PUNCH, OR THE LONDON CHARIVARI.
January, 28, 1914.
Lord HOWARD DE WALDEN is starting a movement with the admirable object of reinvigorating the drama in Wales by forming a travelling troupe of first-rate actors. It is rumoured that an option has already been obtained on a native comedian who is at present a member of the Cabinet.
The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER received last week a deputation of the Men of Kent in order to hear their views in support of the preservation of the custom of gavelkind; and many persons, we believe, were surprised to hear that it is a custom and not a disease.
Mr. RAMSAY MACDONALD, in a speech at Dundee last week, described Mr. CHURCHILL as the worst Liberal First Lord of the Admiralty that had ever occupied the position. It is reported that the right honourable gentleman is having a large number of copies of this statement printed off as a testimonial.
"The Labour organ, The Evening Chronicle," says a Johannesburg telegram, "appeared to-day with the leader column blank." The leaders were, of course, all in gaol.
In addition to Sir ERNEST SHACKLETON's little party an Austrian expedition to the Antarctic is also being organised. Such persons as were intending to go to these regions in the hope of finding quiet and rest there would do well to hesitate, for it looks as if they may be rather overcrowded.
"The American Ambassador," we read last week, "is confined to his room at the Embassy owing to a cold." Colds, we know, are nasty catching things, but we consider it shows cowardice on the part of the staff to have, apparently, locked their chief in his room.
The Duke of ATHOLL celebrated his jubilee as head of the house of STEWART-MURRAY last week. In these days to have remained a Duke for so long as fifty years shows no little grit.
"A Farnham resident," a contemporary informs us, "was badly stung by a wasp last week." At this time of year these insects are apt to sting badly, but in the summer they do it quite well.
The Roman Temple which has occupied a prominent position in the grounds of the Crystal Palace during the last three years is to be removed to Bath, and re-erected there. To the grave regret of the elite of Sydenham, an attempt to get Kew to take over the large glass house has failed.
A little while ago, at the Palladium, there was a Moore and Burgess revival. It has evidently been discovered that there is a taste for this sort of entertainment, for it is now announced that Mr. OSCAR ASCHE will produce this year a play by SIR RIDER HAGGARD in which the popular actor and his wife will appear as Zulus.
Joseph, we read, is to be produced at Covent Garden next week. Apparently Sir HERBERT TREE'S friend has now parted from his Brethren.
A lady in the front of the first circle at Drury Lane, The Express tells us, laughed so heartily the other day in the paper-hanging scene that her artificial teeth fell out and dropped into the stalls. This accentuates the importance of having one's teeth plainly marked with one's name and address.
Mr. Fred Burlingham, who recently descended into the heart of Vesuvius, has written a book entitled "How to become an Alpinist." The idea is good. One likes to learn how to cool oneself after a visit to a crater.
A little girl of our acquaintance has given the most vivid description of a cold that we have yet heard. "Well, Phyllis," we said, "how goes it to-day?" "Horrid," came the answer. "Have to make myself breathe."
"For the first time for forty years," The Daily Mail tells us, "a wild swan, supposed to have flown across the North Sea, has been shot in the marshes of the Isle of Sheppey." It does not say much for the marksmanship of the local sportsmen that this poor creature should have been shot at all those years without being hit.
We learn from The Tailor and Cutter that a garment of double fabric, with india-rubber balls inside to absorb the shock, has been designed for motorists by a Budapest tailor. But surely it is rather the pedestrian who needs this armour?
Mr. W. MCDOUGALL declared in a lecture at the Royal Institution last week that the cranial capacity of the savage was equal to that of the average Oxford undergraduate. Cambridge has suspected this for years.
"A Wet Sheet and a Flowing Sea."
"Hitherto more or less content with a wet sea and a flowing sail...."
"Times" Literary Supplement.
It would be terrible if The Times disapproved of the sea being wet.
"Multiply Your Income by 3.
L152 x 3 = L375
Think what you could do if you had three times the income you have now."
Advt. in "Church Times."
"Mr. R. G. Knowles, the famous comedian, is now out of danger, and, acting on his doctor's orders, will start on Thursday for a trip to the Argentine, He will be back in London before the end of Barch."
Liverpool Daily Post.
Without that biserable cold, we hope.
Our Picturesque Language.
Extract from Japanese letter:—
"Our markets do not improve yet but as I working hard as twice than last year our business do not much decay than other person, which I am glad."
We share this gentleman's joy.
* * * * *
A COCKAIGNE OF DREAMS.
(Based on Sir ASTON WEBB's recent vision of what London might be like in a hundred years' time_.)
Thanks to a gift of piercing sight (Not far removed from that of MOSES), Beyond the secular veil of night I see a City crowned with light, A London redolent of roses.
I note an air of morning prime, As used by bards for their afflatus, Recovered from the spacious time Ere yet a triple coat of grime Had blocked our breathing-apparatus.
Swept clean of smuts and chimney-stacks Each roof becomes a blooming garden, And there, reclining on its backs, All day the jocund public slacks As in the thymy glades of Arden.
On Thames's bosom, crystal-clear, Glad urchins bob about like bladders; The fly is cast from Wapping pier, And over the Pool's pellucid weir Salmon go leaping up their ladders.
I dream how Covent's gritty bowers (By leave of MALLABY's line) shall wear a Fat smile to greet the sunnier hours For joy of battles fought with flowers, As it might be in Bordighera.
New Bond Streets on the Surrey side Shall flaunt their gems and rare chinchillas To swell the local mummer's pride, And every bridge shall span the tide With Arcadies of Aston villas.
I see, in fact, old London rise From smokeless ashes, like a Phoenix, To moral planes where Beauty lies And Electricity supplies The motive power of pure Hygienics.
But not in our time (hush, my heart!); A score of lustres will have fleeted Before the Ministry of Art, Though it should make an early start, Can hope to see the thing completed.
Meanwhile this London is my place. Sad though her dirt, as I admit, is, I love the dear unconscious grace That shines beneath her sooty face Better than all your well-groomed cities.
* * * * *
"A Belgian Princess and Her Creditors.
'Le Soir' (Brussels) announces that the creditors of Princess Louise will receive the sum of 4,172 millions of francs, and consequently the legal proceedings before the Court of Appeal will not take place."
Pall Mall Gazette.
Such a paltry sum to make a fuss about! But, as usual, we hide our real feelings behind this flippant mask. Reading between the lines we confess to strange apprehensions. Why has the Princess so gravely exceeded her dress allowance? Has she, on behalf of her beloved country, been collecting war-ships? Has she 50 or 60 Dreadnoughts up her sleeve to upset the balance of naval power on "the day"? We make the German Chancellor a present of these disturbing reflections.
* * * * *
HIS SON'S FATHER.
In at least one of our daily newspapers the attention of the public was recently drawn to a brilliant young orator, ANTHONY ASQUITH by name, who began a series of lectures at Antibes before influential audiences. The first two of the series dealt with aviation and music respectively. We understand that the titles of the remainder of the series will include "Physical Culture," "The Limitations of Radium," "The Place of Theosophy in Metaphysics," and "The Proper Education of the Child."
We learn from a correspondent that this gifted gentleman (who, by the way, is still quite young, being, well on the bright side of his teens) is a member of a highly-respected London family resident within a stone's throw of Whitehall.
After a career full of promise at Oxford, Master ANTHONY ASQUITH's father was called to the Bar; and although he no longer follows the profession of barrister (in which, by the way, he rose to the distinction of King's Counsel), he is not forgotten by many of his old colleagues in Lincoln's Inn. It was at one time common knowledge that he would certainly have been made a judge had he only remained active in his profession. He has devoted the last few years, however, to political work, which has always had a particular attraction for him. As a man of sound judgment and ready acumen, Mr. ANTHONY ASQUITH's father is much honoured in the councils of his own party; he is also a very effective speaker, and is sure of a large and appreciative audience whenever he addresses a meeting, whether it be in London or elsewhere.
We venture to predict that the world will hear further of the man whom the remarkable performance of his youthful son has established within the public eye.
* * * * *
THE NEW "AGONY COLUMN."
(A forecast of "Servants Wanted" advertisements, by Mr. Punch's own Steno-Volapuker. With acknowledgements to "The Daily Mail.")
Ck-Gen, 9-90, L145, rsng L50 yrly, fam 2 (poss mre), no bsmt, stps, wndws, boots, wsbg. R.S.V.P. Mrs. Bolt, Laurel Villa, Lee Green, S.E.
Ck, any age, any wage, 3 fam (wrttn gntee furthr arrvls immed disposed of) no stairs, spats, fncy socks, knves, frks, spoons. Exclnt matrimnal prosps. The Vicarage, Great Outery.
Ck, marrd or sing, if marrd husb can shro 1st flr suite, beaut furn, pri bth rm, sth asp, telephne, mo 'bus psses dr, ex cellar kept. Mrs. Bland, "Nil Desperandum," Muswell Hill, N.
Gen, bright, yng (under 75), L180, pens aftr 6 mnths servce, free costumes, taxis, theatr tics, rail fres, week-ends sunny sth cst (best hotls). Interv Carlt Grill Rm, 8 morrow, eve dress op, will intro husb to engd applcnt, aftwds to Hippo. Mrs. St. John Vernour, Stewkley Mans., W.
Gen, age op, no fam (loathe fams), no early dins, late dins, or hot dins. Wages half emplyrs inc (Chart Accts cert), evry wk-end off, lib breakges (best china only), charm neighbd, young soc, exc golf clb, amatr theatrels (leadg prts guarntd), Cindrlla dnce Twn Hll twee ninthly, ann hoi Deauville, all exes pd, pre-historic ckng only, no veg, caps, aprons, restrictns. Lchkey, long gard, summr hse. Mrs. Rex Jones, The Awnings, Bourne End (Pic pal 3 min).
Imbecile, as Gen, L18, 9 fam (last census), honest, wllng, ohlg, early risr, pin ck, fond hse wk, chldrn, one eve mthly. Mrs. Spero, The Warren, Stickham-in-Clay, Bucks.
* * * * *
THE TRUST CLINCH.
* * * * *
SCALE OF IMPORTANCE IN THE PRODUCTION OF A MODERN REVUE.
* * * * *
MUSIC AND MILLINERY.
The luminous suggestion that ladies attending the forthcoming performances of Parsifal should wear mantillas instead of aigrettes is almost the first serious attempt to bring the arts of music and dress into a true and fitting relation. We are therefore not in the least surprised to learn that a movement is on foot to promote sumptuary legislation to secure this end as part and parcel of Mr. LLOYD GEORGE's far-reaching programme of social reform. Pending the realisation of these schemes the Editor of Music for the Million has had the happy thought of interviewing a number of distinguished musicians, whose views may be summarised herewith.
Sir HENRY WOOD said that conductors and orchestral players were extraordinarily sensitive to sartorial influences. Unfortunately the force of tradition was so strong that he found it impossible to indulge his tastes. It was de rigueur to conduct in either a frock or an evening coat, but if he had his own way he would vary his garb for every composer. For example, he would like to wear a harlequin's dress for STRAUSS, a full-bottomed wig and ruffles for BACH, HAYDN and GLUCK, a red tie and a cap of Liberty for SCHOeNBERG, and the uniform of a Cossack of the Ukraine for TCHAIKOVSKY. Instead of which the utmost liberty that he was allowed was a butterfly tie. He thought that members of the orchestra ought to be permitted to consult their individual tastes in dress. Certain restrictions would of course be needed. Thus, uniforms were all very well for dance and restaurant bands, but he would not like to see the Queen's Hall Symphony Orchestra competing with Blue Bessarabians or Pink Alsatians.
Herr KUBELIK declared that a violin virtuoso could never play his best by daylight. Artificial light, full evening dress and diamonds were indispensable in an audience. You would not play bravura music to people in morning costume; it was like drinking champagne out of a teacup.
Mr. ALGERNON ASHTON said that as the highest form of musical composition was a Funeral March he was in favour of making black obligatory for all persons who attended high-class symphonic concerts. The kaleidoscopic colours affected by modern women of fashion distracted serious artists and sometimes made them play wrong notes. An exception might perhaps be allowed in favour of dark purple, because of its association with mourning, but the glaring colour schemes now in vogue were to be deprecated as prejudicial to solemnity. It pained him to see music reduced to the menial position of the handmaid of levity.
Professor BANTOCK said that he was entirely in favour of establishing an equation between music and the costume of those who performed or listened to it. For instance, he felt that his Omar Khayyam would make a far deeper impression if the audience were all clad in Persian garb. The same need for local colour would be felt in the case of his new Siberian symphony, though he admitted that it would be a little trying if the work was performed in the dog days. The expense was perhaps a consideration, but people could always afford to purchase a costume for a fancy ball, and why not for a Symphony concert?
Madame CLARA BUTT said that she found the timbre of her voice was affected by the costumes of the audience. She strongly condemned the practice followed by some ladies of fashion of bringing their Pekinese dogs with them to concerts. It showed disrespect to the performers and involved cruelty to animals, since the Pekinese only appreciated the Chinese five-note scale and detested European harmonies.
* * * * *
CABINET AND ADMIRALTY.
A correspondent writes:—"There is no reason to believe that the Cabinet will remit to the Board of Admiralty the report of the Land Committee appointed by Mr. LLOYD GEORGE with a view to securing the views of the Sea Lords, as possessing a wide knowledge of naval affairs, on this aspect of the Government's policy."
* * * * *
"The men demand, roughly, an increase of 1d. a ton."—Daily Chronicle.
Perhaps if they asked politely they might get it.
* * * * *
"We want some more coal," said Celia suddenly at breakfast.
"Sorry," I said, engrossed in my paper, and I passed her the marmalade.
"More coal," she repeated.
I pushed across the toast.
Celia sighed and held up her hand.
"Please may I speak to you a moment?" she said, trying to snap her fingers. "Good; I've caught his eye. "We want——"
"I'm awfully sorry. What is it?"
"We want some more coal. Never mind this once whether INMAN beat HOBBS or not. Just help me."
"Celia, you've been reading the paper," I said in surprise. "I thought you only read the feuill—the serial story. How did you know INMAN was playing HOBBS?"
"Well, POULTON or CARPENTIER or whoever it is. Look here, we're out of coal. What shall I do?"
"That's easy. Order some more. What do you do when you're out of nutmegs?"
"It depends if the nutmeg-porters are striking."
"Striking! Good heavens, I never thought about that." I glanced hastily down the headlines of my paper. "Celia, this is serious. I shall have to think about this seriously. Will you order a fire in the library? I shall retire to the library and think this over."
"You can retire to the library, but you can't have a fire there. There's only just enough for the kitchen for two days."
"Then come and chaperon me in the kitchen. Don't leave me alone with Jane. You and I and Jane will assemble round the oven and discuss the matter. B-r-r-r. It's cold."
"Not the kitchen. I'll assemble with you round the electric light somewhere. Come on."
We went into the library and rallied round a wax vesta. It was a terribly cold morning.
"I can't think like this," I said, after fifteen seconds' reflection. "I'm going to the office. There's a fire there, anyway."
"You wouldn't like a nice secretary," said Celia timidly, "or an office-girl, or somebody to lick the stamps?"
"I should never do any work if you came," I said, looking at her thoughtfully. "Do come."
"No, I shall be all right. I've got shopping to do this morning, and I'm going out to lunch, and I can pay some calls afterwards."
"Right. And you might find out what other people are doing, the people you call on. And—er—if you should be left alone in the drawing-room a moment ... and the coal-box is at all adjacent.... You'll have your muff with you, you see, and——Well, I leave that to you. Do what you can."
I had a good day at the office and have never been so loth to leave. I always felt I should get to like my work some time. I arrived home again about six. Celia was a trifle later, and I met her on the mat as she came in.
"Any luck?" I asked eagerly, feeling in her muff. "Dash it, Celia, there are nothing but hands here. Do you mean to say you didn't pick up anything at all?"
"Only information," she said, leading the way into the drawing-room. "Hallo, what's this? A fire!"
"A small involuntary contribution from the office. I brought it home under my hat. Well, what's the news?"
"That if we want any coal we shall have to fetch it ourselves. And we can get it in small amounts from greengrocers. Why greengrocers, I don't know."
"I suppose they have to have fires to force the cabbages. But what about the striking coal-porters? If you do their job, won't they picket you or pick-axe you or something?"
"Oh, of course, I should hate to go alone. But I shall be all right if you come with me."
Celia's faith in me is very touching. I am not quite so confident about myself. No doubt I could protect her easily against five or six great brawny hulking porters ... armed with coal-hammers ... but I am seriously doubtful whether a dozen or so, aided with a little luck, mightn't get the better of me.
"Don't let us be rash," I said thoughtfully. "Don't let us infuriate them."
"You aren't afraid of a striker?" asked Celia in amazement.
"Of an ordinary striker, no. In a strike of bank-clerks, or—or chess-players, or professional skeletons, I should be a lion among the blacklegs; but there is something about the very word coal-porter which——You know, I really think this is a case where the British Army might help us. We have been very good to it."
The British Army, I should explain, has been walking out with Jane lately. When we go away for week-ends we let the British Army drop in to supper. Luckily it neither smokes nor drinks nor takes any great interest in books. It is a great relief, on your week-ends in the country, to know that the British Army is dropping in to supper, when otherwise you might only have suspected it. I may say that we are rather hoping to get a position in the Army Recruiting film on the strength of this hospitality.
"Let the British Army go," I said. "We've been very kind to him."
"I fancy Jane has left the service. I don't know why."
"Probably they quarrelled because she gave him caviare two nights running," I said. "Well, I suppose I shall have to go. But it will be no place for women. To-morrow after-noon I will sally forth alone to do it. But," I added, "I shall probably return with two coal-porters clinging round my neck. Order tea for three."
Next evening, after a warm and busy day at the office, I put on my top-hat and tail coat and went out. If there was any accident I was determined to be described in the papers as "the body of a well-dressed man." To go down to history as "the body of a shabbily-dressed individual" would be too depressing. Beautifully clothed, I jumped into a taxi and drove to Celia's greengrocer. Celia herself was keeping warm by paying still more calls.
"I want," I said nervously, "a hundredweight of coal and a cauliflower." This was my own idea. I intended to place the cauliflower on the top of a sack, and so to deceive any too-inquisitive coal-porter. "No, no," I should say, "not coal; nice cauliflowers for Sunday's dinner."
"Can't deliver the coal," said the greengrocer.
"I'm going to take it with me," I explained.
He went round to a yard at the back. I motioned my taxi along and followed him at the head of three small boys who had never seen a top-hat and a cauliflower so close together. We got the sack into position.
"Come, come," I said to the driver, "haven't you ever seen a dressing-case before? Give us a hand with it or I shall miss my train and be late for dinner."
He grinned and gave a hand. I paid the greengrocer, pressed the cauliflower into the hand of the smallest boy, and drove off....
It was absurdly easy.
There was no gore at all.
"There!" I said to Celia when she came back. "And when that's done I'll get you some more."
"Hooray! And yet," she went on, "I'm almost sorry. You see, I was working off my calls so nicely, and you'd been having some quite busy days at the office, hadn't you?"
A. A. M.
* * * * *
* * * * *
(A topical fantasy suggested by the decay of our athletic prowess and the apparent apathy of the nation as to the fate that may befall it in the international contest of 1916.)
My England, so the chance has fled! Olympian years to come shall knot not The athlete's guerdon for thy head But crown the wigs of Serbs and what not.
There were who sought thy shame to shield From men that mocked the sea-kings' fibres By opening funds, but these appealed To singularly few subscribers.
"A trifling hundred thou.," they wrote, "To ease the joints and stiffening sockets." The public acted like a goat, They kept the cash inside their pockets.
So mused I sadly; and since new Sensations oft from grief can jerk us I went to see the "Wonder Zoo," Herr HAGENBECK's surprising circus.
There where the Model Homes were built That left some while ago the bard bored I watched the Nubian lions wilt In imitation lairs of cardboard.
And sudden, whilst I saw them roll— Those monster cats—beyond their ha-ha, A solace came into my soul, I murmured sotto voce, "Aha!
"If but yon sunken fence were filled, So that these grim-faced brutes might cross it, Are there no athletes here undrilled, Veiled by their adipose deposit?
"In slothful ease Britannia shirks; But haply, near these sundering ditches, Some mute inglorious miler lurks Under a morning coat and breeches.
"Oh, if the gulf were bridged! What late, What all undreamed-of hurdle-winners Might blossom from a natural hate Of forming parts of feline dinners?
"Yes, even I, the motley fool, Starting from scratch and willy nilly Might prove it needs no Yankee school To knock the level hundred silly.
"The gymnast's art should all be mine As, clambering from the scene of pillage, I roosted safe in yon red pine (Left over from the Russian village).
"Ay, and if all old tales are wrong And lions climb—from that asylum I should come out extremely, strong, Using my brolly for a pilum."
* * * * *
There is trouble ahead for some of our Peers.
I have just come across three fore-warnings of it.
The first was in the train. A fat man was telling his grievance to a thin man.
"I'll stick at nothing," he said. "I mean to see this through. The idea! Why, we've only been in the house seven weeks. Remember that. Remember also that gas is half-a-crown a thousand. And understand that we're most economical; we're always turning the lights down, my wife and I. Now then; in spite of this the rascals want me to pay on sixty thousand feet! It's preposterous. We couldn't have got through so much if we had never let a burner or a stove go out day or night. And we're economical! What do you say to that?"
The thin man said that he had never heard anything so infamous in his life.
"But I'm going to fight it, I can tell you," said the fat man. "Oh yes. If necessary I'll take it to the House of Lords."
"Quite right," said the thin man, picking up his paper.
The second case was late at night, in the corner of a restaurant. Two men were talking near me and I heard most of it.
"It was like this," said one, who might have been a journalist from the look of him, to the other, whom I could not exactly place, but fancied he was perhaps remotely connected with music. He yawned rather more than I should have liked had I been the narrator. "It was like this. There were eight of us to dinner and five of us had old brandy at two bob a go. Only five. The first lot was poured out by the waiter, so there can be no trouble over that; that's ten bob. Then three or four of us had another go. Do you see?"
The musician came back to earth and said that he saw.
"Very well. Even supposing that we did overpour a little, we didn't have more than ten portions altogether. That I can swear to. Yet what do you think the bill said? 'Liqueurs, two pounds.' Think of it!"
The musician woke up and made the motions of a man thinking of it and finding it the limit.
"Of course I refused to pay," the journalist went on.
"Of course," said the musician.
"And now we're fighting it. But I don't care if it breaks me, I'll resist it. If necessary I'll take it to the House of Lords."
The third case happened only this morning. I met in the street an artist friend.
"Hullo," I said, "I don't often see you out and about at this hour when there's so little decent daylight."
"No," he said, "it's an awful bore, but I've got to see a lawyer. The fact is I'm in for litigation."
"You?" I cried.
"Yes, me. It's dead against my nature, I know, but this is serious. In the public interest a fellow must do something unpleasant now and then."
"What is it?" I asked, drawing him towards a comfortable resort where cordials against this appalling weather were obtainable.
"The fact is," he said, "my wife's been poisoned."
"I don't mean in the BORGIA way. Not any CATHERINE DE MEDICI tricks. No, merely in a London restaurant. Out shopping the other day she had lunch in one of those West End places and she's been ill ever since. A dish of curry. Well, I'm going to have those people's blood, and incidentally some money too, I hope."
"I wish you joy of the experience," I said.
"I know all about that," he replied dismally; "but it's got to be done. And I'm going through with it."
"You'll stick at nothing?" I said.
"Nothing," he replied. "If necessary—"
"I know," I said.
"If necessary you'll take it to the House of Lords."
"Yes; but how did you know?"
"I guessed it," I replied; "but you'll be horribly congested there."
And so, I repeat, there is a busy time ahead for some of our Peers.
* * * * *
UNCLE STEVE'S FAIRY.
You've 'eard 'em tell o' fairy folk An' all the luck they bring? Now don't you 'eed the lies that's spoke; They don't do no such thing; You see my thumb, Sir, 'ow it's tore? You'll say, may'ap, a badger boar 'As done it? By your leave, An' that's a bloomin' fairy, Sir, that bit old Uncle Steve!
'Twas me an' Ebenezer Mogg An' little Essex Jim, The chap that's got the lurcher dog That's cleverer than 'im, As met to 'ave a bit o' sport Among the covers at the Court, Upon the strict q.t.— That's Ebenezer, then, an' Jim, an' Toby-dog an' me.
At 'alf-past ten or so that night We left "The Chequers'" bar; 'Twas dark, an' down the velvet 'eight Of 'eaven fell a star; The moon was settin' through the trees As big an' white as 'alf a cheese, The very best she could, Since we 'ad got the long-net out to try the 'Ome Park wood.
We laid it 'long the cover side, A furlong "mesh an'-pin"; We sent the lurcher rangin' wide To drive the rabbits in; A soft, sweet night in late July We lay among the bracken 'igh That 'eld the mid-day sun, While mute an' wise ole Toby ranged enjoyin' of the fun.
But soon we 'ears the rabbits squeak, A-kickin' in the cords, An' gets among 'em, so to speak, Like gentlemen an' lords; We slips along their necks to wring, When Mogg 'e 'oilers out, "By Jing! Look, lads, 'ere's summut fresh— A bloomin' fairy-airy 's got 'isself into the mesh!"
We flashed the lanthorn on to 'im; I tell you, Sir, 'e lay A nasty, ugly little limb, An' yallerer than clay; An' wicious—Ebenezer Mogg Wanted to back 'im 'gainst the dog; But Jim 'e says, "No go; This 'ere'll fetch a mort o' brass for Mr. BARNUM's show!"
I grabs the little jumpin'-jack; Says I, "It's gettin' late; We'll shove the beggar in the sack An' see, at any rate." 'Twas then ole Buckshot an' his crew Come dashin' at us 'cross the dew; The varmint bit like mad; I shook 'im off—'e disappeared; but I was fairly 'ad!
They brought me up at Thornleigh 'Eath; I got a fortnight's stretch; An' still I feels 'is wicked teeth, That spiteful little wretch; An' still my thumb 's all any'ow In weather (as it is just now) That's frosty, 'ard an' chill; 'Tis few things seems to do it good.... Why, thank 'ee, Sir, I will!
* * * * *
WHY OUR CHEMISTS ARE SO BRIGHT AND HEALTHY.
"Folle.—How charming to have a manicure set presented to you! When filling it with the necessary manicure preparations, include the —— Nail Polish, which all chemists keep; it keeps them so bright and healthy."
* * * * *
* * * * *
BILLIARDS A LA GOLF.
"I want a billiard cue," I said; "one I can travel with comfortably—that folds up, or telescopes, or does something of that kind, you know."
"Yes, Sir," said the salesman. "This style of cue with a secret joint would probably suit you. It unscrews in the middle, is handy to carry, and absolutely reliable when fitted together."
"And now about a case?"
"Yes, Sir. Do you want a case for the secret-jointed cue only, or a case for your whole kit?"
"My whole kit?"
"Your complete set of cues, Sir."
"Never heard of such a thing."
"I assure you, Sir, that all the best people go in for sets—just as with golf, Sir. This is a complete set; the whole, including the case, for ten guineas." And he showed me a long green-lined mahogany box containing foreign-looking cues (in addition to a secret-jointed one) packed as carefully as a set of drawing instruments.
"Would you mind explaining this mystery box to me?" I asked.
"Certainly, Sir," said the obliging young man. "This set of cues has been designed for the billiard player who spends his summer on the golf links and comes back in the autumn to billiards with the golf-habit highly developed. That is, the habit acquired on the links of using different clubs for the various shots. Now this cue—"
"Oh, that, of course, is an ordinary cue," I interrupted. "Never mind that one; introduce me to the others."
"Pardon me, Sir, it only looks like an ordinary cue. A steel tube has been inserted down its interior—"
"Do I understand that billiard cues have also taken to hunger-striking?"
The shopman forced a polite but cheerless smile and continued, "This makes the cue perfectly rigid and inflexible—"
"It has the same effect on the hunger-strikers, I am told."
"—and eminently suitable for its special purpose. We call it the 'Driver' cue—for driving off from baulk and for follow-throughs, forcing strokes and all-round cannons."
"Ah, and what is the hammer-headed instrument for? It looks more like a club than a cue."
"Yes, Sir. There is nothing in the rules to prevent the use of a club. If I may point it out to you, Sir, there is here a special appeal to the ladies, who are now coming into the game in ever increasing numbers. Up to the present time most lady players have failed completely to bring off a successful masse shot; but with the 'Hammer' cue used as a club—over the shoulder (so)—"
"I see! You play it with a downward smashing blow, eh? An appeal to the militant billiardette?"
"And what is this for?" I pulled out of the case a cue with the point flattened on one side, as if some one had begun to sharpen it like a pencil and left off after the first big slash.
"That is called the 'Jumper,'" explained the young man, "and may be roughly likened to the niblick in golf. Playing it with the flat side of the point lying on the table (so) you can lift or jump a ball over any obstacle, such as a cut in the cloth, or ash accidentally dropped from your opponent's cigar. In Snooker it is a sine qua non.
"Here, again, is what we call the 'Potter'; it is telescopic. One hand only is required when using the 'Potter.' You take aim as with a pistol, the inner tube or cue being projected against the ball by means of concealed springs which are worked by this trigger in the butt. The sights are adjustable for long or short shots."
"And this fellow with the open nozzle?"
"That is our 'Patent Vacuum' cue, Sir, for screw-back shots. By means of this miniature bellows in the butt a jet of air is pumped upon the ball, through the open nozzle or tip, at whatever velocity is desired. When the striking ball has made contact with the object ball, suction is immediately produced by releasing this fan, which you may see just inside the nozzle."
"By Jove!" I said, "I must have one of those. No, I won't take the whole set; I can't afford a caddie to go round a billiard room with me."
"Thank you, Sir," returned the shopman. "Perhaps you might consider our latest marking-board for your own room—our Cinema-Board. For the slate in the centre we have substituted revolving illuminated films showing the leading players at work. Information and instruction hand-in-hand with pleasure. When you go to the board to register the score you often get a hint from the moving picture.... No, Sir? Have you seen our musical pockets? Quite the latest New Year billiard novelty. When the ball drops into the net the weight presses on this stop, which releases a musical phrase from a musical-box under the table. We have some delightful rag-time effects for Pool.... Not to-day, Sir? Thank you, Sir. The 'Vacuum Patent' and the secret-jointed cue shall be delivered this afternoon. Good day, Sir."
* * * * *
* * * * *
THE PIDGIN TROT.
The Paris Academy of Dancing Masters, according to a contemporary, announce a real successor to the Tango in the "Ta-tao." This dance is at any rate of respectable antiquity, as it has been popular in China since the year 2450 B.C. We anticipate an influx of slit-eyed professors from the Middle Kingdom, and are therefore brushing up our pidgin English in order that Mr. Punch's readers may be able to deal with the situation in the ball-rooms and at Ta-tao teas. Thus:—
Student. Chin-chin, Mr. Dance-pidgin-man!
Plofessor. Chin-chin, sah!
Student. You jussee now come this-side?
Plofessor. My hab jussee come Luntun.
Student. You talkee Yin-ke-li?
Plofessor. Can do. My sabby Englishee allo same you. My talkee tlue pidgin, no talkee lie pidgin.
Student. That b'long first chop! My wantchee catchee you teachee my, allo same same you dancee ta-tao.
Plofessor. My teachee numbah one plopah!
Student. So-fashion eh? How muchee plice?
Plofessor. My no makee squeeze-pidgin. My teachee velly well. S'pose you talkee plice....
Student. S'pose you catchee two dollah one-piecee time? Can do?
Plofessor. No can! My wantchee save face! My plice ten dollah, by'mby twenty dollah one-piecee time, allo same tango fashion.
Student. That ting no b'long leason! You b'long clevah inside—understand? My sabby heap foleign debble.... You catchee plenty cumshah!
Plofessor.. My no lose face....
etc., etc., da capo.
Nut. You-piecee here? Chin-chin!
Noisette.. Allo same you. You sabby plenty girl-chilo here?
Nut. My don't tink. Who-man b'long that boy-chilo you jussee talkee down-side?
Noisette. That b'long my pidgin!
Nut. Solly! S'pose you wantchee one-piecee dance? My b'long numbah one good boy!
Noisette. Can do first chop.
Nut. You sabby-dancee ta-tao?
Noisette. Can do two-piecee step so-fashion, one-piecee step so-fashion....
Nut. You b'long quite top-side.... I say, this lingo is about the edge. Put me down for the chow-chow—I mean supper, what!
Noisette. Sorry. Full up. Ta-tao!
* * * * *
THE PRICE OF ADMIRALTY.
* * * * *
* * * * *
THE MOAN OF THE OLD HORSES.
(See correspondence in The Spectator upon the sufferings of old horses exported alive to Antwerp.)
"Master, it was long ago you rode me; Master, you were careful of me then; Never was there anyone bestrode me Equal to my master among men. When we flew the hedge and ditch together— 'Good lass!'—how it made me prick my ear! Horn and hound, bright steel and polished leather, Long ago—if you but saw me here!"
Pitiless wind and heaving surge, A fevered foot and a running sore, The siren's shriek for a funeral dirge, And a hobble to death on the further shore.
"Master, it was long ago you bought me; Master, you were proud to see me strain, Matching all my might as nature taught me With the loaded burden of the wain. When I drew the harvest waggon single— 'Good lad!'—how I turned my head to see! Chain and hames and brasses all a-jingle, Long ago—do you remember me?"
Pitiless surge and driving hail, A ship a-roll in a dazing roar, A shoulder split on an iron rail, And a hobble to death on the further shore.
"Master, you were saddened when we parted, Begged of my new master to be kind; Divers owners since and divers-hearted Leave me old and weary, lame and blind. Voices in the tempest passing over— 'Good lass!'—I can scarcely turn my head. Oats and deep-strewn stall and rack of clover, Long ago—and oh that I were dead!"
Piteous fate—too long to live, Piteous end for a friend of yore; Was it too much of a boon to give A merciful death on the nearer shore?
* * * * *
THE NEW "WHITE HOPE."
"'I passed through several drawing-rooms,' she says. 'I saw ladies who were so shy that they couldn't utter a word before me, but who suddenly put a ribbon round my wrist to measure it'—you know, of course, by reputation Polaire's 15-inch wrist."—Sunday Chronicle.
If the biceps is in proportion, Bandsman BLAKE should tremble.
* * * * *
AT THE PLAY.
"The Darling of the Gods."
Though the Gallery, on the night when I attended, received it with rapt interest rather than delirious enthusiasm, The Darling of the Gods promises once more to justify its title. The play has undergone very little modification since it was produced a decade ago. It remains pure melodrama incidentally set in a Japanese dress, and sprinkled with a few Japanese words. Here and there it may reproduce the Japanese attitude of mind, as distinct from details of custom, but the general spirit of it follows the traditional Anglo-Saxon lines. Anybody who knows no more of Japan than may be gathered from the pages of LAFCADIO HEARN will at least have learned that her youth is taught to regard the love-interest of an ordinary English novel as an indecency; and so will recognise the improbability of the romantic element in the play. Still, all that is of little consequence, for there must have been very few who went to His Majesty's to improve their acquaintance with comparative ethnology.
The play has pleasant things for the eye; and one of the best of them was the face of Mr. GEORGE RELPH as Kara, leader of the Samurai. But there were horrors, too; notably the senile amorousness of Zakkuri and the offensive little figure of It, his shadow—an interpolation in the bill of fare. A properly qualified dwarf I might have welcomed; but this precocious babe with the false moustache and the sham bald crown and the cynical giggle, who ought to have been in the nursery instead of serving his master with liquid stimulants and assisting in all sorts of wickedness, was a peculiarly nauseating object, and got on my nerves far more than the terrors of the torture-chamber. This painful business was done off, and indeed most of the bloody work was carried on out of sight—a curious economy in a play where there was so much talk of lethal tools. It is true that an arrow once flopped on to the stage, but it only brought a note from a friend's hand. Swords, too, were now and then raised to strike, but were always arrested in mid-air. Even in the last stand of the Samurai, where one might reasonably have hoped for some hand-to-hand play, nothing happened except one fatal shot from an unseen musket, and even then the stricken body fell into the wings. If it hadn't been for the throttling of a spy and a touch or two of hara-kiri in the dark of the Bamboo Forest we should have had practically no corpses at all.
Sir HERBERT TREE was again the most likely exotic, and played his revolting part with great gusto and a permissible amount of humour. Miss MARIE LOeHR, whose delicate grace of feature and colouring lost something by her dusky disguise, was sufficiently Japanese in the first scene, and did the right twittering with her feet; but when the virgin light-heartedness of Yo-San was changed to tragic despair she mislaid her Orientalism and reverted to her attractive English self. She brought a true pathos into the scene where she is left out of mind by her lover, to whom, at a pinch, all that is unfair to love was fair in war. I shall never, by the way, quite understand how Kara so far forgot his manners and obligations as to threaten her with death for a betrayal to which he owed his own life and with it the opportunity of killing her. With this reservation, Kara is a brave and noble figure, and Mr. RELPH made him look like it.
I was disappointed that Mr. PHILIP MERIVALE should have had no better chance than was afforded by the part of a dumb servant for the display of that delightful personality which so shone in his Cassio and his Doughty; but he was quietly admirable in the most thrilling scene of all—outside the Shoji of Yo-San. One missed the fine performance of Miss HILDYARD as the outcast Geisha, with its suggestion of SADI YAKKO's manner.
The play was again admirably mounted, and the final scene of reunion in the clouds (reached after an interval where every minute, by Greenwich time, was a hundred years) contrived to escape the banality which commonly attends these transfigurations. I was glad, too, to observe that, in the code of etiquette which prevails in "the first Celestial Heaven," the European habit of osculation is recognised; though it seems that you have to go through a very hell of a time before you get to it.
* * * * *
* * * * *
THE OLD MASTER.
As these things go, I reckon our sale went pretty well. Just before closing time we held a rubbish auction, with Ginger in the chair. Ginger would make an absolute Napoleon among auctioneers. He can bully, lie, despair, wheedle and take you into his confidence in one breath.
He had sold four table-centres and a pair of babies' boots for songs when Mrs. James Allen came up to his platform and explained a parcel which she handed up in agitated whispers.
Ginger accepted it with a whistle that was not without its moral effect on the mass. He released it from its wrappings reverently and, after a short scrutiny, spake out.
"We have here, ladies and gentlemen, what I have no hesitation in regarding as the gem of the sale. It has by a highly unfortunate mischance lain hidden up to five minutes ago. It is nothing less, in fact, than an indisputably genuine Van Ruiter—(sensation)—which Colonel Allen has very nobly consented to sacrifice for—for the splendid cause which has assembled us here to-day. (Applause.) This little canvas, ladies and gentlemen, apart from being an authenticated example of such an artist as Van Ruiter, is a possession which any man might be proud of. It is called 'The Two Windmills' and is, I hope, known to most of you by reputation. What shall we say for this, ladies and gentlemen?"
"Sevenpence," said a humourist.
"Mr. Archer is pleased to be amusing," said Ginger with more than his usual asperity. "Mr. Archer says seven-pence. Well, I'll say five guineas. Any advance on five guineas, ladies and gentlemen? Going, going—"
Now I shouldn't have thought there were sixteen shillings left in the bazaar grounds outside the stall boxes. But before the hammer showed any signs of descent a still small voice from the background said, "Six pounds."
It was Mrs. Newman. She is worth anything between five and six figures, and hunts the antique indiscriminately.
Ginger bowed comprehendingly and began talking again.
"Ladies and gentlemen, six pounds offered for a signed Van Ruiter. Look, you can see the signature. Is this to go at six pounds? There's no reserve. Van Ruiter's 'Two Windmills' going at six pounds. Any advance? Sir Robert, a man of your taste—"
Sir Robert Firley had been looking on waveringly. He is a man of no taste at all except it be in the matter of old brandy; but he hates Mrs. Newman and he wavered no longer.
"Six guineas," he said.
"Seven pounds," said Mrs. Newman.
"Guineas," growled Sir Robert.
"Eight pounds," said Mrs. Newman.
"Guineas," from Sir Robert.
"Ten pounds," said Mrs. Newman more shrilly.
"Guineas." Sir Robert was now well set and looked good for a century.
Mrs. Newman hesitated. Ginger gave her the right sort of look. To speak was to break the spell. She set her teeth.
"Fifteen pounds," she said through them.
"Guineas," said Sir Robert with his unfailing originality.
Amid furious but suppressed excitement the struggle went on. It was only at seventy-five pounds that Sir Robert began to feel silly and the prize fell to Mrs. Newman.
"I congratulate you, madam," said Ginger warmly. "Even as it is you have got it at a remarkable price."
She went away happy.
Afterwards I approached Ginger.
"Was that a genuine Van Ruiter, really?" I asked.
"Sure," said Ginger carelessly.
"But—er—" I asked, "who is Van Ruiter? What's his school? I don't know much about these Dutchmen."
"Van Ruiter," said Ginger severely, "is a painter in oils. His work has been known to fetch as much as seventy-five pounds. As for his school, there was a man of that name at Marlborough with me. And as the canvas of 'The Two Windmills' is dated 1912 it might be him."
* * * * *
* * * * *
A CHILD AMONG THE PROPHETS.
The Evening News called attention to the following as one of the "special features" of a recent issue:—
"FORECASTS OF SPRING MILLINERY
By Miss Bessie Ascough (Age 7)."
* * * * *
I am not legal adviser to Miranda's family; nevertheless she came to see me on business the other day. I saw at once by her serious air that it was something of first-rate importance.
"I want a will," she said; "one of those things that people leave when they die."
"Some people leave them and some don't," I said.
"I mean the things that show who is to have your belongings."
"Undoubtedly you mean wills."
"Do you sell them?"
"I should like to see some."
"What size?" I asked facetiously.
"Sixes—long ones," said Miranda, looking at her hands.
"I remember," I murmured.
Miranda looked up with a start and assumed her severest expression.
"I'm afraid you're not treating the matter seriously. Perhaps I had better go to father's solicitor; he's older and quite serious. But then he's rather bald and uninteresting. I think he takes snuff."
I retorted in my most professional manner. "I beg your pardon; I think you must have misunderstood me. I meant that all wills are not quite the same; some are longer than others."
"Not too long, then," she said. "You might show me some medium size ones. I should like to do the thing fairly well."
"We don't exactly stock them; they're generally made to order."
"I'm sorry; I wanted one at once. You know I was twenty-one the other day." (I knew it to my cost.) "Father says that everyone over twenty-one ought to make a will."
"Your father's views on the subject are very sound. If you'll give me your instructions, I'll make you one." I spread a sheet of paper in front of me.
"But surely you can make a will without my help?"
"Not very easily. It's something like being measured for a gown. I must know what you have to leave and to whom you wish to leave it."
"But I don't want anybody to know."
"I'm not anybody."
"I know. I don't think, though, that I quite care to tell you."
"Then I'm afraid there'll be some little difficulty about executing your wishes in the matter."
"How much do wills cost?" she asked irrelevantly.
"It depends on the length."
"How much a yard?"
"We mostly sell them by the folio, not by the yard."
"How many feet are there in a folio?"
"You'll have to ask a law-stationer that."
"How much would a medium-sized will cost? Half-a-crown?"
"More than that," I said.
"Much more?" She turned over some coins in her purse.
"A good deal more."
"But I saw some in a chemist's for ninepence. Perhaps I'd better buy one of those."
"You might," I said doubtfully.
"You said that as though you didn't think that chemists sell very good wills."
"There's nothing really the matter with them. They consist of some printed words and spaces—mostly spaces. If you happen to execute them the right way the Judge afterwards decides what they mean."
"But how does he know?"
"He doesn't. That's what makes it so interesting. After a number of barristers have explained what they might mean, the Judge says what they ought to mean, and they mean that."
"So there would have to be a law-suit?"
"And you make good wills?"
"My wills are all of the very best quality."
"Then I suppose I must let you make me one. What sort of things do people leave?"
"All sorts of things. Anything they've got and quite often things they haven't got."
"Animals? Dogs? Can I will away Bobs, for instance?"
"Can I leave anything to anyone I like?"
"Yes, to anyone you like or don't like." I was thinking of Bobs. He is not a very amiable dog and no friend of mine.
"I think I'll leave Bobs to you." I had felt it coming.
"But I might die before Bobs. Bobs being a specific legacy would then lapse and fall into residue," I hurriedly explained.
"That doesn't sound nice."
"It isn't nice. Bobs would never be happy there. You had better leave him to some one younger."
After we had settled Bobs on a young cousin we got on quite quickly. We left her old dance programmes and several unimportant things of doubtful ownership to her greatest rival; her piano (with three notes missing), on which she had learnt to play as a child, to her Aunt in Australia, said Aunt to pay carriage and legacy duty; her violin to the people in the next flat; her French novels to the church library; her golf clubs and tennis racket to her old nurse; her Indian clubs to the Olympic Games Committee; her early water-colour sketches to the Nation. We divided up all her goods. Everybody got something appropriate. It was a good will. And when I suggested that there should be no immediate charge, but that the cost should be paid out of the estate in due season, Miranda very cheerfully agreed; and even went so far as to express a generous hope that I should outlive her.
* * * * *
THE MAN OF THE MOMENT.
January 23, 1914.
Who is the happy tradesman? Who is he?
I mean in this peculiarly horrible weather?
There is no happier tradesman than he. He stands all day long, and a large part of the night, among his bottles and boxes and jars and jarlets and pots and potlets and tabloids and capsules, selling remedies for colds and coughs and sore throats and rheumatism and neuralgia.
The colder it is the more he is on velvet, the chemist.
In America he is called a "druggist," but "chemist" is better, even though it confuses a mere peddler of ammoniated quinine with Sir WILLIAM RAMSAY and Sir WILLIAM CROOKES.
The old-fashioned spelling was "chymist," and there are still one or two shops in London where this spelling holds, but I think it's affectation.
Meanwhile the chemist (or chymist) is coining money.
Not even his lavish expenditure of clean white paper and red, red sealing wax, and the gas that burns always to melt that red, red sealing-wax, can make his profits look ridiculous.
Not even the constant loss of small articles from the counter, such as manicure sticks, and digestive tablets, and jujubes, and face cream and smokers' cachous, which never ought to be spread about there at all, because they are so easily conveyed by the dishonest customer into pocket or muff, can seriously upset the smiling side of the chemist's ledger.
Every night, when at last, laden with gold, he climbs to his bed, he hopes piously that the morrow may be colder.
And it usually is.
He will soon be a millionaire.
It is only a warm wind that can blow the chemist no good.
I wish I was a chemist, but it is now too late.
Still, I wish I was a chemist.
* * * * *
* * * * *
(Suggested by Mr. CHESTERTON's "The Flying Inn.")
Of G. K. C. a tale I tell, of GILBERT CHESTERTON, And how he met GAMBRINUS once and how they carried on. Each roared a lusty challenge out, as only topers can, And sat him down and called for beer, and then the bout began.
One had a Seidel to his hand, and one a pewter pot; They drank potations pottle deep, in fact they drank a lot. And as they drank the barrels dry they rolled them on the floor, And sang a stave and drained a quart and called aloud for more.
Their glowing souls o'ertopped the stars; they had their hearts' desire, The while the world spun round and round its busy track of fire. "I've lived for this," said G. K. C. and tossed his flaming head; "Der Kerl ist stark, das Bier ist gut," was what GAMBRINUS said.
The sun looked on, the moon looked on, the comets all stood still To see this stout and jolly pair who never had their fill. And still they drained their beer as if they'd only just begun; And no one dared to interfere to settle which had won.
* * * * *
The Bard to the schemer of newspaper placards.
Why, crystalliser of the world's diurnal Experience, why plunge my soul in gloom With tidings that are ghastly and infernal? Why dim my morning eye with tales of doom, Of flood and fire, of pestilence and drouth— Leaving me down, distinctly, in the mouth?
Why stun me with: "Explosion in a Larder: Cook and Policeman Blown to Bits"; "The Girl That Poisoned Half a Parish"; "Weather Harder And Death Rate Rising"; "Poacher Brains an Earl"; Why blazon blackly forth such blighting news, Nor give a glimpse of life's less dismal hues?
Why not proclaim such gladness as the following: "Twins Born in Tooting: Trio Doing Well"; "Chelsea Churchwarden much Improved, and Swallowing Beef-Tea With Ease"; "A Famous Barking Belle Gets Off at Last"; "A Navvy's Love of Greek"; "Young Poet Earns a Guinea in a Week"?
* * * * *
"Velour Hat, pretty blue, trimmed large elephant."—Advt.
A small seagull looks prettier and is less in the way at matinees.
* * * * *
THE CONVERTED STATISTICIAN.
A sudden jolt as we thundered over some points caused me to shoot a piece of bread-and-butter on to the floor. I stooped to pick it up.
"Stop a moment, please!" cried my companion. He jumped to his feet and examined it. "Ah," said he, "buttered side downward!"
"It's always the same," I said, as I jerked the thing viciously out of the window. "It's always buttered side downward."
"No, there you fall into a common error," protested the other. "You may take it that fifty-seven per cent. fall buttered side upward, and only forty-three per cent. buttered side downward."
"H'm," I said dubiously.
"You must pardon me for my officiousness," he went on, "especially as I have now no reason to be interested in such things. But habits are strong."
I looked at him curiously. "Habits?" I said.
"Yes, habits. For years I kept an accurate record of every slice of bread-and-butter I saw fall to the ground. I had better explain myself. Nearly all my life, you must understand, I have maintained the view that the generally accepted theory of the 'cussedness of things' is all wrong. You know that to most people 'cussedness' is the governing factor of life."
"Rather!" I agreed.
"Well, I disbelieved it, and I set to work to collect materials for a book which was to prove my case. For years I incessantly gathered statistics on the subject. Do I bore you?"
"Not at all," I assured him.
"The results were extraordinary. Take, for example, catching trains. It is highly important that you should catch a train at short notice. In nine cases out of ten, you will say, your taxicab breaks down, or your tram is held up by a block in the traffic, or the current fails on the Underground."
"Certainly it does."
"On the contrary—I am speaking from memory, but I think my figures are accurate—the taxicab only breaks down in 1.5 per cent. of cases; with the tram the percentage rises to 1.8; with the Underground it falls to .2."
"Or take the case of studs," he went on. "You drop a stud, and it promptly and inevitably rolls away into some quite impossible hiding-place. So most of us believe. As a matter of fact it only does so approximately three times out of a hundred. Or bootlaces. If you are exceptionally late in the morning; your bootlace always snaps, you say. Not at all. It breaks in such circumstances only four times out of a possible hundred. And with bicycles, to take another example. If ever you get a puncture, you fancy that it always occurs on some occasion when you are sorely pressed for time. Again, not at all. Out of a hundred punctures only seventeen are sustained at such unfortunate moments."
"You seem to have studied the subject pretty deeply," I remarked.
"Oh, my dear Sir, I cannot myself recall a tithe of the material I collected. I carried out my inquiries in every conceivable direction. Suppose we take the obscure case of a—let me see—of a burglar. This was one of my most difficult researches. A burglar will assure you, if you happen to be in his confidence, that every time he enters a house, at a moment when absolute quiet is from his point of view essential, a door slams, or a pot of jam falls off a shelf, or a—a canary commences to sing loudly, or there occurs one of a hundred other unlucky noises he will name. As you may imagine, my investigations into this problem were extraordinarily difficult. But the result was a triumph. In only .375 per cent. of cases is our burglar disturbed by an unexpected noise for which he is not himself responsible. As for the specific examples given, the results here are even more striking. The pot of jam, for instance, only falls down in, I think, .0025 per cent. of cases, the canary bursts into song in only .00175 per cent., and so on."
"It is astonishing," I admitted. "I must certainly obtain a copy of your book. Perhaps——"
"I never published it," he interrupted. "As a matter of fact I became converted."
"Converted?" I exclaimed in amazement. "In the face of all your statistics?"
"Yes," he said meditatively. "I remember the occasion well. It happened a few months ago, in early Spring. I had just completed the last chapter of my book, and I laid down my pen with a sigh. There before me lay all the statistics I had so laboriously collected, neatly tabulated and arranged with the proper explanatory notes and diagrams. It was finished after all these years! I can assure you it was an emotional moment. I don't know if you have ever brought a great work to a successful conclusion; if so, you can understand my feelings."
"I can imagine them," I said.
"Well, I opened the French windows and stepped out into the garden to calm myself. It was a lovely March day, I remember, sunny and fresh, and I paced up and down the garden till my emotions subsided and I gradually recovered my self-control. Then I went indoors again."
The train slowed down and he began to gather his things together. "While I was gone," he said sadly, "the wind blew my manuscript and the best part of my notes into the fire."
"How excessively unfortunate!" I murmured sympathetically. "And this converted you to the 'cussedness' theory?"
"Yes," said he, as he stepped down to the platform. "It was the only book I ever wrote, and it was burned practically to a cinder. It works out you see, at exactly 100 per cent...."
* * * * *
(A French contemporary, commenting upon the fact that the sudden appearance of cold weather in London is accompanied by an equally sudden disappearance of cats, demonstrates the cause of this coincidence.)
What boots it, Sir, to boggle at The truth? So be it said Quite candidly, our Thomas-cat, McCorquodale, is dead.
When winds from East and North conspire To freeze the very breath, To you it means the mere desire To skate or sit too near the fire, To him 'twas sudden death.
The cat that leaves the hearth and strays Abroad is over-bold; McCorquodale would go his ways, Despite the frost. To use a phrase Belittled in these careless days, He caught his death of cold.
'Twas not from native lack of fur That his demise was such. We did not see the end occur, But, though it be to cast a slur Upon humanity, infer (And you will catch our meaning, Sir) He had a coat too much.
* * * * *
And now, when Northern winds are bluff And veering to the East, And Beauty shuns their rude rebuff By hiding hands (and powder-puff) Inside her Russian sable muff, We tell ourselves, "Why, sure enough There goes, disguised as better stuff, McCorquodale deceased!"
* * * * *
ADVICE TO MOTHERS.
"January 20, at Kenyon-road, Wavertree, to Mr. and Mrs. Oswald Unsworth, a son (bath well)."—Liverpool Echo.
* * * * *
"Artists in Gentlemen's Headwear."—Advt.
This always creates surprise. Somehow still expects to see them in sombreros.
* * * * *
* * * * *
(By Mr. Punch's Staff of Learned Clerks.)
Looking about among the very best cliches (my own and others)—"supersubtle analysis," "intimate psychology," "masterly handling," "incomparable artistry"—I found nothing that it didn't seem a sort of impertinence to apply to JOSEPH CONRAD's Chance, which METHUEN has just had the good luck to publish. For the whole thing is much nearer wizardry than workmanship. I put the book down with a gasp, so close had I been to realities as conjured up by one to whom realism is a servant and not a master. I had come to know, in that piecemeal way in which one actually gets to know one's fellows—waiting for later experience to confirm or modify earlier impressions—the hapless, tragic Flora; her father, de Barral, the pseudo-financier, fraudulent through unimaginative stupidity rather than criminal intent; the kindly-cruel pair of Fynes; that perfect, chivalrous knight of the sea, Captain Anthony, Flora's fiery-patient lover; his splendidly staunch second officer, Powell, and the analytic Marlow, also a sailor-man, who acts in the capacity of ultra-modern chorus to this tragedy of chance. The central idea is the old wonder that such vast issues can hang upon such trivial happenings, not merely in the outer realm of fact but on the inner stage of character. And, this being his theme, perhaps Mr. CONRAD ought to have been more scrupulously careful to use no such strained coincidence as Powell's detection of de Barral's attempt at revenge on his fancied enemy, Anthony. But this is indeed a slight defect in a work of brilliantly sustained imagination and superb craftsmanship. I wonder if the author's magic has so seduced my judgment as to make me feel that the somewhat shadowy characters of Captain Anthony and de Barral are deliberately suggested in fainter outline just because Marlow has in fact not known them personally, but only through the reports of others. I am prepared to believe the author of Typhoon subtle enough for that, or for anything else, and I have this only grudge against him, that he intrigued me to the point of feverishly "skipping," out of sheer excitement to know if and how the deplorable misunderstanding between Flora and her quixotic Captain Anthony was to be cleared up, just like any ordinary decent library-subscriber, instead of the case-hardened critical fellow I naturally take myself to be.
* * * * *
There are two things for which I have a special affection. One is an old friend who has often persuaded me that this world is rather a place for smiles than for gloom; and the other is a new book of stories which have life in them, which make their effect with a seemingly artless certainty and leave the pleased reader with the impression that they are, if anything, a shade or so too short. Both these things I have obtained in One Kind and Another (SECKER), by Mr. BARRY PAIN. "The Journal of Aura Lovel," with which Mr. PAIN leads off, is a delightful performance. It has freshness and charm and its sentiment seems to me to be exactly right—the sentiment of an eager and attractive young girl relating the feelings of her heart in the tenderest and prettiest style as far removed from preciosity as it is from a silly simplicity. All the stories have the essential merits of brightness and lightness, and most of them have that peculiar kind of ingenuity which is one of Mr. PAIN's strong points. Suddenly they land you at a point which is nowhere near to that to which you thought you were travelling. The characters, even when they are engaged in paradoxical and preposterous actions, are real men and women, such as you could meet almost anywhere in a day's walk, and they are set off with Mr. PAIN's fancy so as to become additionally lifelike. Many things have struck me in the reading of this book. One is that Mr. PAIN's new novel is overdue. Another is that he has an uncanny familiarity with the ways of solicitors. "There is," he says, "no historical instance of a solicitor after the age of forty having made any change whatever in the manner of his clothing."
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I will confess that it took a little time—say four chapters or so—for the peculiar charm of Simple Simon (LANE) to take hold upon me. It is not, I quite honestly think, that I object to being laughed at. Goodness knows we ordinary folk get enough of that nowadays at the hands of these clever young satiricals; and most of us have enough common honesty to appreciate our tormentors. It is that, just for a time, I was troubled with a genuine doubt whether Mr. A. NEIL LYONS was not becoming too satirical to be sincere, and allowing his gift for facetiousness to betray him. The device of inventing a simple-minded young enthusiast, and making him ask perpetual questions to the undoing of all those who accept blindly the beliefs which Mr. LYONS is out to ridicule—well, there was nothing specially enlivening in that. Briefly, young Simon Honeyball in his parents' home threatened to weary me. But later, when he had migrated with his money and his extraordinary collection of proteges to Silverside, E., and there set up his preposterous household, and become a Guardian (with what devastating municipal results you may guess!) I found myself the grateful admirer of both Simon and his creator. Mr. LYONS' sympathetic drawing of certain odd London characters is a thing that I have often admired; he has no better portraits in his gallery than these of the quaint objects of Simon's Silverside hospitality. Specially did I like Margaret, the wholly ungrateful young woman whom he had befriended, and the trenchant speech with which she expressed her resulting opinion of his sagacity. She and others are also depicted in some very attractive drawings which illustrate (for once the right word) a book that, while perhaps not for every reader (parents please take note), will certainly delight those who can appreciate it.
* * * * *
Lean, clean, brown Englishmen bear the stamp of the Public Schools upon them and have made England what she is. Smug-faced missionaries grow fat on the spoils they have collected from smug-faced church-and-chapel-goers at home. Labour Members are in the pay of Germany and frequent infamous flats in the West-End. Liberal Cabinet Ministers—sometimes, more shame to them, of decent birth—wince consciously when reminded of the taint of their association with plebeian colleagues. These things, and many more of equal moment, I have learnt from Mr. STANLEY PORTAL HYATT, who in The Way of the Cardines (WERNER LAURIE) describes how Sir Gerald, of that famous family, captured, with reckless profusion of local blood, the independent island of Katu. Katu is in the Malay Archipelago. Of vital importance as a key to the Eastern trade route it is eagerly sought after by Germany, and to Germany's protection, after Sir Gerald's exploit, a pusillanimous and almost more than Liberal English Government basely ceded it. But what could you expect when Sir Joseph Darkin, smug-faced hypocrite (I am sorry, but almost everybody in this book except the Cardines had a smug face), was a member of our Cabinet? Were it not that Mr. HYATT writes with a distinct sense of style and some power of narrative, I should boldly label The Way of the Cardines as one of the most amazingly humorous books I have read for a long time. In the circumstances my amusement was mingled with a certain amount of respectful sorrow. Sir Gerald Cardine took morphia tablets freely; on the essence of what strange herb Mr. STANLEY PORTAL HYATT had been browsing before he began to write The Way of the Cardines I simply dare not think. I should recommend readers to mitigate the crudity of his opinions, as I did, by softening the C of Sir Gerald's perpetually reiterated surname all through. The story sounds even more beautiful so. And I like to think that, when the hour of England's need comes, a Sir Pilchard of the historic house, and reared in some famous school, will not be found wanting.
* * * * *
A WORLD'S WORKER.
* * * * *
OUR GALLANT BISHOPS.
"The Bishop of Barrow-in-Furness rendered timely assistance yesterday in an accident which occurred in the main street of Carlisle. Part of the harness of a heavily-laden cart broke, and the horse was becoming restive, when the Bishop, who was passing, prevented further danger by buckling up the girth while the carter held up the cart shafts, which would otherwise have fallen to the ground."—Morning Post.
A lesser man would have pinched the carter's cap.
* * * * *
MR. BALFOUR'S GIFFORD LECTURES.
"As everything is illusory, we had better make our illusions as pleasant as possible. 'That,' he said, 'has been my view.'"—Times.
"As everything was necessarily illusory, we had better make our illusions as pleasant as possible. (Laughter.) That had never been his view. (Applause.)"—Westminster Gazette.
Which of these reports is right must remain a matter of philosophic doubt unless Mr. BALFOUR can clear it up.
* * * * *
"At once, respectable Youth, for small milk round; a good milker; dive in."—Advt. in "Liverpool Echo."
What is the good of a Pure Milk Bill if this sort of thing goes on?