PUNCH, OR THE LONDON CHARIVARI.
OCTOBER 14, 1914.
Strong drinks have now been prohibited all over Russia, and it looks as if Germany is not the only country whose future lies on the water.
* * *
Rumour has it that Germany is not too pleased with Austria's achievements in the War, and there has been in consequence not a little Potsdam-and-Perlmuttering between the two.
* * *
"When the KAISER goes to places beyond the railway," we are told, "he travels in a motor-car which, besides being accompanied by aides-de-camp and bodyguards, is also watched by special secret field police." We are glad to learn that every precaution is taken to prevent his escape.
* * *
The KAISER once desired to be known as "The Peace King." His eldest son, to judge by his alleged burglarious exploits, now wishes to be known as the CHARLES PEACE Prince.
* * *
It is said that Major VON MANTEUFFEL, who superintended the destruction of Louvain, has been recalled. We presume he will have to explain why he left the Town Hall standing.
* * *
We still have to go to Germany for news about our own country. The latest reliable report is to the effect that there is now serious friction between KING GEORGE and Lord KITCHENER, the former having become alarmed at the raising of "Kitchener's Army." The WAR MINISTER, the KING fears, is aiming at the throne, and it is now being recalled that Lord KITCHENER, when a young man, was once told by a soothsayer, "K stands for King."
* * *
We learn from The Daily Call that, in proportion to the number of its inhabitants, Bale is the richest city in Europe. The Swiss, we fancy, will scarcely thank our contemporary for drawing attention to this fact in view of the well-known cupidity of a certain neighbour of theirs.
* * *
There is a proposal on foot to form a corps of Solicitors. By a pretty legal touch it is suggested that they might train between six and eight.
* * *
The Daily News the other day, in describing the fortunate escape of a midshipman from the Cressy, told its readers that, when pulled out of the water, the cadet "was not wearing a single garment. He was provided with clothes and eventually put on a British destroyer." While his choice of covering does credit to the young gentleman's spirit, we think he would have done better to put on the clothes.
* * *
A naturalisation certificate has been granted to that clever English authoress, the Countess ARNIM. We congratulate Elizabeth on escaping from "her German Garden."
* * *
"Few people," says The Witney Gazette, "are familiar with the history and resources of Belgium." How true this is may be seen from our contemporary's next statement:—"A large section of its population consists of a race known as the Walloons, the ancient descendants of the Belgians."
* * *
"Father," asked the actor's little son, "why does the KAISER wear a helmet with an eagle on the top of it?" "To show that he's 'got the bird,'" replied the brilliant Thespian.
* * *
By the way, the statement that "The TSAR has left for the theatre of war" has caused the keenest satisfaction in histrionic circles, where it is hoped that this illustrious example will cause the fashionable world to revert to its habit of patronising the stage.
* * *
General VON STEIN, who was responsible for the German official communiques, has, we learn from the German Press, been superseded. Evidently he did not chronicle sufficient victories. The German public, when it asks for Brod, does not care to get a Stein.
* * *
An overheard conversation: "I see that both you and your wife have sent blankets to the soldiers." "Yes. She sent mine, so I sent hers."
* * *
A dear old lady who read about the theft of an Italian submarine last week writes to say that she hopes that the police are keeping an eye on our Dreadnoughts.
* * * * *
Take its "capital" from Prussia— You reduce the thing to Russia!
* * * * *
"Perversely enough, whilst Ora's husband was a commonplace though intelligent attorney, Ora was married to a Montana mine-owner."
Books of To-day.
This was very perverse of Ora. She might at least have waited till her first husband had ceased to be an attorney.
* * * * *
Gentlemen who are losing their employment owing to the War:—1. The German Colonial Secretary.
* * * * *
"Identifying battles with rivers is very confusing to the reader who is not well acquainted with the geography of a little-known part of Europe. It misleads thousands when the Aisne is mentioned, and it is even more misleading when the river Victula comes into the reckoning."
Birmingham Daily Post.
This is quite true.
* * * * *
Illustration: STUDY OF A VETERAN WHO HAS SENT ALL HIS BLANKETS TO KITCHENER'S ARMY AND NEVER SLEPT BETTER IN HIS LIFE.
* * * * *
Rates for Zeppelins.
"During the last few days," we learn, "a good many insurances have been effected at Lloyd's on properties in London against the risk of damage by Zeppelins." The premium accepted on banks appears to be about one shilling per cent. But why insure banks? For our own part we would very gladly take refuge in one of their strong rooms at the first sight of a hovering Zeppelin.
After consultation with our insurance expert, who has carefully considered the past record of German aircraft operating over undefended cities, we now have pleasure in submitting a special scale of insurance rates which ought to meet the needs of the public. Lloyd's are welcome to it should they care to adopt it as it stands:—
Hospitals L5 % per annum. Dogs 2/11 " " Cats, chickens and canaries 2/9 " " Lamp-posts 1/1 " " Lord Mayors Nil " "
* * * * *
THOMAS OF THE LIGHT HEART.
["The Cologne Gazette" tells us that we are lacking in understanding of the high seriousness of the war; that we use sporting expressions about it. "The Times," referring to this criticism, points out that, though we do not pretend, like the Germans, to make a religion of war, our sporting instinct at least enables us to recognise that to draw the sword on women and children is "not cricket."]
Facing the guns, he jokes as well As any Judge upon the Bench; Between the crash of shell and shell His laughter rings along the trench; He seems immensely tickled by a Projectile which he calls a "Black Maria."
At intervals, when work is slack, He kicks a leather ball about; Recalls old tales of wing and back, The Villa's rush, the Rovers' rout; Or lays a tanner to a pup On Albion (not "perfidious") for the Cup.
He whistles down the day-long road, And, when the chilly shadows fall And heavier hangs the weary load, Is he down-hearted? Not at all. 'Tis then he takes a light and airy View of the tedious route to Tipperary.
His songs are not exactly hymns; He never learned them in the choir; And yet they brace his dragging limbs Although they miss the sacred fire; Although his choice and cherished gems Do not include "The Watch upon the Thames,"
He takes to fighting as a game; He does no talking, through his hat, Of holy missions; all the same He has his faith—be sure of that; He'll not disgrace his sporting breed, Nor play what isn't cricket. There's his creed.
* * * * *
IN A GOOD CAUSE.
Mr. Punch ventures to ask the help of his gentle readers on behalf of the Women's League of Service, who are daily giving dinners in various districts of London to expectant and nursing mothers, of whom many have husbands serving with the colours. It is our hope that out of the present war may come, for those who follow us, a happy freedom from the menace of war; but our sacrifices will be in vain if no care is taken of the mothers who are bearing children to-day. Among the poorer class, the last person in the family to be fed is always the mother. Mr. Punch invites those who have the welfare of the new generation at heart to send gifts in aid of this national work to Mr. Dudley Cocke, 44, Gresham Street, E.C.
* * * * *
More Looting by the Kaiser's Family?
"Prince Joachim, the Kaiser's youngest son ... was met at the railway station by his mother, who pointed proudly to the second-class altar cross on her son's breast."—Eastern Daily Press.
* * * * *
The American Touch.
"Great steel plates have been fixed about the ceilings and walls of a room which now shelters the famous Venus D. Milo."
Toronto Daily Star.
* * * * *
UNWRITTEN LETTERS TO THE KAISER.
(From DIETRICH Q. FRIEDLICHER, an American Citizen.)
KAISER WILHELM,—I've been hearing no end during the last month or two about German efforts to capture American opinion. It seems you think us a poor sort of creatures unable to find out for ourselves the right way of things. You've been measuring our people up and you've got a kind of fancy that we're running about our continent with our eyes staring and our mouths gaping and our poor silly tongues wagging, and that we're busy collecting thoughts from one another about this war in Europe so we shan't look ignorant when we read what other countries are doing. "See here," I'm supposed to be saying as I go around,—"see here! What's this Belgium, anyway, and how in thunder does she come to stand out agin the great German army? And why are the Germans knocking Belgium to flinders and shooting her citizens? Ain't the Germans Christians? Ain't their soldiers generous and their officers merciful? Well then, it kinder puzzles me to see the way they're getting to work. It's no wonder the Belgian is set agin them. They're a little lot, them Belgians are, and it's a queer thing, ain't it, that they should make all this trouble? But I dunno. Maybe, there's something to be said for 'em if we only knew. Then there's the English. They say they're fighting for freedom this time, and maybe they're right to stick to their word and back up their treaties. But it don't seem very clear as far as I can size it up. Won't some kind gentleman come along and give me the true story?"
That's what I'm supposed to be saying, and you thought you heard me all the way from Potsdam, and you took a good deep think, and "Bless me," you said, "it's ten thousand pities to let old man Friedlicher go along with his mind empty when there's a heap of good German opinions lying around just asking to be put into it. I'll cable BERNSTORFF to fill him up." So there's poor BERNSTORFF turning himself inside out to please you and educate me. Don't he prove a lot? From 9 to 10 he lectures about Germany's love for America and the beautiful statue of FREDERICK THE GREAT at Annapolis; from 10 to 11 he socks it into England—says she's a robber power and blacker'n any of the niggers she hires to do her fighting for her; from 11 to 12 he settles Russia by calling her a barbarian Empire; and from 12 to 1 he tells me how Germany's burning Belgium for Belgium's good; and then he dismisses me and says, if I'll come back to-morrow morning, he'll pitch me a story about the French peril, and how Germany can help America to escape it.
KAISER, it's no good. My father was a German, and he knew your lot, and he used to tell me all he knew. He had to quit Prussia pretty quick after 1848—that's the year your great-uncle had to take off his hat to the citizens of Berlin, and your venerable grandfather had to pay a visit to England, German air not being good for his health. I know all that there is to be known about you. I don't want any BERNSTORFF, no, nor yet any DERNBURG, to tell me why this fight's fighting and to explain the Belgian wickedness to me. You and your blamed professors and soldiers, you've all been spoiling for war these ten years past, and now that you've got it you're out to tell the Americans that the other fellows drove you into it. All I've got to say is, I don't believe it—and what's more, no sensible American believes it either. That's all there is to it.
Yours sincerely, DIETRICH.
* * * * *
Motto for the KAISER (reported as having been last seen at Cologne): "East, West, hame's best."
* * * * *
Illustration: A NORTH SEA CHANTEY.
(To the tune of "Tipperary.")
JACK. "IT'S A LONG, LONG WAIT FOR WILLIAM'S NAVY. BUT MY HEART'S RIGHT HERE."
* * * * *
Illustration: Officer. "WHAT IN THUNDER HAVE YOU BEEN DOING ALL THE MORNING? THIS LEATHER'S NOT DRESSED; THERE'S MUD ON IT STILL!"
Recruit (ex-Cyclist). "SORRY, SIR, BUT I'VE SPENT MOST OF MY TIME POLISHING THE PEDALS."
* * * * *
Since the publication of the manifesto in our columns signed by a large number of eminent men who announced their intention of divesting themselves of the un-Christian name of William, matters have moved far and fast. Many of these gentlemen have already, in obedience to the dictates of logic, assumed a new style, as may be gathered from the following messages which the Press Bureau, without accepting responsibility for them, graciously permits us to reproduce:—
The Reverend WILLIAM SPOONER, the revered Warden of New College, Oxford, writes to say that, in deference to the unanimous desire of the graduates and undergraduates of the College, he has decided to be known in future as the Reverend Peter Spooner, as a tribute to the Kinquering Cong of Serbia.
Mr. WILLIAM (WULLIE) PARK, the famous professional golfer, has decided to assume the praenomen of Pinkstone (after Sir JOHN DENTON PINKSTONE FRENCH), and is already known amongst his intimates as "Pinkie."
Mr. WILLIAM LE QUEUX has by a special deed poll assumed the title of George Albert Nicolas Victor-Emmanuel Raymond Woodrow Le Queux, but for literary purposes will briefly sign himself "Alb."
Mr. WILLIAM DE MORGAN, the famous novelist, as the son of AUGUSTUS DE MORGAN, has happily hit on the idea of renaming himself Marcellus de Morgan. But he is anxious to have it clearly understood that this does not involve him in any claim to the authorship of Marcella.
A communication has been received by the Editor of The Spiritualist from WILLIAM SHAKSPEARE, announcing his unalterable resolve to change his Christian name because of the posthumous discredit attached to it by the KAISER. Asked what he proposed to substitute for it, the Bard created a prodigious sensation by announcing that he thought Francis would do as well as anything else.
Sir WILLIAM JOB COLLINS, equally renowned in the spheres of politics and medicine, has promptly recognised the impossibility of continuing to wear a name which has been indelibly tarnished by the arch-disturber of Europe's peace. He has accordingly elected to replace his first two names by the ingenious and harmonious collocation of Thomas Habakkuk.
Mr. HAROLD BEGBIE writes to explain that, though his first name is not William, it has painful historical associations with the success of a former William. He therefore wishes it to be known that he will sign all his articles, interviews and poems with the name Oliver Lodge David Lloyd George Begbie, as an act of homage to the two great men who have chiefly inspired him in his journalistic and literary career.
* * * * *
Copy of letter to teacher:—
"Dear Sir, will you please give my daughter a dinner, as she has no father and I have no means of getting her one, and oblodge."
* * * * *
THE WATCH DOGS.
DEAR CHARLES,—You must forgive my writing this letter with a fountain pen, but to do otherwise would be an act of ingratitude to my servant, Private J. B. COX. I told him this morning that I had lost my pocket pen, a cheap affair made of tin. I instructed him to find it, and J. B. is one of those perfect factotums who do as they are told. He has a sharp eye and no scruples, and so, owing to the fact that three other officers live in my billet, he was able to find two valuable fountain pens and one stylographic in no time. The exigencies of war necessitate some little irregularity now and then; but how, I asked him, did he justify this excess of zeal? J. B. is distinguished by a lisp among other things. "It'th betht to be on the thafe thide, Thir," said he.
We had an all-night outpost job on this week, at which my company achieved an unpremeditated success—unpremeditated by the authorities, that is. Before setting out we had been threatened with the heaviest penalties if we were discovered at any moment in a dereliction of duty, which meant that the Adjutant proposed to pay us a surprise visit and had every hope of discovering responsible officers asleep at their posts. Those who know will tell you that the hour before dawn is that during which an attack is most likely in real war; they also assert that this is the most likely period for derelictions in imitation war, and so, as we anticipated all along, this was the time selected for the surprise visit. But we were not caught napping, Sir; every possible approach to our picket was protected by strong groups, each instructed to let no one pass on any account and least of all those who attempted to trick them by a pretence of authority, however realistic that pretence might be. Thus it fell out that when the Adjutant was sighted he was instantly accosted and firmly apprehended. Inasmuch as he refused to be led blindfold through our lines, he was not allowed to approach our august selves at all, but was retained until such time as we cared to approach him. Mind you, I'm not saying we were asleep; merely I show you how thoroughly we do our work. It is not mine that is the master mind; it is my skipper's, a man upon whose ready cunning I rely to bring me to Berlin and its choicest light beer well in advance of all other victorious forces.
It used to be our Brigadier's fad that officers commanding companies should know the names of all their men, and lately he took upon himself to test it. Captain after captain, upon being asked to name a selected man, had to confess ignorance; not so my skipper. He knew them all. "What is that man's name?" asked the Brigadier, indicating an inconspicuous and rather terrified private, just that sort of man whose name one would never know or want to know. (It was something rather like Postlethwaite, I believe). "Two paces forward, Private Johnson," ordered my skipper emphatically, fixing an hypnotic eye on the youth, and adding, to prove his accuracy, "Now, my lad, your name's Joh——?" "——nson, Sir," concluded the victim. That night, at dinner, the Brigadier told the C.O. that, among many disappointments, he had found one officer who seemed to know the names of his men "almost better than the men did themselves." In accordance with J. B.'s maxim about being on the safe side, it was a company order afterwards that, when asked, all even numbers were to be "Evans" and odd numbers "Hodges," till further notice.
Talking about names, I was quite homesick for old London when, in calling the names and regimental numbers of a party, I found myself bawling angrily for "Gerrard, No. 2784."
Catering, as we do, for all tastes, we have in our rank and file a serio-comic artiste from the lower rungs of the music-hall ladder. We had a busy time with him at our Great Inoculation Ceremony (First Performance) on Saturday. We could not put too strict a discipline upon men into whose arms we were just about to insert fifteen million microbes apiece, and our private was not slow to seize his opportunity. He insisted upon his fifteen million being numbered off in order to discover whether there were any of them absent from parade; he wished to know if they had all their proper equipment, and whether each had passed his standard test. As the needle was inserted into his arm, "Move to the left in fours," he ordered them; "form fours—left—in succession of divisions—number one leading—quick-ma-harch." (It was the same humorist who recently took a strong line about protective colouring, and put in an application for a set of khaki teeth.)
At the moment of inoculation we were all, officers and men, very facetious and off-hand about it, but as the evening came on we grew piano, even miserable. Mess was not made any less sombre by Wentworth's plaintive observation that "the doctor who had succeeded in making a thousand of us thoroughly ill and debarred us from the cheering influence of alcohol was probably at that very moment himself enjoying a hearty debauch."
The only effect of the dose upon me was to induce a rather morbid contemplation. I recalled the happy times when I was once, even as you are, a barrister who rose at 8.30 A.M. (an incredibly late hour), did next to nothing all day and, when I wanted to go away, just went. I used in those gentle days to take off my hat to ladies (a long-forgotten habit), and I never dreamed of calling anybody "Sir." I used to suppose that I should rise from stuff to silk, from silk to ermine, to conclude as a Judge on the King's Bench. It seems now that I may rise from stars to crowns, from crowns to oakleaves, and end my days as a commissionaire in—who knows?—His Majesty's foyer. I, who had hoped to dismiss your appeals, may come instead to hail your taxi at the theatre door; may even come to call you "Sir." But for the moment I am
Yours thoroughly disrespectfully,
* * * * *
Illustration: THE WAR ON GERMAN COMMERCE.
"We are glad to hear, Mr. Wilton, that you have volunteered for active service. We are proud to know that you are ready to do your duty as a Briton. We shall be pleased to keep your place open for you during your absence. And, Mr. Wilton, you might take a few thousand of our circulars in your knapsack to be distributed among the enemy in the regrettable event of your being taken prisoner."
* * * * *
Illustration: RURAL LIFE UNDER WAR CONDITIONS.
OUR VILLAGE ERRAND-BOY.
* * * * *
"Down with the Teutons!" rose the people's cry; "Who said that England's honour was for sale?" Myself, I hunted out the local spy, Tore down his pole and cast him into jail. "An English barber now," said I, "or none! This thatch shall never fall before a Hun!"
And all was well until that fateful morn When, truss'd for shearing in a stranger's shop, "Be careful, please," I said, "I want it shorn Close round the ears, but leave it long on top;" And, thrilling with a pleasant pride of race, I watched the fellow's homely British face.
An optimist he was. "Those German brutes, They'll get wot for. You mark my words," he said, And dragged great chunks of hair out by the roots, Forgetting mine was not a German head. "Oh, yes, they'll get it in the neck," said he And gaily emphasized his prophecy.
Ah me, that ruthless Britisher! He scored His parallel entrenchments round and round My quivering scalp. "Invade us 'ere?" he roared; "Not bloomin' likely! Not on British ground!" His nimble scissors left a row of scars To point the prowess of our gallant Tars.
I bore it without movement, save a start Induc'd by one shrewd gash behind the ear. With silent fortitude I watch'd him part The ruin on my skull. And then a tear, A fat, round tear, well'd up from either eye— O traitorous tribute to the local spy!
* * * * *
Jules Francois is poet, and gallant and gay; Jules Francois makes frocks in the Rue de la Paix; Since the mobilisation Jules Francois's the one That sits by the breech of a galloping gun, In the team of a galloping gun!
When the wheatfields of August stood white on the plain Jules Francois was ordered to go to Lorraine, Since the guns would get flirting with good Mr. KRUPP And wanted Jules Francois to limber them up, To lay and to limber them up!
The road it was dusty, the road it was long, But there was Jules Francois to make you a song; He sang them a song, and he fondled his gun, Though I wouldn't translate it he sang it A1; His battery thought it A1!
The morning was fresh and the morning was cool When they stopped in an orchard two miles out of Toul, And the grey muzzles spat through the grey muzzles' smoke, And there was Jules Francois to make you a joke, To crack his idea of a joke:—
"The road to our Paris 'tis hard as can be; The road to that London he halts at the sea; So, vois-tu, mon gars? 'tis as certain as sin This wisdom that chooses the road to Berlin!" So they follow the road to Berlin.
* * * * *
Before I introduce Bingo I must say a word for Humphrey, his sparring partner.
Humphrey found himself on the top of my stocking last December—put there, I fancy, by Celia, though she says it was Father Christmas. He is a small yellow dog, with glass optics, and the label round his neck said, "His eyes move." When I had finished the oranges and sweets and nuts, when Celia and I had pulled the crackers, Humphrey remained over to sit on the music-stool, with the air of one playing the pianola. In this position he found his uses. There are times when a husband may legitimately be annoyed; at these times it was pleasant to kick Humphrey off his stool on to the divan, to stand on the divan and kick him on to the sofa, to stand on the sofa and kick him on to the book-case; and then, feeling another man, to replace him on the music-stool and apologise to Celia. It was thus that he lost his tail.
When the War broke out we wrote to the War Office, offering to mobilise Humphrey. Already he could do "Eyes right, eyes front." But the loss of his tail was against him. Rejected by the medical authorities as unfit, he returned to the music-stool and waited for a job. It was at this moment that Bingo joined the establishment.
Here we say good-bye to Humphrey for the present; Bingo claims our attention. Bingo arrived as an absurd little black tub of puppiness, warranted (by a pedigree as long as your arm) to grow into a Pekinese. It was Celia's idea to call him Bingo; because (a ridiculous reason) as a child she had had a poodle called Bingo. The less said about poodles the better; why rake up the past?
"If there is the slightest chance of Bingo—of this animal growing up into a poodle," I said, "he leaves my house at once."
"My poodle," said Celia, "was a lovely dog."
(Of course she was only a child then. She wouldn't know.)
"The point is this," I said firmly, "our puppy is meant for a Pekinese—the pedigree says so. From the look of him it will be touch and go whether he pulls it off. To call him by the name of a late poodle may just be the deciding factor. Now I hate poodles; I hate pet dogs. A Pekinese is not a pet dog; he is an undersized lion. Our puppy may grow into a small lion, or a mastiff, or anything like that; but I will not have him a poodle. If we call him Bingo, will you promise never to mention in his presence that you once had a—a—you know what I mean—called Bingo?"
She promised. I have forgiven her for having once loved a poodle. I beg you to forget about it. There is now only one Bingo, and he is a Pekinese puppy.
However, after we had decided to call him Bingo, a difficulty arose. Bingo's pedigree is full of names like Li Hung Chang and Sun Yat San; had we chosen a sufficiently Chinese name for him? Apart from what was due to his ancestors, were we encouraging him enough to grow into a Pekinese? What was there Oriental about "Bingo"?
In itself, apparently, little. And Bingo himself must have felt this; for his tail continued to be nothing but a rat's tail, and his body to be nothing but a fat tub, and his head to be almost the head of any little puppy in the world. He felt it deeply. When I chaffed him about it he tried to eat my ankles. I had only to go into the room in which he was, and murmur, "Rat's tail," to myself, or (more offensive still) "Chewed string," for him to rush at me. "Where, O Bingo, is that delicate feather curling gracefully over the back, which was the pride and glory of thy great-grandfather? Is the caudal affix of the rodent thy apology for it?" And Bingo would whimper with shame.
Then we began to look him up in the map.
I found a Chinese town called "Ning-po," which strikes me as very much like "Bing-go," and Celia found another one called "Yung-Ping," which might just as well be "Yung-Bing," the obvious name of Bingo's heir when he has one. These facts being communicated to Bingo, his nose immediately began to go back a little and his tub to develop something of a waist. But what finally decided him was a discovery of mine made only yesterday. There is a Japanese province called Bingo. Japanese, not Chinese, it is true; but at least it is Oriental. In any case conceive one's pride in realising suddenly that one has been called after a province and not after a poodle. It has determined Bingo unalterably to grow up in the right way.
You have Bingo now definitely a Pekinese. That being so, I may refer to his ancestors, always an object of veneration among these Easterns. I speak of (hats off, please!) Ch. Goodwood Lo.
Of course you know (I didn't myself till last week) that "Ch." stands for "Champion." On the male side Champion Goodwood Lo is Bingo's great-great-grandfather. On the female side the same animal is Bingo's great-grandfather. One couldn't be a poodle after that. A fortnight after Bingo came to us we found in a Pekinese book a photograph of Goodwood Lo. How proud we all were! Then we saw above it, "Celebrities of the Past. The Late——"
Champion Goodwood Lo was no more! In one moment Bingo had lost both his great-grandfather and his great-great-grandfather!
We broke it to him as gently as possible, but the double shock was too much, and he passed the evening in acute depression. Annoyed with my tactlessness in letting him know anything about it, I kicked Humphrey off his stool. Humphrey, I forgot to say, has a squeak if kicked in the right place. He squeaked.
Bingo, at that time still uncertain of his destiny, had at least the courage of the lion. Just for a moment he hesitated. Then with a pounce he was upon Humphrey.
Till then I had regarded Humphrey—save for his power of rolling the eyes and his habit of taking long jumps from the music-stool to the book-case—as rather a sedentary character. But in the fight which followed he put up an amazingly good resistance. At one time he was underneath Bingo; the next moment he had Bingo down; first one, then the other, seemed to gain the advantage. But blood will tell. Humphrey's ancestry is unknown; I blush to say that it may possibly be German. Bingo had Goodwood Lo to support him—in two places. Gradually he got the upper hand; and at last, taking the reluctant Humphrey by the ear, he dragged him laboriously beneath the sofa. He emerged alone, with tail wagging, and was taken on to his mistress's lap. There he slept, his grief forgotten.
So Humphrey has found a job. Whenever Bingo wants exercise, Humphrey plants himself in the middle of the room, his eyes cast upwards in an affectation of innocence. "I'm just sitting here," says Humphrey; "I believe there's a fly on the ceiling." It is a challenge which no great-grandson of Goodwood Lo could resist. With a rush Bingo is at him. "I'll learn you to stand in my way," he splutters. And the great dust-up begins....
Brave little Bingo! I don't wonder that so warlike a race as the Japanese has called a province after him.
A. A. M.
* * * * *
"Any Britons wishing to view the German prisoners at Frimley Camp can hire a car for L3 3s."—Advt. in "Daily Telegraph."
It seems that there are Britons and Britons. We prefer the other kind.
* * * * *
Illustration: WE ARE ALL DRILLING NOWADAYS.
Little Brown, who is in a hurry to catch his train, but finds it impossible to get by owing to the crush, is struck by a brilliant idea. "FORM—TWO DEEP!"
* * * * *
* * * * *
Illustration: FACTS FROM THE FRONT.
WE LEARN (FROM GERMAN SOURCES) THAT THE PROFESSORS OF A CELEBRATED PRUSSIAN UNIVERSITY HAVE CONFERRED THE HONORARY DEGREE OF DOCTOR UPON A DISTINGUISHED GENERAL ON HIS DEPARTURE FOR THE FRONT.
* * * * *
TWILIGHT IN REGENT'S PARK.
(Being a mutinous suggestion which I somehow had no time to make to the drill-instructor.)
Sergeant! Beneath the dim and misty vault I tire of making fours with endless trouble, And left inclines inclining to a fault. What is this pedantry? An empty bubble. The spirit is the thing. When you say "'Alt!" My 'eart—I mean my heart—is at the double.
You, gazing only at the outward shell That nothing of this secret fire divulges, See only raw civilians, heaped pell-mell, Having the kind of chest that peace indulges; Viewed from one end our lines are like a swell On the deep ocean, full of kinks and bulges.
You bid us wheel. At once ensues a rout That no hussar could compass with his sabre; The man in evening dress is much too stout, He seems to draw his breath with obvious labour, Whilst I—I beg your pardon, Right about— Of course I bumped into my left-hand neighbour.
But take (as I observed) the fire beneath; If ever foe should leap the shining margent That laps our island like a liquid wreath Then you would see us. Shimmering and argent, "Out bay'nets!" we would snatch 'em from the sheath; No 'shunning in that day, I think, O Sergeant.
Meanwhile we want a foretaste of the joy That so much tedious tramping merely stifles: We want to fall upon our—well, deploy, And less of "Stand at ease" and fruitless trifles; Der Tag will come (we whisper it with coy Half-bated murmurings), when we have rifles
And uniforms. I want a uniform, Even if not of khaki's steadfast fibre, To make the bright-eyed maidens' hearts more warm And still the mockings of the street-boy giber; Meanwhile, I say, why not deploy and storm The sacred trenches of the Zoo-subscriber?
The hour, the place invite. While here we stake Our country's weal on nugatory follies, What are these screams of insolence that wake The bosky silence with perpetual volleys? Give us the word to charge and let us take Yon outpost of the Eagles with our brollies.
* * * * *
"BURGLAR IN BURNING HOSE."—Liverpool Express.
He must have walked into something pretty hot.
* * * * *
The Editor does not hold himself responsible for views expressed by Correspondents.
SIR,—Your Leader of last week was uncommonly good, and I hope that the writer will give us more from his able pen.—COLONIAL."
* * * * *
Illustration: GIVING THE SHOW AWAY.
GERMAN PRESS BUREAU PHOTOGRAPHER. "COSTUME PERFECT, SIRE—ACCESSORIES ADMIRABLE; BUT, IN VIEW OF ALL THESE 'VICTORIES,' DARE WE SUGGEST THAT THE EXPRESSION MIGHT BE JUST A TOUCH MORE JUBILANT?"
* * * * *
Illustration: Public-house Diplomatist (to second ditto, with whom he has been discussing the ultimate terms of peace at Berlin). "I SHOULDN'T BE TOO 'ARD ON 'EM. I'D LEAVE 'EM A BIT OF THE RHINE TO SING ABAHT!"
* * * * *
THINGS THAT DO NOT MATTER.
That section of the public that has felt, while anxiously waiting for definite news of our forces in France, that the communications from "an eye-witness present with General Headquarters" are better than nothing, has probably wondered at the recent paucity of despatches from this descriptive writer. Is it possible that the following has strayed into our hands from its proper destination?
A soft wind blew gently from the south-east, and before it the fleecy clouds passed dreamily above the poplar trees. All was quiet; not even an old public-school boy was washing his face. Then, gently but firmly, the "boom, boom" of the guns assailed the ear, telling of battle not far distant.
One's fountain-pen becomes quickly clogged amid the conditions of warfare, for the dust blows freely over the plains across which the troops have marched. For comfort in writing there is nothing like an indelible pencil, and paper whose surface is slightly rough. The quantity of ink carried among the stores of a modern army is negligible. And I believe it is a fact that in the whole of the equipment of the British Forces in France there is not a single roll-top desk!
Talking of dust, I saw last evening a sight which must have appeared curious to one not acquainted with war. A young Professor of Mathematics connected with one of our great Universities passed me with a smut on his nose. Yet in times of peace he is one of those men who seldom leave home in the morning without carefully brushing their clothes. It should be borne in mind by the reader that the conditions of the battlefield of modern times have little in common with those of life in our University towns.
On the morning of the 1st our cavalry were busy with their horses, while the artillery devoted themselves chiefly to their guns. All that day our infantry stood in the trenches, and the smoke from the enemy's shrapnel made fantastic shapes against the leaden grey of the Northern sky. While I sat writing a young officer rushed in. He had kindly returned from the firing line especially to tell me of a little incident he had witnessed there. A private, hailing from Rotherhithe, calmly lit a cigarette amid the hail of bullets, took two or three draws, and then threw it away, growling, "These 'ere French cigarettes taste like bloomin' German cartridges." An incident typical of many that occur in a single day.
This brings us to the 2nd. All day long the Germans, from their entrenched position, have replied to our fire, but without any noticeable consequences. The prisoners who are brought in appear to be glad of the rest and change. Out of gratitude one of them offered to shave the Commander-in-Chief free of charge.
The battle continued on the 3rd. There was a touch of autumn in the air and the wind had changed slightly. Amid the shrieking of shells and the hum of bullets the bark of a distant farm dog could be heard distinctly. And so from day to day the War goes on.
* * * * *
"The entire proceeds of yesterday's magnificent opening concert of the season of the Sunday Concert Society at the Queen's Hall, are to be divided equally between the Prince of Wales' Fund and the National Relief Fund."—Evening News.
And even if one gets an odd half-penny more than the other, nobody will really mind.
* * * * *
(By Special P.C. XXX.)
We have three, each with its nuances of attraction, its delicately different disadvantages. They are known as the Oil Wharves, the Generating Station, and the Sewage Station. A wise decree from Scotland Yard leaves us uncertain up to the very last moment of each evening as to which will be our allotted beat. A gambling element is thus provided to stimulate us.
The Oil Wharves gloom on a cul-de-sac of nocturnal emptiness. Scarcely does a human footstep come to rouse the petroleum-sluggish echoes. A padding pussy makes a note of cheery liveliness in the lukewarm monotony of the night-watch.
But against that dreariness must be set the four wooden chairs which the Oil Magnates (blessings upon them and upon their children's children!) provide for our comfort. Technically, it may be undignified for a Special Constable to sit down. It is possible that a penalty of three days in a dark cell awaits the transgressor. We do not know, and we do not enquire. In that deadliest hour beyond the dawn, when the street lamps splutter out and the ruthless morning light reveals us to one another unwashed, unshaven and horribly all-nighty in appearance, it is indeed a grateful relief to sit down on the wooden Windsor chair and wait the six o'clock of release in blankness of mind.
The Generating Station, we are given to understand, does some magic with electricity. That is not our concern. We are there to pace up and down outside its walls, and watch for the man with the bomb. It has the advantage of being a bulky building; therefore a long beat. Up to midnight it looks over to a blank wall which forms a London lovers' lane. We speculate on the progress of courtship. The Generating Station is not odorous, and therefore is accounted the picked beat by the aesthetes among us.
The Sewage Station, on the other hand, is very lively with odours. They dominate our meals for at least twenty-four hours after duty. Some attribute them to a candle-factory opposite, labelling them as warm decomposing tallow. Another school of thought places them as the outcast debris of a sugar-factory. A scientist amongst us claims that they are saccharine which has taken the wrong turning. To myself the taste suggests mellow Limburger cheese.
They raised a classic law-suit a few years ago, taken up to the House of Lords. On the one side a string of tough sturdy bargees testified that a few whiffs made them totally unable to face their dinner. On the other side an array of sanitary experts claimed that they were not only pleasant and invigorating, but a potent factor in local longevity.
The machinery of the Station has hitherto been idle. Its borough officials apparently do nothing but fitfully polish brasses. It seems that these lucky sinecurists only work in times of violent storm, once every few months.
The neighbourhood may be odorous, but it is full of human possibilities. One midnight, two ladies started a scrap. A Special Constable, raw and without experience of militant femininity, blew his police-whistle. The whole slum-district turned out, dressed or half-dressed, like a fevered anthill. It took the regular police half-an-hour to clear the streets, the original cause of tumult vanishing in the swirl. In this neighbourhood, we are informed, it is etiquette to blow a police-whistle only when someone is being "done in."
We were also informed, in discreet whispers, that the "Guv'nor" of the Station "had it in for us." His grievance was this: that while a rival show across the river had been accorded a military picket by the War Office, he had been fobbed off with a mere guard of Special Constables. To date of writing, his wrath still smoulders.
Our hours of duty are filled with dulness, but we live in hopes. That speeding motor-cyclist in the yellow oilskins—is he the mysterious rider who has already shot down a round dozen of our number on lonely beats?
He shuts off power. He stops. He gets off and fumbles with a lamp. Is it a bomb in disguise? Our hands creep towards the truncheons concealed in our trouser-legs. The Hour has struck, and England expects...!
Alas, he is only a belated cyclist, reputable and harmless. We console ourselves with visions of 1915, when we hope to be mobilised, packed off to the Continent in motor-buses, and assigned to beats in Berlin (possibly renamed Berlinogradville City), while the Congress are rearranging the map of Europe.
"Yes, madam, this is Unter den Linden. Straight on and fourth turning to the left for the Siegesallee.... Oui, Monsieur, l'auto de luxe pour Petrograd part a midi.... Nein, mein Herr, es ist verboten. Broadly speaking, alles ist polizeilich verboten. You will be quite safe in assuming that anything you yearn for just now ist strengstens polizeilich verboten. Passen Sie along, bitte!"
* * * * *
Illustration: "NOW THEN, TOMMY—GOT SOME GOOD NEWS FOR ME TO-NIGHT—EH? WHAT?"
"YES, SIR: KITCHENER WANTS ANOTHER RECRUIT."
* * * * *
"The Women our Shield."
From Germany and the Next War:—
"We shall now consider how the tactical value of ... the screening service can be improved by organisation, equipment and training."
VON BERNHARDI seems to have overlooked the fact that a portion of the "screening service" was living under the Belgian Government.
* * * * *
"Whilst Germany is a large customer of England in other directions, it is not in hardware and ironmongery. On the contrary, she exports much more hardware to us than we buy from her."—System.
It seems almost a pity that this delightful system cannot go on.
* * * * *
Illustration: INTELLIGENT ANTICIPATION.
Ethel. "NOW THAT I'VE GOT THIS NICE MAP, WILL YOU TELL ME JUST WHERE TO PUT THE LITTLE FLAGS, DAD? I WANT TO KEEP IT RIGHT UP TO DATE."
Dad (preoccupied with his paper). "H'M—WELL—BETTER JUST STICK 'EM ALL IN BERLIN, AND—WAIT."
* * * * *
OUR WAR STORY.
THE DREADFUL DOOM OF BERTRAM BORSTAL.
Bertram Borstal turned out his pockets and spread their contents on the table before him. There were seven postage stamps perforated with the initials of his late employers, one three-penny-bit in silver, twopence in copper, and a Bank of England note for 10s. "Irretrievably ruined!" he muttered with closed lips. "I will offer my services to my country. I will enlist."
He enlisted successfully until he reached the medical examination. The doctor thrust a shoe-horn into Bertram's mouth. "Count up to 99," he said. "Ug—koog—hee—haw—," Bertram began.
"That'll do," remarked the doctor, closing the jaws with a snap. "Any constitutional ailment?"
Bertram blushed heavily. "Only chronic dyspepsia," he admitted at length. The doctor gave a long whistle. Mistaking the sound a taxicab drew up.
"You'd better jump in," he said kindly, taking Bertram's hand and putting it inadvertently into his own pocket. "I regret to say I cannot pass you for the Army."
"Ploughed!" exclaimed our hero. "But if I cannot go as a soldier I will go as a spy. Drive me to Wigson's," he called to the taxi-driver as he leapt on to a passing bus.
Half-an-hour later Bertram, disguised in the uniform of a spy, turned up the Strand and his coat-collar simultaneously and walked rapidly to Charing Cross station. He just managed to scramble into the 2.19 as it steamed from the platform at 3.7.
That same evening (or the next) Bertram got out of the train at Kartoffelnberg, hired a tandem and drove to the German lines. He went straight to the General. "I shall be obliged if you will kindly tell me the number and disposition of your forces, and how and when you propose to advance."
He spoke in English, but the General—formerly Military Attache at Appenrodt's—happily understood him.
"Certainly," he replied. "Perhaps you would care to examine this map and plan of campaign?"
Bertram thanked him, and commenced to trace them upon his spare vest.
"Don't bother to do that," said the General. "Take this set of duplicates. The disposition of our forces is clearly marked in red ink, and their numerical strength certified by a chartered accountant. The only detail omitted is the number of women and children that will be placed in the firing-line. Today's bag has not yet been reported."
An aide-de-camp galloped into the tent, flung himself from his exhausted mule and saluted.
"In the name of our noble and august KAISER," he began, "I have the honour to inform you that we have to-day captured 47 charwomen, 16 bedridden octogenarians and 21 babies in arms."
"Zwanzigheit!" exclaimed the General excitedly. "Place them in the forefront of our brave Bogey Head Hussars, and order the advance for ten o'clock to-morrow morning."
The aide-de-camp saluted, flung himself on to a fresh mule and galloped hell for leather to the canteen.
"I am much obliged for the information you have given me," said Bertram politely. "It is of paramount importance."
"You're quite welcome," remarked the General. "By-the-by, what do you want it for?"
Our hero rapidly shaved off Wigson's moustache and drew himself up proudly. "I am a spy," he said.
"I suspected as much," commented the General. "Kindly touch that bell on the mantelpiece behind you."
Bertram touched it; it was as cold as ice.
"See if it will ring," suggested the General.
Bertram seized it by the handle and shook it violently. In a moment or two it rang. A sentry entered.
"Einzweidreivierfuenf," said the General, "and riddle him with bullets at eight to-morrow morning."
Early the next morning a knock sounded on the door of Bertram's cell. The doomed man crossed the room and shot back the bolt. An officer armed with a howitzer entered.
"I am instructed to inform you," he said, "that as you are shortly to be shot you are entitled, according to custom, to choose whatever you wish for breakfast."
"Thank you," replied Bertram, "a cup of weak tea and a rusk. Unfortunately I am a chronic dyspeptic, or I would take fuller advantage of your kind hospitality."
A devilish gleam shot from the other's eyes as he heard those words.
"As you will be dead in an hour," he said, "the fact of your being a dyspeptic need not trouble you any more than if you were an acrostic. Let me therefore suggest that you try a sausage or a knuckle of pork."
Bertram reeled against the piano. Here was an opportunity to gratify his palate without regard to the consequences. Quickly he made up his mind.
"Bring me then," he said, "a plate of sausage and sauerkraut, a slab of marzipan and some Limburger cheese."
It wanted but a few minutes to eight, and Bertram Borstal, with steady nerves, waited for the striking of the cuckoo-clock in the prison tower. Once again a knock sounded upon the cell door, and with the utmost sang-froid he drew the key from his pocket and unlocked it. The honorary secretary of Germany entered, preceded by three cripples and a Mother-Superior.
"I am ready," declared Bertram, calm but pale, "and resigned to my fate."
"I am happy to say," said the secretary, "that I am unable to accept your resignation. We recognise the fact that you are only a spy, and therefore cannot strictly be said to be bearing arms against us. We have therefore to apologise for having arrested you; but at the same time I would ask you kindly to bear in mind that at these times we have much to think about, and mistakes will happen. You are free."
"Free?" repeated Bertram, unable to believe either of his ears.
"Yes, you are free," said the secretary, "and I am empowered to add that under the circumstances no charge will be made for your breakfast. Hochachtungsvoll."
He withdrew, and Bertram, picking up his umbrella and gloves, quickly followed him.
Half an hour later Bertram had again entered the German lines, imploring to be shot for pity's sake. But it was too late; all the rifles were in use in the firing-line. It was not till he heard this that Bertram Borstal, racked with indigestion, realised the atrocious barbarity of his reprieve.
* * * * *
"It'll be over by Christmas all right," said James again, but without conviction.
"Maybe," I said; "Christmas, 1918, you mean, I suppose?"
James called me a rude name, as soldiers will, and relapsed into moody silence.
I knew what the trouble was. He had booked a room at Spitzeheider for three weeks in January. They were to be the same party as last year, he had said at first; but on cross-examination it appeared that this referred solely to a lady who was described with exaggerated unconcern as being "rather a good sort."
And now here were James and I in one of KITCHENER'S camps at ——, having taken an oath to defend the KING at all costs against his enemies.
True, James had been given an old form to read from, and had sworn allegiance to KING EDWARD VII. without the officer noticing it; but though at first he tried to clutch at this straw it was only a straw.
"I find now that KING EDWARD VII. died some years ago," he had said, "so my oath is not binding, and, if the War is not over by Christmas I shall point that out and retire."
However it was found that "His Heir" was mentioned, so that went by the board.
"Cheer up, James," I said, "Spitzeheider will be there all right in 1920, even if 'the same party' are all married to other people."
James did not think my remark in the best possible taste, and said as much.
Then he looked up from the map he had been studying with a glad cry. "Do you know, I think it will be all right after all," he said; "I've been working it out, and I think it more than possible that we shall by January be guarding lines of communication somewhere not so very far from the Swiss frontier. I can get three weeks' leave, join the party at Spitzeheider, and at the end rejoin our gallant troops in the field."
"The Swiss won't much care for your marching into their country armed to the teeth," I said. "You know, James, you cut a very commanding figure in regimentals. I won't say that a somewhat conservative tailor has altogether realised that we are inferior physically but superior intellectually to prehistoric man—I mean the tunic is much too big and the hat much too small. But you look every inch a recruit, and with any luck by January you'll look like the best kind of War Lord. No, James, the Swiss won't pass you through the Customs."
"Oh, that will be all right!" he said; "I shall take a change of clothes and leave my uniform and rifle in the cloakroom at the frontier station, and get them out again on the way back."
I saw he was in a mood for sweeping aside all difficulties and said no more. But later I had a new thought for him. "James," I said, "I should mention that little matter—about the three weeks' leave and the cloakroom at the frontier station and all that—to your Colonel soon, if I were you. He'll be busy out there, I dare say, and there will be no time for explanations. If you've prepared the ground, things will go smoother. You'll simply say, 'You remember you said you'd give me three weeks' leave on this date, Sir,' and he'll say, 'All right,' and go on with the battle, and you'll march off. Only," I added, "let me be there, James, when you make your original request."
* * * * *
The KAISER'S Proclamation (Aix-la-Chapelle) ordered the Germans to concentrate their attention on the "treacherous English." We have received several indignant protests from Scotland about the use of the word "English" in place of "British."
* * * * *
Illustration: HOW THE CUBIST, BY A MERE ALTERATION OF TITLES, ACHIEVED A READY SALE OF UNMARKETABLE PICTURES.
* * * * *
AT THE "PLOUGH AND HORSES."
"What's this we 'ear, Bill? Pleeceman been plaguin' of you to 'list, that it?"
"Pleeceman, 'e says to me, 'You 'aven't a wife and you 'aven't a child, nor you 'aven't no old mother dependin' on you....'"
"Pleeceman 'e did stop you then?"
"Pleeceman's a sight too busy sometimes."
"Thinks this new army depends on 'im and 'im alone."
"Took all the trouble to come after me, 'e did."
"Matter of three-quarter-of-a-mile?"
"All of that."
"Must 'ave felt yourself a bit important like."
"That's right. Uphill all the way to our place, it is, an' Pleeceman 'e fair lost 'is wind. Pleeceman 'e look very fierce—'tis the uniform as does it, you don't deceive me. Pleeceman 'e says, 'That's right, my fine fellow; you sit at 'ome in your easy-chair,' 'e says, 'snoring o' nights on your feather bed, while the brave chaps as is gone to the front lie on planks o' wood an' eat their soup without so much as a spoon, for the sake o' them who won't bestir theirselves though the trumpet calls.'"
"Pleeceman seems to think our friend 'ere's mighty particular."
"That's 'is idea o' bein' sarcastic like. Pleeceman'll play that game once too often for the good o' 'is 'ealth."
"Pleeceman, I reckon, would 'ave been real proud if 'e could 'ave got a fine young chap like you to fight for KING GEORGE."
"Pleeceman 'e says to me—when 'e come up to our place all 'urry-scurry to see after me goin' forth again the enemy—'e says, 'A man as is a man 'as got to put 'is 'and to the plough now an' save 'is country, while yet there is time.'"
"Pleeceman 'e talks wild when 'e's excited."
"It's takin' your 'and off of the plough, ain't it now?"
"Seems so to me—God, 'e knows."
"Pleeceman 'e says to me, 'You go to swell the number as is fightin' for our England, an' honours'll be showered on you as thick as wapses round a plum-tree in August,' 'e says; 'crosses an' stars an' 'alf the alphabet after your name.'"
"Pleeceman 'e can go it—'istory books ain't in it with 'is 'magination."
"Gen'rous, too, with what ain't 'is own, same as any man."
"Pleeceman 'e says, 'Go forth and fight for this our country an' we'll give you a welcome back as 'll make you stand among us a couple o' inches taller on that great day....'"
"Pleeceman 'e do talk wild when e's excited."
"Pleeceman 'e says, 'You shirk this plain duty a-starin' you in the face, an' white feathers'll be sproutin' all over of you for a coward as refuses to do 'is little share when nations are goin' at it 'ammer and tongs.'"
"Pleeceman is a sight too bad when 'e be fairly moved. What did you say to that 'ere?"
"I says to Pleeceman—'You does your duty, anyway as far as it goes. But you does it too late in this 'ere case."
"'Ow was 'e late?"
"'Cos I'd 'listed day before."
* * * * *
IN OUR VILLAGE.
To Mrs. Robinson, The Wigwam, Threads, Nr. Bradford.
From Mrs. Cushat, The Vicarage, Yellowcubs, Leicestershire.
Oct. 8, 1914.
DEAREST SISSIE,—I have been far too busy to write before. In this "Clash of Nations," as James finely said in his last sermon, I am distracted to find suitable holiday amusements for the children. Fraeulein should have returned from her holiday in Berlin six weeks ago and was prevented with all her boxes ready packed to come; but perhaps it's as well, as James speaks of the Germans in the strongest terms—quite rightly so, of course; but one would be sorry for the poor girl to feel ashamed of her relations.
Our only alien is poor old Miss Schmidt, who has taught music for thirty years. We all try to be lenient and nice to her at my work-parties, which are widely attended. James calls them a mixture of Dorcas and Bellona—ask Harry to explain. The boys are helping to make saddle-pads for the horses at the front. They try each pad on our old Dobbin and are wild for him to go on service at once; but James has just decided that a Vicar's pony's place is in the last line of the Reserves.
You asked me how long the war would continue. We have had quite a lot of talk with the Admiral and dear old General Ramrod about it; but James says, with the utmost respect for their characters, that these naval and military men are so hide-bound. In his opinion hostilities will be over in two months from now. He says:
When the British Lion roars Foreign legions go indoors!
You know his funny way. The boys are now shouting this all about the garden, and trying to roar like lions. I have the greatest difficulty in preventing them from going to fight other children out of sheer patriotism. The darlings do look so nice and smart. I could not resist buying them flags and tin swords and helmets like real soldiers in spite of the Moratorium, which I called by mistake crematorium, and James made delightful fun about it. He also said some clever thing about banks which I can't recall; it may come to me later.
Every one talks of nothing but the war. Even the errand-boys must have their say; I caught one of them setting up our nice loin chops in the dusty drive and knocking them down with pebbles for bombs; while the girl who fetched the laundry stayed for an hour in the kitchen teaching cook First Aid bandaging, and dinner was spoilt in consequence. However these are all the little discomforts of war and must be borne in a cheerful spirit.
Your affectionate Sister, MARY.
P.S.—Dear James's joke was about John Bull and bullion. Harry will understand and appreciate it.
* * * * *
MY BROTHER'S LETTER.
Relations used to be for the most part a bore, and, unless rich, it was well that they were disregarded. But the war has altered all that. The war has brought relations, no matter how humble, into fashion.
Not all, but some. I have as a matter of fact myself one brother in the Fusiliers, in camp, and another who is a special constable and three times has reported an airship by telephone; but these do not count. It is fathers, brothers, cousins, sons, uncles and nephews at the Front who count.
Anyone who can refer to a real relation at the Front is just now conversationally on velvet, while, if a letter from this relation can be produced and read, everyone else must give way. SYDNEY SMITHS, THEODORE HOOKS, RICHARD PORSONS, THOMAS BABINGTON MACAULAYS even, would be three-a-penny to-day as against one obscure individual who happened to have a brother in the trenches and a letter in his handwriting.
But that is not all. There is reflected glory too. To know a person who has a relation at the Front is to be immeasurably promoted socially, and most of the conversations which one overhears in trains and elsewhere have some such opening as this: "A friend of my brother's has seen a Belgian...." "A cousin of my wife's who is a doctor in a field hospital says...." "I know a man who was talking with a wounded Tommy, and he...." "An undergraduate friend of my boy's who is just back from France...." Once stories begun in this way would empty a room; but not so now. Now they no longer devastate but fascinate. It does not matter what the stories are about, the fact remains that an opening gambit which three months ago would stamp a man as a triple bore now holds everyone breathless. In short, relations at last have come to their own. Another achievement of WILLIAM HOHENZOLLERN!
For the most part they bear upon German atrocities, just as a little while ago they were the preliminaries to unmistakable evidence of the presence in this country of thousands of Russians travelling from Scotland to Southampton by underground passage and other mysterious ways. I myself believed in those Russians absolutely, and relinquished them with pain and sorrow; and all because they were attested to by other people's relations. This helps to show what a hold the relation is getting on us. In fact no story of the war is now possible without some kith and kin in it.
Personally I am much out in the cold. Those two brothers I told you of may serve to fill a gap now and then—a gap left by other more entertaining raconteurs—but they are not, as I said, any real good. Both are in England, and one will never leave it. But if things were different.... If only that soldier brother had joined earlier and had written to me from Rheims, say, or Compiegne, how my stock would fly up! Or if that other one would even now fling away his truncheon, enlist in time to share the march to Berlin, and then sit down to tell me all about it, what a swell I should become! How dinner-parties would assemble to hear me!
As it is, I have to-day to do the best I can either with the tame home-keeping exploits of these two, or, by listening with excessive sympathy or by other parasitical endeavour, acquire a reversionary interest in someone else's relation's narrative. I have even, in order to cut some sort of a figure in a company where relations were being used with dashing success—I have even gone so far as to appropriate the gardener's boy's uncle, last heard of from Cambrai, as a personal and communicative friend, and claim an intimate association with his letter home.
And how splendid if all that could be changed!
"My brother," I could say boldly and with truth,—"my brother has sent me a few lines from Berlin, the substance of which you might care to hear." Of course they would be falling over each other to hear, but that is my artful way. "He camped out," I should go on, "in the Thiergarten. He says that to see the French waving their arms and cheering on the top of the Brandenburg Gate was one of the finest things possible to imagine. He had one bit of special luck: he was chosen to be one of the guard to protect the removal of the Kaiser Friedrich Museum pictures which are coming to London. He says that among these is the famous portrait of ALEXANDER DEL BORRO (No. 413A) which is among our little lot."
That would be worth living for—the triumph of that relation's letter! It cannot, I fear, be mine; but surely it will be somebody's....
* * * * *
Illustration: Sergeant (looking for likely talent). "DOES YOUR HORSE JUMP AT ALL?"
Recruit. "OH NO, SIR, THANK YOU. HE'S A VERY NICE HORSE!"
* * * * *
(By Mr. Punch's Staff of Learned Clerks.)
Some part of the fascination that I found in Tributaries (CONSTABLE) was perhaps due to the interest of a problem. On the cover I am told that the author "chooses to be anonymous in order that his story should not suffer from the least suggestion of a party bias." And of course, after reading this, I simply had to discover who it was. By the time I reached the last page I had formed a tolerably confident guess. But I will not commit myself further than to say that no one, however "well-known in Great Britain and America" (the publisher again is my authority), need be ashamed to own up to Tributaries, which is quite one of the best written novels of the year. It is the story of a modern demagogue, a young apostle of political nonconformity, part charlatan, part zealot, who comes to town from a provincial chapel, and ends up a glorious failure as a soured and unpopular Cabinet Minister. There is an unusual quality in the characterisation and humour of this story of Maurice Sangster. Page after page abounds with touches of observation which betray the practised hand. The end, in its dry, unemotional justice, approaches real tragedy. One small point. Maurice's father-in-law, who hates and wishes to humiliate him, finds his opportunity when a turn of the party wheel throws the Minister out of office and into poverty. Her father thereupon allows Mrs. Sangster fifteen hundred a year for household expenses on condition that Maurice, who is scraping a bare hundred by his pen, shall not learn of this help till the old man's selected moment for abasing him. An intelligent woman who read the tale objected that no man, even a journalist, could long remain ignorant that he was spending fifteen hundred pounds more than he earned. I think she had a case. But the book remains a remarkable one.
My own feeling about A Soldier of the Legion (METHUEN) is that it suffers from some excess of plot. That clever couple, C. N. and A. M. WILLIAMSON, can handle a complicated intrigue better than most; but here their battle-front, so to speak, is of such extent that even they seem to have found it impossible to sustain the attack at every point. We began splendidly. When Max Doran, rich, popular and just betrothed to a star of musical comedy, hears suddenly that he isn't Max Doran at all, but a pauper changeling, and that the real child of his parents (if I make myself clear) is a dull-witted girl who has been spirited away to Africa—I said to myself, now there is an exciting time ahead. So there was, but not in the way I had expected. For when Max goes out to Africa to find the missing one he finds her all right, but himself gets involved in a totally different and not so promising complication. The consequence is that the career of the enriched Josephine and her union with the wicked lawyer (all things about which I greatly wanted to hear) have to be dismissed in a few lines. As compensation we get some good desert pictures and a moving description of life in the Foreign Legion, of which Max becomes a member. But his other African adventures, and the sub-sub-plot of the abduction of a Moorish maiden by her Spanish lover, left me disappointed and detached. Of course Max embraces the heroine on the last page; and I could not but admire the resource with which, having dropped the curtain upon this climax, the authors ring it up again for an added paragraph (my metaphor is getting somewhat uncertain, but no matter), which brings the story to the warlike present. On the whole a readable book, but not quite equal to the best from the same firm.
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Since the short prefatory note to Raymond Poincare (DUCKWORTH) tells me that the book was not hastily mobilised and sent into the firing line earlier than its author had intended, I must conclude that he is prepared to meet the onset of the critic. I will therefore suggest to him—and this the more boldly because he is anonymous—that he sometimes treats French politics, both international and domestic, with an allusiveness rather tantalising to the average English reader. "The events of 1904," he says airily, and expects us to remember them at once. This is a Gallic trait which would have caused us, I suppose, had we possessed it here, to allude to the open space at the top of Whitehall as "the square of the 21st of October." There is a supreme interest for us at the present moment in this study of the man whose dignified attitude towards Germany during the Moroccan crisis, and support of the entente with ourselves, has gone far to alter England's traditional policy in European affairs. It is noteworthy that the writer takes a very firm line about our duty in this respect, and gravely deprecates the then growing feeling of friendship with Germany. It is his opinion that M. POINCARE probably "exercises more influence in his own country ... as regards foreign policy than did any of his predecessors." He would also have us appreciate the French PRESIDENT'S many-sided ability as a lawyer, financier, and educationalist. Indeed, his proposed Budget of 1906 might well have earned him a reputation as formidable as that of one whom I will not name. They tell me that M. POINCARE has been to the front. I hope I he saw there some worthy fruits of his strong policy in time of peace.
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I have not before met with a book by A. S. M. HUTCHINSON, the author of The Clean Heart (HODDER AND STOUGHTON). That is my loss, for he has a curious intensity of vision, an arresting way of making objective his thoughts by a sort of nervous battering emphasis of repetition. And he has things to say. A curious theme and painful. One Wriford, editor and novelist, breaks down from overwork and hovers about the ineffably dread borderline, crossing and recrossing. And first that grotesque tramp, Puddlebox, drunken, devout, affectionate optimist, with his "Oh, ye loonies of the Lord, bless ye the Lord: praise Him and magnify Him for ever;" then the oldest sea-captain living, with his "portograph" in The Daily Picture; then a preparatory school, full of boys; last, and most effectively, simple, sweet laughing Essie, daughter of the cert. plumber—all help variously to win him out of his morbid wrestling to mental and spiritual health. A live book this, and to be commended very warmly. But there are one or two difficulties. Those grotesqueries of the tramp and the fantastically laughable adventures of Wriford in his company—do they mingle quite smoothly with the painfully realistic manifestations of poor Wriford's state? Can so dreadful a theme ride off successfully on so bizarre a steed? And then again, was not the whole agony of the man on the physical and mental, not the spiritual plane? For did not Wriford before his illness give many obvious signs of unselfishness? Is there not in effect a certain confusion of the clean heart with the unclouded mind? I suspect the author has some subtle sufficient answer. And anyway I urge everyone to make acquaintance with two very lovable folk, the tramp and little Essie, among many others.
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Ape's Face (LANE) takes its title from the name bestowed by her family upon the heroine. It is not, you will admit, either a usual or an attractive name; but then Miss MARION FOX is by no means a usual writer, though she is in many ways a strangely attractive one. Perhaps you recall certain earlier tales of hers which displayed the same characteristics that you will find in this, though I think they were not perhaps quite so definitely bogie. I used a wrong qualification there. Definite is exactly what Miss FOX'S bogies are not, and in this they show their own good sense, and hers. She knows quite well that to define a supernatural element is to lessen enormously its flesh-creeping capabilities. Your flesh will creep all right over Ape's Face several times; though perhaps you may agree with me at the end that the book is really an enlarged Christmas tale, and would gain by being reduced to magazine dimensions. I have I not yet told you what it is all about. Very briefly, there is a family and a curse. This curse—with regard to the exact details of which I still find myself a little vague—used to express itself by causing murders from time to time among the brothers and sisters of the House. The tale is told in a detached and purposely elusive way that adds much to its effect, chiefly as it is felt by one Armstrong, a stranger who comes to stay with the Mortons at a time when their very unpleasant family habit was due to manifest itself. "You cannot move about the house without feeling that the thing has nearly broken through." The italics in this chance quotation are mine, and used to emphasize a rare feeling for the most haunting phrase, a feeling which gives distinction throughout to the story.
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Illustration: Special Constable (to suspicious lounger). "NOW, LOOK HERE, IF YOU DON'T CLEAR OFF, I'LL—TELL YOU WHAT I'LL DO—I'LL CALL A POLICEMAN!"
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"Experienced Chauffeur wants situation; careful diver."
Advt. in "Gloucester Citizen."
A useful man in a whirlpool of traffic.
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"When the foe was announced, the country men did open the doors of their stables to let the beasts over run in the neighbourhood. Amongst them was a bull, who came out in the street, similling, bending his hocks and waiterig anxious.
At this time, the gun started to boom. The beast, then, urshed and gone away from the village. On the knoll a german section had just taken place. The bull fell amongst, his horns forward, fool of rage. He knocked down the Germans like skittles."
"Democratie de L'Ouest (English-French edition)."
This is almost as picturesque as some of the work of the "Eye-witness at General Headquarters."
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