PUNCH, OR THE LONDON CHARIVARI
MARCH 1, 1916
The Volunteers have at last been recognised. There has been nothing like it since the great recognition-scene in Electra.
The case has been reported of a Stepney child which has developed a disease of the brain, as the result of an air raid. Similar cases are said to have been observed in the neighbourhood of Fleet Street.
It now transpires that the music of St. Paul's Cathedral emanates from an organ of German construction. There seems to be some doubt as to whether an explanation is due from The Westminster Gazette or The Times.
The mysterious shortage of butter in Germany, which has resulted in measures being drafted limiting the consumption to 4 ozs. per week per adult, is now explained. Count VON BERNSTORFF has used up all the available supplies on Congress.
The General Omnibus Company has made the announcement that it will not employ any women drivers for its omnibuses. The company's officers fear that if women were so employed there would be an absence of that racy repartee which alone prevents traffic from reaching a condition of indescribable congestion.
The demand for second-hand pianos now for the first time in the history of the trade far exceeds the supply. It is not only in Germany that War and frightfulness go hand-in-hand.
The capture of Mush by the Russian army of the Caucasus is an event the importance of which has not been fully recognized. It is undoubtedly the place from which the Turkish official reports of victory have been issued.
The Marconi Company have announced that "deferred plain language telegrams" will again be received. More truckling to the Tory Press!
A traveller returning from East Africa reports that, notwithstanding the military operations that are taking place in various parts of the country, rhinoceroses appear to be increasing in numbers. It is explained that the falling-off in the European demand for potted reed birds is responsible for the phenomenon.
It is announced that the Cabinet are to take a portion of their salaries in Exchequer Bonds. Not to be outdone the members of the Reichstag are said to have agreed to soil their fingers with dirty British gold rather than hinder the German Government's operations for correcting the depreciation of the mark.
The suggestion has been put forward that, as a timely War economy, well-to-do people should give up their hot-houses. There seems to be a division of opinion, however, as to whether the hot-house plants should be given their liberty, or (as economy would seem to dictate) be killed for the table.
Australia has suspended the trade-marks of 450 German articles. It would be interesting to know if the most historic German trade-mark, "MADE IN THE UNITED STATES," is among these.
"Mr. Julian Kimball (of Covent Garden and the London Opera House)," says the Musical critic of The Daily Mail, "is a singer you can watch as well as listen to." The desirability of concealing the faces of some of our principal singers in the past is undoubtedly one of the reasons why England has lagged behind in the musical art.
A well-known candidate for the East Herts Division is said to be urgently in need of motor cars. His opponents however point out that the need to economise in petrol was never more urgent than at present.
Speaking on the question of the shortage of freights Mr. RUNCIMAN stated, a few days ago, that he did not know that ostrich feathers took up much room. Has he never been to a matinee?
In the same connection a member of the Ladies' Kennel Club writes: "I let them take my husband for their horrid old War without grumbling, but when they tell me that poor little Nanki-Poo can't have his ostrich-feather pillow to lie on I think it is too much!"
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"The profits of the Bradford Dyers' Association exceed the most sanguinary expectations."
The influence of the War, again.
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S.P.C.A., please note.
"Dogs are generally from 9 to 18 inches long and the teeth from 3 to 8 inches long; the service pattern are from 12 to 15 inches long with 6 inch teeth. For straight dogs the ends of the teeth should be slightly further apart than at their root. Dogs when heated red-hot can be twisted till their teeth make any required angle with each other, generally a right angle; they are then known as skew dogs."
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"The offensive eggs were first placed in a mangle, and the slow, crude, and obnoxious process was gone through of crushing them. The pugnacity of the smell arising from this progress became appalling."—Grocers' Journal.
Fit to knock one down, in fact.
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"Lady, 45, domesticated, Protestant, furniture, wishes Correspondence with Respectable Widower and Bachelor; view matrimony."—Southport Visitor.
One of the two gentlemen will have to be content with the furniture.
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A CURE FOR DEPRESSION.
Moments there are of transient gloom When life for me appears to lose Its rosy aspect and assume The turnip's pessimistic hues; As when o' mornings, gazing out Across my patch of fog-grey river, I feel a twinge of poor man's gout Or else a touch of liver;
Or when, forgetting WATTS'S rhymes On puppy-dogs that bark and bite, The Westminster attacks The Times, Starting a most unseemly fight; Or when I find some Labour sheet Still left at large to boom rebellion, Or hear the thin pacific bleat Of "my hon. friend" TREVELYAN;
When enemy craft career above, Unchallenged (till they've had their fling); Or Little Willie's vernal shove Anticipates the dawn of Spring; When Neutrals want an open door Kept wide for their commercial dealings, And we must risk to lose the War Rather than hurt their feelings.
Such moments, making Hope look bleak, And Courage turn a little blue, Even with hearts as tough as teak May well occur; but, when they do, This thought will readjust your bile And prove the best of appetisers:—? Would I exchange (here's where you smile) Our chances with the KAISER'S?
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UNWRITTEN LETTERS TO THE KAISER.
(From Enver Pasha.)
Sire,—Surely the course of human affairs is often strange and perplexing. When we formed the Committee of Union and Progress and deposed the wretched ABDUL from the Sultanate no sane man can have thought that you and I should ever be friends. ABDUL was your friend; you and yours had lavished upon him and his creatures all your arts for the purpose of obtaining influence and promoting the interest—forgive me for saying it—not so much of Turkey as of the German Empire. When therefore we emerged, and ABDUL with his system retired, all your beautiful schemes seemed to be shattered into pieces so small that no human ingenuity could avail to pick them up and fit them together again. Yet lo and behold, the impossible has happened. ABDUL remains in darkness, I and my colleagues are in power, and you and I are even more closely knit together than is altogether desirable for me and those whom (indirectly, perhaps, but not the less effectively) I help to govern. I am entitled therefore to have a heart-to-heart talk with my bosom-friend, and, anyhow, whether I am entitled or not, that is what I propose to have. You may tell me in your genial way that I am only an upstart, but I answer that I occupy my position not because my father and my grandfather were big men, but because I myself, through my own plans and by my own strength, did certain things which in my judgment had to be done.
What I now feel, O my friend, is this: I am beginning to doubt whether in all this tremendous confusion of fighting I have made the right choice. It wasn't necessary for us Turks to fight at all; it wasn't even desirable. We had suffered a severe set-back in the first Balkan War, and in the second we were only just able, owing to the consummate folly of that silly knave, your friend, TSAR FERDINAND, to snatch a brand or two from the burning. What we wanted was rest, and had it not been for you we might have had it—yes, and our wounds might have been healed and our finances restored, while others endured privation and loss.
All that, as I say, we might have had; but from the day when the Goeben arrived off Constantinople we were doomed. That, indeed, was a master-stroke on your part, but for us it has meant misery on an ever-increasing scale. What were your promises? We were to have Egypt, but you were to be there too, and you were to hold the Bagdad railway and the regions through which it ran. We were to help you in conquering India, but you were to keep it for yourself when once it was conquered. We were to have a free hand with the Armenians. Well, we have had it, and the Armenians are fewer by half-a-million than they were. Pleasant as it is to contemplate the destruction of those restless and disloyal infidels, it cannot be said that we have gained any advantage from it, for the Russians have taken Erzerum and are sweeping through Armenia in a mighty and irresistible torrent, while our Turkish armies are scattered to the winds of heaven. Strong as you are and prodigal of promises, here you have failed to make good your pledges of help, and nowhere else do you seem able to achieve anything, except the crushing of little nations.
I look back with loathing upon the day when I was mad enough to listen to you and to become a partner in your schemes. You flattered us, nay, you even fawned upon us in order to secure your ends, and, now that our forces have been joined with yours, ruin menaces my country and my race. You, forsooth, allow yourself to be held up as a great prophet of Islam and a Heaven-sent protector of its faith; but we who see our nation crumbling into dust owing to your selfish ambition may be pardoned if at last we look to ourselves and attempt to save what still remains to us. To work, as they say, for the King of PRUSSIA has never been a profitable undertaking.
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"Fireworks were thrown from the gallery and the audience rushed on the platform, pelting the Pacifists with red ochre. The meeting ended with the sinking of Rule Britannia."—Egyptian Gazette.
The Pacifists appear to have had the last word, after all.
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"Mill Manager Honoured.—Mr. —— has been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society for the encouragement of fits."—Times of India.
We do not recognise the Society, but imagine it may be the Taylorian Institute.
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"It will take about 12 days for goods traffic to become normal again, although of course passenger traffic is not interfered with in the slightest. In the meantime the booking of elephants and other perishables has been stopped."—Rangoon Times.
Unless, of course, they leave their trunks behind them.
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We observe that Mr. WATERS BUTLER has been appointed a member of the Liquor Control Board, with the hearty approval of the Birmingham Beer, Spirit and Wine Trade Association. If there is anything in a name no one should be better able to hold the balance between them and the teetotalers.
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AT THE FRONT.
Some officers like putting up barbed wire, not so much, I think, from any real deep-seated affection for the stuff itself, or from any confidence in the protection it affords—its disintegration being one of the assumed preliminaries of an attack—as for the satisfaction of writing in the Weekly Work Report, "In front of X276 we put up 97 rolls of barbed wire; in front of S279, 342 rolls; in front of X276a, 3,692 rolls ..." and so on.
An officer who overdoes this sport of kings gets a trench a bad name; it becomes a trench with a great wiring tradition to be maintained. One of us took over a legacy from one of these barbarians last trip. H.Q. had got wind of his zeal and was determined that we for our part should not be idle. It was murmured in billets, it was whispered upon the pave, that for the officer taking over B116 there was a great wiring toward. The officer taking over B116 hated wiring worse than bully beef. He said you either die of pneumonia through standing still pretending to supervise, or tire yourself to bits and earn the undying contempt of your party by pretending to take an active share in the game.
Howbeit he took over B116 and was told by the Next Man Up to wire to his heart's content. He asked the Next Man Up just where he wanted the wiring to be performed. The Next Man Up waved an airy arm in the direction of the Hun, and observed, "Out there, of course. Think we wanted you to wire Hampstead Heath?" Then the B116 officer took the N.M.U. to the parapet and showed him waving acres of high wire, low wire, loose wire, tight wire, thick wire, thin wire, two ply, three ply, and four ply, plain and barbed, running out and out into the dusk.
The N.M.U. gave it all a dispassionate sort of look, and merely said, "Oh, go out in front of all that. The Bosch is miles off just here."
Now B116 is a front line trench in a re-entrant. The Hun trench facing it is also in a re-entrant, the original front lines on both sides having been crumpled and flooded out of existence. So when night fell the officer of B116 took his party and set out, and he went on and on, and then on, and there was still wire. And he went on and on and on. And there were bits of old trenches and saps and listening posts, but still wire. And he went on and on and there were more bits of trench and more wire. And he went on and on—and I know this is true because he told me—and on and on until (no, he did not come back to our own trench, he had a compass) an exceptionally good lot of fireworks went up, and he was fired at and bombed by Germans behind and Germans in front and Germans on either side, and, mind you, he was still in the wire. So he waited until all the Germans appeared to have killed each other or gone to sleep, and brought his party laboriously back to B116, from which he sent to the Next Man Up a message which ran: "If you want me to wire Bosch third line, kindly arrange for artillery preparation."
It is some days now since they put up any wire in front of B116.
It is a fact well known to all our most widely-circulated photographic dailies that these German gunners waste a power of ammunition. The only criticism I have to make is that I wish they would waste it more carefully. The way they go strewing the stuff about round us is such that they're bound to hit someone or something before long. Still we have only two more days in, and they seldom give us more than ten thousand shells a day.
We are in billets now, and frankly, I am beginning to be very exercised about my boots. When I say "my boots" I mean rather the boots concerning me than "the boots that are mine." I wanted, some couple of months ago, a new pair of boots. I told the Quartermaster, and he looked at my then boots superciliously and said he could quite believe it.
I rashly left it at that, imagining something would happen. A man like a quartermaster, who rolls in boots, would, I felt, think nothing of sending along a dozen pairs before breakfast, with a chit telling me to give away what I couldn't use. But no. It seems every boot in his store was numbered.
I approached him again, and demanded boots, soberly, seriously and strenuously, I even offered to pay for them. This appeared to cheer him a little, and he murmured something about Army Form 247 x2b, not at present in stock, but indispensable to the issue of the most negligible boot on payment. My further efforts were, owing to exigencies of my military situation, conducted through emissaries. My servant would demand of his company agent nightly, what about them boots? And the company agent would reply—also nightly—that, if the officer would send his size down, the matter would be put through at once. For five nights running my size in boots went down with the empty water tins. On the last night I added a sketch of my feet and of my present boots, with scale of kilometres subjoined, a brief history of footgear in Flanders from pre-Caesarian times to the present day, one piece of broken lace from the old boots, and anything else that struck me as likely to put the matter a little further through.
The lace appeared to put quite a new idea into their heads. The advance booting agent now seemed to think that if I had some boots already I might get the new pair by a process known as exchange, which takes less time and has the additional advantage of not costing anything. This struck them as an excellent new game for several days while they were deciding which was the right army form for an officer desirous of exchanging boots. At last all appeared fixed up. I came back into billets with every confidence of finding a couple of boots waiting for me on the mat. Of course I didn't really believe they would be there; I only had every confidence. Anyhow they were not.
This morning the Quartermaster called in person. He wanted to know what size I took in boots.
I expect now that the matter will be put through almost at once.
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An Impending Apology.
"Chaplain would appreciate portable Gramophone for clearing station."—The Times.
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Among other applications which were recently heard for exemption from the new Compulsory Service Act for unmarried men we extract the following:—
Mr. Isaac Goldstein claimed exemption for his clerk, a stalwart youth of twenty-two, on the ground that he was indispensable to him in his business.
Asked what his business was the applicant said he was a bookmaker.
The Chairman. I thought there was no racing now.
Mr. Goldstein. Oh, yes. Steeple-chasing every week.
The Chairman. Do people still go to races and bet?
Mr. Goldstein. Of course they do. Why not?
The Chairman. I fancied they might have found other things to do. Also I fancied that money might be short.
The applicant said that there was plenty of money about if you knew where to look for it.
The Chairman. And who ride the horses?
Mr. Goldstein. The jockeys, of course.
The Chairman. They prefer that to doing anything more serious for their country?
Mr. Goldstein. They are doing something very serious for their country. They're preserving the breed of horses. Where would old England's horseflesh be without races and steeplechases?
The Chairman. You say this young man is indispensable to you. How?
Mr. Goldstein. He is my clerk. He writes down the bets. I haven't got time to write down bets myself; I'm too busy taking them. He's one of the quickest clerks in England. I should go broke if I hadn't got him.
Mr. Joe Tummilee applied for the exemption of a comedian playing in his revue, "Never mind the War." This young man, he said, who was twenty-nine, was the life and soul of the piece, and if he joined the Army the applicant would be put both to inconvenience and loss.
The Chairman. Are there not older or married actors that you could employ for this great work?
Mr. Tummilee. They're not so good. The comedian in question was a very agile dancer and was also good-looking. Other men might not attract the public.
The Chairman. Is the attraction of the public essential?
Mr. Tummilee (surprised). Naturally. How should we managers live otherwise? Besides, when a great war is going on it's a national duty to try and make people forget. My theatre, you perhaps are not aware, is a favourite resort for wounded soldiers, who are never so happy as when they are there.
The Chairman. Surely all that happiness will not disappear because this one performer is missing?
Mr. Tummilee. Most of it. He's the great draw.
The Chairman. Has it not occurred to you that the country ought to come first?
Mr. Tummilee. I consider I'm doing a great deal for the country, and he too, by making it laugh.
The Chairman. You must find an older funny man or soon we may all be weeping.
Mr. Samuel Bland claimed exemption on the ground that he disapproved of war and physical force.
The Chairman. What would you do if you caught a burglar in your house?
Applicant. I should lock him in and call for the police.
The Chairman. Then you don't mind relying on the physical force of others for your own protection?
Applicant. That is part of the machinery of civilisation.
The Chairman. So, I fear, is an army. Do you pay your taxes?
The Chairman. Why?
The Applicant. Because there is Scriptural warrant for it.
The Chairman. But you know that a large part of them goes to maintain our fighting men. Without money we should have to give in.
Applicant. I obey the law. I don't necessarily know where the money is going.
The Chairman. Your position is very illogical. Either you should take your part in defending your country or obey your conscience and either go to prison for refusing to pay taxes for the carrying-on of the War, or emigrate to some place more like Utopia than this is. As it is you take advantage of other men's readiness to fight and even to die for you, and actually pay them to do so, but raise conscientious objections to doing either for yourself. A conscience that is so adaptable is not worth considering.
Harry Cadgsmith, who said he was a picture-palace proprietor, applied for exemption for the commissionaire who stood outside the building and invited people in.
The Chairman. How old is he?
Mr. Cadgsmith. Thirty-four.
The Chairman. Is he strong?
Mr. Cadgsmith. Very. He is also highly trained; he wears uniform and calls out the attractions. The cinema is one of the principal alleviations of modern life and but for this man's powerful voice many people might pass by and never enter.
The Chairman. What kind of pictures do you show?
Mr. Cadgsmith. The best.
The Chairman. Are they English?
Mr. Cadgsmith. Some are. But the public prefer American ones. I always pride myself on giving the public what it has the sense to want.
The Chairman. Might it not be better employed elsewhere? Making munitions, for example?
Mr. Cadgsmith. That is nothing to do with me. My business is to supply a demand.
The Chairman. What is your chief film this week?
Mr. Cadgsmith. It is a very fine story entitled "The Prince of Crooks."
The Chairman. Could not a woman take this man's place?
Mr. Cadgsmith. Not to do it justice.
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SUAVE MARI MAGNO.
'Tis sweet, so sage LUCRETIUS wrote of yore, To watch a storm-tossed vessel from the shore, Or safely placed, when hosts in conflict close, To view the battle as it ebbs and flows; But he, poor ancient, never knew the rare Delight afforded by an easy-chair, Wherein the slippered critic, at his ease, His ample writing-pad upon his knees, Primed with historic and romantic lore, Indites his weekly comment on the War; Revises or expands official news With graphic touches and resplendent hues; Teaches the doubtful battle where to rage And sprinkles diagrams on ev'ry page; Creates new posts or, at his own sweet will, Proceeds expected vacancies to fill; Deposes Kings, Prime Ministers, Grand Dukes, And rival pundits suitably rebukes. A hundred thousand readers every week For solace in his commentaries seek, Swear by his arguments, and swear at those Which rival quidnuncs artfully oppose. Matched with an occupation such as this Philosophy is destitute of bliss; He only breathes content's untroubled air Who wages warfare from a snug armchair.
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GOOD OPENINGS FOR M.P.'s.
The Manchester Guardian complains that there is a remarkable monotony about the opening of speeches in the House of Commons.
"On Wednesday forty-five speeches (not counting brief efforts in the way of interjections) were delivered, and in thirty cases the speeches began with the first person singular. Only fifteen members could think of anything more original." It appears that four speeches began with "I beg," four with "I should like," three with "I wish," and three with "I am sure."
It may be a little daring, perhaps, to suggest that some originality should be introduced into the methods of Parliamentary orators (writes a correspondent); but as one whose courage has never failed him in telling other people how to go about their business I venture to suggest a few openings which possibly have never yet been utilised.
As it is half the battle, to the speaker, to grip interest at the very outset, the following might be tried: "Drip, drip, drip—the blood fell from the ceiling." This would cause departing Members to drop sharply back into their seats. Only a little ingenuity would be required to make these words the opening of a speech on any timely topic. Our aristocratic legislators could make certain of arresting attention by beginning, "In the words of a friend of mine, a well-known Peckham butcher"—another gambit that could be made to suit any subject, from the shipping problem to the Zeppelin nuisance.
Or again, "The missis woke me up in the middle of last Tuesday night, and said"—This is the kind of homely touch that would ensure a sympathetic hearing.
Members might also make a good start with "'Twas" and "Methinks," even at the risk of being accused of the use of unparliamentary expressions.
If they would only study the poets I they would find plenty of bright and original openings. What better could be desired than BROWNING'S
"So, at home, the sick tall yellow Duchess Was left with the infant in her clutches,"
if occasion should arise in the House for criticism of the heartless action of a Local Tribunal in disallowing a Duke's claim for exemption?
Many a man possesses an undiscovered knack of extempore rhyming, a gift which has seldom or never been exercised in the House of Commons. That will be a bright day for legislators when a Member rises in his place and begins something like this: "Sir, if the House will bear with me one moment, I should like to say that I, for one, cannot agree that we have found the perfect way of dealing with a gross neglect to which all honest men object." Any Member who could keep up that sort of thing for half-an-hour (and some, no doubt, could, if they would only practise) would achieve lasting fame, not only for his originality, but because of the remarkable scenes amid which his concluding lines would almost certainly be uttered.
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"The Germans planned to expel the British from South Africa, aided by disinfected Boers."
But, in the end, it was General BOTHA who cleared out the Germs.
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(A Memory of Gallipoli)
It was my home, not ringed with roses blowing, Nor set in meadows where cool waters croon; Parched wastes were round it, and no shade was going, Nor breath of violets nor song-birds' tune; Only at times from the adjacent dwelling Came down with Boreas the quaint, compelling Scent of the Tenth Platoon.
And there not hermit-like alone I brooded, But ant and lizard and all things that crawl With great grasshoppers by brigades intruded; Therein the tortoise had his homely stall; Green flies and blue slept nightly in their notches, Save when a serpent, in the middle watches, Came and disturbed us all.
There, where the sun, the senseless sun, kept pouring, And dust-clouds smothered one about the chest, While secret waters filtered through the flooring (In case the heat should leave one too oppressed), Always I lay in those sad fevered seasons Which Red-Hat humourists, for mystic reasons, Regarded as our "rest."
For it was home; and when I was not in it, But in the trenches, it was home indeed; When mad foes fired at twenty rounds a minute (Not, I may say, the regulation speed), For me far more it harboured my Penates; I missed my animals; I missed my gay teas With Alf, the centipede.
And I am shocked to think that that same ceiling Shields now some Mussulman of lowly strain; Yet, though he knows me not, I can't help feeling That something of my spirit must remain, And if, in that rich air the man should mellow In mind, in soul, and be a better fellow, I have not lived in vain.
And it may be, when worlds have ceased to wrestle, I shall go back across the Midland foam At special rates in some large tourist vessel To my late hollow in the Sultan's loam, And there clasp hands with that uplifted warrior, Compare brief notes and wonder which was sorrier To have to call it home.
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How to treat a Wife.
Extract from lecture by N.C.O.:—
"Your rifle is your best friend, take every care of it; treat it as you would your wife, rub it all over with an oily rag every day."
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"The court was crowded by Gaelic Leaguers and the proceedings were marked by some disorderly scenes, until the magistrates ordered their continuance."—Dublin Evening Mail.
Then, of course, being in Ireland, they ceased.
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A Provincial Paper, reporting a speech upon heroes of the present War, represents the speaker as referring to "Bill Adams in Leigh Hunt's poem." This is the first time within our knowledge that our old friend Abou Ben Adhem has been confounded with that other popular figure, the fictitious hero of Waterloo!
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A STRONG SOUTH-EASTER.
I have been having further trouble with my neighbour, Petherton, whose place adjoins mine, being divided from it by a hedge. Beyond the hedge lies Petherton's small paddock, where his poultry amuse themselves, and, beyond that, Petherton's house and garden.
But, however good a fence may be, it will not keep out, or keep in, smells. Therefore when Petherton engaged in apparently chemical operations giving off the most noxious gases I was rapidly forced to the conclusion that he ought to have a different kind of boundary between his property and mine, and also that the air of our neighbourhood no longer rivalled that of Bexhill, especially when the wind blew from the south-east.
Wishing to remedy this state of affairs without recourse to unpleasant measures, I sat down to write to Petherton.
Dear Petherton,—These continual south-easterly winds portend rain, I fear, and so I hope you have wrapped your parsnips up to protect them from the probable excess of moisture which is so injurious to all such plants.
My primary object in writing is not so much anxiety about the health of your vegetables, but to ask whether you have noticed a most unpleasant odour which seems to be heading north-west; at any rate it is more unpleasant if possible when the wind is from the south-east than at any other time.
It does not appear likely that the smell should have come from the German lines, so we must look nearer home for the cause of the trouble. Don't you think we ought to take joint action to get the nuisance ended?
Yours, H. J. Fordyce.
Petherton's reply was a bulky packet which, being opened, revealed a tin of dog soap. I could only infer that he wished to saddle Togo, our prize-bred Airedale, with the blame. Coward!
However, true to my determination to be friendly if possible, I wrote:—
Dear Fred,—Thanks for the Camembert. Thomas our cat has not quite completed the Moonlight Sonata which he has spent several nights in composing, but as soon as it is published I will send you a copy of it in return.
My nephew, over from France on short leave, came to see us yesterday but left hurriedly. He said that the air was too reminiscent of a place where he was severely gassed. Don't you notice anything?
Yours as ever, H. J. Fordyce.
Within an hour of the delivery of this letter another parcel arrived from Petherton. It contained three ordinary clothes-pegs and a brief note, which ran:—
Sir,—I thought even you would be able to take the hint contained in my previous parcel. As however it was evidently lost on you, I am writing to suggest to you more plainly that you should wash your dog. I noticed its deplorable condition when I passed it in the road the other morning, and am surprised that the simple explanation of the trouble has not occurred to you before.
Should the course I recommend have no good effect, I can only suggest your shooting, selling or otherwise disposing of the malodorous pest, or else wearing one of the protectors of which I enclose three. They are somewhat archaic in design, but should just suit you and your household.
Good old Freddie,—What a genius you are! Of course the dog is the culprit. I was offered fifteen pounds for him the other day and refused it. No doubt I should have received a better offer but for the defect, which you so readily noticed, in the animal's condition. I have just had him shampooed and when he is dry I will examine him and report to you at once.
Many thanks for the charming nose-protectors, which however I return, as they are all too large. I wonder if you would mind changing them for sevens; these appear to be eight-and-a-halfs.
I am glad the wind has veered to the north-east. Your parsnips will no doubt share my joy. By the way was it you I saw yesterday in your paddock holding your nose just before the wind shifted round? The man, whoever it was, was looking at your poultry, which appear to be drooping.
Yours till the wind changes,
H. J. Fordyce.
P.S.—If I can get a good stamp-album in town to-day I will send it to you. A change of hobby is often very beneficial.
I followed this up with another letter in the afternoon, couched in more formal terms:—
Sir,—In fulfilment of the promise contained in my previous letter of to-day's date I have the honour to inform you that my dog Togo is not the cause of the trouble. As soon as he was dry I fastened him up in the middle of my drawing-room, and my household, myself included, sniffed at him from all points of the compass. Then, leaving him still chained up, we went into the garden and nearly fainted from the pestilential odours borne on the breeze, which was again south-east.
If you have not suffered it seems clear to me that either (a) you have a curious taste in scents, or (b) you have no sense of smell. I think you should call in an expert, in the case of (a) a brain specialist, or in the case of (b) a nose-plumber. In the meantime I intend to consult another sort of expert, the Sanitary Inspector.
Yours obediently, except in such a matter as this,
H. J. Fordyce.
I wrote to the Inspector that night and received the following within twenty-four hours:—
Dear Sir,—Yours of yesterday's date to hand, and in reply I regret that I am unable to assist you in the matter as your neighbour, Mr. Petherton, is engaged on important experimental work for the Government in connection with the manufacture of asphyxiating gases, thus causing the unpleasant odours about which I have received several complaints recently. I have been in communication with Mr. Petherton on the matter, but he seems unable to abate the nuisance. I am surprised that he has not explained the position to you himself.
I remain, Yours obediently,
pp. A. C.
On receiving the above I wrote to Petherton:—
Dear Fred,—Only a few words to say that I have just heard the great news. Heartiest congratters. As a strafe-scent-manufacturer you are IT. A bas les Boches!
But why so close about it all this time? If you had only let me know about it sooner I would have dug a trench in my garden and slept in it, instead of complaining. Henceforth I shall turn my nose (well respirated) to the south-east every morning as an act of homage.
Give it 'em hot, old man; don't mind us; we love it now. When you get stuck for any fresh ingredients refer to Macbeth, Act 4, Scene I, though I should be inclined to think you have done this already.
Yours gratefully, H. J. Fordyce.
So far I have received no reply from Petherton. In the circumstances I excuse his apparent hauteur.
* * * * *
"Ships that pass in the Night."
"A large number of our kinsmen from over the seas were unmarried, and he would like to see for every shipload of them that came over a shipload of women from this country sent out to be mated to them."—Daily Paper.
It looks as if it might be stalemate.
* * * * *
ESSENCE OF PARLIAMENT.
Monday, February 21st.—Although de minimis non curat lex, our law-makers delight in very small jokes. When Mr. CECIL BECK, as Vice-Chamberlain of the Household, delivered HIS MAJESTY's reply to the Address the House of Commons was chiefly interested in watching how he would accomplish the feat of walking backwards from the Table to the Bar. More than once in past history the task has proved too much for the man who essayed it, and the orderly retreat has degenerated into a shambling rout. But there was no such hitch to-day. Progressive politician though he is, Mr. BECK retraced his steps with graceful ease, and fully deserved the applause that rewarded his effort.
Irreverent opponents of the PRIME MINISTER have sometimes compared him to Micawber, on the ground that he was always waiting for something to turn up. I found another link to-day between these celebrated characters. As Mr. ASQUITH unfolded the details of the two new Votes of Credit, one of 120 millions to clear up the present financial year, the other of 300 millions to start the new one, he reminded me of Micawber calculating his indebtedness to Traddles. While professing a proper alarm at the colossal amount of the expenditure—nearly two thousand millions already, or twice the cost of the twenty-two years' war against NAPOLEON—he rolled these gigantic figures off his tongue as if he loved them. You will remember Copperfield's remark when the famous I.O.U. had been handed over: "I am persuaded not only that this was quite the same to Mr. Micawber as paying the money, but that Traddles himself hardly knew the difference until he had had to think about it." The PRIME MINISTER'S financial optimism left the House under much the same impression, and Mr. MCKENNA rather deepened it by the declaration that with prudence and statesmanship our credit would survive the War however long it might last.
Tuesday, February 22nd.—For nearly ten years, without a break, Mr. GEORGE LAMBERT, Yeoman, as the reference-books describe him, sat on the Treasury Bench as Civil Lord of the Admiralty. Then the Coalition came along and his place knew him no more. For eight long months he has yearned to let the new Administration know what he thought of them, and to-day he seized the opportunity furnished by the Vote on Account.
Beginning with a moving tale of how the War Office took several weeks and a traction engine to move a load of hay two miles from a rick to a railway station in his native Devon, the Yeoman proceeded with other counts of his indictment. The PRIME MINISTER mentioned yesterday a new plan by which an outside Committee, composed of business men and headed by a Cabinet Minister, was checking the expenditure of the Service Departments. (The cost of shells, we were told to-day by Dr. ADDISON, has been brought down to a figure which means an economy of L400,000 a week on our future production.)
But Mr. LAMBERT would have none of it. Speaking with all the authority of his long official experience he laid down the dictum that one Cabinet Minister could not supervise another. Next he attacked the new Order in Council, which makes the Chief of the Staff responsible for the orders given to the Army, declaring that it reduced Lord KITCHENER to the level of a civilian; and finally he denounced the Government for not making more use of Lord FISHER. Under the stress of these terrific blows the Government ought to have reeled, if it did not fall. But nothing happened, except that the Votes on Account for four hundred and twenty millions were by half-past seven duly passed.
In the Lords meanwhile the Government was sustaining a heavier attack, arising out of their failure to stop all supplies from reaching Germany. Lord SYDENHAM attributed it to the Declaration of London, which had crippled the Navy; Lord BERESFORD thought it was the result of trying to run a war with a Cabinet that included twenty-one amateurs. Lord LANSDOWNE, a master of the quip modest, thereupon stated the Government's intention to add a twenty-second to the twenty-one by appointing a Minister of Blockade.
Wednesday, February 23rd.—At Question-time, Mr. ASQUITH announced that the new Minister was Lord ROBERT CECIL. It is close upon fifty years since another Lord ROBERT CECIL (who had just become Lord CRANBORNE) entered the Cabinet of Lord DERBY.
In consequence of the recent decision that no Member shall in future receive two salaries it had been rumoured that Parliamentary salaries would be abolished altogether. There were signs of heartfelt relief from various quarters of the House when the PREMIER met the suggestion with an uncompromising "No."
Captain J. S. RANKINE, the khaki-clad giant who took his seat for East Toxteth to-day, had a warm reception, all the more grateful in view of the blizzard that raged without. The temperature of the House fell rapidly, however, when Mr. SNOWDEN proceeded to outline his views on the subject of peace. In vain he attempted to show that there was a considerable party in Germany ready to come to terms if only they knew what our terms were. Members listened in chilly silence. They thawed into laughter when the Hon. Member with some lack of humour quoted the German CHANCELLOR'S declaration, "We do not threaten small nations;" and they cheered when he quoted, with intent to condemn, Lord ROSEBERY'S statement that Germany must be utterly crushed. Nor was the House more impressed by Mr. TREVELYAN'S proposal that as there might be a peace-party in Germany it was our duty to "state our full terms and find out."
The PRIME MINISTER'S reply was, I fear, very painful to the pacificists. The German CHANCELLOR'S statement he found to be one of "colossal and shameless audacity." German Socialists might prate of peace, but only twenty out of five times that number in the Reichstag had the courage to vote against the War Credit. Our terms were already on record in the speech which he made at the LORD MAYOR'S Banquet in 1914. Until Belgium—"and I will add Serbia"—has been fully reinstated, until France is secured against aggression, until the smaller nationalities are safeguarded, until the military domination of Prussia is destroyed, "not until then shall we or any of our gallant Allies abate by one jot our prosecution of this War." The cheers that greeted this declaration lasted almost as long as the speech itself. In the ensuing debate Mr. PONSONBY, Sir W. BYLES, and one or two others emitted what Mr. STANTON picturesquely described as "the croakings and bleatings of the fatted lambs who had besmirched their own country." But they created no effect. Mr. SNOWDEN's early peace had been nipped by the frost.
Thursday, February 24th.—In both Houses the administration of the Military Service Act was again the subject of criticism. From the explanations given by Lord NEWTON and Mr. TENNANT it appears that most of the complaints against the recruiting officers for over-pressure have come from men who were applying for armlets, not for exemption. As Lord NEWTON put it, a man, if he wants to obtain an armlet, must run the risk of being taken for some kind of service. Mr. TENNANT reminded some of his critics, not superfluously, that the object of this Act was to get men to serve.
Lord DERBY, fresh from his triumph as Director of Recruiting, is to act as Chairman of the new Joint Committee which will supervise and co-ordinate naval and military aviation. For him, as for that other Ariel, "there's more work." The same is now true of Colonel LOCKWOOD who, since the opening of the Session, has been in a condition of suspended animation. The Kitchen Committee, in the opinion of many Members the most important of all the Committees, had not been set up, and consequently could not elect a Chairman. How Members have lived through more than a week without any visible means of securing subsistence it is not for me to reveal. Suffice it to say that no case of absolute starvation has come to my notice. To-day all is well. The Kitchen Committee is again in being, and "Uncle Mark" has once more been appointed Minister of the Interior (unpaid, except by the gratitude and affection of his fellow-Members). Fresh responsibilities have now been thrust upon him. This afternoon it fell to him, as temporary Leader of the Opposition, to ask the customary question as to next week's business. Having heard the PRIME MINISTER'S reply, he sat for a few moments as if lost in thought, calculating, no doubt, by a rapid process of mental arithmetic what the Consolidated Fund Bill, Supplementary Estimates and the Civil Service Vote would amount to in terms of dinners, teas and other light refreshments.
* * * * *
* * * * *
On a bookseller's stall in Liverpool:—
"The English Nation. A really cheap lot."
We find them most expensive to keep up.
* * * * *
* * * * *
ON THE SPY-TRAIL.
Jimmy says his bloodhound is always very glad to get loose after being tied up all night, and it's because HARVEY discovered the circulation of the blood. Jimmy says Faithful doesn't know he has got the circulation of the blood, but he always has a little run round when he gets free. It only takes him about five minutes to do his round, and an hour and a-half afterwards you would never believe he had been round at all, things are so quiet again.
Jimmy says the man next door told him he didn't mind so much about the circulation of the blood as the circulation of the bloodhound. Jimmy says it's because his chickens all begin shouting Hooray! as soon as Faithful starts, and they get up trees to watch him instead of being busy laying eggs at twopence each. Faithful doesn't want them to go up trees, Jimmy says, and tries to make them come down, but they won't—not on any account—and he has to leave them for other things that require his attention.
Jimmy says there's a charwoman in one of the houses on Faithful's beat, and sometimes you can hear her trying to char him, and then lots of things come out through the front door, with Faithful in the middle of them. Sometimes you don't know which is Faithful and which is a scrubbing-brush, and it's because of the revolution. Jimmy says if Faithful notices that anything wants doing on his way round he always tries to do it, even though nobody knew that it wanted doing. Faithful got a sparrow out of a greenhouse like that, Jimmy says. It was a cheeky sparrow and kept flying about at Faithful and hiding behind the pots on the stage. Jimmy says bloodhounds don't stand any nonsense of that sort, and the sparrow ought to have known it. But it kept looking round flower-pots at Faithful and chirruping at him sideways, and didn't realise that its life hung by a thread.
Jimmy says the best of well-trained bloodhounds is that they never get flurried; they go about their work systematically. The sparrow didn't seem to know that, Jimmy says, and when Faithful got on the stage and began clearing the decks for action it actually had the face to go and pick up a worm that came out of one of the pots that fell on the ground. Jimmy says whenever a pot rolled off the stage Faithful always looked over the edge to see if it had arrived safely. He is always careful like that.
Jimmy says the sparrow only escaped by the skin of its teeth, because just as Faithful had got everything out of the way and was going to set to work in earnest, the sparrow flew out and went and sat up in a tree chirruping like anything. Faithful was absolutely disgusted with it, Jimmy says.
Jimmy took his bloodhound out to the Hill Farm one morning. The farmer was very glad to see Faithful again, Jimmy says; he told Jimmy that they were going to cut corn and there would be a main of rabbits in them for sure. Jimmy says bloodhounds have to turn their hands to anything these days, even catching rabbits. Faithful didn't seem to mind, Jimmy says, but it seemed very curious to hear the deep baying of a bloodhound in a peaceful cornfield. Jimmy says it made the men stop work and look at each other, and the man who was driving the reaping-machine got down to see where it wanted oiling. You see he hadn't heard a bloodhound before.
There was another dog there, Jimmy says, in case the rabbits came out too quickly for Faithful to catch them all. The first rabbit that came out didn't have any chance, Jimmy says. It bolted out as hard as it could, and there was a splendid race between the rabbit and Faithful. You see the rabbit was making for a burrow in the hedge, but old Faithful got there first and tried to get his head down it, to cut off the rabbit's retreat. Jimmy says the rabbit was nonplussed, and the other dog caught it easily. It is beautiful to see two dogs work together like that, Jimmy says.
Jimmy says Faithful didn't require the help of the other dog with the next rabbit that came his way, but the other dog was very impulsive. You see Faithful was lying down with his mouth open trying to look like a rabbit hole, and he did it so well that the rabbit came straight at him. Jimmy says Faithful swerved about ten yards to one side in order to hurl himself bodily at the rabbit, and he would have done it if the other dog hadn't poked his nose in.
Jimmy says the other dog killed the rabbit, but Faithful went up and smelt at it like anything. Faithful is a splendid smeller, Jimmy says. He can retrieve rabbits almost as well as he can catch them.
The farmer was surprised to see how quickly Faithful got off the mark at the sound of the gun. You see the farmer was standing close by Faithful and he had no sooner shot at a rabbit than away went Faithful right across two fields, retrieving as hard as he could. Jimmy had to fetch him back from doing it.
Jimmy says it was a new experience for the men to have a trained bloodhound in the harvest field, and they could talk of nothing else whilst they were having their dinners. You see two of the men had mislaid their dinners somehow, and every time they looked at Faithful they kept wondering. One man said his dinner was in a pudding-basin, and he looked everywhere. Faithful did his best to help him, Jimmy says, and kept just two yards ahead of him, twisting in and out.
The man noticed something was the matter with Faithful and advised Jimmy to have his neck wrung: he offered to do it himself.
Jimmy says the man seemed very suspicious because Faithful looked so T.B. (you know: Totally Bulged); but Jimmy took up Faithful and shook him for the man to hear, and there wasn't any sound of broken crockery at all.
The other man who had lost his dinner didn't bother to look for it; he was busy cutting a stick out of the hedge, and when he had done it he borrowed a piece of bacon from another man to present to Faithful. Jimmy says you do it by saying, "Dear little doggie," in a husky voice. Jimmy says bloodhounds don't like husky voices, they get on their nerves. So Faithful refused the bacon as hard as he could.
Jimmy says he knew Faithful would follow him, and sure enough, when he had got a mile on his way home, there was Faithful waiting for him, holding the pudding-basin in his mouth by the cloth.
Jimmy says when he got home there was quite a crowd round the house where Faithful had removed the greenhouse from off the sparrow. A policeman told Jimmy all about it. It appeared, so the policeman said, that some person or persons unknown had got to know that the people in the house were harbouring a German governess and had smashed up the greenhouse in revenge. The greenhouse looked as if it had been struck by a bomb, the policeman said, and when the people saw it they knew their secret was out and went and confessed to the police. The policeman told Jimmy that they had just taken the German governess away to the police-station.
Jimmy says that when he got home he sat down and looked at Faithful for half-an-hour—just looked at him. To think that Faithful had been on the Spy Trail all the time and Jimmy never knew it!
* * * * *
An Incisive Beginning.
"Mr. Gordon Hewart, opening the president of the London Chamber of Commerce ..."
* * * * *
The Hebdomadal Council of Oxford University have suspended for six months the filling of the Professorship of Modern Greek, the view apparently being that there is no one about just now who understands the modern Greek.
* * * * *
* * * * *
"The Rivista Marittima publishes details of a new German ironclad, which is claimed to be totally unsinkable.... It is said to be a Dreadnought-cruiser, fitted with triple skins of armour, stuffed with non-resisting material."—Times.
It sounds like one of our conscientious objectors.
* * * * *
"The albatross—its docility was charming—soon occupied a splendid isolation on the tarpaulined covered hatchway platform.... I shall in future read Keats' 'Ancient Mariner' with an accentuated interest."
COLERIDGE'S "Ode to a Nightingale" was rejected as dealing with the wrong bird.
* * * * *
"Young Lady-Attendant for Allies' Rifle Range, to replace one getting married; the 3rd in 12 months doing the same; good remuneration, and comfortable job."—Glasgow Citizen.
Bow and arrow or .303, Cupid's markmanship remains unerring.
* * * * *
"The Man who dined at Krupp's and worked with the Kaiser."
Morning Paper Heading.
The menu at KRUPP'S is not given, but was probably some form of pig.
* * * * *
Another Impending Apology.
"SCOTCH NURSES IN SERBIA.
GERMAN DOCTOR'S IMPRESSIONS.
* * * * *
From a notice of a recent novel:—
"The present reviewer's pen cleaves to the roof of his mouth when he tries to describe it."—Evening Standard.
That should teach him to get rid of the nasty habit of sucking the nib.
* * * * *
* * * * *
(By Mr. Punch's Staff of Learned Clerks.)
I think I never read a story that impressed me as more untimely than this to which Mr. IVOR BROWN has given the title of Security (SECKER). It is about an Oxford Don, one John Grant, who became, as others have become, irked by the placid routine of Senior Common-Room existence, and yearned for adventure. So he came to London, and got his first dose of it as a labour-agitator and backer of strikes. I suppose that the atmosphere of labour-agitating and strike-backing is skilfully conveyed (that of Oxford donship undoubtedly is), but I can't tell you how antique it all seems. These scornful quotations from an imaginary Capitalist press and the fierce denial that industrial strife was ever assisted by foreign agencies—it all sounds like a voice from ancient history. One rubs one's ears at it. Eventually militant Socialism wearies John as much as academic torpor had done, and to escape from both he marries a wife. More atmosphere, this time of a dreary little seaside town and its so-called society. But John fares no better here; and at last, on his return from a walking holiday, he finds that Mrs. John, unable to put up with him any longer, is putting up without him at a London hotel in company with Another. That seems a situation insecure enough to satisfy the most exacting. But even from this nothing results, and husband and wife drift together again. I like to think that nowadays, what with Zeps and other things, poor old John may grow really contented. Meanwhile, clever as it is, the tale seems oddly anaemic and unreal. It is like those tragically trivial journals of 1914 that still survive in the dusty waiting-rooms of dentists. I don't suggest that Mr. BROWN, whose previous book I much admired, should write about the War; but I could wish him a little more in tune with the spirit it has produced.
* * * * *
Faith Tresilion (WARD, LOCK) is a book of brave and of some diabolical deeds, but as Mr. EDEN PHILLPOTTS sees to it that his murderers and wreckers get their due he leaves me with the hopeful feeling that what happened to super-criminals a hundred years or so ago will also be their fate in this year of grace. Faith is the type of heroine with whom readers of this amazingly industrious author are familiar—a fearless girl who does a man's work without for a moment becoming unsexed. She was in a difficult position enough, for her brother was a smuggler and she was in love, head to heels, with the local gangster. There are other complications, but this is the chief one, and it is worked out in Mr. Phillpotts' best West-country manner. I accept Faith and salute her, but it is before her mother that I completely bow the knee. Mrs. Tresilion was paralysed up to her waist, which was just as well, for if her activities had not been limited she would have swamped the whole book. As it was she lay in bed, drank gin, directed various operations with her eye fixed rather upon this world than the next, and told her visitors precisely what she thought of them. I am thankful not to have met this devastating lady in the flesh, because to be called "a hookery-snidy, trundle-trailed king-crab," and then told to kiss her, would have been more than I could bear.
* * * * *
I feel that Miss CONSTANCE HOLME will be the first to agree with me on reflection that as a beginning of a chapter in The Old Road from Spain (MILLS) the following will not do: "The long bright day idled interminably to its tryst with night. Luis ate his lonely meals in the silent room," etc. It illustrates a defect of her rather over-intense method. She would readily forgive me this stricture if she could know the eagerness with which I read her picturesque pages to find out exactly what was the matter with the Huddlestons of Thorn. From a Spanish ancestor, who had been wrecked with the Armada, they had inherited a CURSE. It was a very original curse, and I dare not deprive you of the pleasure of finding out what it was for yourself. Miss HOLME puts in her background of mystery with skilful touches and handles her characterisation with a good deal more subtlety than your mere mystery-monger can command. She observes both men and things with affection, writes of them with imagination. Rowly Huddleston, the committee-ridden squire of Thorn, looks like a careful portrait from life, and probably somebody also sat for that faithful soul, Crane, the butler. A book to be commended. Its defects are the defects of exuberance, the sort one only begins to notice after one has said, "Hello! this is pretty good!"
* * * * *
The Greater Glory (HODDER AND STOUGHTON) is a collection of very short sketches concerned with the War. They are a little unequal, some being better than others, and others (naturally) being worse than some. They all reveal their author, Miss EVELYN ORCHARD, as possessed of a pleasantly unforced style, and perhaps rather more ease than imagination. One of them, my own favourite, the story of a parson who enlisted, is conspicuous as containing so admirable a recruiting speech that I can only hope it is transcribed from life. Having said so much, perhaps I may be forgiven by Miss ORCHARD if I add that I would rather have read her up upon some lighter theme. Her tuneful pipe contains some very pleasant notes, both of sentiment and humour, but is altogether too thin for variations upon so tremendous a motive as she has chosen. I express, of course, only my personal feeling; but I am certain that unless a book can rise to the magnitude of the War it had best leave it alone. Still it may well be that others will find interest, and even consolation, in these little papers. They have at least the charm of simplicity, and are obviously the products of a gentle and sympathetic nature. Thus, Miss ORCHARD can still see the pathos of the German private. Well, well.
* * * * *
* * * * *
A PIOUS HOPE.
[Suggested by an interview between M. SAZONOFF and Mr. HAROLD BEGBIE in The Daily Chronicle.]
The Russian statesman, HAROLD BEGBIE thinks, Is a good egg and not a subtle Sphinx; Some day perhaps he will a better egg be And tell us frankly what he thought of BEGBIE.