PUNCH, OR THE LONDON CHARIVARI
FEBRUARY 9, 1916
* * * * *
The German claim that as the result of the Zeppelin raid "England's industry to a considerable extent is in ruins" is probably based on the fact that three breweries were bombed. To the Teuton mind such a catastrophe might well seem overwhelming.
* * *
A possible explanation of the Government's action in closing the Museums is furnished by the Cologne Gazette, which observes that "if one wanted to find droves of Germans in London one had only to go to the museums." But if the Government is closing them merely for purposes of disinfection it might let us know.
* * *
Irritated by the pro-German conversation of one of the guests at an American dinner-party the English butler poured the gravy over him. The story is believed to have greatly annoyed the starving millionaires in Berlin. They complain that their exiled fellow-countrymen get all the luck.
* * *
Is the Office of Works feeding Germany? We have lately learned that no bulbs are to be planted in the London parks this season; and almost simultaneously we read in the Frankfurter Zeitung a suggestion that, as bulbs are so cheap owing to the falling-off in the English demand, they should be used as food by the German housewife. What has Mr. Harcourt to say about this?
* * *
Mr. Ted Heaton, a noted Liverpool swimmer, is acting as sergeant-instructor to the Royal Fusiliers at Dover, and is expected to have them in a short time quite ready for the trenches.
* * *
A London magistrate has ruled that poker is a game of chance. He was evidently unacquainted with the leading case in America, where, on the same point arising, the judge, the counsel and the parties adjourned for a quiet game, and the defendant triumphantly demonstrated that it was a game of skill.
* * *
In an article describing the wonders of modern French surgery Mrs. W. K. Vanderbilt mentioned that she had watched an operation in which a part of a man's rib was taken out and used as a jawbone. "Pooh!" said the much-married general practitioner who read it, "that's as old as Adam."
* * *
A man who applied recently to be enlisted in the Royal Flying Corps as a carpenter was medically rejected because he had a hammer toe. If he had lost a nail we could have understood it.
* * *
The following letter has been received by the matron of an Indian hospital:—
"Dear and fair Madam,-I have much pleasure to inform you that my dearly unfortunate wife will be no longer under your care, she having left this world for the next on the 27th ult. For your help in this matter I shall ever remain grateful. Yours reverently, ——."
* * *
A correspondent, anxious about etiquette, writes:—"Sir,—The other day I offered my seat to the lady-conductor of a tramcar. Did I right?—Yours truly, Noblesse Oblige."
* * *
It is stated that one of the principal items of discussion during the new Session of the Prussian Diet will be a Supplementary War Bill. Some of the members are expected to protest, on the ground that the present War is quite sufficient, thank you.
* * * * *
[The annual expenses that will be saved by the closing of the London Museums and Galleries amount to about one-fifth of the public money spent on the salaries of Members of Parliament.]
Fetch out your padlocks, bolt and bar the portals, That none may worship at the Muses' shrine; Seal up the gifts bequeathed by our Immortals To be the birthright of their ancient line; At luxury if you would strike a blow, Let Art and Science be the first to go.
Close down the fanes that guard the golden treasure Wrung by our hands from Nature's hidden wealth; Treat them as idle haunts of wanton pleasure, Extremely noxious to the nation's health; Show that our statesmanship at least has won A vandal victory o'er the vandal Hun.
And when her children whom the seas have sent her Come to the Motherland to fight her war, And claim their common heritage, to enter The gate of dreams to that enchanted store, To other palaces we'll ask them in, To purer joys of "movies" and of gin.
But let us still keep open one collection Of curiosities and quaint antiques, Under immediate Cabinet direction— The finest specimens of talking freaks, Who constitute our most superb Museum, Judged by the salaries with which we fee 'em. O. S.
* * * * *
"Tell us," said Phyllis laboriously, "about diploma——" and there it stuck.
"Tistics," added Lillah in a superior manner.
Being an uncle, I can never give my brain a rest. It is the easiest thing in the world to be found out by a child of seven.
"You mean," I said, "diplomatists?"
"Yes," said Phyllis in a monotone. "Daddy said they-weren't-any earthly-blast-them and——"
"Yes, yes!" I said hastily. I can imagine what George said about diplomatists. He held a good deal of Balkan stock.
"Well, are they?" asked Lillah innocently.
"Diplomatists," I said, "are people in spats and creased trousers, and the truth is not in them."
"What is spats?" asked Phyllis.
"Spats," I answered, "are what people wear when they want to get a job and their boots are shabby."
"Are diplomatists shabby?" queried Lillah.
"Not a bit," I answered rather bitterly.
"Do they want jobs?"
"They want to keep them," I said.
"So they have spats," said Phyllis, completely satisfied.
"Exactly," I said. "Then they go into an extremely grand room together and talk."
"What about?" said Lillah.
"Oh, anything that turns up," I answered—"the rise in prices or the late thaw; or if everything fails they simply make personal remarks."
"Like clergymen," said Phyllis vaguely.
"Exactly," I said. "And all round the building are secret police disguised as reporters, and reporters disguised as secret police. And then each of the diplomatists goes away and writes a white paper, or a black paper, or a greeny-yellow paper, to show that he was right."
"And then?" Phyllis gaped with astonishment.
"Then everybody organises, and centralises, and fraternises, and defraternises, and, in the end, mobilises."
Phyllis and Lillah simply stared.
"Why?" they both gasped.
"Oh, just to show the diplomatists were wrong," I said airily.
"And then?" said Lillah breathlessly.
"The ratepayers pay more."
"What is a ratepayer?" asked Phyllis.
"A notorious geek and gull," I said, borrowing from a more distinguished writer.
Lillah stared at me with misgiving.
"But why don't the diplomists say what's true?" she asked.
"Because," I said, "they'd lose their money and nobody would love them."
"But," said Phyllis, "Mummie said if we were good everyone would love us."
"Your mother was quite right," I answered, with a distinct twinge of that thin-ice feeling.
"Well, but you said nobody would love diplomists if they were good," said Phyllis.
"So good people aren't loved," added Lillah, "and Mummie said what wasn't true."
I fought desperately for a reply. This could not be allowed to pass. It struck at the roots of nursery constitutionalism.
"Ah," I said, without any pretence at logic, "but the poor diplomatists don't know any better."
"Like the heathen that Mummie tells us about on Sunday?"
"Between the heathen and a diplomatist," I said, "there is nothing to choose."
Phyllis sighed. "I wish I didn't know any better," she said yearningly. Lillah looked at me dangerously from the corner of her eye.
"And got money for it," she added.
"Would you like to play zoo?" I said hastily.
They were silent.
"I'll be a bear," I said eagerly—"a polar one."
No answer. I felt discouraged, but I made another effort. "Or," I said, "I can be a monkey and you can throw nuts at me, or" —desperately— "a ring-tailed lemur, or an orangoutang, or an ant-eater...." My voice tailed away and there was silence. Then the small voice of Phyllis broke in.
"Uncle," she said, "why aren't you a diplomist?"
At that point Nurse came in and I slid quietly off. As I was going out of the door I heard the voice of Lillah.
"Nannie," she said, "tell us about diplomists."
"You leave diplomatists alone, Miss Lillah," said Nurse; "they won't do you no harm if you don't talk about them."
Now why couldn't I have thought of that? It's just training, I suppose.
* * * * *
An Impending Apology.
"Lieut.-Col. —— is out of the city in the interests of recruiting."
Winnipeg Evening Tribune.
* * * * *
"Nevertheless a strong Bulgarophone and Turkophone feeling prevails in Greece, especially in military circles."
Balkan News (Salonika).
"Master's Voice," we presume.
* * * * *
"'Theodore Wolff says:—'Other peace orators have followed Lord Loreburn and Lord Courtney in the House of Lords. One must not awaken the belief that such prophets can accomplish miracles of conversation in a day.'"—Winnipeg Evening Tribune.
We think Herr Wolff underestimates Lord Courtney's powers in this direction.
* * * * *
I have always been very fond and proud of my niece Celia. With an exceptionally attractive appearance and a personal fascination that is irresistible she combines the sweetest and most unselfish nature it has ever been my good fortune to meet. Indeed, she has so excessive a consideration for the feelings of everybody but herself that she drifts into difficulties which she might have avoided by a little more firmness. As, for example, in the case of Jillings. Celia and Jack have been married six years; he is about twelve years older than she, and a capital good fellow, though he is said to have rather a violent temper. But he has never shown it with Celia—nobody could, had left the Army on his marriage and settled down in a pretty little place in Surrey, but of course rejoined the Service as soon as the War broke out. So long as he was in training with his regiment she took rooms in the neighbourhood, but when he was ordered to the Front about a year ago she and the children returned to the Surrey home, and it was then that Celia engaged Jillings as parlourmaid. I saw her shortly afterwards when I went down to stay for a night, and was struck by the exuberant enthusiasm with which she waited—not over efficiently—at table. Celia remarked afterwards that Jillings was a little inexperienced as yet, but so willing and warm-hearted, and with such a sensitively affectionate disposition that the least hint of reproof sufficed to send her into a flood of tears.
I had no idea then—nor had Celia—how much inconvenience and embarrassment can be produced by a warm-hearted parlour-maid. Jillings' devotion did not express itself in a concrete form until Celia's birthday, and the form it took was that of an obese and unimaginably hideous pincushion which mysteriously appeared on her dressing-table. Old and attached servants are in the habit of presenting their employers on certain occasions with some appropriate gift, and no one would be churlish enough to discourage so kindly a practice. But Jillings, it must be owned, was beginning it a bit early. However, Celia thanked her as charmingly as though she had been longing all her life for exactly such a treasure. Still, it was not only unnecessary but distinctly unwise to add that it should be placed in her wardrobe for safety, as being much too gorgeous for everyday use. Because all she gained by this consummate tact was another pincushion, not quite so ornate perhaps, but even cruder in colour, and this she was compelled to assign a prominent position among her toilet accessories.
These successes naturally encouraged Jillings to further efforts. Celia had the misfortune one day to break a piece of valuable old porcelain which had stood on her drawing-room mantelpiece, whereupon the faithful Jillings promptly replaced the loss by a china ornament purchased by herself. Considered merely as an article of vertu it was about on a par with the pincushions, but Celia accepted it in the spirit with which it had been offered. And, warned by experience, she did not lock it up in the obscurity of a cabinet, nor contrive that some convenient accident should befall it, wisely preferring "to bear those ills she had than fly to others," etc. And so it still remains a permanent eyesore on her mantelshelf.
Then it seemed that Jillings, who, by the way, was not uncomely, had established friendly relations with one of the gardeners at the big house of the neighbourhood—with the result that Celia found her sitting-rooms replenished at frequent intervals with the most magnificent specimens of magnolia, tuberose, stephanotis and gardenia. Unfortunately she happens to be one of those persons whom any strongly scented flowers afflict with violent headache. But she never mentioned this for fear of wounding Jillings' susceptibilities. Luckily, Jillings and the under-gardener fell out in a fortnight.
As was only to be expected, the other servants, being equally devoted to their mistress, could not allow Jillings to monopolize the pride and glory of putting her under an obligation. Very soon a sort of competition sprang up, each of them endeavouring to out-do the other in giving Celia what they termed, aptly enough, "little surprises," till they hit upon the happy solution of clubbing together for the purpose. Thus Celia, having, out of the kindness of her heart, ordered an expensive lace hood for the baby from a relation of the nurse's at Honiton, was dismayed to discover, when the hood arrived, that it was already paid for and was a joint gift from the domestics. After that she felt, being Celia, that it would be too ungracious to insist on refunding the money.
It was not until I was staying with her last Spring that I heard of all these excesses. But at breakfast on Easter Sunday not only did Celia, Tony and the baby each receive an enormous satin egg filled with chocolates, but I was myself the recipient of one of these seasonable tokens, being informed by the beaming Jillings that "we didn't want you, Sir, to feel you'd been forgotten." By lunch-time it became clear that she had succeeded in animating at least one of the local tradesmen with this spirit of reckless liberality. For when Celia made a mild inquiry concerning a sweetbread which she had no recollection of having ordered Jillings explained, with what I fear I must describe as a self-conscious smirk, that it was "a little Easter orfering from the butcher, Madam." I am bound to say that even Celia was less scrupulous about hurting the butcher's feelings—no doubt from an impression that his occupation must have cured him of any over-sensitiveness.
As soon as we were alone she told me all she had been enduring, which it seemed she had been careful not to mention in her letters to Jack. "I simply can't tell you, Uncle," she concluded pathetically, "how wearing it is to be constantly thanking somebody for something I'd ever so much rather be without. And yet—what else can I do?"
I suggested that she might strictly forbid all future indulgence in these orgies of generosity, and she supposed meekly that she should really have to do something of that sort, though we both knew how extremely improbable it was that she ever would.
This morning I had a letter from her. Jack had got leave at last and she was expecting him home that very afternoon, so I must come down and see him before his six days expired. "I wish now," she went on, "that I had taken your advice, but it was so difficult somehow. Because ever since I told Jillings and the others about Jack's coming home they have been going about smiling so importantly that I'm horribly afraid they're planning some dreadful surprise, and I daren't ask them what. Now I must break off, as I must get ready to go to the station with Tony and meet dear Jack...."
Then followed a frantic postscript. "I know now! They've dressed poor Tony up in a little khaki uniform that doesn't even fit him! And, what's worse, they've put up a perfectly terrible triumphal arch over the front gate, with 'Hail to our Hero' on it in immense letters. They all seem so pleased with themselves—and anyway there's no time to alter anything now. But I don't know what Jack will say."
I don't either, but I could give a pretty good guess. I shall see him and Celia to-morrow. But I shall be rather surprised if I see Jillings.
* * * * *
* * * * *
THE WELL-DISPOSED ONES.
(With acknowledgments to the back page of "The Referee.")
Bertram Brazenthwaite, Basso-Profondo (varicose veins and flat feet), respectfully informs his extensive clientele that he has a few vacant dates at the end of 1917. Comings-of-Age, Jumble Sales and Fabian Society Soirees a specialite.
Sir Sawyer Hackett, M. D., writes: "The physical defects which prevent Mr. Brazenthwaite from joining the colours have left his vocal gifts and general gaiety unimpaired."
* * * * *
Do you want your Christening to be a succes fou? Then send for Hubert the Homunculus, London's Premier Baby-Entertainer (astigmatism, and conscientious objections).
"Hubert the Homunculus would make a kitten laugh."—Hilary Joye, in The Encore.
High-art pamphlet from "The Lebanons," New North Road, N.
* * * * *
Jolly Jenkin, Patriotic Prestidigitator (Group 98). Nominal terms to the Army, Navy and Civic Guard. Address till end of week, The Parthenon, Puddlecombe. Next, Reigate Rotunda.
The Epoch says: "Jolly Jenkin has the Evil Eye. In the Middle Ages he would have been burnt.".
* * * * *
"Men who are physically fit can be released from clerical duties and replaced by hen only fit for sedentary occupations."—Daily Paper.
Broody, in fact.
* * * * *
HOW I DINED WITH THE PRESIDENT.
The Truth about Wilson. [SPECIAL TO PUNCH.]
On Saturday, January 22nd, I arrived in Washington from Seattle. The Seattle part is another story.
What I have to tell to-day, here, now, and once for all, is what I saw of the President at close quarters outside and inside the White House and what happened at the historic dinner-party, at which I was the only representative of a belligerent country present.
By a fortunate coincidence Mr. Wilson arrived at the railway depot on his return from a game of golf with his secretary, Mr. Tumulty, as I was loitering at the bookstall. I had never seen either of them before, but intuitively recognised them in a flash. Mr. Tumulty looked exactly as a man with so momentous a name could only look. The President was garbed in a neutral-tinted lounge-suit and wore a dark fawn overcoat and dove-coloured spats.
How did the President look? Well, his face was obviously the face of a changed man. Not that he is changed for the worse. He seemed in the pink of condition, and his clean-cut profile and firm jaw radiated inflexible determination at every pore. No signs of a moustache are yet visible on his finely-chiselled upper lip.
I had no introduction, and no time was to be lost, so without a moment's hesitation I strode up to the President and said, "Permit me, Sir, as the accredited representative of a neutral nation, to offer you this token of respect," and handed him a small Dutch cheese, a dainty to which I had been informed he was especially partial. The President smiled graciously, handed the offering to his secretary, and said, "I thank you, Sir. Won't you join us at the White House at dinner to-night?" I expressed my acceptance in suitable terms, bowed and passed on.
The dinner took place in the famous octagonal dining-room of the White House, which was profusely decorated with the flags of the Scandinavian Kingdoms, Spain, Greece, China, Chile, Peru, Brazil and the Argentine.
The band of the Washington Post Office Rifles was ensconced behind a trellis of olive branches and discoursed a choice selection of soothing music. Flagons of grape-juice and various light and phosphorescent beverages stood on the sideboard. It was a memorable scene and every detail was indelibly impressed on my mind. The President greeted his guests with the calm dignity proper to his high office. He does not affect the high handshake of English smart society, but a firm yet gentle clasp. In repose his features reminded me of Julius Caesar, but when he smiles he recalls the more genial lineaments of the great Pompey. The general impression created on my mind was one of refined simplicity. As the President himself remarked, quoting Thucydides to one of his Greek guests, [Greek: philukalonmen meht ehuteleias].
It is quite untrue that the conversation was confined to the English tongue. On the contrary all the neutral languages, except Chinese, were spoken, the President showing an equal facility in every one, and honourably making a point of never uttering two consecutive sentences in the same tongue. War topics were rigorously eschewed, and so far as I could follow the conversation—I only speak five of the neutral languages—the subjects ranged from golf to hygienic clothing, from co-education to coon-can.
I do not propose here and now to state the circumstances in which, on leaving the White House, I was kidnapped by some emissaries of Count Bernstorff, and ultimately consigned to the Tombs in New York on a false charge of manslaughter; how I narrowly escaped being electrocuted, and was subsequently deported to Bermuda as an undesirable alien. What I saw and endured in the Tombs is another story. What really matters is the Bill of Fare of the President's dinner, which was printed in Esperanto and ran as follows:—
Turtle Dove Soup. Norwegian Salmon Cutlets. Iceland Reindeer Steak. Tipperusalein Artichokes and Spanish Onions. Chaudfroid a la Woodrow. Irene Pudding. Dutch Cheese Straws. Brazil Nuts.
After dinner Greek cigarettes were handed round with small cups of China tea and, as an alternative, Peruvian mate.
* * * * *
I thought—being very old indeed, "older," as a poem by Mr. Sturge Moore begins, "than most sheep"—I thought, being so exceedingly mature and disillusioned, that I knew all the worries of life. Yet I did not; there was still one that was waiting for me round the corner, but I know that too, now.
I will tell you about it.
To begin with, let me describe myself. I am an ordinary quiet-living obscure person, neither exalted nor lowly, who, having tired of town, took a little place in the country and there settled down to a life of placidity, varied by such inroads upon ease as all back-to-the-landers know: now a raid on the chickens by a fox, whose humour it is not to devour but merely to decapitate; now the disappearance of the gardener at Lord Derby's coat-tails; now a flood; and now and continually a desire on the part of the cook to give a month's notice, if you please, and the consequent resumption of correspondence with the registry office. There you have the main lines of the existence not only of myself, but of thousands of other English rural recluses. But for such little difficulties I have been happy—a Cincinnatus ungrumbling.
The new fly entered the ointment about three weeks ago, when a parcel was brought to me by a footman from the Priory, some three miles away, with a message to the effect that it had been delivered there and opened in error. They were of course very sorry.
I asked how the mistake had occurred.
"Same name," he said. "The house has just been let furnished to some people of the same name as yourself."
Now I have always rather prided myself on the rarity of my name. I don't go so far as to claim that it came over with the Conqueror, but it is an old name and an uncommon one, and hitherto I had been the only owner of it in the district. To have it duplicated was annoying.
Worse however was to come.
I do not expect to be believed, but it is a solemn fact that within a fortnight two more bearers of my name moved into the village. One was a cowman, and the other a maiden lady, so that at the present moment there are four of us all opening or rejecting each other's letters. The thing is absurd. One might as well be named Smith right away.
I don't mind the cowman, but the maiden lady is a large order. I have, as I say, lived in this place for some time—at least six years—and she moved into The Laurels only ten days ago, but when she came round this morning with an opened telegram that was not meant for her, she had the maiden—ladylikehood to remark how awkward it was when other people had the same name as herself. "There should," she said, "never be more than one holder of a name in a small place."
I had no retort beyond the obvious one that I got there first; but I hope that the cowman henceforth gets all her correspondence and delays it. He is welcome to mine so long as he deals faithfully with hers.
* * * * *
"Balakn Centre has shifted." Toronto Mail.
So we observe.
MR. PUNCH'S POTTED FILMS. THE WILD WEST DRAMA.
THE ROSEBUD OF GINGER'S GULCH.
* * * * *
NEWS FROM KIEL.
(By our Naval Expert.)
An interesting little item of news in the daily papers of last Wednesday may have escaped notice. It appears that the German Liners which have been laid up in New York harbour for the last eighteen months have discovered that their magnetic deviation has been affected. This is the explanation of the recent movement in the harbour, when all the German ships were turned round so as to readjust their compasses.
The special significance of this information is to be found by taking it in conjunction with the recent puzzling reports of movements of the German High Seas Fleet. It will be remembered that the Fleet was represented in an enemy official report (with the customary exaggeration) as sweeping out into the North Sea. That was not readily believed, but it was generally felt that there must be something in it, especially as all manner of rumours of naval activity kept coming through from Scandinavia about the same time.
Our naval experts in this country were quite at a loss, but to-day the riddle is solved. What was happening was that the High Seas Fleet was turning round.
I have had the good fortune to fall in with a neutral traveller—of the usual high standing and impartial sympathies—who has supplied a few details. It seems that great excitement prevailed at this scene of unwonted bustle and activity. The operation was carried out under favourable weather conditions practically without a hitch, the casualties being quite negligible, and the moral of the men, in spite of their long period of enforced coma, being absolutely unshaken. One and all have now cheerfully accepted the disconcerting changes involved in the new orientation, and window-boxes have been generally shifted to the sunny side.
* * * * *
"On Monday, near Durgerdam, in Holland, a fresh dyke burst occurred on a length of 50 metres. Over 200 handbags were at once thrown into the opening without any visible result."—Provincial Paper.
Still, the sacrifice was well meant.
* * * * *
THE GOLDEN VALLEY.
Abbeydore, Abbeydore, Land of apples and of gold, Where the lavish field-gods pour Song and cider manifold; Gilded land of wheat and rye, Land where laden branches cry, "Apples for the young and old Ripe at Abbeydore!"
Abbeydore, Abbeydore, Where the shallow river spins Elfin spells for evermore, Where the mellow kilderkins Hoard the winking apple-juice For the laughing reapers' use; All the joy of life begins There at Abbeydore.
Abbeydore, Abbeydore, In whose lap of wonder teems Largess from a wizard store, World of idle, crooning streams— From a stricken land of pain May I win to you again, Garden of the God of Dreams, Golden Abbeydore.
* * * * *
AT THE FRONT.
There is one matter I have hitherto not touched on, because it has not hitherto touched on me, and that is Courses.
The ideal course works like this. You are sitting up to the ears in mud under a brisk howitzer, trench mortar and rifle grenade fire, when a respectful signaller crawls round a traverse, remarking, "Message, Sir."
You take the chit from him languidly, wondering whether you have earned a court-martial by omitting to report on the trench sleeping-suits which someone in the Rearward Services has omitted to forward, and you read, still languidly at first; then you get up and whoop, throw your primus stove into the air and proceed to dance on the parapet, if your trench has one. Then you settle down and read your message again to see if it still runs, "You are detailed to attend three months' Staff work course at Boulogne, commencing to-morrow. A car will be at the dump for you to-night. A month's leave on completion, of course."
But all courses are not like this; all you can say is that some are less unlike it than others. I was sitting in a warm billet about twelve noon having breakfast on the first day out of trenches when the blow fell on me. I was to report about two days ago at a School of Instruction some two hundred yards away. I gathered that the course had started without me. I set some leisurely inquiries in train, in the hope that it might be over before I joined up. I also asked the Adjutant whether I couldn't have it put off till next time in trenches, or have it debited to me as half a machine-gun course payable on demand, or exchange it for a guinea-pig or a canary, or do anything consistent with the honour of an officer to stave it off. For to tell the truth, like all people who know nothing and have known it for a long time, I cherish a deeply-rooted objection to being instructed.
Unfortunately the Adjutant is one of those weak fellows who always tell you that they are mere machines in the grip of the powers that change great nations. So on the third day I bought a nice new slate and satchel and joined up.
Even now, after some days of intense instruction, I find my condition is a little confused and foggy. Of course it covers practically the whole field of military interests, and I ought to be able to win the War in about three-quarters of an hour, given a reasonable modicum of men, guns, indents, physical training and bayonet exercise, knowledge of military law, and acquaintance with the approved methods of conducting a casualty clearing station, a mechanical transport column, and a field kitchen. The confusion of mind evident in this last sentence is a high testimonial to the comprehensive nature of our course.
Physical training made the strongest appeal to me. I remember some of the best words, not perhaps as they are, but as I caught them from an almost over-glib expert. Did you know you had a strabismal vertebra? or, given a strabismal vertebra, that it could be developed to almost any extent by simply 'eaving from the 'ips? Take my tip and try it next time you're under shell-fire.
To-morrow we break up, and I join the army. The army has gone away somewhere while I wasn't looking, and I shall have to make inquiries about it. You never can tell what these things will do when not kept under the strictest observation. My bit may have gone to Egypt or Nyassaland or Nagri Sembilan. But I have a depressing feeling that A 27 x y z iv. 9.8 will be nearer the mark, and that I shall find it meandering nightly to Bk 171 in large droves, there to insert more and more humps of soggy Belgium into more and more sandbags. I don't want to make myself unpleasant to the War Office, but I really can't see why we haven't once and for all built trenches all done up in eight-inch thick steel plates. They could easily be brought up ready-made, and simply sunk into position.
They would sink all right; you'd just have to put them down anywhere and look the other way for a minute. The difficulty would be to stop the lift before it got to the basement—if there is a basement in Flanders.
There is a tragedy to report. We were adopted recently by a magpie. He was a gentle creature of impulsive habits and strong woodpecking instincts. Arsene we called him. For some days he gladdened us with his soft bright eye. But when we came to know him well and I relied on him to break the shells of my eggs every morning at breakfast, to steal my pens and spill my ink, to wake me by a gentle nip on the nose from his firm but courteous beak, a rough grenadier came one day to explain a new type of infernal machine, and, when we went out, left a detonator on the table.
I never saw what actually followed, but we buried Arsene with full military honours.
* * * * *
"Ladies' Self-trimmed Velvet Hate for One Shilling."—North-Country Paper.
The latest fashion in Berlin.
* * * * *
MORE LIGHT FROM OUR LEADERS.
By way of a supplement to the Candle-shade epigrams recently contributed by various distinguished men and women of light and leading, we have been fortunate to secure the following sentiments for St. Valentine's Day from several luminaries who were conspicuously absent from the list.
Mr. Harry Lauder, the illustrious comedian, poetizes as follows:—
"Let those wha wull compile the nation's annals, And guide oor thochts in strict historic channels; Ma Muse prefers, far fra these dull morasses, To laud the purrrple heather and the lassies."
Mr. Stevenson, the incomparable cueist, sends this pithy distich:—
"Big guns are useful in their way, 'tis true, But nursery cannons have their uses too."
Miss Carrie Tubb, the famous soprano, writes:—
"Butt me no butts. Though carping critics flout us, What would Diogenes have done without us?"
A distinguished actor gives as his favourite quotation the couplet from Goldsmith:—
"A man he was financially unique, And passing poor on forty pounds a week."
Mr. Bernard Shaw contributes this characteristic definition of genius:—
"Genius consists in an infinite capacity for giving pain."
The Air Candidate for Mile End sends the following witty and topical epigram:—
"Mid war's alarms there is no time for cooing, But Billing may prevent our land's undoing."
* * * * *
"We are all familiar with the poetic words: 'There's many a gem that's born to blush unseen, and waste its fragrance on the desert air.'"—Kilmarnock Herald.
Our own ignorance of this gem makes us blush (unseen, we hope).
* * * * *
"How To Keep Warm.—In Great Britain I think a shirt, vest and coat enough covering for the ordinary man. I wear no more."
No one who follows this advice need fear a chill. The police are sure to make it warm for him.
* * * * *
"When Sir Stanley (now Lord) Buckmaster succeeded Mr. (now Sir) F. E. Smith in the chief responsibility for the Bureau he made a point of betting on friendly terms with the representatives of the Fourth Estate."
Bristol Times and Mirror.
Several of them, it is well known, have been charged with book-making.
* * * * *
"Lady (Young) seeks Sit. in shop; butcher's preferred; would like to learn scales."
Why not try a piano-monger's?
* * * * *
A DUEL OF ENDURANCE.
Our butcher's name is Bones. Yes, I know it sounds too good to be true. But I can't help it. Once more, his name is Bones.
There is something wrong with Bones. Mark him as he stands there among all those bodies of sheep and oxen, feeling with his thumb the edge of that long sharp knife and gazing wistfully across the way to where the greengrocer's baby lies asleep in its perambulator on the pavement. Observe him start with a sigh from his reverie as you enter his shop. What is the matter with him? Why should a butcher sigh?
I will tell you. He has been thinking about the Kaiser, the Kaiser who is breaking his heart through the medium of the greengrocer's baby.
As all the world knows, between the ages of one and two the best British babies are built up on beef tea and mutton broth; at two or thereabouts they start on small chops. No one can say when the custom arose. Like so many of those unwritten laws on which the greatness of England is really based it has outgrown the memory of its origin. But its force is as universally binding to-day as it was in Plantagenet times. Thus, though numerous households since the War began have temporarily adopted a vegetarian diet, in the majority of cases a line has been drawn at the baby. That is why butchers at present look on babies as their sheet-anchors. It is through them that they keep the toe of their boot inside the family door. The little things they send for them serve as a memento of the old Sunday sirloin, a reminder that while nuts may nourish niggers the Briton's true prerogative is beef.
The greengrocer has given up meat. But he has done more than this. He has done what not even a greengrocer should do. He has broken the tradition of the ages. He is feeding his baby on bananas.
At first the greengrocer's baby did not like bananas and its cries were awful. But after a while it got used to them, and now even when it goes to bed it clutches one in its tiny hand. It is not so rosy as it was, but the greengrocer says red-faced babies are apoplectic and that the reason it twitches so much in its sleep is because it is so full of vitality. He is advising all his customers to feed their babies on bananas. Bones does not care much what happens to the greengrocer's baby, but he says if it lasts much longer he will have to put his shutters up. He is growing very despondent, and I noticed the other day that he had given up chewing suet—a bad sign in a butcher.
It is a duel of endurance between Bones and the greengrocer's baby. I wonder which will win.
* * * * *
"Mr. Buxton was severely heckled at the outset from all parts of the room. Each time he endeavoured to speak he was hailed with a torrent of howls, hoots and kisses."
A notoriously effective way of stopping the mouth.
* * * * *
From the Lady's column in The Cur:—
"Now about this word 'damn.' Of course you all think it is a good old Saxon word! Well, prepare for a surprise. It is derived from the Latin damnere."
Well, we are—surprised.
* * * * *
Motto for the next Turkish Revolution: Enver Renverse.
* * * * *
"Oh, dear," said Francesca, "everything keeps going up." She was engaged upon the weekly books and spoke in a tone of heartfelt despair.
"Well," I said, "you've known all along how it would be. Everybody's told you so."
"Everybody? Who's everybody in this case?"
"I told you so for one, and Mr. Asquith mentioned it several times, and so did Mr. McKenna."
"I have never," she said proudly, "discussed my weekly books with Messrs. Asquith and McKenna. I should scorn the action."
"That's all very well," I said. "Keep them away as far as you can, but they'll still get hold of you. The Chancellor of the Exchequer knows your weekly books by heart."
"I wish," she said, "he'd add them up for me. He's a good adder-up, I suppose, or he wouldn't be what he is."
"He's fair to middling, I fancy—something like me."
"You!" she said, in a tone of ineffable contempt. "You're no good at addition."
"Francesca," I said, "you wrong me. I'm a great deal of good. Of course I don't pretend to be able to run three fingers up three columns of figures a yard long and to write down the result as L7,956 17s. 8d., or whatever it may be, without a moment's pause. I can't do that, but for the ordinary rough-and-tumble work of domestic addition I'm hard to beat. Only if I'm to do these books of yours there must be perfect silence in the room. I mustn't be talked to while I'm wrestling with the nineteens and the seventeens in the shilling column."
"In fact," said Francesca, "you ought to be a deaf adder."
"Francesca," I said, "how could you? Give me the butcher's book and let there be no more jeux de mots between us."
I took the book, which was a masterpiece of illegibility, and added it up with my usual grace and felicity.
"Francesca," I said as I finished my task, "my total differs from the butcher's, but the difference is in his favour, not in mine. He seems to have imparted variety to his calculations by considering that it took twenty pence to make a shilling, which is a generous error. Now let me deal with the baker while you tackle the grocer, and then we'll wind up by doing the washing-book together."
The washing-book was a teaser, the items being apparently entered in Chaldee, but we stumbled through it at last.
"And now," I said, "we can take up the subject of thrift."
"I don't want to talk about it," she said, "I'm thoroughly tired of it. We've talked too much about it already."
"You're wrong there; we haven't talked half enough. If we had, the books wouldn't have gone up."
"They haven't gone up," she said. "They're about the same, but we've been having less."
"Noble creature," I said, "do you mean to say that you've docked me of one of my Sunday sausages and the whole of my Thursday roly-poly pudding and never said a word about it?"
"Well, you didn't seem to notice it, so I left it alone."
"Ah, but I did notice it," I said, "but I determined to suffer in silence in order to set an example to the children."
"That was bravely done," she said. "It encourages me to cut down the Saturday sirloin."
"But what will the servants say? They won't like it."
"They'll have to lump it then."
"But I thought servants never lumped it. I thought they always insisted on their elevenses and all their other food privileges."
"Anyhow," she said, "I'm going to make a push for economy and the servants must push with me. They won't starve, whatever happens."
"No, and if they begin to object you can talk to them about tonnage."
"That ought to bowl them over. But hadn't I better know what it means before I mention it?"
"Yes, that might be an advantage."
"You see," she said, "Mrs. Mincer devotes to the reading of newspapers all the time she can spare from the cooking of meals and she'd be sure to trip me up if I ventured to say anything about tonnage."
"Learn then," I said, "that tonnage means the amount of space reserved for cargoes on ships—at least I suppose that's what it means, and——"
"You don't seem very sure about it. Hadn't you better look it up?"
"No," I said. "That's good enough for Mrs. Mincer. Now if there's an insufficiency of tonnage——"
"But why should there be an insufficiency of tonnage?"
"Because," I said, "the Government have taken up so much tonnage for the purposes of the War. How did you think the Army got supplied with food and shells and guns and men? Did you think they flew over to France and Egypt and Salonica?"
"Don't be rude," she said. "I didn't introduce this question of tonnage. You did. And even now I don't see what tonnage has got to do with our sirloin of beef."
"I will," I said kindly, "explain it to you all over again. We have ample tonnage for necessaries, but not for luxuries."
"But my sirloin of beef isn't a luxury."
"For the purpose of my argument," I said, "it is a luxury and must be treated as such."
"Do you know," she said, "I don't think I'll bother about tonnage. I'll tackle Mrs. Mincer in my own way."
"You're throwing away a great opportunity," I said.
"Never mind," she said. "If I feel I'm being beaten I'll call you in. Your power of lucid explanation will pull me through."
R. C. L.
* * * * *
* * * * *
Bronco dams they ran by on the ranges of the prairies, Heard the chicken drumming in the scented saskatoon, Saw the jewel humming-birds, the flocks of pale canaries, Heard the coyotes dirging to the ruddy Northern moon; Woolly foals, leggy foals, foals that romped and wrestled, Rolled in beds of golden-rod and charged to mimic fights, Saw the frosty Bear wink out and comfortably nestled Close beside their vixen dams beneath the wizard Lights.
Far from home and overseas, older now—and wiser, Branded with the arrow brand, broke to trace and bit, Tugging up the grey guns "to strafe the blooming Kaiser," Up the hill to Kemmel, where the Mauser bullets spit; Stiffened with the cold rains, mired and tired and gory, Plunging through the mud-holes as the batteries advance, Far from home and overseas—but battling on to glory With the English eighteen-pounders and the soixante-quinzes of France!
* * * * *
AT THE PLAY.
"Mrs. Pretty and the Premier."
I am not sure that I didn't find Mr. Bourchier's "Foreword" or Apologia (kindly given away with the programme) rather more entertaining than the play itself. As long as the dramatist (a New Zealander) concerned himself with the delightfully unconventional atmosphere of Antipodean politics he was illuminating and very possibly veracious. But the relations between the Premier and the widow Pretty, which promised, as the title hinted, to be the main attraction, were such as never could have occurred on land or sea. It was impossible, with this farcical element always obtruding itself, to take the political features of the play seriously, as I gather that we were intended to do; and we got very little help from Mr. Bourchier's own performance, which was frankly humorous. In his brochure he tells us with great solemnity that he is "more than pleased to think that the play may help to demonstrate to those of an older civilisation how truly the best of the so-called Labour politicians strive to serve their country and their fellow men.... Premier 'Bill' demonstrates vividly enough that, heart and soul, the Australian politician devotes himself to the uplifting of the great Commonwealth." Mr. Bourchier's tongue may or may not have been in his cheek when he penned these lofty sentiments, but anyhow it seemed to be there during most of the play.
He is on safer ground when he tells us that "in curiously vivid and pungent fashion this little play outlines the breezy freshness and the originality of outlook which almost invariably characterise the politicians and statesmen of the Prairie, the Veldt and the Bush, and which more than anything else perhaps differentiates them from the men of an older land, hampered as these latter often are by long and stately traditions." Certainly, in the matter of addressing its Premier by a familiar abbreviation of his Christian name (an authority who has travelled in these parts assures Mr. Bourchier that he is "quite right:" that "people would call this Premier 'Bill' in Australia") the new world differs from the old. I cannot so much as contemplate the thought of Mr. Asquith being addressed by the Minister Of Munitions as "Herb," or even "Bert."
But we have difficulties again with the Foreword (for I cannot get away from it) when we come to the question of the hero's virility. In the play his secretary says of him, "Bill's not a man, he's a Premier. A kind of dynamo running the country at top speed." Yet the Foreword, after citing this passage, goes on to insist upon his "tingling humanity" and hinting at the need of such a type of manhood at the present time. "After all," concludes Mr. Bourchier in a spasm of uplift—"after all, what is the cry of the moment here in the heart of the Empire, but for 'a Man-Give us a Man!'" But even if we reject the secretary's estimate of his chief as a dynamo we still find a certain deficiency of manhood in the anaemic indifference of the Premier's attitude to women; an attitude, by the way, not commonly associated with Mr. Bourchier's impersonations on the stage. Mrs. Pretty's tastes are, of course, her own affair, and we were allowed little insight into her heart (if any), but I can only conclude that her choice was governed by political rather than emotional considerations ("Let us remember Women Have the Vote In Australia" is the finale of the Foreword) and that what she wanted was a Premier rather than a Man.
Of the play itself one may at least say that it kept fairly off the beaten track. There was novelty in its local colour, its unfamiliar types and the episode, adroitly managed, of a pair of gloves employed to muffle the division bell at the moment of a crisis on which the fate of the Government depended. But the design was too small to fill the stage of His Majesty's and it left me a little disappointed. I was content so long as Mr. Bourchier was in sight, but the part of Mrs. Pretty needed something more than the rather conscious graces and airy drapery of Miss Kyrle Bellew. The rest of the performance was sound but not very exhilarating; and altogether, though I hope I am properly grateful for any help towards the realisation of "Colonial conditions," I cannot honestly say that Mrs. Pretty and the Premier has done very much for me (as Mr. Bourchier hoped it would) by way of supplementing the thrill of Anzac. O. S.
* * * * *
A NAVAL REVELATION.
Edward Brown's official sheet, Humble though his station, Showed a record which the Fleet Viewed with admiration.
Fifteen stainless summers bore Fruit in serried cluster; Conduct stripes he proudly wore, One for every lustre.
Picture then the blank amaze When this model rating Suddenly developed traits Most incriminating.
Faults in baser spirits deemed Merely peccadillos In that crystal mirror seemed Vast as Biscay billows.
Cautioned not to over-run Naval toleration, He replied in language un- Fit for publication.
When the captain in alarm Strove to solve the riddle, Edward slipped a dreamy arm Round that awful middle.
Such a catastrophic change Set his shipmates thinking; Rumour whispered, "It is strange; Clearly he is drinking."
Ever more insistent got This malicious fable, Till he tied a true-love's knot In the anchor cable.
* * * * *
"During December, 1661, meals for necessitous school children were provided at Chorley at a cost of 4d. per meal per scholar."
In gratitude for the Restoration, we suppose. Hence the watchword, "Good old Chorley!"
* * * * *
"Summoned for permitting three houses to stray on Stoke Park on the 19th inst ... defendant admitted the offence, but said that some one must have let them out by taking the chain off the gate."—Provincial Paper.
It seems a reasonable explanation.
* * * * *
(By Mr. Punch's Staff of Learned Clerks.)
The latest of our writers to contribute to the growing literature of the War is Mr. Hugh Walpole. He has written a book about it called The Dark Forest (Secker), but whether it is a good or a bad book I who have read it carefully from cover to cover confess my inability to decide. It is certainly a clever book, and violently unusual. I doubt whether the War is likely to produce anything else in the least resembling it. For one thing, it deals with a phase of the struggle, the Russian retreat through Galicia, about which we in England are still tragically ignorant. Mr. Walpole writes of this as he himself has seen it in his own experience as a worker with the Russian Red Cross. The horrors, the compensations, the tragedy and happiness of such work have come straight into the book from life. But not content with this, he has peopled his mission with fictitious characters and made a story about them. And good as the story is, full of fine imagination and character, the background is so tremendously more real that I was constantly having to resist a feeling of impatience with the false creations (in Macbeth's sense) who play out their unsubstantial drama before it. Yet I am far from denying the beauty of Mr. Walpole's idea. The characters of Trenchard, the self-doubting young Englishman, who finds reality in his love for the nurse Marie Ivanovna, and of the Russian doctor, Semyonov, who takes her from him, are exquisitely realized. And the atmosphere of increasing mental strain, in which, after Marie's death, the tragedy of these three moves to its climax in the forest is the work of an artist in emotion, such as by this time we know Mr. Walpole to be. The trouble was that I had at the moment no wish for artistry. To sum up, I am left with the impression that an uncommonly good short story rather tiresomely distracted my attention from some magnificent war-pictures.
* * * * *
As Field-Marshal Sir Evelyn Wood, V. C., in Our Fighting Services (Cassell), begins with the Battle of Hastings and ends with the Boer War there is no gainsaying the fact that his net has been widely spread. To assist him in the compilation of this immense tome the author has a fluent style and—to judge from the authorities consulted and the results of these consultations—an inexhaustible industry. The one should make his book acceptable to the amateur who reads history because he happens to love it, and the other should make it invaluable to professionals who handle books of reference, not lovingly, but of necessity. And having said so much in praise of Sir Evelyn I am also happy to add that he is, on the whole, that rare thing—an historian without prejudices. Almost desperately, for instance, he tries to express his admiration of Oliver Cromwell as a soldier, although he quite obviously detests him as a man. I find myself, however, wondering whether Sir Evelyn, were he writing of Cromwell at this hour, would say, "For a man over forty years of age to work hard to acquire the rudiments of drill is in itself remarkable." Even when allowance is made for the differences between the seventeenth and twentieth centuries there would seem to be nothing very worthy of remark in such energy if one may judge from the attitude of our War Office to the Volunteers. Naturally one turns eagerly to see what this distinguished soldier has to say about campaigns in which he took a personal part, but, although shrewd criticism is not lacking, Sir Evelyn's sword has been more destructive than his pen. In these days of tremendous events this volume may possibly be slow to come to its own, but in due course it is bound to arrive.
* * * * *
I find, on referring to the "By the same Author" page of The Lad With Wings (Hutchinson), that other reviewers of "Berta Buck's" novels have been struck by the "charm" of her work. I should like to be original, but I cannot think of any better way of summing up the quality of her writing. Charm above everything else is what The Lad With Wings possesses. It is a perfectly delightful book, moving at racing speed from the first chapter to the last, and so skilfully written that even the technically unhappy ending brings no gloom. When Gwenna Williams and Paul Dampier, the young airman she has married only a few hours before the breaking out of war, go down to death together in mid-Channel after the battle with the German Taube, the reader feels with Leslie Long, Gwenna's friend, "The best time to go out! No growing old and growing dull.... No growing out of love with each other, ever! They at least have had something that nothing can spoil." I suppose that when Mrs. Oliver Onions is interviewed as to her literary methods it will turn out that she re-writes everything a dozen times and considers fifteen hundred words a good day's work; but she manages in The Lad With Wings to convey an impression of having written the whole story at a sitting. The pace never flags for a moment, and the characters are drawn with that apparently effortless skill which generally involves anguish and the burning of the midnight oil. I think I enjoyed the art of the writing almost as much as the story itself. If you want to see how a sense of touch can make all the difference, you should study carefully the character of Leslie, a genuine creation. But the book would be worth reading if only for the pleasure of meeting Hugo Swayne, the intellectual dilettante who, when he tried to enlist, was rejected as not sufficiently intelligent and then set to painting omnibuses in the Futurist mode, to render them invisible at a distance. A few weeks from now I shall take down The Lad With Wings from its shelf and read it all over again. It is that sort of book.
* * * * *
When old Lady Polwhele asked the Reverend Dr. Gwyn to let his daughter Delia go with her as companion to a very smart house party, I doubt whether the excellent man would have given so ready an assent had he known what was going to come of it. For my own part I suspected we were in for yet another version of Cinderella, with Delia snubbed by the smart guests, and eventually united, as like as not, to young Lord Polwhele. However, Miss Dorothea Townshend, who has written about all these people in A Lion, A Mouse and a Motor Car (Simpkin), had other and higher views for her heroine. True, the house party was ultra-smart; true also that there was one woman who spoke and behaved cattishly; but it was a refreshing novelty to find that throughout the tale the ugly sisters, so to speak, were hopelessly outnumbered by the fairy godmothers. Later, the visit led to Delia's going as governess to the children of a Russian Princess, and finding herself in circles that might be described as not only fast but furious. Here we were in a fine atmosphere of intrigue, with spies, and Grand Dukes, and explosive golf balls and I don't know what beside. It is all capital fun; and, though I am afraid the political plots left me unconvinced, the thing is told with such ease and bonhomie that it is saved from banality; even when the amazing cat of the house-party turns up as a female bandit and tries to hold Delia and her Princess to ransom. And of course the fact that the period of the tale is that of the earliest motors gives it the quaintest air of antiquity. Somehow, talk of sedan chairs would sound more modern than these thrills of excitement about six cylinders and "smelly petrol." In short, for many reasons Miss Townshend's book provides a far brisker entertainment than its cumbrous title would indicate.
* * * * *
Mr. Stephen Graham is fast becoming the arch-interpreter of Holy Russia. In The Way of Martha and the Way of Mary (Macmillan) he returns with even more than his customary zeal to his good work, wishing herein specifically to interpret Russian Christianity to the West. A passionate earnestness informs his discursive eloquence. I cannot resist the conviction that he has the type of mind that sees most easily what it wishes to see. He moves cheerily along, incidentally raising difficulties which he does not solve, ignoring conclusions which seem obvious, throwing glorious generalisations and unharmonised contradictions at the bewildered reader, too bent on his generous purpose to glance aside for any explanations. Perhaps this is the best method for an enthusiast to pursue. He certainly creates a vivid picture of this strangely unknown allied people, with its incredible otherworldliness, its broad tolerant charity, its freedom from chilly conventions, its joyous neglect of the hustle and fussiness of Western life, its deep faith, its childish or childlike superstitions, the glorious promise of its future. An interesting—even a fascinating—rather than a conclusive book.
* * * * *
* * * * *
"In his seventy-third year the Earl of —— has made his third matrimonial venture this week."—Yorkshire Evening Post.
* * * * *