OR THE LONDON CHARIVARI.
May 6, 1914.
According to an official of the Imperial Japanese household, the poems composed by the late Dowager-Empress of Japan numbered 30,000. But these were never published, and the Empress died universally respected.
A foolish hoax is said to have been perpetrated on the authorities at Dublin Castle. An anonymous communication informed them that a Dreadnought had been purchased by the Ulster loyalists, and would shortly make her appearance off the coast of Ireland disguised as an outrigger. Urgent instructions were in consequence issued to the coastguards not to be caught napping.
"I honestly hope," said General Villa, "that the Americans will bottle up Vera Cruz so tight that one can't even get water into it." But this surely would place America's teetotal navy in a very awkward predicament.
His Majesty King Ferdinand of Bulgaria has, a Paris newspaper informs us, purchased four elephants as pets. We trust that this is the beginning of the end of the toy-dog craze. We have always considered elephants more interesting, and ladies no doubt will not be slow to realise that there is more effect to be got out of them.
The dogs which are to accompany his expedition are, Sir Ernest Shackleton states, coming to London and will spend some little time here. It is to be hoped that they will be given a good time and shown the sights, and that no one will be so thoughtless as to mention emergency rations in their presence.
Says Mr. Filson Young in The Pall Mall Gazette:—"I began yesterday by swimming in a sunlit sea, continued it by motoring through a hundred miles of lilac and gorse, and ended it listening to the most perfect concert programme at Queen's Hall that I have ever heard.... Was it not a happy day?" The answer, Filson, is in the affirmative.
Forty years ago, L1,000 a year was spent on wines and spirits at the Medway (Chatham) Workhouse and Infirmary, while to-day the annual expenditure is only L5. In these hard times even paupers have to economise.
St. Mark's Church, Tunbridge Wells, which has been troubled with a plague of flies, has had to be closed for a week for the purpose of fumigation. Many members of the congregation had complained of being kept awake by these vivacious insects.
Apparently the modistes have resolved that this shall be a butcher's year, for we are promised leg-of-mutton sleeves, ham-frill skirts, and pork-pie hats.
Although M. Jean Worth, the famous creator of fashions, has declared that the mania of modern women for changing styles of dress amounts to a disease, it is not, we understand, the present intention of any of the leading dressmaking firms to offer a prize for a cure for this ailment.
M. Worth also stated that "Quality, not quantity," is the right motto for women in matters of dress. For all that, we trust that the irreducible minimum has now been reached.
According to the calculations of a M. Verronet, the earth has only another two million years to live. We hope that the effect of this statement may not be to encourage jerry-building.
* * * * *
THE CRITIC AT THE R.A.
"Talking of treacle pudding," said Felicity, helping that delicacy with a grace and skill that would have demanded the entire concentration of one less gifted—"talking of treacle pudding, I suppose you've done the Academy?"
"Not yet," I confessed.
She looked at me reproachfully.
"Dear, dear," she sighed, "when will the British Public awaken to the claims of Art? We haven't either."
"I generally wait a bit and find out which are the pictures I am expected to admire."
"And a very sensible plan too," she rejoined; "that is, for you and me and the rest of the common herd. Of course Papa's different. He's a critic."
Her father coughed deprecatingly.
"When he sees anything really artistic," she went on, "it fills him with delight."
"I wish you wouldn't use that horrible word, Felicity," he groaned.
"What horrible word?"
"Sorry, Papa; I forgot. On the other hand," she continued unabashed, "if you show him anything that isn't it causes him terrible suffering. He will cover his eyes with one hand and shoo it away with the other."
"You mustn't mind my little daughter's nonsense," he said. "Someone told her the other day she had a sense of humour. It was a great mistake."
"That's one up to you, Papa," she returned cheerfully; "but before the House adjourns I should like to move that we all go to the Academy this afternoon."
"I should love it," I replied, "but I'm afraid I must get back to work."
"Do you work?" she exclaimed with rapture. "How frightfully exciting."
At a Flapper dance in the evening I met Felicity again and she gave me the second "Hesitation Waltz." Afterwards she led me to some nice basket chairs in the conservatory.
"Well, did the Academy come off?" I asked.
"Did it come off?" said Felicity. "I should say so. It was the nicest afternoon I've had for weeks. You ought to have been there."
"I suppose your father was in hot form criticising the pictures?"
"Hush," she whispered, holding her finger to her lips. "Papa as an Art critic is temporarily under a cloud. I'll tell you. It came about in this way: Papa is a great admirer of Sargent, and to-day he was in a particularly Sargentesque mood. 'The great drawback to the Academy,' he said, as we were setting forth, 'is that the Sargents are spoiled by the other pictures. The huge mass of these all over the place entirely destroys one's perceptions of colour value. What I should like to do would be to see only the Sargents, turning a blind eye meanwhile to the other paintings.'"
"'You ought to wear blinkers,' I suggested.
"He was all for it at once.
"'That's a capital idea, Felicity.'
"'Then you'll go by yourself, Papa,' I said. 'I'll do some shopping and call for you at the police station on the way home.'
"Well, he abandoned the blinker idea eventually, but stuck to his scheme for concentrating on Sargent, and suddenly I saw how the afternoon might be made both amusing and instructive. So I said, 'There's one thing that's rather pleasing, Papa. You won't have to buy a catalogue, because I've got one. Some people I had tea with yesterday gave me theirs, and I'll bring it if you like.'"
She looked at me mischievously under her long dark lashes.
"You catch the idea?" she asked.
"No," I said, "not yet."
"Well, as soon as we arrived Papa took the catalogue and looked up all the Sargents—in the index part, you know, and wrote the numbers on his cuff and then we began to hunt them down.
"The first one was a 'still life.' Papa viewed it in some perplexity. 'Ah,' he said at length, 'just as I thought. I have been anticipating this for some time.' He adjusted his spectacles. 'The tendency of modern Art—that is to say the best Art—is towards a return to more classic forms. Sargent, as might be expected, leads the way; but he infuses the subject with his own special genius. I regard this as a very line example—very fine, indeed. The vitality of the half salmon is positively amazing.'
"I led him gently away, and presently we stood before the portrait of a City gentleman—the kind that is very fond of turtle soup. Papa raved over it.
"'Here, again,' he pointed out, 'see the loving care bestowed on each link in the watch-chain. What a reproof to the slovenly slap-dash methods of the Impressionists.'
"I gazed rapturously into his face and urged him onward. Things went from bad to worse, but it was really 'The Lowing Herd' that put the lid on it. A more lamentable company of cows you could hardly imagine. Even Papa was baffled for the moment; but after checking the number on the picture with the number on his cuff he pulled himself together.
"'Wonderful grouping,' he said; 'eminently Sargentesque;' and his voice seemed to challenge all within earshot to name another artist who could have produced the work.
"'Well, now,' he concluded, 'I think that is the last of them, and the best thing we can do is to go home. It would be a pity to spoil the afternoon by looking at any of the lesser lights.'
"I hesitated. 'Don't you think,' I suggested, 'it would be nice just to look at the Sargents before we go?'
"For some moments Papa was speechless.
"'The Sargents!' he exclaimed at length. 'Well, of all the——Here I devote a solid half-hour to teaching you something about Art and your mind is woolgathering the whole time. What on earth were you thinking about?'
"'I was thinking about the years that are gone,' I said.
"'The years that are gone?'
"'Yes, and I'm afraid it's entirely my fault, because I brought it.'
"'What on earth is the child talking about?'
"'The catalogue,' I said; 'it's some other year's.'"
At this moment the fallen Art critic entered the conservatory.
"Is that you, Felicity?" he exclaimed. "You're cutting a dance with your own father. I never heard of such a thing."
She sprang up.
"Oh, Papa!" she cried, "I am sorry."
She slipped her arm through his, and as they moved away together I heard her say, with what seemed unnecessary distinctness, "We were talking Art, you know, and that's so dreadfully absorbing."
* * * * *
"It is a matter of surprise in more than one well-appointed household that the best efforts of a skillful chef can produce nothing more acceptable than
——'s Tomato Soup.."—Advt.
* * * * *
From a review of a book by Mr. Harold Russell:—
"The horrible chigoes, or 'jiggers,' are of the flea family, and with them we must leave Mr. Russell."—Yorkshire Post.
Is this kind?
* * * * *
"The three greatest pets in the Darwin district are said to be the white ant—which sometimes grows to the size of a bee—the marsh fly, and the great Darwin mosquito."
Our white ant "Fifi" has just bitten through her collar and run away. If found wandering, please return.
* * * * *
* * * * *
* * * * *
NOVELIST AND MILLIONAIRE.
Fortified by the inspiring example of Mr. Upton Sinclair, who recently picketed the offices of the Standard Oil Company in New York with a view to bringing pressure to bear on Mr. John Rockefeller, Junr., Mr. Alf. Abel, the famous Manx novelist, has adopted similar measures to bring Mr. Andrew Carnegie to reason. The trouble is of long standing and has grown out of the movement inaugurated by Mr. Abel to induce municipalities and local authorities to refuse the gifts of Free Libraries. Such benefactions, as Mr. Abel has most conclusively shown, while nominally intended to educate the masses, in reality have the result of restricting the sale and circulation of those works of fiction which conduce most effectively to the culture, the intellectual emancipation and the moral uplift of the nation. Worse still, they reduce the legitimate emoluments which the authors of these noble works derive from their beneficent labours. Owing to this pernicious system the number of copies sold of Mr. Abel's last work only readied 250,000 copies, instead of 400,000, as he and his publisher, Mr. Goethemann, confidently expected. Mr. Abel has memorialised the Prime Minister, but without effect, and at last determined to take decisive action himself. Accordingly, having chartered a swift steamer manned by Manx fishermen, and carrying 500 volunteers wearing the national uniform, Mr. Abel set out from Douglas (I. of M.) on Wednesday last and, landing in the neighbourhood of Dornoch on Friday night, advanced early next morning on Skibo Castle, the seat of Mr. Carnegie.
The famous millionaire, who is an early riser, was playing the organ in the central hall of the Castle when he was apprised of the approach of the raiders by one of his retinue, and at once determined to organise a stubborn resistance. The portcullis was let down, the moat filled to its utmost capacity, while Winchester rifles were served out to the four butlers, sixteen footmen, seven chauffeurs and twenty-four gardeners who compose the staff. The organist was instructed to play martial music to hearten the defenders, while Mr. Carnegie took up his position in the bomb-proof gazebo which is so prominent a feature in the Sutherland landscape. Meantime Mr. Abel, advancing at the head of his volunteers, had taken cover behind an Araucaria and addressed an ultimatum to Mr. Carnegie through a megaphone. It was to the effect that unless he promised to forbid the supply of Mr. Abel's novels to his Free Libraries, Mr. Abel would—
(1) Let loose 1,000 Manx cats in Mr. Carnegie's preserves;
(2) Permanently establish himself in the neighbourhood of Skibo and follow Mr. Carnegie about wherever he went, in Elizabethan costume;
(3) Make Mr. Carnegie the villain of his next novel;
(4) Give free recitations from his works in Dornoch and the neighbourhood.
The situation was extremely critical when Mr. Jenery Hames, the illustrious American novelist, who was staying with Mr. Carnegie, gallantly offered his services as a mediator, and, sallying forth under a flag of truce, entered into negotiations with Mr. Abel. After a protracted interview a via media was reached by which, while Mr. Carnegie undertook to exclude Mr. Abel's works from his Free Libraries, Mr. Abel agreed to withdraw his threat of coming to reside in Sutherlandshire on the understanding that Mr. Jenery Hames contributed a six-column appreciation of Mr. Abel's works to The Times, provided that the demands of golf on the best pages of that journal permitted it. Subsequently Mr. Carnegie entertained the Manx Volunteers at a sumptuous dejeuner, at which Mr. Hames proposed the health of Mr. Abel and Mr. Abel fell on the neck of Mr. Hames. No other casualties occurred to mar the peaceful termination of what might have proved an international catastrophe.
* * * * *
"Its author could no longer look forward with 3/8 his old hope or confidence to a continued successful resistance to Home Rule."
"Half his old hope" a less meticulous speaker would have said.
* * * * *
"The defendants were ordered to pay the costs, but the Chairman (Mr. T. J. Price) remarked that if such breeches were repeated the magistrates would have to adopt sterner measures."—South Wales Daily News.
We hope this will be a warning to our nuts.
* * * * *
Dearest Daphne,—I've been doing Easter with the Clackmannans and helping them with an idea they're carrying out. There's a little coast town on their Southshire property (Shrimpington it's been called up to now), and they're turning it into a seaside place that people can go to! Isn't that dilly? Of course, our coasts quite bristle with seaside towns, but they're places people can't go to because everybody goes there. And so the Clackmannans are going to supply a long-felt want, as old-fashioned people say, and give us a ville de bains of our very very own. Its name is to be changed from Shrimpington to Week-End-on-Sea. It has no railway station, which, of course, is a great merit; it's not to have any big blatant hotels or pensions—nothing but charming bungalow-cottages; there'll be no pier, no band, none of those banal winter-gardens and impossible pleasure palaces that ces autres delight in, and, of course, none of those immensely fearful concert parties and pierrots. But we shall have a troupe of mermen and mermaids who will do classic gambols by the marge of the sea and play on pipes or shells or whatever it is that sea-creatures play on. There'll be bathing parties, when the last syllable of the last word in bathing-kit will be seen; paddling parties, in carefully thought out toilettes pour marcher dans l'eau, and shell-gathering parties. Stella Clackmannan, who has such an active brain that everyone's quite anxious about her, is going to have tons of really pretty shells laid along a part of the beach (above high water), and people will go shell-gathering en habit coquilleux.
The only feature Week-End-on-Sea will have in common with other seaside places is a parade. At first Stella wouldn't hear of having one; but Norty told her there's "a deep-seated primal instinct in human nature for sitting on benches and watching one's fellow-creatures walk up and down, and it would not be wise to thwart this instinct." He's an enormously clever boy, and, when it was put to her like that, Stella gave in. So there's to be a parade on the sea front, and Ray Rymington, whose sense of the beautiful is absolutely, will see after it. There'll be none of those ghastly glass shelters, but just darling Sheraton benches at intervals, and the paraders will be carefully censored. Nobody who hasn't something of a profile will be allowed to walk up and down—and no woman who takes more than 4's in slices or who's wearing a last year's sleeve. So you see, dearest, it will be quite a cachet, both of person and style, to be seen walking on the parade at our watering-place. The Bullyon-Boundermere woman met Stella in town the other day and said, "My dear duchess, how can we thank you for at last giving us a really classy seaside place?" "What a wonderful word, Mrs. Boundermere!" answered Stella. "'Classy'! Do tell me what it means!"
Oh, my best one! Such a simply sumptuous storyette for you! Even in your remote fastnesses you must have heard of young Ivan Rowdidowsky, the very very latest thing in Russian composer-pianists. Playing the piano with his elbows, dressed in scarlet velvet, and fuller of "inner meanings" than anyone (even from Russia) ever was before, he captured London at the beginning of the Little Season, and his vogue has been colossal. He gave twelve elbow-recitals of his own compositions at Emperor's Hall. Those fearsome interviewers fairly mobbed him, and he told them, in the prettiest broken English, that "piano playing with the hands suited well enough the pale-blooded law-abiding people of yesterday, but that the full-pulsing stormy emotions of to-day could only be adequately expressed by the elbows!" Quite myriads of people made him write, "Your affectionate friend, Ivan Rowdidowsky," in their autograph-books, till at last he had cramp in the hand and Sir William Kiddem had to be called in. There were reassuring bulletins telling the public that they needn't be alarmed about their favourite, as cramp in the band is rarely fatal and does not affect the elbows, and that, if M. Rowdidowsky stopped writing in autograph-books for a day or two, he'd be quite his wonderful self again.
Popsy, Lady Ramsgate, has been folle de lui from the first, and at Easter she'd a big party for him down at "Popsy's Pleasaunce," her place in Sussex, and then and there announced that she was engaged to him, and that after her marriage she would drop the Ramsgate title and be known by "her Ivan's beautiful Slavonic name!" People were very nice to her about it and didn't laugh more than they could help, and all went cheerily, Rowdidowsky in his scarlet velvet playing to them with his elbows every evening; and then one fatal morning (as novelists say) Popsy picked up a letter that her Ivan had dropped from his pocket. It was addressed outside to "M. Rowdidowsky," and this is an extract from what she read inside: "I was at your show at Emperor's Hall the other day and thought I should have split my skin at the way the silly jossers all round me were carrying on, and at the thought that it was my pal, good old Bert Smith of Camberwell, perched up on the platform in red velvet togs pounding away on the old piano with his elbows like a good 'un. I put my hands over my face to prevent myself from bursting out, and the woman next to me shoved a silver bottle under my nose and gurgled into my ear, 'You've an artist-soul! I felt just as you do when I first heard this divine Rowdidowsky!' The silly geeser! Go it, old son! More power to your elbows! And don't forget, when you've made your pile, that your old pal, Joe, was part-author of the idea and helped you to work it out!"
Popsy, poor old dear, is having the Gurra-Gurra treatment for nervous collapse. Lord and Lady Ramsgate are enormously relieved at the turn things have taken; and their boy Pegwell said to me yesterday, "I'm jolly glad it's all off! Fancy how decomposed it would have been to have Rumtidumsky, or whatever his name was, for a step-grandfather!"
Ever thine, Blanche.
* * * * *
* * * * *
OUR OVERBRED RACERS.
* * * * *
PETER, A PEKINESE PUPPY.
Our Peter, who's famed as an eater of things, Is a miniature dragon without any wings. He can gallop or trot, he can amble or jog, But he flies like a flash when he's after his prog: And the slaves who adore him, whatever his mood, Say that nothing is fleeter Than Peter the eater, Than Peter pursuing his food.
He considers the garden his absolute own: It's the place where a digger can bury a bone. Then he tests his pin-teeth on a pansy or rose, Spreading ruin and petals wherever he goes; And his mistress declares, when he's nibbled for hours, That nothing is sweeter Than Peter the eater, The resolute eater of flowers.
Having finished his dinner he wheedles the cook, Picks a coal from the scuttle or tackles a book, Or devotes all his strength to a slipper or mat, To the gnawing of this and the tearing of that: Faute de mieux takes a dress; and his mistress asserts That there's nothing to beat her Like Peter the eater, Attached by his teeth to her skirts.
But at last he has supped, and the moment is come When, his stretchable tum being tight as a drum, He is meek and submissive, who once was so proud, And he creeps to his basket and slumbers aloud. And his mistress proclaims, as she tucks up his shawl, That nothing is neater Than Peter the eater, Than Peter curled up in a ball, Asleep and digesting it all.
R. C. L.
* * * * *
A BARGAIN IN FASHIONS.
Whatever may chance in the coming season Regarding the fashions in women's wear, I should like to remark that I see no reason For treating the thing like a German scare; Rather let us, the oppressed, restricted, Assert ourselves as the women do; It's their turn, dash it! to feel afflicted By seeing us flaunting a craze or two.
It's more than time their monopoly ceases; Excepting the vote, I dare assert We deny them none of their wild caprices, Though I own we jibbed at the harem skirt; We were wrong; we ought to have let them wear it; Free will in dress is a sacred right; But we should be equally keen to declare it With them who make it their chief delight.
We must come to terms with our female betters, Seeing that summer will soon be nigh; If they would be rid of the skirt that fetters, They might free us from the collar and tie; It's neck or nothing! I ask you whether We can't be conspicuous now and then; I think there challenges go together:— Trousers for women!—Low necks for men!
* * * * *
THE COMPETITION SPIRIT.
About six weeks ago a Canadian gentleman named Smith arrived in the Old Country (England). He knew a man who knew a man who knew a man ... and so on for a bit ... who know a man who knew a man who knew me. Letters passed; negotiations ensued; and about a week after he had first set foot in the Mother City (London) Smith and I met at my Club for lunch.
I may confess now that I was nervous. I think I expected a man in a brown shirt and leggings, who would ask me to put it "right there," and tell me I was "some Englishman." However, he turned out to be exactly like anybody else in London. Whether he found me exactly like anybody else in Canada, I don't know. Anyway, we had a very pleasant lunch, and arranged to play golf together on the next day.
Whatever else is true of Canada there can be no doubt that it turns out delightful golfers. Smith proved to be just the best golfer I had ever met, being, in fact, when at the top of his form, almost exactly as good as I was. Hole after hole we halved in a mechanical eight. If by means of a raking drive and four perfect brassies at the sixth he managed to get one up for a moment, then at the short seventh a screaming iron and three consummate approaches would make me square again. Occasionally he would, by superhuman play, do a hole in bogey; but only to crack at the next, and leave me, at the edge of the green, to play "one off eleven." It was, in fact, a ding-dong struggle all the way; and for his one-hole victory in the morning I had my revenge with a one-hole victory in the afternoon.
By the end of a month we must have played a dozen rounds of this nature. I always had a feeling that I was really a better golfer than he, and this made me friendly towards his game. I would concede him short putts which I should have had no difficulty in missing myself; if he lost his ball I would beg him to drop another and go on with the hole; if he got into a bad place in a bunker I would assure him it was ground under repair. He was just as friendly in refusing to take these advantages, just as pleasant in offering similar indulgences to me. I thought at first it was part of his sporting way, but it turned out that (absurdly enough) he also was convinced that he was really the better golfer of the two, and could afford these amenities.
One day he announced that he was going back to Canada.
"We must have a last game," he said, "and this one must be decisive."
"For the championship of the Empire," I agreed. "Let's buy a little cup and play for it. I've never won anything at golf yet, and I should love to see a little cup on the dinner-table every night."
"You can't come to dinner in Canada every night," he pointed out. "It would be so expensive for you."
Well, the cup was bought, engraved "The Empire Challenge Cup," and played for last Monday.
"This," said Smith, "is a serious game, and we must play all out. No giving away anything, no waiving the rules. The Empire is at stake. The effeteness of the Mother Country is about to be put to the proof. Proceed."
It wasn't the most pleasant of our games. The spirit of the Cup hung over it and depressed us. At the third hole I had an eighteen-inch putt for a half. "That's all right," said Smith forgetfully, and then added, "perhaps you'd better put it in, though." Of course I missed. On the fifth green he bent down to brush away a leaf. "That's illegal," I said sharply, "you must pick it up; you mayn't brush it away," and after a fierce argument on the point he putted hastily—and badly. At the eighteenth tee we were all square and hardly on speaking terms. The fate of the Mother Country depended upon the result of this hole.
I drove a long one, the longest of the day, slightly hooked.
"Good shot," said Smith with an effort. He pressed and foozled badly. I tried not to look pleased.
We found his ball in a thick clump of heather. With a grim look on his face, he took out his niblick....
I stayed by him and helped him count up to eight.
"Where's your ball?" he growled.
"A long way on," I said reproachfully. "I wish you'd hurry up. The poor thing will be getting cold."
He got to work again. We had another count together up to fifteen. Sometimes there would be a gleam of white at the top of the heather for a moment and then it would fade away.
"How many?" I asked some minutes later.
"About thirty. But I don't care, I'm going to get the little beast into the hole if it takes me all night." He went on hacking.
I had lost interest in the performance, for the Cup was mine, but I did admire his Colonial grit.
"Got it," he cried suddenly, and the ball sailed out on to the pretty. Another shot put him level with me.
"Thirty-two?" I asked.
"About," he said coldly.
I began to look for my ball. It had got tired of waiting and had hidden itself. Smith joined gloomily in the search.
"This is absurd," I said after three or four minutes.
"By Jove!" said Smith, suddenly brightening up. "If your ball's lost I win after all."
"Nonsense; you've given the hole up," I protested. "You don't know how many you've played. According to the rules if I ask you how many, and you give wrong information——"
"It's thirty-five," he said promptly.
"I don't believe you counted."
"Call it forty-five then. There's nothing to prevent my calling it more than it really is. If it was really only forty, then I'm counting five occasions when the ball rolled over as I was addressing it. That's very generous of me. Actually I'm doubtful if the ball did roll over five times, but I say it did in order to be on the safe side." He looked at his watch. "And if you don't find your ball in thirty seconds you lose the hole."
It was ingenious, but the Mother Country can be ingenious too.
"How many have you played exactly?" I asked. "Be careful."
"Forty-five," he said. "Exactly."
"Right." I took my niblick and swung at the heather. "Bother," I said. "Missed it. Two."
"Hallo! Have you found it?"
"I have. It's somewhere in this field. There's no rule which insists that you shall hit the ball, or even that you shall hit near the ball, or even that you shall see the ball when you hit at it. Lots of old gentlemen shut their eyes and miss the sphere. I've missed. In five minutes I shall miss again."
"But what's the point?"
"The point, dear friend," I smiled, "is that after each stroke one is allowed five minutes in which to find the ball. I have forty-three strokes in hand; that gives me three hours and thirty-five minutes in which to look for it. At regular intervals of five minutes I shall swing my club and probably miss. It's four-thirty now; at eight o'clock, unless I find my ball before, I shall be playing the like. And if you are a sportsman," I added, "you will bring me out some tea in half-an-hour."
At six-thirty I was still looking—and swinging. Smith then came to terms and agreed to share the cup with me for the first year. He goes back to Canada to-morrow, and will spread the good news there that the Old Country can still hold its own in resource, determination and staying power. But next year we are going to play friendly golf again.
A. A. M.
* * * * *
* * * * *
It may not be generally known that, on very still nights, in the small hours, when there are no taxis rushing past and no late revellers returning home, it is possible, by leaning against a pillar-box and placing one's ear close to the opening, to hear the letters converse. Provided, of course, that one has a pure soul, as I have. Otherwise there is no sound.
Chancing to be out late the other night in a very quiet neighbourhood, I suddenly noticed a pillar-box and was reminded that I had a letter to post. I dropped it in and held my breath as I listened.
"Here's another!" said a voice. "Who are you, pray?"
"I'm an acceptance with thanks," said my letter.
"What do you accept?" another voice asked.
"An invitation to dinner," said my letter, with a touch of swank.
"Pooh!" said the other. "Only that."
"It's at a house in Kensington," said my letter rather haughtily.
"Well, I'm an acceptance of an invitation to a dance at a duchess's," was the reply, and my poor letter said no more.
Then all the others began to chatter,
"I contain news of a death," said one.
"I bring news of a legacy," said another.
"I demand the payment of a debt," said a sharp metallic voice.
"I decline an offer of marriage," said a fourth, rather wistfully.
"I've got a cheque inside," said a fifth with a swagger.
"I convey the sack," said a sixth in triumph.
"What do you think I am?" another inquired. "You shall have six guesses."
"Give us a clue," said a voice.
"Very well. I'm a foolscap envelope."
Then the guessing began.
One said a writ.
Another said an income-tax demand.
But no one could guess it.
"I'm a poem for a paper," said the foolscap letter at last.
"Are you good?" asked a voice.
"Not good enough, I'm afraid," said the poem. "In fact I've been out and back again seven times already."
"Guess what I am," said a sentimental murmur.
"Any one could guess that," was the gruff reply. "You're a love-letter."
"Quite right," said the sentimental murmur. "But how clever of you!"
"Well," said another, "you're not the only love-letter here. I'm a love-letter too."
"How do you begin?" asked the first.
"I begin, 'My Darling,'" said the second love-letter.
"That's nothing," said the first; "I begin, 'My Ownest Own.'"
"I don't think much of either of those beginnings," said a new voice. "I begin, 'Most Beautiful.'"
"You're from a man, I suppose?" said the second love-letter.
"Yes, I am," said the new one. "Aren't you?"
"No, I'm from a woman," said the second. "I'll admit your beginning's rather good. But how do you end?"
"I end with 'A million kisses,'" said the new one.
"Ah, I've got you there!" said the second. "I end with 'For ever and ever yours.'"
"That's not bad," said the second, "but my ending is pretty good in its way. I end like this, 'To-morrow will be Heaven once more, for then we meet again.'"
"Oh, do stop all this love talk!" said the gruff letter, when I was conscious of a hand on my arm and a lantern in my face.
"Here," said the authoritative tones of the law, "I think you've been leaning against this pillar-box long enough. If you can't walk I'll help you home."
Thus does metallic prose invade the delicate realms of supernature.
* * * * *
"Captain Amilcar Magalhaes, chief of the Brazilian Mission, accompanying Mr. Roosevelt, says the ex-President has discovered a tribe of savages named Panhates. The total bag collected on the expedition amounts to about 2,000 specimens.—Reuter."
Sussex Daily News.
The flower of the tribe, no doubt.
* * * * *
* * * * *
WATER IS BEST.
(General Villa, who is a teetotaler, has denounced General Huerta as an old drunkard.)
When sons of Bacchus Fiercely attack us, Lauding the majesty of Alcohol, And, spite of Horsley, Indulge quite coarsely In panegyrics of dry Monopole—
For consolation In our vexation The news from Mexico we gladly hail, Learning how Villa Shuns Manzanilla And only slakes his thirst with Adam's ale.
No wonder Wilson The beer of Pilsen Regards as liquid death within the pot, When even a bandit Can't stick or stand it, And gibes at Huerta as an aged sot!
Let senile soakers And jaded jokers Their bottle-noses still incarnadine, But we, with Villa, Prefer Vanilla Or Sarsaparilla to the choicest wine.
Port, brandy, sherry Make idiots merry— They're little use when civil wars begin; Men who can slaughter Upon barley-water Are in the long run always bound to win.
* * * * *
The following letter may have been noticed in the columns of The Daily Eye some weeks ago:—
The Lilac Grove, Moonvale Park, S.E.
Sir,—On looking out of my bedroom window this morning at 6 o'clock I observed a cuckoo eating ripe strawberries in the garden next but one to mine. It occurs to me that for a cuckoo to be in a suburban garden eating ripe strawberries so early in the year as April 15 is somewhat unusual. Can you tell me whether this has ever been known before?
Yours etc., Augustus Quest.
We understand that the following further letter has been sent to the Editor of The Daily Eye by the writer of the above, but has not appeared in print:—
Sir,—Some days ago I sent you a letter in which I mentioned that on April 15th a cuckoo was seen eating ripe strawberries in the garden next but one to mine, and asking whether you could tell me if anything of the kind had been known before. But up to the present I have received no reply. The only result of my letter has been the receipt of a number of circulars announcing works on the subjects of nature study and fruit culture. From a publisher's announcement which has been sent to me, giving specimen pages from "How to Tell Our Feathered Friends at a Glance," I discover that the bird I saw in my neighbour's garden could not possibly have been a cuckoo, its body being altogether too small. And in conversation with my neighbour in the train this morning I learnt that his garden does not contain strawberries; the bird, whatever it was, must therefore have been eating something else.
Yours, etc., Augustus Quest.
* * * * *
* * * * *
ESSENCE OF PARLIAMENT.
(Extracted from the Diary of Toby, M.P.)
House of Commons, Monday, April 27.—In accordance with arrangements made last week, House met to-day with primary intention on part of Opposition to place Premier once more on the rack constructed of Questions relating to "the Plot" for over-aweing peaceful law-abiding Ulster. Startling things have happened since the Friday afternoon when Members went off for well-earned week-end holiday. There had actually been a plot in Ulster, a real one, not compact of circumstantial imaginings—a skilfully planned scheme successfully carried out in the dead of the night, when honest citizens, including the police and the military, were sound asleep. Telegraphic and telephonic communications were ruthlessly cut; cordons of armed men were drawn round selected spots. Thus surrounded and protected the conspirators landed large quantities of rifles and ammunition, distributing them through the country by relays of motor-cars.
Something like a "plot" this, dismissing into ignominious shade report of bloodthirsty intentions of First Lord of the Admiralty and the Ex-Secretary of State for War.
Interest in the old plot being thus suddenly, dramatically cooled by vigorous birth and development of the young 'un, it might reasonably have been expected that elaborate preparations for fanning it would be dropped, and House would straightway get to business on the genuine thing. Not a bit of it. Hon. Members who had in interests of the nation spent ingenuity and energy in compiling ninety-four Questions addressed to Prime Minister not to be denied pleasure of putting them.
As usual in similar circumstances not much change got out of Asquith. Answered sometimes by monosyllable; never exceeded a score of words. Yet none could complain of incompleteness of reply. Performance occupied full period allotted to Questions. When hand of clock pointed to quarter-to-three, the time-limit of intelligent curiosity, thronged House drew itself together, awaiting next move with breathless interest. How would the Government take this midnight outbreak of armed and disciplined men?
Lying down? or standing up sternly to grapple with it in their capacity as custodians and champions of established law? Inquiry voiced from Ministerial side, where Members are growing increasingly impatient with benevolent neutrality. Premier's reply brief but weighty.
"In view of this grave and unprecedented outrage," he said, "the House may be assured that His Majesty's Government will take without delay appropriate steps to vindicate the authority of the law and to protect officers and servants of the King and His Majesty's subjects in the exercise of their duties and in the enjoyment of their legal rights."
Cheer after cheer from excited Ministerialists punctuated the ominous sentences. There was no counter-demonstration from the Opposition.
Business done.—Lords, abandoning rumoured intention of forcing crisis by throwing out Army Bill on Second Reading, passed the stage without debate. In the Commons Plural Voting Bill read a second time.
Tuesday.—In crowded House two nights' debate opened on motion by Son Austen demanding Judicial Inquiry into the "Plot." Circumstances peculiar. Attack on Government planned last week. Since then what is called "a great Coup," as distinct from an unnamable "Plot," startled the world and upset things generally. Austen, above all things systematic and orderly, insists on limiting discussion to the "Plot." The wily Winston equally determined, on chatting about the "Coup."
Pretty play, watched with keen interest by critical audience. Austen's speech pleasantly differed from some familiar of late from same quarter. Luminous, lucid, temperate yet firm, it did much to uplift debate with tone of late lamentably lacking.
Winston, whilst once more replying in detail to insinuations and allegations upon which existence of the "Plot" is based, preferred to talk about the "Coup." This naturally goaded Opposition into recriminatory retort. Incidentally it led to exhibition of fine generosity and good feeling, innate in House of Commons, peculiarly welcome just now.
Winston was drawing vivid picture of great Conservative Party "committed by its Leaders to a policy of armed violence, to tampering with the discipline of the Army and Navy, to overpowering the police, coastguards and Customs officials, to smuggling arms by moonlight."
From centre of Opposition Camp rang the cry, "Shall we let him go on?" Then came the noble inspiring answer from Winterton—
"Oh yes, let him go on."
So they did, right on to the end, reached by earnest appeal for peaceful settlement of a question which between the varied circumstance of "Plot" and "Coup" has already brought Ulster within touch of civil war.
Business done.—Motion made from Front Opposition Bench for Judicial Inquiry into the "Plot." Following upon sound and fury there may be observed indescribable, but unmistakable tendency towards peace.
Wednesday.—When, as happened in respect of three speeches, debate on motion for Judicial Inquiry turned aside to deal with critical situation in Ireland, it rose to heights commensurate with the national interests involved. Yesterday Winston, towards close of speech particularly exasperating to Opposition, suddenly sheathed his sword and waved the olive branch. The happy accident of Prince Arthur's chancing to resume debate this afternoon gave it at outset the lofty tone echoed and preserved by Carson and the Premier. As the latter said, it was impossible for anyone to listen to concluding passage of Prince Arthur's speech without liveliest emotion. Finely conceived, its message was conveyed in language whose eloquence had the charm of simplicity and sincerity. Carson's yearning for a really united Ireland was greeted with sympathetic cheers. The Premier's declaration that he "had never closed the door against a peaceful solution of the problem, and until compelled by absolute force of circumstance will never do so," gave fresh assurance of a happy issue of what twenty-four hours earlier seemed hopeless dilemma.
Business done.—Austen Chamberlain's motion negatived by a majority of 80 in House of 608 Members.
Thursday.—Amid turmoil of Parliamentary week pleasant to look in on Wedgwood Benn in snug little den arranged for himself off quiet staircase leading from Central Lobby. When last week he mounted to roof of Westminster Hall, the way led for a quorum of Members by that youthful athlete Sir Thomas Roe (aeat. 80), he came upon party of grubs which, obedient to family tradition that goes back for centuries, had eaten into it. Conveyed choice specimens to his room and carefully provided for their comfort.
His favourite is the Xestobium tesselatum, which boasts that at least 35 per cent. of the damage to historic roof stands to its credit. Turns out to be lively, intelligent creature. Wedgwood, always thoughtful of other people's tastes, brought down with him from the roof (in Thomas Roe's pocket) a few chips. One of these he placed in a saucer borrowed from the tea room. Here the grub, which for brevity we will call X., lives. In incredibly short time X. burrowed through the wood, its bright intelligent eyes gleaming out on the other side, as who should say, "Here I am again."
Expects in time to be able to make it converse. Busy teaching it difference between a coup and a plot. Hasn't grasped it yet, its mother tongue being Norman-French. But prospect promising.
Business done.—In Committee of Supply on Post Office Vote.
* * * * *
Johnny Rigg, the ranger, He walked in Wood-o'-Lea And happened on a stranger— A nut-brown maid was she; His heart it did rejoice of her, As you may recognise; The wind was in the voice of her, The stars were in her eyes.
Johnny Rigg, the ranger, He followed far away, He didn't know the danger That lurks at time o' may; She drew him with the smiles of her, She left him with a laugh, Bewildered with the wiles of her, And moon-struck as a calf.
Johnny Rigg, the ranger, The muckle oaf was he; He followed of a stranger; She led him bonnily; The fox he marked the track of him And watched him through the segs; The tinkers ran a-back of him And stole his pheasant eggs!
Now, all you jolly rangers, When nesting-time is on, Don't go to follow strangers, Nut-brown nor white as swan; Beware of 'em, be wise of 'em, For sooth it is that's said: When stars get in the eyes of 'em The moon gets in your head.
* * * * *
In a moment of expansion, Sheila Armitage confided in me that she has worked it out, and that we are third cousins twice removed. I accept her word for this, because I have to work at other things, getting a living and so forth, while her sole occupation is to acquire a flair as a hostess, week-ends being her speciality.
I hope that I am not unkind to Sheila when I say that she seems to me more attractive when she is either in trouble or ill-health; in her more joyous moods I simply do not belong—and do not want to belong—to her life. A friend of mine once called her a social pirate, and there is no doubt that her method of collecting the people whom she wants is to besiege them until they eventually surrender. Why, however, Bobbie Outram is always asked to her smartest week-ends was a conundrum to me until I met her magnificently convalescing after influenza at Folkestone. For I know Bobbie, and I would run a mile or two any day to avoid him.
Sheila was in a bath-chair, but looked radiantly well, and at once gave me a list of her latest victims.
"They sound all right," I said. "But will Bobbie Outram like them?"
At this she gave a little gurgling laugh and put two fingers on my arm.
"Of course you know Bobbie. I forgot."
"I kicked him at school, I loathed him at Cambridge, and let him know it, and he is still all over me. He brags about you whenever he sees me before I see him."
"He is the greatest success I have ever had," she declared.
"Then Heaven help you," I replied.
"You don't understand; you think it's quite easy to collect——"
"People tell me you tried to found a salon, but only got as far as a Zoo," I interrupted.
For an instant she frowned, then she gurgled again.
"Brenda Thornton told you that," she protested. "It's just her jealousy. As a fact I'm quite good at getting only the right people. Fliers have rather had their day, though they are still useful, and I like an explorer or two for week-ends, though the best kind seems to be always exploring. But Brenda was getting ahead of me—I don't mind confessing that to you—until I thought of Bobbie Outram. He's my one stroke of genius; even David admits that."
"I never thought much of your husband's taste," I said brutally, and then, "in men," I added gently, as she was recovering from influenza.
She smiled again and continued:
"There is one thing that is indispensable to a successful week-end."
"It can't be Bobby Outram," I declared.
"It is, or somebody like him; but he is easily the best. Bobbie is my point of contact."
"He used often to be my boot's," I growled.
"The more you can fuse your guests the better," she went on, as if she were giving a lecture. "Everyone knows that; it's the A B C of entertaining; but they must have something to agree about—a sort of rallying point. And I was the first hostess to discover that no party is complete unless you have someone in it whom all the others can most cordially abuse."
"So that is Bobbie's metier?" I said.
"The help that man has been to me on wet Sundays is beyond belief," she replied ecstatically; "and Brenda Thornton is absolutely furious."
"I never expected to be sorry for Outram, but——"
"My dear Jack, you needn't worry about Bobbie. He knows all right. I told him, and he enjoys it. He's really rather a dear."
But at this my gorge rose. "At any rate," I said, "he's going to Mrs. Thornton's from next Friday to Tuesday; he told me so yesterday."
"The little worm," said Sheila.
"'Worm' is the word," I said; and as we remained to abuse Bobbie for another ten minutes with much mutual goodwill I suppose he had once more justified his existence by a successful feat of "fusing."
* * * * *
* * * * *
AT THE PLAY.
"The Clever Ones."
I do wish I had been one of the clever ones, for they seemed to be in Mr. Sutro's confidence and able to penetrate the obscurity of his motives. At first even I could understand something of the scheme, which ran (as I thought) like this:—Wilfrid Callender, a rich bachelor of Harrow and Oxford, has a socialist friend, David Effick, at whose meetings he happens to have encountered a Girton girl, Doris Marrable (pretty daughter of a hop-merchant in affluent circumstances), who affects revolutionary ideals. In order to win the approval of this lady he represents himself as an anarchist plumber, earning five pounds a week; and to the horror of her family they become affianced. Having no sort of intention of keeping up the imposture, even if he could, and being fearful lest the exposure of his wealth and education would, in her present state, alienate her affections, he proposes by practical demonstration to disgust her with the mode of life which she designs to lead. In collusion with Effick he arranges that he shall invite Doris to take tea at his friend's attic in Bethnal Green, and reveal to her the sordid conditions of existence in that quarter.
So far good, and the delightful first Act was rich in promise. Then came the complexities. There was another girl, Rose Effick (a rich relation of the socialist), to whom Callender should have been engaged but for a misunderstanding. It is her business to divert him back to his old love. You would naturally say that, if it is Callender's object to disgust Doris with the life of the people, so that she may change her mind and take him for what he actually is, it will be Rose's object, since her aim is the frustration of this design, to make Bethnal Green as attractive as possible, so that Doris will refuse to sacrifice her ideals when she learns the truth about Callender. Yet it looks as if Rose is playing Callender's game and not her own. At first, it is true, she tries to make the attic more supportable; imparts a pleasant flavour to the meal; dismisses the hurdy-gurdies that Callender has chartered from the Universal Provider. But subsequently she goes slumming with Doris to such good purpose that the latter turns sick of the whole thing. Now, you will say, Callender's way is clear; he will reveal his identity and Doris will be prepared to tolerate his wealth. On the contrary, Mr. Sutko is not to be defeated by his own machinations; he means to bring Callender and Rose together; so he just takes and throws them into one another's arms and consigns Doris to an old admirer whom we have never so much as set eyes on.
I hope I am more lucid than I seem to myself to be—more lucid, anyhow, than Mr. Sutro, who has threatened to damage an excellent scheme by defiance of the first law of drama, even of farce, namely, that the audience should be permitted to know what the author is after. Nor, again—though of course he was not asking to be taken seriously—was he very particular about the probability of some of his characters. Doris, for instance, was required to be too many things at once. A bluestocking and a sansculotte (not a very usual combination), she was also a woman of the very latest cry in frocks. Miss Nina Sevening looked pretty and wore them well, but beyond this she gave us very little help. Rose, too (charmingly played by Miss Marie Loehr), who disguised herself as a dweller in Bethnal Green by the simple expedient of a duster pinned over her shoulders—how could Mr. Sutro expect her dainty skirt and smart white shoes to escape the eye of this "clever" female, her rival?
All the same, he gave us much matter for mirth, though the Second Act, which promised so well, was dragged out by interminable trivialities over the preparations for tea. I wish that authors and actors would understand how depressing it often is when people on the stage will insist on keeping things bright and brisk with domestic details.
As for the wit of "the clever ones"—Doris and her mother and her aunt—I don't know how the first-nighters took it, but when I was there a great deal of it (when audible) was over the heads of the audience. They understood all right the humour of things when somebody (not a clever one) said "Damn," but I wonder how many of them appreciated the symbolic force of the term epicier, or grasped the purport of Quem deus vult perdere prius dementat.
Mr. Sutro owed much to the excellence of his cast. Mr. Gerald du Maurier was, of course, inimitable; but there were also Miss Florence Haydon, Miss Mary Brough and Mr. Edmund Gwenn, all delightful in their own specialised veins of humour—the plaintive, the rich, the uproarious. But Mr. Holman Clark had not enough scope for his unique qualities.
I hear rumours of a revision, and hope that this means that I shall receive an invitation to renew a most delightful evening. For my only real criticism is that Mr. Sutro thought me more intelligent than I actually am—an error that I always encourage.
* * * * *
Account Rendered, a comedy of some promise, but produced with an extraordinary inadequacy in the matter of what the programme called "the decors," has been very quickly withdrawn from the Little Theatre. But its curtain-raiser, Dusk, is to be retained for the revival of Magic.
That is nearly all that I have to say about Mr. Vansittart's "Oriental Fantasy." It deals with a youthful bride who has just been attached to a Persian hareem. In the garden at dusk she finds a young English traveller (who has just told us what a penchant he has for "women, women, women"—he is very insistent about this), and being caught in conversation with him is placed by her lord in a sack and consigned to the deep; but not before she has explained in fluent verse that in the circumstances this abrupt end to her young career has no terrors for her. But for this courageous attitude on her part I should have experienced greater relief when the hero appeared next morning in his pyjamas and indicated that the regrettable incident was a figment of his sleeping brain.
I thought I detected some good lines among the Englishman's remarks (though I did not like his voice), but I prefer to study poetical drama at leisure before attempting to pass any comment on it. I may add that I don't suppose that that engaging actor, Mr. Fred Lewis, has ever previously played the part of a Persian slave with a taste for philosophic recitation; and I hope he never will again, for, frankly, it is not his metier.
* * * * *
The cashier at our Goldstead branch has the misfortune to drop his scoop accidentally when cashing a cheque for his worthy mayor of our select suburb.]
* * * * *
A SPORTING CHANCE.
It is generally in the spring that I begin to notice how big my accounts are growing. I don't know why this should be, unless it is because I haven't paid any during the previous year. At any rate you must take my word for it. I have the accounts here.
Then, again, it is a most remarkable fact that whenever one has bills to pay one finds there are other things to be bought.
A few days ago I discovered that my tailor wanted thirty pounds. I also discovered that I wanted a lighter overcoat and a raincoat. It was a nice problem.
On occasions of great difficulty like this I always consult Edith. Edith might have married me if it hadn't been for Henry. Had she accepted me I should probably have gone in for something. As it is I just go on existing.
The really sad part of the whole affair is that she seems to be very fond of me. Poor girl! We all make mistakes. Anyhow, apart from her momentary mad infatuation for her husband, she is very sensible and I always like to consult her. Married women are so different from single girls; I don't know why, unless it is that they have husbands.
Edith being married, therefore, I rang her up.
"I want," I said, "to consult you financially."
"Certainly," she replied. "What is it?"
"Private. I will come round to tea."
I rang off. I made a little parcel of my accounts and then telephoned for a taxi. In due course I found Edith in the drawing-room.
"Hello," she said. "Is it very bad trouble?"
"We are," I replied, "in deep water. Life is very shallow." Edith laughed; she appreciates wit.
"Well, let me see if I can help."
I sat down. "I want two new coats," I explained. "My tailor is clamouring for thirty pounds, balance of account owing, and," I added significantly, "there are others. It is going to be a big smash."
I sighed heavily as I opened the accounts.
"Here we are," I said. "Tailor, thirty pounds."
I paused and again sighed.
"Hatter, three pounds."
"Three pounds?" Edith looked amazed.
"That's your fault. I bought a new hat for your wedding. Not only was I best, but best-dressed man. I wore beautiful clothes to hide a breaking heart."
Edith smiled. "A beautiful hat was perhaps superfluous," she suggested. "They are worn so little in church. Are there any more?"
"Plenty. Hatter, three pounds; Glover, one pound——"
"Gloves. Need I go through the sad list?"
Edith shook her head. "What's the total?"
"Fifty-four pounds, thirteen and fourpence. I'm hoping to avoid the fourpence in discounts. Total spare cash, twenty pounds, and nearly three months to go before I touch any more."
"Poor boy, have you really only twenty pounds?"
"To throw about in bills, certainly. I shall want all my other money for rent and food and cash payments."
"And are they all clamouring for their money?"
"Yes, the sharks."
Edith lay back in her chair and thought. Suddenly she sat up.
"It can't be helped," she said. "Some of them will have to wait. We'll put their names in a hat and the first three we draw out get paid."
"Yes," I objected, "but what about my overcoats?"
"You must wait."
"No," I said, "I have a better idea." I paused impressively. "I think that we can fairly assume that my creditors are sportsmen. At any rate, they must have the benefit of the doubt. That being so, I put my own name in the hat and draw against them. If I'm in the first three I get my new coats."
"Not a word." I slipped noiselessly out of the room and came back with Henry's Homburg. In less than five minutes everything was prepared.
"Now," said Edith, and she put her hand in the hat. There was a tense silence. "(1) Glover, (2) Tobacconist, (3) Tailor. Bad luck!"
I suppressed a groan. Had I not been sitting down, I should probably have reeled. Then, with an effort, I pulled myself together and smiled.
"Well, that's all right," I said.
"Certainly," I said; "I can pay off the first two."
"But what about the tailor?"
"I have thought of that," said I. "I shall make a distinction in his favour. I shall give him an order for two coats. Surely that means more to him than a mere settlement."
"Yes," said Edith doubtfully. "But of course you'll pay him the money?"
I laughed amazedly. "My dear girl! Either I pay his account just like the other two, or I distinguish him by ordering the new coats. He can't have it both ways. And I couldn't very well pay for the new coats, if that's what you mean, before the old account is settled. You see that?"
"Yes, but still it doesn't seem——"
"Ah, perhaps not," I said, "perhaps not, at first sight. I hardly saw it myself at first. It was really a clever idea of yours."
Edith brightened visibly. "Yes, wasn't it?" she said.
* * * * *
AN EPIC FROM THE PROVINCES.
My dear Charles,—I know that from your superior standpoint as a Londoner you are disposed to regard us as dwellers in a quiet backwater, unswayed by the currents of political strife, but you must not imagine that the stirring events of the past few weeks have failed to leave their mark on the life of our little town. A study of the Press—that faithful mirror of our time—would quickly convince you to the contrary.
The Press, as you know, is here represented by The Signal, a fine old weekly journal of inflexible Unionist views. Well, last week, rising on a wave of enthusiasm, The Signal burst into poetry.
The Gun Runners, it is called, by "Cecilia Merrifield."
The air is still, the night is dark; Along the harbour side There stands a silent, waiting park Of motors, full inside.
That is the opening stanza. You may possibly take exception to the French rhyme, but you cannot fail, Charles, to appreciate the fine spirit of it.
What are they full of? Not of man, But rifles, neatly packed, Taken from out the good ship Fan, Now in the harbour backed.
Strictly speaking, I believe it was not the Fan at all, but that is a small matter.
Brave men have toiled across the sea To bring those rifles in, With helm held stoutly hard-a-lee Amid the breakers' din.
I am not at all certain of the accuracy of the term "hard-a-lee" in this connection, but what a fine sense of stedfast heroism that run of aspirates awakened. "With helm held stoutly hard-a-lee."
Amid the breakers' strident cry They kept their courage cool, For thus, they said, Home Rule must die, We will not have Home Rule!
They 'scaped the vessels of the Fleet By lavish use of paint; The warships had to own defeat With loud and long complaint.
But I cannot give you more than a selection from these noble verses. They continue in the same lofty strain until the good ship is warped safely in port. Then comes another dramatic change of tense. We are again on the quayside.
The night grows darker. All at once An order sharp we hear— The order waited for for months; The motors come in gear.
Yes, I admit that this stanza is open to criticism on more than one count, but I would not have it changed. It bears the impress of red-hot inspiration.
Criticism must always be silent when confronted with that.
The joy of having to obey Lights up each driver's face, And so the motors move away Each to its destined place.
You must not suppose, however, that there was no show of opposition. As you have observed, our poetess believes, on the whole, in sticking closely to historical truth.
The minions of the Government, A weak and craven breed, Stand by, quite helpless to prevent This great heroic deed.
I cannot say I altogether like the tone of the second line, but the fury of enthusiasm, shackled by the exigencies of rhyme, must be forgiven much. Let us continue.
Across the night the motors throb Without the slightest hitch, For this is quite a business job, Though in romance so rich.
Indeed, the whole stupendous plot Is cleverly arranged; Even the motor-cars have got Their number plates all changed.
And so they speed by tortuous ways With Freedom in the van, And patriotism sets ablaze The face of every man.
And so on. Then we come from the general to the particular, and follow the fortunes of a single consignment of arms until it reaches its destination.
And into cellar, pantry, shed, In kitchen, bedroom, loft, The rifles go. Home Rule is dead! The words are uttered oft.
The ammunition, too, is hid In many a secret hole, Each bearer doing as he's bid, Intent upon the goal.
The goal being, I take it, the final death of Home Rule. And now comes the wonderful peroration, in which the whole great adventure is brought to its dignified and eloquent climax. It runs into twenty-three stanzas, of which I will give you the last two without comment—
Freedom is what we labour for, Freedom, it is our right; We have no wish for bloody war, But, if we must, we'll fight.
This is our message sent to him, The dark Dictator's tool— Whatever happens, sink or swim, We Will Not Have Home Rule!
There, Charles! I challenge you to produce anything approaching that from all your boasted London dailies.
* * * * *
"A villager will always tell the difference between a good coin and a bad one, but he cannot tell the difference between a bad coin and a good one."—Pioneer.
He must try to enlarge his mind.
* * * * *
* * * * *
(By Mr. Punch's Staff of Learned Clerks.)
Doubtless you will think, as I did at first, that the title of The Priceless Thing (Stanley Paul) has reference to love or something intense like that. Far from it. Not in fifty guesses would you be likely to discover that its real meaning is an autograph of the late William Shakspeare. One knew already that Mrs. Maud Stepney Rawson could write a vigorous and bustling tale. If I have a complaint to make against The Priceless Thing it is indeed that it suffers from some superfluity of plot, and what approaches a plethora of villains, real or supposed. For this reason it is a story more than usually hard to condense fairly into a paragraph. Briefly, however, the P. T., which was the peculiar treasure of the noble line of Annerslie, lived in a case in the library of their ancestral home. The heroine, Anstice, a relation of the Family, was employed by My Lord as librarian. When I tell you, moreover, that Anstice had run away from her own father on finding that he was an expert manufacturer of literary forgeries, and that her circle of friends included an American blackmailer, a curiosity dealer and a mad Italian who was even better at the forgery business than her own father, you will perceive that the poor girl was likely to find her situation "some job." I could not begin to tell you what really happened. Towards the end there had been so much mystery, and the story had become such a palimpsest of forged signatures, that I myself knew no more than Lord Annerslie in which to believe. But I think we both had the upholding conviction that an affair of this kind was bound to come out all right in the end. Which indeed it did; leaving all the virtuous characters abundantly satisfied, a feeling that will, I am sure, be shared by Mrs. Rawson's maze-loving public.
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Robert Tressall was a house-painter, a Socialist, and very evidently a sincere if somewhat raw thinker. He left to his heirs and assigns a manuscript of many thousand words. It was a novel, oddly entitled The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists (Grant Richards), and fell into the hands of Miss Jessie Pope, who recognised the genius in it (none too strong a word), made some excisions, and now stands sponsor for it to the world. It is a grim story of the unpicturesque and horribly anxious lives of working-folk, specifically of the house-painter and his mates working on a job, elated and satisfied at the beginning, depressed and despondent as the work nears completion with the uncertainty as to how long it will be before another job comes along. Nobody who hadn't lived exclusively in this hard environment could have written with such candour and intensity. Mr. Tressall has avoided altogether the pretentiousness and literary affectation that betrayed, for example, Mr. H. G. Wells' bathchairman, Meeks. The earlier part of the book is better than the later, where the propagandist ousts the chronicler. The exposition of Socialist doctrine is made with a considerable if a crude skill. It is disfigured with certain familiar limitations; the author can recognise no work except that done with the hands; and, whether by unhappy accident of actual circumstance or through defect of temperament, he sees his employers with a disproportionate bitterness that somewhat discounts his indictment, while he views his fellow-workmen from rather a disdainful height. But The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists is a book to be read by any who want an insight into the conditions of working-class life at its average, with its virtues, its vices, its courage, its intolerable piteous anxieties.
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Mr. Grant-Watson is one of the most resolute and intrepid novelists I have met, and his directness of speech may give offence, I fear, to the more reticent of his readers. His story of two white men and Alice Desmond, freed from the social conventions and let loose among the natives on a remote island in the Pacific, proceeds apace and with little regard for the susceptibilities of civilisation and refinement. Familiar but rarely printed language is used when occasion demands; primitive passions stalk naked and unashamed; and when murder is to be done it is done brutally, forthwith and notwithstanding the respective merits, from an heroic point of view, of active and passive agents. Being myself so situated in life that I am never likely to take part in any affair more passionate and drastic than a football match or a law-suit, I found the savage reality, the candour and the unbridled wrath of Where Bonds are Loosed (Duckworth) most welcome by contrast. It gave me pleasure to see a man's annoyance being worked off by the use of fists, knives and bullets, a woman's impatience spending itself in immediate violence, and love and hatred being expressed in sharp and decisive action rather than in deliberate subtleties of conversation. In short, Mr. Watson left me wondering, somewhat fondly, to what lengths I myself might go in my more heated moments if I too were isolated on Kanna Island and beyond the supervision of police-constables and next-door neighbours.
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Once upon a time it was my lot to read a slender volume of Prose Poems, all about stars and rivers and moons and such other things of which prose poetry is made, and written by the most intense and soulful young woman who ever put pen to paper. Which, being perused, I handed to another and elder woman, noted for a great reader of books. And after many days, and after (I suppose) much fruitless toil on the part of my friend, the volume was returned to me with this single comment, "It seems very racily written." I tell you the story, which being true is without point, because I have been wondering what the same critic would have found to say about another slender booklet called The Word of Teregor (Nisbet). My idea of it is that Mr. Guy Ridley, the author, knows and admires his Kipling and delights in his Maeterlinck to such extent that (possibly after a visit to The Blue Bird) he felt himself inspired to sit down and write these Forest-Jungle-Book tales of an earlier world, wherein Man and Beast and all created things were subject to the benevolent rule of Teregor, the Oak-tree; when everything living had a voice and used it, pleasantly enough, in rather mannered prose of the "Yea, Nay and Behold" type; and when all the old legends had yet to be started in ways of which Mr. Ridley gives his own most original explanations. So if you care about this kind of thing (and I had quite a pleasant half-hour from it myself) get it. You will at least find here a book entirely different from anything else in the library-box; printed in type that is a pleasure to the eye, and having, moreover, the classic excuse of being a very little one.
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I have for some time watched a steady improvement in the work of Mr. Ralph Straus. It is therefore a pleasure to greet The Orley Tradition (Methuen) as his best yet. The Orley tradition was to do nothing whatever, and, like the House of Lords in Iolanthe, to do it very well. They were, as a family, noble, of ancient lineage, and fine stupidity. John Orley, the hero of the tale, starts out to follow worthily in the footsteps of his race, as a brainless but agreeable country magnate. Then comes an accident, which thwarts his physical ambitions and awakens his mental. Thereafter he essays the life of affairs—and fails all round; is defeated for Parliament, and equally worsted in the lists of Art. So, being now recovered of his hurt, he says a graceful farewell to the career intellectual and resumes the traditional Orley existence. This, in brief, is his story; but I give it without the pleasant style of Mr. Straus's telling. There are many very happily touched scenes; more especially had I a guilty sympathy roused by one in which poor John endeavours to concentrate his very slipshod brains upon an afternoon of hard reading. And almost all the characters are alive, from the entertaining old lady who keeps the village post-office to Mrs. Adderson, the naughty novelist in whose hands John Orley completed his sentimental education. As for the setting, I fancy that those who have spent their summers round about St. Margaret's Bay will have little difficulty in identifying Handsfield. Altogether a happy book (more so than you would expect from its theme) and one that marks, as I said, the further advance of a ready and agreeable writer.
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AT THE GLADIATORIAL AGENCY.
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"By road it is vastly different: there is an 80 mile sand desert to negotiate, and hundreds of miles of rutty roads and rocky bush tracks to drive over; yet Mr. Murray Aunger, of Adelaide, averaged 38 hours per mile from capital to capital."—Advt.
If it wasn't for the chance of being photographed we should always prefer to walk this bit.
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"'I am,' he answered in rather indifferent English."
"Derby Advertiser" feuilleton.
Very indifferent, we call it. How much better if he could have answered, "Your statement of the position is not wholly unwarranted by the facts," or something snappy like that.