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I have, for the better part of my 56 years, examined two allied facets of life—games and gambling—with considerable care, and I am at last prepared to set forth Morley's Three Laws:
1) The ball is man's most disastrous invention, not excluding the wheel.
2) There is only one kind of game worthy of human time, thought and esteem, and that is a game of chance.
3) Morley's First Law is to be ignored in the case of roulette bal s.
This strikes me as a basic credo straightforwardly put, but do not be deceived by its simplicity, for it is the distillation of a great deal of experience and consideration, as you shall see.
Take the sinister matter of the ball. Essentially, I am against the wheel, too, but the wheel does occasionally get man moving. The ball holds him remorselessly in thrall. Many people, and I am in the forefront of their ranks, teach that life is far too short to spend time on sport or exercise. When sport and exercise are indulged in simultaneously, during a game of golf, for instance, a man is not only wasting precious hours of his life span and hustling himself into the grave, he is becoming noticeably more foolish. All sport eventually damages the brain. Statistics prove that boxers and fox hunters show the most rapid deterioration and, after them, polo players—both mounted and afloat. The fact that polo, which is a game played by only four on a side, should figure so high on the list does, unfortunately, cast some question on the theory of one of my favorite scientists, Dr. Mandlekopt, that, while all games frustrate, the ratio of frustration is governed directly by the ratio of players to ball. Thus cricket, employing 22 to a ball, was considered by Mandlekopt more likely to damage the brain than, say, golf, where the ratio is normally one player to a ball. In Mandlekopt's experiments with rats, and later with professional tennis players, he was able to show that habitual doubles players are a good deal less stable mentally than habitual singles players. But tennis, as Mandlekopt himself pointed out, is by no means the ideal experimental field, and it is to be regretted that the attempts by this brilliant theoretician to train rats to play baseball proved unsuccessful. We might have learnt a great deal.
I was fortunate in that my understanding of the dangerous ball-vs.-human relationship came to me early. I was unique as a child, not only because I never wished to strike, kick, carry or throw a ball, but because, despite all the efforts made by adults and other children to corrupt me, I steadfastly refused to do so. Having read that in cricket a player was out if he knocked down his own stumps, I invariably proceeded to do so to mine as soon as the ball left the bowler's hand. I was on my way back to the comparative peace and quiet of the pavilion long before the keeper had reset the wicket. However often I was punished, the score in any cricket match in which I took part read, "Morley hit wicket 0." Where other games are concerned, in which there was no provision made in the rules for absenting myself, I took care to keep as far away from the ball and any action as possible. I would infuriate my comrades when cast as goalkeeper by politely stepping aside and inviting the ball to enter the net, although I remember an occasion when my conduct drew a round of applause from the opposing side. It was with mutual relief that I withdrew entirely from school and playing fields at the age of 16. Since then I have never played any games, except those of chance.
It is not just that I enjoy gambling. I am happier indoors than out and happiest of all in a casino. It was from my father that I inherited my taste for chandeliers and green baize. He was a dedicated gambler who on his wedding morning solemnly promised his bride he would never again touch a card or bet on a horse, and then carried her off to Monte Carlo for the honeymoon. He was as incapable of not gambling as my mother was of understanding him. In the summer father used to take us to Dieppe or Boulogne, and in the afternoons he would disappear into The Rooms as soon as they opened, leaving us to amuse ourselves after arranging for us to meet him for ices on the casino terrace on our way home. Sometimes he would not turn up, and we would have to pay for our own refreshment and go soberly home, but there were wonderful evenings when father would be waiting for us, the table loaded with extravagant treats and a large casino plaque on each of our plates. Take them, he would tell us, before the rats get them. And take them we did, and we never lingered when father had gone back to the tables lest, as happened on occasions, he should emerge once more to ask for them back.
That was something else my father taught me. When you've got the money, spend it; it's of very little use in banks. How he hated banks. He was outraged by their ostentation. Banks, he affirmed, should be hidden up alleyways like brothels. Theirs was a disreputable trade, borrowing money and lending it out again at vastly increased rates of interest. Of course they make money, he would tell me. Any fool could make money doing what they do. But what really infuriated him about banks was their reluctance to advance him money on his father's estate. He had what was called in those days—and, for all I know, still is—reversionary interest. This meant he was not encouraged to touch the capital. He spent much of his time, when he was not doping the form sheets, working out ways of breaking his father's will and getting his hands on what he affectionately referred to as "the ready."
His efforts were only partly successful, and toward the end of his life he lived in a state of perpetual financial crisis. When all else failed he would retire to bed with a revolver under his pillow and, summoning one of his family, would invite him or her to shoot him out of hand. When the offer was declined father would hold the revolver to his temple and beg to be left alone so he could pull the trigger. "No need for you to stay, it will only upset you," he would say. Of course, we always did stay, and father never shot himself, but the strain eventually became too much for my mother and toward the end of their lives my parents separated. They never met again but each spoke of the other often.