is clever in some ways. He has some unusual ideas that are pretty good. It would be just like Scott to get together a lot of good fellows and organize them in some way that would be unusual and what you might call chic. Of course they would want me with them, I am so good-natured and easy-going and all that. They'd all want me in their club, of course. But some men have such mean dispositions—some men like Scott are such sore-heads and so vindictive—there are some men in Westcote so stubborn and quarrelsome—fellows like Rogers and Grieg and Harkins.

"Unanimously blackballed."


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1928.

The longest-living author of this work died in 1933, so this work is in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 89 years or less. This work may be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.