PUNCH, OR THE LONDON CHARIVARI
APRIL 7, 1920
"Do the British people," asks Mr. BLATCHFORD, "understand the nature of the monster modern military science has created?" We hope to hear later what name Mr. WINSTON CHURCHILL has found for Mr. BLATCHFORD.
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Agitation for a Federal Divorce Law is being revived in the United States. It appears that there are still some backward States where the expenses of a divorce suit mount up to something like ten dollars and the parties often have to wait as long as three weeks before the knot is untied.
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"It has now been decided definitely," says The Daily Express, "that Sir AUCKLAND GEDDES will leave England on April 10th." This disposes finally of the rumour that he intended taking it with him.
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The natives of the Andaman Islands average about seventy pounds each in weight. They are so short in stature that their feet only just reach the ground in time.
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M. LOUCHEUR suggests that France should build houses similar to those which are not being built in England.
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"Sergeant R. Pernotte," says a student of human endeavour, "last week punched a ball for fifty hours without a break." It is presumed that the ball must have done something to annoy him.
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Thirty thousand years ago, says a weekly journal, the seas around England were at a higher level than at present. It is difficult to know what can be done about it, but it is just as well that the matter should be mentioned.
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According to Mr. M. T. SIMM, M.P., there are many wayside inns of a passable nature. The trouble, of course, is that so many people have a difficulty in passing them.
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We understand that Mr. Justice ——'s question, "Who is Mr. LLOYD GEORGE?" has been postponed to a date to be fixed later.
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A trade journal advertises a new calculating machine which will total up stupendous figures without any human help at all. A correspondent writes to say that in his house he has the identical gas meter which gave the inventor his idea.
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The contemporary which refers to the discovery of a gold ring inside a cod-fish as extraordinary evidently cannot be aware that many profiteers who go in for fishing are nowadays using such articles as bait.
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A purse containing nearly a hundred pounds in treasury notes, picked up by a policeman in South Wales, has not yet been claimed. It is now thought probable that a local miner may have dropped his week's wages whilst entering his car and that his secretary has not yet called his attention to the deficit.
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"The way some newsboys dodge in and out of the moving traffic is most dangerous and a serious accident is sure to result before very long," complains a writer in an evening paper. For ourselves we cannot but admire this attempt on the boys' part to make history while in the act of selling it.
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We learn from an evening paper that a large woollen warehouse in London was completely destroyed by fire the other day. We cannot understand why some people use such inflammable material for building purposes.
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An old pleasure-boat proprietor at Yarmouth has stated in an interview that, although all his skiffs and dinghies are ten to fifteen years old, they are much more trustworthy than those being built at the present time. We await, fearfully, the comments of Lord FISHER.
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Dutch wasps, says a news item, are very much like British. Only the finished expert can tell the difference on being stung.
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It is said that the Dutch are the most religious race of to-day. Of course it is well known that the Chinese pray more than the Dutch, but then nobody understands what they are saying.
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The Ascot Fire Brigade went on strike last week and several important fires had to be postponed at the last moment.
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The Bolsheviks, it appears, may not, after all, be as black as they are painted. It is reported that TROTSKY has caused one of his Chinese guards to be executed for calling another an Irishman.
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Senator BORAH recently informed the American Press that the Presidential election campaign was becoming a Saturnalia of public corruption. In one flagrant case it appears that a man who was given the money to buy ten dollars' worth of Irish Republic went and bought a box of cigars instead.
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"To keep cats off the seed beds," says Home Chat, "bury a small bottle up to the neck and fill it with liquid ammonia." The old practice of burying the cat up to the neck in the seed bedding and keeping the ammonia for subsequent use is considered obsolete.
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During the past year in London 2,886 persons were knocked down by horsed vehicles, as compared with 8,388 who were knocked down by motor vehicles. The popularity of the latter, it seems, is still unchallenged.
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A weekly paper has an article on "Bad Manners Among Fish." We have ourselves noticed a tendency to ignore the old adage that fish, like little children, should be seen and not heard.
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"Young lady requires daily work as Cook-general; work not objected to."
Very obliging of her.
* * * * *
The dear old home has been let to strangers. An interloper occupies the messuage. A foreign master controls the demesne.
To-day especially, when as I write the air is balmy and the skies are blue, it is agonising to feel that our own spring rhubarb is growing crimson only to be toyed with by alien lips, and that the thrush on our pear-tree bough——But no, I am wrong; the pear-tree bough is in the garden of No. 9; it is only the trunk that stands in the garden of No. 10. That, by the way, is an accident that frequently occurs to estate-owners. Consider critically for a moment those well-known lines in which BROWNING says—
"Hark where my blossom'd pear-tree in the hedge Leans to the field,"
and then goes on to speak of "the wise thrush" on "the bent spray's edge" as "singing his song twice over." It is pretty obvious that the reason the poet assigns to this action on the bird's part is not the correct one. Evidently the part of the tree on which it was sitting was on the other side of the hedge in the next-door fellow's garden, and it was conscientiously trying to allot one performance to each of the two rival householders. But I seem to have wandered a little from the ancient home.
Come with me in imagination, reader, and let us have a look at it together. The fourth house to the left in this winding road that fringes the common, you see it standing there gazing a little wistfully, yet with a quiet air of semi-detachment, out over the wide expanse of green. Half right and half left are two monstrous blocks of red brick flats overlooking it with a thousand envious eyes. The middle distance is dotted pleasantly with hawthorn bushes and the pretty pieces of sandwich-paper that are always the harbingers of London's Spring. Beyond these things, and far away to the front, you may detect on clear days a white church-tower nestling like Swiss milk amongst immemorial trees. And this view is mine—mine, like the old home. If we linger for a moment in the road we shall probably see the scornful face of the proud usurper at one of the windows calmly enjoying this view of mine, all unconscious that I, the rightful owner, am standing beneath. Does it not remind you of the films?—
"Charles Carruthers, an outcast from his ancestral halls, eyes mournfully the scene of merry junketing within. Charles Carruthers—blick! blick!"—and you see him eyeing mournfully outside—"blick! blick!"—and you see the junketers eating his junket within.
On looking back in a calmer mood on the lines which I have just written, I feel it possible that I may have let my emotions run away with me and conveyed a slightly false impression. I may have suggested that the old home has belonged to my family since Domesday Book or dear-knows-when or some other historic date in our island story. That would not be strictly true. As a matter of fact I have never lived in the house, nor have any of my relations either. It has belonged to me, to be quite accurate, since March 25th, 1920, and the interloper was interloping on a short lease when I bought the long lease over his head. It is also true that by an awkward and absurd convention I have to restore the old home to the ground landlord in 1941. But who cares about what is going to happen in 1941? The Coalition may have come to an end by that time, and the first Labour Government, under Lord NORTHCLIFFE or Mr. JACK JONES, may be in power. Some bricklayer, in a mood of artistic frenzy, may have designed the plan of a new brick and had it passed by the Ministry of Housing. DEMPSEY may have met CARPENTIER.
No, the trouble is about the interloper. It appears that, having the remainder of a lease to run, he can go on anteloping (you know what I mean) for two years more if he likes. To do him justice he admits that the place is mine and wants to leave it. He has no real love for the priceless old spot. All that he asks is somewhere better to go to. So I am gladly doing my best to help him. I send him notices of forty-roomed Tudor mansions, which seem to abound in the market, mansions with timbered parks, ornamental waters, Grecian temples, ha-has, gazebos, herds of graceful bounding gazebos, and immediate possession. I do more than this. I send him extravagant eulogies of lands across the seas, where the grapes grow larger, the pear-trees blossom all the year round and separate thrushes laid on to each estate never cease to sing. I suggest the advantages of the mercantile marine and a life on the rolling main, of big game shooting, polar exploration, and the residential attractions of Constantinople, Berlin, Dublin and Vladivostok.
Concurrently with this I try hard to cultivate in him a certain distaste for the dear old home. I walk up and down the road in front of it with a pair of field-glasses, and, if I see that a little chip has fallen off anywhere or the paint on the gate has been scratched, I call on him at once.
"I happened to be passing the demesne," I say, "when I noticed a rather serious item of dilapidation," or "A word with you about the messuage; it looks a trifle off colour to-day. Have you had it blistered lately?" And this worries him a good deal, because he is responsible for all repairs.
I do not fail to point out to my friends, either, that this is my well-known family seat, and I persuade them from time to time to go and ask for me at the door. "What, isn't he living here yet?" I get them to say, with a well-feigned surprise. "It is his house, isn't it?" I frequently have letters addressed to myself sent there, and every morning and afternoon the nurse takes the children past it for a walk. The children are well drilled.
"Look, Priscilla, that's our garden," says Richard in a high penetrating treble; and
"There's a darlin' little buttercup. I want to go in," Priscilla replies.
All this quiet steady pressure is bound to have its due effect in time. Gradually I think he will begin to feel that a shadow haunts the ancestral halls (the front one, you know, and the back passage), that a footstep not his own treads behind him on the stair, that the dear old home will never be happy until it is occupied by its rightful lord.
I shall send him a marked copy of this article.
* * * * *
VERS TRES LIBRE.
(Arabesque on a field of blue).
These are the things, or gorgeous or delicate, Imposing, intime, dazzling or repellent, That sing—better than music's self, Better than rhyme— The praise and liberty of blue: The turquoise and the peacock's neck, The blood of kings, the deeps Of Southern lakes, the sky That bends over the Azores, The language of the links, the eyes Of fair-haired angels, the Policeman's helmet and the backs Of books issued by the Government, Also the Bird of Happiness (MAETERLINCK) And many other things such as The Varsity colours, various kinds Of pottery and limelight, Some things by SWINBURNE, BURNS and EZRA POUND, The speedwell in the glade, and, oh! The little cubes they put in wash-tubs.
These are the things, or gorgeous or delicate, And so on down to "liberty of blue."
* * * * *
* * * * *
* * * * *
TOOLS OF TRADE.
I am sorry for the man who took his typewriter on the Underground and was made to buy a bicycle-ticket for it. But I have no doubt he deserved it. I am sure that he did it in spiritual pride. He was trying to make himself equal to the manual labourer who carries large bags of tools on the Tube and sighs heavily as he lays them on your foot. I am sure that he was tired of being scornfully regarded by manual labourers, and was determined to make it quite clear that he too had done, or was about to do, a day's labour, and manual labour at that. It was a sinful motive and it deserved to be punished; but it was natural. Nowadays we all feel like that. We caught it from the War, when the great thing was to show that you were doing more work than anybody else.
I take from a recent copy of Hansard the following brisk and delicate piece of dialogue:—
"Mr. MACQUISTEN: You Labour men have forgotten what sweat is.
Mr. W. THORNE: I have never seen many lawyers sweat, anyhow.
Mr. SPEAKER: This discussion is becoming intemperate.
AN HON. MEMBER: The Hon. Member for Springburn never sweated in his life.
Mr. MACQUISTEN: Yes, I have laboured in the docks."
That is it, you see. Sweating is the great criterion of usefulness to-day. If you cannot show that you have sweated in the past, you must at least show that you are sweating now, or have every intention of sweating in a moment or two. Personally, as a private secretary, I find it very difficult, though I do my best. As a private secretary I labour in a rich house in the notoriously idle neighbourhood of South Kensington, where nobody would believe that anybody laboured, much less perspired over it. So when I pass, on the way to my rich house, a builder's labourer or a milkman or a dustman, I have to exhibit as clearly as I can all the signs of a harsh employment and industrial fatigue. I take great pains about this; I walk much faster; I frown heavily and I look as pale as possible. In the Tube I close my eyes. I hope all this is effective, but as far as I can see the milkman never looks at me, and the builder is always saying to another builder, "'E says to me, 'Wot abaht it?' 'e says, and I says to 'im, 'Yus, wot abaht it?' I says." But it is worth the effort.
Well, that is why that poor man was carrying a typewriter. I wonder why everybody else in the Tube carries an "attache-case." It has been calculated that if all the attache-cases which get on to the train at Hammersmith at 9 A.M. were left on the platform, six men or twelve women or three horses could take their place in every car. That means about ninety more men or one-hundred-and-eighty more women or forty-five more horses could leave Hammersmith between 9 A.M. and 9.30. So that if attache-cases were forbidden the traffic problem would be practically solved.
Why shouldn't they be forbidden? It depends, of course, on what is inside the cases; and nobody knows that for certain. But one can guess. I have been guessing for a long time. At first I thought they were full of very confidential papers. In the old days the attache-case was the peculiar trademark of private secretaries and diplomats and high-up people like that. Even attaches carried them sometimes. The very lowest a man with an attache-case could be was a First-Class Civil Servant; and one was justified in imagining confidential papers inside, or, at any rate, home-work of the first importance. But nowadays there are too many of them for that. The attache-case has been degraded; it is universal. This might be because there is practically no male person alive just now who has not been an adjutant at one time or another, and pinched at least one attache-case from the orderly-room. But most of the cases in the Tube are carried by females, so that theory is no good.
Well, then, I imagined sandwiches or knitting or powder-puffs or tea; but those also are rotten hypotheses. I have too much faith in the good sense of my fellow-countrywomen to believe that they would cart a horrible thing like a cheap attache-case about simply in order to convey a sandwich or a powder-puff from one end of London to the other. So I had to fall back on my own experience.
I know, at any rate, what is inside mine. There are some rather grubby envelopes which I borrowed from the House of Commons, and some very grubby blotting-paper from the same source, and either a ream of foolscap or a quire of foolscap, whichever is which; some pipe-cleaners and a few pieces of milk-chocolate; and a letter from the Amalgamated Association of Fish-Friers which ought to have been answered a long time ago; and a memorandum on Hog-Importing which I am always going to read while waiting at the station; and a nice piece of thick string with which I have tied a bowline on a bight; and two broken pencils and some more envelopes; and a Parliamentary Whip of last year and a stationery bill of the year before; and several bills of my employer, not to mention a cheque for ninety-seven pounds which I suppose he would like me to send to the bank; and a great deal of fluff and a pipe or two and four or five stamped letters which it is now too late to post. That is all there is in my case.
But I carry it backwards and forwards, in and out, to and fro, day after day; and the only time it is ever opened at either end of the journey is when, in addition to the articles previously mentioned, it contains bottles. But I do not carry it for the sake of bottles; far from it. I am one of those men who do not mind going about with a comparatively naked bottle. I carry it simply because it is the tool of my trade, and because, if you don't carry a tool of some kind on the Underground, at any moment you may be taken for an idle rich, if not actually a parasite, who never sweated in his life.
And that, I am persuaded, is why everybody else carries theirs.
But this is a very serious conclusion. It will be a terrible thing if everyone is going to carry the tools of his trade about with him to show that he has a trade; the barrister his briefs, the doctor his stethoscope or his shiny black bag; the butcher his chopper; the dentist—but no, we cannot have that. There must be other ways. We might wear badges, as we did in the War, only they would be office badges and trade badges, instead of regimental badges or discharged badges. Then we should have again the dear old war-game of trying to read what was on them without being rude. That is what one really misses in public places in these days of Peace—that and the uniforms.
It was easy to make conversation in a restaurant in the old days, when people kept on coming in in curious uniforms, and the ladies wondered what they were and the men pretended they knew all about them. But all that is dead now, and I think these sweat-badges would supply a serious want.
But what will the author wear? And who will believe that he ever breaks into beads of perspiration at his labour?
A. P. H.
[Footnote 1: February 24th, col. 1638.]
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* * * * *
"CAN EUROPE BE SAVED?
By LOVAT FRASER."
We don't know; but there can be no harm in his trying.
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"Your Soil needs a tonic. Send 2s. 6d. for 40 lb. Ground Lime in a Government twill bag, worth half the money."—Local Paper.
"Antique Copper Fire-irons and Dogs, almost new."—Local Paper.
* * * * *
THE PACKET RAT.
"When I leave this Western Ocean, to the South'ard I will steer, In a tall Colonial clipper far an' far enough from here, Down the Channel on a bowline, through the Tropics runnin' free, When I'm done with this 'ere ocean ... an' when it's done with me.
"An' I'll run my ship in Sydney, an' then I'll work my way To them smilin' South Seas Islands where there's sunshine all the day, An' I'll sell my chest an' gear there as soon's I hit the shore, An' sling my last discharge away, an' go to sea no more.
"It's a pleasant time they have there—they've easy quiet lives; They wear no clothes to speak on; they've a bunch of browny wives; They're bathin' all the day long or baskin' on the sand, With the jolly brown Kanakas as naked as your hand.
"An' I'll lay there in the palm-shade, an' take my ease all day, An' look across the harbour at the shippin' in the bay, An' watch the workin' sailormen—the bloomin' same as me In the workin' Western Ocean afore I left the sea.
"I'll hear them at the capstan, a-heavin' good an' hard; I'll hear them tallyin' on the fall or sweatin' up the yard; Hear them lift a halliard shanty, hear the bosun swear and shout, An' the thrashin' o' the headsheets as the vessel goes about.
"An', if the fancy takes me, as it's like enough it may, For to smell the old ship-smells again an' taste the salt an' spray, I can take a spell o' pearlin' or a tradin' cruise or two Where there's none but golden weather an' a sky that's always blue.
"But I'll do no sailorisin' jobs—I'll walk or lay at ease, Like a blessed packet-captain, just as lordly as you please, With a steward for my table an' a boy to bring my beer, An' a score or so Kanakas for to reef an' haul an' steer.
"An' when I'm tired o' cruisin', up an' down an' here an' there, There'll be kind Kanaka women wi' the red flowers in their hair All a-waiting for to meet me there a-comin' in from sea, When I'm through with this here ocean ... an' that'll never be!
"For I'd hear the parrots screamin' an' the palm-trees' drowsy tune, But I'd want the Banks in winter an' the smell of ice in June, An' the hard-case mates a-bawlin', an' the strikin' o' the bell ... God! I've cursed it oft an' cruel ... but I'd miss it all like Hell.
"Yes, I'd miss the Western Ocean where the packets come an' go, An' the grey gulls wheelin', callin', an' the grey sky hangin' low, An' the blessed lights o' Liverpool a-winkin' through the rain To welcome us poor packet-rats come back to port again.
"An' if I took an' died out there my soul'd never stay In them sunny Southern latitudes to wait the Judgment Day, For acrost the seas from England, oh, I'd hear the old life call, An' the bloomin' Western Ocean it'd get me after all.
"I'd go flyin' like a seagull, as they say old shellbacks do, For to see the ships I sailed in an' the shipmates that I knew, An' the tough old North Atlantic where the roarin' gales do blow, An' the Western Ocean packets all a-plyin' to an' fro.
"An' I'd leave the trades behind me an' I'd leave the Southern Cross, An' the mollymawks an' flyin'-fish an' stately albatross, An' I'd come through wind an' weather an' the fogs as white as wool, Till I sighted old Point Lynas an' the Port o' Liverpool.
"An' I'd fly to some flash packet when the hands was bendin' sail, An' I'd set up on the main-truck doin' out my wings an' tail, An' I'd see the tug alongside an' the Peter flyin' free, An' the pilot come aboard her for to take her out to sea.
"An' I'd follow down to Fastnet light, an' then I'd hang around There to watch 'em out to westward an' to meet the homeward bound, For I know it's easy talkin', an' I know when all is said It's the bloomin' Western Ocean what'll get me when I'm dead!"
C. F. S.
* * * * *
ETIQUETTE FOR FIRES.
It seems that Mr. A. R. DYER, the Chief Officer of the London Fire Brigade, has issued a booklet giving hints on fire protection and also how to call the Fire Brigade. We have pleasure in giving a few points which we are sure are not included in this interesting and useful publication.
* * * * *
Before sending for the Fire Brigade it is advisable to make quite sure that you have a fire in the house to offer them. But do not adopt the old plan of waiting until it reaches the second-floor. This is rather apt to discolour the wall-paper.
* * * * *
Above all the householder who intends to have a fire in his house must keep calm. Immediately the maid rushes into the room to say that the kitchen is on fire, place the book you are reading on the table, remove your slippers and put on a thick pair of heavy boots and a Harris tweed shooting coat. Your next duty is to call the Fire Brigade, and not to meddle with the fire yourself, for very often an amateur completely spoils a fire before the Brigade arrives.
* * * * *
When you see the Brigade engine dashing along the road don't stop it and offer to show the driver a short cut. And when they start work do not worry the firemen by telling them how to do it better. After all, while it may be your house, it is their fire.
* * * * *
"TO SEVERAL INTERESTED.—Our editor, Mr. —— is not an Englishman his name is a pseudonime.—English ortograhist. Our setters do not yet speak English at all, be assured that we will do sur best to escape the errata in the nearest future."
The World's Trade (Budapest).
We take their word for it but are not sanguine.
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* * * * *
It began with my reading an article on "How to be a Success at an Evening Party." I was rather surprised to know that, for one thing, some knowledge of Spiritualism is necessary to enable one to be a popular entertainer nowadays. It has never struck me before that spiritualists were such a genial class, full of bonhomie and great joy; but then, although I read the Sunday papers, I'm afraid I don't know enough about the subject.
Even if we haven't got the rollicking boisterous temperament of the born spiritualist, however, there are, it seems, other ways of winning a mild popularity. "If you confess to only a slight knowledge of palmistry," the article continued, "it is often enough to make you the centre of interest at once."
This appealed to me strongly. I like to be the centre of interest. So I bought a handbook on palmistry and, having absorbed it, set out for my next party full of confidence.
Surely enough, the first thing I saw on arrival was a dank-looking man holding forth on Spiritualism, and enjoying what I should call a chastened vogue with most of the company gathered about him.
I took up my position on the fringe of the group. "Talking of psychics, the occult and all that sort of thing," I remarked carelessly, "isn't cheiromancy an interesting study?"
"Nasty sort of study, I should call it," murmured one of the company, evidently under a vague impression that it had something to do with feet. My hostess looked up sharply. "Cheiromancy," she repeated; "can you read the hand?"
"Only a little," I confessed modestly. "Just enough to——"
I don't quite know how it happened. There was a sort of flank and rear movement and the entire company, excepting, of course, the dank spiritualist, precipitated itself on me. Voices clamoured for me to foretell destinies. Hands were thrust before me. They eddied, surged and swirled about me. I never saw such a massed quantity of hands. It was like leaving a Swiss hotel in the height of the season.
"One at a time, please," I said limply.
I seized a palm, followed it up, and found that it belonged to a pinched sour-looking female. Her character was stamped on her face as well as on her hand. If, however, I had said to her, "Yours is a flaccid repressed disposition you have a lack of imagination and a total absence of humour; your life is too narrow and self-centred to be of the least interest to anyone," she might not have liked it. You see, with even a slight knowledge of palmistry you soon find out when reading hands that it's no use telling people the truth. They want a version which I can only describe as "garbled."
Accordingly I bent over the repressed female's hand with an air of profundity and said, "There being a total absence of the mounts of Mercury and the Sun, a calm and even nature is indicated." (You're nearly always safe in saying this.) "Your sense of order and of the fitness of things would not allow you to see any fun in the joke of, say, pulling away a chair from anyone about to sit down. In fact you would not see a joke in anything—like that," I added hastily, and gave her hand back, feeling I had made the best of a bad job.
But she still lingered.
"Does it show if I shall——?" She paused in embarrassment.
"Get married?" I asked, knowing human nature better than palmistry.
She looked so fiercely eager, with such a vivid light of hope in her eye, that I decided to award her a husband on the spot.
"The Hepatica line, being allied to the line of Fate," I said impressively "signifies that you will marry—late in life."
The press around me at once grew terrific. All the girls said, "Tell me if I'm going to get married;" and all the men remarked, "Of course it's utter rubbish," and were more eager about it than the girls. I became reckless. I worked my way steadily through the crowd, doling out husbands with an unsparing hand. And it was just when I was beginning to feel a little tired of the game that my enemy was delivered into my hands.
We were not on visiting or even speaking terms; we were indeed the most implacable foes. But that did not prevent the woman from shamelessly thrusting herself before me and saying gushingly, "Do tell me what you see in my hand."
I looked at her, and before my searching glance even her brazen face fell. Six months previously that creature had stolen Wilkins, the best cook I ever had. Mere man may not understand the enormity of this offence; but every woman knows there is no crime more heinous, more despicable, more unforgivable. She might find it in her heart to condone larceny, think lightly of arson, or even excuse murder; but there is not one who would extend even a deathbed pardon to the person who had robbed her of a treasured servant.
And Wilkins had been a treasure indeed. It brought the tears to my eyes when I thought of her exquisite omelettes aux rognons, her salads, her poularde a la gelee, her wide diversity of knowledge regarding entrees and savouries. With a hard and bitter smile I settled down to interpret the hand of the woman before me.
The company gathered closer round us and I noticed that Mrs. B., the particular friend of my enemy, bent affectionately over her with truly feminine expectation of "revelations." And from under the scarf which my enemy wore about her arms and shoulders she seemed, I thought, to project her hand rather timidly. Perhaps she realised too late what was in store for her.
I was quite dignified about it; I want you to understand that. Many another, seeing that creature so plump and well-fed and knowing the reason, would have broken out into vituperation. But my tactics were more subtle. My manner, as I studied her palm, was at first nonchalant, even urbane. Then I gave a start and faltered, "I—I suppose you wish me to tell you the truth?"
A frightened look came into her eyes which, I noted with satisfaction, were beginning to show tinges of yellow (Wilkins' only fault is that in some of her dishes she is over-liberal with the salad oil and high seasonings). "Of course I want to know the truth," said my victim faintly.
With an apparent air of diffidence I began my recital. I did not spare her in the smallest degree. I ascribed to her all those sinister characteristics I had read about in the handbook; and, when I suddenly remembered a delicious vol-au-vent upon which I had doted, I added a few of my own.
It was a terrible indictment. When I had finished an awed silence fell upon the gathering. Everybody waited breathlessly for the victim to speak.
"That was most interesting," she said with a sinister laugh. "But perhaps you will read my palm now. You see, it was Mrs. B.'s that you have just read. She slipped her hand through under my scarf."
There was a burst of laughter from everybody. Idiotic kind of joke, I call it.
I can assure the writer of the Sunday articles that a knowledge of palmistry does not necessarily make one popular.
I am now wondering where you can buy hand-books on spiritualism.
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* * * * *
"It is proposed that the family man shall be dealt with on a flat rate. Every wife will confer exemption on L100 of income."—Spectator.
Surely our revered contemporary does not imply that the new Income Tax proposals will encourage polygamy.
* * * * *
* * * * *
THE LEAGUE OF NATIONS UNION.
AN APPEAL TO ALL MEN OF GOOD WILL.
The League of Nations Union is engaged in a campaign for the purpose of making the objects of the League of Nations better understood in the country at large. The chief danger that threatens the League is to be found in the apathy or unconsidered scepticism of the public; almost the sole active opposition comes from those who would substitute for it a proletarian Internationale devoted to the interests of one class only in the world, and from certain reactionaries who favour a return to the system of imperialism which was the cause of the War. In the words of HIS MAJESTY THE KING, "We fought to gain a lasting Peace and it is our supreme duty to take every measure to secure it. For that nothing is more essential than a strong and enduring League of Nations. The Covenant of Paris is a good foundation, well and truly laid. But it is and can be no more than a foundation. The nature and strength of the structure to be built upon it must depend on the earnestness and sincerity of popular support."
To those, if any, who contend that the Government should be left to carry out its own propaganda for the League of Nations the obvious answer is that it is necessary for this work to be done by an independent body which can bring public pressure to bear upon the Government of the day and urge such amendments in the machinery and constitution of the League as time and experience may show to be desirable. The Union, in fact, bears to the League of Nations the same relation that the Navy League bears to the Senior Service; it is an independent body organised to educate opinion in the needs of a national cause.
Since its inception in January of this year the activities of the League have covered a wide range, which embraces organisation for the administering of territory under its trusteeship, and for the consideration of international questions relating to transit, finance, labour and health. America's repudiation (only temporary, it may be hoped) of the pledges of her own President, the original and chief advocate of the League of Nations, has meanwhile thrown upon Great Britain the main burden of responsibility in the Councils of the League, a fact that constitutes an overwhelming claim upon the patriotism of British citizens. The duty of bringing this claim home to the public has been taken up by the League of Nations Union, under the Presidency of Lord GREY OF FALLODON. It has already established a headquarters and a staff of experts; organised hundreds of meetings throughout the country, and inaugurated nearly two hundred branches. It publishes two periodicals and many pamphlets and is preparing educational text-books; it is taking part in an international conference with similar voluntary societies in other countries.
Clearly such work cannot be carried on without generous support. The sum for which the League of Nations Union appeals—a million pounds—may sound large, but it represents only the cost of four hours of the War, and is not much to ask as an insurance against another and yet more terrible war.
Mr. Punch very earnestly begs his readers to send contributions in aid of this great and necessary work to the Hon. Treasurer of the Fund (Sir BRIEN COKAYNE, late Governor of the Bank of England), addressed to THE LEAGUE OF NATIONS UNION, 22, Buckingham Gate, S.W.
* * * * *
* * * * *
ESSENCE OF PARLIAMENT.
Monday, March 29th.—During a brief sitting the Lords got through a good deal of business. The Silver Coinage Bill awakened Lord CHAPLIN'S reminiscences of his bimetallic days, when he was accused by Sir WILLIAM HARCOURT of trying to stir up mutiny in India. Undeterred by this warning, however, the Peers gave a Second Reading to the measure and also to the Coal Mines Emergency Bill, which is less up-to-date than it sounds, and deals not with the present emergency but with the last emergency but one. They also passed the Importation of Plumage Bill, at the instance of Lord ABERDEEN, who pleaded that beautiful birds, "the result of myriads of years of evolution," should not be exterminated to make a British matron's picture-hat.
A few noble lords tore themselves away from these entrancing topics to attend the opening of the debate in the Commons on the Government of Ireland Bill. They were ill-rewarded for their pains, for never has a Home Rule debate produced fewer interesting moments. The CHIEF SECRETARY was so studiously restrained in explaining the merits of the Bill that the "yawning chasm" which, according to its opponents, the measure is going to create between Southern and Northern Ireland was to be observed in advance on the countenances of many of his listeners. Years ago Mr. BALFOUR told the Irish Nationalists that Great Britain was not to be bored into acceptance of Home Rule; but I am beginning to doubt now whether he was right. If the Government get the Bill through it will be due more to John Bull's weariness of the eternal Irish Question than to any enthusiastic belief in the merits of this particular scheme. Hardly anyone off the Treasury Bench had a good word to say for it, but fortunately for its chances their criticisms were often mutually destructive.
Mr. CLYNES moved its rejection. From his remark that Irish respect for the law was destroyed in 1913, and that the present Administration was regarded as "the most abominable form of government that had ever ruled in Ireland," I should gather that he has only recently begun his researches into Irish history and Irish character, and is working backwards. His prescription was to cease governing Ireland by force and leave her to frame her own constitution.
Lord ROBERT CECIL agreed with Mr. CLYNES in regarding it as a very bad Bill, but there parted company with him. In his view the deterioration of Ireland began in 1906, when the era of "firm government" came to an end. Drop coercion by all means, but "let the murderers begin." As for forcing self-government on a country that rejected it, that was nonsense.
As "a citizen of the world," and not merely an Irishman, Mr. T. P. O'CONNOR denounced the Bill urbi et orbi. Nobody in Ireland wanted it unless it was the place-hunters of the Bar and the Press, for whom it would provide rich pickings.
The House was brought back from rhetoric to plain fact by the CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER'S reminder that if the Bill were not passed the Home Rule Act of 1914 would come into force. He hoped that Southern Ireland would recover its sanity, accept the Bill and set itself to persuade Ulster into an All-Ireland Parliament via the golden bridge of the Irish Council.
Captain CRAIG could not imagine that happening in his lifetime. To his mind the only merit of the Bill was that it safeguarded Ulster against Dublin domination.
Tuesday, March 30th.—Someone—I suspect a midshipman—has been telling Mr. BROMFIELD that five British Admirals have been sent to Vienna to supervise the breaking up of the Austrian Fleet, and that the said Fleet now consists of three motor-boats. He was much relieved to hear from Mr. HARMSWORTH that only one Admiral had been sent, and that the disposal of a Dreadnought, several pre-Dreadnoughts and sundry smaller craft will give him plenty to do.
There appears to be a shortage of ice in Hull. It is supposed that the Member for the Central Division (Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY) has not cut so much as he expected.
The debate on the Home Rule Bill was resumed in a much higher temperature than that of yesterday. Mr. ASQUITH, as he thundered in carefully-polished phrases against the "cumbrous, costly, unworkable scheme," earned many cheers from his followers, and the even greater tribute of interruptions from his opponents. For a moment he was pulled up, when to his rhetorical question, "What has Home Rule meant to us?" some graceless Coalitionist promptly answered, "Votes!" but he soon got going again. Ireland, he declared, was a unit. The Bill gave her dualism "with a shadowy background of remote and potential unity." The vaunted Council was "a fleshless and bloodless skeleton." He remarked upon "the sombre acquiescence of the Ulstermen," and wondered why they had accepted the Bill at all. "Because we don't trust you," came the swift reply from Sir EDWARD CARSON.
Mr. ASQUITH'S own remedy for Irish unrest was to take the Act of 1914 and transform it into something like Dominion Home Rule. Any county—Ulster or Sinn Fein—that voted against coming under the Dublin Parliament should be left under the present administration.
Mr. BONAR LAW did not fail to point out the inconsistency of condemning the Government scheme for its complexity and then immediately proposing another which would involve not one but a dozen partitions and make the political map of Ireland look like a crazy quilt. He advised the House to reject Mr. ASQUITH'S advice and pass the Bill, even though it should have the paradoxical result, for the moment, of leaving Nationalist Ireland under British administration while providing Unionist Ulster with a Home Rule Parliament for which it has never asked.
I suppose Mr. DEVLIN is not like the Sinn Feiners, who, according to "T. P.," are so contemptuous of the Bill that they have never read a line of it. Parts of his speech, and particularly his peroration, seemed far more suitable to a Coercion Bill than to a measure which is designed, however imperfectly, to grant Home Rule to Ireland. The Nationalist leader may be forgiven a great deal, however, for his inimitable description of Lord ROBERT CECIL as "painfully struggling into the light with one foot in the Middle Ages."
Wednesday, March 31st.—The third and last Act of the Home Rule drama was the best. Nothing in the previous two days' debate—not even Mr. BONAR LAW'S ruthless analysis of the Paisley policy for Ireland—gripped the audience so intensely as Sir EDWARD CARSON'S explanation of the Ulster attitude. He declared that the Union had not failed in Ulster, and would not have failed anywhere if British politicians could have refrained from bidding for Irish votes. There was no alternative to it but complete separation, and that was what Home Rule would lead to. Ulster did not want the Bill, and would not vote for it; but, as the only alternative was the Act of 1914, she was prepared to accept it as a pis aller, and to work her new Parliament for all it was worth. At least it would enable her to find schools for the thirty thousand Belfast children now debarred from education. More than that, he was prepared to co-operate with any men from Southern Ireland who were willing to work their Parliament in a similar spirit; and he paid a personal tribute to Mr. DEVLIN, whose courage he admired though he detested his politics.
Thus there were gleams of hope even in his otherwise gloomy outlook, as the PRIME MINISTER gladly acknowledged in winding up the debate; and they probably had some influence in swelling the majority for the Bill, the figures being 348 for the Second Reading, 94 against.
* * * * *
* * * * *
For the tragedy of which I am about to tell I consider that Brenda Scott is entirely to blame. You shall judge.
There is a vacancy in my domestic staff, and the rush to fill it has been less enthusiastic than I could wish. My housewifely heart leapt, therefore, when, last Thursday morning, I espied coming up the drive one whom I classed at once as an applicant for the post of housemaid. Nor was I deceived. She gave the name of Eliza Smudge, and said she came from my friend, Mrs. Copplestone.
My suspicions were first aroused by her extraordinary solicitude for my comfort. "Outings" were entirely according to my convenience. And when she added that she liked to have plenty to do, and that she always rose by 6 A.M., I began to look at her closely.
She wore a thick veil, and her eyes were further obscured by large spectacles, but I could discern a wisp of rather artificial-looking hair drawn across her forehead. And she was smiling.
Now why was she smiling? I could certainly see nothing to smile at in rising at six o'clock every morning.
"I shall be free on 5th of April, ma'am," she was saying. "Let me see, to-day is the 1st of April——"
The 1st of April! It came to me then in a flash—in one of those moments of intuition of which even the mind of the harassed housewife occasionally is capable. It was Brenda Scott masquerading as a housemaid!
Our conversation of a fortnight earlier came back to me—Brenda's desire to disguise herself and apply to Lady Lupin for the post of kitchenmaid, her confidence in her ability to carry it off successfully, my ridicule of the possibility that she could pass unrecognised. So now, on the 1st of April, she was for proving me wrong.
The disguise was certainly masterly. Had it not been for that unaccountable smile, and the hair——
I did not lose my head. I continued to carry on the conversation on orthodox lines. Then I said, "Do you know Miss Brenda Scott, who lives near Mrs. Copplestone?"
"Oh, yes, I've known her since she was a little girl," was the answer. "Sweet young lady she is."
"Ye—es," I said. "A little too fond of practical jokes, perhaps."
The eyebrows went up almost to the artificial-looking hair, which I had now decided was horse-hair.
"Indeed," she said.
"Yes, my dear Brenda, it is your besetting sin. You should pray against it," I said bluntly.
She stood up with an opposing air of surprise and alarm. But I was not to be deceived.
"Your assumed name, Eliza Smudge," I said, "gave you away at the start. And that hair—it is the tail of your nephew's rocking-horse, isn't it? And——"
But she had fled from the room and was scudding down the drive, heedless of my cries of "Brenda, you idiot, come back!"
* * * * *
As I watched from the front-door I saw that "Eliza Smudge" had met another woman in the lane and had engaged her in conversation.
Then they parted, and the other woman came in at the gate and up the drive.
"My dear Elfrida," said a well-known voice, "what have you been up to? You seem to have thoroughly upset that nice woman who was with the Copplestones so long. She told me you were a very strange lady; in fact she thought you must be suffering from a nervous breakdown."
I leaned for support against the door-post, feeling a little faint.
"Brenda? You?" I gasped. "I thought——"
"Such a splendid maid she is," Brenda went on. "You'll never find her equal if you try for ten years."
* * * * *
* * * * *
Eccentric Behaviour of a Cuckoo.
"The summer-like weather which set in during the week-end has been marked by the arrival of the cuckoo, which was heard at Shanklin on Saturday and on Sunday morning at Staplers, bursting into full flower of plum and pear trees, and general activity in the gardens and fields."—Local Paper.
* * * * *
"He (Mr. Asquith) could only say 'O Sanctas Simplicitas.' (Laughter.)"
"I can only say: 'O sanctus simplicitus!'"
Neither version seems to us quite worthy of an ex-Craven Scholar.
* * * * *
AT THE PLAY.
As the final curtain fell on the Fourth Act there was talk of celebrating the conversion of the villain in a bottle of the best (1906). But this did not mean that the good wine of the play had been kept to the end. Indeed it had been practically exhausted about the middle of the Third Act, and the rest was barley-water, sweet but relatively insipid. So long as Mr. HENRY AINLEY was just allowed to sparkle, with beaded bubbles winking all round the brim of him, everything went well and more than well; the trouble began when the author, Mr. DOUGLAS MURRAY, remembered that no British audience would be contented with mere irresponsible badinage, however fresh and delicate; that somehow he must provide an ending where virtue prevailed and sentiment was satisfied.
So, when Uncle Ned's humour had failed to move the brutal egoism of his brother, beating upon it like the lightest of sea-foam on a rock of basalt, he was made to fall back upon the alternative of heavy denunciation. And it was significant that this commonplace tirade drew more applause than all the pretty wit that had gone before it. Seldom have I been so profoundly impressed with the difficulties of an art which depends for its success (financial, that is to say) on the satisfaction of tastes that have nothing in common beyond the crudest elements of human nature.
Mr. AINLEY had things all his own way. Between him, the romancer of the light heart and the free fancy, and his brother, the millionaire tradesman of the tough hide, there was the clash of temperaments but never the clash of intellects. ("Nobody with a sense of humour," says Uncle Ned, "ever made a million pounds.") That the man with the iron will should be beaten at the last with his own weapons, and brought to see the lifelong error of his ways by a violent philippic that must have surprised the speaker hardly less than his audience, was the most incredible thing in the play. Indeed the author was reduced to showing us the results of the bad man's change of heart and leaving us to imagine the processes, these being worked out in the interval between two Acts by means of a fortnight's physical collapse, from which he emerges unrecognisably reformed.
I cannot praise too warmly the delightfully fantastic and inconsequent humour of the first half of the play. Often it was the things that Mr. AINLEY was given to say; but even more often, I think, it was the incomparable way he said them, with those astonishingly swift and unforeseen turns of gesture and glance and movement which are his peculiar gift. Now and then, to remind us of his versatility, he may turn to sentiment or even tragedy, but light comedy remains his natural metier.
If I have a complaint to make it is that Uncle Ned's studied refusal to understand from an intimate woman-friend why it was that his elder niece, who had been privily married, "could no longer hide her secret" (the reticence of his friend was the sort of silly thing that you get in books and plays, but never in life) was perhaps a little wanton and caused needless embarrassment both to the young wife and to us. And one need not be very squeamish to feel that it was a pity to put into the lips of a mere child, a younger sister, the rather precocious comment that she makes on the inconvenience of a secret marriage. The humour of the play was too good to need assistance from this sort of titillation.
Mr. RANDLE AYRTON, as the plutocratic pachyderm, kept up his thankless end with a fine imperviousness; and Miss IRENE ROOKE, in the part of his secretary, played, as always, with a very gracious serenity, though I wish this charming actress would pronounce her words with not quite so nice a precision. Miss EDNA BEST was an admirable flapper, with just the right note of gaucherie.
As Mears, Mr. CLAUDE RAINS was not to be hampered by the methods dear to the detective of convention; he looked like an apache and behaved, rather effectively, like nothing in particular.
The Dawkins of Mr. G. W. ANSON knew well the first duty of a stage-butler, to keep coming on whenever a stop-gap is wanted; but he had also great personal qualities, to say nothing of his astounding record of forty years' service in a house where strong liquor was only permitted for "medicinal" purposes.
"THE YOUNG PERSON IN PINK."
What the chair-man said about The Young Person in Pink who had been hanging about the Park every morning for a week was that nowadays you couldn't really tell. He thought on the whole she was all right. The balloon-woman was certain that with boots like that she must be a 'ussy; but then she had refused to buy a balloon. As a matter of fact she couldn't, being broke to the world. And worse. For she had arrived at Victoria Station unable to remember who she was or where she came from, ticketless, a few shillings in her purse. She had murmured "Season" at the barrier and had taken rooms at the Carlton because she had a queer feeling she had been there before. Her things had a coronet on them. The rest was a blank.
Of course nobody believed her; the women were scornful, the men not quite nice, till very young Lord Stevenage, the one that was engaged to a notorious baby-snatcher, Lady Tonbridge—in a high fever he'd unfortunately said "Yes"—meets her, and you guess the rest. No, you don't. You couldn't possibly guess Mrs. Badger, relict of an undertaker and now in the old-clothes line, who has social ambitions. (I must here say in parenthesis that Mrs. Badger is a double stroke of genius on the part both of Miss JENNINGS the author and of Miss SYDNEY FAIRBROTHER. You don't know which to admire most, the things she says [Miss J.] or the way she says them [Miss S. B.]. Honours divided and high honours at that.)
Lady Tonbridge had advertised for a clergyman's widow to render some secretarial service, and the ambitious Mrs. Badger had applied, duly weeded. Meanwhile the elderly Lady T. had seen her fiance and with the young person in pink, and it was a brilliant and base afterthought to bribe the clergyman's widow to claim the girl as her long-missing daughter (invented). Both the young Lord and the young person, too much in love perhaps to be critical, accept the situation; but you haven't quite got Mrs. Badger if you think she's the sort of person one would precisely jump at for a mother-in-law.
At the supreme moment when Mrs. B., after an interview with the whisky bottle, forgets her part and, lapsing into the mere widow of the undertaker, gives it to the intriguing Lady Tonbridge in the neck with a wealth of imagery, a command of slightly slurred invective and a range of facial expression beyond adequate description, she is perhaps less attractive in the capacity of mother-by-marriage than ever, even if the interlude prove the goodness of her heart. But it is just at that moment that the young person is recognised by her maid. The daughter of the Duchess of Hampshire, no less! So all is well.
Not that Miss JENNINGS' plot matters. She freely accepts the absurdities which her bizarre outline demands, but doesn't shirk the pains to make her situations possible within the pleasantly impossible frame. What is all-important is that she does shake the house with genuinely explosive humour.
If they were Miss JENNINGS' bombs, Miss FAIRBROTHER threw the most and the best of them with a perfect aim. The rest of the platoon helped in varying degrees. I hope I don't irretrievably damage Miss JOYCE CAREY'S reputation as a modern when I say that she looked so pretty and innocent that I don't believe even sour old spinsters would have doubted her. A charming and capable performance. Mr. DONALD CALTHROP made love quite admirably on the lighter note; a little awkwardly, perhaps, on the more serious. Miss SYBIL CARLISLE handled an unpromising part with great skill. Miss ELLIS JEFFREYS as the ineffable Lady Tonbridge was as competent as ever, and had a coat and skirt in the Third Act which filled the female breast with envy. Looks like a long run.
* * * * *
* * * * *
"Art in Washing—with economy.—Ladies desiring personal attention are invited to apply to —— Laundry."—Daily Paper.
No "imperfect ablutioner" (vide "The Mikado") should miss this opportunity.
* * * * *
"Fun undiluted and rippling is the main feature of The Little Visiters, and not a single feature of the author's book is lost in the process of dramatisation."—Weekly Paper.
Except, apparently, the title.
* * * * *
ADVANTAGES ENJOYED BY CAMBRIDGE.
In complimenting the Light Blues we cannot help calling attention to two curious facts which may have contributed to their victory, and seem to have escaped the notice of the Oxford crew. According to The Weekly Dispatch Mr. SWANN rowed "No. 9 in the Cambridge boat"; and a photograph in The Illustrated Sunday Herald ("the camera cannot lie") distinctly shows the Cambridge crew rowing with as many as eight oars on the stroke side. How many they were using on the bow side is not revealed.
* * * * *
for Joe Batt's Arm and vicinity. Salary two thousand dollars guaranteed. All specials additional. Address communication to
ALEX. COFFIN, Sec. Doctor's Committee."
Even the serious condition of Joe Batt's Arm hardly interests us so much as the challenge to the world's humourists implied in the Committee's selection of their secretary.
* * * * *
MY ONE ADMIRER.
Of course my wife had made me go to the bazaar. All men go to bazaars either because their wives send them, or in search of possible wives. The men who are never at bazaars are those with humane wives, or the true bachelors.
I did not mind the young lady who grabbed my walking-stick and presented me with a shilling cloakroom ticket, or the other who placed a buttonhole in my coat (two-and-sixpence), or the third who sprayed me with scent (one shilling, but had I known of the threatened attack I would have paid two shillings for immunity), or the fourth, who snatched my rather elderly silk hat and renovated it, not before its time, with some mysterious fluid (one-and-ninepence). These are the things one expects.
But when I faced the stalls I must admit that I trembled. In pre-war days it was occasionally hinted that bazaar prices were a trifle high. What would they be now? How could I face the Bazaar profiteer? Sums, reminding me of schooldays, ran in my head, "If milk be a shilling a quart what will be the price of a sofa-cushion?"
As I stood in the centre of the hall I could see that the eyes of the stall-holders were upon me—cold, horrid, calculating eyes. I could read in them, "How much has this man got?" I felt that it would be a proper punishment for war-profiteers if they were sentenced to purchase all their requirements at bazaars for six months.
Glancing round the hall in search of a place of refuge I saw a sign, "Autograph Exhibition—Admission one shilling." A shilling! Why, such a comfortable hiding-place would have been cheap at half-a-crown. I bolted for the Autograph Exhibition before a piratical lady, bearing down on me with velvet smoking caps, could reduce me to pulp.
A smiling elderly gentleman was in charge. "Hah, you would like to see my little collection? Certainly, certainly."
I am not interested in autographs. Most bygone celebrities wrote undecipherable hands. I have been equally puzzled in trying to read the handwriting of GUY FAWKES and Mr. GLADSTONE. But this collection was different. It had letters from nearly every one distinguished in the world to-day—good, lengthy, interesting, readable letters.
"How did you contrive to get all these?" I asked the exhibitor.
"Tact, foresight and flattery, my dear Sir. It would be no use writing to these people to-day. You'd get ignored, or at best two lines type-written by a secretary. Now look at that long letter from LLOYD GEORGE about Welsh nationality and that other from HILAIRE BELLOC concerning the adulteration of modern beer. You couldn't get them now. My idea is to catch your celebrity young. When a man produces his first play or novel or book of poems I write him an admiring letter. You can't lay it on too thick. Ask him some question on a topic that interests him. It always draws. They are unused to praise and you catch them before the public has spoilt them. I card-index all the replies I get. Of course nine out of ten of the people turn out of no account, but some are sure to come off. You just throw out the failures and put the successes in your collection."
At this point I heard our Archdeacon afar off. Our Archdeacon booms—not like trade, but like the bittern. I heard him booming outside, "My dear lady, I cannot miss the chance of seeing dear Mr. Fletterby's collection."
Fletterby! The name was familiar. Long years ago I published something—don't inquire into the details of my crime—and the sole response I had from an unappreciative world was a highly eulogistic letter from one Samuel Fletterby. I remembered the time I had spent in writing him a lengthy and courteous reply. I remembered that often in my darker days I had drawn out the letter of Fletterby to encourage me.
And now! I looked at the collection. It was arranged alphabetically. As I turned to the initial of my name I framed a dramatic revelation for my friend Fletterby: "That writing is familiar to me. In fact, Mr. Fletterby, I am its unworthy writer."
But my letter was not included in the collection.
"Throw out the failures," Mr. Fletterby had said.
I threw myself out instantly from the Autograph Exhibition. Better, far better buy things I didn't want at prices I couldn't afford than stay in the company of that faithless one, my sole erstwhile (as the papers say) admirer.
* * * * *
There was a great athlete named RUDD Who was born with a Blue in his blood; Stout-hearted, spring-heeled, He achieved on the field What his Varsity lost on the flood.
But when he had breasted the tape A cynic emitted this jape: "Pray notice, old son, 'Tisn't Oxford that's won, But Utah, Bowdoin and the Cape."
* * * * *
EASTER IN WILD WALES.
The recent discovery (duly noted in The Daily Graphic of the 30th ult.) of "seven pearls of excellent quality" by an Aberavon labourer in a mussel stranded by the tide has led to an extraordinary influx of visitors to that quiet seaside resort. Costers have been arriving at the rate of several hundreds a day, attracted by the prospect of finding the raw materials for the indispensable decoration of their costumes, and the local authorities are at their wits' end to provide adequate accommodation. Amongst the latest arrivals is the great architect, Sir MARTIN CONWAY, who has been consulted with regard to the erection of a number of bungalow skyscrapers, and an urgent message has been despatched to Sir EDWIN LUTYENS at Delhi, begging him to supply designs of a suitable character. Meanwhile pearl-diving goes on day and night on the sea-front, with the assistance of a flock of oyster-catchers, whose brilliant plumage adds greatly to the picturesqueness of the scene.
Though the special good fortune of Aberavon has excited a certain amount of natural jealousy in the breasts of hotel and boarding-house proprietors at other Welsh seaside resorts, they have no serious reason to complain. The usual attractions of Barmouth have been powerfully reinforced by the presence in the neighbouring hills of a full-sized gorilla which recently escaped from a travelling menagerie. When last seen the animal was making in the direction of Harlech, which is at present the head-quarters of the Easter Vacation School of the Cambrian section of the Yugo-Slav Doukhobors. It is understood that the local police have the matter well in hand, and arrangements have been made, in case of emergency, for withdrawing all the population within the precincts of the castle.
Great disappointment prevails at Llandudno owing to the refusal of Mr. EVAN ROBERTS, the famous revivalist, to localise the materialisation of the Millennium, which he has recently prophesied, at Llandudno during the Easter holidays. By way of a set-off an effort was made to induce Sir AUCKLAND GEDDES to give a vocal recital before his departure for America. As his recent performance at a meeting of the London Scots Club proved, Sir AUCKLAND is a singist of remarkable power, infinite humour and soul-shaking pathos. Unfortunately his repertory is confined to Scottish songs, and on this ground he has been obliged to decline the invitation, though the fee offered was unprecedented in the economic annals of the variety stage.
* * * * *
* * * * *
(By Mr. Punch's Staff of Learned Clerks.)
Mr. FORREST REID is a writer upon whose progress I have for some time kept an appreciative eye. His latest story, bearing the attractive title of Pirates of the Spring (UNWIN), proves, I think, that progress to be well sustained. As you may have guessed from the name, this is a tale of adolescence; it shows Mr. REID'S North-Ireland lads differing slightly from the more familiar home-product, though less in essentials than in tricks of speech, and (since these are day-school boys, exposed to the influence of their several homes) an echo of religious conflict happily rare in the experience of English youth. Mr. REID is amongst the few novelists who can be sympathetic to boyhood without sentimentalising over it; he has admirably caught its strange mingling of pride and curiosity, of reticence and romance and jealous loyalty. The tale has no particular plot; it is a record of seeming trifles, friendships made and broken and renewed, sporadic adventures and deep-laid intrigues that lead nowhere. But you will catch in it a real air of youth, a spring-time wind blowing from the half-forgotten world in which all of us once were chartered privateers. There are, of course, worthy folk who would be simply bored by all this—which is why I do not venture to call Pirates of the Spring everyone's reading; others, however, more fortunate, will find it a true and delicately observed study of an engaging theme.
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I must really warn the flippant. It would be appalling if admirers of Literary (and other) Lapses were to send blithely to the libraries for Mr. LEACOCK'S latest and find themselves landed with The Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice (LANE). And yet I don't know. Here is a subject which even the flippant cannot long ignore. And a man of the world with a clear head and a mastery of clearer idiom than a professor of political economy usually commands has here said something desperately serious without a trace of dulness. I should like Professor LEACOCK'S short book to be divided into three. The first part, a trenchant analysis of some of the evils of our social and industrial system, I would send to the impossibilists and obstructives; the second, a critical examination of some of the nostrums of the progressives, should go to the hasty optimists who think that a sudden change of system will as suddenly change men, for it contains much that they will do well (and now resolutely refuse) to ponder. The third part I would return to the author for revision, for it contains no more, when analysed, than an ipse dixit, and quite fails to show that the evils denounced as intolerable in the first part can be remedied without some substantial portion at least of the heroic reforms denounced in his second. Also I would remind him, or rather perhaps the more ingenuous of his readers, that there have been later contributions to the theory and practice of new-world building than Mr. BELLAMY'S Looking Backward.
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The Great Desire (HODDER AND STOUGHTON) is a novel full of shrewd philosophy and excellent talk. Mr. ALEXANDER BLACK sets out to prove nothing, to justify no political or social attitude, but just to draw his fellow-Americans as he sees them going about their war-time business, the "great desire" being simply the thing that is uppermost in the mind of each one. As a composite picture of what New York thought about the business of getting into the War the result could hardly be bettered. One never feels that latent antagonism which readers, even though they may agree with him, unconsciously experience towards an author who seems to be arguing a point. Mr. BLACK gives the extreme views of the blatant patriot, and of the anarchist and socialist who cannot see the distinction between arguing against war on paper and arguing against this War on the street corner. He makes us realise the people who think only how to make the War an adjunct of themselves and those who desire only to make themselves a useful adjunct of the War. He draws his types cleverly and states the case of each one fairly, but with a humorous restraint and from a standpoint of absolute detachment. The Great Desire has plenty of charm regarded merely as a story, but I recommend it especially to those who are apt to judge the Americans by their politicians or to assess New York on the basis of the HEARST newspapers.
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If it were only for his complete fearlessness in following well-worn convention and his apparent reliance on his readers' ignorance or want of memory, Mr. J. MURRAY GIBBON'S Drums Afar (LANE) would be rather a remarkable book in these psycho-analytical days. His hero actually has the audacity to have blue eyes and fair hair, to start his career in the House, and to end it, so far as the novel is concerned, lying wounded in a hospital, where his fiancee, a famous singer, happened to be a nurse in the same ward. Nor does the young man disdain the threadbare conversational cliche. "Don't you think there is something elemental in most of us which no veneer of civilisation or artificial living can ever deaden?" he says in one place (rather as if veneer were a kind of rat poison). Still bolder, on leaving America, where he has become engaged to a wealthy Chicagan's daughter, he quotes—
"I could not love thee, dear, so much Loved I not honour more."
And, although the girl is annoyed, it is not on account of the citation. Much of the story, however, deals with Chicago, and since my previous knowledge of that city could have easily been contained in a tin of pressed beef I can pardon Mr. GIBBON for being as informative about it as he is about Oxford colleges. (He seems, by the way, to have a rooted contempt for Balliol, which I had always supposed was a quite well-meaning place.) On the whole, either in spite or because of its rather Baedeker-like qualities, Drums Afar will be found quite a restful and readable book.
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Somewhere in the course of the tale that gives its title to The Blower of Bubbles (CHAMBERS) the character who is supposed to relate it denies that he is a sentimentalist. I may as well say at once that, if this denial is intended to apply also to Mr. ARTHUR BEVERLEY BAXTER, who wrote the five stories that make up the volume, a more comprehensive misstatement was never embodied in print. Because, from the picture on the wrapper, representing a starry-eyed infant conducting an imaginary orchestra, to the final page, the book is one riot of sentiment—plots, characters and treatment alike. Not that, save by the fastidious, it must be considered any the worse for this; even had not Mr. BAXTER'S hearty little preface explained the conditions of active service under which it was composed, themselves enough to excuse any quantity of over-sweetening. I will not give you the five long-shorts in detail. The first, about a German child and a young man with heart trouble, shows Mr. BAXTER at his worst, with the sob-stuff all but overwhelming a sufficiently nimble wit. My own favourite is the fifth tale, a spirited and generous tribute to England's war effort. (I should explain that the book, and I suppose the author also, is by origin Canadian.) This last story, told partly in the form of letters to his editor in New York by an American officer and journalist, has all the interest that comes of seeing ourselves as others see us; though I could not but think that the narrator erred in making the haughty Lady Dorothy, daughter of his noble hosts, exclaim, on the entrance of a footman with a letter, "Pardon me, it's the mail." So there you are. If you have a taste for stories that make no pretence of being other than fiction pure and simple, limpidly pure and transparently simple (yet witty too in places), try these; otherwise pass.
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Miss Ruby —— Sundayed under the parental."—Canadian Paper.
We congratulate Utopia on its ideal language.
Transcriber's note: Typographical errors corrected: "Ted" for "Ned" and "reelly" for "really" on page 262.