OR THE LONDON CHARIVARI.
May 27, 1914.
We hear that the news of the defeat of Messrs. Travers, Evans ("Chick") and Ouimet in the Amateur Golf Championship was received by President Huerta's troops with round upon round of cheering. Frankly, we think it rather petty of them.
The statement in The Daily Mail to the effect that about two million pounds have been sunk in the new German liner Vaterland is apt to be misconstrued, and we are requested to state that the vessel is still afloat.
There was a fire at the Press Club off Fleet Street last week, but we refuse absolutely to credit the rumour that this was the work of a member anxious that his paper should have first news of the conflagration.
We came across a flagrant example, the other day, of an advertisement that did not speak the truth. Seated on the top of an omnibus were six persons with most regrettable faces. Underneath them was an inscription, which ran the length of the knife-board:—
"Things we'd like to know."
Persons who are hesitating to visit the Anglo-American Exposition may like to know that the representation of New York there is not so realistic as to be unpleasant.
Mr. A. Kipling Common writes to The Daily Mail deploring England's lack of great men. We are sorry that The Times should be so shy in using its power to remedy this defect. Letters from the great are always printed by our contemporary in large type. A few promotions might surely be distributed now and then among the small-type men?
A friendly intimation is said to have been conveyed by the Royal Academy to a restaurant in the immediate neighbourhood which advertises an Academy luncheon that its name might with advantage be changed to one of a nature less inciting to Suffragettes. We refer to Hatchett's.
Is cannibalism to be Society's latest fad? We notice that somebody's Skin Food is being advertised pretty freely.
The Criterion Restaurant, we see, is advertising a "Souper Dansant." Personally we dislike the kind of supper which, when eaten, will not lie down and rest.
It looks, we fear, as if in Break the Walls Down the Savoy Theatre has not found a play which will Bring the House Down.
The proposal that a "full blue" should be awarded at Cambridge to those who represent the University at boxing was recently considered but not adopted. We should have thought that a "black and blue" would have been the appropriate thing.
Some idea of the heat last week may be gathered from the following order issued by the Cambridge University Officers' Training Corps:—
Dress:—Two pouches will be worn on the right.
A translation is announced of a book by August Strindberg, entitled "Fair Haven and Foul Strand." Those of us who remember the Strand of twenty years ago, with its mud baths, will not consider the epithet too strong.
There is, we hear, considerable satisfaction among the animals at the Zoo at the result of a recent competition open to readers of The Express. It has been decided that the ugliest animal in the collection is the orang-utan, who resembles a human being more closely than any other animal.
Meanwhile it has been decided, humanely, not to break the news to the orang-utan himself until the weather gets cooler.
* * * * *
* * * * *
DE MORTUIS NIL NISI BONUM.
Lines dedicated to the outraged memory of Keats.
[Two pretty poor sonnets by Keats have been exposed by a Mr. Horner and exploited in facsimile, twice over in one week, by The Times. In its Literary Supplement, where they made their second appearance, we are told with cynical candour that "afterwards, when he had become ashamed of his crowning" (the foolish episode which is the subject of these two sonnets) Keats "kept them from publication; and Reynolds" (the friend to whom he confided them), "knowing the story, respected his feelings after his death."]
What is there in the poet's human lot Most beastly loathsome? Haply you will say An influenza in the prime of May? Or haply, nosed in some suburban plot, The reek of putrid cabbage when it's hot? Or, with the game all square and one to play, To be defeated by a stymie? Nay, I know of something worse—I'll tell you what. It is to have your rotten childish rhymes (Rotten as these) dragged from oblivion's shroud Where, with the silly act that gave them birth, They lay as lie the dead in sacred earth, And see them, twice in one week, boomed aloud To tickle penny readers of The Times.
* * * * *
This income of mine, in which the world has suddenly become so interested, must be calculated from the following returns of past years, being the figures supplied privately to Phyllis:—
(1) guineas. L 1911-1912. By fees as specialist 113 By occasional papers in Medical Journals 35 1912-1913. ditto 152 ditto 42 1913-1914. ditto 203 ditto 37
(2) My capital is invested in Ordinary Stock, and brings in anything from L50 to L100 a year, in accordance with the varying moods of the directors.
(3) Lastly, I have now bought, out of my earnings, the freehold of the premises in which I carry on my practice. In making out a Balance Sheet this item must be regarded either as a liability or as an asset accordingly as one takes the dark or the bright view of the position. Either I owe myself so much a year for rent of the premises, in which case it is a liability: or else myself owes me so much for rent, in which case it is an asset. Practically speaking it doesn't much matter, because it is a bad debt either way.
Those amongst my (apparently) most intimate friends, who are money-lenders, do not ask for details. They are content to assume the worst and hope for the best. Sir Reginald Hartley and Mr. Charles Dugmore, Assessor of Taxes, the most interested enquirers, are not, however, money-lenders.
Sir Reginald is not naturally an inquisitive man, and his concern for me, in spite of my frequent appearance at his table, had hitherto been limited to my services in getting the port decanter round its circuit. It was I who, when one evening we were doing this alone, led up to the subject.
"Sir Reginald," said I.
He passed the port again, hoping thus to damp down my conversational powers. I, hoping to stimulate them, helped myself.
"Well, what do you want now, my boy?" he asked reluctantly, noting my unsatisfied air.
"I'll tell you what I should like, Sir," said I, "and that's a father-in-law. Would you care for the job?"
Not, I think, entirely with a view to what he himself was likely to get out of this suggestion, he asked me outright what I was worth. "I don't think," he suggested, "that I could very well let my Phyllis marry anyone with less than five hundred a year, eh?"
I got out paper and pencil, puckered up my brow, and worked out a sum. "I am happy to announce," I said eventually, "that we may put my income on the other side of that figure."
To show my bona fides, I set out my sum:—
MY INCOME ('14 to '15): L (1) Fees. (To estimate this item it is necessary to take actual figures of last three years, which show an annual increase at the rate of about 33%. The '13 to '14 figure is 203 guineas; add 33% and you get total for '14 to '15, 284 pounds, say 300 (2) Add annual value of professional premises, which is 50 (3) Occasional literature. This is practically a regular stipend, at the fixed figure of (circa) L40. But a happy marriage should promote inspiration. Allowing for same, put this figure at, say. 51 (4) Interest on Investments, say 100 ——- Grand Total. (E. & O. E.) L501 =====
These, however, were not the figures I quoted to Charles Dugmore, A.T.
There was no port about him, and still less did he wait for me to introduce the subject. He sent me a sharp note and gave me twenty-one days to answer, in default of which he said he would have the law on me. Still, there is a certain rough kindness even about your Assessor of Taxes; this one enclosed a slip of paper, which he hoped I wouldn't read, but which, when I did read it, suggested to me my middle course of safety. "Work out your income, on lines consistent with honesty, at less than L160, and you've won," it said. With the assistance of the advice it gave, I had no difficulty in doing this; thus:—
MY INCOME ('14 to '15):. L (1) Trade, Vocation or Profession, A Specialist. (To estimate this item it is necessary to take actual figures of last three years, which show an average of 164 pounds. It is difficult to say how much of this will be net profit after making allowance for estimated rental of professional premises and other liabilities, but let us give the Inland Revenue the benefit of the doubt and say 50%. 50% of 164 is 82 (2) Ditto, Occasional literature. (This is a fluctuating stipend, at the figure of (circa) 35. But one's inspiration gets exhausted. Allowing for same, and for pens, ink and paper, put this figure at 27 (3) Interest on Investments, say 50 —— L159 ====
Ulster may fight and Mexico may be right; nevertheless these things are apt to be forgotten when conversation reverts, as it always does, to My Income.
The sordid subject came up again for discussion when Phyllis and I went to have a preliminary chat with the house-agent.
"You have spoken with eloquence and conviction about reception-rooms, out-houses, railway stations, golf courses, and h. and c.," said I, "but sooner or later some one must rise and say a few pointed words about Rent."
"That all depends on what you are prepared to give," he replied. "The rough-and-ready rule is to fix one's rent at a tenth of one's income."
"Yes, but which income?" I asked. "For I have two incomes and I can't afford a separate house for each."
He had no formula for my case and I left him a little later under a cloud of suspicion. Your house-agent is an ill judge of the subtler forms of humour.
* * * * *
THE COALITION TOUCH.
* * * * *
* * * * *
THE COLONEL TALKS.
The great hunter and explorer received us with profound affability. Thinner he may be, but his terrible privations in the perilous back blocks of Brazil have left his dazzling bonzoline smile unharmed. Every one of the powerful two-and-thirty extended a separate welcome.
"Sit right down," he said.
We sat right down.
"Say, Colonel," we began in the vernacular, "tell us about the river. Some river, ain't it?"
"You are right, Sir," he replied. "It's a river. The Thames, according to your great statesman, Colonel Burns, is 'liquid history;' my river is——"
"According to Savage Landor," we interrupted, "'liquid mystery.'"
The explorer's face fell. "I will deal with him later," he said. "Meanwhile let me tell you, Sir, that this is no slouch of a river. It has all the necessary ingredients of a river. It has banks, and a current. There are fish in it. Boats and canoes can progress on its surface. Twenty-three times did I risk my valuable life in saving boats and canoes that had got adrift. It has rapids. Twenty-eight times did I nearly drown in negotiating them. It has some ugly snags. The ugliest I have called 'Wilson,' the next ugliest, 'Bryan.'"
He stopped for applause and we let him have it.
"It was a great discovery of yours," we said, after he had bowed several times.
"No, Sir," he replied, "let us get that right. It is not my discovery. It is the discovery of Colonel Rondor."
"Well, you keep it among the colonels anyway," we said.
"In America, Sir," replied the modern Columbus—"in G. O. C., by which I mean God's Own Country—we keep everything among the colonels. But to proceed—it is not my discovery. All that I did was to trace it to its source in order to put it on the map. That is my ambition—the crowning moment of my ex-officio life—to put this river on the map. It will mean a boom in South America at last. They are all out-of-date and new ones must be made."
"And what will you call the river?" I asked.
"I am not sure," he said. "Some want it to be known as the 'Roosevelt,' but that does not please me. The 'Rondor' would be better, or 'The Two Colonels.' Can you suggest anything?"
"Why not 'The Sixty-five'?" we said, "since you lost sixty-five pounds in your travels."
"Good," he said. "I will put the point to Kermet."
"And is that your only triumph," we asked—"the river?"
"Oh, no," he said. "There is a bird too. A new bird, about the size of a turkey."
"Turkey in Europe or Turkey in Asia?" we asked.
He pulled a gun from his belt and stroked it lovingly. There are moments when even an interviewer' recognises the dangers of importunity, and this was one.
* * * * *
ONE OF OUR GREATEST.
It was naturally not without difficulty that I won my way to the presence of so busy and influential a publicist. A man who spends his whole time in instructing the readers of so many different papers in the delicate art of discerning the best and ignoring the rest cannot have much margin for inquisitive strangers.
However, I succeeded in penetrating to his sanctum and, while waiting for the lion to appear, had an opportunity to look round. It was severely furnished—obviously the room of a great thinker. I noticed on the desk, which was covered with paper and note-books, a copy of Roget's Thesaurus and Taylor's Natural History of Enthusiasm. With two such works one can, of course, go far. On the wall were the mottoes, "We needs must love the highest when we see it," and (from The Bellman) "What I tell you three times is true." I noticed two portraits also: one was of a delightful grande dame who might have graced a pavane in the days of Louis Quinze, inscribed to her "fellow-worker in the great cause, from Madame de Boccage," and another was the photograph of a gay young Frenchman in English clothes, signed "To mon cher colleague from 'is sincere friend Alphonse." There were also three telephones on the table and several typewriters here and there.
A moment later the wizard came in—a tall scholarly-looking figure, with all the stigmata of the great thinker beneath one of the highest brows in Europe.
"And what," he asked, bowing with perfect courtesy, "can I do for you?"
"I have come hoping for the privilege of an interview," I said.
"But why," he replied with charming diffidence, "should you interview me? Why am I thus honoured?"
"Because you are a very remarkable person," I replied. "You are the only journalist who can contribute the same articles regularly to The Pall Mall, The Westminster and I don't know to how many other papers besides. That is a feat in itself. You are the only journalist who always has the same subject."
He admitted these fine performances.
"So I should like to ask you a few questions," I continued. "The public is naturally interested in the personality of so widely read an author. May I know how you obtained your amazing command of words? Your fluency?"
"I have ever made a study of the finest writers," he said. "From Moses to De Courville, I have read them all. These studies and constant intercourse with the brainiest Americans I can meet have made me what I am."
"But your certainty in discrimination," I said—"how did you acquire that? Most of us are so doubtful of ourselves."
"I never am," he replied; "I am sure. One thing at a time is my theory. Concentrate on one thing and forget all the rest. In other words, trust to elimination. That's what I do. Having found something that I know to be good I instantly eliminate all thought of the existence of rival claimants and concentrate on that discovery and its exploitation."
"Marvellous," I murmured. "And how do you think of all your variations on the one stimulating theme?"
"Ah!" he said, "that is my secret." He tapped his massive forehead. "It wants a bit of doing, but I think I may say that up to date I have delivered the goods."
"You may," I said. "Have you no assistants?"
He flushed angrily and I changed the subject.
"In your spare time——" I began.
"I have none," he said. "I want none."
"But surely now and then," I urged, "after office hours?"
"I never relax," he said. "If I am not writing I am worshipping. I walk up and down on the other side of the street, gazing this way, wondering and adoring."
What a man!
"Now and then," I said, "you puzzle me a little. The columns in the evening papers go fairly straight to the point, but you are not always so direct. One now and then has to search for the true purpose of the article."
He bent his fine brows in perplexity.
"As when?" he asked.
"Well," I said, "those third leaders in The Times, for example. I often read them without making perfectly sure which department of the great House you are recommending: to which of its varied activities you are drawing particular attention."
He looked more bewildered. "The third leaders in The Times?" he asked.
"Yes," I said. "Don't you write those?"
"No," he replied with emphasis.
"Great Heavens!" I said, "I'm very sorry if I've hurt you. But I always assumed that you did."
The simultaneous ringing of the three telephones warned me that my time was up and I rose to go.
"Good-bye," he said, "Good-bye. You know where to go if you want anything, don't you? No matter what it is—ties, socks, dress—suits, scent, afternoon tea, civility, perfection. You know where to go?"—and he bowed me out.
And that is how I met Callisthenes.
* * * * *
* * * * *
Mr. Rudyard Kipling's few remarks, made beneath the blue sky of the Empire at Tunbridge Wells, have not yet lost their effect. The famous orator's letter-bag is daily crowded with communications from total strangers who have striven in vain to resist the impulse to tell him what they think of him and his speech.
"I understand from the local paper that you're an author," writes one correspondent from Haggerston; "if you can write like you can speak, your books ought to sell in hundreds."
"Your speech was quite good," writes another, "so far as it went; the only fault I have to find with it is that it was not strong enough, Sir, not strong enough. The blackguards!"
An envelope of pale purple, gently perfumed, contained that well-known work (now in its tenth thousand), "Gentle Words, and How to Use Them. By Amelia Papp." We understand that the receipt of this famous pamphlet had a tremendous effect upon Mr. Kipling.
The speech has put courage into the heart of a young literary man known to us. "I have long yearned to break away from the weaklings who can do no more than call a spade a spade," he said the other day. "I feel that I now have a master's authority for doing so. In gratitude I can do no less than send Mr. Kipling a copy of my new book, The Seven D's, when it is ready."
"I cannot be too grateful for your impressive speech," wrote a lady from Balham. "For many weeks now I consider that my butcher has been sending joints that are perfectly disgraceful, and I have been quite at a loss to know how to deal with him. But thanks to your great utterance I was able to get together just the words I wanted, and on Tuesday last I sent him such a letter. You will be glad to know that Wednesday's shoulder was excellent."
An anonymous correspondent, dating from a temporary address at Limehouse, has written, "Why don't you come over on our side? You and I together could do great things."
* * * * *
* * * * *
THE SWEET O' THE YEAR.
Get your summer smocks on, ye little elves and fairies! Put your winter ones away in burrows underground— Thick leaves and thistledown, Rabbit's-fur and missel-down, Woven in your magic way which no one ever varies, Worn in earthy hidey-holes till Spring comes round!
Got your summer smocks on! Be clad no more in russet! All the flow'rs are fashion-plates and fabrics for your wear— Gold and silver gossamer, Webs, from every blossomer, Fragrant and so delicate (with neither seam nor gusset), Filmily you spin them, but they will not tear!
Get your summer smocks on, for all the woodland's waking, All the glades with green and glow salute you with a shout, All the earth is chorussing (Hear the Lady Flora sing!— Her that strews the hyacinths and sets you merry-making), Oak and ash do call you and the blackthorn's out!
Get your summer smocks on, for soon's the time of dances Soon's the time of junketings and revellers' delights— Dances in your pleasaunces Where your dainty presence is Dangerous to mortals mid the moonlight that entrances, Dazzling to a mortal eye on hot June nights!
* * * * *
April 23, 1914.
350th Anniversary of the birth of William Makepeace Shakespeare."—Kostenaian.
Oliver Wendell Cromwell, the distinguished author-politician, was born much later than the poet-novelist.
* * * * *
A HANGING GARDEN IN BABYLON.
"Are you taking me to the Flower Show this afternoon?" asked Celia at breakfast.
"No," I said thoughtfully; "no."
"Well, that's that. What other breakfast conversation have I? Have you been to any theatres lately?"
"Do you really want to go to the Flower Show?" I asked. "Because I don't believe I could bear it."
"I've saved up two shillings."
"It isn't that—not only that. But there'll be thousands of people there, all with gardens of their own, all pointing to things and saying, 'We've got one of those in the east bed,' or 'Wouldn't that look nice in the south orchid house?' and you and I will be quite, quite out of it." I sighed, and helped myself from the west toast-rack.
It is very delightful to have a flat in London, but there are times in the summer when I long for a garden of my own. I show people round our little place, and I point out hopefully the Hot Tap Doultonii in the bathroom, and the Dorothy Perkins loofah, but it isn't the same thing as taking your guest round your garden and telling him that what you really want is rain. Until I can do that the Chelsea Flower Show is no place for us.
"Then I haven't told you the good news," said Celia. "We are gardeners." She paused a moment for effect. "I have ordered a window-box."
I dropped the marmalade and jumped up eagerly.
"Celia, my child," I cried, "this is glorious news! I haven't been so excited since I recognised a calceolaria last year, and told my host it was a calceolaria just before he told me. A window-box! What's in it?"
"Pink geraniums and—and pink geraniums and—er——"
"Pink geraniums?" I suggested.
"Yes. They're very pretty, you know."
"I know. But I could have wished for something more difficult. If we had something like—well, I don't want to seem to harp on it, but say calceolarias, then quite a lot of people mightn't recognise them, and I should be able to tell them what they were. I should be able to show them the calceolarias; you can't show people the geraniums."
"You can say, 'What do you think of that for a geranium?'" said Celia. "Anyhow," she added, "you've got to take me to the Flower Show now."
"Of course I will. It is not only a pleasure, but a duty. As gardeners we must keep up with floricultural progress. Even though we start with pink geraniums now, we may have—er, calceolarias next year. Rotation of crops and—and what not."
Accordingly we made our way in the afternoon to the Show.
"I think we're a little over-dressed," I said as we paid our shillings. "We ought to look as if we'd just run up from our little window-box in the country and were going back by the last train. I should be in gaiters, really."
"Our little window-box is not in the country," objected Celia. "It's what you might call a—a pied de terre in town. French joke," she added kindly. "Much more difficult than the ordinary sort."
"Don't forget it; we can always use it again on visitors. Now what shall we look at first?"
"The flowers first; then the tea."
I had bought a catalogue and was scanning it rapidly.
"We don't want flowers," I said. "Our window-box—our garden is already full. It may be that James, the head boxer, has overdone the pink geraniums this year, but there it is. We can sack him and promote Thomas, but the mischief is done. Luckily there are other things we want. What about a dove-cot? I should like to see doves cooing round our geraniums."
"Aren't dove-cots very big for a window-box?"
"We could get a small one—for small doves. Do you have to buy the doves too, or do they just come? I never know. Or there," I broke off suddenly; "my dear, that's just the thing." And I pointed with my stick.
"We have seven clocks already," said Celia.
"But a sun-dial! How romantic. Particularly as only two of the clocks go. Celia, if you'd let me have a sundial in my window-box, I would meet you by it alone sometimes."
"It sounds lovely," she said doubtfully.
"You do want to make this window-box a success, don't you?" I asked as we wandered on. "Well, then, help me to buy something for it. I don't suggest one of those," and I pointed to a summer-house, "or even a weather-cock; but we must do something now we're here. For instance, what about one of these patent extension ladders, in case the geraniums grow very tall and you want to climb up and smell them? Or would you rather have some mushroom spawn? I would get up early and pick the mushrooms for breakfast. What do you think?"
"I think it's too hot for anything, and I must sit down. Is this seat an exhibit or is it meant for sitting on?"
"It's an exhibit, but we might easily want to buy one some day, when our window-box gets bigger. Let's try it."
It was so hot that I think, if the man in charge of the Rustic Bench Section had tried to move us on, we should have bought the seat at once. But nobody bothered us. Indeed it was quite obvious that the news that we owned a large window-box had not yet got about.
"I shall leave you here," I said after I had smoked a cigarette and dipped into the catalogue again, "and make my purchase. It will be quite inexpensive; indeed, it is marked in the catalogue at one-and-sixpence, which means that they will probably offer me the nine-shilling size first. But I shall be firm. Good-bye."
I went and bought one and returned to her with it.
"No, not now," I said, as she held out her hand eagerly. "Wait till we get home."
It was cooler now, and we wandered through the tents, chatting patronisingly to the stall-keeper whenever we came to pink geraniums. At the orchids we were contemptuously sniffy. "Of course," I said, "for those who like orchids——" and led the way back to the geraniums again. It was an interesting afternoon.
And to our great joy the window-box was in position when we got home again.
"Now!" I said dramatically, and I unwrapped my purchase and placed it in the middle of our new-made garden.
"A slug-trap," I explained proudly.
"But how could slugs get up here?" asked Celia in surprise.
"How do slugs got anywhere? They climb up the walls, or they come up in the lift, or they get blown about by the wind—I don't know. They can fly up if they like; but, however it be, when they do come, I mean to be ready for them."
Still, though our slug-trap will no doubt come in usefully, it is not what we really want. What we gardeners really want is rain.
A. A. M.
* * * * *
"The winner was Mr. E. Williams, on an A. J. S. machine, while, on the same machine, Mr. C. Williams finished second."
Liverpool Evening Express.
He should have insisted on the front seat at the start, and then he might have finished first.
* * * * *
"Wanted immediately, experienced pressers for ladies' waists."
Advt. in "Montreal Daily Star."
Don Juan, forward.
* * * * *
NOT TO BE CAUGHT.
* * * * *
DRASTIC REFORM OF SCHOOLS.
Owing to the ruthless condensation of the Parliamentary Reports in the daily Press, no mention was made of Mr. Alfred Dunstanley's motion last Thursday, under the ten-minutes rule, for leave to bring in his Bill for the Reform of Public Schools. That omission we are now able to make good, thanks to the enterprise of a correspondent who was present during the debate in the Strangers' Gallery.
Mr. Dunstanley remarked that he was not prompted by any animosity to our public schools and did not propose to exterminate or annihilate them. But he was convinced that in the best interests of the nation they ought to be purged of the excrescences and anomalies which militated against their utility. The Bill accordingly provided that, pending the extinction of the hereditary peerage, peers or peers' sons, if they insisted on going to public schools, should be carefully segregated and kept in a state of perpetual coventry. It was not advisable that the healthy sons of our democracy should associate with those effete and tainted aristocrats. The Bill stopped short of sending them to the lethal chamber, but recommended that they should pay triple fees.
Mr. Dunstanley explained that he had no feeling against titled persons as individuals. But the facts were against them. Thus the word viscount was in Latin vice-comes, in itself a terrible admission. Again, baronets were almost invariably depicted in lurid colours by the best novelists. In short their presence at our public schools could not be safely tolerated, as even the children of good Radicals were not immune to the danger of snobbery and sycophancy. The Bill also provided for compulsory vegetarian diet and the abolition of all cadet corps, rifle-shooting and caning.
Mr. Dunstanley concluded by observing that it pained him to bring forward this motion, as he had many friends who had been born in the purple, and some had survived the demoralising influences involved in their birth, but he felt it his solemn duty to lodge a practical protest against the fetish worship of rank and wealth and war, which, in the opinion of his great-headed colleague, Mr. John Ward, was ruining the country.
* * * * *
From a letter to The Accrington Gazette:—
"I do hope that the Accrington Town Council will read, mark, learn this epistle and lay these precepts to their hearts, which in Latin I will quote: 'Quod Hoc Sibi Vult.' It means that the exposed food stuffs will not only be impregnated with the volcanic like dust representing the cremated remnant of the town's horrible organic refuse, but will also be tainted with the smell that tastes."
Our contemporary's correspondent would have pleased our old Sixth Form Master, who was always complaining that our translations did not bring out the full meaning of the passage.
* * * * *
"Great Pictures under the Hammer."
The Suffragettes continue to be busy.
* * * * *
"Who shall say howqztNj wodrmf."
Manchester Daily Dispatch.
Who wants to?
* * * * *
* * * * *
(A Suburban Rhapsody.)
I said, "Within the garden trimly bordered, Assisted by the merle, I mean to woo The Heavenly Nine, by young Apollo wardered," And Araminta answered, "Yes, dear, do. The deck chair's in the outhouse; lunch is ordered For twenty-five to two."
I sat within the garden's island summer And heard far off the shunting of the trains, Noises of wheels, and speech of every comer Passing the entrance—heard the man of brains Talking of George's Budget, heard the plumber Planning new leaks for drains.
These things did not disturb me. Through the fencing I liked to bear in mind that men less free Must toil and tramp, whilst I was just commencing To court the Muses, foolscap on my knee, Helped by the sweet bird in the shade-dispensing Something-or-other tree.
I wrote: "Ah, who would be where rough men jostle In dust and grime, like porkers at a trough. When, here is May and May-time's blest apostle——" Just then, without preliminary cough, Suddenly, ere I knew, the actual throstle, Tee'd up and started off.
It drowned the distant noise of motor-'buses, It drowned the shunting trains, the traffic's roar, The milk, the bread, the meat, the tradesmen's fusses, And the long secret tale told o'er and o'er That all day long Eliza Jane discusses With the new girl next door.
So sweetly the bird sang. Great thrills went through it. It seemed to say, "The glorious sun hath shone, Flooding the world like treacle wrapped round suet; Why should we harp of age and dull years gone?" Time seemed to be no sort of object to it— It just went on and on.
Therefore I rose, and later (o'er the trifle), When Araminta with her tactful gush Asked if the garden seemed to help or stifle The Muses' output, I responded, "Tush; When you go out, my dear, please buy a rifle; I want to shoot that thrush."
* * * * *
Seen in a Birmingham shop window:—
"The Smartest Flannel Trouser in the City, 6/11."
If he had another one, even though not quite so smart, we might consider it.
* * * * *
"The world's longest and most accurate golf ball."—Advt.
Personally we prefer the short ones when it comes to putting them into the tin.
* * * * *
THE AMENDING BILL.
* * * * *
ESSENCE OF PARLIAMENT.
(Extracted from the Diary of Toby, M.P.)
House of Commons, Monday, May 18.—Field-Marshal Asquith, on military duty in attendance on the King at Aldershot. Takes opportunity to give His Majesty a few hints on the setting of a squadron in the field. In his absence depression customary on reassembling after week-end recess asserts itself with increased force. Through early portion of Question-hour benches half empty. As hands of clock approached the mark 2.45, stream of arrivals increased in volume. At conclusion of Questions House so densely crowded that side galleries were invaded, and group of Members stood at Bar.
Strangers in Gallery rubbed their eyes and asked what this might portend? Explanation simple. Within limit of Question-hour no division may take place. As soon as boundary passed danger zone for Ministerialists entered. Last week Opposition snapped a division at earliest possible moment and nearly cornered Government. To-day at least two divisions on Welsh Church Bill imminent. Ministerialists, obedient to urgent Whip, in their places in good time. When divisions were called—one on report of financial resolution of Welsh Church Bill, the other closing Committee stage—298 voted with Government against 204 for rejection of motion. By rare coincidence figures in both divisions were exactly the same, re-establishing Government majority at 94.
This done, Members trooped out in battalions, leaving Hume Williams to spend on wooden intelligence of empty benches able argument in support of motion for rejection of Bill at Third Reading stage. Lifeless debate temporarily uplifted by speech of simple eloquence from William Jones, who, after long interval, breaks the silence imposed upon a Whip. Quickly gathering audience listened from both sides with obvious pleasure to a speech which, as Stuart-Wortley said, was "marked by real fervour and manifest sincerity." We have not so many natural orators in present House that we can with indifference see given up to the drudgery of the Whips' room what was meant for mankind.
One passage, a sort of aside, brought tears to eyes of case-hardened section of the audience seated in Press Gallery. They furtively dropped when Member for Carnarvon described how, a small boy visiting the Strangers' Gallery, he found seated there "a saintly Pressman, a frail and fragile figure in bad health, who wrote weekly letters to the Welsh Baner. I saw him," he added, "at lucid intervals, writing his letters."
House loudly laughed at picture thus graphically drawn. Pressmen, not essentially saintly, know how desirable is the accessory of lucid intervals for the writing of London Letters.
Business done.—Under Procedure Resolution agreed to last week Welsh Church Disestablishment Bill carried through Committee as quickly as Chairman could put formal motion. Debate opened on Third Reading.
Tuesday.—"I rejoice," said F. E. Smith, rising at ten o'clock in half empty House to support motion for rejection of Welsh Church Bill on Third Reading stage, "that debates on this measure are approaching termination. We are all driven to make the same speeches over again and to cite old illustrations of the insane constitution under which we live."
This frank admission of the inutility of stretching debate over two sittings not agreeable to feelings of those responsible for weary waste of time. All the same, lamentably true.
Only impulse of vitality given to proceedings came from speech of George Cave. Member for Kingston does not frequently interpose in debate. Long intervals of silence give him opportunity of garnering something worth saying, a rule of Parliamentary life that might be recommended to the attention of some who shall here be nameless. For the rest it was the same grinding out of barrel-organ tunes in varied keys that has been going on these three years. McKenna gave touch of originality to his remarks in winding up debate by avoiding reference to the late Giraldus Cambrensis. Thus momentarily refreshed, Members gratefully went out to Division Lobby, and Third Reading was carried by majority of 77.
In two other divisions concerning Welsh Church Bill taken yesterday, what the late Mr. G. P. R. James if he were starting a new novel would describe as a solitary figure—"a solitary horseman" was, to be precise, the consecrated phrase—might have been observed sitting in corner seat below Gangway on Opposition side. It was William O'Brien assuming the attitude of passive resister to a measure which, in respect of an established Church that national feeling regards as alien, proposes to do for Wales what nearly half a century ago Gladstone did for Ireland. In Parliamentary parlance, "the hon. Member in possession of the House" is the gentleman on his legs addressing the Speaker. Whilst a crowd of Members streamed out, some into the "Aye" Lobby, others into the "No," William O'Brien remained seated, for a moment or two literally the Member in possession of the House.
Let degenerate Irishmen, suborned by bargain with a Saxon Government, go forth to save it in the Division Lobby. Sea-green (with envy of John Redmond, whose name will, after all, be imperishably connected with the final success of a National movement inaugurated forty years ago by Isaac Butt) incorruptible, William O'Brien thus protested against a course of events he has been unable to control. To those who remember his fierce eloquence in past years dominating a hostile audience there was something pathetic in the spectacle.
Business done.—Welsh Church Disestablishment Bill read third time. Sent on to meet predestined fate in Lords.
Thursday.—Quite lively goings on. House met to open debate on Third Reading of Home Rule Bill, at special desire of Opposition to be extended over three sittings. Campbell had given notice of intention to move rejection. Everything pointed to long dreary evening, the serving-up of that "thrice boiled cole-wort" which Carlyle honestly believed to form the principal dish in the House of Commons shilling dinner.
Expected that Premier would indicate purport and scope of promised Bill amending an Act not yet added to Statute Book. Questioned on subject he announced that Bill will be introduced in the Lords. Judged by ordinary business tactics this seemed a reasonable arrangement. On return from Whitsun holidays the Lords will find Home Rule Bill at their disposal. Do not conceal intention of throwing it out on Second Reading. Whereupon, Parliament Act stepping in, it will be added to Statute Book. Meanwhile Lords, having no other business on hand, might devote their time to consideration of that settlement of Ulster question which all parties speak of as their heart's desire.
House of Commons is, however, above consideration of ordinary business ways. Announcement of Ministerial intention with respect to Amending Bill raised clamour worthy of our best traditions. Poor Campbell getting up to perform appointed task was greeted by his own friends with stormy cries for adjournment. For full five minutes he stood at Table, with nervous fingers rapping a tune on lid of brass-bound box.
"What's he playing, do you think?" Winterton asked Rowland Hunt.
"As far as I can make out," said the Man for Shropshire, "it's 'The Campbells are Coming.'"
"By Jove, they shan't come," said Winterton, who was in his element (hot water). "'Journ! 'Journ! Journ!" he shouted, leading again the storm of interruption that prevented a word being heard from Campbell.
Speaker at end of five minutes asked Bonner Law whether this refusal of the Opposition to hear one of their leaders met with his assent and approval? Bonner Law haughtily refused to answer. Winterton and Kinloch Cooke more delighted than ever. Uproar growing, the Speaker declared sitting suspended and left the Chair.
A critical moment. So high did angry passion run that there might have been repetition of the famous fisticuffs on floor of House that marked progress of first Home Rule Bill. Ominous sign when Royds of Sleaford, ordinarily mildest-mannered of men, rushed between Front Opposition Bench and Table and shook a minatory forefinger at Asquith.
Premier only smiled. Happily his indifferent good humour prevailed on his own side. There was interchange of acrid compliments as parties joined each other on the way out. But nothing more happened, except that Hasleton and another Irish Nationalist, passing empty chair of Sergeant-at-Arms, lit, the one a pipe, the other a cigarette.
"Shocking!" cried an outraged Member of the old school.
"Not at all," said Sark. "When the House of Commons is enlivened by pot-house manners there is surely no harm in two customers lighting up as they pass out."
Business.—Outbreak of disorder, Speaker suspends sitting.
* * * * *
BUYING A PIANO.
I had often thought I should like to possess a really good piano—not one of those dumpy vertical instruments, but a big flat one with a long tail. For a long time I hesitated between a Rolls Royce, a Yost, a Veuve Cliquot, and a Thurston. At last I put the problem to a musical friend. He said:
"It's a piano you want, not a motor-typewriting-champagne-table? Very good, then. You go to Steinbech's in Wigram Street. They'll fix you up. Mention my name if you like."
"What'll happen to me if I do?"
"They'll sell you a piano. That's what you want, isn't it?"
So I went. I told the man at Steinbech's that I believed they sold pianos. He said that my belief was not without foundation, but that, in any case, they would be prepared to stretch a point in my favour and sell me one. What sort did I require?
"A big flat one with a long tail," I replied.
"Ah, you want a full concert-grand? Then kindly step into our show-room, Sir. Now, this one," he said, indicating a handsome brunette, "is a magnificent piano. Best workmanship and superior materials employed throughout. Splendid tone and light touch. Price, one hundred guineas. Examine it; try it for yourself, Sir." And he opened the keyboard as he spoke.
"Er—what order are the notes arranged in?" I asked.
"In strict alphabetical order," he answered. "A, B, C, and so on."
"You must excuse my asking the question," I went on, "but the fact is I've never seen a Steinbech before. I thought perhaps that different makers adopted different arrangements of the notes, as makers of typewriters do. Now, will this piano play Beethoven? I particularly want a piano that will play the 'Moonlight' and the 'Waldstein.'"
"You're not thinking of a pianola, Sir, are you?"
"No," I replied, "I am not. I have no sympathy with music that looks like a Gruyere cheese. The music I want my piano to play is the ordinary printed kind—black-currants and stalks and that sort of thing."
"Well, Sir, you will find that this piano is specially adapted for playing all kinds of printed music. Music in manuscript may also be rendered upon it."
"That's one point settled then," I said. "Now, if you will kindly prize the lid off, I should like to look at the works."
He lifted the lid and propped it up with a short billiard-cue which fitted into a notch. All danger of sudden decapitation having been removed, I put my head inside.
"Hallo!" I cried. "What's this harp doing in here? Doesn't it get in the way?"
"That is not a harp, Sir; that is part of the mechanism—the wires, you know."
I plucked a few of them, and they gave forth a pleasing sound. So I plucked some more.
"Yes," I said decidedly, "I like the rigging very much. And now perhaps you will be good enough to tell me what those two foot-clutches are for, which I noticed underneath the keyboard. I suppose they are the brake and the reversing-gear?"
I was wrong. The man expounded their true functions to me. Then I said, "I should just like to examine it underneath, if you wouldn't mind turning it on its back."
The fellow told me that it was unnecessary and unusual—that I had seen all there was to see. This made me suspicious. I was certain he was trying to conceal some radical defect from me. So I made up my mind to see for myself. I took off my coat and crawled underneath. As I suspected, I found two large round holes in the flooring. When I had finished rubbing my head, I drew the man's attention to them. He was able to give a more or less reasonable excuse for them. I forget what he said they were—ventilators, I think.
He concluded by saying that the instrument would be certain to give me the utmost satisfaction.
"You would not recommend my having a more expensive one?" I asked. "A Stradivarius, or a Benvenuto Cellini?"
He thought not; so we clinched the deal.
"I think," I said, as I handed him my cheque, "that I should like my name-plate fixed on it somewhere—say, on one of the end notes that I shall never use."
But he advised me against this. None of the players handicapped at scratch ever thought of such a thing.
"Very well," I said. "Just wrap it up for me, and I'll——"
"Hadn't we better send it for you," he suggested, "in one of our vans, in charge of our own men?"
"Just so," I agreed. "Good morning."
The piano duly arrived, and when we had taken the drawing-room door out of its socket and demolished a large portion of two walls, they got it in—just in. With care I can squeeze into the room. However, I am happy, though crowded, for I have achieved my heart's desire.
It has been with me a year now. I must soon think of learning to play it.
* * * * *
THE PARAFFIN HABIT.
* * * * *
The New Dramatist.
From "Books Received" in The Daily Chronicle:—
"Misalliance, The Dark Lady of the Sonnets and Fanny's First Play; with a Treatise on Parents and Children, by Bernard Constable, 6s."
* * * * *
"Ouimet was born at Brookline.... As his name rather suggests, his parents were French Canadians, who moved to Brookline from Montreal."—Pall Mall Gazette.
It seems a great deal for the name to suggest.
* * * * *
AT THE PLAY.
"The Great Gamble."
A man who elopes with his friend's wife cannot fairly expect to command general sympathy when, sooner or later, he has to pay the claims of offended morality. Yet one could not help being a little sorry for Colonel Herrick, the leading delinquent in Mr. Jerome's play. For scarcely had they started for the Continent from Charing Cross (to be precise, the train was passing through Chislehurst) when the lady suddenly repented of her rash act and burst into unassuageable tears. If, on reaching Dover, he had had the happy thought of despatching her back to her home as unaccompanied baggage, he would have saved himself a vast deal of trouble. But, being a soldier, he set his teeth and went forward, and for eight days she made the hotels of Europe ring with her lamentations. Nor was this his only source of discomfort. Though, for convenience, they appeared in the visitors' books as man and wife, the lady's attitude compelled the maintenance of platonic relations, and, whereas in actual life this would merely have meant that he had to occupy a separate bedroom, in Mr. Jerome's vision of things as they might be it meant that he had to sleep in the bath-room.
It will be readily understood that, to The Colonel, the advent of the infuriated husband was of the nature of a relief. Thanks to the intervention of a large assortment of friends, and after assurance given of the lady's technical retention of her virtue, he agrees to take her back if she cares to rejoin him. It is true that before the happy conclusion, so satisfactory to The Colonel, is reached, a duel manque is interposed; but this is designed for the sole benefit of the audience and does not affect the result.
Meanwhile, the lady adopts an enigmatic behaviour. On the appearance of her husband she exchanges the black dress of remorse for the gay yellow garb of a mind at ease; yet under his very nose she permits herself to exhibit a very intimate delight in The Colonel's more obvious attractions. So cryptic indeed is her conduct (both for us and her friends) that it is arranged that her choice between the two men shall be decided by the test of a dream. In consequence, however, of an attack of insomnia this dream (like the duel) fails to come off and shortly after midnight her waking doubts are resolved in her husband's favour.
It will be seen that, the stuff of Mr. Jerome's play is sufficiently fatuous; but Mr. Edmund Maurice as The Colonel was always amusing, and in the multitude of counsellors there was merriment. Unfortunately Mr. Stanley Cooke, as a Herr Professor and leader of the chorus, did not quite succeed in executing his share of the fun.
The farce was varied by a very amateur romance as between a young American and the niece of an hotel-keeper; also by a slab of melodrama (dealing with the girl's parentage) which only escaped from pure banality by the too brief glimpse it gave us of that admirable actress, Miss Ruth Mackay.
The scene (perhaps the best part of the whole show) was laid in "An Ancient Grove" adjacent to a German University. (The catalogue, peculiarly reticent about proper names, offers my memory no refreshment.) This "Ancient Grove," unchanged throughout the play, served a number of useful purposes. It made excuse for the intermittent apparition (otherwise inexplicable) of a little woodland figure that played upon a pipe. Its proximity to an hotel afforded occasion for meal after meal en plein air. Its proximity to a University Town encouraged the frequent passage of German students, vivacious and vocal; also the convenient appearance of any foreign resident or visitor at a moment's notice. Its Statue of Venus (fully draped) afforded an authentic incitement to the making of love. Its environs enabled Mr. Jerome to dispose of his puppets whenever their presence became undesirable. They simply said, "Let us stroll in the woods;" or "Come for a walk with me," and he was rid of them. Finally the "Ancient Grove" contained a central patch of boscage in whose cover one of the duellists, arriving on the terrain a little before the time, remained perdu in slumber, undisturbed by a loud conversation carried on within a few feet of him by all the other parties to the combat.
Indeed the scenery put in some good work, and I really don't know what we should have done without it.
The Great Gamble was, of course, the lottery of marriage. But for some of us it meant the risk we ran in attending the first night of a play by Mr. Jerome after our bitter experience of his Rowena in Search of a Father. To say that his present work is an improvement upon his last would be to damn it with a fainter praise than it deserves. The Great Gamble is a strange and inscrutable medley, but it has its exhilarating moments, and the humour of its dialogue, though it is mitigated by the Professor's contributions, is worthy of a much better design.
* * * * *
"Now that Miss Cecil Leitch has won the Ladies' Golf Championship after seven years' unsuccessful striving, it may be suggested that she might alter the spelling of her name to Leach. Just to show how she stuck to it!"—Glasgow Evening News.
The writer should have stuck to his dictionary.
* * * * *
"It was officially stated yesterday that Dr. Herbert William Moxon, the son of a former prominent Unionist in West Derbyshire, had consented to address a meeting of Liberals with a view to his adaptation as Liberal candidate for West Derbyshire."
These adaptable politicians.
* * * * *
"Mr. Palmer would still deserve to be crowned with unfading laurels."—Times.
Palmer qui meruit ferat.
* * * * *
Latest Cannibal News.
"Djaraboub ordinarily contains only 350 inhabitants but these are swollen by pilgrims."
* * * * *
* * * * *
VERY MUCH GREATER LONDON.
[One result of the introduction of the Bachelet flying train should certainly be the extension of London's suburbs. We extract the following from a season-ticket holder's diary of the near future.]
Dundee.—Strap-hung again to-day; London train abominably crowded. That is the worst of living in these inner suburbs. Men who live on the other side of the Orkney Tunnel tell me the train only begins seriously to fill up at Caithness; before that, one has reasonable hope of a seat. Brown, for instance, says that, coming up from Kirkwall and entering train before pressure begins, he rarely has to use strap. Don't know how the poor wretches at Newcastle and Durham ever get to town at all, though, living so close to King's Cross, they can perhaps afford to stand for the few minutes they are in train....
No change for better, so have been studying agents' lists; some items attractive. For example:—
Belgian Tunnel Line.—Antwerp and Liverpool Street in 29 minutes; low season-ticket rates; excellent mid-day service, enabling business men to take luncheon at home.
Charming Maisonettes in fine healthy suburb, S.W. London (Penzance district); bath h. and c.; Company's water; two minutes Bachelet Railway-station; 25 minutes Paddington and City.
Sunny Cairo, S.E.—Nice self-contained flats; charming desert view; low rents; ninety-five minutes Charing Cross; five minutes Sahara golf links (inland course but real sand bunkers).
Week-End Cottage for Harassed City Worker, Siberia (near London).—To be let furnished; bracing air; perfect quiet.
* * * * *
In view of the impending scarcity of meat, so vividly foreshadowed in a recent article in The Times, it is most reassuring to learn that a new comestible, palatable and nutritious, yet entirely free from the drawbacks of all flesh foods, has been invented by a German scientist and will shortly be put upon the market at a price which will bring it within the reach of the humblest household.
Professor Schafskopf, the inventor, has long been engaged on experiments with a view to the production of synthetic mutton, and his diligent efforts have now been crowned with success. The basis of the new food is compressed peat, which is so permeated with a variety of nutritive juices, applied at high pressure by a grouting machine, as to be practically indistinguishable from the best Southdown mutton.
By way of putting his discovery to the test Professor Schafskopf entertained a number of distinguished guests at the Fitz Hotel last week, and with hardly an exception they were astonished at the succulent and sumptuous flavour of the new food, which is called by the attractive name of "Supermut."
Professor Bino Byles, interviewed at the close of the banquet, said that "Supermut" was a distinct success. It had all the digestibility of tripe with an added aroma of Harris Tweed.
Mr. Gullick, the famous motorist, said that "Supermut" reminded him of the best cormorant. He believed that it could also be used for making unpuncturable tyres.
Lord Findhorn, the eminent Scots Judge, said that "Supermut" had converted him to carnivorous food, though he was an hereditary vegetarian.
Finally we note that The Forceps in a laudatory article pays a handsome tribute to the new food, and says, "It must be conceded that a very reliable substitute for mutton has at length been produced. We found it hard to distinguish it from a saddle."
* * * * *
A MAY PICNIC.
Someone has settled (it's not my fault; And, whatever we do, let's take some salt)— Someone has settled, don't you see, Without referring the thing to me, That this is a day to be bright and hearty, And to take our lunch as a picnic party— To take our lunch with toil and care Away from home in the open air.
Now I maintain that it can't be right, When there isn't a single wasp in sight, To have mint-sauce and a joint of lamb, Some currant cake and a pot of jam, A gooseberry tart, with sugar and cream, And some salad dressing, a bottled dream— All the things that a wasp loves best When he buzzes away from his hidden nest; And you all shout "Wasp!" and flick at the fellow, And you miss his black and you miss his yellow, And only succeed in turning over Your glass of drink on the thirsty clover. A picnic? Pooh! Why, you merely waste it When there isn't a wasp to come and taste it.
However, a picnic's got to be, Though they haven't referred the thing to me. There's a boat and we put our parcels in it, And off we push in another minute. And our pace is certainly rather slow, For everybody wants to row; And there's any amount of laugh and chatter, And crabs are caught, but it doesn't matter; For we're all afloat In an open boat, And the breeze is light and the sky is blue, And the sun is toasting us through and through.
By a buttercup field we came to land And every passenger lent a hand To unload our food and spread it out, While the cows stood flapping their tails about. And Peggy as waitress played her part, And John fell into the gooseberry tart. I can't explain, though I wish I could, Why everything tasted twice as good? As it does at home in the cheerful gloom Of the old familiar dining-room. Every picnicky thing was there, Including the girls and the son and heir, A red-cheeked frivolous knife-and-fork's crew, Who hadn't forgotten, oh joy, the corkscrew! And, last, we furbished our feasting-green, And left no paper to spoil the scene, Did up the remains in a tidy pack And took to our boat and drifted back.
R. C. L.
* * * * *
The corncrake has arrived. As I turned in at the gate last night he reported himself in the usual way. So now we are in for it. The priceless boon of silence in the hours of darkness will be denied to us for many weeks to come.
I do not know how to describe his utterance. It could not without extravagance be called a note, still less a chirp, and least of all a song. It is not a bark—not quite. It is hardly a growl or a grunt or a snort; I should be sorry to call it a bray or a yelp. And yet I am not going to admit that it is a quack or a bleat; and it isn't a screech or a squeal or a sob. Nor is it a croak, though now we are getting nearer to it. The puzzling thing about it is that it was clearly meant by Nature to be an interjection. Uttered once, suddenly, from the far side of a hedge it would admirably convey such a sentiment as, "Hi!" "What ho!" or "Here we are again!" But in practice it is the one sound in the whole landscape that never interjects. It is a monument of barren reiteration.
I wonder why he does it. No doubt he has some end in view. He must get something out of it—some bodily ease or mental stimulus or spiritual consolation. But he must surely have been born with a prodigious passion for monotony. It may surprise you to learn that in the course of the season he will make that same remark over two million times. I have worked it out. Two million is a conservative estimate. It only allows for eight hours' work out of the twenty-four, for a term of six weeks: so that it is well within the mark.
Our corncrake—I don't know what the usual standard may be—does ninety-eight to the minute. He is as regular as the ticking of a clock. You can't hustle him and you can't wear him out. At times when I have thought he might be getting tired and thirsty I have imagined that he was slowing down; but he never gets below ninety-six; and in his most active and feverish moments he very rarely touches the hundred. At short measured intervals he punctuates the night with his dry delivery, unhasting yet unresting, his sole idea to get his forty-seven-thousand up without a break before the morning. He just doesn't know the meaning of the word emphasis; he has absolutely no sense of rhythm. Once I tried to believe that he was talking in three-four time, or at least that he was occasionally accenting a note. But he never does. He gets no louder or softer, higher or lower, quicker or slower—he just keeps on.
You need not suppose that I have meekly sat down under this thing. This is his sixth year, and I have been at war with him all the time. But finally he holds the field, and my only hope now is that his powers may begin to fail as old age creeps on. Even if he dropped to eighty a minute it would be an intense relief. But I dare say he means to bequeath the pitch to a successor at his death—perhaps to a relative.
At first I used to throw things at him out of the bedroom window—hairbrushes and slippers and books and all sorts of odds and ends. I had to go round with a basket after breakfast collecting them. But it was no good; he never dropped a beat. Then I deliberately devastated the garden, with a view to deprive him of cover. I had all the bushes taken up and the flowerbeds removed, and I laid down, just under my bedroom window, a wide expanse of tar-macadam, as bald and flat as a mirror—a beetle couldn't have hidden himself on it. (I had to call this a hard tennis-court for the sake of appearances. We do as a matter of fact play on it sometimes.) But it had no effect on the corncrake. Of course the truth is that I never have the least idea where he is; no one has. No one has over seen him or ever will. He is endowed with great ventriloquial powers. That is a provision of Nature, and if you will reflect a moment you will see that it must be so. For, granted that he is to go on talking like that, if he could not throw his voice about from place to place and thus make it impossible to get at him, the species would become extinct.
There is nothing more that I can do, and it is only fair to admit that the whole thing is my own fault. When I built my house six years ago I might have shown a little common foresight in this matter. I got everything else right as far as I could. My rooms are well placed for sunshine and they have the best of the view. The water-supply is good; there is plenty of fall for the drainage system; we are well out of the motor dust. But I omitted one precaution. I should have had the ground surveyed for corncrakes.
* * * * *
* * * * *
(By Mr. Punch's Staff of Learned Clerics.)
In The World Set Free (Macmillan) Mr. H. G. Wells has seen a vision—the vision of a world plunged into blazing and crumbling chaos by the ultimate logical issues of military violence. Defence, becoming always less and less effective against attack, which is always more and more a matter of the laboratory, finally succumbs before Holsten's discovery of "Carolinum" and its final disastrous application in the "atomic bombs." Romancing on a theme out of Soddy's Interpretation of Radium, Mr. Wells, with those deft strokes of allusive and imaginative realism—so convincing is he that realism is the only apt word for his daring constructions of the future—depicts the shattering of the headquarters of the War Control in Paris, followed by a swift counterstroke against the Central European Control in Berlin by the aviation corps, the destruction of capital after capital, and the final great battle in the air, with the bombing of the Dutch sea walls. Thereafter comes the attempt at reconstruction by the Council of Brissago, a convention of the governing folk of the world—the dream and deed of the Frenchman Leblanc, "a little bald, spectacled man," a peacemonger whom, till that day of ruin, everyone had thought an amiable fool. One monarch, "The Slavic Fox," sees in the assembly a chance to strike for world sovereignty, and the failure of his bomb-fraught planes and his final undoing in the secret arsenal are breathless pieces of description.
A subject for wonder is the astonishing advance in the author's technique. The World Set Free is on an altogether different plane from The War of the Worlds and those other gorgeous pot-boilers. It combines the alert philosophy and adroit criticism of the Tono Bungay phase with the luminous vision of Anticipations and the romantic interest of his eccentric books of adventure. The seer in Mr. Wells comes uppermost, and I almost think that when the history of the latter half of the twentieth century comes to be written it will be found not merely that he has prophesied surely, but that his visions have actually tended to shape the course of events. Short of Holsten's "atomic bombs" (which may or may not be developed) Mr. Wells makes a fair foreshadowing of the uprush of subliminal sanity which may very well be timed to appear before 1999. I can't take my hat off to Mr. Wells because I've had it in my hand out of respect for him these last few years. So I touch my forelock.
* * * * *
Roding Rectory (Stanley Paul) is in many respects the best novel Mr. Archibald Marshall has written. Those who remember Exton Manor and the three books dealing with the lives and deeds of the Clintons will consider this to be high praise, as, indeed, it is meant to be. Mr. Marshall preserves the ease and amenity of style which we have learnt to expect of him; he creates his characters—ordinary English men and women, animated by ordinary English motives—with all his old skill, and he sets them to work out their destinies in that pleasant atmosphere of English country life which no one since Trollope's death has reproduced with greater truth and delicacy than Mr. Marshall. This time, however, the clash of temperaments and traditions is more severe, the story cuts deeper into humanity, and the narration of it is, I think, more closely knit. The Rector of Roding, the Rev. Henry French, is a fine figure of a man honourably devoted to the duties of his parish and abounding in good works. It is sad to see him cast down from his pride of place by the sudden revelation of an ill deed done in his thoughtless youth at Oxford. In an interview managed with an admirable sense of dramatic fitness he is faced by a son, the living embodiment of his all-but-forgotten sin, and soon the whole parish knows of it. But the Rector, with the aid of his wife, fights his fight and in the end wins back his self-respect and the respect of his neighbours. He is helped, too, by Dr. Merrow, the Congregational minister, a beautiful character drawn with deep sympathy. Indeed, it is Dr. Merrow who has the beau role, and, I must add, deserves it. For the rest I must let Mr. Marshall's book speak for itself. He has written a very powerful and interesting story.
* * * * *
Among reviewers of books there is a convention by which the matter of a first edition—whether a single story or a collection of stories—which has been reproduced from a magazine or magazines, is treated as if it were a novelty. It is a sound and benevolent convention, because the stuff of magazines only receives at best a very sketchy notice. Miss May Sinclair, however, is apparently prepared; to risk the loss of any advantage to be derived from it, for her collection of short and middle-sized stones republished under the title of the first of them, The Judgment of Eve (Hutchinson), is prefaced by an article in which she replies to those critics who took notice of some of them at the time of their appearance in magazine form. By this recognition of judgment already passed she sets me free to regard her stories as old matter, and to confine myself to a review of her introduction. In this answer to her critics I cannot feel that she has been well advised. Even in a second edition critics are best left alone, unless the author can correct them on a point of fact or interpretation of fact. Here it is on a matter of opinion that she joins issue with them. They seem (the misguided ones) to have rashly said that "The Judgment of Eve" was "a novel boiled down," and that "The Wrackham Memoirs," on the other hand, was "a short story spun out." But Miss Sinclair is very sure that she knew what she was about. She can "lay her hand on her heart and swear that 'The Judgment of Eve' would have lost by any words that could conceivably have been added to it;" she is certain that "Charles Wrackham required the precise amount of room that has been given him." I dare say she is right, but I wish she could have left someone else to say so. For myself I should have thought it obvious that a story dealing with character and its development by circumstance demanded more room in which to spread itself than one that dealt with a situation, dramatic or psychologic; yet "The Wrackham Memoirs," which, whatever its complexity, belongs to the latter type, takes up very nearly as much space as "The Judgment of Eve," which belongs to the former. Of course no critic of even moderate intelligence would propose to fix a limit of length for every type of story, but it may safely be said that, if you take Maupassant for a standard, the best short stories have concerned themselves with situation rather than with character; and, though I have not had the privilege of reading the criticisms which are the subject of Miss Sinclair's rebuke, I can easily believe that they were governed by this elementary reflection. It must have occurred to Miss Sinclair herself, even if she did not find it convenient to take cognisance of it in her reply. Perhaps she will have something to say on this subject in some future edition of her very interesting book, and I should indeed be flattered if she would consent, in a brief phrase or two, to review my review of her review of her reviewers.
* * * * *
* * * * *
Good costume novels are not so common nowadays that I can pass Desmond O'Connor (Long) without a most hearty welcome. For it is an excellent example of its class—full of rescues, of swashbuckling and of midnight escapes; with a gallant hero (and Irish at that), a lovely heroine, two bold bad villains and a sufficiency of kings and other historical celebrities to fill the background picturesquely. In fact Mr. George H. Jessop has seen to it that no ingredient proper to this kind of dish shall be wanting, and I have great pleasure in congratulating him upon the result. Desmond was a soldier of fortune, a captain in the gallant Irish Brigade that served King Louis XIV. against the Allies. During the siege of Bruges the young captain chanced to see one morning at mass the fair Margaret, Countess of Anhalt. She had lately fled to the town to frustrate the intentions of Louis, who would have given her hand to an equally unwilling suitor. There was also, hanging about, a certain De Brissac, who in the event of the countess's death or imprisonment would succeed to her estates. So off we go, cut and thrust, sword, cloak and rapier, all to the right jingle of tushery, till the last chapter, in which King Louis relents and does what kings (of France especially) always do in the last chapters of historical romances. Really it seems sometimes as though the Louvre under the Monarchy must have been run as a kind of superior matrimonial agency in a large way of business. Anyhow he rings down the curtain upon a bustling tale that should add to the reputation of its author.
* * * * *
The Conqueror of Ouimet.
As the grief of a lioness reft of her cubs, Or a general ragged by the rawest of subs, Or a rigid supporter of temperance clubs Accused of frequenting the lowest of pubs, Or a burglar defied by the skill that is Chubb's, Is America's grief at the triumph of Tubbs.