PUNCH, OR THE LONDON CHARIVARI
MARCH 17, 1920
PRINCE ALBERT JOACHIM, it appears, did not take part in the attack on a French officer at the Hotel Adlon, but only gave the signal. Always the little Hohenzollern!
It seems that at the last moment Mr. C. B. COCHRAN broke off negotiations for the exclusive right to organise the CARPENTIER wedding.
"Will Scotland go dry?" asks The Daily Express. Not on purpose, we imagine.
A new method of stopping an omnibus by a foot-lever has been patented. This is much better than the old plan of shaking one's umbrella at them.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE, we read, makes a study of handwriting. The only objection that The Times has to this habit is that he positively refuses to notice the writing on the wall.
It is rumoured that the Government will construct an experimental tunnel between England and the United States in order (1) to cement Anglo-American friendship, and (2) to ascertain if the Channel Tunnel is practicable.
Dr. C.W. COLBY, head of the Department of History, has taken Sir AUCLAND GEDDES' place as Principal of McGill University. The report that Sir AUCKLAND will reciprocate by taking a place in history awaits confirmation.
"It is quite usual nowadays," a well-known auctioneer states, "for mill hands to keep a few orchids." We understand that by way of a counter-stroke a number of noblemen are threatening to go in for runner ducks.
A Rotherham couple who have just celebrated their diamond wedding have never tasted medicine. We ourselves have always maintained that the taste is an acquired one.
A Greenland falcon has been shot in the Orkneys. The view is widely taken that the wretched bird, which must have known it wasn't in Greenland, brought the trouble on itself.
An alleged anarchist arrested in Munich was identified as a poet and found Not Guilty—not guilty, that is to say, of being an anarchist.
With reference to the pending retirement of Mr. ROBERT SMILLIE from the Presidency of the Miners' Federation, it appears that there is talk of arranging a farewell strike.
The Berlin Vorwaerts states that ex-Emperor CARL has been discovered in Hungary under an assumed name. The Hungarian authorities say that unless he is claimed within three days he will be sold to defray expenses.
We understand that Mr. Justice DARLING'S weekly denial of the reports of his retirement will in future be issued on Tuesdays, instead of Wednesdays, as hitherto.
When hit by a bullet a tiger roars until dead, says a weekly paper, but a tigress dies quietly. Nervous people who suffer from headaches should therefore only shoot tigresses.
Two out of ten houses being built at Guildford are now complete. Builders in other parts of the country are asking who gave the word "Go."
"Marvellous to relate," says a Sunday paper, "a horse has just died at Ingatestone at the age of thirty-six." Surely it is more marvellous that it did not die before.
It is said that the Paris Peace Conference cost two million pounds. The latest suggestion is that, before the next war starts, tenders for a Peace Conference shall be asked for and the lowest estimate accepted.
A Walsall carter has summoned a fellow-worker because during a quarrel he stepped on his face. It was not so much that he had stepped on his face, we understand, as the fact that he had loitered about on it.
A painful mistake is reported from North London. It appears that a young lady who went to a fancy-dress ball as "The Silent Wife" was awarded the first prize for her clever impersonation of a telephone girl.
We are glad to learn that the thoughtless tradesman who, in spite of the notice, "Please ring the bell," deliberately knocked at the front-door of a wooden house, has now had to pay the full cost of rebuilding.
After reading in her morning paper that bumping races were held recently at Cambridge, a dear old lady expressed sorrow that the disgraceful scenes witnessed in many dance-rooms in London had spread to one of our older universities.
Tyrolese hats have reappeared in London after an interval of nearly five years. We understand that the yodel waistcoat will also be heard this spring.
A Welshman was fined fifteen pounds last week for fishing for salmon with a lamp. Defendant's plea, that he was merely investigating the scientific question of whether salmon yawn in their sleep, was not accepted.
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* * * * *
MORE BOAT-RACE "INTELLIGENCE."
"The Oxford crew had a hard training for an hour and a-half under the direction of Mr. Harcourt Gold, who is to catch them at Putney."—Evening Paper.
But will they catch Cambridge at Barnes?
"The Cambridge people have elected to use a scull with a tubular shank or 'loom.'
"Oxford are using these sculls, too."—Evening Paper.
We have a silly old-fashioned preference for the use of oars in this competition.
* * * * *
"On St. David's Day, Welshmen wear a leak in their hats."—Provincial Paper.
Lest they should suffer from swelled head?
* * * * *
THE "NEW" WORLD.
["Direct Action," which was regarded as a novelty suitable for an age of reconstruction, has now, by the good sense of the Trades Union Congress, been relegated to its proper place in the old and discredited order of things.]
In these, the young Millennium's years, Whereof they loudly boomed the birth, Promising by the lips of seers New Heavens and a brand-new Earth, We find the advertised attraction In point of novelty is small, And argument by force of action Would seem the oldest wheeze of all.
When Prehistoric Man desired Communion with his maid elect, And arts of suasion left him tired, He took to action more direct; Scaring her with a savage whoop or Putting his club across her head, He bore her in a state of stupor Home to his stony bridal bed.
In ages rather more refined, Gentlemen of the King's highway, Whose democratic tastes inclined To easy hours and ample pay, Would hardly ever hold their victim Engaged in academic strife, But raised their blunderbuss and ticked him Off with "Your money or your life."
So when your miners, swift to scout The use of reason's slow appeal, Threaten to starve our children out And bring the country in to heel, There's nothing, as I understand it, So very new in this to show; The cave-man and the cross-roads bandit Were there before them long ago.
* * * * *
FAIR WEAR AND TEAR.
In a short time now we shall have to return this flat to its proper tenants and arrive at some assessment of the damage done to their effects. With regard to the other rooms, even the room which Richard and Priscilla condescend to use as a nursery, I shall accept the owners' estimate cheerfully enough, I think; but the case of the drawing-room furniture is different. About the nursery I have only heard vague rumours, but in the drawing-room I have been an eye-witness of the facts.
The proper tenant is a bachelor who lived here with his sister; he will scarcely realise, therefore, what happens at 5 P.M. every day, when there comes, as the satiric poet, LONGFELLOW, has so finely sung—
"A pause in the day's occupations, Which is known as the children's hour."
Drawing-room furniture indeed! When one considers the buildings and munition dumps, the live and rolling stock, the jungles and forests in that half-charted territory; when one considers that even the mere wastepaper basket by the writing-desk (and it does look a bit battered, that wastepaper basket) is sometimes the tin helmet under which Richard defies the frightfulness of LARS PORSENA, and sometimes a necessary stage property for Priscilla's two favourite dramatic recitations
"He plunged with a delighted scweam Into a bowl of clotted cweam,"
"This is Mr. Piggy Wee, With tail so pink and curly, And when I say, 'Good mornin', pig,' He answers vewwy surly, Oomph! Oomph!'"
and sometimes the hutch that harbours a cotton-wool creation supposed to be a white rabbit, and stated by the owner to be "munsin' and munsin' and munsin' a carrot"—when, I say, I consider all these things I anticipate that the proceedings of the Reparation Commission will be something like this:—
He (looking a little ruefully at the round music-stool). I suppose your wife plays the piano a good deal?
I (brightly). If you mean the detachable steering-wheel, it is only fair to remember that a part interchangeable between the motor-omnibus and the steam-roller—
He. I don't understand.
I. Permit me to reassemble the mechanism.
He. You mean that when you put that armchair at the end of the sofa and the music-stool in front of it—
I. I mean that the motor-omnibus driver, sitting as he does in front of his vehicle and manipulating his steering-wheel like this, can do little or no harm to the apparatus. On the other hand, the steam-roller mechanic, standing inside the body of the vehicle, and having the steering-wheel in this position—
He. On the sofa?
I. Naturally. Well, supposing he happens to have a slight difference of opinion with his mate as to which of them ought to do the driving, the wheel is quite likely to be pushed off on to the macadam, where it gets a trifle frayed round the edges.
He. I see. How awfully stupid of me! And this pouffe, or whatever they call it?
I. Week in and week out, boy and girl, I have seen that dromedary ridden over more miles of desert than I can tell you, and never once have I known it under-fed or under-watered, or struck with anything harder than the human fist. Of course the hump does get a little floppy with frequent use, but considering how barren your Sahara—
He. Quite, quite. I was just looking at that armchair. Aren't there a lot of scratches on the legs?
I. Have you ever kept panthers? Do you realise how impatiently they chafe at times against the bars of their cage? Of course, if you haven't....
Finally, I imagine he will see how reasonable my attitude is and how little he has to complain of. He will recognise that one cannot deal with complicated properties of this sort without a certain amount of inevitable dilapidation and loss.
As a matter of fact I have an even stronger line of argument if I choose to take it. I can put in a counter-claim. One of the principal attractions of old furniture, after all, is historic association. There is the armchair, you know, that Dr. JOHNSON sat in, and the inkpot, or whatever it was, that MARY, Queen of Scots, threw at JOHN BUNYAN or somebody, and I have also seen garden-seats carved out of famous battleships. And then again, if you go to Euston, or it may be Darlington, you will find on the platform the original tea-kettle out of which GEORGE WASHINGTON constructed the first steam-engine. The drawing-room furniture that we are relinquishing combines the interest of all these things. If I like I can put a placard on the sofa, before I take its owner to see it, worded something like this:—
"Puffing Billy, the original steam-roller out of which this elegant piece was carved, held the 1920 record for fourteen trips to Brighton and back within half-an-hour." And after he has seen that I can lead him gently on to Roaring Rupert, the arm-chair. Really, therefore, when one comes to consider it, the man owes me a considerable sum of money for the enhanced sentimental value that has been given to his commonplace property.
Mind you, I have no wish to be too hard on him. I shall be content with a quite moderate claim, or even with no claim at all. Possibly, now I come to think of it; I shall simply say,
"You know what it is to have a couple of bally kids about the place. What shall I give you to call it square?"
And he will name a sum and offer me a cigarette, and we shall talk a little about putting or politics.
But it doesn't much matter. Whatever he asks he can only put it down in the receipts' column of his account-book under the heading of "Depreciation of Furniture," whereas in my expenses it will stand as "Richard and Priscilla: for Adventures, Travel and Romance."
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* * * * *
WINTER SPORT IN THE LOWER ALPS.
About two months ago, after a course of travel literature and some back numbers of The Badminton Magazine, I became infected with a desire to spend a winter in the Alps, skating, sliding, curling and yodelling in the intervals of ski-ing, skijoring, skilacking and skihandlung. The very names of the pastimes conjured up a picture of swift and healthy activity. As the pamphlets assured me, I should return a new man; and, though I am greatly attached to the old one, I recognised that improvement was possible.
I don't remember how it came about that I finally chose Freidegg among the multiplicity of winter-sport stations whose descriptions approximated to those of Heaven. I expect Frederick forced the choice upon me; Frederick had been to Switzerland every winter from 1906 to 1913 and knew the ropes. I somehow gathered that the ropes were of unusual complexity.
The entire journey was passed among winter-sporters of a certain type. From their conversation I was able to learn that Badeloden was formerly overrun by Germans; that Franzheim was excellent if you stayed at the Grand, but at the Kurhaus the guests were unsociable, while at the Oberalp you were not done well and the central-heating was inefficient.
I ventured a few questions about the sport available, but was gently rebuked by the silence which followed before conversation was resumed in a further discussion of comforts and social amenities.
On arrival at the hotel I took out my skates, but, on Frederick's advice, hid them again. "Don't let people see that you are a newcomer; there won't be any skating for some weeks yet," said he.
"But why not?" I objected. "The ice must be at least six inches thick."
"Well, it isn't done," he replied. "One's first week is spent in settling down; you can't go straight on the ice without preparation."
On the third day a Sports' Meeting was held, as the result of which a programme of the season was published. It was announced that there would be, weekly, three dances and one bridge tournament; a theatrical performance would be given once a fortnight, and the blank evenings filled with either a concert or an entertainment. I began to wonder how I could squeeze in time for sleep.
In order that boredom might not overtake the guests before evening came, a magnificent tea was served from four to six. During the afternoon one could visit the other hotels of the place and usually found some function in progress. We were not expected to breakfast before ten, and the short time that remained before lunch was spent in a walk to the rink, where we would solemnly take a few steps on the ice, murmur, "Not in condition yet," and return to the hotel.
After about a fortnight of this I announced to Frederick that I was going to skate, no matter how far from perfection the ice proved to be.
Frederick was indignant.
"You'll make yourself both conspicuous and unpopular. The two Marriotts are giving an exhibition to-morrow; if you spoil the ice for them their show will be ruined."
"Very well, then," said I, "I will borrow some ski and mess about on the snow."
"You can't do that," he replied, horrified; "the professionals are coming next week for the open competition, and if they don't find clean snow—"
"All right; I'll get one of those grid-irons and course down the ice-run. I suppose that's what the ice-run is for," said I bitterly.
"And spoil the Alpine Derby, which you know is fixed for the tenth?" Frederick addressed me with some severity. "Look here—you must choose your sport and stick to it. I am a ski-er; you don't find me skating or bobbing or curling."
"Or ski-ing," I added.
"Before ski-ing," he informed me, "one must have one's ski in perfect condition. Mine are improving daily."
Frederick in fact spent his short mornings in giving instructions as to how his ski were to be oiled and rubbed. All the most complicated operations of unction and massage were performed upon them, and all the time Frederick watched over them as over a sick child.
Next I was told that the height of the season had arrived. The round of indoor entertainments went on and almost daily the guests walked to some near point to witness performances by professionals who seemed to tour the country for that purpose.
Just when there appeared to be a slight prospect of some general outdoor activity (and Frederick's ski were pronounced perfect) a thaw occurred. I am bound to say that the event was received philosophically. Not a single member of the company made any complaint; they faced adversity like true Britons and boldly sat in the warm hotel to save themselves for the evening. Nor did their distress put them off their feed; they punished the tea unmercifully, showing scarcely a sign of the aching sorrow which devoured them.
Soon it froze again. The daily visit to the ice was made and Frederick's ski were once more put into training.
As for me I began to believe that there was something shameful or disgraceful in my desire to skate. So I left secretly for Sicily. Here I can enjoy passive entertainment without being unpleasantly chilled.
Well, a few days ago I received from Frederick a letter, from which the following is a quotation: "The final thaw has now occurred and the season is ended. It has been one of the most successful on record. The full programme was carried out to the letter; I wish you had been here for the last Fancy Dress. My ski were really fit and I was looking forward to some great days on the snow. I think I made a bit of a hit too, playing Lord Twinkles in The Gay Life."
The ski will no doubt miss Frederick's affectionate attention; he was very fond of them.
Yesterday, by the purest accident I came across Claudia, like myself enjoying the warmth and sunshine.
"Oh, you've been to Freidegg; how lovely! I went to Kestaag this year and was very glad to leave. Nothing to do in the evening but sit round a fire. All day the hotel was like a wilderness and outside nothing but a lot of men falling about in the snow. They were too tired to do anything during the evening. It was horrid. Next time I shall be more careful and choose a nice bright place like Freidegg."
Next time I too shall be more careful.
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* * * * *
It was really Isabel's idea. But it must be admitted that the Foxes took it up with remarkable promptitude. How it reached them is uncertain, but maybe the little bird that nests outside her nursery window knows more than we do.
The idea owed its inception to my attempt at explaining the pink-coated horsemen depicted on an old Christmas card. I did my best, right up to and including the "worry," in which Isabel joined with enthusiasm. Then she went to bed.
But not to sleep. As I passed by the open door I heard a small excited voice expounding to a lymphatic dolly the whole mystery of fox-hunting:—
"And there was a wood, and there was a smell. And all the peoploos on 'normous huge high horses. And nen all the hound-foxes runned after the smell and eated it all up."
A fortnight later, taking a short cut through the Squire's coverts, I sat down to enjoy the glory of woodland springtime. "There was a wood and there was a smell." There certainly was; in fact I was all but sitting upon an earth.
All this is credible enough. Now I hope you will believe the rest of the story.
A dirty sheet of paper lay near Reynard's front doorstep. Idly curious, I picked it up. Strange paper, a form of print that I had never seen before; marked too with dirty pads.
It was a newspaper of sorts. Prominent notices adjured the reader to "Write to John Fox about it." The leading article was headed
"Foxes of Britain!" it began; "opposed though we have always been to revolutionary politics, a clear line is indicated to us out of the throes of the Re-birth. The old feudal relations between Foxes and Men have had their day. The England that has been the paradise of the wealthy, of the pink-coated, of the doubly second-horsed, must become that of the oppressed, the hunted, the hand-to-mouth liver. In a word, we have had enough of Fox-Hounds; henceforth we will have Hound-Foxes."
Then the policy was outlined. Foxes could not hunt hounds—no; but they could lead them a dog's life. They had been in the past too sporting; thought too little of their own safety, too much of the pleasure of the Hunt and of the reputation of its country.
Henceforth the League of Hound-Foxes would dispense justice to the oppressors. No more forty-minute bursts over the best line in the country; no more grass and easy fences; no more favourable crossing points at the Whissendine Brook; no more rhapsodies in The Field over "a game and gallant fox."
A Hound-Fox would be game, but not gallant. He would carry with him a large-scale specially-marked map, showing where bullfinches were unstormable; where the only gaps harboured on the far side a slimy ditch; where woods were rideless; where wire was unmarked; where railways lured to destruction—over and through each and every point would the Hound-Fox entice the cursing Hunt.
As for the Hounds, they feared no obstacles, but they hated mockery. They should be led on to the premises of sausage factories; through villages, to be greeted as brothers-in-the-chase by forty yelping curs; into infant-schools (that old joke), where the delighted babes would throw arms around their necks and call them "Doggie," until both men and hounds would begin to question whether the game were worth the candle.
Therefore let every eligible vulpine enroll himself to-day as a Hound-Fox. They must be dog-foxes, rising three or over, of good stamina, with plenty of scent, intelligent and preferably unmarried. The League Secretary was —— (here followed the name, earth and covert of a well-known veteran).
There was other matter, of course. A "Grand Prize Competition—A Turkey a Week for Life!" was announced. A humorous article on Earth-Stoppers and, on the "Vixens' Page," a discussion as to the edibility of Pekinese.
Absent-mindedly I crumpled up the astounding rag and thrust it down the hole.
* * * * *
I arose stiff, bemused. The hot March sunshine and the song of birds had left me drowsy. A glance at my watch showed me, to my astonishment, that was tea-time. So I made my way home.
The reception of my story was as cold as the tea. They weren't such fools, they said, as to believe it. So, knowing your larger charity, dear Mr. Punch, I send it to you.
And I shall await that retrospective article in some Maytime Field, entitled "A Season of Disasters."
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A CRITICAL PROBLEM.
"The Admirable Crichton is still one of the most captivating of modern plays, rich in humour, scenically 'telling' and close-packed with Barrieisms."—Times.
"'Crichton' is one of the most agreeable Barrie plays, because it is so free from Barrieisms."—Manchester Guardian.
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SURMISES AND SURPRISES.
The appearance of the Dean of ST. PAUL'S at a recent social gathering not in the character of a wet blanket, but as a teller of jocund tales and a retailer of humorous anecdotes, must not be taken as an isolated and transient transformation, but as foreshadowing a general conversion of writers and publicists hitherto associated with utterances of a mordant, bitter, sardonic and pessimistic tone.
It is rumoured at Cambridge that Mr. MAYNARD KEYNES, mollified by the reception of his momentous work, has plunged into an orgy of optimism, the first-fruits of which will be a treatise on The Gastronomic Consequences of the Peace. Those who have been fortunate enough to see the MS. declare that the personal sketches of Mr. CLYNES, Mr. G.H. ROBERTS, Mr. HOOVER and M. ESCOFFIER are marked by a coruscating wit unparalleled in the annals of Dietetics. The account of a dinner at the "White Horse" is perhaps the clou of an exceptionally exhilarating entertainment.
This agreeable swing of the pendulum is further illustrated by the report that Mr. PHILIP GIBBS, by way of counteracting the depression caused by his last book, is contemplating a palliative under the title of Humours of the Home Front. It is hoped that the book will come out serially in the pages of The Hibbert Journal.
Very welcome too is the report, not yet officially confirmed, that Sir E. RAY LANKESTER is engaged on a genial biography of Sir ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE, with special reference to his achievements in the domain of psychical research.
Other similar rumours are flying about in Fleet Street, but we give them with necessary reserve. One of them credits Mr. LYTTON STRACHEY with the resolve to indite a panegyric of the Archbishop of CANTERBURY. Another ascribes to Lord FISHER the preparation of a treatise on The Evils of Egotism.
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THE WEEK'S GREAT THOUGHT.
"We are at a crisis, and a critical one at that."—Sir ARCHIBALD SALVIDGE in "The Sunday Chronicle."
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IN A GOOD CAUSE.
A special matinee is to be given by Mr. CHARLES GULLIVER at the Paladium, on Friday, March 19th, for the National Children's Adoption Association. Mrs. LLOYD GEORGE, who makes a strong appeal for this good work, will receive applications for tickets at 10, Downing Street, S.W., and cheques should be made payable to her.
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SONGS OF THE HOME.
IV.—THE BARRISTER HUSBAND.
How doth the Barrister delight, According to his sort, To mix in any form of fight In any kind of Court.
When Nurse's temper runs amok, And Cook is by the ears, And all the home is terror-struck By notices and tears, And Madame begs me estimate What argument or bounce'll Restore and keep the peace, I state Opinion of Counsel:—
"With language dignified and terse And with a haughty look I should annihilate the Nurse And coldly crush the Cook; And, if they started in to weep, A word would make them stow it:— 'That's not effective, merely cheap; And, what is more, you know it.'"
"You'd bring the Cook," says she, "to book By just a look?" "I should." "By something terse you'd make the Nurse Feel even worse?" "I would." "You'd say to weep was merely cheap And, what was more, they knew it?" "I should," say I; and her reply Is: "Come along and do it."
How doth the Barrister delight In any low resort, And hurry from the losing fight To seek another Court.
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"Mme. Tetrazzini had not been heard in London for five years and some little ooooooo aaaaaaaay shd cf cwyyy might have been busy on her voice. Well, it has scarcely."—South African Paper.
Her many admirers will be glad to know this.
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THE BOAT-RACE AGAIN.
In June, 1914, I took a house on the Thames, in order to make sure of a good view of the Boat-Race; then a man threw a bomb at Serajevo and ruined my plans. But now it is going to happen again. And instead of fighting with a vast crowd at Hammersmith Bridge I shall simply walk up into the bathroom and look out of the window. It is wonderful.
Yet meanwhile I have lost some of my illusions about this race. I have a boat myself; I myself have rowed all over the course in my boat. It is only ten feet long, but it is very, very heavy. Still, I have rowed in it all over the course—with ease. Yet people talk as if it was a marvellous thing for eight men to row a light boat over the same water. Why is that? It is because the ignorant land-lubber regards the river Thames as a pond; or else he regards it as a river flowing always to the sea. He forgets about the tide. The Boat-Race is rowed with the tide; they deliberately choose a moment when the tide is coming in, and hope nobody will notice; and nobody does notice. The tide runs about three miles an hour, sometimes more; if they just sat still in the boat they would reach Mortlake eventually, and the crowd would get a good look at them, instead of seeing them for ten seconds. The race ought to be rowed against the tide. Then it really would be a feat of strength; then it really would take ten years off their lives—perhaps more. Then perhaps small boys would drop things on them from the bridges, as they do on me. I wonder they don't try to do that now. There is a certain quiet satisfaction in dropping things on people, especially if they are labouring under Hammersmith Bridge against the tide, and I should imagine that the temptation to drop things on a University crew would be almost irresistible. It is not everyone who can look back and say, "In 1890 I hit the Oxford stroke in the stomach with a stone." As it is, though, I suppose they go too fast for that kind of thing.
But apart from the small boys on the bridges, the present system is most unsatisfactory for people who know "a man in the boat." Even in a football match it is possible for an aunt occasionally to distinguish her nephew and say, "Look, there is Edward." But if she says, "Look, there is Edward," meaning No. 5 in the Cambridge boat, you know she is imagining. All she sees is a vague splashing between two bowler-hats, or possibly the Oxford rudder moving at high speed through a horse's legs. If the race were rowed against the tide we should all get our money's worth; and the oars-men could then put more realism into their "After-the-Finish" attitudes. As it is, they roll about in the boat with a praiseworthy suggestion of fatigue, but nobody really believes they are tired—nobody at least who has rowed on the Thames with the tide.
No, I am afraid the actual race is a sad hypocrisy. But the training must be terrible. Think of it. They started practising in the second week in January: they row the race in the fourth week in March. For ten weeks and more they have been "getting those hands away" and driving with those legs and not washing-out. For ten weeks horrible men with huge calves have shouted at them and cursed them and told them their sins, like a monk telling his beads—"Bow, you're late; Two, you're early; Three, you're bucketing; Four, you're not bucketing enough." I listen painfully, hoping against hope that at least one of the crew may be left out of the catalogue, that Stroke at least may be rowing properly. But no, Stroke is not forgotten, and even Cox doesn't always give complete satisfaction.
Sometimes I feel that I ought to row out in my little boat and offer to tow the incompetents back to Putney. Yet they seem somehow to travel very easily and well. But, however harmoniously they swing past "The Doves" or quicken to thirty-five at Chiswick Eyot, I know that in their hearts they are hating each other. Goodness, how they must hate each other! For ten weeks they have been rowing together in the same boring boat, behind the same boring back. I read with grim interest about the periodical shiftings of the crew, how Stroke has moved to the Bow thwart, and Bow has replaced Number Three, and Number Three has shifted to the Stroke position. They may pretend that all this is a scientific matter of adjustment, of balance and weight and so forth. I know better. I know that Stroke is fed up with the face of Cox, and that the mole on Number Two's neck has got thoroughly on Bow's nerves, and that if Number Three has to sit any longer behind Number Four's expanse of back he will go mad. That is the secret of it all. But I suppose they each of them hate the coach, and that keeps them together.
Of all these sufferers perhaps Cox is most to be pitied. They all have to eat what they're told, no doubt, yards and yards of beefsteak, and so on. In the old days rowing men had to drink beer at breakfast; I can't think of anything worse, except, perhaps, stout. But Cox doesn't eat anything at all. He has to get thinner and thinner. And if there is one thing worse, than eating beefsteak at breakfast it must be watching eight rowing men eating beefsteak at breakfast and not eating anything yourself.
Yes, beyond question Cox is the real hero. I watch him dwindling, day by day, from nine stone to eight stone, from eight stone to seven stone twelve, and my heart goes out to the little fellow. And what a job it is! If anything goes wrong, Cox did it. He kept too far out or he kept too far in, or too much in the middle. But who ever heard of Cox doing a brilliant piece of steering, or saving the situation, or even rising to the occasion? His highest ambition is for The Times to say that he did his work "adequately"—like the Second Murderer in SHAKSPEARE.
And at the finish he can't even pretend that he's tired, like the other men; even if there was any spectacular way of showing that he was half-frozen he couldn't do it, because he alone is responsible if one of the steamers runs over them and they are all drowned. We ought to take off our hats to Cox; though, of course, if we did, Stroke would think it was intended for him.
But indeed I take off my hat to all of them; not because of the race, which, as I say, is a piece of hypocrisy, being rowed with the tide, but because of the terrible preparation for the race. I wonder if it is worth it. It is true that they have lady adorers on the towing-path at Putney, and it is even rumoured that they receive anonymous presents of chocolates. But presumably they are not allowed to eat them, so that these can do little to alleviate their sufferings. It is true also that for ever after (if their wives allow it) they can hang an enormous oar on the wall and contemplate it after dinner. But, after all, I can do that too, if I like; for I too have rowed over the course.
And I shall have a free view of the race. But none of them will see it at all. They will all be looking at the back of the man in front, except Stroke, whose eye will be riveted on the second button of Cox's blazer. What a life!
* * * * *
* * * * *
"To Let, permanent, Furnished Sitting-Boots (size 6); 20s."—Local Paper.
No, thanks; we already have a pair that are no good for walking.
* * * * *
* * * * *
THE SECOND TIME OF ASKING.
(The advancing price of rice has occupied much space in the papers of late.)
Maud, when you turned me down (a year to-morrow), Bidding me rise from off my suppliant knee, And, while regretful if you caused me sorrow, Murmured, "Sebastian, it can never be," I did not lay aside my fond ambition; I told myself, in spite of what occurred, "This is her lunch or three o'clock edition, And not her final word."
I merely marvelled at your eccentricity, Feeling convinced amid my blank amaze That, though you might "absent you from felicity Awhile," 'twas but a temporary phase; Convinced the mood impelling you to stifle The aspirations that I'd dared outline Was simply due to some extraneous trifle, Not any flaw of mine.
A chill or toothache might have vexed you greatly; Perhaps you had a corn inclined to shoot, Or possibly the sugar shortage lately Had proved itself abnormally acute; In short, I felt that, though unkindly treated, A happier time to me would surely come, When my request (impassioned) would be greeted With no down-pointing thumb.
Maud, it occurs to me you shunned a marriage Because that function, otherwise "quite nice," Involved the facing of a friendly "barrage" Mainly composed of valedictory rice, Stinging the cheek and nestling in the clothing; If that was so, I share the feeling, sweet; For rice in puddings I've no special loathing, But I detest it neat.
If such your reason was, there 's no material Objection to our union to-day; No risk remains of that offensive cereal Being employed in such a reckless way; You can say "Yes" without one apprehensive Thought that your brother is, a deadly shot; Rice as a missile now is too expensive. Anything doing—what?
* * * * *
"According to a Paris report, an Anglo-British force of 50,000 are on their way to occupy Constantinople."—Daily Paper.
It is, no doubt, the peculiar composition of this force that has aroused the apprehensions of French chauvinists.
* * * * *
"Denikin's troops are fleeing partly in steamers, partly along the coast, leaving a large booby." "Planters and Commercial Gazette" (Mauritius).
"A Bolshevist wireless says the Reds captured Tagonrog, Denikin's former headquarters, taking a huge booby."—Same Paper.
The booby prize has apparently been awarded to the Reds, but we feel that our contemporary might have put in a claim.
* * * * *
* * * * *
ESSENCE OF PARLIAMENT.
Monday, March 8th.—I should hesitate to call Sir HAMAR GREENWOOD the Pooh-Bah of the Ministry, though he has something of that worthy's sublime self-confidence and his capacity for taking any number of posts. The House, which knows him both as Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs and Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department of the Board of Trade, was surprised to hear him answering questions relating to the nascent oil-wells in the United Kingdom, and to learn that he had become "Minister for Petroleum Affairs." But there the likeness ceases to be exact. Pooh Bah's interest was in palm-oil.
A few days ago the CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER facetiously compared the critics of the Government to the poet of Rejected Addresses who declared that it was BUONAPARTE "who makes the quartern loaf and Luddites rise." Out of the Government's own mouth the critics are now, at any rate, partially justified, for the PRIME MINISTER announced that the bread subsidy was to be halved, and that on and after April 12th the quartern loaf would rise—he did not quite know where.
In view of the occasional rumours of friction between Government departments it is pleasant to record that the Ministry of Transport and the War Office are on the friendliest terms. Invited to abolish, in the interests of the taxpayer, the cheap railway tickets now issued to soldiers, Mr. NEAL said it was primarily a question for the War Office, as in this matter Sir ERIC GEDDES would wish to move in harmony with Mr. CHURCHILL. As the WAR SECRETARY promptly announced his intention of doing his best to maintain the soldiers' privilege it is conjectured that he will return from the ride with Sir ERIC inside.
The new Member for Paisley delivered his maiden speech to-night, and acquitted himself so well that in the opinion of Members many months his senior he is likely to go far. The Government had proposed to "guillotine" the remaining Supplementary Estimates in order to get them through before March 31st. Some ardent economists, mainly drawn from the Coalition, while ready to concede the end, protested against the means, and proposed that the House should make its own arrangements.
. He had displayed much sympathy with the Air Force and had almost been one of its martyrs."—Lord HUGH CECIL.]
Mr. BONAR LAW promptly perceived the advantage of transferring from the Government to the House a disagreeable responsibility. Forgetting that he was cast for the executioner, not the hero, he murmured, "It is a far, far better thing," and graciously accepted the proposed alternative. Mr. ASQUITH, not unwilling to help in establishing a precedent which some day he himself may find useful, backed him up, and the House, as a whole, congratulating itself on its escape from the public executioner, cheerfully proceeded to commit harakiri.
Tuesday, March 9th.—Mr. SHORTT relieved our apprehensions by stating that the few spurious "Bradburys" in circulation are of home manufacture, and that, while a few specimens emanating from Russia had been sent here for identification, they were so poorly executed that they would scarcely pass muster in this country. It is comforting to think that there is one British industry which has nothing to fear from foreign dumping, but is cheerfully forging ahead.
The HOME SECRETARY also denied that there had been any remarkable increase in pocket-picking or that schools existed for the training of young criminals. As Sir MAURICE DOCKRELL pointed out, there is indeed no need for them so long as the cinemas provide their present facilities. Fagin has been quite knocked out by the film.
The Parliamentary vocabulary extends apace. Mr. RENDALL, whose motion on divorce had been postponed under the new arrangements for business until after Easter, complained that Sir FREDERICK BANBURY had "done him down."
Part of the evening was devoted to the bread-subsidy. The debate incidentally illustrated the intellectual independence of Ministers. A few days ago Mr. LLOYD GEORGE, in advocating the resumption of trade with Russia, declared that "the corn-bins of Russia were bulging with grain." To-night Mr. MCCURDY told the House that, according to his information, the resumption of trade With Russia was not likely to open up any large store of wheat or grain in the near future. Possibly there is no real incongruity. The grain may be there, but the Russians, greedy creatures, may be going to eat it themselves.
Wednesday, March 10th.—Even in the gloomy atmosphere of the Upper Chamber the subject of divorce lends itself to humour. Lord BUCKMASTER, who introduced a Bill founded on the recommendations of the Royal Commission, performed his task with due solemnity, but some of the noble Lords who opposed it were positively skittish. Lord BRAYE, for example, thought that, if the Bill passed, Who's Who would require a supplement entitled Who's Who's Wife; and Lord PHILLIMORE illustrated the effects of easy divorce by a story of a Swiss marriage in which the bride-elect was attended by four of the happy man's previous spouses. He also told another of an American judge who, having explained that in this department of his duties he was "very strict," added, "Of course I make no difficulty the first time, but if they come again within twelve months I want a good reason."
Mr. HOGGE led a vigorous attack on the Ministry of Transport, which he seemed to think had done very little for its money except to divert the omnibuses at Westminster and so make it more difficult for Members of Parliament to get to the House. Mr. KENNEDY JONES, who was responsible for the innovation, rather hinted that in the case of some Members this might not be altogether an objection. The brunt of the defence fell upon Mr. NEAL, owing to the regretted absence of his chief, who had been ordered away by his doctor for a much-needed holiday and was reported to be recruiting himself on the golf-links. If exercise is what he needs he could have got plenty of it in the House to-night. Thanks to a persistent minority, Members were kept tramping through the Lobbies for the best part of five hours, and did not complete the full round of eighteen divisions until 2.15 A.M.
Thursday, March 11th.—Possibly the news of "direct action's" heavy cropper at the Trade Union Conference had reached the Front Bench before the PRIME MINISTER, in reply to a question regarding the shortage of labour in the building trades, bluntly attributed it to the stringency of the Trade Union regulations. When Mr. ADAMSON attempted to shift the blame on to a Government Department Mr. LLOYD GEORGE retorted that he would be perfectly ready to deal with any peccant official if the Labour Leader for his part would deal with the Trade Unions.
General SEELY repeated his familiar arguments in favour of an independent Air Ministry, and Mr. CHURCHILL once more defended his position, urging that it was better for the Air Service to have half a Minister in the Cabinet than none at all. To a suggestion that the lives of the Armenians might have been saved if we had sent more aeroplanes to Asia Minor, Mr. CHURCHILL replied that unfortunately the Armenian and Turkish populations were so intermingled that our bombs would be dropping indiscriminately, like the rain, "upon the just and unjust feller."
* * * * *
* * * * *
BUBBLE AND SQUEAK.
(By a Grateful Student of the New English Dictionary.)
I can conjugate the modern verb "to wangle," And, if required, translate it into Greek; I can even tell a wurzel from a mangel; But I cannot tell a bubble from a squeak.
I still can march eight furlongs at the double, Although I shall be seventy next week; I can separate a bubble from a bubble; But I cannot tell a bubble from a squeak.
I know a catfish differs from a seamew; I don't expect Bellaggio at Belleek; I know a cassowary from an emu; But I cannot tell a bubble from a squeak.
I'm acquainted with the works of HENRY PURZELL (My mastery of spelling is unique); I repeat, I know a mangel from a wurzel; But I cannot tell a bubble from a squeak.
I'm proficient both in jotting and in tittling; I know a certain cure for boots that creak; I can see through Mr. KEYNES and Mr. Britling; But I cannot tell a bubble from a squeak.
I can always tell a hari from a kari ("Harakiri" is a silly pedant's freak); I can tell the style of CAINE from that of MARIE; But I cannot tell a bubble from a squeak.
I never take a DEELEY for a DOOLEY; I never take a putter for a cleek; I never talk of HEALY, meaning HOOLEY; But I cannot tell a bubble from a squeak.
I understand the sense of "oils are spotty"; I know the height of Siniolchum's peak; I know that some may think my ditty dotty; But I cannot tell a bubble from a squeak.
I know the market price of eggs in Surrey, The acreage of maize in Mozambique— And now at last, thanks to immortal "MURRAY," I've learned to tell a bubble from a squeak.
* * * * *
THE CONSERVATISM OF THE LIBERAL PARTY.
DEAR MR. PUNCH,—I know you take no sides in party politics, but I still think you would like to hear why it is that I have gone over to the Independent Liberals. No, it has nothing to do with Mr. ASQUITH'S triumphal procession and still less with the NORTHCLIFFE Press. The fact is that till quite recently I belonged to the true blue Tory school—was indeed probably the last survivor of the Old Guard—and I found myself out of touch with the progressive tendencies of modern Toryism, its deplorable way of moving with the times, its hopeless habit of discarding what it would call the old shibboleths when it wrongly imagined them to be outworn. My decision to leave a party that has long ceased to deserve its honoured name was immediately due to a Liberal Paper which editorially ridiculed the Liberty League, formed for the defeat of Bolshevist propaganda, and pooh-poohed the idea of the existence of dangerous Bolshevist elements in the country. This attitude attracted me enormously; for I recalled the standpoint of the same paper in the days before the War—how it ridiculed the alleged German menace and pooh-poohed the idea of the existence of hostile German elements in our midst. Here, I said, is the party for me; here is your authentic Bourbon spirit—the type that learns nothing and forgets nothing; that in the midst of a changing world remains immovable as a rock. Yes, Sir, for a Tory of the old school there is no place to-day except in the ranks of Liberalism.
Yours faithfully, SEMPER EADEM.
* * * * *
* * * * *
RATES OF EXCHANGE.
Jones was reading his morning paper in the opposite corner seat with unusual attention, and he disregarded my greeting.
"Why this absorption?" I inquired. "Usually you come to the station with a piece of toast behind one ear, fastening your boots as you run, and wake us all up with your first fine morning rapture."
"I was just taking a look at the exchanges," he replied. "The mark's about the same price as fly-paper, and, judging by the news from New York, your chewing-gum is going to cost you more shortly. Do you know anything about the money market?"
"I occasionally see it stated that 'money is plentiful' in it," I returned. "I should think it must be an ideal place."
"The most gorgeous thing in the world is to make a bit on exchange," he said. "There's such a splendid feeling of not having earned it, you know."
"I understand exactly," I replied. "Cox once credited me with an extra month's pay by mistake. But I didn't realise that you ever had to think about money matters after having run our Mess in France."
He appeared to take no offence. His capacity for being insulted in that direction had probably been exhausted during the period in point.
"I know quite a lot about exchange," he remarked with a reminiscent smile. "You remember that when I got pipped in France in '15, they sent me out next time to Salonica. I hadn't been there very long before the question of exchange cropped up. In the early days most of us had English money only, and the villagers used to rook us frightfully changing it. I remember sending my batman, MacGusgogh, to a place for eggs, and he came back with the change for my Bradbury in nickel. I had a good look at it, and on each coin was the mystic inscription, 'DIHAP,' which is pronounced 'dinar.'
"'MacGusgogh,' I said, 'you pretend to be a Scotsman and yet you've been diddled. This is Serbian money, and not worth a bean.'
"'Oh the deceitfu' deevils,' said he, 'there's neither truth nor honesty in the leein' buddies, Sir. But here's your Bradbury, an', at onny rate, we hae the eggs, Sir, for I paid for them wi' a label off yin o' they Japaneesy beer bottles. It seemed an awfu' waste to spend guid siller on folk that dinna ken when they see it.'"
I began to see the possibilities of the money market.
"I was round about there till the Armistice," Jones went on, "then I drifted by stages to South Russia. All the Eastern countries live by exchange. Practically the only trade they have is playing tennis with each others' currency, and the headquarters of the industry in 1918 was South Russia. I thought I'd seen the limit of low finance when I'd experienced the franc, lira, drachma, dinar, lev and piastre; but they were all child's play to the rouble in 1918."
"I thought Russian money was all dud before that," I remarked.
"Not a bit of it," said Jones. "You see, it's not as if there were one breed, so to speak, of rouble. There were KERENSKY roubles, and Duma roubles, and NICHOLAS roubles, and every little town had a rouble-works which was turning out local notes as hard as they, could go. I missed a fortune there by inches."
"Tell me," I said, in response to his anecdotal eye.
"I had a job there which consisted of going backwards and forwards on the railway between Otwiski and Triadropoldir in the Caucasus, a six days' trip. The possibilities of the situation never struck me till one day I, asked a shopman in Triadropoldir to give me my change in Otwiski roubles—both towns had their own currency, of course. He gave me five Otwiski roubles for one of his own town. I thought a bit about that, and when I got back to Otwiski I tried the same thing, and found I could get three Triadropoldir roubles there for one Otwiski."
"I see," I remarked, as the beauty of this arrangement dawned upon me.
"All I had to do therefore was to change my money in Otwiski for three times as much Triadropoldir currency, and then go up the line to the other place and change it back again, making fifteen hundred per cent, on the round trip. Of course you couldn't always change the full amount, but in a couple of months I had sixty thousand roubles—my valise was crammed with them—and I was only waiting to get down to the Field Cashier to change out and make my fortune."
"And did you?" I asked.
"No, I didn't. One morning the Reds arrived in Triadropoldir, and my servant and I only just got away with the valise on one of those inspection cars which you propel by pulling a handle backwards and forwards. A section of Red Cavalry came after us, and we took it in turns to work the handle."
"Your servant won't ever be short of a job," I commented. "He ought to take to film-acting after that like a duck to water."
"We soon finished my servant's ammunition and they were closing in on us fast. My hair had appreciably lifted my tin hat when I had a brain-wave and threw out a double handful of rouble notes. It worked like a charm; they all stopped to collect the money, and we had gone quite a distance before they caught us up again, I threw out more notes at intervals, and the last thousand roubles went just as we came in sight of DENIKIN'S outposts fifteen miles down the line. We were saved, but I had lost my fortune, for there was no chance of repeating the operation."
I sighed. Then, without any regard for the conclusions of my fellow-passengers, I silently raised both my hands above my head.
* * * * *
* * * * *
"She had her hair cut short, and claimed to be a member of a tilted family."—Provincial Paper.
One with a bend sinister, we presume.
* * * * *
A leader of fashion at Ely Whose clothes were a bit down-at-heely Was quite overcome When he found he'd the sum That would buy him a Mallaby-Deeley.
* * * * *
"BLACK CATS' STRIKE THREAT."
Heading in a Sunday Paper of a report of a demand made by Viennese clerks for doubled salaries.
For "CATS'," read "COATS'." O the diff! as WORDSWORTH said.
* * * * *
"Retriever Wanted; steady good worker: retrieve feather or fur, land or water."—Provincial Paper.
The exile of Amerongen could do with one of this breed.
* * * * *
"The act of the donor suggests the lines:
"'How far doth that little candle throw its beams On like a good deed in a naughty world.'" Daily Graphic.
The author's name is not given, but we do not think he has improved much on SHAKSPEARE.
* * * * *
THE YEOMAN TRANSFORMED.
[In accordance with the new Territorial organisation some famous Yeomanry Regiments are to become Motor Machine-Gun Units.]
Can a horseman turn from his heart's desire at the stroke of a statesman's pen? Can we learn to fight from a motor-car—we who were mounted men? In a petrol-tank and a sparking-plug shall we strive to put our trust, And hang our spurs as a souvenir to gather reproachful rust?
Shall we never again ride knee to knee in the pomp of squadron line, With head-ropes white as a mountain drift and curb chains all a-shine? Will they dawn no more, those glorious days when the world seemed all our own, Who rode as scouts on an errant quest, alive, alert, alone?
Can a man be made by a motor-car as a man is made by a horse, With strength in his back and legs and arms, and a brain of swift resource? We cared for our mounts before ourselves, their thirst before our thirst; Shall we come to learn, with the same content, to think of an engine first?
Grousing enough. Though times have changed a man may be needed yet. Shall we stand aloof in an idle dream to nourish a vain regret? Whatever England may ask of us our service must be hers; And a horseman's quality 's in his heart and not in a pair of spurs.
* * * * *
THE GREAT MUTTON CAMPAIGN.
The recent disclosures concerning the enormous stocks of frozen mutton held by the Ministry of Food—some of it killed two years ago—have put the Government on their mettle, and a vigorous campaign is now in preparation with the object of inducing the public to assist in the disposal of these overgrown supplies. Mr. Punch, being in touch with sources of information not accessible to the general Press, has been able to secure an advance copy of a popular appeal Which is about to be issued broadcast by the Government. It runs as follows:—
"Men, Women and Children of the United Kingdom!"
"The time has now arrived when each one of you is privileged to illumine these drab days of peace with a show of patriotism no less brilliant than that which lit up the dark years of war. The task that is demanded is a simple one, and no heavy price is exacted; all that is required is a single-minded concentration upon the one essential need of the moment.
"Your Government, solicitous as always for your welfare, has during the past two years accumulated a vast store of nutritious mutton to safeguard you against the peril of starvation. That danger being happily averted, it is now up to you to eat the stuff. This is not a problem that can be tackled by half-measures. If you desire to preserve the financial stability of the Empire, and if you do not wish to go on eating antiquated corpses of Australasian sheep for the rest of your lives, you must set your teeth in grim earnest, eating against time and chewing over time. You must consume mutton for breakfast, mutton for luncheon, mutton for tea and mutton for dinner. In fact, each one of you must in the interests of the State become a mutton glutton.
"Do you shrink from the task? Do you shirk the chop now that you know what is at stake? An army marches on its stomach; the nation's well-being hangs on yours. Henceforth, until the 'Cease Fire' sounds, you must fall upon the domestic enemy as our gallant soldiers fell upon the alien foe. No quarter must be given, no quarter, fore or hind, be permitted to escape. Beef must be banned and veal avoided as the plague; no Briton worthy of the name will claim a fowl.
"What are you going to do about it? Do you intend (to borrow a Trans-atlantic phrase) to give the frozen mitt to the frozen mutt? Or are you going to take it to your bosom and give it there, or thereabouts, the home for which it has so long been vainly seeking?
"Do it now and do it always. Let your daily motto be—'Revenons a nos moutons.'"
In addition to the foregoing, every British housewife is to be supplied with a valuable booklet containing a number of official recipes for dealing with mutton. Among the tasty dishes thus described may be mentioned Whitehall Hash, Ministerial Mince, Reconstruction Rissoles, Control Cutlets and Separation Stew.
Mr. Punch also learns that in honour of the campaign the Yeomen of the Guard are henceforth to be popularly known as the "Muttoneaters."
* * * * *
WHAT OF THE DUMPS?
["We repeat our question, therefore, and expect a 'Yes' or 'No' answer: Have all the dumps been sold, or have they not?"—Daily Mail.]
While wealth untold lies heaped in idleness We will not see the nation go to pot; We ask you (kindly answer "No" or "Yes"): Have all the dumps been sold, or have they not?
By many a shell-torn desolate chateau Stand monumental piles of martial store Reared up long since to stem a savage foe By labours of the Army Service Corps;
And day by day, in spite of our advice, They linger wastefully to rust and rot; We ask (and let your answer be concise): Have all the dumps been sold, or have they not?
No more may KELLAWAY in bland retort Disguise the truth with verbal circumstance; Our special correspondents still report: "Entrenching tools obscure the face of France.".
The case is plain; the issue is distinct; You either answer now or out you trot (And kindly make that answer quite succinct): Have all the dumps been sold, or have they not?
* * * * *
"The acquaintanceship soon developed into a house where Miss —— was living."—Daily Paper.
The chief obstacle to matrimony being thus removed, there could, of course, be only one end to the story.
* * * * *
"The Committee has decided to call the contest the 'Golden Apple Challenge,' having in mind the legend of Paris giving a golden apple to Helen of Troy as the fairest of the three beautiful women who came to ask his judgment."—Daily Mail.
Personally we never attach much importance to these Paris legends.
* * * * *
* * * * *
(By Mr. Punch's Staff of Learned Clerks.)
During the past few years the plays and stories, especially the stories, of ANTON TCHEHOV have so triumphantly captured English-speaking readers that there must be many who will welcome with eagerness the volume of his Letters (CHATTO AND WINDUS). This happy chance we owe, of course, directly to Mrs. CONSTANCE GARNETT, who here proves once again that in her hands translation ranks as a fine art. Both the Letters and the Biographical Sketch that precedes them are of extraordinary charm and interest. Because TCHEHOV'S stories are so conspicuously uncoloured by the personality of their writer (his method being, as it were, to lead the reader to a window of absolute transparency and bid him look for himself), it comes almost as a shock to find how vivid and many-hued that personality in fact was. Nor is it less astonishing to observe a nature so alive with sympathy expressing itself in an art so detached. More than once his letters to literary friends are concerned with a defence of this method: "Let the jury judge them; it's my job simply to show what sort of people they are." They are filled also with a thousand instances of the author's delight in nature, in country sights and scents, and of his love and understanding for animals (from which of the Tales is it that one recalls the dog being lifted into the cart "wearing a strained smile"?) Throughout too, if you have already read the eight little volumes that contain the stories—which I certainly advise as a preliminary—you will be continually experiencing the pleasure of recognising the inspiration for this or that remembered scene. In short, one of the most fascinating books that has come my way for a long time.
I needn't pretend that Bed and Black (METHUEN), by GRACE S. RICHMOND, is what is known to the superior as a serious work of art or that the men (particularly) of her creating are what would be called likely. But there's a sincerity about the writing which one has to respect. Of her two heroes, Red is Redfield Pepper Burns, the rude and rugged doctor, and Black is the Rev. Robert McPherson Black, the perfect paragon of a padre in an American provincial town. The author's main thesis is that padres are made of the right stuff. Black, who was all for getting into the War from the beginning, rushes off to Europe as chaplain with the first American drafts, gets wounded, decorated and married. The conversion of Red Pepper, the doctor, and of Jane Ray, who became Mrs. Black, is a little too easily contrived to be very convincing. But this is a simple work for simple souls who like a wholesome tale with a distinct list to the side of the angels. Such untoward conduct as here appears is not put in for its own interesting sake, but merely to bring out the white-souled nobility of the principals.
* * * * *
If I had to select an author likely to win the long-distance dialogue race of the British Isles I should, after reading Uncle Lionel (GRANT RICHARDS), unhesitatingly vote for Mr. S.P.B. MAIS. It is not however so much the verbosity as the gloom of Mr. MAIS'S characters that leaves me fretful. Nowadays, when a novel begins with a married hero and heroine, we should be sadly archaic if we expected the course of their conjugal love to run smoothly; but I protest that Michael and Patricia overdid their quarrels, or, at any rate, that we are told too many details about them. And when these people were nasty to each other they could be very horrid. All which would not trouble me half so much if I were not sure that Mr. MAIS, in his desire to he forceful and modern, is inflicting a quite unnecessary handicap upon himself. At present he is in peril of wrecking his craft upon some dangerous rocks which (though I know it's not the right name for rocks) I will call "The Doldrums." My advice to him is to cheer up. And the sooner the better, for all of us.
* * * * *
There be novelists so fertile in literary resource or so catholic in their choice of subject that the reader is never sure, when he picks up their latest masterpiece, whether he is to have a comedy of manners, a proletarian tragedy, a tale of Court intrigue or a satire on the follies of the age. To the steady-going devotee of fiction—the reader on the Clapham omnibus—this versatility is a source of annoyance rather than of attraction, and I accordingly take pleasure in stating that by those who like a light narrative, in which mystery and romance are pleasingly blended, the author of The Pointing Man can be relied upon to rill the bill every time. Conformity to type is a strong point with this author as far as the mystery and romance are concerned, but within those limits he (or she) provides an admirable range of scene, character and plot. In The Further Side of the Door (HUTCHINSON), the once handsome and popular hero emerges from a war-hospital badly disfigured and is promptly jilted by his fiancee and avoided, or so he thinks, by his acquaintances. Disgusted he buries himself in an old haunted house in the wilds of Ireland and abandons himself to the practice of magic. The result is highly successful, for he raises, not a spirit indeed, but something much more desirable to a lonely young man who has been contemplating suicide. So much for the romance. The mystery is provided by a villain, an enterprising young married woman, and the sinister denizens of a creepy boarding-house. I heartily recommend Punch readers who like a mystery to buy the book and find out what happens.
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The publishers of Sir Limpidus (COLLINS) call it, in large print, a "new and amusing novel," but I am not confident about your subscription to the latter part of that statement; for Mr. MARMADUKE PICKTHALL'S irony is either so subtle or so heavy (I cannot be positive which) that one may well imagine a not too dull-witted reader going from end to end without discovering the hidden intent. The subject of the tale, which has no special plot, is a numbskull landowner, Sir Limpidus, son of Sir Busticus, lord of Clearfount Abbey, and type (according to Mr. PICKTHALL) of the landowning class that he evidently considers ripe for abolition. As propaganda to that end he conducts his hero through the usual career of the pre-war aristocrat, sending him to public school and Varsity (those sufficiently broad targets), giving him a marriage, strictly de convenance, with the daughter of a peer, and finishing him off as a member of the Government, alarmed at Socialist hecklers and welcoming the War as likely to give a new direction to forces that threaten to become too strong for his well-meaning incompetence. "It would rouse the ancient spirit of the people and dispel their madness.... Even defeat as a united nation would be better than ignoble peace with the anarchic mob supreme." Of course this may be highly amusing, but— The fact is that, with a disappointment the greater from having genial memories of a former book of his, I have to confess myself one of the dullards for whom Mr. PICKTHALL'S satirical darts fall apparently pointless. I am sorry.
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I am feeling a little peevish about Ladies in Waiting (HODDER AND STOUGHTON), because Miss KATE DOUGLAS WIGGIN has often charmed me by her writing in the past, and now she has disappointed me. Her latest book contains five stories, all nicely written and set in charming scenes; but their innocent sweetness is very nearly insipid, and the fact that Miss WIGGIN'S only concern has been to find suitable husbands for her six heroines (there are two in one story) makes them curiously unexciting. Of course we all know that in American fiction the hero and heroine will in the end marry, to their mutual satisfaction; but unless the author can contrive en route a few obstacles which will intrigue the reader a marriage announcement in the newspapers would be more economical and quite as interesting. It is difficult to be "nice" and "funny," I know, and it was very noble of Miss WIGGIN if one quality had to be left out to cling to the niceness; but I hope that in her next book she will manage to be both.
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While reading With the Mad 17th to Italy (ALLEN AND UNWIN) I could not help feeling sorry that the public's appetite for war-literature is reported to have become a little jaded for anything that is not a book of revelations; and this because Major B.H. HODY, who was in command of the 17th Divisional Supply Column, describes his trek from Flanders to Italy with uncommon zest. It is an admirable account of an achievement well worth recording, and the author in his advice to C.O.'s, which seems to me full of wisdom and sound common-sense, explains how it was that "the mad 17th" were from first to last "a happy family." There is cause for deep sorrow in the thought that Major HODY died suddenly at Cologne only a few weeks after his preface was finished. He has left behind him a book which will be valued not less for what it contains than for the sake of the man who wrote it.
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In Songs of the Links (DUCKWORTH) Mr. Punch commends to his readers the work of two of his contributors, Mr. R.K. RISK and Mr. H.M. BATEMAN.