PUNCH, OR THE LONDON CHARIVARI
JANUARY 19, 1916.
In a description of Lord KITCHENER'S home at Broome Park we read that on the way there one passes a kind of crater known by the rustics as "Old England's Hole." And a little farther on you come to the man who got Old England out of it.
A German professor advocates the appointment of State matrimonial agents. Elderly and experienced ladies and gentlemen should be employed to bring young people together, and "unostentatiously to give them practical counsel, conveying their remarks tactfully, and in such a way as not to awaken the spirit of contradiction found in youthful minds;" paying due regard, moreover, to theories of eugenics and heredity. The Winged Boy disguised as an antique German professor makes an attractive picture.
Some anxiety was caused in America by the news that the FORD Peace party was to meet in the Zoo at the Hague. But they have all emerged safely.
The Governor of South Carolina, who was one of the members of this heroic mission, left the Hague in a great hurry and returned to America before the rest of the delegates. Much curiosity is expressed as to what the Governor of North Carolina will have to say to him on this occasion.
In spite of the Government's official discouragement of any further rise in wages a demand for an increase of no less than 33-1/3 per cent, has been made by the "knockers-up" in the Manchester district. For going round in the chill hours of the morning and wakening the workers, these blood-suckers (chiefly old men and cripples) receive at present the princely remuneration of threepence per head per week; and they have now the effrontery to ask for fourpence.
The German Government has decided to raise the charge for telegrams. WOLFF'S Bureau has instructed its correspondents that in order to meet this new impost the percentage of truth in its despatches must be still further diminished.
Before the opening of the Luxemburg Parliament two members of the Opposition threw the chairs belonging to Ministers out of the window. It is feared that something of the kind may be attempted at Westminster, since several Members have been observed to cast longing eyes upon the Treasury Bench.
With a view to increasing the food-supply the German Government have extended the time for shooting hares from January 16th to February 1st, and for pheasants from February 1st to March 1st. The dachshund season, we understand, will be continued for the duration of the War.
Count KOSPOTH, a member of the Prussian Upper House, in the course of an energetic plea for economy, remarks that "at one's country-seat one can very well do without a motor-car, and even with two to four horses in stables instead of six or eight." This was read with great satisfaction by the Berlin Hausfrau on a meatless day when the bread-card was exhausted.
The House of Commons was quite relieved when Sir GEORGE REID took his seat. There had been some fears that he would take two.
A young woman who mistook Vine-street police station for a tavern, and was fined ten shillings for drunkenness, is reported to have expressed the opinion that there is room for improvement in the nomenclature of our public edifices.
"My grave doubt," writes a Conscientious Objector regarding his fellows, "is whether there is any reasonable chance that most of them will be able to convince a tribunal that their conscientious objection is real." It may comfort him to know that his doubt is very widely shared.
"DEAR MR. PUNCH," writes a soldier at the Front who has been reading the Parliamentary reports,—"Do you think an officer out here who developed 'conscientious objections' might get a week's leave?"
In the course of a debate in the Reichstag on the German Press Bureau it was revealed that the Censor had struck out quotations from GOETHE as being dangerous to the State. Our man who tinkered with KIPLING is wonderfully bucked by this intelligence.
Bread is the staff of life, and, in the view of certain officers in the trenches, whose opinions we cannot of course guarantee, the life of the Staff is one long loaf.
Extracted from the report of an enthusiastic company commander after a brisk action with some tribesmen on the Indian Frontier: "The men were behaving exactly as if on ceremonial parade. They laughed and talked the whole time...." We seem to recognise that parade.
* * * * *
Extract from letter from an Unconscientious Slacker.
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"We have from the first declared that should the voluntary system fail to supply the men needed to win the war and who could be spared from civil war we would accept and support it."
Unfortunately, to judge by the proceedings at the Labour Conference, the claims of civil war are very heavy.
* * * * *
This paragraph from "Town Topics" in The Liverpool Echo—
"We know that many of our men—especially the single ones, judging by the Derby figures—are sheltering behind skirts"—
helps to explain this one:—
"Several lady tram-conductors in the city declare they are denied the common courtesies far more by women passengers of the female gender than by men."
The insistence upon the sex of the uncivil females is necessary to distinguish them from the male civilians.
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"FURNISHED house (small) wanted in Edinburgh; with ballroom, h. & c."—Scotsman.
Hot for the chaperons and cold for the dancers.
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TO THE PRO-SHIRKERS.
[Thirty-nine Members voted against the Second Reading of the Military Service Bill.]
You that in civilian lobbies, While the battle-thunder rolls, Hug your little party hobbies, So to save your little souls, Treating England's deadly peril like a topic for the polls;
Half of you—the record's written— Lately strode to Downing Street And for love of Little Britain Wallowed at the PREMIER's feet, Urging him to check the wanton waste of our superfluous Fleet.
Had your passionate prayer been granted And the KAISER got his way, Teuton crushers might be planted On our hollow tums to-day, And a grateful foe be asking what you want for traitors' pay.
Disappointed with the Navy, You in turn were keen about Putting Thomas in the gravy, Leaving Thomas up the spout, Lest if adequately aided he should wipe the strafers out.
Well, our memories may be rotten, Yet they'll stick to you all right; Not so soon shall be forgotten Those whose hearts were fixed more tight On the salvage of a fetish than the winning of the fight.
When the Bosches bite the gutter And we let our tongues go loose, Franker words I hope to utter In the way of free abuse, But at present I am badly hampered by the party truce.
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WHITTLING THEM DOWN.
DEAR MR. PUNCH,—I know you must be longing to have my analysis of the Derby figures. I hasten to comply, for I may say that I have never, since the War began, had finer scope for my individual talents. Never have I had—not even in the great Copper Controversy—a bunch of figures of which it may more truly be said that they are not what they seem, that there is more in them than meets the eye, and that they contain wheels within wheels. And first of all, Sir, I hope you will allow me to explain where I am in this matter; everybody's doing it; and you will then see at once the moral grandeur of my attitude. I am a convinced believer in the Voluntary System, always have been—on principle. But I am willing to sacrifice even that for victory. If it can be shown that by compulsion one single man can be added to our forces who would not have volunteered (even if he had been scientifically bullied), I will be willing to adopt conscription. But, Sir, it cannot be shown.
The crux of the situation admittedly lies with the figures of the Single Men. (In case of misapprehension I should make it clear that when I spoke above of "one single man" I did not mean one unmarried man, but one sole man). We have to begin our attack upon this figure of 651,160 unstarred single men unaccounted for. It seems a good many. But wait a bit. We shall now proceed to concentrate a powerful succession of deductions. It only needs a fearless and patriotic ingenuity.
Let us not disregard obvious facts. From this number we must subtract—
(1) Ministers of religion 5 per cent. (2) Mercantile Marine 5 " (3) Medically unfit 40 " (4) Criminals 1-3/4 " (5) Badged 10 " (6) Indispensables 10 "
Total 71-3/4 per cent. You see we are already getting on. But before going any further we had better consolidate the ground already won by making certain additions, in case any one man has been counted twice. These are—
(1) Ministers of religion who are also medically unfit. (2) Criminals in the mercantile marine. (3) Ministers of religion in the mercantile marine. (4) Criminals who are medically unfit. (5) Indispensable criminals. (6) Badged criminal ministers of religion.
These categories taken together may be put at 7-1/4 per cent. of our 71-3/4 per cent., and must be deducted from the deductions. There are also the blind, halt and maimed, deaf, dumb and inebriate, but I am willing to throw all of them in so as to be on the safe side.
So far we have to deduct, then, some 66-1/2 per cent. from our total. We must do better than that if we are to get on the right side of negligibility. So now we come to examine the canvass. A good many men were not canvassed, or at least misunderstood the canvasser. I know of one man in my constituency (unstarred, unbadged, fit, single and of army age) who thought the fellow had come to collect for Foreign Missions, to which he has a conscientious objection.
Along with these I propose to deduct the great class of what I shall call the Self-centred. These are they who not only were never canvassed, but didn't even so much as hear about it, who had probably given up newspapers as a war economy and were living quiet virtuous lives in out-of-the-way places. Add to them removals and conscientious objectors (less allowance for conscientious removals) and we have a total not short of 27-1/2 per cent.
Then again, as the supply of recruits becomes exhausted, it must always be remembered that we are dealing with a residuum. That is to say, those that remain are always growing more conscientious, more criminal, more unfit, more mercantile and so on. However, I count nothing for that, for I haven't much of my total left to dispose of, and I have still to deal with spoiled cards.
Everyone who has assisted at a contested election knows very well that many mistakes occur. I propose to allow 3 per cent. for illegible cards which prevented the canvasser from tracking his prey, 4 per cent. for those who failed to find the recruiting office owing to misdirection, but will be sure to find it before long, and 1/2 per cent. for sundries, such as men who were temporarily confined to the house.
Our final result is thoroughly satisfactory, and one that must give Compulsionists some food for thought, for however much they may wish to introduce the principle they cannot desire to reduce our forces in the field in the middle of a great war. In a word, we must deduct 101-1/2 per cent. from 651,160. That gives us an adverse balance of 9,767. This means that, if the present Bill is to go through and compulsion is definitely adopted, nearly half a division of our present army must be disbanded forthwith. It is just as well that we should see clearly what we are heading for.
It has given me great pleasure to have the opportunity of clearing up this vexed question.
I am, Yours as usual,
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* * * * *
["Even the food of the men was wholesome and abundant."—Report of a German Correspondent who visited the High Canal Fleet.]
Sing ho! for the Fleet in the Kiel Canal. Where every man is the KAISER's pal, And lives upon beer and bread; And they all have food, so help them BILL! For every officer gets his fill And even the men are fed.
His beard as long as his hair is short, VON TIRPITZ says with a mighty snort, "We've money and men and boats; We're here to-day and we're here to-morrow; Pass up the beer and drink death to sorrow; Why, even our Navy floats!
"Behind the locks of our snug retreat We hurl defiance at JELLICOE'S Fleet From Rosyth down to Dover! We look across at the wet, wet sea And we drink our beer till even we Are almost half-seas over!
"Our men can eat, and they even drink; They walk and talk, and they almost think; They can turn to the left and right; And when we strike a blow in the back, Or sink a liner or fishing-smack, By Odin, they even fight!"
* * * * *
Two headlines that appeared side by side in the same issue of an Evening Paper:—
"WOMAN WILL PROBABLY BE TRIED IN CAMERA.
GERMAN FEARS FOR LENS."
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"'Most of the world's real literature was written by poor authors in their garrets.'
'Quite so. Homer, for example, wrote in the Attic.'"—Evening Paper.
Did he now? And we were always taught that he wrote (or, rather, sang) in the Ionic.
* * * * *
From an article on the Clyde disputes:—
"Contrary to the instructions of the Munitions Ministry, peace-prices are sometimes reduced, with resulting friction."
We are glad to learn that the Scotch workmen do not belong to the peace-at-any-price brigade.
* * * * *
Every January so long as I can remember it has been difficult; but this year more so than ever. I cannot say why, except that last year was peculiarly eventful and momentous.
The odd thing is that one begins so well. For the first day, at any rate, one can do it quite easily; but it is after then that one has to be vigilant; and however vigilant one is there are off-guard moments when the fatal slip occurs.
Nor will any mechanical device assist you, for nothing can successfully defeat the wandering of the mind. Continuous concentration is an impossibility; there is nothing for it but habit—a new habit that shall be as strong as the old—or the total cessation of all correspondence and (O that 'twere possible!) all making out of cheques.
Still conquest comes sooner or later, and I have reached that point in my own struggle. I have at last finally got over the tendency to write 1915.
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"As a result of the Labour Conference at Westminster yesterday, a resolution was sunk on Lake Tanganyika."—Western Daily Press.
The best place for it.
* * * * *
A NEW THEATRICAL VENTURE.
A friend of mine has started as manager of his first theatre these holidays. It may seem to you an unpropitious moment for such a beginning, but in many ways this special theatre is exceptionally well guaranteed against failure. The proprietor was kind enough to invite my presence at his opening performance. As a matter of fact I had myself put up the money for it.
Naturally I was anxious for the thing to be a success. The theatre stands on what you could truthfully call a commanding situation at one end of the schoolroom table. It is an elegant renaissance edifice of wood and cardboard, with a seating accommodation only limited by the dimensions of the schoolroom itself, and varying with the age of the audience. The lighting effects are provided in theory by a row of oil foot-lamps, so powerful as to be certain, if kindled, to consume the entire building; in practice, therefore, by a number of candle-ends, stuck in the wings on their own grease. These not only furnish illumination, but, when extinguished (as they constantly are by falling scenery) produce a penetrating aroma which is specially dear to the managerial nostrils.
The manager, to whom I have already had the pleasure of introducing you, is Peter. I have been impatiently waiting for the moment of Peter's first theatre, these nine years. Like marbles or Treasure Island, it is at once a landmark and a milestone in the present-giving career of an uncle. So I had devoted some considerable care to its selection.
In one respect Peter's theatre reminds me of the old Court in the days of the VEDRENNE-BARKER repertory. You recall how one used to see the same people at every performance, a permanent nucleus of spectators that never varied? The difference is that Peter's permanent nucleus are neither so individually agreeable nor in any true sense enthusiasts of the drama. Indeed, being painted on the proscenium, with their backs to the stage, the effect they produce is one of studied indifference. Nay more, a horrible suspicion about them refused to be banished from my thoughts; it was based partly upon the costumes of the ladies, partly on the undeniably Teutonic suggestion in the gentlemen's uniforms. However, I said nothing about this to Peter.
Despite the presence of these unpleasing persons, the opening performance must be pronounced a real success. Perhaps more as a spectacle than anything else. Scenically the show was a triumph; the memory of the Forest Glade especially will remain with me for weeks by reason of the stiff neck I got from contorting myself under Peter's guidance to the proper angle for its appreciation. But histrionically it must be confessed that things dragged a little. Perhaps this was due to a certain severity, not to say baldness, in the dialogue as spoken. Not having read the script, I have a feeling that it might be unfair to judge the unknown author by the lines as rendered by Peter, who was often pre-occupied with other anxieties. As, for example, the scene in the Baronial Castle between its noble but unscrupulous proprietor and a character introduced by Peter with the simple notice: "This is a murderer coming on now."
Baron. Oh, are you a murderer?
Bar. Oh, well, you've got to murder the Princess.
Murd. All right.
Bar. That's all of that scene.
Crisp, of course, and to the point; but I feel sure that there must have been more in the interview as originally written.
Perhaps, again, the cast was to blame for whatever may have been disappointing in the performance. Individually they were a fine company, passionate and wiry of gesture, and full of energy. Indeed their chief fault sprang from an incapacity to remain motionless in repose. This led to a notable lack of balance. However sensational it may be for the exit of every character to bring down the house, its effect is unfortunately to retard the action of the piece.
Personally I consider that the women were the worst offenders. Take the heroine, for example. Lovely she may have been, though in a style more appreciated by the late GEORGE CRUIKSHANK than by myself; but looks are not everything. Art simply didn't exist for her. Revue might have been her real line; or, better still, a strong-woman turn on the Halls. There was the episode, for instance, where, having to prostrate herself before the Baron, she insisted upon a backward exit (with the usual result) and then made an acrobatic re-entrance on her knees.
Tolerant as he was, even Peter began at last to grow impatient at the vagaries of his company. Finally, when the Executioner (a mere walker-on of no importance whatever) had twice brought ridicule upon the ultimate solemnities of the law by his introduction of comic dives off the scaffold, the manager rang down the curtain. Not before it was time.
"They're lovely to look at," he observed, surveying the supine cast, "but awfully difficult to do anything with."
"Peter," I answered gratefully, "as an estimate of the theatrical profession your last remark could hardly be improved upon."
Of course he didn't understand; but, being dramatist as well as uncle, I enjoyed saying it.
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* * * * *
"February 3.—A total eclipse of the sun, partly visible at Greenwich as a partial eclipse. Eclipse begins to be visible at Greenwich at 4.31 P. M.; ends after the sun has set."
"February 3.—A partial eclipse of the moon, partly visible at Greenwich. Begins at 4.31 P. M."—Churchman's Almanack.
This double obscuration will make navigation very difficult for sky-pilots.
* * * * *
My companion had the habit of muttering to himself and I was relieved when he leant over and spoke to me. He was a dry little man of middle age, with a nervous kindly face and eyes that twinkled with the voluntary spirit. I had seen him on summer evenings clipping his hedge and pruning his roses, for we lived nearly opposite to each other. Suddenly he emerged from his newspaper and said in a quick determined way, "What this country wants, Sir, is more buttonholes. The best suits have only two buttonholes; that is to say, only two that are superfluous, the rest are all needed by buttons. It's a scandal, Sir!"
"Isn't there one at the bottom of the waistcoat?" I asked.
"Quite useless," he said with much energy, though smiling very kindly. "Quite useless for the purpose. The matter," he added, "would not be so urgent if we had more sleeves. Worse even than the dearth of buttonholes is the lack of eligible sleeves. In peace time two sleeves may have been sufficient; to-day ... Well, you can sympathise." He looked (still smiling) at the khaki armlet that bound my arm and the Special Constable's badge that nestled in my overcoat.
He had the shy decisiveness of a man who seldom spoke his mind. If necessary I would have wrested his name from him and pretended a relationship with his wife. But he needed no encouragement.
"At the beginning, when one was just a special constable, it didn't matter so much. I wore my badge and my armlet when I was on duty and sometimes when I was not. Even when I joined our Volunteer Corps I was not seriously embarrassed. After all, one could alternate the badges and the armlets and, at a pinch, wear them all together. Then I became an unskilled munition worker, which meant three badges and two armlets. At first I wore two on my overcoat and three inside. Then I would give some of them a rest, generally to find that I was wearing the wrong ones on the wrong occasions. Altogether it was very confusing."
"So far," I said with some sympathy, "I can follow you. I am myself an unskilled War Office clerk; but you have forgotten Lord DERBY'S armlet, which at the moment has the place of honour with me."
"No," he said, "I have that too. And I have another badge. I earned it on New Year's Day."
He took off his spectacles and rubbed them mechanically. It gave him a very detached appearance and he spoke gently, without malice.
"I have an aunt," he said, "by self-election, a most worthy woman, who was my mother's cousin. It came to her ears that I had become a teetotaler for the duration of the war. It appears that there is a badge for temporary teetotalers. She brought me one. She begged me with tears in her eyes to wear it. I remonstrated. I pointed out that if every public and private virtue is to be symbolised in this fashion, people with few vices and a willing heart would soon be perpetually in fancy-dress."
"And what happened?" I asked.
"I wavered for a time and then happily I found a way out. A few days ago it occurred to me that there must be other means, as yet untried, of advertising one's patriotism. I saw a notice in a restaurant I sometimes go to, 'No Germans or Austrians Employed Here.' 'Happy proprietor,' I said, 'who can so trumpet his honesty without increasing either his badges or his armlets!' The fact is that it set me thinking. Eventually I hit on a plan. It was very disappointing to my aunt, but it answers wonderfully."
"May I ask?" I said; "it might be useful."
"Oh, certainly, certainly. We have bought a little enamelled plate and had it fixed to our gate. You may have noticed it. It has the words, 'No Bottles.'"
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* * * * *
THE WATCH DOGS.
MY DEAR CHARLES,—You didn't catch sight of any mention of me in despatches, did you? I have been rather too busy myself to read the list properly, but I did just have time to cast a casual eye over the "H's," and I didn't notice the name of "Henry" standing out in heavy-leaded capitals. It must be an inadvertence, of course. They must have said something about me, as, for instance: "Especially to be remarked is the noble altruism of Lieut. Henry, who on more than one march has been observed to take his pack, containing all his worldly goods, off his back and to hand it without ostentation to some lucky driver of a limber, saying, 'Take it, my lad; your need is greater than mine.'" Or again, referring to my later career: "The pen is mightier than the sword, but Lieut. Henry's indelible pencil, when engaged on official correspondence, is mightier than both." Or at least, at the very beginning of things, I'm quite sure the Mentioner devoted a passing phrase to me: "By the way, I have just received a consignment described on the Movement Order as 'Officer, one, Henry, Lieut.' Speaking frankly as between ourselves, what is it exactly? In any case I would gladly exchange for a dozen tins of bully beef."
Talking of despatches, I see that our old friend the Regimental Anarchist has not escaped notice. I never thought he would, for a less unnoticeable man I don't remember meeting. He is one of those big untidy fellows, very nice for purposes of war and all that, whom not the cleverest adjutant could manage to conceal on a ceremonial parade. His service equipment alone was notorious in the division. While we were still in England he and I used to share a billet. Every night the last thing I saw before going to sleep was the Anarchist trying on a new piece of personal furniture. He had at least a hundred aunts, and each of them had at least a hundred bright ideas; besides which few days went by but he paid a generous visit to the military outfitter. Never in my life shall I forget the sight of him during our last moments at home. While others were stuffing into themselves the last good meal they expected to taste for three years or the duration, he was putting on patent waterproof after patent waterproof. He stepped forth at last, sweating at every pore, and it wasn't raining at the time and didn't look like raining till next winter. The 38-lb. limit prevented his putting more than four coats into his valise, and his method of packing didn't economise space. If there had been any limit, however generous, to the amount of room an officer may occupy in the column of route we'd have had to go abroad without our Anarchist, and a much quieter and more respectable life we'd have had that way.
Even in our earliest days in B.E.F., when we were well behind the firing line, he started playing with fire. Thinking that we shared his low tastes he would gather us round him and lecture us on the black arts.—"This little fellow," he would say, fetching an infernal machine out of his pocket—"this little fellow is as safe as houses provided he has no detonator in his little head. But we will just make sure." A flutter of excitement would pass round the audience as he started unscrewing the top to make sure. "Of course," he'd continue, finding the screw a bit stiff and getting absorbed in his toy—"of course, if there should happen to be a detonator inside, you have only to tickle it and almost anything may happen." While he'd be struggling with the screw, the front row of the audience would be shifting its ground to give the back rows a better view. "You can't be too careful," he'd say, passing it lightly from one hand to the other in order to search for his well-known clasp-knife, "for if you're not careful," he'd explain, tucking the bomb under his arm so as to have both hands free to open the knife—"if you're not careful," he'd say, suddenly letting go the knife in order to catch the bomb as it slid from his precarious hold—"if you're not very careful" (getting to real business with the murderous blade), "very—very—careful...." But none of us were ever near enough by that time to hear what would happen if we weren't (or even if he wasn't).
And then those strange nights in the trenches, when he and I used to be on duty together! I would be waiting in our luxurious, brightly-lit gin-palace of a dug-out for him to join me at our midnight lunch. He'd come in at last, clad in his fleece lining, the only survivor of his extensive collection of overcoats, its absence of collar giving him a peculiarly clerical look. He'd sit down to his cocoa, but hardly be started on the day before yesterday's newspaper (just arrived with the rations) before the private bombardment would begin. I would spring to attention; he would go on reading. "Hush!" I'd say. (Why "Hush!" I don't know.) "What's all that for?" "Me," he'd say, turning to the personal column. And then I'd know that, seizing the opportunity of being unobserved, he'd been out for nocturnal stroll with a handful of bombs, seeking a little innocent pleasure. The gentlemen opposite, not being cricketers themselves or knowing anything about the slow bowler, had, as usual, mistaken him for a trench mortar and were making a belated reply.
Only his servant accompanied him on these jaunts. He was a nice quiet villain, whose lust for adventure had, I always imagine, been long ago satisfied by a dozen or so gentle burglaries in his civilian past. He didn't want to kill people; his job in life was to keep his master alive and well fed. So when the latter went out bombing he thought he might as well go out with him, and occupy himself picking turnips for to-morrow's stew.
When the Anarchist wasn't distributing bombs he was collecting bullets. Being untidy by nature, he didn't particularly care where they hit him, provided they didn't damage his pipe. That was all he cared about, his lyddite and his tobacco. I often wonder how it was he didn't get the two habits of his life mixed up—fill a pipe with H.E., light it and finish off that way. But he didn't; he has just gone on collecting lead, letting it accumulate about his person until it got too heavy to be convenient and then resorting to the nearest hospital to have it removed. I hear he's there now, the result, I gather, of a bit of a show. It was his servant who was walking about that unhealthy field at that imprudent time and found him. One would like to paint a romantic picture of the meeting, but I doubt if there was much romance about it. I am quite sure all the Anarchist cared about was his tobacco pouch and all the servant was interested in was the further collection of vegetables, just in case.
I can see our Anarchist, lying in his little white bed in the hospital, surrounded by his sevenpenny racing novels (with or without covers), his tins of navy-cut (some empty, some full), his fleece lining, his compass, his socks, his field-glasses, his ties, his revolver and his last month's letters (some opened, some not), all jumbled happily together, with his ragged old shaving-brush reigning proudly in the midst. I doubt if he knows he's been "mentioned," for one could never get him to take interest in any news which wasn't "sporting"; possibly he is made suspicious by the uncomfortable presence of unopened telegrams in all corners of his bed. But one thing I do hope, and that is that this bed is, at any rate, not strewn, inside and out, with unexploded hand-grenades.
Yours ever, HENRY.
* * * * *
WARFARE AT THE BARBER'S.
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* * * * *
From Jim Figgis, Whitty Bridge, to George Roberts, South Farm, Sudborough.
Dec. 5th. 1915.
DEAR GEORGE,—I hear the remount officer is coming round your part. I have a compact little bay horse, just the sort for the Army. We must all do our bit now, so here's our chance. The Vet says the horse has laminitis in his off fore foot, but it's all my eye. Anyhow he's the useful sort they require for the Army. They wouldn't look at me if I offered him, but you can get round them. Give me fifty quid and I'll send him over.
Your friend, J. FIGGIS.
_From George Roberts to Jim Figgis.
Dec. 7th,_ 1915.
DEAR JIM,—Yours to hand. No one can say that you're not a good patriot, and I won't be No. 2. But fifty quid for that little horse—not me. Say thirty and he's mine, sound or unsound.
Yours, G. ROBERTS.
George Roberts to the Hon. Mordaunt Fopstone, White Lion Hotel, Sudborough.
Dec. 10th, 1915.
DEAR SIR,—Hearing you are looking out for horses for the Army I write to say I have one or two which I shall be pleased to place at your disposal and at a very reasonable price, as in these times we must all give up something for the country. I shall be pleased to see you at any time convenient, except Tuesday, when I have to be at our local Agricultural Show.
Yours to command,
From the Hon. Mordaunt Fopstone to George Roberts.
Dec. 11th, 1915.
DEAR SIR,—Thank you for your letter. It is very satisfactory to find local people of your position anxious to help. I will call at your farm on Friday next and see the horses you refer to. With thanks,
Yours truly, M. FOPSTONE.
P.S.—I have been warned against a man named Figgis. Do you know him?
From George Roberts to the Hon. Mordaunt Fopstone.
Dec. 13th, 1915.
DEAR SIR,—Friday will suit me very well for your call, at any time you please. You are quite right to avoid Figgis; he is one of the small horse-dealing class who are a discredit to our country districts. Any further information is at your service.
Yours to command, G. ROBERTS.
From the Hon. Mordaunt Fopstone to George Roberts.
Dec. 21st, 1915.
DEAR MR. ROBERTS,—I have now pleasure in enclosing cheque for L65 for bay horse. As stated to you when I called at South Farm, I was not in a position to go beyond L60 without further authorisation; this I have now obtained. Thanking you for the patriotic spirit you have shown in this little business,
Yours truly, M. FOPSTONE.
From the Adjutant, Royal Beetshire Hussars, Tickful Camp, to Messrs. Davison Bros., The Mart, Southtown.
Jan. 1st, 1916.
Please enter bay gelding, aged, sent herewith, in your next sale without reserve, as he is not sound and of no use to Army.
Memo. from Davison Bros. to Adjutant.
Jan. 17th, 1916.
DEAR SIR,—Herewith please find cheque L5 4s. 3d. for bay gelding, being amount realised for same, less our commission and expenses.
Yours faithfully, DAVISON BROS.
* * * * *
The Times heads an article, "Unity in the Air." It deals, however, with the new Anglo-French Aviation Conference and has nothing to do with the latest Peter Pan.
* * * * *
* * * * *
ESSENCE OF PARLIAMENT.
(Extracted from the Diary of Toby, M.P.)
House of Commons, Monday, January 10th.—In spite of sharp rebuke administered by SPEAKER last week the PERTINACIOUS PRINGLE to the fore again—to be precise, to the Forward. This the name of weekly paper that is published in Clyde district, and has of late emerged from obscurity by "deliberately inciting workers," as LLOYD GEORGE said, "not to carry out Act of Parliament passed in order to promote the output of munitions." On motion for adjournment PRINGLE perceived opportunity of attacking MINISTER OF MUNITIONS. Accused him of suppressing the sheet because it had reported proceedings at meetings attended by him in Glasgow, at which his speech was interrupted by noisy minority. This course of procedure imitated by PRINGLE when LLOYD GEORGE, replying, quoted passages in the paper making violent attack on the KING and systematic attempts to stem flood of recruiting.
"These things," said the MINISTER, in passage loudly cheered, "meant life or death to our men in the field. They are not suitable matters for Parliamentary sport. We are dealing in tragedies. I am doing my best to save the men at the Front. I am entitled to be helped, not to be harried."
OUTHWAITE, coming to assistance of PRINGLE, otherwise prangling all forlorn, jumped upon by Captain CAMPBELL.
"If I had the Hon. Member in my battalion at the Front," he said, "he would be strung up by the thumbs before he had been there half-an-hour."
This scarcely Parliamentary; but it passed the Chair, leaving the gallant Captain, who modestly wears well-won ribbon of D.S.O., time to adjure the House to "get on with the War."
Business done.—In House barely half full Motion carried calling upon Government to enter into consultation with the Overseas Dominions in order to bring economic strength of Empire into co-operation with our Allies in a policy directed against the enemy.
Tuesday.—Said with truth that a speech in the House of Commons, however forcible and eloquent, rarely influences a vote. Some orators, however, have gift of stirring the soul to emotions that carry a man to actions beyond range of conventionality. Such an one is the Right Hon. THOMAS LOUGH, commonly and affectionately known through several Parliaments as "Tommy." One of small faction of Liberals who have not withdrawn opposition to Military Service Bill. Declaiming against it just now on motion for Second Reading, he described it as a sham.
"It is not true," he said, "that young unmarried men have held back. On the contrary they have come forward nobly and in great numbers."
Vindication of a maligned class so affected somebody seated in the Strangers' Gallery that he loudly clapped his hands. This a decided breach of order. The Assyrians (in form of Gallery attendants) came down upon him like a wolf on the fold. Ordered him to withdraw. He explained that he was so entirely at one with argument of the Hon. Member for West Islington that he preferred to remain to listen to continuance of his speech. Assyrians insistent on his immediate departure. Martial spirit of young unmarried man roused. Refused to budge. Whereupon the Assyrians, lifting him out of the seat, carried him forth vi et armis—free translation, by legs and arms.
From his seat below the Gangway Mr. FLAVIN watched procedure with wistful eyes. Remembered how towards break of day dawning on an all-night sitting held towards the close of last century he also was carried forth shoulder high, not by officers of the House in nice white shirt fronts, with glittering badges hung round their necks, but by the common or street policeman helmeted and belted. As he journeyed he sang, "God save Ireland," his compatriots, more or less attuned, joining in the chorus.
Recognition of historical incident sharply marks contrast in attitude of Irish Members then and now. Still fighting for Home Rule they stopped short of no outrage upon order, systematically and successfully obstructing public business. Military Service Bill offers enticing opportunities for exercise of old tactics. They might, if they pleased, keep House sitting for weeks fighting Bill in Committee line by line, word by word, as was their custom of an afternoon, and half-way through the night, in days of old. Other times other manners. Interposing early in debate JOHN REDMOND announced that his party, having made their protest against Bill in Division Lobby on First Reading, would withdraw from further opposition.
Business done—Second Reading of Military Service Bill moved.
Wednesday.—Sir GEORGE REID, having completed term of service as High Commissioner of Australia, took his seat as Member for St. George's, Hanover Square. Carefully dismounting at Bar from his native steed he was introduced by BONAR LAW, Unionist Colonial Secretary, and HARCOURT, Colonial Secretary in late Liberal Government. This concatenation of circumstance, testifying to universal esteem and exceptional personal popularity, unique in Parliamentary records.
New-comer will serve in double capacity. Nominally Member for St. George's, he will also be Member for Australia, an innovation that will probably have wider scope and formal recognition when the Overseas Dominions have completed their splendid work of helping the Mother Country to bring the War to triumphant conclusion.
GEORGE REID'S career on a new stage will be watched with keen interest in his two antipodal homes. Since, six years ago, he came to London, he has acquired the reputation of being one of the best after-dinner speakers of the day. How will the qualities that ensure success in that direction serve him at Westminster? MACAULAY truly said, "The House of Commons is the most peculiar audience in the world. A place in which I would not promise success to any man."
The MEMBER FOR SARK puts his money (or such portion as is left after paying War taxes) on the Member for St. George's, Hanover Square-cum-Australia.
Debate on Second Reading of Military Service Bill resumed. Best thing said during two days' talk was an incidental remark of BIRRELL'S. Relating history of Bill in Cabinet he said he had felt it his duty to say something about Ireland.
"What I said," he added, "is of course known only to those of my colleagues who were sitting round the table and to such representatives of the London Press as were sitting underneath it."
This hint explains mystery clouding the fact that whilst the secrets of Cabinet Councils are held to be inviolable there are morning papers able habitually to give detailed information of what passes behind the locked and barred doors.
Business done.—Second Reading of Military Service Bill carried by 431 votes against 39.
Thursday.—After advancing three minor Government Bills a stage, House adjourned at 5.30.
* * * * *
* * * * *
* * * * *
THE OFFICIAL STYLE.
Extract from an Indian Service register:—
"Service Order 41 of 1914, dated 16-10-14. He was appointed acting Forest Guard and posted to Surumoni beat, in place of Chowdri Zaicko, Forest Guard, who was devoured by a tiger with effect from the forenoon of 16th Oct. 1914."
* * * * *
AT THE BACK OF THE FRONT.
Here where the world is quiet except for the noise of the rain trickling into one's valise through the nooks and crannies of one's rustic apartment—here where there is no peril from above and no peril from in front, neither peril of enfilade, here too—it is a Base I am doing this sentence about—we have our problems.
To begin with there is the glorious uncertainty of things. Some men are here to-day and the far side of Wipers to-morrow night. Others arrive from England thirsting for all sorts of things that no sane man ever wants to have anything to do with, and are kept doing a bomb course and a machine-gun course on alternate days for eight months. There is a tale told of one such who, when he was finally sent to the trenches, was returned as hopeless after three days because he would do nothing except sit beside a machine gun trying to fill the belt with grenades. There is no sadder story in the War.
Now if I knew for certain that I was going to be here eight months I could marry and settle down. Or if I knew for certain I was for Wipers to-morrow night I could make a new will—not that there's anything the matter with the old one, but I met a man on leave who put me up to some good tips in will-making—and settle up. But as it is part of our military system for junior officers not to know anything I dare not even have my letters forwarded.
Anyhow, Bases are not what they were in my young days. Of course there were always parades; but you obviously couldn't parade while you were busy over some Alternative Necessary Duty. Alternative Necessary Duties were always my strongest suit. On the evening of my arrival in camp I would summon the Band Sergeant and provide him with my programme of work. On Monday he would please arrange for a criminal in my detail. On Tuesday I would use my influence in the matter of obtaining clothing for my detail. This would be a very laborious task, involving three signatures in ink or indelible pencil; but no matter, to a good officer the comfort of his men comes before everything. On Wednesday I would pay my men. Rotten job, paying out, but ensures Generous Glow, and no expense unless you lose the Acquittance Roll. On Thursday I would read Standing Orders to the latest arrived draft; maybe they had had this done to them once already, but one cannot be too particular. A private I know of who had only had Standing Orders read to him once got into awful trouble through carelessly kicking a recalcitrant corporal on the head. That just shows you. On Friday—but I weary you, if that be possible. Suffice it that the Base went very well then.
The trouble began, as usual, high up. The G.O. Commanding something most frightfully important inspected one of our parades one morning and found 7,528 other ranks under one Second-Lieutenant. All might have been well if the Second-Lieutenant had not forgotten to fire the correct salute of fourteen bombs (or whatever was the correct salute). The G.O.C. investigated. He searched the woods and delved in the instructional trenches, but never another officer came to light. So he went home and, after a bad lunch—we surmise—set himself to abolish Alternative Necessary Duties in a formal edict. No officer is to absent himself from a parade except by the express orders of an O.C. Base Depot.
This happened several days ago, and the ruling is probably obsolete by now, but I am wondering how I shall break the news to the G.O.C. if I should happen to meet him on one of my morning walks into town; and in my heart of heart I know that one fine morning I shall be cowardly, and wake before nine, and attend my first parade at army Base. Some zealous despatch rider will dash hot-foot to the G.O.C. with the news, and he will come and rub his hands and chuckle and gloat. It will be a Black Day.
Here too there are minor points of etiquette that vex one. Is it correct for me, having bought half a kilo of chocolates while waiting for a train, to kill further time by eating them out of a paper bag under the surveillance of an A.S.C. sergeant? or ought I to offer a few to the sergeant with some jeu d'esprit—never coarse and never cruel—about bully beef? Of such are the complexities with which a Base harasses the soul of an officer nurtured in the genial simplicity of trench life.
* * * * *
From an account of the Peace demonstration in Berlin:—
"The people simply turned up themselves, and everyone was highly turned up themselves, and everyone was highly pleased with the result."—Egyptian Mail.
It seems to have been a complete revolution.
* * * * *
The "motive" of Mrs. Pumfrey Lord's new novel is Christian Science, and the hero, the Duke of Southminster, is understood to be a composite portrait of Lord ROSEBERY and Mr. GLADSTONE. The character of the evil genius of the plot, Lord Rufus Doldrum, is partly modelled on ALCIBIADES, but in its main lines is reminiscent of Mrs. EDDY and Major WINSTON CHURCHILL. On the other hand the eccentric Lord Wymondham, who creates a sensation by appearing at a Cabinet meeting in accordion-pleated pyjamas, is understood to be an entirely imaginary personage. The novel, which has been running in Wanamaker's Weekly, will shortly be published by the Strongmans.
A Poet who Counts.
Mr. Ouseley Pampfield, who has been recuperating at Buxton after spraining his ankle while getting out of his magnificent motor, is now seeing his new volume of poems through the press. Under the arresting title of The Soul of a Passivist they will shortly be published by the firm of Coddler and Slack.
The Jimmisons Again.
The Long Lanes will shortly publish a new "Jimmison" novel, The Factota. The heroine is a young lady enamoured of the doctrine of the economic independence of women. She enters a Draper's Emporium in Manchester and works her way up to the post of manager, but heads a strike of the work-girls. The claims of romance, however, are not overlooked, for in the long run Retta Carboy—for that is her charming name—wins the hand and heart of the junior partner's chauffeur, who turns out to be son of the Earl of Ancoats. The scene in which the Rolls-Royce, frightened by the sight of some Highland cattle, executes a cross-cut counter-rocking skid, is one of the finest things the Jimmisons have ever done.
Armageddon in the Making.
Governesses, so long the butt of unkindly satire, have at last come by their own. Miss Bertha Bowlong, who was governess to the KAISER in the late "sixties," is shortly about to publish her reminiscences of her now all-too-notorious pupil. Strange to say it never occurred to her to set them down till quite recently, nearly fifty years after the event. The book, which is now announced by the Talboys, is rich in illuminating anecdotes of the future WAR LORD, as well as vivid portraits of MOLTKE, BISMARCK, TREITSCHKE, MUeNCHHAUSEN, Eulenspiegel, Dudelsack and other luminaries of the Prussian capital.
The Charm of Cannibalism.
Miss Ermyntrude Stuggy (Mrs. Raymond Blott), whose extraordinary novel, The Lurid Lady, was described by Father BERNARD VAUGHAN as the most "precipitous" book he had ever preached on, has returned to England after two years' residence among the cannibals of the Solomon Islands. Hence the title of her forthcoming volume, The Adorable Anthropophagi, which is already announced by Messrs. Hybrow and Garbidge. The contents explain why Mr. Blott has heroically preferred to remain with the cannibals.
Major Finch's Great Discovery.
Major Hector Finch, the famous Nationalist M.P., philosopher, psychologist and scholar, has made a remarkable literary discovery. It is that Johnson's Dictionary is not, as is generally supposed, the work of BEN JONSON, but of SAMUEL JOHNSON, the son of a Lichfield bookseller. This epoch-making revelation, briefly and modestly outlined in a letter to The Daily Chronicle, will be set forth in detail in a massive volume of 1,000 pages, with a portrait of the author, to be issued shortly by the House of Swallow and Gull.
Odds and Ends.
The Vegetarians, a novel with a strong dietetic interest by Janet Melinda Didham, is announced by the firm of Gherkin Mark.
The Molly Monologues is the alluring title of a volume of sketches by Richard Turpin, shortly appearing with Pincher and Steel.
Miss Loofah Windsor, who wrote The Washpot, a successful story of last summer, has just finished a new one of a humorous type, called What—no Soap? which the Dinwiddies will publish in a month or two.
* * * * *
"A few lucky corps actually had geese to pave the way for the Christmas pudding; they were quartered in some place where a whip round among the officers and a ride to the nearest town or village secured enough geese to feed a battalion."
Jersey Morning News.
Somehow we feel that this might have been more tactfully expressed.
* * * * *
"Mr. Dillon harangued the House for three-quarters of an hour on militarism, The Daily Mail, Suvla BaBy, and sundry other topics."
An extended report of his remarks on this interesting infant would have been welcome.
* * * * *
ON THE CARDS.
To many people wholly free from superstition, except that, after spilling the salt, they are careful to throw a little over the left shoulder, and do not go out of their way to walk under ladders, and are not improved in appetite by sitting thirteen at table, and much prefer that may should not be brought into the house—to these people, otherwise so free from superstition, it would perhaps be surprising to know what great numbers of their fellow-creatures resort daily to such black arts as fortune-telling by the cards.
Yet quite respectable, God-fearing, church-going old ladies, and probably old gentlemen too, treasure this practice, to say nothing of younger and therefore naturally more frivolous folk; and many make the consultation of the two and fifty oracles a morning habit.
And particularly women. Those well-thumbed packs of cards that we know so well are not wholly dedicated to "Patience," I can assure you.
All want to be told the same thing: what the day will bring forth. But each searcher into the dim and dangerous future has, of course, individual methods—some shuffling seven times and some ten, and so forth, and all intent upon placating the elfish goddess, Caprice. There is little Miss Banks, for example, but I must tell you about her.
Nothing would induce little Miss Banks to leave the house in the morning without seeing what the cards promised her, and so open and impressionable are her mind and heart that she is still interested in the colour of the romantic fellow whom the day, if kind, is to fling across her path. The cards, as you know, are great on colours, all men being divided into three groups: dark (which has the preference), fair, and middling. Similarly for you, if you can get little Miss Banks to read your fate (but you must of course shuffle the pack yourself) there are but three kinds of charmers: dark (again the most fascinating and to be desired), fair, and middling.
It is great fun to watch little Miss Banks at her necromancy. She takes it so earnestly, literally wrenching the future's secrets from their lair.
"A letter is coming to you from some one," she says. "An important letter."
And again, "I see a voyage over water."
Or very seriously, "There's a death."
"No, it's not yours. A fair woman's."
You laugh. "Only a fair woman's!" you say. "Go on."
But the cards have not only ambiguities, but strange reticences.
"Oh," little Miss Banks will say, her eyes large with excitement, "there's a payment of money and a dark man."
"Good," you say.
"But I can't tell," she goes on, "whether you pay it to him or he pays it to you."
"That's a nice state of things," you say, becoming indignant. "Surely you can tell."
"No, I can't."
You begin to go over your dark acquaintances who might owe you money, and can think of none.
You then think of your dark acquaintances to whom you owe money, and are horrified at their number.
"Oh, well," you say, "the whole thing's rubbish, anyway."
Little Miss Banks's eyes dilate with pained astonishment. "Rubbish!"—and she begins to shuffle again.
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* * * * *
From "Notes for the Use of New Chaplains," by an Indian Archdeacon:
"I have only given advice on matters where, to my own knowledge, an ignorance of procedure has led to adverse criticism with regard to breeches of etiquette."
Somebody seems to have been making fun of the venerable gentleman's continuations.
* * * * *
UNWRITTEN LETTERS TO THE KAISER.
(From Theodore Roosevelt, U.S.A.)
It's bully to live in a country where you can say what you like about the bosses, and that, Sir, is what I've been doing and mean to go on doing to you. There's no manner of question about it, you're the biggest boss and the most dangerous that we in this country have ever come up against, and if our Government had only got a right idea of its bounden duty we should have protested against your conduct, yes, and backed our protest by our deeds long before this; but the fact is there's too much milk and water in the blood of some of our big fellows. They whine when they ought to be up and denouncing, and they crouch and crawl instead of standing upright like free and fearless men, and giving the devil's agent the straightest eye-puncher of which the human arm is capable. I thank Heaven, Sir, that I'm not made on that plan. I'm out to fight humbug and hypocrisy, even when they masquerade as friendship and benevolence; and when I see a fellow coming along with hundreds of pious texts in his mouth, and his hands dripping with the blood of innocent women and children, why, I've got to say what I think of him or die. For my own part—
"On Bible stilts I don't affect to stalk, Nor lard with Scripture my familiar talk; For man may pious texts repeat And yet religion have no inward seat."
A man called HOOD wrote that nearly eighty years ago, but it's quite true still. I wonder what he would have written if he'd had the bad luck to know about you and your disgusting appeals to the Almighty, whom you treat as if He were always waiting round the corner to be decorated with the Iron Cross.
Now mind, I don't want you to deceive yourself. If I dislike you and feel as if I'd sooner kick you than shake hands with you, it isn't because I'm a peace-at-any-price man. No man can say that about me without qualifying for a place within easy reach of ANANIAS; but when I decide to take part in a scrap—and there's few scraps going that I don't butt into sooner or later—I like to feel that I've got a bit of right on my side. But how can you feel that when you over-run Belgium and burn down Louvain—that's the place that made your heart bleed, bah!—and when you shoot down Belgian hostages and do to death an English nurse? All that never seems to strike you. You go on thinking of yourself as a holy humble man whom everybody wilfully mistakes for a bully and a tyrant. Well, you can't fool everybody all the time, you know, and in this case it happens that everybody has got some sound horse-sense in his head. Who wanted to hurt you? You'd put together a great army and your commercial prosperity was a pretty good business proposition. You'd got a navy and you'd got a very meek and submissive people, which didn't prevent them from being harsh and domineering and cruel so far as other peoples were concerned. If you wanted to have folk afraid of you there were plenty to humour you by pretending to tremble when you frowned and shook your head. But you weren't going to be satisfied. You must have a war so as to show what a great general you were, and you shoved on the old man FRANCIS JOSEPH and kept urging him from behind until everyone got tired by the impossibility of making you come out fair and square on the side of peace.
Well, you've got your war, and I hope you like it. This isn't one of your military promenades. This is hard, long fighting against men whose only wish was to be left alone. You've forced them to form a trust for the purpose of trust-busting, and in the end they'll wear you out and have you beaten to a frazzle in spite of all you can do. You've lost millions of men and millions of money, and you don't seem to get on with your final and decisive victory, and you're still the vainest and the loudest man on earth. Isn't it just about time you saw yourself as the rest of us see you, an irritable lime-light hero, whose favourite effort is to sink a Lusitania and pretend he had to do it because he didn't think she'd go down or because there were too many women and just enough children in the world? All I can say is that I've had more than enough of you.
* * * * *
BEYOND THE LIMIT.
[The German General Staff declares that for air-warfare there are still lacking international laws of any kind.]
When Peace lured the Powers to her House at the Hague With promises specious and welcome though vague Of a time when the terrors of war should lie hid And the leopard fall headlong in love with the kid, She drew up a set of Utopian rules For the guidance of all the best bellicose schools.
Among the more notable schemes that she planned She fashioned them bounds to their methods on land, Taught the whole of them, too, how humane they could be If a scrap should occur, as it might, on the sea— In a word, pruned the pinions of war everywhere Save the one place that war could fly into—the air.
But the Hun, he forswore what he vowed at her shrine, And behaved like a fiend on the soil and the brine; Then he turned to his Zepps, and remarked, "I can fly, And she never laid down any law for the sky; Here's a chance for some real dirty work to be done;" And he did it by simply out-Hunning the Hun.
* * * * *
How to Save Your Teeth.
From the Soldiers and Sailors Dental Aid Fund (43, Leicester Square), which has done exceptional service during the War, comes the story of an old lady who applied for a set of teeth for her soldier grandson. When asked if he would know how to take care of them, she replied that she would give him the benefit of her own experience, having always made it a rule to remove her artificial teeth at meal times.
* * * * *
Two cuttings from one issue of The Egyptian Mail:—
"TREMENDOUS INCREASE IN RECRUITING.
ANOTHER 1,000,000,000 MEN WANTED."
"WANTED proof-reader for the Egyptian Mail."
It certainly does want one; but for the sake of the gaiety of nations we trust it won't get him.
* * * * *
"With regard to the expeditionary force, the unexampled heroism and determination of our troops enabled them to establish a foothold on the tip of the peninsula, but photographs confirm the reports of eye-witnesses that they were literally holding on by their eyelids to the positions they had occupied."—Sunday Times.
And the subsequent abandonment was performed like winking.
* * * * *
From a draper's notice:—
"On Friday and Saturday the shops will be open until the usual hours, although lights will not be visible outside. Customers are requested to open the doors to obtain admittance."
And not to climb through the windows, or come down the chimney, please.
* * * * *
TOUJOURS LA POLITESSE.
* * * * *
(By Mr. Punch's Staff of Learned Clerks.)
I forget just how long it is since Mr. ARNOLD BENNETT united Edwin Clayhanger and Hilda Lessways in the bonds of matrimony. Time goes so fast these days that I met them again, and Auntie Hamps, and Maggie, and Clara, and the rest of the Three Towns company, as after an enormous interval. They themselves however have changed in nothing, except perhaps that the habit of introspection and their phenomenal capacity for self-astonishment have become more pronounced. "He thought, 'I am I; this wife is my wife; and if I put one foot before the other I shall go inevitably forward.' And it seemed to him stupendous." I do not say that this is a quotation, but it represents a habit of mind that is in danger of growing, upon Edwin especially. He seems never able to share my own entire confidence in Mr. BENNETT'S efficiency as creator. Of course nothing very much happens in the course of These Twain (METHUEN). It is simply a study of conjugal existence in its effect upon character; briefly, how to be happy though married. In the end Edwin seems to hit upon a sort of solution with the discovery that injustice is a natural condition to be accepted rather than resented. So one leaves the two with some prospect, a little insecure, of happiness. Needless to say the study of both Edwin and Hilda is marvellously penetrating and minute, almost to the point of defeating its own end. I had, not for the first time with Mr. BENNETT'S characters, a feeling that I knew them too well to have complete belief in them. They become not portraits but anatomical diagrams. But for all that the accuracy of his observation is undeniable. One sees it in those minor personalities of the tale whom he is content to record from without. Auntie Hamps, for example, and Clara are two masterpieces of portraiture. You must read These Twain; but if possible take time over it.
* * * * *
American improvements are the wonder of the world. America seems to have the knack of taking hold of old stuff and turning it into something full of pep and punch. You remember a play called Hamlet? No? Well, there is a scene in it, rather an impressive scene, where a man chats with his father's ghost. Mr. ROBERT W. CHAMBERS, America's brightest novelist, has taken much the same idea and put a bit of zip in it. In his latest work, Athalie (APPLETON), the heroine, who is clairvoyant, sees the ghost of the hero's mother, who prevented the hero from marrying her, and cuts it. "A hot proud colour flared in her cheeks as she drew quietly aside and stood with averted head to let her pass." In all my researches in modern fiction I cannot recall a more dramatic and satisfying situation. It is, I believe, the first instance on record of a spectre being snubbed. SHAKSPEARE never thought of anything like that. As regards the other aspects of Athalie, the book, I cannot see what else a reviewer can say but that it is written by Mr. CHAMBERS. The world is divided into those who read every line Mr. CHAMBERS writes, irrespective of its merits, and those who would require to be handsomely paid before reading a paragraph by him. A million eager shop-girls, school-girls, chorus-girls, factory-girls and stenographers throughout America are probably devouring Athalie at this moment. My personal opinion that the book is a potboiler, turned out on a definite formula, like all of Mr. CHAMBERS' recent work, to meet a definite demand, cannot deter a single one of them from sobbing over it. As for that section of the public which remembers The King in Yellow and Cardigan, it has long ago become resigned to Mr. CHAMBERS' decision to take the cash and let the credit go, and has ceased to hope for a return on his part to the artistic work of his earlier period, when he wrote novels as opposed to Best Sellers.
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Let me heartily commend to you a book of stories by doughty penmen turned swordsmen for the period of the War—A. E. W. MASON, of the Manchester Regiment; A. A. M., of the Royal Warwicks; W. B. MAXWELL, Royal Fusilier; IAN HAY, A. and S. HIGHLANDER; COMPTON MACKENZIE, R.N.; "Q.," of the Duke of Cornwall's L.I.; OLIVER ONIONS, A.S.C.; BARRY PAIN, R.N.A.S.; and just short of a dozen others. Published by Messrs. HODDER AND STOUGHTON, under title, The Red Cross Story Book, to be sold for the benefit of The Times Fund. It's the sort of book about which even the most conscientious reviewer feels he can honestly say nice things without any too thorough examination of the contents. With that thought I started turning over the pages casually, but found myself dipping deeper and deeper, until, becoming entirely absorbed, I abandoned all pretence of professional detachment and had a thoroughly good time. I should like to be able to state that the quality of these stories of humour, adventure and sentiment was uniform, if only for the sake of this appropriate word. But I can say that the best are excellent, the average is high, and the tenor so varied as to suit almost any age and taste.
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Mr. B. G. O'RORKE, Chaplain to the Forces, has written a short account of his experiences in confinement—In The Hands of the Enemy (LONGMANS). Seeing that he was allowed, as a minister of religion, unique opportunities of meeting our officers (though not men of the ranks) shut up in different fortresses, and particularly because he has been thoughtful enough to mention many of them by name, his narrative is one which nobody with near friends now in Germany can afford to miss. The general reader, on the other hand, may have to confess to some disappointment, since the foggy shadow of the Censor, German or English, still looms over the pages here and there, blotting out the sensational episodes which we felt we had reason, if not right, to expect; and if their absence is really due to Mr. O'RORKE'S steady refusal to indulge us by embellishing his almost too unvarnished recital the effect is just the same. Or perhaps the suggestion of flatness is to be ascribed to the enemy's failure on the whole to treat certain of his victims in any very extraordinary manner, and if so we can accept it and be thankful. There are lots of interesting passages all the same, such as the account of the specially favourable treatment of officers from Irish regiments, accorded in all Teutonic seriousness as preparatory to an invitation to serve in the ranks of Prussia; or the pathetic incident of the white-haired French priest sent to the cells for urging his congregation to pray pour nos ames. Nowhere outside the Fatherland, I should imagine, would prisoners be forbidden to pray even pour nos armes, and the stupidity of the misunderstanding is typical enough. The cheerful dignity shown by prisoners under provocation makes a fine contrast to such pitiful smallness, and of that this little book is a notable record.
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I suppose it would not be possible to travel in the Pacific without a fountain-pen and a note-book. At all events this seems a privation from which the staunchest of our literary adventurers have hitherto shrunk. Do not however regard this as anything more than a casual observation, certainly not as implying any complaint against so agreeable a volume as Voyaging in Wild Seas (MILLS AND BOON). There must be many among the countless admirers of Mr. JACK LONDON who will be delighted to read this intimate journal of his travellings in remote waters, written by the wife who accompanied him, and who is herself, as she proves on many pages, one of the most enthusiastic of those admirers. You may say there is nothing very much in it all, but just some pleasant sea-prattle about interesting ports and persons, and a number of photographs rather more intimate than those that generally illustrate the published travel-book. But the general impression is jolly. Stevensonians will be especially curious over the visit to Samoa, concerning her first impressions of which Mrs. LONDON writes: "As the Snark slid along, we began to exclaim at the magnificent condition of this German province—the leagues of copra plantation, extending from the shore up into the mountainous hinterland, thousands of close-crowded acres of heavy green palms." This was in May, 1908. Vailima was at that time the residence of the German Governor (a desecration since happily removed); but the LONDONS were able to explore the gardens and peep in at the rooms whose planning STEVENSON had so enjoyed. Later of course they climbed to the lonely mountain grave of "the little great man"—a phrase oddly reminiscent of one in an unpublished letter of RUPERT BROOKE (about the same expedition) that I had just been reading. Mrs. LONDON deserves our thanks for letting us share so interesting a holiday in these restricted days.
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N MEMORY OF "MARTIN ROSS"
With Flurry's Hounds, and you our guide, We've learned to laugh until we cried; Dear MARTIN ROSS, the coming years Find all our laughter lost in tears.