OR THE LONDON CHARIVARI.
DECEMBER 23, 1914.
* * * * *
An exceptionally well-informed Berlin newspaper has discovered that, owing to the war, Ireland is suffering from a horse famine, and many of the natives are now to be seen driving cattle.
* * *
An appeal is being made in Germany for cat-skins for the troops. In their Navy, on the other hand, they often get the cat itself.
* * *
In offering congratulations to the "Green Howards" on the work they have been doing at the Front, Major-General CAPPER said, "I knew it was a regiment I could hang my hat on at any time of the day or night." The expression is perhaps a little unfortunate; it sounds as if they had been pegging out.
* * *
Private F. NAILOR, of the Royal Berkshires, was at his home at Sandhurst last week when the postman brought a letter from the War Office reporting that he had been killed in action. While his being alive is, of course, in these circumstances an act of gross insubordination, the Army Council will, we understand, content itself with an intimation that it must not happen again.
* * *
A cigar presented by the KAISER to Lord LONSDALE has been sold at Henley in aid of the local Red Cross Hospital, and has become the property of a butcher at the price of L14 10s. Will it, we wonder, now be inscribed, "From a brother butcher"?
* * *
According to the Berliner Tageblatt Western Australia is interning her alien enemies on "Rottnest Island." If there is anything in a name, this does seem a rather unhappy choice, in view of the well-known sensitiveness of the German.
* * *
It is curious how in war time really important occurrences are apt to escape one's notice. For example, it was not until we read an article in a contemporary last week on "The Demise of the Slim Skirt" that we realised that Fat Skirts were now the vogue.
* * *
Of all forms of cruelty the most hideous is that which is perpetrated on defenceless little children, and we hear with regret that the Register of Births in Liverpool now includes the following names:—Kitchener Ernest Pickles, Jellicoe Jardine, French Donaldson, and Joffre Venmore.
* * *
With reference to our recent remarks about Mr. J. WARD'S so-called mixed metaphor of a horse bolting with money, a gentlemen writes to us from Epsom to say that he has personally put money on more than one horse which bolted.
* * *
The War would certainly seem to have led to better feeling in the Labour world between masters and men, and from a recent paragraph in The Daily Mail we learn that there is now a London Association of Master Decorators. The idea is a pretty one. Iron Crosses, perhaps?
* * *
The War has worked other wonders. Not the least of these, a Stock Exchange friend points out, is that lots of Bulls and Bears are now comrades in arms.
* * *
"NEW PHASE IN RUSSIA. GERMANS CHANGING THEIR DISPOSITIONS."
We are glad to hear this, for they used to have simply beastly ones.
* * * * *
Orderly. "YOUR MAJESTY, I HAVE BEEN SENT TO ASK FOR DETAILED INSTRUCTIONS ABOUT THE CHRISTMAS DINNER TO BE HELD AT BUCKINGHAM PAL——"
* * * * *
Another secret revealed by Mr. HAMILTON FYFE:—
"As usual when they take the initiative, the Russian troops swept the enemy before them. They first cleared out the trenches and then pursued the Germans."—Daily Mail.
In the West we still cling to the old-fashioned method of first clearing out the Germans and then pursuing the trenches.
* * * * *
SOME LITERARY WAR-NOTES.
MESSRS. HARRAP have just brought out William the Silent. This is not a biography of the KAISER.
* * * * *
Nor is The Hound of Heaven, a new edition of which is announced by Messrs. CHATTO AND WINDUS.
* * * * *
Mr. EDWARD CRESSY'S Discoveries and Inventions of the Twentieth Century makes no mention, curiously enough, of the WOLFF Bureau. We look in vain, too, among the Yuletide publications for a book of Fairy Tales by WILLIAM HOHENZOLLERN. This does not speak well for the alertness of our publishers.
* * * * *
Messrs. JACK, we see, have produced a Life of Nelson. It is now, we consider, up to Messrs. NELSON to produce a volume with some such title as We All Love Jack.
* * * * *
At last the Germans are reported to have scored a little success in the United States. An American coon is said to have been so much impressed by the achievements of the Germans that he has sent a song to the KAISER, the opening words of which are "My Hunny!"
* * * * *
The War is responsible for a splendid boom in the study of geography. An English lady who visited some of the Belgian wounded at a certain London hospital the other day asked one of them where he was hit, and on receiving the reply, "Au pied," is said to have spent hours trying to find the place on the map.
* * * * *
Which reminds us that, owing to the new names which the various belligerents are giving to towns which they have conquered (like Lemberg) or temporarily occupied (like Ostend), several map-makers are reported to be suffering from nervous breakdown.
* * * * *
The Kaiser's Thanks.
"The Archbishop of York and Germany."
Heading in "Edinburgh Evening Despatch."
Other pluralists, like the Bishop of SODOR AND MAN, are not at all jealous, nor are we at all surprised.
* * * * *
"They drank the full-flavoured soup with scarcely a sound."—The Story-Teller.
Another example of true British refinement.
* * * * *
THE OLD SEA-ROVER SPEAKS.
[Referring to our victory off the Falkland Islands, the Taegliche Rundschau remarks: "On board our North Sea ships our sailors will clench their teeth and all hearts will burn with the feeling, 'England the enemy! Up and at the enemy!'" The gallant bombardment of defenceless towns on our East Coast would appear to be the immediate outcome of this intelligent attitude.]
Behind your lock-gates stowed away, Out of the great tides' ebb and flow, How could you guess, this many a day, Who was your leading naval foe? But now you learn, a little late— So loud the rumours from the sea grow— England's the thing you have to hate, And not (for instance) Montenegro.
The facts are just as you've been told; Further disguise would be but vain; We have a penchant from of old For being masters on the main; It is a custom which we caught From certain sea-kings who begat us, And that is why we like the thought That you propose to "up and at" us.
Come where you will—the seas are wide; And choose your Day—they're all alike; You'll find us ready where we ride In calm or storm and wait to strike; But—if of shame your shameless Huns Can yet retrieve some casual traces— Please fight our men and ships and guns, Not women-folk and watering-places.
* * * * *
UNWRITTEN LETTERS TO THE KAISER.
(From the GERMAN CROWN PRINCE.)
MOST INTERNALLY (INNIGST) BELOVED FATHER,—Here in my headquarters we learnt with sorrow that you have been suffering from a bronchial catarrh. Anxious as we were at first, our minds were relieved when we heard that you had behaved very violently to those about you, for in that we recognised our good old father as we knew him from long since, and we said to ourselves that you could not fail soon to be in the saddle again with all your accustomed energy. And now comes the report that you are indeed yourself again, like Richard III, in our great German, SHAKSPEARE.
Now that all danger is past I cannot forbear giving you from my heart a word of warning, begging you not with rashness to risk your so valuable life. Do not laugh and imagine that I am pulling your leg (dass ich Dir das Bein ziehe). Nothing is further from my thoughts; I am quite serious. You must remember that you are not so young as you were and that this rushing to and fro between France and Poland, which to a man of my age would be a mere trifle, bringing with it only enjoyment, must be for a man who is between fifty and sixty a task well calculated to search out and expose his corporeally weak points so as to bring satisfaction, not to us, but to the enemy. Such a burden must no longer be placed only upon your back, for there are others whose bones are young and who are willing to share it with you. Why should we be compelled to sit still or merely to beat our back with fists while you, dear Father, undergo these too terrible fatigues? I myself, for instance, if I may say so with the most humble respect, am ready to represent you in all departments whenever you call upon me. I can scatter any number of Iron Crosses, and am willing to make speeches which will prove to our hated enemies, as well as to America and Italy, that God is the good old friend of our HOHENZOLLERN family and that He will pay no attention (why should He?) to anything that the English, the French, the Russians, the Servians and the Belgians may say. Is it not lucky for the Austrians and the Turks that they are on our side and can share in the high protection that we enjoy? To save you trouble I would even go so far as to open a session of the Reichstag, though for my own part I never could see much use in that absurd institution. Still we have it now under our thumb (unter unserem Daumen), and even the Socialists are ready to feed out of our hands and to allow us to kick them about the floor. He who says that war is barbarous and useless can learn by this example that it is not so. If you wish me to invite one or two Socialists (not more) to a State dinner I will even go so far as that. You see how deeply prepared I am to oblige you. And if you want to finish your cure by taking a complete rest from the serious work of being Commander-in-Chief, even in that point I am not unwilling to sacrifice myself to the highest interests of the Fatherland by replacing your august person both in the field and in the council chamber. You have only to say the word and I shall be there.
May I now add a few words about the War? Somehow it does not seem that we are getting on as we have been led to expect. Mind, I am not blaming anybody, certainly not your most gracious fatherly Majesty, but I must say that all the books which we were told to read showed us quite a different war, a war laid out on the system of 1870. At this stage, in 1870, everything was over except the siege of Paris and the shouting, but now we do not appear to be making progress anywhere. Why do these degenerate races hold back our holy and with-love-of-Fatherland-inspired troops? Perhaps the new MOLTKE has not been quite so sure in his touch or so triumphant in his plans as the old one—but then that ought not to have made much difference, because you and I have been there to keep him straight. FALKENHAYN, no doubt, might have been expected to do better, for you had opened your whole mind to him, but he too seems only able to knock his head against a stone wall (seinen Kopf gegen eine Mauer stossen) and the result is that we are everywhere getting it in the neck (dass wir es ueberall in dem Hals kriegen), and that process is not pleasant for a true Hohenzollern. It is possible that RUPERT OF BAVARIA has been allowed to talk too much. One CROWN PRINCE is enough even for a German army. Have you any idea what we ought to do to secure victory somewhere?
I am sending you a box of lozenges, which I have always found excellent for a cough. I beg also that you will not forget how efficacious is flannel when worn next to the skin.
Your most devoted Son, WILHELM, KRONPRINZ.
* * * * *
I. THE MOTTLE.
A new and ingenious development of the old-fashioned hot-water bottle. The ordinary hot-water bottle warms but a small portion of the bed. The Mottle, possessing a motor attachment, can be wound up and it will then travel all over the bed, diffusing an agreeable warmth everywhere. May be used as an engine in the nursery by day. 33s. 6d. The CHESTERTON, for large-size beds, 44s. 11d. This kind also makes an excellent gift for soldiers in the trenches. It will travel half-a-mile before requiring further petrol.
* * * * *
AUSTRIA. "I SAID ALL ALONG THIS WAS GOING TO BE A PUNITIVE EXPEDITION."
* * * * *
Illustration: 1 THE STEAM-ROLLER (ENGLISH) AT WORK.
Illustration: 2 "NOTHING, MADAM, I ASSURE YOU—DIDN'T FEEL IT."
Illustration: 3 THE PATRIOTIC MIND AT WORK.
Illustration: 4 "BUT, YOUNG MAN, IF YOU CAN STAND HARDSHIPS LIKE THAT, HOW IS IT YOU ARE NOT AT THE FRONT?"
* * * * *
LIGHT REFRESHMENT: AN INTERLUDE.
BY SPECIAL CONSTABLE XXX.
I was sitting grimly in my sentry-box guarding a power station and a sausage factory. The latter is considered to be a likely point of attack on the part of the Huns. Should it be destroyed, a vital source of food supply for our army (they would reason) would be cut off.
Incidentally, the sausage factory is much more exciting to guard than the electric light works. One sees the raw material arriving and being unloaded. One sees the sausage king swishing up in his richly-appointed limousine, giving porkly orders to his deferential subordinates, and then whisking off—no doubt to confer with the War Office.
An old lady with a million wrinkles approached me and seemed desirous of entering into conversation. We are strictly forbidden to talk with civilians unless first accosted. After that it is a matter for individual discretion.
I therefore left it to her to make the first advance. She began: "'Ave you got to sit there the 'ole of the afternoon, dearie?"
I confirmed that apprehension.
"Well, I do call it a shame; and you looking so blue with the cold."
With that I was in cordial agreement.
"Are they going to bring you tea, dearie, at 'arf-time?"
Alas, no. Under sergeant's sanction we might be permitted to buy a pork-pie from opposite, but this must be taken as unofficial and in confidence.
"What are you waiting for?" she asked.
"Zeppelins, Madam," I replied.
"Zeppelins—what would they be?"
She nodded a vigorous understanding of my explanation.
"And when they drop their nasty bombs, what will you do then, dearie?"
Our orders were to draw our truncheons, arrest them and convey them to the nearest police-station. I made this very clear.
"And what do you think they will do to them?"
I considered that they would get at least a month with hard labour, and no option of a fine.
"I should think so! The brutes—trying to take away the poor man's food! And as for that CROWN PRINCE, when you get 'im, just you 'it 'im right over the 'ead with your truncheon!"
We are not allowed to hit over the head on ordinary occasions, but in the case of the CROWN PRINCE attacking (and conceivably looting) our sausage factory, no doubt the rule would be relaxed. I undertook to follow her advice, and she left greatly relieved.
* * * * *
Even without his khaki I should have known the wee lieutenant for an infant in arms, and I began to hope, directly I had been detached by our hostess to cover his left wing, that he was that happy warrior for whom I was seeking. He saw me looking at the red ribbon which adorned the left wing in question and which our gardener's wife told me the other day was "a poor trumpery sort of thing if KITCHENER meant it as an honour to them."
"I'm not a kicker," he assured me, and I let him talk inoculation happily until we commenced to move forward in files.
"You live here, don't you?" he said as soon as Maria (not black) had served us with soup, and when I assented his next remark made me hopeful.
"And you know all the people round here, I suppose?"
"Nearly everyone I should think within five miles of the village."
"I've been here a fortnight and this is the first time I have been out—not out-of-doors, of course—I mean meeting people."
At that moment my neighbour upon the left commenced a bombardment which interrupted us but, when a pause came at last, the wee lieutenant broke it in a low and solemn voice.
"I suppose you couldn't tell me why a deaf man can't tickle nine children?"
So suddenly had matters come to a head that I sat staring, and the wee lieutenant, misunderstanding my interest, grew red.
"I'm not mad, really and truly, but that thing is positively getting on my brain. I'm not very keen on riddles and so forth, but I happened to hear someone ask that one the other day, and I didn't catch the answer. Somehow it has worried me ever since. Why can't he tickle them?"
I shook my head. "I never saw anybody attempt it, deaf or otherwise. Hadn't you better ask the person who propounded the question?"
"I—I can't very well—I wish I could. I thought, if you knew the answer to the riddle, you might know the person who asked it. It's very hard to get to know people by yourself, isn't it?"
I lured him into the open. "How did you come to hear it?"
He pondered in silence for a moment with his frank eyes bent upon his plate.
"I don't mind telling you, but I shouldn't like everyone to know; they might think me a bit of a fool."
I promised discretion.
"Well, the other morning I was up on the common kicking a football about with some of the men—it's good for them and keeps them from getting too much beer, and I like it myself—football, I mean, not beer—and some people came and sat down to watch on the roller, and there was a Yellow Jersey among them."
"But what a curious place for a cow—on a roller."
The wee lieutenant twinkled. "And she was rather nice, you know."
I nodded, thinking to myself that this young man would never make "an Eye-Witness with Headquarters," whatever else the fortunes of war might bring him.
"Well, that evening we were out scouting, trying to find out where a party of cavalry had got to that had been reported coming out from King's Langley to take us by surprise, and when I got to a cottage with its blinds down and a light inside I peeped in, and there were two or three people, and she was there, and, of course, I had to knock to ask if any cavalry had gone by."
"And she didn't come to the door!"
"No, you're right there; somebody else did, but I heard my one—I mean the Jersey one—I mean the Yellow one—ask somebody that riddle; but the person—the sister or whatever she was who came to the door—finished me off before I heard the answer, and somehow or other it's been running through my head ever since. It isn't the girl, you know, it's—it's the aggravation of it. I asked our sergeant the other day and he doesn't know. One of these days I shall be giving it as an order—'Deaf section! Tickle nine children!' Do you—do you know who lives in that cottage?"
"But she—they were there that night."
"Yes, but they don't really live there. We call them the Swallows because they migrate so much. Baby Swallow is very pretty, isn't she? and, by-the-by, she's rather afraid that you may be worrying about that riddle."
This was the moment for which I had been waiting, but the wee lieutenant took cover, hunting his dessert fork on the floor long after Maria had brought up reinforcements.
"Why, yes, she ought to have said, 'dumb,' not 'deaf.' I've forgotten the answer—something about 'gesticulate.' She's coming to tea with me to-morrow. Would you like me to ask her what the answer is, and write it down for you?"
Our hostess gave the signal for our half company to retire, the other half to stay down in the smoke, and I added, as I went out, "That will lay the riddle nicely, won't it? If it had been the girl and not the aggravation, I should have asked you to tea too."
The wee lieutenant surrendered at that, blushing above the door-handle.
"I—I—I say, I should like to get the answer first-hand. Won't you ask me to tea, please?"
I don't yet know what it feels like to capture a prisoner of war, but that's how I assisted at the taking of a prisoner of love.
* * * * *
The Jester. "HALLO, SONNY! CHOOSIN' YER TURKEY?"
Diminutive Patriot. "GARN! YER DON'T CATCH ME 'AVIN' TURKEY THESE DAYS. WY, I'D AS SOON EAT A GERMAN SAUSAGE!"
* * * * *
KEEPING IN THE LIMELIGHT.
It was a grand meeting of the literary gents. They had all heard about the War from their publishers, and there had been one or two suggestive allusions in The Author. The question of the moment was, "How can we help?" The chairman was the President of the Society of Authors, who knew everybody by sight.
The first to rise was Mr. HAROLD BEGBIE, but he failed to catch the Chairman's eye, which had been secured by Mr. H. G. WELLS. This well-known strategist rose to point out that what England wanted in the event of an invasion was the man, the gun and the trench. When he said man he meant an adult male of the human species. A gun was a firearm from which bullets were discharged by an explosion of gunpowder. A trench, he averred, amid loud protests from the ex-Manager of the Haymarket Theatre, was a long narrow cut in the earth. He had already pointed out these facts to the War Office, but had received no reply. Apparently Earl KITCHENER required time for the information to soak in. Was it or was it not a national scandal? His new nov—— (Deleted by Chairman).
After a little coaxing, Mr. EDEN PHILLPOTTS was persuaded to rise to his feet. He said deferentially in the first place that he was not a savage. (General cheering, in which might be detected a note of sincere relief.) He lived at Torquay. (Oh, oh.) He had never been to London before, and was surprised to find it such a large place. (General silence.) He had been a pacifist—(Hear, hear)—but he now thought the GERMAN EMPEROR was a humbug. He wished it to be known that his attitude was now one of great 'umbleness. The war could go on as far as he was concerned. (Applause.) Although he had given up writing about Dartmoor he had that morning applied for the post of Military Member of the Invasion Committee of the Torquay Division of Devonshire. (Profound sensation.) He didn't know if he should get it, but his friend, Mr. ARNOLD BENNETT, with whom he used once to collab—— (Deleted by Chairman).
Mr. HAROLD BEGBIE then took the floor, but was interrupted by the arrival of the Military Member of the Invasion Committee of the Thorpe-le-Soken Division of Essex.
Hanging his feathered helmet on the door-peg and thrusting his sword and scabbard into the umbrella-stand, Mr. ARNOLD BENNETT took a seat at the table, afterwards putting out his chest. Mr. WELLS was observed to sink into an elaborately assumed apathy. But in his eyes was a bitter envy.
Mr. BENNETT, after clearing his throat, said that he had settled the War. Everybody was to do what they were told and what that was would be told them in due course. He and the War Office had had it out. He had insisted on something being done, and the War Office, which wasn't such a fool as some authors thought (with a meaning look at Mr. WELLS), had been most affable. Everything now was all right. His next book was to be a war nov—— (Deleted by Chairman).
Mr. HAROLD BEGBIE then rose to his feet simultaneously with Mr. WM. LE QUEUX.
Mr. WM. LE QUEUX said that he owned an autograph portrait of the KAISER. It was signed "Yours with the belt, BILL." The speaker would sell it on behalf of the War Funds and humbly apologised to his brother authors for having knocked about so much in his youth with emperors and persons of that kind. It should not occur again. He pointed out that he had foretold this War, and that his famous book, The Great War of—whenever it was—was to be brought up to date in the form of —— (Deleted by Chairman).
At this juncture it was brought to the Chairman's notice that Mr. H. G. WELLS was missing. An anxious search revealed the fact that the ornamental sword and plumed casque of the Military Member of the Invasion Committee of the Thorpe-le-Soken Division of Essex had disappeared at the same time, and the meeting broke up in disorder.
* * * * *
Illustration: THE SUPREME TEST.
The Civilian. "I DON'T KNOW HOW YOU DO IT. FANCY MARCHIN' THIRTY MILES WITH THE RIFLE, AND THAT PACK ON YER BACK!"
The Tommy. "YES, AND MIND YOU—IT'S TIPPERARY ALL THE WAY!"
* * * * *
Our Sporting Press Again. "Sporting rifles have been bought in Paris for pheasant-shooting."—Daily News.
* * * * *
THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT.
I was sitting in front of the fire—dozing, I daresay—when he was announced.
He came in awkwardly and shook me by the hand.
"Forgive my unceremonious entry," he said. "I know I ought to have come down the chimney, but—well, you understand."
"Things are different this year," I suggested.
"Very different," he said gloomily. He put his sack down and took a seat on the other side of the fire-place.
"Anything for me?" I wondered, with an eye on the sack between us.
"Ah, there's no difference there," he said, brightening up as he drew out a big flat parcel. "The blotter from Aunt Emily. You needn't open it now; it's exactly the same as last year's."
I had been prepared for it. I took a letter from my pocket and dropped it in the sack.
"My letter of thanks for it," I explained. "Exactly the same as last year's too."
Father Christmas sighed and gazed into the fire.
"All the same," he said at last, "it's different, even with your Aunt Emily."
"Tell me all about it. To begin with, why didn't you come down the chimney?"
"The reindeer." He threw up his hands in despair. "Gone!"
I looked at him in surprise.
"Or do I mean 'billeted'?" he said. "Anyway, the War Office did it."
"That's it. They requisitioned 'em. What you and I would call taking 'em."
"I see. So you have to walk. But you could still come down the chimney."
"Well, I could; but it would mean climbing up there first. And that wouldn't seem so natural. It would make it more like a practical joke, and I haven't the heart for practical jokes this year, when nobody really wants me at all."
"Not want you?" I protested. "What rubbish!"
Father Christmas dipped his hand into his sack and brought out a card of greeting. Carefully adjusting a pair of horn spectacles to his nose he prepared to read.
"Listen to this," he said. "It's from Alfred to Eliza." He looked at me over his glasses. "I don't know if you know them at all?"
"I don't think so."
"An ordinary printed card with robins and snow and so forth on it. And it says"—his voice trembled with indignation—"it says, 'Wishing you a very happy ——' Censored, Sir! Censored, at my time of life. There's your War Office again."
"I think that's a joke of the publisher's," I said soothingly.
"Oh, if it's humour, I don't mind. Nobody is more partial to mirth and jollity than I am." He began to chuckle to himself. "There's my joke about the 'rain, dear'; I don't know if you know that?"
I said I didn't; he wanted cheering up. But though he was happy while he was telling it to me he soon became depressed again.
"Look here," I said sternly, "this is absurd of you. Christmas is chiefly a children's festival. Grown-ups won't give each other so many presents this year, but we shall still remember the children, and we shall give you plenty to do seeing after them. Why," I went on boastfully, "you've got four of my presents in there at this moment. The book for Margery, and the box of soldiers, and the Jumping Tiger and——"
Father Christmas held up his hand and stopped me.
"It's no good," he said, "you can't deceive me. After a good many years at the business I'm rather sensitive to impressions." He wagged a finger at me. "Now then, uncle. Was your whole heart in it when you bought that box of soldiers, or did you do it with an effort, telling yourself that the children mustn't be forgotten—and knowing quite well that you had forgotten them?"
"One has a—a good deal to think about just now," I said uneasily.
"Oh, I'm not blaming you; everybody's the same; but it makes it much less jolly for me, that's all. You see, I can't help knowing. Why, even your Aunt Emily, when she bought you that delightful blotter ... which you have your foot on ... even she bought it in a different way from last year's. Last year she gave a lot of happy thought to it, and decided in the middle of the night that a blotter was the one thing you wanted. This year she said, 'I suppose he'd better have his usual blotter, or he'll think I've forgotten him.' Kind of her, of course (as, no doubt, you've said in your letter), but not the jolly Christmas spirit."
"I suppose not," I said.
Father Christmas sighed again and got up.
"Well, I must be trotting along. Perhaps next year they'll want me again. Good-bye."
"Good-bye. You're quite sure there's nothing else for me?"
"Quite sure," he said, glancing into his bag. "Hallo, what's this?"
He drew out a letter. It had O.H.M.S. on it, and was addressed to "Father Christmas."
"For me? Fancy my not seeing that before. Whatever can it be?" He fixed his spectacles again and began to read.
"A commission, perhaps," I said humorously.
"It is a commission!" he cried excitedly. "To go to the Front and deliver Christmas presents to the troops! They've got hundreds of thousands all ready for them!"
"And given in what spirit?" I smiled.
"Ah, my boy! No doubt about the spirit of that." He slung his sack on to his shoulder and faced me—his old jolly self again. "This will be something like. I suppose I shall have the reindeer again for this. Did I ever tell you the joke—ah! so I did, so I did. Well, good night to you."
He hurried out of the room chuckling to himself. I sat down in front of the fire again, but in a moment he was back.
"Just thought of something very funny," he said, "Simply had to come back and tell you. The troops—hee-hee-hee—won't have any stockings to hang up, so—ha-ha-ha—they'll have to hang up their puttees! Ha-ha! Ha-ha-ha! Ha-ha-ha-ha!"
He passed through the door again, and his laughter came rolling down the passage.
A. A. M.
* * * * *
Illustration: FOR ALL PERSONS.
* * * * *
THE SUPPRESSED SUPERMAN.
"What are you reading, Arthur?" I said.
"NIETZSCHE," said Arthur.
I sneezed in response. "Isn't that the chap," I said, "who's really responsible for the war?"
"People like you think so," he said.
"The reading of philosophy," I said, "was never in my line. Give me the exact sciences; EUCLID for me every time."
"Hopelessly moth-eaten," said he. "Most of the schools have dropped him in favour of geometry."
"Bah," I said, "a quibble. But tell me, wasn't it NIETZSCHE who taught the Germans to think they were supermen or whatever you call 'em?"
"Contrary to the opinion of the man in the street," said Arthur, looking at me rather meaningly, "NIETZSCHE did not write merely for the benefit of German people, nor did he approve, I should say, of the German idea of culture. You've been reading the evening papers; you're a wallower, that's what you are."
"I'm afraid," I said, "you also consider yourself a bit of a superman."
"I admit," he said, "that I've gone a long way."
"Beyond you," he said, tapping the page of NIETZSCHE he was reading; "we're not on the same plane."
"You can always get out and change," I said.
"Such flippancy," said Arthur, "is unbecoming in a lance corporal. What you want is a course of philosophy."
"What you want," I said, "is a course of musketry." Arthur, who, like me, is rising forty-six, is sound enough for home defence, but isn't in any Force yet. So, being a lance corporal in the "United Arts" myself, I feel I can throw advice of this sort at him freely.
"I'm going to give you a mental prescription," he said, taking out a pencil and scribbling on an envelope. "Have you read this—LUDOVICI'S Who is to be Master of the World?"
"No, I haven't," I said; "but I can tell you who isn't going to be—in once."
"The Japanese," said Arthur, "think a lot of it."
"I've got a pal," I said, "who'd dearly enjoy a few rounds of mental jiu-jitsu with you. He's got rather advanced ideas."
"Advanced!" said Arthur contemptuously. "We Nietzscheans speak only of being 'complete' or 'nearer completion.'"
It was at this point that Alfred joined in. He was sitting in uniform on the other side of the fire, reading Ruff's Guide.
"Who's that talking about poor old LUDOVICI?" he asked.
For a moment I was afraid Alfred thought that LUDOVICI was a horse.
"I was recommending him to this shining light of the Burlington House brigade," said Arthur.
Alfred laughed. "Look here, young fellow," he said, "everybody knows that he (pointing to me) is an antediluvian; but you've gone a bit off the boil yourself, haven't you?"
"What do you mean?" said Arthur, looking rather pained.
"Many Continental theories," said Alfred, "when they die, go to Oxford. I'm afraid your friend LUDOVICI'S theory has been sent down even from there. Have you read Barrow's Fallacy of the Nietzschean doctrine?"
"N-no," said Arthur.
"Or Erichsen's Completion of Self? You can get the paper edition for a bob."
"I'm sorry to say I haven't," said Arthur, who looked sadly chap-fallen. "But I will. However, for the moment I've got a meeting on—our literary club, you know."
"I'm coming round to raid you one night," I said, "to see if you're all registered."
For reply Arthur slammed the door behind him.
"Alfred," I said, when Arthur had left the house, "you astound me. Who are these new friends and their philosophies, Barrow and the Danish fellow, what's his name?"
"Mere inventions," said Alfred, "but they served."
"Then the fat's in the fire," I said; "he'll find out that you've been pulling his leg before lunch-time to-morrow."
"That's all right," said Alfred. "Our lot's booked for Pirbright to-morrow morning, and we shan't meet again till the other side of Peace."
* * * * *
Illustration: AN ECHO FROM EAST AFRICA.
Sentry (until lately behind the counter in Nairobi, to person approaching post). "HALT! ADVANCE ONE, AND SIGN THE COUNTERFOIL!"
* * * * *
Illustration: THE CHILDREN'S TRUCE.
PEACE. "I'M GLAD THAT THEY, AT LEAST, HAVE THEIR CHRISTMAS UNSPOILED."
* * * * *
With ivy wreathed, a hundred lights Shone out; the Convent play was finished; The waning term this night of nights To a few golden hours diminished.
Again the curtain rose. Outshone The childish frocks and childish tresses Of the late cast that had put on Demureness and its party dresses.
Rustled a-row upon the stage Big girls and little, ranged in sizes, All waiting for the Personage To make the speech and give the prizes.
And there, all rosy from her role, Betsey with sturdy valiance bore her, Nor did she recognize a soul But braved the buzzing room before her
With such resolve that guest on guest, And many a smiling nun behind them, Met her eyes obviously addressed To proving that she did not mind them.
(So might a kitchen-kitten see— Whose thoughts round housemaids' heels are centred— The awful drawing-room's company He inadvertently has entered.)
Swift from her side the girlish crowd, With lovely smiles and limber graces, Went singly, took their prizes, bowed, Returning sweetly to their places.
Then "Betsey-Jane!" and all the rout (Her hidden mother grown romantic) Beheld that little craft put out Upon the polished floor's Atlantic.
The Personage bestowed her prize, And Betsey, lowly as the others, Bowed o'er her sandals, raised her eyes Alight with pride—and met her mother's!
She thrust between the honoured row Before her in her glad elation; Her school-mates gasped to see her go; The nuns divined her destination;
The guests made way. Clap following clap Acclaimed Convention's overleaping As Betsey gained her mother's lap And gave the prize into her keeping.
* * * * *
Royalties We Have Never Met.
I. THE EMPEROR WILLIAMS.
"The Emperor Williams, who was reported to have been at Breslau ... seems to have returned to Berlin."—Evening Despatch.
* * * * *
At the "Spotted Dog." "I 'EAR THERE BE TWO HUNDRED SOLDIERS—BORDERERS, THEY CALLS 'EM—'AVE COME 'ERE. DO YER RECKON THEY'LL BE FOR US OR AGIN' US, JARGE?"
* * * * *
Judge of the passionate hearts of men, God of the wintry wind and snow, Take back the blood-stained year again, Give us the Christmas that we know!
No stir of wings sweeps softly by; No angel comes with blinding light; Beneath the wild and wintry sky No shepherds watch their flocks tonight.
In the dull thunder of the wind We hear the cruel guns afar, But in the glowering heavens we find No guiding, solitary star.
* * *
But lo! on this our Lord's birthday, Lit by the glory whence she came, Peace, like a warrior, stands at bay, A swift, defiant, living flame!
Full-armed she stands in shining mail, Erect, serene, unfaltering still, Shod with a strength that cannot fail, Strong with a fierce o'ermastering will.
Where shattered homes and ruins be She fights through dark and desperate days; Beside the watchers on the sea She guards the Channel's narrow ways.
Through iron hail and shattering shell, Where the dull earth is stained with red, Fearless she fronts the gates of Hell And shields the unforgotten dead.
So stands she, with her all at stake, And battles for her own dear life, That by one victory she may make For evermore an end of strife.
* * * * *
Illustration: THE CHRISTMAS GHOST, 1914.
The Spectral Duke (to guest in haunted room). "HA, HA! BEHOLD, I AM HERE!"
Guest. "YES, YES—SO I SEE. BUT I'M AWFULLY BUSY JUST NOW. GIVE US A LOOK UP NEXT YEAR."
* * * * *
SANTA CLAUS AT THE FRONT.
SEASONABLE GIFTS FOR OFFICERS.
BY AUNT PARKER.
As Christmas draws nearer, the problem of what gifts to send to our brave men at the Front becomes more acute. For of course they must all have presents, no matter what decision is come to as to the manner of spending the dear old festival at home.
As an aid to the generous there is nothing like a walk down Bongent Street, where will be found many ingenious novelties designed especially for the mirthful anniversary which will so soon be on us with all its associations of peace and goodwill to men.
It is no part of my duty to recommend shops and their wares, but it is a pleasure to put on record some of the things on which my roving eyes settled as I traversed London's most luxurious thoroughfare. Every taste is there considered, but for the moment my interest is solely in gifts for our brave officers—and privates too, if they have wealthy enough friends.
At Messrs. Baskerville's, for example, I perceived a host of captivating articles calculated to make glad the heart of any fighting man. In one window was a Service Smoker's Companion which cannot be too highly extolled, especially as this War is, as everyone knows, being waged very largely on the beneficent Indian weed. The equipment consists of four delightful gold-mounted pipes, each guaranteed to be made of briar over eighty years old; a gold-mounted pencil; a gold cigar-case and fifty cigars; a gold cigarette-case and 1,000 cigarettes; a gold cigar-cutter; a gold mechanical lighter; a gold and amber cigar-holder; a gold and amber cigarette-holder; a smoker's knife and two gold ash-trays—the whole neatly packed in a leather case and weighing only nine pounds. No soldier—at any rate, no officer—should be without it. Cheered by its presence he would fight twice as well, and any horrid old pipe that he might possess and, however tired of it, be forced still to smoke for want of a new one, he would be able to give to a Tommy. The same set is obtainable in silver at a lower cost; but my advice to everyone is to take the gold one.
Many of our brave fellows are supplied with helmets, belts and mufflers by the loving hands of their friends; but for those who cannot knit, Messrs. Tyke and Taylor have a most attractive show of all the woollen articles with which it has been decreed that our warriors shall cover their bodies. Their ten-guinea Campaign Abdominal Belt could not be improved upon, little strands of real gold thread being woven into the ordinary fabric. I foretell an enormous sale for this fascinating article, and also for the Service Muffler at seven guineas, which has real gold tassels at each end.
Messrs. Cartersons are concentrating their energies on letter-paper for the Front. In a compact and very tasteful morocco case is a sufficient supply of paper, envelopes and blotting-paper for a considerable correspondence.
A gold ink-pot, a gold pen and a gold pencil are also included, together with sealing-wax and nibs, and a very clever little rubber-stamp with the words, "Somewhere at the Front." A writing pad for the knee when in action completes this timely budget. Those interesting letters from officers and men, which now form so popular a section of each paper, are likely soon to be noticeably increased in numbers. Fortunate indeed is the man who gets one of Messrs. Cartersons' Front Correspondence Companions! The total weight is only a little over two pounds, which is, of course, nothing.
In another of Cartersons' windows I noticed a very delightful Field Tantalus, which can easily be attached to a shoulder-strap or, better still, be carried by an orderly.
The moment the threshold of Mr. Luke Jones' establishment is crossed, both eye and mind are in a state of ecstasy in the presence of so much Christmas enterprise. Here, as elsewhere, the first thought has been for our brave soldiers at the Front, and particularly the gallant officers. Wrist watches of every shape are to be seen, each thoughtfully provided with its strap—for Mr. Jones forgets nothing. In addition to wrist watches are wrist compasses for the other arm, and for the ankles a speedometer and barometer. Thus fitted, the officer knows practically all that can be learned. I need not say that all are in gold; but a few special sets in radium can be obtained. Even these, however, are not ruinous, for with Mr. Luke Jones reasonable prices are a fetish.
The full assurance of securing the best possible value at the lowest possible price adds yet another reason for visiting the charming premises of Messrs. Slimmer and Bang. Their Service knick-knacks cannot be overpraised. Glancing hastily around, I noticed several with devices all calculated not only to be useful but to amuse at the Front, wherever our stalwart representatives are gathered.
One of the most practical is a boot-cleaning set in strong pigskin with gold clasps, including, very ingeniously, a bottle of patent-leather reviver. Another pigskin, indispensable at the Front, holds a complete tea-set. It resembles the old tea-basket, but weighs at least five ounces less (no small matter on the march, I am told) and is more compact. With such a gift as this, no officer need ever again go without tea in the trenches. Messrs. Slimmer and Bang are to be congratulated.
Anything more charming than the Service card-cases at Messrs. Slosson and Kay's I have never seen. One side is intended for paper notes, of which every officer at the Front is in constant need; the other half is reserved for his visiting-cards, which it is de rigueur, I am told, to leave on the enemy after every visit to their trenches. Some officers go so far as to place their cards on the point of their bayonet—a characteristic British touch. Messrs. Slosson and Kay also have charming combinations of drinking-flask and ear-syringe in all the more precious metals, and field-glasses studded with diamonds. For home use the same firm has a most delightful Special Constable's gold-mounted truncheon, which unscrews for liquid refreshment, of which our S. C.'s are often in need.
Messrs. Kyte and Kyte have a really dinky little Game Book especially prepared for the War and as a Christmas gift. It differs at first sight very little from the ordinary game book of an English shoot, but on examination we find that the game is of larger size. The divisions include all ranks of the German army, so that an exact analysis of one's bag can be kept. Messrs. Kyte and Kyte also make a Service Fountain Pen which not only acts as a pen but also as a clinical thermometer and pipe-cleaner. It has furthermore an attachment for removing stones from horses' feet. Made in gold, it is a most becoming Yuletide gift.
* * * * *
Illustration: "AND WHAT CAN I GET FOR YOU, SIR?"
"I'M LOOKING FOR MY FATHER. HAS HE BEEN IN HERE? HE'S AN OLD MAN 'BOUT THIRTY-SEBEN."
* * * * *
A CREDIBILITY INDEX.
"This Poland business is still rather hard to follow," said my wife plaintively, after consulting the latest newspaper map pinned over the mantelpiece, "and I know it's tremendously important. I wish they wouldn't keep fighting in small villages that aren't marked; and really beyond the bare fact that both armies repeatedly surround one another simultaneously it is not at all easy to gather just what they are at."
"The whole thing would be as clear as day," said my sister-in-law, who likes to be regarded as an authority on land operations—I am myself our Naval Expert—"if only one knew what to believe. Have the Germans occupied Przsczwow or have they not?"
"I think they must have done. Last night's paper said that it was believed that Przsczwow was officially occupied, and it says here that it is officially stated that Przsczwow is believed to be occupied."
"It's only partially official," said I, who had carefully collated the reports on the point. "It was semi-official from Amsterdam, official from Berlin, considered to emanate from a good source in Rome, and unofficially denied in Petrograd."
"It must be true," said my wife.
"You were always a good believer, dear," said I. "I doubt if I know any one who has believed as much in sheer quantity as you have since the war began. You know you swallowed that yarn about——"
"Don't you think," my wife broke in hastily (for she simply hates to be reminded of the Russians in England), "that we ought to have a sort of index to judge these rumours by?"
"I see," said I. "One hundred for absolute reliability. Nil for the perfect and utter lie."
The table which resulted was hung up beside the map for reference; I recommend it for general use.
London, Paris or Petrograd (official)............... 100 " " " (semi-official).......... 50 Berlin (official)................................... 25 It is believed in military circles here that——.... 24 A correspondent who has just returned from the firing-line tells me that——....................... 18 It is freely stated in Brussels that——............ 17 Our correspondent at Amsterdam wires that——....... 13 Our correspondent at Rome announces that——........ 11 Berlin (unofficial)................................. 10 I learn from a neutral merchant that——............ 7 A story is current in Venice to the effect that——. 5 It is rumoured that——............................. 4 I have heard to-day from a reliable source that——. 3 I learn on unassailable authority that——.......... 2 It is rumoured in Rotterdam that——................ 1 Wolff's Bureau states that——...................... 0
We didn't put in my wife's other sister who lives on the East coast, because I don't like to hurt people's feelings. My wife hears from her frequently. Her average is about nineteen to one against, so that her proper place on the list would be bracketed with the story from Venice.
* * * * *
TREASURES IN STORE.
He is a great man in the Pantomime world. As he rose from his roll-top desk with the evident intention of kicking me, I hastened to explain that I was only a harmless reporter come to look at some of the new lyrics.
"Ah," said he, "that alters the case. I thought you were another topical songster. Now here's a clever little piece about the Navy."
I stretched out my hand for it.
"No," he said. "So much depends on intelligent expression and emphasis that I'd better read it to you. I think of calling this one 'The Battle of the Brine.'
"The seas roll high, and the smoke around does hang, And the Dreadnoughts steam along in line; The big guns boom and the little fellows bang, And the shells go bumping in the brine! The flags run up, and the Admiral says, 'Now, Sirs, Buck up and send the Huns to Davy Jones!' Then the Captain cheers, and the men hitch up their trousers, And they all give Hohenzollern three groans!
"There it is;" and the Great Man fairly purred with satisfaction. "Une petite piece de tout droit, isn't it?" he said. "I gave you a hint of the tune. It needs a stirring one."
"It does," said I, delighted to be able to agree with him on one point. "And you have other songs equally topical?"
He pointed to a bale in the corner that I had taken for a new carpet. "I've had a good few to choose from," he said. "I fancy this one is about the best. My leading low-comedian writes all his own lyrics—extraordinarily adequate little man. He opens briskly:—
"Pip-pip, girls! As I was walking down the street, Because it couldn't walk down me, One day last week I chanced to meet A German en-ee-mee. He had a notebook in his hand (not a sausage) And I said, ''Ere's a spy! Wot O!' So I gripped him by the collar and— And—then—I—let—him—go! For he (ha! ha! he! he!) Was bigger than me, you see, So I thought it well to run and tell The speshul constabularee!
"Yes," he gasped, "I thought that 'ud hit you. That's what I call a real live piece of work. Here's another—in the old-fashioned style. Not quite so much snap about it. But my fourth low-comedian thinks he can make it go. It's called, 'When Father Threw his Wages at the Cat.'
"We're not a happy family, we're always on the nag, Our miseries are dreadful to relate; I've got two little sisters who are both a mass of blisters From settling disagreements in the grate;
This afternoon my Uncle Charlie kicked me down the stairs And walloped me for crumpling up the mat; But this, though far from nice, is simply nothing to the crisis When father threw his wages at the cat!
There have been other ructions, and especially the day That mother lent our dicky to the sweep, When all of us were weeping and the baby gave up sleeping Because it was impossible to sleep; But all the rows that ever raged in any British home Were never half so horrible as that Which made the coppers rally to the storming of our alley When father threw his wages at the cat!"
"Is that out of date?" said I. "If so, I like the old style best.'
He grunted. "It'll pass," he said; "but the other's the business."
"Well, give me pleasure first," said I. "As a true Briton I can always take it sadly."
* * * * *
BARBARA'S BIRTHDAY BEAR.
Barbara's birthday comes once a year, And Barbara's age you may surely know If into the toy-box depths you'll peer And count the Teddy-bears all in a row.
For by Barbara's law, which we all obey, She claims each year, as the birthday-due That her loyal subjects must cheerfully pay, A new Teddy-bear for the toy-box Zoo.
Some of them growl and some of them squeak, And one can play on a rub-a-dub drum, But till Barbara's birthday last Wednesday week Not one of the Teddy-bears was dumb.
The latest addition to Barbara's bears Was a splendid fellow when well displayed In one of the smallest of nursery chairs, And his label declared he was "English made."
Barbara called him her "bestest bear," But he tumbled soon from this place of pride; For she squeezed him here and she pounded him there, And "Daddy, he doesn't growl," she cried.
Barbara shook him and flung him down; She turned her back and refused to play; And to every argument said with a frown, "He's my worstest bear; he can go away."
We took him back, and we asked instead For "A bear like this, that can growl, you see;" But the shopman smiled and he darkly said, "All growls are made, Sir, in Germany."
Footnote 1: No doubt this defect in the British industry has by now been made good.
* * * * *
THE NEW REPORTING.
TONBURY V. HAILEYBRIDGE.
(A Rugby Match reported after the style of the German General Staff. The passages in brackets are the work of a neutral correspondent.)
Our brave Tonburians kicked off against the wind and immediately assumed a strong offensive along the whole line, forcing the enemy to evacuate his positions. When we reached their Twenty-five it became clear, after a furious struggle, that a decision was inevitably about to be postponed on account of the unexpected strength of their defence. (One try to Haileybridge which was converted.)
After some fierce scrummaging in mid-field, in which we had all the best of it, it was found necessary, owing to strategic reasons, for our forces to occupy entirely new positions some thirty yards nearer to our own touchline. Thereafter there was nothing whatever to report. (Try to Haileybridge.)
When the game was resumed it soon became evident that the situation was developing according to our expectations. (A dropped goal to Haileybridge.)
Fighting continued, but there was no new development to report. (Two tries.)
At half-time the head-master heartily congratulated the Tonbury Fifteen upon the magnificent victories they were gaining against superior forces, and assured them that it would soon be over, and they would all be back in time for tea. He then conferred their caps upon the whole Fifteen and an extra tassel upon the Captain. It is understood that the school-house will be decorated with bunting.
The second half was largely a repetition of the first. We continued to keep up a powerful pressure all along the line, varied only by frequent occupation of new strategic lines, occasional postponements of decision, several stages of development according to anticipation, and some rapid re-grouping of our forces. The whistle found us pressing heavily, just outside the goal-line (the Tonbury one).
(Result: Haileybridge, 43 points; Tonbury, nil.)
* * * * *
Illustration: THE JOY OF BILLETING IN A FRENCH CHATEAU.
Time, 6 A.M.
Brigade Major. "I SAY, SIR, MAY I FINISH DRESSING IN HERE? THEY'RE SHELLIN' THE NORTH BEDROOMS!"
* * * * *
THE BERLIN CHRISTMAS SEASON.
Made from the finest Belgian church carved oak. A Prussian General writes: "This wood burns admirably. I speak from personal observation of experiments carried out under my orders."
An admirably suitable present for this year is a
Those we offer are calculated to be particularly popular, the little Imperial flags not being detachable but painted on to the map—at Paris, London, Petersburg, etc. Thus, whatever may be happening in the field, you may continue cheerful.
As many of our most exalted customers complain of the quality of these goods, considering them too crude and glaring in their effect, we have prepared, with the help of our Ambassador at Washington, a special glass which provides a less realistic reflection. Sold in various shapes—the Kaiser mirror, the Dernburg reflector, etc. Try one.
A BEAUTIFUL SOUVENIR.
CALAIS-BEACH PEBBLE BROOCHES.
(We regret to announce that at the last moment our buyer writes that he is unable to procure the last-named article.)
* * * * *
STUDIES IN THE ART OF DRAGGING-IN.
["Though the Falkland Islands are dreary and uninviting enough, they have added their quota to the gaiety of the world. It should not be forgotten that Miss Ellaline Terris is a native of Stanley, the capital of the islands."—Pall Mall Gazette.]
The town of Bonn, in Rhenish Prussia, which has recently been in evidence owing to the enterprise of French aviators, is the seat of a university, of an Old Catholic bishopric and a school of agriculture. But it owes its chief title to fame to the fact that it was the birthplace of BEETHOVEN, the eminent composer. BEETHOVEN was a man of a serious character, but thanks to the genius of Sir HERBERT BEERBOHM TREE, who impersonated the illustrious symphonist in one of his notable productions, he has contributed substantially to the general gaiety.
Scarborough's unhappy plight under the shells of the German Navy will not soon be forgotten, and the sympathies of us all are with the unfortunate townsfolk of the Northern resort. Brighton, however, which shares with Scarborough the claim to be called the Queen of Watering Places, is unharmed and no doubt will remain a favourite recreation ground for tired Londoners on Sunday, among whom that mirth-provoking comedian, Mr. GEORGE GRAVES, is often to be seen.
The strategical and political importance of Egypt has of late somewhat overshadowed its picturesque aspect. But Memphis, Luxor, the Pyramids are still names to conjure with, as anyone will readily admit who recalls the wonderful stage pictures in Bella Donna, in which the role of good genius was sustained with such consummate skill and sympathy by Sir GEORGE ALEXANDER, whose smile is as irresistible as the sword of his Macedonian namesake.
Tokio, the capital of the Japanese Empire, has re-emerged into prominence owing to the celebrations over the fall of Tsingtau. But it must never be forgotten that Miss GERTIE MILLAR'S espieglerie has caused many critics to compare her with the famous Japanese actress, Madame SADA YACCO, who, so far as we know, was born at Tokio and is one of its brightest jewels.
All eyes have recently been turned towards Ypres, and every one not of Teutonic caste must regret the damage that has been wrought there by the War. The word Ypres, however, to many persons, is chiefly interesting as giving its name to the old tower at Rye, in Sussex, where Mr. HENRY JAMES, whose sprightly and fertile pen has added so much to the dubiety of nations, has long resided.
* * * * *
"Il verso di Shaeckspeare 'Rules, Britain, on the suaves.'"—Corriere delle Puglie.
Not KIPLING'S after all, you see.
* * * * *
TOO MUCH NOTICE.
I decided to go home by bus. My season-ticket had expired painlessly the previous day, and twice already that morning I had had to satisfy the curiosity of the railway officials as to my name and address. Although I had explained to them that I was on half-salary and promised to renew business relations with the company as soon as the War was over or Uncle Peter died—whichever event happened first—they simply would not listen to me, and hence my decision to adopt some other means of transport. I signalled to a bus to stop, and, as the driver, seeing my signal, at once put on his top speed, I just managed to fling myself on to the spring-board as the vehicle tore past.
I ran up to the first storey, and sat down in the front seat. Then I took out my cigarette-case and was about to light a cigarette when a printed notice caught my eye—
PASSENGERS WISHING TO SMOKE ARE KINDLY REQUESTED TO OCCUPY THE REAR SEATS.
If the notice had been put a little less politely I should have ignored it; but I can refuse nothing to those who are kind to me, so I refrained from lighting up, and contented myself with looking round to see if there was a rear seat vacant. There wasn't. A cluster of happy, smoking faces confronted me. I turned round again, and wished I had learnt to take snuff.
"Cheer-o, Bert!" said a refined voice just behind my ear, and at the same moment a walking-stick playfully tapped the head of the young fellow sitting next to me. My neighbour faced about, kicked me on the shin, dug the point of his umbrella into my calf, knocked off my pince-nez with his newspaper, and spread himself over the back of the seat.
"'Allo, Alf!" he said. "Thought it must 've been you. Look 'ere, I want to see you——"
"Perhaps," I interrupted, "your friend would like to change places with me. Then you can scrutinise him at your ease—and mine."
"You're a sport," remarked Bert.
He spoke truly. Little did he guess he was addressing a Double-Blue—bowls and quoits. Alf and I changed places, and my attention at once became absorbed by a notice headed
BEWARE OF PICKPOCKETS.
I had just reached the exciting part when two girls arrived on the landing.
"There aren't two together; we shall have to divide," I heard one say.
"Excuse me," I said, rising. "Don't divide. I'll get into a single seat if you care to take this double one."
I was rewarded with the now almost obsolete formula of "Thank you," and moved a seat further back. Here I found some fresh reading material provided for me in the shape of a notice to the effect that
PASSENGERS ARE WARNED NOT TO PUT THEIR ARMS OVER THE SIDE OF THE BUS.
When I had probed its beauties to the utmost depth I again turned round to see if there was a vacant seat among the smokers. To my joy I saw one. Quickly I rose and hastened to secure it, but at the same moment the bus turned a sharp corner and I sustained a violent blow on the back of my head which left me half-stunned.
The conductor, who had just appeared on deck to collect fares, helped me to my feet. Then he rounded on me.
"Why don't you read the notices?" he said by way of peroration. "Then it wouldn't've 'appened."
"The notices?" I repeated, handing him my fare. "I've done nothing else but read notices ever since I got on this wretched reading-room. I know where I may smoke and where I may not. I know that I must beware of pickpockets, and I know that I mustn't waggle my arms over the side-rails. Further, I have read Mr. Pinkerton's personal assurance that his Pills are the Best. If I'd had more time I daresay I should have worked my passage to the notice you refer to. I haven't reached it yet."
"Look 'ere," said the conductor, thrusting me into the vacant smoker's seat and pointing with what I at first took to be a saveloy, but which upon closer inspection proved to be his fore-finger, "what does that say?—
TO AVOID ACCIDENTS PASSENGERS SHOULD REMAIN SEATED WHILE THE BUS IS PASSING UNDER RAILWAY BRIDGES.
There nar. Some of you blokes never look any farther than the end of your noses."
"Then if I had your nose," I retorted, "I should need a telescope to see even as far as that."
I was much disappointed that, just as I got to the caustic part, the exigencies of his profession demanded that he should punch six tickets in rapid succession. My repartee was consequently drowned amid a perfect carillon of bells. But meanwhile I had found another notice—
TO STOP THE BUS STRIKE THE BELL ONCE.
It was a friendly and sensible notice, for, to tell the truth, I was beginning to feel afraid of a bus that carried so much free literature. It could not hope to be a thoroughly reliable bus and a library at the same time. I therefore determined to forfeit several divisions of my ticket, and give my "season" one more chance. I got up and struck the bell once. As the driver didn't know it was just an ordinary passenger that struck it he pulled up immediately. I had got halfway down the staircase when somebody—it must have been that offensive conductor—gave the game away, for the bus jerked badly and started off again at a rare pace. So did I. But as I flew through the air I could not help catching a fleeting glimpse of a final advisory notice—
PASSENGERS ARE CAUTIONED AGAINST ALIGHTING FROM THE BUS WHILE IN MOTION.
* * * * *
Illustration: THE IRON CROSS EPIDEMIC.
CAPTAIN OF A GERMAN CRUISER, HURRYING HOME AFTER SHELLING HEALTH-RESORT, GIVES ORDERS TO LIGHTEN THE SHIP FOR THE SAKE OF SPEED.
* * * * *
From The Evening Standard's racing news:
"That's Enough, 19st 2lb (Mr. R. Cavello)
J. Killalee O"
We agree with the horse.
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Illustration: General. "GLAD TO SEE YOU WALKING, MY LAD. I ALWAYS LIKE TO SEE A MAN WHO CONSIDERS HIS HORSE."
Recruit. "THANK YOU, SIR. BUT MY NEAR SIDE STIRRUP'S BROKE, AND I CAN'T GET ON."
General. "THEN WHY THE DEUCE DON'T YOU GET ON WITH THE OFF-SIDE ONE?"
Recruit (after some consideration). "BUT I'D BE SITTIN' WRONG WAY ROUND."
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(By Mr. Punch's Staff of Learned Clerks.)
I am sorry that I cannot now be the first to call King Albert's Book (HODDER AND STOUGHTON) The Golden Book. But, since this term has already been applied, I can only applaud it. I suppose never in the history of books has such a one as this been put together, just as never in the line of kings has monarch received, under such circumstances, so rare a tribute. If in the Belgian heart, from ruler to refugee, there is room for more pride than should of right be there already, surely these pages, voicing the homage of all that counts in the world to-day, will bring it. We are all KING ALBERT'S men now, and in this book we have a welcome chance of proving our fealty. You will observe that I say nothing about the volume as commercial value for the three shillings that it costs to buy. One glance at the list of those who contribute (a kind of international supplement to Who's Who) is all that is needed to satisfy you on this point. The Daily Telegraph is primarily responsible for gathering together a greater assembly of the names that matter than was ever collected between covers. To the proprietors, to Mr. HALL CAINE, who edits the book, and to the printers (especially for the illustrations in colour, which are triumphs of reproduction) I can only offer my thanks and congratulatory good wishes. Certainly, The Daily Telegraph Belgian Fund, to which will go the entire proceeds of the sale, deserves well the shillings that this splendid effort will bring to it. King Albert's Book is indeed a noble tribute to nobility—one that for every sake will become an historic souvenir of the Great Days. And (if I may confess the secret wickedness of my heart as I read) how I should love to see the Berlin Press notices!
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When Mr. THEODORE ROOSEVELT stated on page 25 of Through the Brazilian Wilderness (MURRAY) that his was not a hunting-trip, but a scientific expedition, I winked solemnly, so often have I read books in which science is used as an excuse for a slaughter that to the unbloodthirsty seems to be more than a little indiscriminate. Now, however, there is nothing to do but to withdraw that wink and to say that Mr. ROOSEVELT and his companions killed only for the sake of food and specimens, though on one very exciting occasion a man called JULIO displayed a most unwholesome desire to slay anybody or anything. This renegade's lust for murder was merely a side-show, but it serves vividly to illustrate the dangers and risks that the travellers took as they fought their way along the River of Doubt. No escape is possible from the buoyancy of Mr. ROOSEVELT'S style; as frankly as any schoolboy enjoying a holiday he revelled in the ups and downs of his adventures; and if his enthusiasm for the important work that he was helping to accomplish occasionally leads him to relate trivialities, and also prevents him from advancing a few kilometres without adding up the total number he has travelled, the essential fact remains that his tale of exploit and exploration is told with a joie de vivre that carries everything before it. Among the many discoveries that he made is one from which time has taken away any cause for surprise. "There was," he says, "a German lieutenant with the Paraguayan officers—one of several German officers who are now engaged in helping the Paraguayans with their army." Through the Brazilian Wilderness is packed with wonderfully good photographs, two of which introduce us to a game played by the Parecis Indians, of which the initial rule requires the "kicker-off" to lie flat on the ground and butt the ball with his head. One wonders if Brazil's future battles will be won in the playing fields of the Parecis.
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The opening lines of the Preface to Sir CHARLES VILLIERS STANFORD'S book of reminiscences contain so good a story that I cannot forbear to quote them. The tale concerns the famous conductor HANS VON BUELOW, who (says Sir CHARLES) was once taking the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra through a rehearsal at which some ladies had been invited to be present. They indulged in whisperings and chatterings which greatly disturbed the players. BUELOW turned round and said, "Ladies, we are not here to save the Capitol, but to make music." Pretty neat that for a Prussian! It is an example of the many excellent tales to be found in Pages from an Unwritten Diary (ARNOLD). Some of the best of them concern this same BUELOW, and have done much to disprove my personal belief in the non-existence of German humour. But throughout his book Sir CHARLES is the best of good company. Whether he is chatting about Royalty—there is a rather moving little anecdote of QUEEN VICTORIA and TENNYSON that was new to me—or telling again the often-told history of the Cambridge Greek Plays and the A.D.C., he has a happy pen for a point, and even the chestnuts inevitable in such a collection are served with a flavour of originality. I must be allowed to quote one more of VON BUELOW'S good things. A gushing lady at a musical party begged for an introduction to the great man. Which being given, "Oh, Monsieur von Buelow," she said, "vous connaissez Monsieur Wagner, n'est-ce pas?" Bowing, and without a shade of surprise, BUELOW answered at once, "Mais oui, Madame; c'est le mari de ma femme!" A great man!
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I am quite prepared to accept Mr. LINDSAY BASHFORD'S Cupid in the Car (CHAPMAN AND HALL) as a nice unpretentious diary of a motor-tour on and about the Franco-German Frontier, ingeniously done into novel form and wholesomely seasoned with adventure and the arrangement of marriages shortly to take place. And I distinctly like his taciturn paragon of a chauffeur, Eugene—a nephew of Enery Straker the voluble, as I should judge from a certain family resemblance and, by the way, much too intelligent to murder his French phrases in the hopeless manner which the author, none too scrupulous in these little touches, suggests. But whether Mr. BASHFORD hasn't spoilt an enthusiastic travel book without producing quite a plausible novel—a defect of tactics rather than of capacity—and whether the book doesn't show too many signs of the hustle and vibration of the car are questions that intrude themselves; and certainly one has a right to jib at the Preface, which seems to suggest that the novel, written before war broke out, was to enlighten the public, by a sugar-coated method, as to the general terrain of the conflict inevitable at some future date, so that we might "better picture the work our loved ones were doing at the Front." If this were indeed so, then it was distinctly untactful that the only British officer who appears should be a tosh-talking General obviously too fond of his food. The fact is that the topical preface is being overdone these days.
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My only complaint against The Flute of Arcady (STANLEY PAUL) is that Miss KATE HORN, who wrote it, seems somewhat to have disregarded the classic advice of Mr. Curdle to Nicholas Nickleby in the matter of observing the unities. It struck me, indeed, that she had begun it as a Cinderella-tale and then found that there wasn't enough of this to go round. Thus the early chapters roused my sympathetic interest for Charlotte Clairvaux (the bullied companion of the hateful cat, Mrs. Menzies) and her admiring suitor, Dr. Shuckford. I felt deeply for poor Charlotte, and longed for the moment when the doctor, who was eminently desirable, would fold her in his manly arms. But this moment came confusingly early, in the third chapter, and left us with three-quarters of the book to fill up. So Charlotte, for no reason—that I could see—but this of space, refuses her Shuckford, and off go she and Mrs. Menzies to Versailles, where they meet a good number of pleasantly-drawn people, and encounter a variety of adventures, some amusing, some merely farcical. Without doubt Miss HORN has a pretty wit, but I admired its exercise far more in character than incident. There is, for example, a delightful new version of Mrs. Malaprop in the lady whose ambition it was "to live in a mayonnaise in a good part of London." I loved her, and the terrible French infant, and the nuns, and the old countess and the other Versailles folk. But of the incidents, fantastic adventures with elephants and such, one sometimes feels that their humour is, as the author says of M. de Lafontaine's smile, a thing that seemed to be jerked out by machinery. Yet I am bound to confess that it made me laugh. So why grumble?
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Illustration: THE WILHELM MISTLETOE.
A CARD OF TEUTONIC ORIGIN NOT LIKELY TO HAVE A BIG SALE OVER HERE THIS SEASON.
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The Times, describing the attempted escape of a German officer in the disguise of 'Safety Matches,' says: "There was nothing in the box to excite suspicion." Except, of course, the officer.
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"Never again will one rigid form of civilisation prevail.... The world has grown too big to rest content with one standard."
Hence The Evening Standard.
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