A wonderful, quirky episode in Orlando: a bizarre game played for hours, days, weeks, by Orlando and the Archduke whose amorous attentions she is trying to rebuff. They play the Fly Loo Game, which seems to involve trying slip dead flies unnoticed where live ones were, and catching the other person out, with hefty payments for the loser.
Not only is the Archduke a dud for not seeing much difference between living and dead flies, he is also innocent of all calculation and therefore doesn’t notice Orlando’s outrageous and repeated fraud, simply paying out the massive sums she demands of him.
I loved the slight nod to ethics in her discomfit at killing flies, and the care she takes in therefore only selecting those she considers half dead anyway.
The Archduke is suitably aghast when he realises to what levels his lady-love has stooped, though he does forgive her. Since none of this cools his ardour, she resorts to even more extreme measures.
‘She caught a blue-bottle, gently pressed the life out of it (it was half dead already, or her kindness for the dumb creatures would not have permitted it) and secured it by a drop of gum arabic to a lump of sugar. While the Archduke was gazing at the ceiling, she deftly substituted this lump for the one she had laid her money on, and crying ‘Loo Loo!’ declared that she had won her bet. … He was no nice judge of flies. A dead fly looked to him much the same as a living one. She played the trick twenty times on him and he paid her over £17,250 (which is about £40,885:6:8 of our own money) before Orlando cheated so grossly that even he could be deceived no longer.’
Source: Virginia Woolf, Orlando: A Biography, ed. with an introduction by Rachel Bowlby (Oxford: World’s Classics, 1992), p. 175
Photo credit: Stevepb at pixabay.com