PUNCH, OR THE LONDON CHARIVARI
JANUARY 5, 1916.
The Whitefriars Press.
I will not breakfast in my bed With downy cushions at my head; That would be very wrong—and so Away the eggs and bacon go!
I will not read in bed at night And burn the dear electric light; Nor buy another costly hat; Oh no! I'm much too good for that.
But I will rise before the dawn And weed and cut and roll the lawn; My border I will plant with veg, Abundantly from hedge to hedge.
And all the day I'll practise thrift And no more happily will drift In deeper debt, as once, alas! —But what an awful year I'll pass.
* * * * *
The Art of Sinking.
"Altogether we sank one gunboat, five steamers (one of 3,000 tons), and 17 large sailing ships, three trains, and one railway embankment."—Manchester Guardian.
* * * * *
Very Light Marching Order.
From a notice issued to recruits for the New Zealand Expeditionary Force:—
"You should report wearing a pair of serviceable boots, and bring with you your toilet outfit—no additional clothing is required."
* * * * *
"In a conversation with members of the Press Mr. Ford said now was the time for peace on the basis of the status quo anti bellum."
He always spells it that way.
* * * * *
AN ILL-USED AUTHOR.
"I gather, Sir," remarked my fellow-traveller, after I had put away the writing-block on which I had been jotting down the outline of an article, "that you are a literary man, like myself?"
We were the only occupants of a compartment in a L. & N. W. R. carriage. I had been too absorbed till then to notice his appearance, but I now observed that he had rather unkempt hair, luminous eyes, and a soft hat. "Oh, well," I admitted, "I write."
"But I take it that, whatever you write, it is not poetry," he said. What led him to this inference I cannot say, but I had to confess that it was correct.
"Still, even though you are not a Poet yourself, I hope," he said, "you can feel some sympathy for one who has been so infamously treated as I have."
I replied that I hoped so too.
"Then, Sir," said he, "I will tell you my unhappy story. At the beginning of this War I was approached by certain Railway magnates who shall be nameless. It appeared that they had realised, very rightly, that their official notices were couched in too cold and formal a style to reach the heart of their public. So they commissioned me to supply what I may term the human touch. As a poet, I naturally felt that this could only be effectively done through the medium of verse. Well, I rose to the occasion, Sir; I produced some lines which, printed as they were written, must infallibly have placed me at the head of all of my contemporaries. But they were not printed as they were written. In proof of which I will trouble you to read very carefully the opening paragraph of those 'Defence of the Realm Regulations' immediately above your head ... Only the opening paragraph at present, please!"
I was somewhat surprised, but, thinking it best to humour him, I read the first sentence, which was: "In view of possible attack by hostile aircraft, it is necessary that the blinds of all trains should be kept down after sunset," and gave him my opinion of it.
"Whether," he said, with some acerbity, "it is or is not as lucidly expressed as you are pleased to consider, only the beginning of it is mine. This is what I actually wrote:—
"'In view of possible attack By hostile aircraft overhead, 'Tis necessary now, alack! Soon as old Sol has sought his bed, That those who next the window sit, Though they'd prefer to watch the gloaming, Should draw the blind, nor leave a slit, Keeping it down until they're homing, Else on the metals will be thrown A glowing trail as from a comet, And Huns to whom a train is shown Will most indubitably bomb it!'
"That," he observed complacently, "is not only verse of the highest order, but clearly conveys the reason for such precautions, which the official mind chose to cut out. And now let me ask you to read the next paragraph." I did so. "At night-time when the blinds are drawn" it ran, "passengers are requested before alighting to make sure when the train stops that it is at the platform."
"Which," he cried fiercely, "is their mangled and mutilated version of this:—
"'At night-time when the blinds are drawn (As screens against those devils' spawn, Which love the gloom, but dread the dawn), A train may be at standstill, Then we request 'twill not occur That some impatient passenger, Whose nerves are in a chronic stir, And neither feet nor hands still, Without preliminary peep Will forth incontinently leap, Alighting in a huddled heap To lie, a limp or flat form, In some inhospitable ditch, If not on grittier ballast, which (The darkness far surpassing pitch) He took to be the platform!'
"As to the next paragraph," he continued, "I don't complain so much, though, personally, I consider 'Extract from Order made by the Secretary of State for the Home Department' a very poor paraphrase of the resounding couplet in which I introduced him:—
"'Now speaks in genial tones, from heart to heart meant, The Secretary for the Home Department!'
"I could have overlooked that, Sir, if they had retained the lines I had written for him. But they've only let him speak the first four words—'Passengers in Railway Carriages'—and then drivel on thus: 'which are provided with blinds must keep the blinds covered so as to cover the windows'—a clumsy tautology, Sir, for which I am sure no Home Secretary would care to be held responsible, and from which I had been at some pains to save him, as you may judge when I read you the original text:—
"'Passengers in railway carriages Possess a sense which none disparages; So those who are not perverse or froward May be trusted to see that the blinds are lowered, To cover the windows so totally That no one inside can be seen, or see. Mem.—This need not be done, as lately decided, If blinds for the windows have not been provided.'
"But," he went on, "the deadliest injury those infernal officials reserved for the last. If you read the concluding sentence, Sir, you will observe that it begins: 'The blinds may be lifted in case of necessity!' (That, I need hardly say, is entirely my own. There is a sort of inspired swing in it, the true lyrical lilt with which even red-tape has not dared to tamper! But mark how they go on): 'when the train is at a standstill at a station, but, if lifted, they must be lowered again before the train starts.' And this insufferable bathos, forsooth, was substituted for lines like these:—
"'The blinds may be lifted in case of necessity; Thus, if the train at a station should halt, And the traveller hears not its name, nor can guess it, he Cannot be held to commit any fault, Still farther be fined, Should he pull up the blind Out of mere curiosity: had he not looked He might miss the station for which he had booked!'
"Well," he concluded, "that is my case. But I can never put it before the public myself. My pride would not permit me. Though, if someone—yourself, for instance—would present my claims to redress—"
I couldn't help thinking that he had been hardly treated, and so I undertook to do what I could for him. He gave me his verses, also his name, which latter I have unfortunately forgotten. However, I hope I have redeemed my promise here in other respects.
There are times when I wonder uneasily whether he may not have been pulling my leg. But, after all, he could have had no possible object in doing that. Besides, if, the next time you travel by the L. & N.-W., you will study the printed instructions in your compartment, I fancy you will agree with me that they corroborate his statements to a rather remarkable extent.
* * * * *
A Christmas Trifle.
"Some stale sponge cake is cut in slices less than an inch thick, and these are spread generously with jam and arranged on a crystal dish, blanched and chopped with Clara and Jo and all their young cousins."—The Bulletin.
* * * * *
THE RUSH TO SALONIKA.
* * * * *
* * * * *
It has come as an immense relief to all true lovers of peace to learn that such German soldiers as have been taking part in the war on the Italian frontier have previously resigned their positions in the KAISER'S army and been re-enrolled under the Austrian flag, so that no untoward incident may disturb the profound peace which exists between Germany and Italy. All the same there are elements of possible danger in the situation which should be carefully watched. We look forward to a time when our gallant ally may be confidently expected to advance on to German soil, and we think it would be well for the authorities at Rome (unless the invading host is provided with Montenegrin uniforms) to serve out beforehand a large number of tourist coupons, available over a wide choice of different routes. This might avert the terrible consequences that are likely to follow a breach of relations.
Of course it must be remembered that Italy has now signed on not to enter into a separate peace, and no doubt the only true economy is to make the present one go as far as possible, as it cannot be replaced. Still, since the sinking of the Ancona by a German crew (partially whitewashed so as to look like Austrians), Italy's neutrality has become of an extremely virulent order.
We need hardly say that President WILSON even on his honeymoon is closely watching the situation and thinking over it very deeply, very slowly and very calmly, hoping to discover hints for his own future guidance. It is said that he feels himself being drawn more and more into the vortex, and his attitude of passive belligerency may be followed by one of aggressive non-interference. It is common knowledge in Washington that if he can get no satisfaction on the Ancona question he will either despatch a new note (which will be almost an ultimatum) or simply pass on and declare war on Albania.
Portugal (as the ancient ally of Great Britain), who has already been involved in a scrap with German troops in Angola, is naturally deeply exercised as to what are her present relations with Turkey. The matter is an urgent one and might become crucial in the event of a Turkish Zeppelin drifting in a fog over Portuguese territory.
The King of GREECE is said to have found a happy solution of his difficulty about a Bulgarian invasion of Greece. The incoming forces are to be provided with return tickets to Salonika and back, available only for forty-five days, and containing a stipulation that the traveller may not break his journey at any other point.
* * * * *
"FOR THIS RELIEF—"
(Suggested by the poster commending a recent Revue as "the last word in syncopation.")
The days of our mourning are ended, The lean years of famine are fled, When, sick for a spoonful of aught that was tuneful, We've sorrowed as over the dead For Music, forlorn and unfriended, Gone down into glimmerless gloom, While rude "rag-time" revels were dancing a devils' Tattoo on her tomb.
A new dawn of promise doth redden The rim of our Stygian night; Our bondage is breaking—O blessed awaking To melody merry and bright! My heart, long o'erloaded and leaden, Now bounds to the blue like a bird; The shadow has shifted; with paean uplifted I hail that "last word"!
* * * * *
Leap Year Anticipations.—A fine spring is expected in France, Flanders and Poland. If the weather is propitious a total eclipse will be visible in Berlin and Vienna.
Asked by some American journalists where the Peace Conference would be held, Dr. SVEN HEDIN is reported to have said, "Peace will be dictated from Berlin." And so say all of us!
Relations between Potsdam and Sofia are said to be badly strained. Three days after the Kaiser had issued his celebrated manifesto, "To my noble and heroic Serbian people," FERDINAND in the Sobranje was publicly denouncing the Serbians as obstinate, treacherous, and tyrannical. The KAISER considers this conduct extremely tactless, and threatens, if it continues, to spell Bulgarian with a "V."
All hitherto-published explanations of the threatened German attack on the Suez Canal are hereby cancelled. The fact is that the KAISER'S fleet is increasing so rapidly that it has outgrown its present accommodation.
During the visit of Mr. FORD'S Ark to Bergen the following notice was posted up at the Grand Hotel:—"All members of the Henry Ford Peace Expedition are requested to call for their laundry at the Grand Hotel, Room 408, Tuesday evening after supper. This notice supersedes the original plan to have the laundry delivered to each individual hotel." It may also explain why the members of the expedition have since washed their dirty linen in public.
Some of the pilgrims on the Oscar II. were much annoyed at the prohibition of card-playing on board. "What is the use," they asked, "of crying Pax when there are none?"
Some strait-laced Conservatives, who were a little shocked to see the announcement of "Mr. Balfour on the Film," were comforted on its being pointed out to them that Mr. CHAPLIN set him the example.
A ten-year-old girl's essay on "Patriotism":—"Patriotism is composed of patriots, and they are people who live in Ireland and want Mr. Redmond or other people to be King of Ireland. They are very brave, some of them, and are so called after St. Patrick, who is Ireland's private saint. The patriots who are brave make splendid soldiers. The patriots who are not brave go to America."
Lord KITCHENER, who has a choice collection of old china, has lately added to it several fine specimens of Crown Derby.
So many Parliamentarians have recently requested the Treasury to stop sending them their L400 a year that a slight change in the designation of the others is suggested—P.M. (Paid Member) instead of M.P.
A soldier's letter: "DEAR SIS,—You ask what I want—well, for Heaven's sake send us a barber! You never saw such heads in your life as we've got.
P.S.—Failing a barber send us a box of hair-pins."
Is it true that while the Cliff Hotel at Gorleston was blazing furiously during the gale last week a zealous official went up to the unfortunate proprietor and threatened him with pains and penalties for allowing a naked light to be seen far out at sea?
We understand that since the entrance-fee was suspended and the subscription reduced, the Automobile Club has increased its membership so largely that the Committee are thinking of re-naming it the Omnibus.
A conversation in the trenches:—
Private Dougal McTavish (late of the Alberta Police): "Mon, in ma section 'tis aften fafty degrees below zero. But, bless ye, 'tis dry cold, ye'll never feel it."
L.C. Owen Tyrrell (late of Carpentaria Telegraphs): "Down-under it is usually 125 in the shade. But thin it is dry heat, you are niver sinsible of ut."
Corpl. James Brown (late Tram Conductor, Vancouver): "In B.C. we stake upon 312 to 314 rainy days in the year. But it is dry rain, it don't wet you."
In an article on the employment of women as dentists, the writer says: "A new charm has been added to the delights of dentistry." Optimist!
He also says that one lady "extracted 38 teeth from nine patients, and showed little signs of fatigue from it, either." But what about the nine?
We observe that Mr. PEARCE, the Commonwealth Minister of Defence, fell while in his garden and broke two of his ribs, but are glad to learn that his condition is not serious. The conjunction of a rib, a garden, and a fall has in at least one previous case resulted in permanent injury.
A martyr to insomnia threatens, unless the Government stops the whistling for taxis, to let Mr. MCKENNA whistle for his.
Our men in the trenches are beginning to welcome the German gas-attacks. They say there is nothing like them for keeping down the rats.
Suggested motto for the controversy between the headmasters as to the publication of Public School Rolls of Honour—"Quot dominies tot santentiae."
* * * * *
THE NEW LEAF.
* * * * *
The "Wingfield House" mentioned in the article "Cases," which appeared in Punch a fortnight ago, was a purely imaginary name and had nothing to do with the Wingfield House, near Trowbridge, where a hospital has for some time been established.
* * * * *
* * * * *
THE VINDICATION OF JIMMY.
In one corner of the school play-ground stood a small boy in deep dejection, with his hands in his pockets, his lower lip trembling slightly, whilst he strove to kick a hole in the ground with his right toe. It was Jimmy—Jimmy in his hour of trial.
He wasn't going to blub, he wasn't going to do anything.
Suddenly he stopped kicking at the ground, as he remembered that his mother had told him he must be careful of his boots now that the War was on.
He took out of his pocket a match-box, the temporary home of a large beetle—a buzzer, Jimmy called it—which had hitherto refused to eat either grass or bran or Indian corn. His gaze then wandered to a hole in his stockings, which he had mended by applying ink to the exposed part of his skin.
From the opposite side of the playground came the tumultuous noise of the calm deliberations of Form II.
Jimmy knew perfectly well that they were discussing him, and that in time one of their number would be sent to inform him of the verdict and sentence.
He expected that he would have to fight them all, one by one, and he wondered how many blows he would be able to stand without returning them, for to hit back was out of the question under the unfortunate circumstances.
Jimmy wished they would get it over, for he was quite willing to undergo any form of punishment they might decide upon, if only they would let him know quickly. He hoped they wouldn't make the Biffer fight him, not that he was afraid of the Biffer, but because it would be so hard to keep himself from hitting back, and that he had decided not to do. You see the Biffer was a new boy, and, for another thing, he wore a leather strap round his wrist. On his very first day at school the Biffer had volunteered the information that he once gave a boy such a biff on the nose that he had sprained his wrist, and that ever since he had worn a wrist strap, lest it should happen again. It was Jimmy who had nick-named him the Biffer, and from that time the Biffer had sought Jimmy's blood.
But Jimmy was not easy to quarrel with.
He was the acknowledged champion of Form II., and you had to commit three offences before Jimmy would seriously consider you. At the first offence you got a note with the one word "Beware!" written upon it; at the second, another note with the word "Blood" written underneath a skull and crossbones; and at the third you received a note with the word "Deth," and underneath was the drawing of a coffin.
The Biffer had so far arrived at the second note.
Jimmy did hope they wouldn't choose the Biffer, for he could hear even now the Biffer's yell when he had made that awful mistake which had brought about the present deplorable situation.
Jimmy couldn't think how he had come to say what he did say; he could have bitten off his tongue when he realised it; but it was too late—he had said it.
He tried to think how it had all occurred, and the scene flashed again before his mind. There was the master with his pointer resting upon the Dogger Bank on the map of Europe.
"Who can tell me the name of this sea?" he had said, and Jimmy had snapped his fingers and waved his arm about in his anxiety to catch the master's eye. You see, it was so seldom, so very seldom, that Jimmy felt he knew the right answer to any question, and the new experience was intoxicating. The master too seemed to find it unusual, and he at once turned to Jimmy and said, "Well, what is this sea called, then?" Jimmy, full of the pride of knowledge, burst out with "The North Sea, Sir." Oh! if he had only stopped at that; but in his desire to show how much he knew he added without thinking the fatal words, "or German Ocean!"
In the shout of derision which had followed, Jimmy realised what he had said, and felt himself falling, falling, falling....
Jimmy became aware that the noise on the opposite side of the playground was ceasing, and soon, from the corner of his eye, he saw Jones minimus detach himself from the crowd. "Half a mo'," he heard Jones minimus say; "I want to get a knotted handkerchief," and he saw him hurry into the school. As he emerged he flourished the knotted handkerchief, but when delivering the verdict to Jimmy that he would have to run the gauntlet three times to the tune of the knotted handkerchiefs of Form II., he tried to smuggle into Jimmy's hands an exercise-book which he said Jimmy could stuff up his back; it would stick there if Jimmy buttoned his jacket, he said, and it would take the sting off a bit. Jimmy had to bite his lip as he refused the exercise-book, and then with head erect and lips no longer trembling he went forth to face the ordeal.
Form II. had arranged themselves in two ranks, facing one another, and the knots in the handkerchiefs were firm and hard. "You have got to bunk through and back again and then down again," said Jones minimus in a hoarse whisper.
The Biffer was at the head of one rank, and had got his handkerchief slung over his shoulder in happy readiness for the first blow.
"Are you ready? Go!" shouted Form II. in one voice.
At the word "Go!" Jimmy pulled his hands out of his pockets—he was glad his mother wasn't there to see him—and with head still up and eyes to the front he walked slowly up the double lines and as slowly down them. The Biffer got in a good one, he got in two before Jimmy was out of reach, and he then changed the handkerchief to his left hand in readiness for the return journey. Arrived at the end of the lines, Jimmy turned on his heel and began to walk even more slowly than at first.
But there was no sting in the blows this time; all the zest seemed to have gone out of the affair; and, but for the whack the Biffer gave, Jimmy never felt anything. The third time down was a farce, for, after Jimmy had deliberately stopped opposite the Biffer in order to let him have as many as his injured soul required, no one touched him. In fact they were all shaking hands with Jimmy, who was now his smiling self once more and ready to play with the best of them, when suddenly the Biffer took it into his head to make a joke.
"Perhaps he is a German," said the Biffer, and waited for the general laugh to follow his sally.
But the laugh didn't come; instead there was a dead silence.
Who was the Biffer—a new boy at that—to call anyone a German? Instinctively a ring was formed and the Biffer found himself in the middle of it.
Jimmy took off his coat and gave it to Jones minimus, who danced for sheer delight.
Jimmy had only one regret: the butcher-boy was not there to see him—the butcher-boy who had expended so much time over him, had taught him the upper cut, the under cut, every cut that the heart of a butcher-boy delights in. The Biffer was very busy biffing the air with a rapid circular motion of the arms, for Jimmy's fixed scowl and set of jaw troubled him.
Oh, why wasn't the butcher-boy there to see that tremendous smack on the nose the Biffer got? He would have felt amply rewarded.
No one had ever seen Jimmy fight like this, and Jones minimus shouted in his joy, for the Biffer was outbiffed in every direction.
In vain did he cry "Pax," for Jimmy had not half relieved his feelings, and there was no end to the dodges the butcher-boy had taught him, each of which, he had said, meant sudden death.
"He's had enough, Jimmy," whispered Jones minimus. "I'm satisfied," he added as the Biffer, who was lying on the ground, refused to get up and have any more.
As the boys entered the class-room the next day there was the map of Europe still hanging up in front of the class, and the very first question that was asked by the master was, "Well, Jimmy, what is this sea?"
"The North Sea or British Ocean, Sir!" said Jimmy, a reply that was greeted with a rousing cheer by the whole of Form II.
* * * * *
A SECOND HELPING!
Our Bagdad force fell in a rut At Ctesiphon; Turks made things hum. We found that we had got to Kut, Whilst Russians found a way to Kum!
Our men know not the word "defeat," They'll make it clear on Tigris plain That, Russian-like, when they retreat, 'Tis but to cut and come again.
* * * * *
A TURKISH TROPHY.
(A belated letter from Gallipoli.)
My dear ——, By this week's post I trust you will receive the long promised trophy, to wit one Turkish headpiece procured by my own personal exertions. As the story of its capture, though somewhat out of the ordinary, has been passed over in stony silence both by the official communiques and "Our Special Correspondent" I shall endeavour to give you a brief impression of the difficulties overcome as truthfully as my sense of imagination will allow me. First of all I must draw a map:—
This should give you an idea of the English and Turkish lines at a point where they are about eighty yards apart. Without going into details you will see the English trench is of the superior pattern, as it has traverses. I had to work in that technical term to show I know all about it; I know another, "the berm," but I am not too sure about what that is, and also I don't suppose I could draw a "berm" if I saw one. Anyway, I know it's quite a good term connected with trenches, as I heard a G.O.C. fairly strafe a subaltern, the other day, because he hadn't got a "berm." Well, to refer to the map, you will observe that there is an old ditch running between the two lines of trenches, and both sides have advanced a certain distance along this ditch and have built barricades about ten yards apart. Every day it is part of my job to take a constitutional along our trenches, and after discussing the European situation and the latest Budget with the various battalion commanders to ask them whether there is any particularly obnoxious part of the opposition line they would like me to salute with my battery. Usually they say, "No, there's nothing in particular, but let's have a shoot all the same; for example, there's a dog that barks abominably every night opposite L 57. Couldn't you abolish him?" Incidentally we no longer give our trenches names, such as Piccadilly, Rotten Row, but mere letters and numbers; the reason being that one of the staff was picked up in a fainting condition, having strolled down Park Lane and then found himself, to his horror, in Peckham High Street. The shock—his own home being in Baling Broadway—had proved too much for his constitution. However, to refer back to the map once more, our barricade across the ditch is a most convenient spot for observing artillery fire and as such is frequently used by me. Unfortunately my view was always hasty and badly interrupted by the attentions of a Turkish sniper behind their barricade. This man's name was Ibrahim, and he was a Constantinople cab-driver, married, with two children, both boys. You may be surprised that we know so much about the enemy, but we live in such close proximity that opposite the Lancashire Fusiliers a Turk named Mahomet, who lives at No. 3, Golden Horn Terrace, told the reporter of The Worpington Headlight that for three years he had been suffering from pains in the back—but that's another story. Incidentally Mahomet at present inhabits a sniper's post surrounded by a perfect thicket of barbed-wire, and I had a bright scheme for its removal. I got hold of a trench catapult, an ingenious contrivance of elastic that hurls a bomb some hundreds of yards, and placed in it a harpoon attached to a long coil of rope. The idea was that on release of the catapult the harpoon would be hurled in the air, the rope would neatly pay out, and then, as soon as the harpoon had grappled Mahomet, all we would have to do would be to haul on the rope and over would come the whole bag of tricks. Unfortunately something went wrong, and the rope, instead of neatly uncoiling, flailed round the trench like a young anaconda, and, catching a harmless spectator by the leg, hurled him twenty feet in the air. Immediately the opposition lines resounded like a rifle-booth at a country fair. However our spectator descended unpunctured, and the only damage done was to our vanity, when Mahomet threw over a message attached to a stone to ask whether we would repeat the performance as he and a pal had a bet on as to who was the best shot and wanted a human aeroplane to judge.
But we have got a long way from Ibrahim. Ibrahim possessed the headpiece I am sending you. I could not think of a method for obtaining it, as his vigilance was deadly. However a bright thought struck me, and I assiduously saved up my rum ration for a month. Then one bitter cold night I tossed over the accumulation in a bottle wrapped up in an old sock. Presently there resounded in the still air a pleasant bubbling sound indicative of liquid being poured out of a glass receptacle, then a deep sigh, followed by a profound silence. Inch by inch I crawled over our barricade and slowly wormed my way along the ditch. At last I reached the Turkish barricade and cautiously slid my hand over the top until my fingers encountered Ibrahim's toque. Then I gave a gentle tug. Horror! he had the flap down under his chin. Unmanned for a moment I recovered, and I slowly slid my fingers down his hirsute neck and with a gentle titillation slid the flap clear. Ibrahim merely stirred in his sleep and resumed his slumbers. Triumphantly hugging the trophy to my bosom I crawled back to our barricade.
The saddest part of the tale is yet to come. I had promised to procure you a trophy unstained by association with human slaughter, but when the day dawned there lay poor Ibrahim stiff and stark behind his barricade, killed by a cold in his head.
* * * * *
* * * * *
"Message Boy Wanted for Butchery."
A lot of people are after that boy.
* * * * *
"Taxi driver who laid down Fare at Royal Hotel at 2.45 p.m. on Christmas Day, would oblige by returning Gent's Umbrella to Hotel."
We gather that it had been a wet morning.
* * * * *
* * * * *
There's a dog-fox down in Lannigan's spinney (And Lannigan's wife has hens to mourn); The hunters stamp in their stalls an' whinny, Soft with leisure an' fat with corn.
The colts are pasturin', bold an' lusty, Sleek they are with their coats aglow, Ripe to break, but the bits grow rusty And the saddles sit in a dusty row.
Old O'Dwyer was here a-Monday With a few grey gran'fathers out for a field (Like the ghostly hunt of a dead an'-done day), They—an' some lassies that giggled an' squealed.
The houn's they rioted like the devil (They ran a hare an' they killed a goose); I cursed Caubeen, but he looked me level: "The boys are away—so what's the use?"
The mists lie clingin' on bog an' heather, Haws hang red on the silver thorn; It's huntin' weather, ay, huntin' weather, But trumpets an' bugles have beat the horn!
* * * * *
A Debt of Honour.
Mr. Punch ventures to plead on behalf of the nine hundred men of the Royal Naval Division who were taken prisoners by the enemy in the retirement from Antwerp. Less fortunate than those of the same Division who were interned in Holland (for want of official information most people imagine that all the missing were so interned), they lack the necessities of life. Parcels of food are sent to them, fortnightly to each man, as well as clothing and tobacco; and it is known that they receive all that is sent. Mr. Punch begs his readers to help the fund from which these simple comforts are provided, and to address their gifts to Lady GWENDOLEN GUINNESS, at 11, St. James's Square, S.W.
* * * * *
From a report of Mr. LLOYD GEORGE'S speech:—
"The works of Ireland have been extremely helpful, and I am glad to acknowledge that I have been extremely helpful."
On this occasion the MINISTER OF MUNITIONS appears to have allowed himself the privilege of "thinking aloud."
* * * * *
"The Daily Mail will not be published to-morrow, and for that reason we seize the occasion to-day of bidding our readers a merry Christmas,"—Daily Mail of December 24th.
And a very good reason too.
* * * * *
"The Canadian Government has granted to Canadian troops oversea and in training at home a Christmas allowance of one chilling."
* * * * *
"He much regretted that it was not possible to-day to communicate the results of the Derby Report in any detail, or, indeed, at all. The task had been one of stupendous bagnitude."
Yes, but how big was the bag?
* * * * *
Two descriptions of the new Chief of the Imperial General Staff:—
"Of Scottish descent, and familiarly known to the Army as 'Jock,' he is one of the most remarkable soldiers of the time."
Glasgow Evening Times.
"That he is known throughout the whole Army simply as 'Wullie' is a sure token that the private soldier has taken him to his heart."
Glasgow Evening Citizen.
Won't the Germans be puzzled?
* * * * *
"Eddie Harvey (Fleetwood) and Ike Whitehouse (Barrow) went through 15 rounds contest for L5 a side and a nurse, and Harvey won on points."—The People.
The stakes, we presume, were divided.
* * * * *
"A kid was born with monkey face and human skull at Saidapet on the 13th instant."
This is headed "A Curious Phenomenon." But is it? Some of our neighbours' kids are just like that.
* * * * *
* * * * *
LONDON AS USUAL.
("Kelly's London Directory" for 1916, a contemporary remarks, is very much the same as the volume for 1915.)
Where, where are the signs of the raider Who swam to our ken like a kite, Who swore he had played the invader And knocked us to bits in the night; Who pounded these parts into jelly From Mile End, he said, to the Mall? For the man who should know (J. J. KELLY) Can't spot 'em at all.
You may turn up the street that is Vigo Or alight on the Lane that is Mark; You may let your incredulous eye go O'er each Crescent and Corner and Park; You may hunt through the humblest of alleys Or the giddiest haunts of the town, And Kelly's, who're "safe" as the Palace, Have got 'em all down.
So I sing to those equals in wonder, Of BRADSHAW (the expert on trains), Who have torn the Hun's fiction asunder— That our City's a mass of remains; Here's our proof that we're plainly not undone, That, although every night she lies hid, Our stolid undaunted old London Still stands where she did.
* * * * *
* * * * *
STUDIES IN FRUSTRATION.
The scene was the comfortable spacious breakfast-room in the Bishop's Palace. His lordship sat nearest to the fire; the bishop's wife presided over the fragrant coffee-pot, and the curate, their dine-and-sleep guest, sat opposite the bishop and farthest from the warmth. As a curate this position was his due. Some day he also would be a bishop, and then he too would know what it was to intercept the glow.
The curate was looking dubiously into the recesses of an egg. His fine Anglican features underwent a series of contortions.
"I am afraid," said the bishop, "that that egg is not a good one."
"You are right, my lord," said the curate. "It is not only bad, it's alive. I think it's the worst egg that was ever offered me."
The wounded soldier lay in his deck-chair placidly smoking his hundredth cigarette that day. He was not naturally a smoker, but cigarettes arrived in enormous numbers and something had to be done with them.
His visitor sat beside him, note-book in hand. "Yes?" he remarked.
"And then," said the soldier, "came the order to charge. We fixed bayonets and rushed at the Bosches like mad. It was glorious—like the best kind of football match."
The visitor took it all down, and more.
"I remember bayonetting two men," said the soldier, "and then I remember nothing else. And that's six months ago. Still, I'm getting well, and then there's only one thing on earth that I really want with a passionate desire ..."
"I know! I know!" said the visitor, moistening his pencil.
"Never to see any more war as long as I live," the soldier continued.
The aged artist sat in his luxurious studio surrounded by his masterpieces—that is, by the pictures he had never been able to sell.
The gem of the collection stood on an easel in the middle of the room; while a connoisseur, hat in hand, inspected it closely, enthusiastically, breathlessly. Then, coming over to where the artist was resting, he sat down opposite to him and in a voice trembling with emotion asked, "Tell me, how do you mix your colours?"
There was a deep silence, almost painful in its intensity. A drawing-pin fell with a deafening crash.
The venerable painter stood up with a calm and leonine expression. "I use an ivory palette knife," he said.
The shadows were lengthening in the beautiful garden. It was a warm spring evening. The old sun-dial had just struck seven.
The poet threw aside his book and called his Airedale terrier; the dog, responding in time, eventually reached his master's knee.
Seizing his opportunity, the representative of the Press observed, "You are, I see, fond of dogs."
"Fond of dogs?" replied the poet. "I? I detest them;" and so saying he kicked the Airedale a distance of several feet into the air, so that, falling immediately on the sun-dial, it was transfixed by the gnomon.
As he watched its struggles, thus impaled, the poet laughed the hearty resonant laugh for which he was famous.
The Civil Service clerk so famous for his drollery was entering the office doors at half-past ten in the morning, or exactly sixty minutes past the appointed time. By an unfortunate chance his principal met him, as, alas! he had too often done, at the same tardy hour. "Late again," said the great man, consulting his watch. "I believe that you get here later every day." "Yes," said the clerk, "I do. But then I always stay on and work overtime."
The eminent publicist replaced his glass on the table and turned to the lady who sat beside him. "My business," he said, "is the manufacture of mustard. I have made a vast fortune out of it."
"How very interesting," the lady replied absently; but the next moment, inspired by a hidden thought, she added with quickened interest, "Please don't think me inquisitive, but how can a fortune be made out of a thing like mustard? People take so little of it."
"Madam," answered the mustard magnate deliberately, "we do not make our fortunes from the mustard that people eat"—
"Yes, yes?" cried the lady eagerly.—"but," he continued, "from what they spill in mixing poultices."
The famous money-lender one evening arrived as usual at the Casino, but this time only to bid his friends good-bye.
"Not leaving Monte?" they asked.
"Yes, I am," he replied; "I'm going to Rome."
"Yes, why not? I'm told it's wonderful. I shall be there a month;" and so saying he hurried to his hotel.
Three days later he walked into the Casino again.
"What," cried his friends—"you here? We thought you were going to be in Rome a month."
"So I am," said the money-lender, "and more. I came back for my things, most of which I left here, as it had occurred to me I might not like it. But I adore it. Rome is beautiful, august, sublime. The simple severe beauty of the Vatican, the vast solemnity of the Campagna! It is indeed the eternal city. Let me keep Rome!"
And again he hurried away.
* * * * *
* * * * *
A Long Turn.
"To-morrow evening Miss Phyllis Bedells makes her final appearance at the London Empire, where she has danced without interruption for nine and a half years."
Bristol Times and Mirror.
* * * * *
"Tired of this much worn physical life Chief George Moshesh bursted the bands of morality as under Tuesday, November 2nd."
South African Paper.
"Tenders invited for alterations and additions to the late Mr. Waata W. Hipango, Pitiki, are hereby cancelled."—New Zealand Paper.
* * * * *
* * * * *
THE XMAS ADVENTURES OF A DRAWING.
From Robert Simpson, Edinburgh, to Joan Dalgleish, London.
Dear Miss Dalgleish,—I send you as promised, when we parted in Skye, one of my little drawings. I am sorry I have had no time to get it framed. I am off in ten days to India to resume my work. If you have no room for this little picture on your walls it will do for a Red Cross Bazaar.
Hoping to meet you some other summer,
From Joan Dalgleish to Robert Simpson.
London, December 17.
Dear Mr. Simpson,—So many thanks for the drawing of the bay. It will always remind me of our delightful holiday in the North, and in the murky days of December it will make me feel again in the fresh air of Scotland.
With best wishes for a pleasant journey,
From Joan Dalgleish to Mary Morris, Manchester.
Dearest Mary,—I am sending you a little Christmas card, in the shape of a water-colour drawing with a calendar attached, which can be removed each year. It will remind you of the fine time we spent bathing and boating on the Welsh Coast, which I know you people in the North adore. I have long wanted to send you some token of our days together in that pleasant land, and, after much searching, here at last it is.
Your affectionate Friend,
From Mary Morris to Joan Dalgleish.
Dearest Joan,—What a treat to see that glorious Welsh Coast, that heaving sea and those sunny cliffs, when I am barely existing in this gloomy city! Always will this dear scene be in my sight morning and evening, to remind me of my friend whom I miss so much, and of those grand aspects of nature which we enjoyed together.
With dear love,
From Mary Morris to Miss Eleanor Mendip, Writers' Club, London.
Dear Miss Mendip,—It seems ages since we met after your great visit to Manchester and after that splendid lecture on "Some Aspects of Nature." I cannot let the New Year pass without sending you a little picture of our Northern coast as a humble token of my immense admiration for your charming work—the poor offering of a constant admirer.
Hoping to see you again in our city and that you will again stay at our home,
Your affectionate admirer,
From Miss Mendip to Miss Morris.
Dear Miss Morris,—Forgive me for not acknowledging before the graceful tribute of your admiration for my work. I do indeed regard you as a friend—few girls of my acquaintance have so real a sense of literary perfection as my dear young friend in Manchester. Always will I cherish your appreciative gift as a remembrance of my sweet young friend.
From Miss Mendip to the Editor, "Women's Welfare," London.
Dear Mr. Scrimbles,—You said you intended to obtain an illustration to my paper on "Cottage Homes by Western Waters." I can save you trouble and some expense. I have succeeded in obtaining just the picture you want. I accordingly enclose it. You can add the fee of 10s. 6d. to my cheque for the article. I hope it will come out in February.
* * * * *
"WANTED. Good School-Master, in exchange for Blue Pom dog, 3 months, splendid coat, or sell L1. Approval both ways."
Lest our scholastic readers should be incensed at this cynical estimate of their value we hasten to inform them that this "School-Master" is a pigeon and not a pedagogue.
* * * * *
AT THE PLAY.
"Puss in Boots."
If Messrs. SIMS, DIX and COLLINS did in fact, as they claim, make the book of this year's pantomime at the Lane, Mr. GEORGE GRAVES gagged and bound it. This popular annual festival indeed tends to become more and more of a GRAVES solo (with of course the innumerable customary da capos) and a bright sketchy EVANS obbligato. As a Grand Duchess and Duke respectively the genial twain present themselves. Mr. GEORGE GRAVES, in a flounced skirt of green tartan check, copper curls and mahogany features, is a delectable creation; says some strangely unlady-like things (as is expected of him); is still oddly preoccupied with "gear-boxes" and other anatomical detail; and generally indulges in a fine careless rapture of reminiscence and improvisation—zealously assisted by Mr. WILL EVANS' familiar tip-tilted nose and bland refusal to be perturbed by entirely unrehearsed effects and obviously irregular cues. A jovial and irreverent pair of potentates, crowned by public laughter.
There is, of course, a sort of background to all this audacious fooling, more definitely directed virginibus puerisque. The new principal boy, Mr. ERIC MARSHALL, woos his princess with a romantic air and a mellow tenor, in which emotion somewhat overshadows tone. Miss FLORENCE SMITHSON, an accepted Drury Lane favourite, looks very charming, makes love in pretty kitten wise and still indulges in those queer harmonics of hers—virtuosity rather than artistry, shall we call it?—but is altogether quite a nice princess of pantomime. Little RENEE MAYER is the Puss. Nothing could well be daintier. But I hope she will let me tell her (in a whisper, so that the others won't hear), that she doesn't quite realise what a jolly part she has got. I would implore her to spend an hour or two at serious play with any decent young cat and study the grace and variety of its beautiful, imitable gestures. Then she will assuredly pounce on her magician turned mouse, and fawn on her master and friends, with a greater air of conviction. And she will mightily please all the other nice children in the house.
Of the great ensemble scenes unquestionably the finest was the Fairy Garden, with a quite beautiful back-cloth by R. MCCLEERY and a bewildering (and, to tell truth, largely bewildered) bevy of butterflies, decked by COMELLI, fluttering in a flowery pleasaunce. And there was also a clever variation on the now inevitable staircase motif as a finale. But the Harlequinade of happy memory has deplorably declined to something like a mere display of advertisements—a sad business.
* * * * *
"The Starlight Express."
It would be uncandid to pretend that Mr. ALGERNON BLACKWOOD gets everything he has to say in The Starlight Express safely across the footlights—those fateful barriers that trap so many excellent intentions. But he so evidently has something to say, and the saying is so gallantly attempted, that he must emphatically be credited with something done—something rather well done really. The little play has beautiful moments—and that is to say a great deal.
This novelist turned playwright wishes to make you see that "the Earth's forgotten it's a Star." In plainer words he wants to present you with a cure for "wumbledness." People who look at the black side of things, who think chiefly of themselves—these are the wumbled. The cure is star-dust—which is sympathy. The treatment was discovered by the children of a poor author in a cheap Swiss pension and by "Cousinenry," a successful business man of a quite unusual sort. You have to get out into the cave where the starlight is stored, gather it—with the help of the Organ Grinder, who loves all children and sings his cheery way to the stars; and the Gardener, who makes good things grow and plucks up all weeds; and the Lamplighter, who lights up heads and hearts and stars impartially; and the Sweep, who sweeps away all blacks and blues over the edge of the world, and the Dustman, with his sack of Dream-dust that is Star-dust (or isn't it?), and so forth. Then you sprinkle the precious stuff on people, and they become miracles of content and unselfishness. (The fact that life isn't in the very least like that is a thing you have just got to make yourself forget for three hours or so.)
The author was well served by his associates. Sir EDWARD ELGAR wove a delightfully patterned music of mysterious import through the queer tangle of the scenes and gave us an atmosphere loaded with the finest star-dust. Lighting and setting were admirably contrived; and the grouping of the little prologue scenes, where that kindly handsome giant of an organ-grinder (Mr. CHARLES MOTT), with the superbly cut corduroys, sang so tunefully to as sweet a flock of little maids as one could wish to see, was particularly effective.
Of the players I would especially commend the delicately sensitive performance of Miss MERCIA CAMERON (a name and talent quite new to me) as Jane Anne, the chief opponent of wumbledom. She was, I think, responsible more than any other for getting some of the mystery of the authentic Black-woodcraft across to the audience. The jolly spontaneity of RONALD HAMMOND as young Bimbo was a pleasant thing, and ELISE HALL, concealing less successfully her careful training in the part, prettily co-operated as his sister Monkey. The part of Daddy, the congested author who was either "going to light the world or burst," was in O. B. CLARENCE'S clever sympathetic hands. Mr. OWEN ROUGHWOOD gave you a sense of his belief in the efficacy of star-dust. On what a difficult rail our author was occasionally driving his express you may judge when he makes this excellent but not particularly fragile British type exclaim, "I am melting down in dew." The flippant hearer had always to be inhibiting irreverent speculations occasioned by such speeches.
I couldn't guess if the children in the audience liked it. I hope they didn't feel they had been spoofed, as MAETERLINCK so basely spoofed them in The Blue Bird, by offering them a grown-ups' play "sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought." But the bigger children gave the piece a good welcome, and called and acclaimed the shrinking author. T.
* * * * *
* * * * *
"36 Magnificent, Acclimatised, Well-bred Dairy Cows, &c. Many of these were bred on the Premises, and others were purchased from a renowned Breeder of Friesland Cattle, and they need no comment from the Auctioneers, but will speak for themselves."
Blowing their own horns, so to speak.
* * * * *
* * * * *
Just lately I have been thinking often of Them. But Their image has never been more vividly in my mind than now, when I sit here among the aftermath of festival. I wonder, for example, are the homes in which They live pervaded with this same debris of Christmas (or, as They themselves are so fond of calling it, Yuletide)? Does dismembered turkey coldly furnish forth Their meals? Are there too many calendars, and a litter of crumpled paper? And cards—do They send each other cards? Stupendous thought!
Most of all is my fancy busy with Them to-morrow, Tuesday, December the twenty-eighth. I see Them rising, a little wearily, perhaps, and heavy-eyed. Breakfast They snatch, and so out into the winter morning towards that place where, unknown and unrecognised, They pursue throughout the year Their changeless toil. I imagine Them gathering with mutual greetings in the workroom—a little company about whose features I have so often speculated. Poets are there, and artists; probably some among the men may wear their hair a trifle longer than the military fashion of to-day; but the greater part of the crowd are almost certainly women. Now the talk dies down; presently They are all once more bending in silence over Their appointed tasks.
Yes, here at one desk is the artist to whose genius we owe the obese robin perched upon a horse-shoe, or the churchyard by moonlight after (apparently) a severe spangle-storm. Here again a poet, whose eye in a fine frenzy rolling proclaims an inspiration, or at least some subtle variant upon a familiar theme. He stoops and, even as I watch, has traced swiftly, with vibrant pen, this couplet:—
"The old, old wish I send to thee, Jocund may thy Xmas be!"
Then, with a little sigh, he leans back, satisfied that for him the holiday intermission had not rusted the fine edge of originality. "Jocund" proved that.
Behind him perhaps sits a maiden like Fate, who with abhorred shears fashions strange shapes and borderings of foliage unknown to mere nature. And further still, in yonder obscure and shadowy corner, is one who by her art can penetrate the future and outstrip the foot of Time himself. For see, upon her cards, there is already written—
"With every blessing good and true May the New Year be packed, And 1917 bring to you What 1916 lacked."
I wonder—how does their work seem to Them upon this morning after Boxing-day?
* * * * *
What to do with our Boys.
"Bun-Prover wanted, 20-25 Trays Capacity."
Portsmouth Evening News.
* * * * *
Not from the Cocoa Press.
"At a concert given in the sick bay, H.M.S. Crystal Palace, 34 large boxes of chocolates were distributed among the patients. Mr. Balfour sent a telegram wishing the men a speedy recovery."—The Times.
* * * * *
The following advertisement appeared on Dec. 23:—
"Lady recommends her Companion-Hosekeeper."—Morning Paper.
She was not going to risk her own Christmas stocking.
* * * * *
"It is no easy thing to replace an artist of the quality of Miss Lily Elsie, who, in spite of the warmth of her reception at His Majesty's Theatre, recently took so severe a chill that the doctor would not hear of her playing again for some time."—Daily Mail.
The figurative has no chance with the actual.
* * * * *
AT THE SOURCE.
"Oh," said Francesca, coming into the library, "I see you're busy with your papers. Don't let me disturb you."
"If," I said, "it depended on me I wouldn't. I'd take you at your word and have you out of the room in two-twos. But you wouldn't like that, now, would you?"
"I'm afraid I should have to enter a protest. That's right, isn't it? Protests are things that have to be entered, aren't they?"
"Yes," I said, "they're like candidates for examinations, or rooms, only some rooms oughtn't to be entered, but are."
"Jocose?" said Francesca.
"No," I said; "I was thinking of Blue Beard. I daresay you remember about him. He was a very uxorious man, you know, and most domestic. Something of a traveller, and when"—
"We won't worry about Blue Beard," she said. "I think I know the outlines of his family history."
"Well then," I said, "why can't you leave me alone? You see I'm busy and yet you insist on staying here and interrupting me. Do you call that being a helpmeet?"
"Well," she said, "I call it joining myself unto you, and that's what we were told to do to one another in the marriage service."
"You're wrong," I said. "I was told to do that unto you, but you were told to submit yourself unto me and to reverence me."
"It's all the same," she said. "All I'm doing is to help you to obey the Prayer-Book."
"Anyhow," I said, "you've sat down and you mean to stay here. Is that what it comes to?"
"It is," she said. "You're in tremendous guessing form to-day."
"All I know," I said gloomily, "is that if my return for Income Tax contains many mistakes it'll be your fault, not mine; and I shall take care so to inform the CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER. I shall put down in the Exemptions and Abatements, 'Interrupted by wife. Abatement claimed, L100.' The CHANCELLOR will understand. He's a married man himself."
"So you're doing your Income Tax," she said dreamily. "I've often wondered how that was done. Do you like it?"
"No, Francesca," I said, "I do not like it. To be quite frank with you I detest it."
"But you're helping the War," she said. "That ought to buck you up like anything. Every extra penny you pay is a smack in the eye for the KAISER, so cheer up and make a good big return."
"I will do," I said, "what is strictly fair between myself and the Government. I can afford to be just to the CHANCELLOR, but, by Heaven, I cannot afford to be generous. Generosity has no place in an Income Tax return."
"Go ahead with it then," she said. "I don't know what's stopping you."
"You," I said, "are stopping me—you and that part of my income from which the tax is not deducted at the source."
"That sounds quite poetical," she said. "It runs into metre directly. Listen:—
No man can well be rude or even coarse Who has his tax deducted at the source.
But I wish you'd tell me what it means."
"Francesca," I said bitterly, "you are pleased to be a rhymer. You are, in fact, rhyming while the exchequer is burning; and then you add insult to injury by asking me the meaning of an elementary financial phrase."
"Well, what does it mean?"
"It means," I said, "that if your money is invested in public companies or things of that nature, then when your half-yearly dividend—You know what a dividend is?"
"Rather," she said. "It comes in on blue paper or pink, and you say, 'That's something to be thankful for;' and you write your name on one half of it and you send that half to the bank, and you tear off the other half and lose it in the next spring-cleaning. I know what a dividend is all right."
"Francesca," I said, "your knowledge is very wonderful. But if you suppose that that is the whole dividend, you are much mistaken. It is the dividend minus the tax. The company saves you trouble by deducting the tax and pays it to the CHANCELLOR for you."
"Bravo the company!" said Francesca.
"And so say I. You see you never get that part of your money, so there's no temptation to spend it—in fact you don't spend it."
"That," she said, "sounds highly plausible."
"Yes, but listen. Suppose you've got some little job at, say, two hundred and fifty pounds a year"—
"Like the little job you were so pleased to get a few years ago."
"Yes," I said, "more or less like that."
"Not so honourable, of course," said Francesca.
"No, of course not, but similar as to emoluments. Well, in that case you get the whole amount, and you spend it in perfectly useless things and forget all about it after you've put it down in your return; and then suddenly some Surveyor of Taxes writes and demands Income Tax on those two hundred and fifty pounds, actually demands something like forty pounds. I tell you, it goes through you like a knife."
"Haven't you any remedy?"
"Of course I could chuck the job," I said, "or do it for nothing. Yes, I think I'll chuck it. It'll be a lesson to them."
"Yes," she said, "it would probably make the Government sit up—but, on the whole, I don't think I should go so far if I were you. You see"—
"Go on," I said, for she was hesitating. "Let us strip ourselves of everything at once and throw ourselves on the charity of our neighbours."
"Well," she said, "I'd go on for a bit. A job's a job even if it does make you pay. You've had L210 on balance, and you ought to be thankful to have been allowed to pay forty pounds for munitions."
"And now," I said, "perhaps you'll let me get on with my work."
R. C. L.
* * * * *
Being a paraphrase of an answer in an O.T.C. examination.
Just one long pull, a straight strong pull—no other pull will do; A man must never take two pulls to pull the pull-through through.
* * * * *
"The hearty congregational stinging was a feature of church life to be proud of."—Parish Magazine.
* * * * *
"WANTED.—Comfortable Home with private family for Gentleman who is not strong in Brighton, Eastbourne, or St. Leonards."
The poor fellow should try Bournemouth or Torquay.
* * * * *
* * * * *
(By Mr. Punch's Staff of Learned Clerks.)
If it should ever be your lot, which pray Heaven forbid, to be stranded on the coast of Panama, seek out Miss WINIFRED JAMES as your hostess, for she can teach you how to tolerate, and even in a way enjoy, an existence one might have thought unendurable. She lives, I gather, some two hundred miles or so from the Canal, in a town that is going to be built some fine day on a site that has to be prepared by filling up a marsh with clay and sand. In the meantime, until the day and the town arrive, she rightly describes herself as A Woman in the Wilderness (CHAPMAN AND HALL). Civilisation is turned back to front out there, for although such comforts as refrigerators and electric light are a matter of course, there is still lacking to Mrs. Henry de Jan and her rather shadowy William anything, for instance, in the nature of a road on which to walk, or indeed any approach to their own verandah except, floating on the clay, a narrow plank gangway that has to serve as a hustling high-road for a mixed and dusky populace. Under the circumstances she has done nobly well to arm herself with the twin defences of cheerfulness and humour; and if the cheerfulness comes at times near to being that of a martyr on the rack, while the fun is perilously apt to swing from themes that are nice for a lady's wit to others that are not so nice, and back to sheer triviality, what, in the name of a population of sand-flies and negroes, can you expect? It is much that so lifelike a picture of a region so desolate should be presented on the whole with sweetness and charm, when no better material is available than the myriad misdeeds of her coloured servants, the antics of her puppies and an occasional reminiscence of home.
* * * * *
Certainly VIOLET HUNT and FORD MADOX HUEFFER have one achievement to their credit. They have evolved an entirely new and original setting in which to bring together a number of short stories. What is supposed to happen is that sundry persons who did not feel exactly drawn towards bed before 2 A.M. on those summer nights when Zeppelins were about, meet for bridge and sandwiches and incidentally to listen to certain stories read aloud by their author. In this way they are able to forget their apprehensions of the gas-bags (dare I put it that they lose Count?) and spend a pleasant series of evenings with history. For the stories in Zeppelin Nights (LANE) are all historical of a kind. Mostly they deal with the byways of history, or rather with the emotions of ordinary people who are just on the outer edge of historical happenings. For example, the central figure of the first is a slave whose basket of figs is upset by PHEIDIPPIDES running from Marathon; while the last concerns an insignificant little anti-militarist who finds himself cheering for the army on the outbreak of the Boer War. That is the kind of tales they are, slight and momentary things, with no plot but plenty of atmosphere, and in their style remarkably well done. Whether they would actually keep the nerve-ridden oblivious of bombs for the thousand-and-one nights that might have seen raids and didn't is a matter that need not concern us. For my part, I liked as much as any the pages in which Miss HUNT or Mr. HUEFFER folded up her or his manuscript and allowed the other (whichever it was) to tell us about the very pleasant and human audience. I had only one disappointment, but that was acute. I did want just once for them to hear a distant bang, and see what happened. I rather doubt whether the placid and literary charm of the tales would have sufficed to keep them within doors had there been anything to see outside.
* * * * *
"In his hot indignation his yellowish face had in places turned blackish: literally, black streaks ran from the corners of his lips upwards and downwards, and from the inner corners of his eyes." If you read that sentence in a novel with Mr. EDGAR JEPSON'S name on the cover, and found that the passage was a description of a man named Shadrach Penny, would you not, as I did, settle down comfortably in your armchair and wait with perfect confidence for the human zebra to murder somebody in the most fascinatingly brutal manner? But he did not do anything of the kind. I think that the fact that I was disappointed in, and even seriously bored by, The Man Who Came Back (HUTCHINSON) was largely due to the mild, dull way in which the story developed. And yet I think I could have forgiven the absence of lurid sensationalism if the book had been a good book of its kind. It is not. It is so crude and amateurish that it is difficult to believe that a professional writer could have written it. Mr. JEPSON, like most other authors, has had the idea of modernising the story of the Prodigal Son. He adheres to the original story closely in one respect, for Roland Penny's first meal in his old home consists of roast veal, but he departs from it in making Roland, so far from wasting his substance, amass a large fortune among the husks and swine. I do not know how to classify The Man Who Came Back. It is not a novel of incident, for nothing happens in it. It is not a novel of character, for there is no attempt at any but the crudest character-drawing. It is just a six-shilling novel, and I do not see what else one can say of it. Mr. JEPSON must do one of two things. He must either brace up and make his style less irritatingly slipshod, or he must give us a few more murders. If we cannot have literary elegance he must give us blood.
* * * * *
Lieutenant L. B. RUNDALL, of the 1st Gurkha Rifles, author of The Ilex of Stra-Ping (MACMILLAN), was not only a soldier and a sportsman, but a writer with a most keen sense of the beauty of nature and the beauty of words. Children should love these Himalayan sketches, for Mr. RUNDALL, from material which in some cases was admittedly slight, could weave a tale full of magic and charm. The story of the old brown bear in "The Scape-goat" may not greatly stir the heart with the thrill of adventure, but the hero has attractions that no child and no man that has not forgotten his childhood could resist. An inconspicuous notice in the book tells us that the author fell in action towards the close of 1914. I salute his memory. Rich as we are to-day in authors who can write enchantingly of birds and animals, I feel a sense of personal sorrow in the loss of one whose work gave so fair a promise of high achievement.
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When you take up Russian Folk-Tales (KEGAN, PAUL), don't allow yourself to be subdued by the deplorably learned preface of the translator, Mr. LEONARD MAGNUS, LL.B., because it is not the proper attitude really. Forget how little business a Bachelor of Law has to lay his sceptical hands on such inappropriate material, and plunge into a jolly, bewildering tangle of tales of magic and adventure, bloodthirstiness and treachery, simple charity, vodka and genial superstition. You will be led from one to the other, puzzled but, I dare conjecture, highly entertained. I think you may take it, too, that a certain healthy sort of children will like to have these queer stories read aloud. The villainies of the Baba Yaga, an old witch of terrific resourcefulness, and the oddly inconsequent animal stories should make particular appeal. But you will be hard put to it to answer the questions which will be thrust at you; and (by the way) perhaps you will discreetly have to leave out a phrase or two for prudence' sake. On no account let the youngsters read the preface. I am not really quite sure whether you ought to read it yourself.
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The Charge of the Six Hundred.
Some three-score years or so ago six hundred gallant men Made a charge that cost old England dear, they lost four hundred then; To-day six hundred make a charge that costs the country dear, But now they take four hundred each—four hundred pounds a year.
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"Somebody to steal of my cabbage, cauliflower, old potato, new potato, and a small rake and hooks, fork. Everything. Somebody snatch on Thursday and Saturday night. Perhaps anybody to see the steal man to take something from my garden to tell me about that is I will reward five pounds truth, L3 for tell-tale.—Wong Long."
Poverty Bay Herald.
Wong Long apparently differs from the accepted authorities as to the value of hearsay evidence.