PUNCH, OR THE LONDON CHARIVARI.
February 25th, 1920.
"Another American," says a Washington despatch, "has been captured by Mexicans and is being held to ransom." We deplore these pin-prick tactics. If there is something about the United States that President CARRANZA wants changed he should say so.
* * *
A contemporary states that the old theory, that when your ears burn it means that people are talking about you, is accurate. Upon hearing this a dear old lady at once commenced to crochet a set of asbestos ear-guards for Mr. CHURCHILL.
* * *
The American gentleman who claims to have invented revues is shortly coming over to England for a holiday. Personally we should advise him to wait until the crime wave has died down a bit.
* * *
It is pleasing to note that in spite of the recent spring-like weather the POET LAUREATE is calmly keeping his head.
* * *
In their last Note to Holland on the subject of the ex-Kaiser's trial the Allied Governments drop a hint that it was they and not Holland who won the War. It is impossible to be too definite on this matter.
* * *
Cotton, it is announced, has gone up to tenpence a reel. The new American whisky stands at the same figure.
* * *
"Boys sing automatically, like parrots," declares the choirmaster of St. John's Church, Grimsby. His facts are wrong. The only thing automatic about a parrot is its bite.
* * *
So thirsty were the Americans on board, it is stated, that on her homeward trip the Mauretania was drunk dry two days out. To remedy this unsatisfactory state of affairs a syndicate of wealthy Americans is understood to be formulating an offer to tow Ireland over to the New Jersey coast if a liquor licence is granted to the tug.
* * *
There is no truth in the report that, as the result of a majority vote of the Dublin Corporation, the sword and mace have been replaced by a pistol and mitre.
* * *
We live in strenuous times. The MAD MULLAH has been reported in action and Willesden has won the London Draughts' Tournament.
* * *
By the way, those who remember the MAD MULLAH'S earlier escapades are of the opinion that it is high time for him to be killed again.
* * *
The HOME SECRETARY hopes to introduce an Anti-Firearms Bill. Under this Act it is expected that it will be made illegal for criminals to shoot at people into whose homes they break.
* * *
A postcard posted in 1888 has just been delivered to The Leeds Mercury, and they ask if this is a record. Not a permanent one, if the Post Office can help it.
* * *
A young lady told the Stratford magistrates that she gave up her young man because he said he was a millionaire, and she had later learned that he was a waiter. But there is nothing contradictory in this.
* * *
The ex-CROWN-PRINCE has written in the Taegliche Rundschau on "How I Lost the War." He pays a fine tribute to the British soldier, who, it appears, helped him to lose it.
* * *
"How to Manage Twopenny Eggs" is the headline of a morning paper. A good plan is to grip them firmly round the neck and wring it.
* * *
An article in Tit-Bits tells readers how to make canaries pay. We have felt for some time that there must be a better method than that of suing the birds in the County Court.
* * *
"Useful wedding-presents are now the vogue," says a weekly journal. Only last week we heard of a Scotsman who at a recent wedding gave the bride away.
* * *
"The Jolly Bachelors" is the title of a new club at Nottingham. No attempt has yet been made to start a Jolly Husbands' Club.
* * *
It is gratifying to learn that the workman who last week fell from some scaffolding in Oxford Street, but managed to grasp a rope and hang on to it till rescued fifteen minutes later, has now been elected an honorary member of the Underground Travellers' Association.
* * *
A reader living in Hertfordshire writes to say that spring-like weather is prevailing and that a pair of bricklayers who started building about three weeks ago can now be seen daily sitting on three bricks which they laid last week.
* * *
With such energy are the inhabitants of Leeds carrying out their campaign against rats that it is considered unsafe for any rodent under three years old to venture out alone after dark.
* * *
We are glad to learn that the Brixton lady who mislaid her husband last week at one of these West-End bargain sales has now received him back from the firm in fairly good condition.
* * *
During the recent spell of warm weather several wooden houses threw out new shoots, some of which are already in bud.
* * *
We understand that the Government contemplate passing a Bill to forbid silver-weddings unless a larger percentage of alloy is used with them.
* * * * *
* * * * *
"How utterly unimpressive for ceremonial purposes is the ordinary episcopal habit.... What dignity it ever possessed has been most successfully shorn off by the merciless scissors of ecclesiastical tailors. The history of the chimere and rochet has been truly tragic." —Church Paper.
Fortunately, the hat and gaiters do something to relieve the gloom.
* * * * *
CLOTHES AND THE POET.
["The public will welcome an announcement that the standard clothing scheme may be revived on a voluntary basis."—The Times.]
I do not ask for silk attire, For purple, no, nor puce; The only wear that I require Is something plain and loose, A quiet set of reach-me-downs for serviceable use.
For these, which I must have because The honour of the Press Compels me, by unwritten laws, To clothe my nakedness, Four guineas is my limit—more or (preferably) less.
Let others go in Harris tweeds, Men of the leisured sort; Mine are the modest, homely needs That with my state comport; I am a simple labouring man whose work is all his sport.
I covet not the gear of those Who neither toil nor spin; I merely want some standard clo's To drape my standard skin, Wrought of material suitable for writing verses in.
Something that won't pick up the dust When rhymes refuse to flow; And roomy, lest the seams be bust Should the afflatus blow— Say five-and-forty round the ribs and rather more below.
For poets they should stock a brand To serve each type's behest— Pastoral, epic, lyric—and An outer size of chest For those whose puffy job it is to build the arduous jest.
* * * * *
THE WOLF AND THE LAMB.
(An imaginary conversation.)
[In his lecture at the Royal Institution, to which Mr. Punch recently referred, Mr. ALFRED NOYES said that "our art and literature were increasingly Bolshevik, and if they looked at the columns of any newspaper they would see the unusual spectacle of the political editor desperately fighting that which the art and literary portions of the paper upheld."]
SCENE.—A Club-room near Fleet Street. The Political Editor and the Literary Editor of "The Daily Crisis" are discovered seated in adjoining armchairs.
Political Editor. Excuse me, but haven't I seen you occasionally in The Crisis office?
Literary Editor. Possibly. I look after its literary pages, you know.
P.E. Really? I run the political columns. Did you read my showing-up this morning of the Bolshevik peril in the House of Lords?
L.E. I'm afraid I never read the political articles. Did you notice my two-column boom of young Applecart's latest book of poems?
P.E. No time to read the literary columns, and modern poetry's as good as Chinese to me. Who's Applecart?
L.E. My dear Sir, is it possible that you are unfamiliar with the author of I Will Destroy? He's the hope of the future as far as English poetry is concerned.
P.E. (cheerfully). Never heard of him. What's he done?
L.E. (impressively). He has overthrown all the rules, not only of art, but of morality. He has created a new Way of Life.
P.E. Can't see that that's anything to shout about. What's his platform, anyway?
L.E. Platform? To anyone who has tho slightest acquaintance with Applecart the very idea of a platform is fantastic. He doesn't stand; he soars.
P.E. Well, what are his views, then? Pretty tall, I suppose, if he's such a high flier.
L.E. You may well say so. In the first place he discards all the old artistic formulae.
P.E. I know; you write a solid slab of purple prose, scissor it into a jig-saw puzzle, serve it with a dazzle dressing and call it the New Poetry.
L.E. Have your joke, if you will. But, more important still, Applecart is a rebel against humanity and all its fetishes, social, ethical and political.
P.E. (startled). A Bolshie, I suppose you mean?
L.E. The artist is proof against all these vulgar terms of abuse, culled from the hustings. Call him a Pussyfoot as well; you cannot shake him from his pinnacle.
P.E. Yes, but look here—he's just the sort of pernicious agitator we're out against in The Crisis—at least in my department. My special article this morning—three thickly-leaded columns—actually revealed the existence of a most insidious plot to undermine the restraining influence of the House of Lords by the spread of Bolshevik propaganda masquerading as literature. You see, there's a certain section of the Lords, mainly new creations who've only recently been released from various employments, who now for the first time in their lives have leisure for reading; then there's the spread of education among the sporting Peers. Well, these people are ready to succumb to all sorts of poisonous doctrines, if they're served up in what I presume to be the fashionable mode of the moment; and I expect your precious Applecart is one of the Bolsh agents who are laying the trap. You'll have to stop booming him, you know. He's not doing the paper any good.
L.E. My dear Sir, literature takes no account of the fads and fancies of party politics. And I gather from you that party politics have no use for literature except from a propagandist view. Let us be content to go our own ways in peace.
P.E. Yes, that's all very well for you and me, but what about the Chief? How does he reconcile these absolutely conflicting standpoints? And what does the public think of it all?
L.E. (confidentially). Between you and me, the Chief knows his public. And the public knows its papers. The last thing it wants from us is consistency, which is always boring. Besides (still more confidentially), the public doesn't take us quite so seriously as we like to pretend.
P.E. H'm, maybe you're right. As a matter of fact (lowering his voice) I sometimes think I'm a bit of a Socialist myself.
L.E. Really? As for me (conspiratorially), I adore TENNYSON, and EZRA POUND fills me with a secret wrath. Still, the public—
P.E. Ah, the public—! Have a drink?
[They pledge each other. NOYES without. They disperse hurriedly.
* * * * *
"In view of the serious shortage of female help, the United Boards of Trade of Western Ontaria have been discussing proposals to encourage the immigration of young women from Great Britain."—Morning Paper.
And have apparently feminized the Province in advance.
* * * * *
"If the Archdeacon of Coventry is correct in stating, as he did in Convocation, that the word 'tush' found in the Psalter means 'bosh,' it must in this sense be what the classical dons call a 'hapslegomenon'." —Evening Standard.
Which, again, must be what the classical undergraduates call a "slipsus languae."
* * * * *
* * * * *
* * * * *
Cecilia was knitting by the fire.
"What on earth have you two been doing?" she asked as we came in. "John looks as if he'd been in a boiler explosion."
"Hardly that," I said. "We've been playing with Chris—haven't we, John?"
"No, we haven't," he said. "On the contrary, they have been playing with me, Cecilia."
"Well, it's all the same thing, isn't it?" said Cecilia. "Anyhow, I heard you making a most frightful row."
"Of course I was making a row. So would you make a row if people suddenly mistook you for a Teddy Bear or something and started bunging you about the room."
"I haven't the least idea what you're talking about," said Cecilia, "but I think you're being intensely vulgar."
"Vulgar! 'Vulgar,' she says." He laughed bitterly. "You'd be vulgar too if you'd had that great hulking brute" (he pointed at me) "sitting on the small of your back, and a hooligan of a boy—"
Cecilia sat up and took notice.
"Hooligan!" she said, "Hooligan! Who's a Hooligan?"
"Sh! sister," I murmured. "You'll strain the epiglottis."
John turned on me savagely.
"You keep quiet. It isn't your epi—epi—what you said—and, anyway, can't I even have a quiet row with my own wife without—"
"John, calm yourself," said Cecilia crushingly. "Alan, tell me what you've been doing."
"Yes," muttered John, "tell her." He subsided into an armchair.
"Well," I said, "you see, Christopher and I were up in the nursery and getting on quite all right when John butted in—"
"I simply opened—"
"John, keep quiet," said his wife. "Well, Alan?"
"Well, the fact is, Chris and I were in the middle of a great war with all his soldiers. I had just firmly established fire superiority and was actually on the verge of launching a huge offensive—the one that was going to win the war, in fact—when, as I said, in butted this great clumsy elephant and knocked half of Christopher's army over."
"Purely an accident," said John.
"Will you keep quiet, or must I make you?" asked Cecilia.
"Well, of course," I went on, "finding ourselves suddenly attacked by a common foe, Chris and I naturally joined forces to defend ourselves."
"Defend!—" shrieked John. "No, I won't keep quiet another second. Defend! Why, they rushed at me like a couple of wild hyenas."
"My dear John," said Cecilia, "you attacked them first, and of course they defended themselves as best they could."
"Precisely," I said.
"After all, John," said Cecilia, "you ought to be glad your son is so ready to look after himself, instead of calling him a hooligan. You're always shouting about the noble art of self-defence."
"Noble art of self-defence rot," said John. "There's nothing in the noble art about pushing lead soldiers down a man's neck."
"Down your neck?" said Cecilia.
"Yes," said John. "I keep trying to tell you and you won't let me. That brute sat on the small of my back while Christopher pushed 'em down. The little beasts all had their bayonets fixed, too."
Cecilia and I laughed.
"Yes, laugh," said John bitterly. "It is funny that our child should be growing up a Bolshevist; trying to flay his own father. He'll be setting fire to the cat in a week and then you'll have another laugh."
"John," shrieked Cecilia, "how dare you? If you say another word about the darling—"
The door opened and Christopher came into the room.
He seemed to have washed his face or something. Anyway, he looked quite a little angel and that's hardly—however.
"I shall tell Chris what you've been saying," said Cecilia.
"No, no, Cecilia," he said in a strangled voice. "Don't betray me. I—I'm sorry; I withdraw everything. Cecilia, save me. Think of our courting days; remember—"
"Christopher," said Cecilia clearly, "you see your father? Go and pull his last remaining hairs out."
Christopher looked at her in amazement. Then he walked over to John, climbed on his knee and put an arm round his neck.
"I wouldn't hurt you, dear old Dad, would I?" he asked affectionately, looking at his mother in pained surprise.
John positively gasped with relief.
"Dear old Chris," he said.
"Oh, you hypocrite!" said Cecilia.
"Coward!" said I.
I was sitting on one of those dumpy hassock sort of things. John looked down at me vindictively for a moment and then a horrid smile started spreading about his nasty face.
"Christopher," he said very gently, "wouldn't it be a good thing if we pushed Uncle Alan over and knocked his slippers off, and then I'll sit on him while you tickle his feet?"
Now it sounds silly, but a cold prespiration came over me. Being tickled is so hopelessly undignified. And, anyhow, I simply can't stand it on the feet.
"John," I said severely, "don't be absurd."
"He's afraid," he said. "Come on, Dad."
I saw that they really meant it, and I can only suppose that I was carried away by one of those panics that you read of as attacking the bravest at times. Anyhow, quite suddenly I found myself moving rapidly round the table, out of the door and up the stairs. Halfway up I stopped to listen. Cecilia and John were laughing loudly and coarsely and Christopher was chanting "Uncle's got the wind up" in a piercing treble. Not at all a nice phrase for a small boy to have on his tongue.
It was all very galling for one who has fought and, I may say, bled for his country. I almost decided to go back and fight if necessary. Then I heard a stage-whisper from Christopher:
"Let's creep upstairs after him and tickle him to death. Shall we, Dad?"
Sheer hooliganism. It was impossible to fight with honour against such opponents. I disdained to try. I went hastily up the remaining stairs and locked myself in my room.
* * * * *
* * * * *
"What on earth," I said to the waiter, who was standing a few yards off, lost in a pensive dream of his native land—Switzerland, France, Italy?— well, anyhow, lost in a pensive dream—"what on earth is a Petrograd steak?"
The white napkin whisked like the scut of a rabbit, and he bounded to my side. "Eet is mince-up," he said melodramatically. "Ze Petrograd steak ver good. Two minute—mince-up."
"But isn't that a Vienna steak?" I asked.
A spasm of pain passed over his face. "Before ze War," he whispered, "yes, Vienna steak. Now we call it ze Petrograd. You vill have one? Yes? Two minute."
Memories came flooding back of that moment of crisis which had found so many of our trusted statesmen ill-prepared, but, terrible as it was, had not caught the managers of London restaurants napping. I remembered the immense stores of Dutch lager beer which they had so providentially and so patriotically held in anticipation of the hour of need. Dutch beer, both light and dark, so that inveterate drinkers of Munich and Pilsener were enabled to face Armageddon almost without a jerk. They had other things ready too—Danish pate de fois gras, Swiss liver sausages, Belgian pastries and the rest. It was in that dark hour, I suppose, that the Vienna steak set its face towards the steppes. But this was in 1914, and a good deal had happened since then. It appeared to me that the restaurant was not exactly au courant with international complications and the gastronomic consequences of the Peace. I felt entitled to further illumination.
"I don't feel at all certain," I told the man, "that I ought to eat a Petrograd steak. Is it a white steak?"
"Ah, no, not vite, not vite at all," he assured me. "Eet is underdone—not much, but a little underdone. Ver good mince-up."
"I absolutely refuse to eat a Red Petrograd steak," I declared. "Have you by any chance anything Jugo-Slavian on the menu?"
"Zere is ze jugged hare—"
"I think you misunderstand me," I interrupted; "this is a point of principle with me. Supposing I consume this Czecho-Slovakian mince-up and then have a piece of Stilton; there has been no war with Stilton, I fancy—"
"Ver good, ze Stilton," interjected the chorus.
"Turkish coffee?" he said.
"There you go again," I grumbled. "Whatever my attitude may be towards Vienna and Petrograd (and, mind you, I am not feeling at all bitter towards Vienna), my relations with Turkey are most certainly strained."
"No, not strained, ze Turkish coffee," he cried eagerly; "eet has ze grounds."
"So have I," I told him; "we will call it the Macedonian coffee. It is you who insisted in obtruding these international relations on my simple lunch, and I mean to do the thing thoroughly. Better a dish of Croat Serbs where love is than a bifteck Petrograd—Never mind, go and get the thing."
When he returned with it I fell to, but my thoughts remained with the waiter. What a man! With his dispassionate judgment, his calm sane outlook on men and affairs, shaken a little perhaps in 1914, but since then undisturbed, was he not cut out above all others to settle the vexed frontier lines of Europe? I wondered whether Lord ROBERT CECIL might not possibly make use of him. I was tempted to try him still further.
"Have you ever heard of Mr. J.M. KEYNES?" I asked him when he brought me the Bessarabian coffee.
"Mr. KEYNES I not know. He not come here, I zink."
"Or the Treaty of London?"
"I vill ask ze manager."
"Or President WILSON?"
A brilliant smile of illumination lit up his features.
"American, is he not?" he said. "Ver reech, ze Americans."
This saddened me a little. He was not then absolutely complete. There was a faint tarnish on the lustre of his innocence. He was scarcely perhaps suited for the League of Nations after all. Lighting an Albanian cigarette I asked him for my bill.
* * * * *
LORD HALDANE loquitur.
"Tired of laborious days and nights Spent on the intellectual heights, I long to raise and educate The masters of the future State. Besides, the people in the plains Are lamentably short of brains, And I have even more than KEYNES. Already in The Herald's page Am I acclaimed as seer and sage; Mine be it then to teach my neighbour To quit the lowly rut of Labour, And scale the heights of Pisgah, Nebo, Or some equivalent gazebo, For even Labour must afford To keep one competent Law Lord."
* * * * *
"WAR CRIMINALS DEMAND TO BE SUSPENDED."—Evening Paper.
Too good to be true.
* * * * *
* * * * *
* * * * *
COX AND BOX.
MY DEAR CHARLES,—Let us talk Haute Finance. In other words, let us indulge in that good old Anglo-Saxon pastime of blackguarding COX AND CO. It will remind us of the piping days of war. There is too much peace about, and the gentle and ever-forgiving COX AND CO. expect their customers to be men of force and character, showing temper from time to time. Everybody else may be demobilised; I remain a soldier, and as such I have my special bank. Ah, me! the battles in Charing Cross are not the easy things they used to be. No longer, as of old, I come fresh to the attack against a mere underling, worn down by the assaults of wave after wave of brother-officers attacking, before me. I enter the Territorial Department alone and am taken on by a master-hand, supported and flanked by a number of unoccupied subordinates. About the Spring of 1925, when I expect to be the only "T" left, I anticipate the decisive moment when I shall cross swords or swop bombs with Sir COX himself. Having bravely encountered "AND CO." these many years, I shall not be daunted by that gilded knight.
The war having once put me in possession of my COX AND CO., I had very frequent recourse to them when in need of such solace as only money can bring. The time arrived when I applied in vain; the money had disappeared. Though I had no reason to suspect COX AND CO. of being dishonest I noticed a tone of assuredness and self-complacency in their letters strangely similar to that in my own, and I knew that I was being dishonest, so I demanded to see my pass-book. It was a horrid sight, and it gave me seriously to think. How came it that the side of the book which showed my takings was so clear and easily to be understood, but the side which showed their takings wrapt in mystery and hieroglyphics such as not even the world's leading financiers and mathematicians could hope to unravel? My subaltern, being consulted, agreed with me; I would have had him carpeted by the C.O. at once if he hadn't.
I stepped round to COX AND CO. and had it out with them verbally. After a discussion lasting half-an-hour, it was shown that I had been credited with a week's pay to which I wasn't entitled and that a month's income-tax, to which a grasping Government was entitled, had not been deducted. I left the building ninety-three shillings worse off than I entered it.
I gave COX AND CO. six months to go wrong in, and then called for that pass-book again. My eye fell upon a paying and deducting and refunding and readjusting of an item itself so shameful that it dared only appear under its initials. Why this oscillation? I asked myself. So we engaged upon another correspondence, and another interview took place, at which I was supported by my subaltern (who could multiply and add), and the bank-man was supported by a young lady (who could divide and subtract). At the end of a passionate discussion, which lasted fifty-seven minutes (forty-five of them being after closing time) the conclusion was arrived at that the total was correct to a halfpenny. Even COX AND CO. themselves were a bit surprised at that.
Years passed, and there was no doubt about it; the money continued to disappear. Trusting that COX AND CO. were now lulled into a feeling of false security I tried a surprise reconnaissance. I dropped in on them without warning and asked to see that pass-book then and there. They searched high and low, but they couldn't find it. I, on the other hand, found it quite easily, when I searched amongst my papers at home. To me this proved that I was the better searcher. My subaltern, however, would have it that the circumstances gave me no right of action against COX AND CO. His sympathies were clearly with them, so I requested him kindly to get on with his own work and not to interfere further in my private affairs. He went away in a huff, got demobilised and, I have little doubt, married the young lady who divided and subtracted and, with her, set up a bank of his own. I devoted my young life to the search for some person, firm or corporation, expert in pass-books, haughty of demeanour, capable of getting blood out of a stone and not likely to give even the devil his due; I wanted such an ally for the next assault.
I have always remained a civilian, and as such have retained my other banker. A man of unlimited possessions, I may state accurately that I have to-day no fewer than two banks of my own. Let us call this other one Box and Co. That is not the real name, but it is as far as I dare go to refer to them, even under an assumed name. Years of stern handling by them have taken all the spirit out of me. It is as much as I can do to screw up my courage so far as to ask the loan of a pound or two of my own money off them. And there have been times, in the pre-1914 past, when I have felt it would be better to go without money than to have the stuff thrown at me, shovelled at me in that contemptuous offhand manner. I now repaired in person to the premises of Box and Co., with their handsome marble facade and their costly mahogany fittings, and had a word with Mr. Box himself. A little artful flattery, a few simple lies and just a touch of ginger in the matter of professional competition, and Box and Co. were brought into the war. I handed them COX AND CO.'s pass-book and told them that now was their time to go in and win.
I used to look in every other day to see how the struggle went. At first Box and Co. were confident, remarking on my wisdom in placing myself (and my pass-book) in such competent hands as theirs. But as the correspondence went on their enthusiasm wore off; Mr. Box gave vent to observations reflecting ill on the Army system of pay, on the Army itself, even on that part of it which was me. Had it not been that the pride of Box and Co. was involved, I believe they would have gone to London in a body, there to form a lifelong friendship with COX AND CO., out of pure fellow-feeling. But I have hinted that Box and Co. were a cold inhuman institution, whose business in life it was to do people down, or go down itself. And so COX AND CO. had to be for it. Eventually, in the late winter of 1919, Box and Co. extracted from COX AND CO. the admission that a five had been mistaken for a three, and I had been done out of twopence, an affair all the more gross in that it had happened as long ago as the early spring of 1915, and never a word of remorse meanwhile! A conclusion by which neither Box nor COX was really satisfied, but which, for me, was enough. We English may only win one battle in a war, but that battle is the last.
Possibly, my dear Charles, you have a soft spot in your heart for this COX AND CO., never failing in courtesy and attention and ever heaped with abuse? So, to be frank, have I. Let us turn round and blackguard the other fellow. The sequel is incredible.
I next handed my Box and Co. pass-book to COX AND CO., giving them a brief and touching resume of my sad story of wrong and oppression, and bidding them do their damnedest in their turn. They wrote to Box and Co.: "Our customer, your customer, we may say THE customer, Second-Lieutenant, Brevet-Lieutenant, Temporary Captain, Acting Major, Local Colonel, Aspiring General (entered in your books as plain Mister) Henry Neplusultra, informs us that, though he has banked with you since the first sovereign he earned at his baptism, he has been so frowned at and scorned as to have been rendered morally unable to handle his current balance. He instructs us...."
But why relate the story in all its grim horror? Enough to say that so successfully did COX AND CO. pursue their instructions that they discovered a credit balance in my favour of 14s. 3d.; so politely and firmly did they conduct the correspondence that eventually Box and Co. burst into tears, admitted the claim and, upon my calling the other day personally to receive satisfaction, handed me the 14s. 3d. with a deferential bow. If you doubt the truth of this statement you have only to come round to my place, where you can see for yourself the threepence, which is still in my possession.
* * * * *
* * * * *
DAY BY DAY IN THE WORLD OF CRIME.
(By a well-known Professor of Larceny.)
In these days when robbery with violence is an everyday occurence, few people will trust themselves alone in railway carriages. Imagine, therefore, my surprise, not unmingled with pleasure, on seeing a somewhat pompous-looking individual, with the circumference and watch-chain of the successful merchant, sitting alone in a first-class carriage on the suburban up-line from Wallingford. I always travel from Wallingford, as it is the one station on the line at which you are not required to show a ticket on entry. Accordingly I entered the old gentleman's carriage, took his ticket, and offered him a cigarette, which he accepted. I then opened the conversation.
"I wonder you wear your watch-chain so prominently," I remarked, "especially during the present vogue of crime—so tempting, you know."
"Ah!" he said, "so you may think; but, being a bit of a criminologist, I have arranged that as a little trap. It is my belief that the pickpocket, foiled in one particular, never attempts to rob his victim in any other way. Now this chain cost me precisely ninepence. It is weighted at each end with a piece of lead, which gives an appearance of genuineness to the watch-pocket. I am heavily armed, in case he should attempt violence."
It was here that I removed his pocket-book and slipped it into my great-coat. Not daring to examine it openly, I fingered it cautiously, and felt the stiff softness of bank-notes. I was so carried away with pleasure that I was quite surprised to hear his voice returning from a distance.
"As for my ticket," he continued, "that is a single from Wallingford to the next station, Sadlington; it is two years old. My season I keep inside the lining of my hat."
It was here that I returned the ticket to his pocket. After all, I reflected, I could pay at the other end with a very small portion of the contents of the pocket-book, which I reckoned must contain at least half-a-dozen fivers.
"By the way," he added, "I have a passion for biscuits; will you join me in one?" and he proffered a small tin. "I eat so many of them," he said, "that I can write all my memoranda on the slips of paper from the tins, and these I keep in my pocket-book. My money I keep next my season."
It was here that I returned the pocket-book.
* * * * *
"THE OPTIMISTIC WAITERS.
'SOON WE SHALL GO BARK TO OUR WORK TRIUMPHANTLY.'"—Evening Paper.
We hope that in the case of certain restaurants the bark will not be so bad as the bite.
* * * * *
* * * * *
THE DEAD TREE.
(Being a terrible result of reading too much poetry in the modern manner.)
Slushy is the highway between the unspeakable hedges; I pause Irresolute under a telegraph-pole, The fourteenth telegraph-pole on the way From Shere to Havering, The twenty-first From Havering to Shere.
Crimson is the western sky; upright it stands, The solitary pole, Sombre and terrible, Splitting the dying sun Into two semi-circular halves. I do not think I have seen, not even in Vorticist pictures, Anything so solitary, So absolutely nude; Yet this was an item once in the uninteresting forest, With branches sticking out of it, and crude green leaves And resinous sap, And underneath it a litter of pine spindles And ants; Birds fretted in the boughs and bees were busy in it, Squirrels ran noisily up it; Now it is naked and dead, Delightfully naked And beautifully dead.
Delightfully and beautifully, for across it melodiously, Stirred by the evening wind, The wires where electric messages are continually being despatched Between various post-offices, Messages of business and messages of love, Rates of advertisements and all the winners, Are vibrating and thrumming Like a thousand lutes.
Is the old grey heart of the telegraph pole stirred by these messages? I fancy not. Yet it all seems very strange; And even stranger still, now that I notice it, Is the fact that the thing is after all not absolutely naked, For a short way up it, half obliterated with age, Discoloured and torn, Fastened on by tintacks, There is a paper affiche Relating to swine fever.
The sun sinks lower and I pass on, On to the fifteenth pole from Shere to Havering, And the twentieth From Havering to Shere; It is even more naked and desolate than the last. I pause (as before)....
[Author. We can start all over again now if you like. Editor. I don't like.]
* * * * *
CANTERBURY, Saturday.—Trade was quiet, with prices steady, as follows: —Kent mixed fleeces, 36d; lambs' wool, 22d to 24d; downs, 41d to 42d; and half-bred fleeces, 38d to 39d per lb."—Financial Paper.
This may help to explain the taste of "Government ale."
* * * * *
"By systematic and scientific training is it possible to produce that perfect type of manhood gifted with the best powers of what we are wont to call the 'lower orders of creation'—keen sighted and swift of motion as a bird, sharp-scented as a greyhound, faithful and acute as a dog, and full of sentient wisdom as an elephant."—Daily Paper.
We are doubtful about the rest, but the greyhound part should be quite easy.
* * * * *
* * * * *
ESSENCE OF PARLIAMENT.
Monday, February 16th.—The great AUCKLAND still reposes a touching faith in the Profiteering Act. In his opinion it "has had a stabilising effect on the price of clothing;" by which he means, I suppose, that West-End tailors long ago nailed their high prices to the mast-head.
In commending the Bill for the continuance of D.O.R.A., a remanet from last Session, the ATTORNEY-GENERAL was almost apologetic. He laid much stress upon the "modest and attenuated form" which the measure now presented, and the short time it was to remain in force. Serious objection was taken by the Irish Members to the provision that in districts where a proclamation is in force the D.O.R.A. regulations, instead of coming to an end on August 31st, will continue for a year after the end of the War. This they naturally interpreted as a means of continuing the military government of Ireland, a country in which, according to Mr. DEVLIN, the Government had as much right as the Germans in Belgium. The House, however, seemed to agree with the Irish Attorney-General that in the present state of Ireland it would not be wise to dispense with the regulations, and gave the Bill a second reading by 219 votes to 61.
Then the House turned to the discussion of the levy on capital. The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER was still inexorably opposed to a general levy, but would like a toll on war-wealth alone, and proposed to set up a Committee to consider whether it was practicable. Mr. ADAMSON frankly declared that the Labour Party was in favour of a capital levy, but wanted to get at the war-profits first. Mr. CHAMBERLAIN objected to widening the scope of the inquiry on the ground that it would take too long, and also that uncertainty would promote extravagance and discourage saving. And, despite Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY'S naive suggestion that we should restore credit by making a bonfire of paper-money—he did not say whose—the House agreed with the CHANCELLOR.
Tuesday, February 17th.—The Acting Colonial Secretary bubbled over with delight as he described the success of the operations against the Somaliland dervishes. The principal credit was due to the Royal Air Force, but the native levies had also done their part effectively. The only fly in Colonel AMERY'S ointment was the escape of that evasive gentleman, the MULLAH, to whom he was careful on this occasion not to apply the epithet "Mad." As, however, the MULLAH has lost all his forces, all his stock and all his belongings, it is hoped that it will be at any rate some time before he pops up again.
The Coal Mines Bill was wisely entrusted to Mr. BRIDGEMAN. Lord SPENCER once delighted the House of Commons by announcing that he was "not an agricultural labourer"; and Mr. BRIDGEMAN similarly put it in a good temper by admitting that he had never himself worked in a mine. But he showed quite a sufficient acquaintance with his subject, and succeeded in dispelling some of the fog that enshrouds the figures of coal-finance. The miners, of course, objected to the Bill on the ground that it was not nationalisation, but were left in a very small minority.
A Private Members' debate on the Housing Problem occupied the evening. There was much friendly criticism of the MINISTER OF HEALTH, for whom Major LLOYD GREAME suggested a motto from the Koran:—
"This life is but a bridge; Let no man build his house upon it."
But the lapse of time is gradually bringing performance nearer to promise, and Dr. ADDISON was able to announce that over one hundred thousand houses were now "in the tender stage." Let us hope no bitter blast will nip them in the bud.
Wednesday, February 18th.—The Lords returned to work after their week's holiday in a rather gloomy mood. By some occult process of reasoning Lord PARMOOR has convinced himself that the distress in Central Europe is largely the fault of the Peace Conference. He was supported by Lord BRYCE, who declared that the "Big Four" approached the business of Treaty-making in a German rather than an English spirit (which sounds as if he thought they never meant to keep it), and by Lord HALDANE, who, more suo, accused the negotiators of having shown "no adequate prevision." Lord CRAWFORD dealt pretty faithfully with the cavillers and pointed out that this country had already spent twelve millions on relieving European distress, and was prepared to spend nearly as much again when the United States was ready to co-operate; but at present, he reminded them, that country was still in a state of war with Germany.
The one bright spot of the sitting was Lord HYLTON'S statement that the National Debt, which was within a fraction of eight thousand millions on December 31st, had since been reduced by eighty-five millions. The pace is too good to last, but it is something to have made a start.
For nearly four years we have been anxiously waiting to know what really did happen at the battle of Jutland. The voluminous efforts of Admirals and journalists have failed to clear up the mystery, and even Commander CARLYON BELLAIRS has not satisfied everybody so completely as himself that his recent work reveals the truth. But now the official history is on the eve of publication and Mr. LONG no longer feels it necessary to keep the secret. Here it is in his own words: "The moral of the German fleet was very seriously shaken." What a relief!
It seems that the Turks were informed in advance of the intention of the Peace Conference to let them stay at Constantinople in the hope that they would forthwith abandon their sanguinary habits. Instead of which they appear to have said to themselves, "What a jolly day! Let us go out and kill something—Armenians for choice." So now a further message has been sent to them to the effect that the new title to the old tenement is not absolute but conditional, and that one of the covenants forbids its use as a slaughterhouse.
A modest little Bill empowering the Mint to manufacture coins worth something less than their weight in silver aroused the wrath of Professor OMAN. The last time, according to his account, that the coinage was thus debased was in the days of HENRY VIII., whose views both on money and matrimony were notoriously lax. Other Members were friendly to the project, and Mr. DENNIS HERBERT, in the avowed interest of churchwardens, urged the Government to seize the opportunity to abolish the threepeeny-bit, the irreducible minimum of "respectable" almsgiving. The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER, however, stoutly championed the elusive little coin, for which he declared there was "an immense demand."
On Captain HAMBRO'S motion deploring the action of certain trade-unions in refusing to admit ex-Service men to their ranks the Labour Party heard some very straight talking. The whips of Lady BONHAM-CARTER at Paisley were nothing to the scorpions of ex-Private HOPKINSON, who has actually been fined at the instance of the trade-unions because he insisted upon employing some of his old comrades-in-arms.
Mr. SEXTON'S rather maladroit attempt to shift the blame on to the employers only deepened the impression that trade-unionism is developing into a system of caste, in which certain occupations are reserved for certain people. Only an elect bricklayer, for example, may lay bricks— though anybody can heave them—and the mere fact that a man has shouldered a rifle in the service of his country in no way entitles him to carry a hod.
Thursday, February 19th.—The impending advent of a Home Rule Bill is greatly perturbing the little remnant of Irish Nationalist Members, threatened with the extinction of their pet grievance. Although but seven in number they made almost noise enough for seventy. Question-time was punctuated with their plaints. The CHIEF SECRETARY did his best to soothe them, but his remark that "no man in Ireland need be in prison if he will obey the law" poured oil on the flames.
Despite the reduction of the Question-ration from eight to four per Member, the House collectively grows "curiouser and curiouser." This is partly due to the popularity of PREMIER-baiting, now to be enjoyed on Mondays and Thursdays. In future, Members are to be further restricted to three Questions per diem; but no substantial relief is to be hoped for until the House sets up its own censorship, with power to expunge all Questions that are trivial, personal or put for purposes of self-advertisement. Not many—a dozen or two daily, perhaps—would survive the scrutiny.
* * * * *
A NEW ISLE OF THE BLEST.
(The "Cubanisation" of Ireland, suggested by Mr. DE VALERA, is being seriously discussed in Sinn Fein circles.)
When Ireland is treated like Cuba, As great DE VALERA suggests, And the pestilent loyalist Pooh-Bah No longer our island infests, The Pearl that adorns the Antilles We'll speedily duplicate here, From the Lough in the North, that is Swilly's, Right down to Cape Clear.
The militant minstrels of Tara Will change their war-harps for guitars; And Clare, to be called Santa Clara, Will grow the most splendid cigars; On the banks of the Bann the banana Will yield us its succulent fruit, And the pig with the gentle iguana Together will root.
Our poets, both major and minor, Will work the new Manganese vein, And turn out a product diviner Than even the Cubans obtain; Limerigo, Galvejo, Doblino— How lovely and noble they sound! And think of Don Jose Devlino Cavorting around!
We'll borrow a leaf from Havana; We'll cultivate yuccas and yams; The Curragh shall be our savannah, Swept clear of all soldiers and shams; And then to the cry of "Majuba" We'll shatter the enemy's yoke, When Ireland is governed like Cuba And grows her own smoke.
* * * * *
DEAD SEA FRUIT.
To-day the telephone has been installed. The members of our staff are going about their duties in a dazed fashion, and I, to whose single-handed tenacity the achievement is due, find myself unable in these first full moments of triumph to concentrate on my every-day affairs.
I can still remember that fresh summer morning when with springy step I set out to call upon the District Contract Agent for the first time. Innocently enough I expected to arrange for the installation of a telephone within the next two or three days. But I recollect that as I ascended the steps of his premises I became depressed by that House of Usher foreboding, and then, when I witnessed the way in which an imperturbable official discomfited a tempestuous gentleman who was giving tongue to a long list of his wrongs, my carefully rehearsed and resolute address shrivelled on my lips and I found myself asking tamely for a form.
This form, plus the information that telephones were more speedily installed where ex-Service men were employed, was the net result of my first encounter.
And now, as I turn in reminiscent mood to a dusty file, I pause before one of my early letters to the District Contract Agent: "... If you saw our staff, who are without exception ex-soldiers, you would say at once that they are a remarkably fine body of men and deserving of a telephone. They mark their possessions with their initials in indelible pencil. Between them they have seen service on every front, from Mespot to Ireland. Some have been mentioned in despatches, many have figured in Cox's Book of Martyrs, and our cashier says that he once opened a tin of bully with the key provided for that purpose. One of our juniors, Major Bays Waller, O.B.E., who came to us from a Control Office and who advises us on our filing, says that it is like coming from a home to a home. You must come round and have a chat with him; you would have so much in common.
"Trusting that you will expedite the little matter of our telephone installation, and assuring you that the spirit of our staff continues to be excellent, etc...."
Although this letter was signed "Henry Thomas, James & Sons," the District Contract Agent's vague reply on the file before me commences: "Sir (or Madam);" and I feel now, as I did then, that it is not in the best of taste for him to brag as he does about his telephone and his "Private Branch Exchange" on the very paper on which he writes to baffled applicants for installation.
From this time the correspondence is marked by an increasing bitterness on my side and a level colourlessness on his. Only once did he assume the offensive, which took the shape of a demand for four pounds for possible services to be rendered at some period in the future. At Yuletide I hoped that "during this season of goodwill he would see his way to give instructions for the installation of our telephone," and in the New Year I played once more the ex-Service employees' card:—"... Whatever views you may hold on the policy of the withdrawal of British troops from Russia, we are convinced that you will sympathise with our desire to extend a hearty welcome to a member of our staff on his return to this office from Murmansk; and we feel that, since he served with the R.E. Signals, it would be a graceful compliment to him if we had the telephone installed. We therefore cordially invite your co-operation so that this may take place before his arrival.... The idea of installing a telephone in this office is not in itself a novel one, as you may recollect that the suggestion has cropped up in the correspondence that has passed between us...."
* * * * *
And now, as I have said, the telephone is installed. The instrument is fashioned in a severe style (receiver and mouth-piece mounted on an ebonite column of the Roman Doric Order), and it stands for all to see as a symbol that in the seclusion of our offices we are in touch with the world at large. But as a symbol only it must remain, for the voices of the outer world that call us up as they search for other friends or obstruct us when we in turn are, as it were, groping after ours, have already frayed the temper of our staff. It was inevitable that under such constant irritation these ex-Service men of ours would one day burst into strong military idiom, so we have disconnected our telephone in order to avoid the calamity of losing our lady-typist.
* * * * *
* * * * *
"Man Wanted to lift 1,200 square yards of Turf at once—Provincial Paper.
Before applying for the job our young friend Foozle would like to know whether he will be required to replace the divot.
* * * * *
AT THE PLAY.
"JUST LIKE JUDY."
If the author of Just Like Judy will look into that commodious classic, Mrs. Beeton's Cookery Book, he will find a formula for light pastry. And if he will proceed to the (for him) enlivening adventure of essaying a tartlet, he will find that most fatal among a host of fatal errors will be any failure to preserve the due proportion of ingredients. I do not suggest that there is as rigid a formula for light comedy. But certainly Mr. DENNY threw in too many unnecessary mystifications and crude explanations in proportion to the wit, wisdom and lively incident of his confection. In particular he was constantly making some of his characters tell the others what we of the audience either already knew or quite easily guessed. To exhaust my tedious-homely metaphor, if you put in a double measure of water the mixture will refuse to rise. And that I imagine is essentially what happened to Just Like Judy.
Irish Judy, a charmingly pretty busybody, outwardly just like Miss IRIS HOEY, comes to Peter Keppel's studio and hears that this casual youth has got into a deplorable habit of putting off his marriage with her friend Milly. She (Judy) will see to that! She assumes the role of a notorious Chelsea model, whom proper Peter has never seen. Peter knocks his head on the mantelpiece, just where a shrapnel splinter had hit him, and is persuaded that she, Judy McCarthy, affecting to be Trixie O'Farrel, is his wife. It all seems very horrible to him, but, shell-shock or no shell-shock, he sets to work to paint her portrait in a business-like way, and at the end of four hours it doesn't seem at all horrible. And by the time it is explained that it was all a joke (some people do have such a nice sense of humour) he is all for rushing off to the registry-office, Judy agreeing.
Not that Judy is a minx. She did her level best to make two people who obviously didn't love one another fulfil their engagement, instead of, like a sensible woman, accepting the inevitable, which was, as it happens, so congenial to her. What puzzled me was Peter's indignation with poor Milly when he found that she really didn't love him (but, on the contrary, a bounder called Crauford), yet couldn't bear to cause him unhappiness, and was sacrificing herself for him. As that was his attitude precisely, I suppose he felt annoyed by this lack of originality. If we men are like that, it wasn't nice of Mr. DENNY to give us away.
At any rate I am sure Mr. DONALD CALTHROP didn't believe in Peter all the time. When he did he was very good indeed. When he didn't he was horrid. Did Miss IRIS HOEY believe in Judy? I am not so sure. I suspect not. Did I believe in either? I did not.
I was a little surprised that Miss JOAN VIVIAN-REES should so overplay her Trixie. Her work is certainly in general not like that, and I conjecture the influence of some baleful autocrat of a producer. It seemed to me that Miss MILDRED EVELYN'S Milly was, all things considered, a capable and consistent study of a desperately unsympathetic character, a more difficult and creditable feat than is commonly supposed.
I should hesitate to accuse Mr. RONALD JEANS of originality in the design of his musical trifle at the Comedy. The idea of a company of women that bans the society of men is at least as old as the Attic stage. But it is to his credit that though the theme invited suggestiveness he at least avoided the licence of The Lysistrata. Indeed there were moments when his restraint filled me with respectful wonder. Thus, though the Pacific Island to which the Junior Jumper Club retired—with no male attendant but the Club porter—clearly indicated a bathing scene, yet we had to be satisfied with an occasional glimpse of an exiguous maillot with nobody inside it.
In fact, the fun throughout had a note of reserve and was never boisterous. Mr. JACK BUCHANAN'S quiet methods in the part of the Hon. Bill Malcolm, universal philanderer, lent themselves to this quality of understatement. In a scene where he tried to extricate himself from a number of coincident entanglements with various members of the Club he was quite amusing without the aid of italics. Mr. GILBERT CHILDS, again, as Weekes—Club porter and Admirable Crichton of the island—though a little broader in his style, was too clever to force the fun.
The other sex, as was natural with women who affected a serious purpose, had fewer chances, and Miss PHYLLIS MONKMAN spoilt hers by a bad trick of hunching her shoulders and waggling her arms as if she were out for a cake-walk on Montmartre.
There were touches of humour in Mr. CUVILLIER'S tuneful music and in the limited movements of the best-looking chorus that I have seen for a long time.
As for the plot, it had at least the merit of continuity and conformed to the logic, seldom too severe, of this kind of entertainment, as distinct from the so-called revue. Nearly everything was well within my intelligence, the chief exception being the title; for never surely did a wild-goose chase offer such easy sport. The birds were just asking to be put into the bag. I should myself have preferred, out of compliment to the chorus, to call the play "Wild Ducks," only, of course, IBSEN had been there before. Not that this would have greatly troubled an author who showed so little regard for the proprietary rights of ARISTOPHANES and Sir JAMES BARRIE.
* * * * *
"Finns, they're witches," said Murphy, "'tis born in 'em maybe, The same as fits an' freckles an' follerin' the sea, An' ginger hair in some folks—an' likin' beer in me.
"Finns, they're witches," said Murphy, "an' powerful strong ones too; They'll whistle a wind from nowhere an' a storm out o' the blue 'Ud sink this here old hooker an' all her bloomin' crew.
"Finns, they're witches," said Murphy, rubbing his hairy chin, "An' some counts witchcraft bunkum, an' some a deadly sin, But—there ain't no harm as I see in standing well with a Finn."
* * * * *
OUR CYNICAL PRESS.
"Mr. ——, M.P., is leaving home for a fortnight's rest."—Scotch Paper.
* * * * *
PROTECTION FROM BURGLARS.
FOR IDEAL AND OTHER HOMES.
* * * * *
Ernest was a sprightly youth With a passion for the truth, Who, the other day, began His career as midshipman. 'Twas not in the least degree Vulgar curiosity Urging him to ask the reason Why, both in and out of season; 'Twas but keenness; all he lacked Was a saving sense of tact.
Once the Lieut. of Ernie's watch, Dour, meticulous and Scotch, Thought he'd show the timid snotty (Newly joined) exactly what he Wanted when inspecting men. Closely Ernest watched, and then Said, saluting, "Sir, I note Several creases in your coat, And I see upon your trouser Signs of paint-work; yet just now, Sir, Did you not think fit to blame One poor man who had the same?"
Ere that outraged Lieut. replied Suddenly our hero spied Coming aft, his labours done, Our benignant Number One (Most abstemious is he, And, in fact, a strict T.T., But—it shows how Fate can blunder— No one could be rubicunder. Ernest, after one swift glance, Said, "Excuse my ignorance, But, Sir, can you tell me why You are always red, while I, Even when I drink a lot, Only flush if I am hot?"
Just as Number One grew pale And collapsed against the rail, Striving grimly not to choke, Ernest heard the busy Bloke Calling loudly, "Let her go!" To a seaman down below; "Fool! the cutter's bound to ram you, Push the pinnace forrard, damn you!" Ernest shook his youthful head And he very gently said Into his Commander's ear, "You forget yourself, I fear. May I ask what you would do If I used that word to you? Is it worthy, Sir, of an Officer and gentleman?"
Aft ran little Ernest, only Pausing when he saw a lonely Figure bright with golden lace Who appeared to own the place. "Ah!" thought Ernie, "I know you; You're the luckless Captain who (Though you hadn't then a beard) Most unwillingly appeared But a year ago or less In the Illustrated Press." "Tell me, Sir," the youngster cried, Crossing to the Captain's side Of the sacred quarterdeck— "How did you contrive the wreck Of the cruiser you commanded When she bumped the beach and stranded?"
You may say, "He is so brave he Ought some day to rule the Navy." Certainly he ought, but still I'm afraid he never will; For they talked to him so gruffly And they handled him so roughly That, when he was fit to drop And the kindly Bloke said, "Stop! Or you'll make him even madder; He is wiser now and sadder," Ernest simply answered, "Ay, Sir, You have made me sad; but why, Sir?"
* * * * *
"I wonder," said Mary for the third time, "if we shall catch the tram at the other end."
"Calmness," I told her—this for the second time—"is the essence of comfortable travel. Meeting trouble half-way—"
"It isn't half-way," she said indignantly. "We're nearly there."
We were on a bus whose "route" terminated some five miles from home, which we proposed to reach by a tram, and, the hour being late, it was our chances of catching a car that were worrying Mary.
"Never get flurried," I went on. "If people would only go ahead calmly and steadily.... What causes half our traffic congestion? Flurry. What makes it so difficult to move quickly in the streets? Flurry. What is it clogs the wheels of progress everywhere?"
"Don't tell me," she implored. "Let me guess. Flurry."
"Exactly," I said, and at this point we reached our terminus. Two trams were waiting, one behind the other, some thirty yards away, and, as we descended the steps of the bus, the bell of the first one rang warningly. Mary would have started running, but I detained her.
"Flurrying again," I said indulgently. "Here are two trams, but of course you must have the first one, however full it is," and I led her towards the second. As I expected, it was quite empty, and I was still using it to point my moral when its conductor began juggling with the pole. It was then that I realised that, though on the down lines, this car was going no further. It was, in fact, turning round for its journey back to London, while in the distance the rear lights of our last down tram seemed to wink a derisive farewell.
There was nothing for it but to go ahead calmly and steadily, and we did so. It was somewhere about the end of the fourth mile that Mary asked suddenly:—
"What was it you said clogged the wheels of progress everywhere?"
"Flurry," I said feebly.
"Well, I think it's blisters," she said.
* * * * *
Those who are still inclined to question whether the cinema is to be regarded as a serious force in the realm of Art should not only read the frequent contributions to The Times and other newspapers on this department of the drama, but should bear in mind that quite recently it has been stated that both the Rev. SILAS K. HOCKING and Mr. JACK DEMPSEY have taken part in photo-plays. It cannot be doubted that the peculiar talent required for making the heart of the people throb is being revealed in the most unlikely places.
* * * * *
If proof were needed that the art of the film is a dangerous rival to that of the stage, we would point to the five-reel drama, The Call of the Thug, of which a private trade view was given last week. Miss Flora Poudray, who is here featured—her name is new to us—proves to be a screen actress of superb gifts. We have seen nothing quite so subtly perfect as her gesture of dissent when the villain proposes that he and she together should strangle the infant heir to the millionaire woollen merchant on the raft during the thunder-storm. Patrons of the cinema will do well to look out for this delicate yet moving passage. The film will be released as early as November, 1921.
* * * * *
"MR. BALFOUR ON OUR WAR CRIMINALS LIST."—Daily Paper.
We simply can't believe it.
* * * * *
"The amount of coal available for home consumption last year was 4,385 tons per head of the population."—Evening Paper.
Then somebody else must have collared our share.
* * * * *
"LIVE STOCK AND PETS.
GENERAL, family 2; liberal wages and outings."—Liverpool Paper.
The difficulty with "pets" of this kind is that they are hard to get and almost impossible to keep.
* * * * *
"An Englishman usually finds it about as difficult to produce an R from his thoat as to produce a rabbit from a top-hat—both feats require practice."—Provincial Paper.
In this case we fear it can't be done, even with practice.
* * * * *
* * * * *
(By Mr. Punch's Staff of Learned Clerks.)
The publishers of Peter Jackson: Cigar Merchant (HUTCHINSON) seem in their announcements to be desperately afraid lest anyone should guess it to be a War book. It is, they suggest, the story of the flowering of perfect love between two married folk who had drifted apart. It is really an admirable epitome of the War as seen through one pair of eyes and one particular temperament. I don't recall another War novel that is so convincing. The almost incredible confusions of the early days of the making of K.'s army; the gradual shaping of the great instrument; the comradeship of fine spirits and the intrigues of meaner; leadership good and less good; action with its energy, glory and horror; reaction (with incidentally a most moving analysis of the agonies of shell-shock and protracted neurasthenia) after the long strain of campaigning—all this is brought before you in the most vivid manner. Mr. GILBERT FRANKAU writes with a fierce sincerity and with perhaps the defects of that sincerity—a bitterness against the non-combatant which was not usual in the fighting- man, at least when he was fighting; or perhaps it was only that they were too kind then to say so. Also as "one of us" he is a little overwhelmed by the sterling qualities of the rank-and-file—qualities which ought, he would be inclined to assume, to be the exclusive product of public-school playing-fields. I haven't said that Peter Jackson gave up cigars and cigarettes for the sword, and beat that into a plough-share for a small-holding when the War was done. A jolly interesting book.
* * * * *
I found the arrangement of The Clintons and Others (COLLINS) at first a little confusing, because Mr. ARCHIBALD MARSHALL, instead of keeping his Clinton tales consecutive, has mixed them democratically with the Others. Our first sight of the family (and incidentally the most agreeable thing in the volume) is provided by "Kencote," a brightly- coloured and engaging anecdote of Regency times, and of the plucking of an honoured house from the ambiguous patronage of the First Gentleman in Europe. I found this delightful, spirited, picturesque and original. Thence we pass to the Others, to the theme (old, but given here with a pleasant freshness of circumstance) of maternal craft in averting a threatened mesalliance, to a study of architecture in its effect upon character, to a girls' school tale; finally to the portrait of a modern Squire Clinton, struggling to adjust his mind to the complexities of the War. This last, a character-study of very moving and sympathetic realism, suffers a little from a defect inherent in one of Mr. MARSHALL'S best qualities, his gift for absolutely natural dialogue. The danger of this is that, as here in the bedroom chatter of the Squire's daughters, his folk are apt to repeat themselves, as talk does in nature, but should not (I suppose) in art. Still this is a small defect in a book that is sincere in quality and convincingly human in effect. The Clintons and Others is certainly miles away from the collections of reprinted pot-boilers that at one time brought books of short stories into poor repute. Mr. MARSHALL and Others (a select band) will rapidly correct this by giving us in small compass work equal to their own best.
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Shuttered Doors (LANE) is what you might call a third-and-fourth- generation story—one of those books, so rightly devastating to the skipper, in which the accidental turning of two pages together is quite liable to involve you with the great-grandchildren of the couple whose courtship you have been perusing. Observe that I was careful to say the "accidental" turning, though I can picture a type of reader who might soon be fluttering the pages of Shuttered Doors in impatient handfuls. The fact is that Mrs. WILLIAM HICKS BEACH has here written what is less a novel than a treatise, tasteful, informed and sympathetic, on county life and manners and houses. The last of these themes especially has an undisguised fascination for her. When Aletta, the chief heroine, was left pots of money by a Dutch uncle (who was so far from filling his proverbial role that he hardly talked at all) she spent it and her enthusiasm, indeed her existence, in restoring two variously dilapidated mansions—Graythorpes, her husband's home, and Doller Place, left her by an appreciative aunt. When not thus employed she would be reading a paper on Homes (given here in extenso), or comparing those of other persons with her own. I don't want you to get the impression that Shuttered Doors is precisely arid; it is too full of ideas and vitalities for that; but it does undoubtedly demand a special kind of reader. Incidentally, Mrs. HICKS BEACH should revise her chronology. For Aletta, who was married at twenty-eight and died at sixty-two, to have had at that time a grandson on the staff of the Viceroy of India, he must have received his appointment before the age of fifteen—which even in these experimental days sounds a little premature.
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Do not allow yourself to be misled by the fact that the portrait on the paper cover of Maureen (JENKINS) does, I admit, remarkably suggest a lady whose mission in life is the advertisement of complexion soap. You probably know already that the methods of Mr. PATRICK MACGILL are made of sterner stuff. This "Story of Donegal," which I have no intention of giving in detail, is the history of the course of true love in an Irish village, full of types which, I dare say, are realistically observed; verbose in places to an almost infuriating degree (not till page 61 does the heroine so much as put her nose round the scenery), but working up to a climax of considerable power. Maureen, I need hardly say, was as fair as moonrise, but suffered from the drawback of an irregular origin, which took the poor girl a great deal of living down. Nor need I specify the fact that most of the male characters in the district are soon claimants for her hand. Really this is the plot. Having betrayed so much, however, nothing shall persuade me to expose the bogie scenes on the midnight moor, where the villain combines his illicit whiskey manufacture with his courtship, and where finally the three protagonists come by a startling finish. Maureen is not a story that I should recommend save for readers with abundant leisure; but those whose pluck and endurance carry them to the kill will certainly have their reward.
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In Memories of a Marine (MURRAY) Major-General Sir GEORGE ASTON records for us, cosily and anecdotally, a life spent in service, not only of the active kind—in Egypt and South Africa—but also as a Staff College Professor, and, more intriguingly, as an expert in Secret Intelligence in the cloisters of Whitehall or up and down the Mediterranean. If his book is not so sensational in the matter of revelations as the current fashion requires, it has a restful interest all its own, varied here and there with some very attractive stories. To give just one example, the author, when setting out to co-ordinate the work of various authorities in a certain harbour, found a signal buoy, a torpedo station, a fixed mine and a boom, each under separate control, all included in the defences. But the torpedo could not be launched unless the buoy were first cleared away, and the mine, if fired, would blow up the boom. One would have welcomed more of this sort of thing, for the truth is that even restfulness may be overdone and discretion become almost too admirable. Occasionally too the writer enlarges a little on—well, he enlarges a little, as anyone would with half his provocation. Still, for all comrades of his service, at any rate, every word he has written will be of interest; and perhaps he does not really mind so much about the general public, though he has had the good sense to crown his work with an apposite quotation from Punch.
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The Specials (HEINEMANN) is the story of the Metropolitan Special Constabulary, and it would have been a thousand pities if it had not been told. Colonel W.T. REAY'S book will stand as a record of invaluable service performed by a devoted body of men, service for which the whole nation—and London in particular—has every reason to be grateful. If I understand Colonel REAY rightly he doesn't wish bouquets to be thrown at the Specials, but he would not, I think, discourage me from saying that they performed dangerous and ticklish work with unfailing resource and tact. All of us know that they desire no other reward for their services than the satisfaction of having done their duty; but our gratitude demands to be heard; and I for one take this occasion to trumpet forth the "All clear" signal with feelings of affectionate pride.
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If By Way of Bohemia (SKEFFINGTON) is a fair sample of Mr. MARK ALLERTON'S work I have been missing a number of very readable stories. His hero, Hugh Kelvin, a journalist (they must be rare) who had no very good conceit of himself, married a barmaid, and she ran his house as if it were a third-class drinking saloon. She was one of those women who for want of a better word we call impossible; but she found Hugh as unsatisfactory as he found her. In the circumstances the union had to be dissolved, and, although I suspect Mr. ALLERTON'S tongue of being very near his cheek when he contrived Hugh's escape from a life of sordid misery, I admit that his solution of the difficulty is cleverly told. And, after all, coincidences do happen in real life, and it would be unfair to Providence to suppose that they were not put there for a useful purpose.
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"Gentleman washes to be received as Paying Guest."—Daily Paper.
A very proper preliminary.