PUNCH, OR THE LONDON CHARIVARI
APRIL 8, 1914.
"MR. ASQUITH CLEANS THE SLATE."
The pity is that so many of his followers seem to prefer to slate the clean.
* * *
Even The Nation is not quite satisfied with the Government, and has been alluding to "the extreme slackness of Cabinet methods," and complains that "situations are not thought out beforehand." The Government, apparently, is now taking the lesson to heart, for H.M.S. Foresight, we read, has now replaced H.M.S. Pathfinder in Belfast Lough.
* * *
What the newspapers describe as "An unknown Botticelli" has just been sold by a celebrated firm of art dealers to an American gentleman, and it only remains to hope that the painting was not unknown to BOTTICELLI.
* * *
"A telegram from Toledo," says a contemporary, "reports the theft of three valuable pictures by the celebrated artist, El Greco." There must be some mistake here. Anyhow, at the time of his death, a good many years ago, this gentleman was not under suspicion.
* * *
The Christian Endeavour Union of Washington, alarmed at the spread of luxury, has launched a society whose members pledge themselves to wear no finery during Easter. Those members who hide baldness by means of elaborate coiffures might carry the idea further by appearing, for one week only, with heads like Easter eggs.
* * *
Whether it is due to the Suffrage movement or not it is difficult to say, but women are undoubtedly coming into their rights by degrees. By the provisions of the new Bankruptcy Act it is now possible for any married woman, whether trading apart from her husband or not, to be made a bankrupt.
* * *
In connection with the "Kensington Camp Week," when an effort is to be made to raise sufficient funds to establish and equip headquarters for the Kensington Reservists, a full-sized elephant has been chartered to ramble about the principal thoroughfares and collect money for the cause. To ensure success the sagacious quadruped is to be trained to step accidentally on the toes of those persons who ignore its appeal.
* * *
A correspondent writes to The Observer complaining bitterly of the state of the morass leading to the Aerodrome at Hendon. This gentleman does not realise that there is a didactic purpose in the cause of his annoyance. Learn to fly and you will keep your boots clean.
* * *
* * *
A man has been sentenced at Barmen, Prussia, on three separate counts to terms of imprisonment totalling 175 years. It is proposed that all the proprietors of specifics for prolonging life shall be given a free hand to enable the prisoner to cope with his sentence.
* * *
All German actresses, whether married or single, are, in accordance with the ruling of the German Theatrical Union of Berlin, to be styled henceforth "Frau Schauspielerin," i.e. "Mrs. Actress." We are confident that this does not mean that those who are not married ought to be.
* * *
An advertisement from The Times:—"BIG GAME EXPEDITION. Private and public shooting. Polar bears, musk oxen, walrus and seals arranged." This is not so easy as it sounds, for, ten to one, as soon as you have got the beasts arranged one of those plaguey musk oxen will spoil the whole thing by moving out of its place.
* * *
A remarkable story is being told of the sagacity of a horse belonging to Captain WATSON, of Ardow, Mull. It lost a shoe, and, managing to get out of the field where it was grazing, travelled a considerable distance to a blacksmith, who was astonished to find the horse standing in front of the door holding up a fore-leg. The horse was shod, and then—we are afraid the rest of the story makes ugly reading—coolly galloped off without paying.
* * * * *
"After the annexation of Alsace by Germany the baron stayed some years in Paris, and became an intimate friend of Chopin."
Never realising that CHOPIN had died more than twenty years before.
* * * * *
From a beauty specialist's advertisement:—
"How a poet of such a 'profound subtlety of instinct for the absolute expression of absolute natural beauty' as Keats could have penned the lines:—
'Beauty is Fat, Fat Beauty. That is all Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.'
must remain one of those unfathomable curiosities of the working of the human mind."
We hope the writer hasn't been bothering about it for long. The good news we have for him—that KEATS didn't—will remove a great weight from his mind.
* * * * *
"The bride's going away costume was of Parma violet cloth, with waistcoat effect, in brocaded silk. She wore, also, a large blue wolf, the gift of the bridegroom."
Newcastle Evening Chronicle.
Bride. "Of course, dear, one is bound not to look a gift wolf in the mouth, but are you sure the large blue ones don't bite?"
* * * * *
HOW TO GET ON OFF-HAND.
(A New Way With Employers.)
The applicant for work is usually thrown into a state of nervous prostration by the difficulties that beset his task. By a perusal of the following hints he may learn to acquire an invulnerable calm, and if he follows the directions given he can reckon on surprising results.
Suppose the application is for clerical work.
When you are shown into the office of the employer he will probably be engaged with his correspondence. Do not stand meekly in front of him till he looks up and addresses you. This is playing into his hands. Instead, be perfectly at your ease. Make yourself at home. You might ring up one of your acquaintances on the telephone and have a little chat until the employer is disposed to interview you.
Possibly, however, he himself may be using the instrument. If so draw a seat to the desk and write any little note you may wish to. You will find writing materials handy. The stamps are usually kept in one of the small drawers to the right of the desk.
Either of these proceedings will show that you are used to an office and will create an impression on the employer. If you look at him you will see that it has done so.
If he stares at you and continues to stare, say pleasantly, "What a glorious sky this morning! I believe we are in for a long spell of fine weather."
At this he will probably grunt out gruffly, "Ugh!"
Sympathise with his tonsils. Recommend any simple remedy of which you have heard, or point out the advantages of several spots on the Sussex coast. Ask him where his favourite holiday resort is; whether he goes there alone or if he is married, and if so how many children he has. Ask if they are all well at home.
Remember politeness costs nothing.
This method of leading up to business is much better than the old one, in which you stand and are bullied by a man who has no sort of right over you except that he has employment to offer and you want it badly.
Therefore converse with him as if he were an equal, though possibly he may be your inferior.
He may not answer your kind enquiries, but look you up and down from the welt of your boot to your scarf-pin. All employers have learnt this method of scrutiny. They have learnt it from their wives.
Should he examine you in this manner, smile agreeably and walk a few yards to display your profile. Then change the angle and afford him a back view. Say easily, "This collar fits neatly, does it not?" or something like that.
Turning, you can show yourself pleased with his own style of dress.
"Excuse my mentioning it," you remark, "but your taste in neck-gear is exquisite. I have similar ties myself."
This will flatter him, and those men are very susceptible to flattery. Also he will be led to speculate favourably upon the stylishness and extent of your wardrobe.
After this interval of mutual admiration you draw a chair to the centre of the room and say, "I believe you have a vacancy in the office? What is it you want me to be? I presume you think of still managing the business yourself? I will gladly listen to your terms and we will discuss my prospects."
It is now his move. Lean back in your chair and light a cigarette, regarding him with a reassuring smile.
You will find that he will have listened to you attentively, looking hard at your face. As you finish he will push his chair back, rise and strut across the room.
Now is your chance to decide your fate one way or the other.
When he has gone a few steps produce your watch and exclaim in a mildly vexed tone, "How annoying! I had almost forgotten. I have another appointment at eleven. In the short time remaining at our disposal it is impossible to deal adequately with any offer you may make. May I propose an adjournment?"
The suggestion of independence thus delicately conveyed will usually have the desired effect and result in an immediate engagement.
Should the employer fail to be impressed he simply pushes the bell and you are shown off the premises with great promptitude.
* * * * *
"WANTED, strong Willing Girl, age 18, to wait on trained nurses and assist third housemaid upstairs."
Advt. in "Morning Post."
We should give the third housemaid one more chance and then, if she still can't get upstairs without assistance, dismiss her.
* * * * *
IN A GOOD CAUSE.
To Every Reader of "Punch".
DEAR READER,—H.R.H. PRINCE ARTHUR OF CONNAUGHT has consented to take the chair at the Centenary dinner of the Artists' General Benevolent Institution on May 6th. This Institution devotes itself to the help of artists who are in need through poverty, sickness or other ill-chance. As a lover of Art—and, of men—I am in close sympathy with this good work, and am to be represented at the dinner in the person of my Art Editor, Mr. F.H. TOWNSEND, who will act as one of the Stewards. I am appealing to my readers of their kindness to send something to swell his list, and so to help in making this Centenary a memorable year in the history of the Artists' General Benevolent Institution. Contributions addressed to Mr. F.H. TOWNSEND, "Punch" Office, 10, Bouverie Street, E.C., will be very gratefully acknowledged.
Your faithful Servant, Punch.
* * * * *
Unrest in India.
"The handwriting appeared to be that of a young school student and the word 'Prosecutor' had been spelt 'Prosecutor.' The matter is under enquiry."
It is our earnest hope that this grave business will be sifted to the bottom.
* * * * *
* * * * *
THE MANLY PART.
(Reflections at the moment of "Moving in.")
The house has burst a-bloom like CERES' daughter; The painters bicker and the plumbers flee; The H. tap in the bathroom gives cold water Endlessly, like the C.
All arts are being used to gild the tarnished, And exorcise old ghosts and spirits fled, And treacherous quags abound where boards are varnished And no man's boot may tread.
And none can tell me where my spats were taken, And decorators' coats adorn the pegs, And savour of new paint surrounds the bacon, New paint is in the eggs.
And huge men meet me and remark, "This dresser, Where shall we put it?" And of course I say, "Up in the bedroom;" and they answer, "Yessir," But Marion bids them stay.
All right—I'll sit (the sole place where one can sit) And gaze upon these walls with wild surmise, And muse on all the things we've lost in transit, The socks, the gloves, the ties.
Here, where in time to come the firebeams ruddy, Falling on cosy chairs and bookshelves straight, Shall show to me my own familiar study, And Maud shall do the grate,
Here in this narrow carpet's sacred border, Girt by the wet distemper's weltering foam, I'll do my bit to set the house in order And make it seem like home.
Mere hackwork, doubtless, is the stuff for women, But mine to dissipate the dark has-been, Mine to remove what shades are clustered dim in Corners and coigns unseen;
To start the holiest rite of installation, And from the still-remembering walls to wipe All traces of a previous occupation— Briefly, to light my pipe.
Paint is no hall-mark of a decent dwelling, And moving furniture makes such a din; The master's part shall be the ghost-dispelling— That is where he comes in.
Forget not, while ye tramp with tread sonorous The unclothed stairs and catch my weed's perfume, That three mild spinsters had the house before us; This was their morning-room.
* * * * *
A quotation in The Edinburgh Evening Dispatch of a verse of Mr. ROBERT BRIDGES' new poem ends like this:—
"From numbing stress and gloom profound Madest escape in life desirous To embroider her thin-spun robe."
* * * * *
'WHO'S THE LADY?'"
Perhaps the POET LAUREATE will answer.
* * * * *
There was plenty to eat, the landlord said, if the commercial gentlemen made no objection to my joining their table; and such objection was very unlikely, since nicer gentlemen you couldn't hope to meet.
He then went off to put the point to them, and they seem to have been very charming about it, judging by the cordiality and courtesy of the welcome which I received. Being, however, at the end of the table, I had but one neighbour, and he not a very communicative one, for, although he did at once lay down his knife and fork to tell me that the beef came from Scotland and was therefore more to be desired than the mutton, which was local, he said no more, and I was therefore left to eat in silence, my two vis-a-vis being engaged in a private conversation. Such little as from time to time I heard among the others was not much in my line, dealing as it did either with horses, Ulster, or Mexico; but suddenly a big man with a purple face and a signet ring as large as a carriage lamp plunged me into curiosity by remarking that he "never bought less than three two-shilling books a week, and sometimes four."
These being the last words I should have expected from him, for he looked absolutely the type that reads only a half-penny daily and a sporting sheet and puts in the rest of its leisure at gossip or cards, and as I am interested in people's taste in literature, I determined to improve his acquaintance and discover something as to his favourite authors; and again, as I made this resolve, I realised how foolish it is ever to expect the outside of a man to be any index of his mind. One never can tell, and one is always having further proof that one never can tell, and yet one goes on trying to tell.
Studying him in a series of glances, I set him down for a NAT GOULD man.
The arrival of coffee and the departure of certain guests (wisely, as it happened,) who did not want that curious beverage, relaxed the table, and I moved up to the brave buyer of books. He received me affably, and we exchanged a few remarks on those ice-breaking matters of no importance upon which real convictions are not expected. Then, with a deft touch, I turned the talk to literature. "I suppose," I said, "with your long journeys you get plenty of time for reading?"
"Time enough," he said.
I continued by a reference to the advantages which we enjoyed over our fathers and grandfathers in the multiplicity of cheap books. "Those wonderful sevenpennies!" I said.
He agreed. He had often spent ten minutes at a junction in looking at them.
"And the shilling books," I said. "The more serious ones—'Everyman's Library,' and all that sort of thing. Most remarkable!"
He had noticed those too, but still he offered no views of his own.
I saw that he was one of the uncommunicative kind. Information must be drawn forcibly from him.
"And the two-shilling novels," I said—"they're wonderful too."
I But his eyes did not light; his I purple mask kept its secrets.
"The two-shilling ones," I repeated, with emphasis on the price. Hang it, how slow he was.
Still he said nothing.
"So much better than the old yellowbacks at that figure," I said.
He was, if anything, more silent.
Clearly I must plunge. "Who is your favourite writer?" I demanded, point-blank.
"I haven't got such a thing," he said.
Here's a strange thing, I thought. I suppose he's one of those mechanical readers who go through a book as a kind of dutiful pastime and never even notice the author's name.
"But you read a lot?" I suggested.
"Me? Good gracious, no," he said. "I don't read a book from one year's end to the other. Papers—oh, yes; but not books."
I was staggered.
"But I thought," I said, "that I heard you say a little while ago that you never bought fewer than three two-shilling books a week, and sometimes more?"
His purple took on a darker richer shade, which I subsequently discovered indicated the approach of mirth. He began to make strange noises, which in time I found meant laughter.
For a while he gave himself up to chromatic rumblings. At last, able to speak, he replied to me. "So I did say," he said; "so I did say I bought three two-shilling books a week. But not books to read"—here he became momentarily inarticulate again—"not books to read, but those little two-shilling books of stamps in red covers that you get at the post-office. I don't know where I should be without them."
Shade of CARNEGIE!
* * * * *
* * * * *
"Sir John French had stultified himself singing the order."—Irish Independent.
Personally we sing it over to ourselves in the bath every morning—all except the last two paragraphs.
* * * * *
Messrs. BELL quote the following appreciative notice of one of their spelling books:—
"The spelling exercises, largely alliterative—e.g., 'A Beach-tree, a sandy beach'—are quite attractive, and once in the mind remain there."—School Guardian.
This attractive way of spelling "beech-tree" will not, we hope, remain indefinitely in the minds of our readers.
* * * * *
* * * * *
LIBERALS DAY BY DAY.
March 23.—During the course of a heated debate Mr. Joshua Dredgwood, M.P., said that, in spite of the Parliament Act, the House of Lords still dominated the situation. If there was a General Election next week it would be fought on a cry of the Proletariat against the Peers. The entire Liberal Party rose to its feet and cheered the speaker for seven minutes, waving hats, order papers and pocket-handkerchiefs.
March 24.—Answering a question put by Mr. Connor Shaw, the PREMIER stated that he had decided to retire from the House of Commons and lead the Party from the House of Lords. The entire Liberal Party was convulsed with irrepressible enthusiasm and cheered the PREMIER'S announcement for nine minutes, many Members removing their collars and ties and waving them in delirious excitement.
March 25.—A reference to the Welsh Church Bill by a member of the Opposition elicited an epoch-making remark from Mr. Haydn Tooth, M.P. He said that the English Church blocked every measure of social reform so effectually that unless it was immediately disestablished and every archbishop and bishop deported to the Antarctic regions civil war would break out in a week. All records were broken by the Liberal Party, who rose as one man and cheered Mr. Tooth's declaration for ten minutes, many Members standing on their heads and waving their legs with epileptic fervour.
March 26.—Immediately after Question time the PRIME MINISTER asked to be allowed to make a brief statement. Amid profound silence he stated that he had decided, with the cordial approval of his colleagues, to create a new Ministry of Public Worship, to be held by the Archbishop of CANTERBURY, and that he would himself assume the archbishopric on the following day. The frenzied delight of the entire Liberal Party on hearing this momentous announcement beggars description. The cheering lasted fifteen minutes, and when the vocal chords of the Members were exhausted by the strain they rolled about on the floor of the House for nearly half-an-hour.
March 27.—A tremendous impression was created by Mr. James Board, the Labour Member, during the discussion of the Plumage Bill. After observing that fine feathers might make fine birds he went on to say that lawn sleeves were no palliation of the assumption of dictatorial and autocratic powers. The entire Liberal Party cheered the statement for twenty minutes, and then continued the demonstration with mouth-organs and megaphones for close upon an hour and a-half.
March 30.—The PREMIER, bidding farewell to the House of Commons, announced that he had with infinite regret accepted his own resignation of the Archbishopric of Canterbury, and would in future be known as Super-Archimandrite of the Isle of Man. The entire Liberal Party were still cheering the announcement when we went to press.
* * * * *
"Wanted, for country house, a good ODD MAN, more outside than inside."
Advt. in "Guardian".
The oddness of one's outside is, of course, more apparent.
* * * * *
ORANGES AND LEMONS.
"It's about time," said Simpson one evening, "that we went to the tables and—er——" (he adjusted his spectacles)—"had a little flutter."
We all looked at him in silent admiration.
"Oh, Samuel," sighed Myra, "and I promised your aunt that you shouldn't gamble while you were away."
"But, my dear Myra, it's the first thing the fellows at the club ask you when you've been to the Riviera—if you've had any luck."
"Well, you've had a lot of luck," said Archie. "Several times when you've been standing on the heights and calling attention to the beautiful view below I've said to myself, 'One push, and he's a deader,' but something, some mysterious agency within, has kept me back."
"All the fellows at the club——"
Simpson is popularly supposed to belong to a Fleet Street Toilet and Hairdressing Club, where for three guineas a year he gets shaved every day, and his hair cut whenever Myra insists. On the many occasions when he authorises a startling story of some well-known statesman with the words: "My dear old chap, I know it for a fact. I heard it at the club to-day from a friend of his," then we know that once again the barber's assistant has been gossiping over the lather.
"Do think, Samuel," I interrupted, "how much more splendid if you could be the only man who had seen Monte Carlo without going inside the rooms. And then when the hairdress—when your friends at the club ask if you've had any luck at the tables you just say coldly, 'What tables?'"
"Preferably in Latin," said Archie. "Quae mensae?"
But it was obviously no good arguing with him. Besides, we were all keen enough to go.
"We needn't lose," said Myra. "We might win."
"Good idea," said Thomas. He lit his pipe and added, "Simpson was telling me about his system last night. At least, he was just beginning when I went to sleep." He applied another match to his pipe and went on, as if the idea had suddenly struck him, "Perhaps it was only his internal system he meant. I didn't wait."
"Samuel, you are quite well inside, aren't you?"
"Quite, Myra. But I have invented a sort of system for roulette, which we might——"
"There's only one system which is any good," pronounced Archie. "It's the system by which, when you've lost all your own money, you turn to the man next to you and say, 'Lend me a louis, dear old chap, till Christmas; I've forgotten my purse.'"
"No systems," said Dahlia. "Let's make a collection and put it all on one number and hope it will win."
Dahlia had obviously been reading novels about people who break the bank.
"It's as good a way of losing as any other," said Archie. "Let's do it for our first gamble, anyway. Simpson, as our host, shall put the money on. I, as his oldest friend, shall watch him to see that he does it. What's the number to be?"
We all thought hard for several moments.
"Samuel, what's your age?" asked Myra at last.
"Right off the board," said Thomas.
"You're not really more than thirty-six?" Myra whispered to him. "Tell me as a secret."
"Peter's nearly two," said Dahlia.
"Do you think you could nearly put our money on 'two'?" asked Archie.
"I once made seventeen," I said. "On that never-to-be-forgotten day when I went in first with Archie——"
"That settles it. Here's to the highest score of The Rabbits' wicket-keeper. To-morrow afternoon we put our money on seventeen. Simpson, you have between now and 3.30 to-morrow to perfect your French delivery of the magic word dix-sept."
I went to bed a proud but anxious man that night. It was my famous score which had decided the figure that was to bring us fortune ... and yet ... and yet ...
Suppose eighteen turned up? The remorse, the bitterness! "If only," I should tell myself—"if only we had run three instead of two for that cut to square-leg!" Suppose it were sixteen! "Why, oh why," I should groan, "did I make the scorer put that bye down as a hit?" Suppose it wore thirty-four! But there my responsibility ended ... If it were going to be thirty-four, they should have used one of Archie's scores, and made a good job of it.
At 3.30 next day we were in the fatal building. I should like to pause here and describe my costume to you, which was a quiet grey in the best of taste, but Myra says that if I do this I must describe hers too, a feat beyond me. Sufficient that she looked dazzling, that as a party we were remarkably well-dressed, and that Simpson—murmuring "dix-sept" to himself at intervals—led the way through the rooms till he found a table to his liking.
"Aren't you excited?" whispered Myra to me.
"Frightfully," I said, and left my mouth well open.
I don't quite know what picture of the event Myra and I had conjured up in our minds, but I fancy it was one something like this. At the entrance into the rooms of such a large and obviously distinguished party there would be a slight sensation among the crowd, and way would be made for us at the most important table. It would then leak out that Chevalier Simpson—the tall poetical-looking gentleman in the middle, my dear—had brought with him no less a sum than thirty francs with which to break the bank, and that he proposed to do this in one daring coup. At this news the players at the other tables would hastily leave their winnings (or losings) and crowd round us. Chevalier Simpson, pale but controlled, would then place his money on seventeen—"dix-sept," he would say to the croupier to make it quite clear—and the ball would be spun. As it slowed down the tension in the crowd would increase. "Mon Dieu!" a woman would cry in a shrill voice; there, would be guttural exclamations from Germans; at the edge of the crowd strong men would swoon. At last a sudden shriek ... and the croupier's voice, trembling for the first time for thirty years, "Dix-sept!" Then gold and notes would be pushed at the Chevalier. He would stuff his pockets with them; he would fill his hat with them; we others, we would stuff our pockets too. The bank would send out for more money. There would be loud cheers from all the company (with the exception of one man, who had put five francs on sixteen and had shot himself) and we should be carried—that is to say, we four men—shoulder high to the door, while by the deserted table Myra and Dahlia clung to each other weeping tears of happiness ...
Something like that.
What happened was different. As far as I could follow, it was this. Over the heads of an enormous, badly-dressed and utterly indifferent crowd Simpson handed his thirty francs to the croupier.
"Dix-sept," he said.
The croupier with his rake pushed the money on to seventeen.
Another croupier with his rake pulled it off again ... and stuck to it.
The day's fun was over.
* * * * *
"What did win?" asked Myra some minutes later, when the fact that we should never see our money again had been brought home to her.
"Zero," said Archie.
I sighed heavily.
"My usual score," I said, "not my highest."
A. A. M.
* * * * *
(At a well-known Universal Emporium several Champions have been engaged to demonstrate the art of golf in the Games Department.)
* * * * *
* * * * *
BALLAD OF THE WATCHFUL EYE.
["In this crisis the best we can do is to keep our eye on Mr. Asquith."—"The Daily Chronicle's" report of Lord SAYE AND SELE at Worthing.]
O keep your eye on DAVID, The demigod of Wales, Before whose furious onset Dukes turn their timid tails; Whom Merioneth mystics Praise in delirious distichs, And matched with whose statistics MUNCHAUSEN'S glory pales.
O keep your eye on WINSTON, And mind you keep it tight, For nearly every Saturday You'll find he takes to flight; Now eloquent and thrilling, Now simply cheap and filling, And now bent on distilling The purest Party spite.
O keep your eye on HALDANE, Ex-Minister of War, The sleek and supple-minded And suave Lord Chancellor, Whose brain, so keen and subtle, Moves swifter than a shuttle, Obscuring, like the cuttle, Things that were plain before.
O keep your eye on MORLEY (Well-known as "Honest John"), The peccant paragrapher Who still is holding on; But, though his strange position Excited some suspicion, We've CURZON'S frank admission Of joy he hasn't gone.
O keep your eye on LULU Who Greater Britain sways From distant Woolloomooloo To Nova Scotia's bays; Whose sumptuous urbanity, Combined with well-groomed sanity And freedom from profanity, Stirs DAVID'S deep amaze.
O keep your eye on BIRRELL, So wholly free from guile, Conspicuous by his absence From Erin's peaceful isle; Who wakes from floor to rafter The House to heedless laughter, Careless of what comes after Can he but raise a smile.
O keep your eye on MASTERMAN, Dear DAVID'S henchman leal, Whose piety and "uplift" Make ribald Tories squeal; In every public function Displaying the conjunction Of perfect moral unction With perfect Party zeal.
Last, keep your eye on ASQUITH, And he will bring you through, No matter what his colleagues May say or think or do; For in the dirtiest weather He moulted not a feather, And safely kept together His variegated crow.
* * * * *
The Siamese Twin.
"DERBYSHIRE.—To sell, handsome well-built and superbly finished semi-detached Mouse, containing two entertaining, six bed rooms, dressing-room, and excellent bathroom."—Advt. in "Manchester Guardian".
We had no idea a mouse had so much accommodation.
* * * * *
"It was our intention before now to say a kindly word for 'The New Weekly.' We trust we are not too late yet."
No. The paper after three weeks or so is still alive. But our green contemporary should have had more confidence in it.
* * * * *
* * * * *
ESSENCE OF PARLIAMENT.
(EXTRACTED FROM THE DIARY OF TOBY, M.P.)
* * * * *
* * * * *
House of Commons, Monday, March 30.—Stirring quarter of an hour. For dramatic surprise Drury Lane or Sadlers Wells in palmiest days not in it with T. R. Westminster. Doors open as usual at 2.45. In a few minutes there was standing room only. Appointed business of sitting Third Reading of Consolidated Fund Bill. Peculiarity of this measure is that through successive stages, each occupying a full sitting, no one even distantly alludes to its existence or provisions. Any other subject under the sun may, and is, talked around at length. To-day expected that opportunity would be seized by Opposition to make fresh attack on Government in respect of the Curragh affair and all it led to. Hence the crowded benches and prevalent expectation of a scrimmage.
A cloud of questions addressed to PRIME MINISTER answered with that directness and brevity that mark his share in the conversation. Questions on Paper disposed of, LEADER OF OPPOSITION asked whether Sir JOHN FRENCH and Sir SPENCER EWART had withdrawn their resignation? Answering in the negative, the PREMIER paid high tribute to the ability, loyalty and devotion to duty with which the gallant officers have served the Army and the State. He added, what was regarded as foregone conclusion, that SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR had thought it right to press his proffered resignation.
Here it seemed was end of statement. Members expected to see PREMIER resume his seat. He continued in the same level businesslike tone:—
"In the circumstances, after much consideration, with not a little reluctance, I have felt it my duty, for the time at any rate, to assume the office of Secretary of State for War."
There followed a moment of silence. Effect of announcement, unexpected, momentous, was stupefying. Then a cheer, strident, almost savage in its passion, burst from serried ranks of Ministerialists. One leaped up and waved a copy of Orders of the Day. In an instant all were on their feet wildly cheering.
Meanwhile the PREMIER, apparently impassive, stood silent at the Table. When storm exhausted itself he quietly added that in accordance with law he would forthwith retire from the House "until, if it pleases them, my constituents sanction my return."
Demonstration of personal esteem and political approval repeated when, a few moments later, he walked out behind SPEAKER'S Chair. Again the Liberals, now joined by Irish Nationalists, uprose, madly cheering.
Following upon this unprecedented scene, SEELY'S personal statement inevitably partook of character of anticlimax. Entering while Questions were going forward, he passed the Treasury bench, where he had no longer right to sit, and turned up the Gangway, to find every seat occupied. He stood for a moment irresolute. CUTHBERT WASON, who has permanently appropriated third corner seat above Gangway (and portion of one adjoining), courteously made room for the ex-Minister.
SEELY'S brief statement, dignified in its simplicity, unexceptional in its good taste, listened to by both sides with evident sympathy. During two years' administration of War Office affairs, he has by straightforwardness, urbanity, and display of perfect command of his subject, increased the personal popularity enjoyed whilst he was yet a private Member.
Business done.—Resignation by Colonel SEELY of War Office portfolio announced. PRIME MINISTER takes it in personal charge.
House of Lords, Tuesday.—During last two days noble Lords been delighted with little by-play provided by Lord CURZON. Yesterday, he by severe cross-examination extracted from Lord MORLEY admission of personal knowledge of what are known as the peccant paragraphs in document handed on behalf of War Office to General GOUGH.
What troubled CURZON was apprehension that such admission must necessarily be followed by resignation. Regretted this for dual reason. First, House would be deprived of presence of esteemed Viscount on Ministerial bench. Secondly, and to the generous mind this consideration even more poignant, the secession of a Minister so highly prized would in present circumstances strike heavy blow at Government. Might even lead to break up of Ministry, dissolution of Parliament, destruction of Home Rule and Welsh Church Bills.
Under cross-examination MORLEY, whilst making clean breast of his share in incident that led to resignation of WAR MINISTER, said never a word about possibility, or otherwise, of his own retirement. CURZON'S generous alarm deepened. Better know the worst if it were lurking in the background.
"How comes it," he asked, "if the Government felt compelled to withdraw these paragraphs, and if the SECRETARY FOR WAR resigned, that we still have the good fortune to see the noble Viscount in charge of the Government bench?"
"The latter point," said MORLEY, "will be answered more or less satisfactorily to-morrow."
CURZON went home in state of profound depression. MORLEY, regardless of the comfort, even the safety, of his colleagues in the Cabinet, evidently meant resignation. Came down to-day, his ingenuous countenance exhibiting signs of passage through an unrestful night.
"But," as he quaintly remarked to commiserating friend, "better have the tooth out at once."
Up again at first opportunity. Still harping on the Viscount.
"It is rather difficult to see," he remarked, "why, the SECRETARY FOR WAR having handed in his first resignation, we should still have been favoured with the continuance in office of the noble Viscount.... The upshot of the incident is that Colonel SEELY has gone, while I hope the noble Viscount is going to remain."
Appeal irresistible. In response MORLEY explained that had SEELY persisted in his first resignation his would have followed. When it came to SEELY'S second resignation he felt bound to remain.
Distinction subtle. Possibly it was effect of wrestling with it that made CURZON look less joyous than might have been expected, seeing he had realised his disinterested hope, and a second, even more damaging, secession from a stricken Cabinet had been averted.
Business done.—In the Commons debate on Second Reading of Home Rule Bill resumed. Atmosphere significantly less stormy than heretofore.
House of Commons, Thursday.—The MEMBER FOR SARK, in pursuance of his favourite axiom that there is nothing new under the sun, calls attention to two conversations in which he discovers singularly close parallel in tone and temper. The first will be found in official report of Parliamentary debate. It took place between LEADER OF OPPOSITION and FIRST LORD OF ADMIRALTY, the former insistent upon House being made acquainted with Sir ARTHUR PAGET'S report of what happened when he addressed officers under his command at Curragh on possibility of their being ordered to Ulster.
Here follows excerpt from official report:—
"Mr. CHURCHILL. The statement just made I make after having had an opportunity of communicating with Sir Arthur Paget. It is admitted that a misunderstanding on the point arose.
Mr. BONAR LAW. Rubbish.
Mr. CHURCHILL. Do I understand the right hon. gentleman to say 'rubbish'?
Mr. BONAR LAW. Yes."
The parallel that pleases SARK will be found in report of a conversation between Mrs. Gamp and Mrs. Betsey Prig at what should have been a friendly tea-table in the home of the former. This was the historic occasion when Mrs. Prig declared her rooted belief in the non-existence of Mrs. Gamp's friend Mrs. Harris. For purpose of comparison it may be convenient to put what followed in the same form as official Parliamentary report:—
Mrs. Gamp. What! you bago creetur, have I know'd Mrs. Harris five-and-thirty year, to be told at last that there ain't no sech a person livin'! Go along with you!
Mrs. Prig. I'm agoin', Ma'am, aint I?
Mrs. Gamp. You had better, Ma'am!
Mrs. Prig. Do you know who you're talking to, Ma'am?
Mrs. Gamp. Aperiently to Betsey Prig.
Business done.—Third night's debate on Second Reading of Home Rule Bill. Intended to divide. On urgent demand of Opposition division deferred till Monday.
* * * * *
"Then came the resignation of Mr. Asquith, which left the Ministry (temporarily) without its head. Hence another vacant seal in the Government Front Bench."—Globe.
To prevent self-consciousness among the Cabinet, the name of the Minister who looks like a vacant seal should be given.
* * * * *
"Mr. Bodkin, opening the case, described Hemmerde for the defence."
North Eastern Daily Gazette.
It is generally towards the end of a case that one wants to describe the opposing counsel in detail.
* * * * *
ADDRESSED TO A LADY WHO HAS ASKED FOR IT.
Of old, when in the dance's-whirl Or crouched behind a friendly screen I fell in love with any girl (You know the kind of love I mean), I gave the credit to champagne— And breathed again.
When first we met, a more intense Emotion stirred me, I admit, But having dined at great expense I didn't like to mention it, For tribute seemed to Bacchus due As much as you.
But love that made a parish hop A sacred feast for both of us Burst into flame without a drop Of alcoholic stimulus; And love that thrives on lemonade Can never fade.
* * * * *
(Being the unsigned MS., evidently of a leading article, picked up in Fleet Street last week. What the finder wants to know is—which side is it arguing for?)
THE PLOT THAT FAILED.
Out of the welter of mendacity, evasions and intrigue, for a parallel to which the records of this or indeed of any civilised country might be searched in vain, one fact has at last emerged clear and indisputable. The nation will learn this morning, with what feelings it is only too easy to conjecture, that a great party, a party which, despite its many political blunders, has at least a record for honourable if mistaken statesmanship in the past, has now stooped to the final and abysmal folly. Disguise the fact with what specious rhetoric they may, the truth remains that our opponents have deliberately endeavoured to tamper with a great national possession, and to make the British Army a tool in the game of party.
Incredible, nay unthinkable, as such a situation would have been till lately, who is now to deny it? If any doubt still remained, surely the venomous outpourings of those journals which support and encourage the machinations of "honourable gentlemen"—alas that the phrase should henceforth have to be in quotation marks!—on the opposite side of the House must by now have dispelled it. Beaten to their last ditch, and discredited even in that, it is now evident that the conspirators had determined to stake all upon one final throw. Fortunately the very desperateness of the plot has proved its undoing, and from the tremulous lips of the perpetrators themselves comes to-day a froth of vituperation and rancorous abuse that is the surest confession of abject failure.
Happily, however, there is a brighter side to the picture; signs are not wanting—and each hour, we are sure, will strengthen them—that moderate men in the ranks of our opponents are beginning to share our own indignation and dismay. Let but this spirit find its outlet and victory is ours. We say it in no petty strain of party triumph, but the day of reckoning can obviously no longer be delayed. A gang of wholly reckless and unscrupulous political adventurers have sown the dragon's teeth in the wind; let the whole nation see to it that they are now forced to reap armed men in the whirlwind!
* * * * *
* * * * *
"Many a man whose courage would not respond to the spur of some huge burglar would die rather than be beaten by a wretched little collar stud."—Times.
The only burglar we have ever met was (luckily) in the Infantry.
* * * * *
AT THE PLAY.
"THINGS WE'D LIKE TO KNOW."
Almost the last thing that you expect in a starting-price bookie is a strong penchant for poetry. It is true that I have before me, as I write, a Turf Commissioner's telegraphic code which contains some rather picturesque symbols. Thus "amber" is the codeword for L1; "heliotrope" for L20; "rainbow" for "win and 1, 2." Still I do not think it probable that if the author of this code should go bankrupt as a bookie—and this he is never likely to do as far as I am concerned—he would be able to retrieve his fortunes by taking up the profession of a publisher of poetical works. Yet this is just what happened, in Mr. MONCKTON HOFFE'S play, with the firm of Wilberforce Brothers, Turf Commissioners. In the first Act we find them in such straits that they can barely scrape together enough petty cash to satisfy the demands of a Water-Rate Collector, insistent on the door-step. In the next Act, a year later, they are all flourishing like green bay-trees as a firm of Poetry Commissioners trading under the name of The Lotus Publishing Company. This amazing result they have achieved by foisting on the office typewriter—tres gamine—the poetical output of one of their own number, and exploiting her as a prodigy under the auspices of a patron of the arts—one Lord Glandeville. How this Maecenas, this connoisseur in taste, was ever imposed upon by the masquerading of such incredible types, and how they could have amassed all that wealth by the publication of serious poetry, the most notorious of drugs on the market—these are among the "things" that we should all "like to know" in case our own professions should fail us.
What worried me most was that Mr. HOFFE should have so poor an idea of my intelligence as to suppose it possible to impart an atmosphere of probability to a scheme that was pure farce. Yet that was what he tried to do; he wanted me to believe that I was assisting at a comedy. There was no knockabout business; nobody entered the room with a somersault, tripped over a pin or hung his hat on the scenery. They all behaved as if they were presenting us with what is known as a human document, to be regarded au grand (or, at worst, au petit) serieux. The fun—and there were some very pleasant touches—was not so much the fun of a huge and preposterous joke, but rather the humour of character or incidental detail. The part of Lord Glandeville, who might have been made the most ridiculous butt of imposture, was treated quite solemnly. Indeed, our sympathies were provoked for a man whose finest instincts had been trifled with; who had been suffered to fall in love with the poet-soul of a girl only to find that she was the tool of a gang of rogues. One of them, Dick Gilder, might tell him that he (Glandeville) was an egoist and that he ought to have fallen in love with the girl's body, as he (Gilder) had done, instead of her supposed soul; but that did not help matters much, or prevent our feeling that this treatment of Glandeville was no matter for laughter. And when I go and see a production of Mr. HAWTREY'S I want matter for laughter and nothing else.
The best individual performances were those of Mr. LYSTON LYLE—really excellent as a soldier of fortune—and Miss HELEN HAYE as Lord Glandeville's aunt who lays herself out to defeat the matrimonial designs of the prodigy. Mr. CHARLES HAWTREY was not perhaps at his very best as Dick Gilder. He wore an air of detachment and indulged his old habit of looking over the heads of his stage-audience. He had too many set speeches and was not always quite sure what word came next. Still his mere presence is always irresistible.
As Lord Glandeville, Mr. VANE TEMPEST, most admirable of buffoons, must have longed to be allowed to make us laugh, but solemnity was his order of the day and he carried it out like a hero. As for Mr. WENMAN, who played the partner that introduced Lord Glandeville to the rest of the "Lotus Publishing Company" (though how that refined nobleman ever made the acquaintance of such a rough diamond is another of the "things we'd like to know"), his face is a gift and he used its mobility to good purpose.
Finally, Miss DOROTHY MINTO, as Dorothy Gedge, typewriter (with the nom de guerre of Gedage), was a little angular, and the motive of her spasmodic excursions across the stage was not always apparent. But she was extremely funny in her inimitable way when she had a chance of exhibiting the unreasonableness of her selection as a mouthpiece of the Muses. At the end, when she wonders if she could have been happy with Glandeville and knows that she would be happy with Gilder, she showed an extremely pretty vein of sentiment. And here, too, I must heartily compliment the author on a scene which threatened to be commonplace and tedious, but was handled with a most engaging freshness and a very unusual sense of what was just right and enough.
* * * * *
* * * * *
ARGUMENTUM AD FEMINAM.
Once, unless the tale's a myth, Chloe danced mid rustic song Indefatigably with Amorous Damon all day long. This was all the joy she knew (Quite enough, no doubt), and yet, Phyllis, when you gambol, you Rather gamble at roulette.
Simple 'twas in suchlike days Wooing Chloe. Now, alas, You've no taste for simple ways, Much prefer green baize to grass. Fled your interest in swains; Nothing for my sighs you care; All your joy is little trains, Oddly dubbed "chemin de fer."
Phyllis, if your fixed intent Is that you forsake the dance, Quit Arcadian merriment For exciting games of chance, I've the best of 'em by heaps: Come with me, my dear, and call At the Registrar's; he keeps One big gamble worth them all.
* * * * *
Con was the conjurer of the king Ere the coming of Padraig Mor, And a wand he had, and a golden ring, And a five-prong crown he wore; And his robe was trimmed with minever— His robe of the royal blue, For Con was the wonderful conjuror In the days when the tricks were new.
He could pick a rabbit from out of a poke Where never had rabbit lain; He could pulp your watch like an egg's red yoke And could give it you whole again; And the king he laughed, "Ha-ha," he laughed, Till they thumped on his back anon; And the other magicians went dancing daft To see the magic of Con.
Now Con he climbed on a moonbeam grey To the dusk of the god's great shop, And he stole the Elixir of Life away, And he drank it, every drop; He poured the draught in a golden cup On a wonderful day that's gone, And he swilled it round and he tossed it up, And that was the curse of Con.
And the old king died at ninety-six And his son he reigned instead; But Con he conjured the same old tricks, And his hair crow-black on his head; And the new king died, and another king, And another king after he, But Con went on with his conjuring The same as it used to be.
When the fifth king came (he was long of limb And a hasty man) he swore, When Con he conjured his tricks for him, And he kicked Con through the door; For that's in the songs the minstrels sung, And thus is the story told, For "Con," said the king, "you're none so young, And your tricks are plaguey old!"
* * *
Now Con he tramps from shire to shire, And he must till the crack of doom; He takes the road in the dust and mire, And he sleeps in the windy broom; He's no address and he's no abode, And his jacket's the worse o' wear; And I've met him once on the Portsmouth Road, And once at a Wicklow fair.
When the roundabouts and the swings are slow And a conjuring chap draws near, And there's nothing about his mug to show That it's seen five thousand year (For that's the way that the songs were sung, And thus is the story told), You'll know it's Con and he's none so young For his tricks are plaguey old.
* * * * *
* * * * *
From a list of new books:—
"Woman and Crime (Adam)."
Well, he ought to know.
* * * * *
From a pamphlet on "The 'King's Own' Mission":—
"MADAM ADA BACON, Soloist for Easter Sunday Evening.
Please send some eggs."
The writer has been carried away by the association of ideas. The singing will not really be so bad as that.
* * * * *
Two conflicting announcements from The Observer:—
"VILLA'S VICTORY. FOUR DAYS OF FURIOUS FIGHTING."
"HOW THE VILLA WERE BEATEN. LIVERPOOL'S SUPERIOR PACE."
* * * * *
"And how long," said the lady of the house from behind her rampart of breakfast things, "shall you want to be away?"
"Away?" I said. "Who said anything about being away?"
"Well," she said, "if you want to go to all those annual dinners and things you'll have to go to London, and if you go to London you'll have to be away from here."
"'Plato,'" I said, "'thou reasonest well.' Helen, pass me the butter."
"Why deny it, then?" said Helen's mother. "If you're going to be away you're going to be away, and there's an end of it."
"You're wrong there," I said. "There isn't an end of it. I can go away and come back on the same day. By the last train, you know. The last train is intended for that very purpose."
"What very purpose?"
"For coming back by the last train. That's what it's there for. Fathers of families who come back by it sleep in their own beds instead of sleeping in strange beds in clubs or hotels. Let us sing the praises of the last train. Rosie, push over the marmalade, and don't upset the spoon on the table-cloth."
It is not easy to converse with marmalade in one's mouth. I did not make the attempt, so there was a short pause in the argument. It was resumed by the lady of the house.
"You'll lose a lot of sleep, you know," she said. "The last train doesn't get you here till one o'clock in the morning."
"No matter," I said, "I can bear it. The thought of meeting my family at breakfast will sustain me."
"But you never do meet us. After a last train night you 're always half-an-hour late, and by that time the girls are gone."
"But you remain," I said. "To see you pouring out coffee is a liberal education in patience."
"But it's tepid coffee."
"I like tepid coffee as a change."
"And the eggs and bacon are cold."
"Pooh!" I said. "There is always the toast."
"And the toast is limp."
"If," I said, "you are so sure of these discomforts why not order me a fresh breakfast?"
"And that," she said, "will make work for the servants."
"Work," I said, "is for the workers. Besides the cook will like me to show an independent spirit."
"The nature of cooks," she said, "is not one of your strong points. No, I am sure you will do better to stay in London."
"But I can give up my dinners," I said.
"And do you think I could ask you to make such a sacrifice? Old friends whom you meet only once a year! Certainly you must go."
"If you don't turn up they'll put it down to me, and that wouldn't be fair."
"I don't know," I said, "why you are so keen on my staying in London. There's something behind this—something more than meets the eye."
"Nonsense," she said, "it's only your comfort; but men never can be reasonable."
"Dad," said Helen to Rosie, "is going to have a holiday given him."
"Yes," said Rosie; "but he doesn't seem to want it very much."
"And it's not going to be a very long one," said Peggy, who generally supports my side of the battle.
"And we'll do his packing," said their mother; "won't we, girls?"
"Hurrah!" said Peggy.
"Peggy," I said, "I am sorry to cast a cold shower on your enthusiasm, but there are limits. You and your mother are great and undeniable packers, but your ways are not my ways."
"Anyhow," said Helen, "we should do it better than Swabey."
"No," I said, "you would do it worse. Swabey has his faults, but I know them. He always forgets white ties and handkerchiefs, but these I can buy, borrow or steal. You would forget white shirts and dress trousers, which mean nothing to you, but are all the world to me. Swabey packs my shaving-brush and my safety razor into my dress shoes, where I come upon them eventually. You would leave them out altogether. I am grateful to you all for your generous offer, but Swabey shall do my packing—that is if I go."
It is unnecessary to say that I went. The dinners were, as usual, a great success. We all became young again in our own eyes, and on the whole I was not sorry to have a bedroom in London. But why had it been forced on me against my will? The reason will appear in a letter from Peggy which I received on the second morning of my compulsory freedom;—
"DEAREST DAD,—We are geting on alright. The maids are now in the libary and everything has been put somwere else. A lot of your papers got blown about, but we ran after them and got most of them. Our meels are in your den. Their going into the dining room direckly. The dust is dredfull and the dogs don't like it. It is a spring cleening with love from your loving
PEGGY." R. C. L.
* * * * *
He was no commonplace suburban spook Content to rap on table-tops; he cherished The memory of days when at his look Princes and peers incontinently perished; Stuck in his heart a jewelled knife dripped red; Flames had been known to issue from his head.
The Moated Grange, now ruinous and drear, He roamed, constrained to bitter self-effacement, Until one midnight his enraptured ear Detected mortal accents in the basement. Downstairs he crept; beside the cheerless grate Sat four or five old men in keen debate.
Softly he chuckled, "Here's a bit of luck!" And beat a warning rattle on his tabor That once had made the stoutest run amok; Then each old boy sat up and nudged his neighbour; Calm and collected round the chimney-piece They showed no sign of imminent decease.
In vain he practised all his horrid lore And rolled his eyes and beckoned with distort hand; In vain his dagger dripped with gouts of gore, They only beamed and took a note in shorthand; When in despair he loosed his flaming jet One smiled and lit therefrom a cigarette.
That was the end! With agonising shriek He turned and fled, the spectral perspiration Dewing his brow and coursing down his cheek; Fled, and was lost to man's investigation (For full discussion of his little tricks See Psychical Research Reports, vol. vi.).
* * * * *
* * * * *
(By Mr. Punch's Staff of Learned Clerics.)
Has Mr. W. J. LOCKE'S hand—the hand that created vagabond Paragot for tears and laughter, and the resourceful Aristide—has it lost its particular cunning that he should begin his romance of The Fortunate Youth (LANE) in a mood of heavy and misplaced facetiousness, and drift by way of Family Heraldry into an atmosphere of sham politics and a bright general glow of ineffectual snobbery? Paul Savelli, the fortunate youth, with his incredible beauty, his dreams, his accomplishments beyond all discernible cause, his faintly Disraelian airs, never once carried me out of my chair. And to what other end is romance ordained? Nor did his Princess, with her mastery of the easier French idioms; nor Barney Bill, the kind-hearted stage-tramp. Indeed, I found Mr. LOCKE constantly making statements about his people that were not substantiated, as about Ursula Winwood, the egregiously competent, the confidante of troubled ministers, bishops and generals. Jane alone, an early simple friend of Paul, I found credible and charming, and thanked heaven for her sake that Paul married his Princess. It is indeed a romance gone wrong. Perhaps it is a more difficult thing plausibly and readily to sustain one's fancy in a modern setting, with modern folk, than in the fair realm of Tushery with rapier-wielding demigods. Yet I think that the dead HARLAND and the living HOPE (himself no mean Tusher) might have brought off their Paul. As a matter of fact, so I believe could Mr. LOCKE; that is just the pity of it. I merely record the fact that he has not done so.
* * * * *
There are, of course, short stories and short stories. On a perusal of those that Mr. RICHARD DEHAN has collected in volume form under the title of The Cost of Wings (HEINEMANN), I am bound to record my conviction that most of them are profoundly unworthy of the author of The Dop Doctor. Few of them even aspire to anything beyond "first serial" quality; and though there is often present a certain easy flippancy of phrase it impressed me only as the crackling of thorns in a pot-boiler. Perhaps the best is the first or title tale, which tells of a young wife goaded to hard words by her constant anxiety for an aviator-husband. There is some genuine feeling here; but the climax, in which the pair decide only to fly in company, was dangerously like the end of a stage duologue. Moreover, so swift now-a-days is the flight of time—or the time of flight—that aviation stories very soon come to sound antiquated. Still, after all, there is at least plenty of variety in this volume, and it will be hard if, in a collection of twenty-six brief tales, you do not come upon something to your individual taste. But one word of gentle protest. I fancy the stage has at last agreed upon a close time for supposed infants, against whose arrival from India nurses and rocking-horses are engaged, and who turn out on appearance to be young persons of mature years. Well, I am convinced that it is high time for a similar prohibition in fiction. Mr. DEHAN at least has proved himself far too clever for me to tolerate this threadbare theme, not very illuminatingly treated, from his valuable pen.
* * * * *
Mr. Anthony Venning was a young man of remarkable tact. Taking advantage of his position as a consultant engineer, at the beginning of The Sentence Absolute (NISBET), he pocketed an advance commission for recommending the tender of a certain firm of contractors to the Welsh mill-owner who was employing his professional services. Whether this practice is common amongst engineers, as the authoress would seem to suggest, I cannot say, but at any rate it was hardly to be expected in the circumstances that Mr. Venning should not fall in love with Mr. Powell's extremely beautiful daughter, or that the boilers in Mr. Powell's mill should hesitate in the fulness of time to explode. But the lover had the native good sense to be present at the moment of the inevitable catastrophe and to be the only person seriously damaged; and since it was his first real lapse from the paths of rectitude, and he was otherwise amiable, athletic, presentable and brave, who shall complain if, after confessing in a manly way and being put into a state of thorough repair, he found happiness in the end? Miss MARGARET MACAULAY tells her story in a pleasant enough way, and describes with some skill its idyllic setting (for Mr. Powell was first a country squire, and only secondly a manufacturer); but since she neither indulges in satire, social and economic speculation, nor any pretence of subtlety in psychological probings, there is a curiously old-fashioned air about her novel. And when I mention that Mr. Venning and Miss Powell were actually cut off by the tide on a treacherous reef of the Cambrian coast it will be realised that The Sentence Absolute is a book for one of those softer moods in which we do not desire to be startled or stung to profound meditation on the meaning of life.
* * * * *
* * * * *
I hope that Mr. VAUGHAN KESTER, author of John o' Jamestown (HODDER AND STOUGHTON), is innocent of intent to do the dreadful thing that he has done. With the book itself I have no fault to find; it is quite a good historical novel, and tells with a fair amount of excitement the story of Captain John Smith and the early settlers in Virginia, not omitting Pocahontas. Mr. KESTER'S crime consists not in his novel, but in the fact that he has probably plunged America into all the horrors of a new outbreak of historical fiction. A few years ago every adult in the United States was writing historical novels. Those were the black days at the beginning of this century, still spoken of with a shudder from Maine to Tennessee. Gradually the horror spent itself; the country became pacified. Except for an occasional sporadic outbreak, the plague was stamped out. It got about that the historical novel was "a dead one," and young America turned to something else. Now you begin to see what Mr. KESTER has done. While Messrs. HODDER AND STOUGHTON are publishing John o' Jamestown over in England, another firm is flooding the States with it. Mr. KESTER is a confirmed "best-seller" on the other side of the Atlantic. Probably his American publishers have issued a first edition of a hundred thousand of this story. The result may be imagined. Wild-eyed literary agents will carry the fiery cross throughout the country, crying that the historical novel is not dead after all, that there is still money in it; and thousands of estimable young men who might have been turning out quite decent stories of American life will thrust paper into their typewriters and begin, "Of the days when I followed my dear lord through many a hard-fought fray it ill becomes me, plain rude man that I am, to speak...." And it will be Mr. KESTER'S fault. It would not matter so much if the great army of American writers could do the thing even half as well as he has done it in John o' Jamestown; but they cannot. I know them, and that is why a great trembling runs through me so that I can scarce hold my pen to complete this review.
* * * * *
The name of Mr. GORDON GARDINER is unfamiliar to me; but I have little doubt that if The Reconnaissance (CHAPMAN AND HALL) is a first novel its author will improve upon work that struck me as at present somewhat ingenuously conventional. There are two parts to the tale; the first shows how Leslie earned popular applause and the V.C. by remaining with a wounded comrade whom he was actually too frightened to leave. That was a good beginning, and I said to myself that Mr. GARDINER was of the right stuff; he had a vigorous, incisive style that suited well the matter of pain and anguish that he had in hand. But, alas! in its hours of case the story became much more uncertain. All the characters, including the involuntary hero and the man he rescued (now a lord), turn up at an hotel on the Lake of Como. There is some mild word-painting that may remind you pleasantly of pleasant places; and a disproportionate pother because in one of the sudden lake storms Leslie dashes for shelter into what he supposes to be his own bedroom (actually the heroine's) and is imprisoned there by the sticking of a shutter. An awkward incident, of course, especially as it occurred in the dead of night, but scarcely enough to make half a novel out of. Naturally, in the end Leslie owns up about the heroism, and goes away to justify his unearned credit upon the stricken field; but I am afraid I must confess that the prospect of his return left me indifferent. I understand that The Reconnaissance originally appeared in The Daily Telegraph; this being so, the persistence with which its characters quote extracts from The Times savours almost of filial ingratitude. Seriously, the first part of the novel was a promise which the second left unfulfilled. Mr. GARDINER is still in my debt.
* * * * *
TO THE CABINET.
(Suggested by a recent doctoring of "Hansard.")
The judgment of the People's "Yea" or "Nay" Wherefore should virtuous men like you shun? You are—or so you confidently say— Prepared for dissolution.
Then snatch a hint from HALDANE'S little fake, Who glanced with eye alert and beady at His speech in proof, and, for appearance' sake, Added the word "immediate."
* * * * *
"The very clever may bethink themselves of Milton's 'subject of all verse.'"—Reynolds' Newspaper.
The mere well-informed will bethink themselves of BROWNE.