PUNCH, OR THE LONDON CHARIVARI
Volume 158, Jan-Jul 1920
MAY 26, 1920
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* * *
Bohemia has decided to have a Coalition Government. Several London morning papers are prepared to offer them one in good going condition, providing they pay cost of transit.
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According to a contemporary, "rabbits are worth less when they are skinned by the shopkeeper." So is the customer.
* * *
"It is of greater advantage to know the Welsh language," says Professor TROW, "than to know French." That is, of course, if you wish to use it for defensive purposes.
* * *
Sir GORDON HEWART has declined to "make any attempt to consider what is to happen after the next election." The fact of the matter is that The Daily Mail itself has not yet decided.
* * *
It is reported that an opposition League of Nations is to be started among countries addicted to war. The League will take cognisance of all outbreaks of peace.
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A peculiar incident is reported from a large town in the South of England. It appears that one day last week a bricklayer lost count of the number of bricks he had laid, with the result that a recount had to be made to enable him to ascertain whether he had finished for the day or not.
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The Post Office Workers' Union Conference at Morecambe declared last week that the Government was "without capacity, courage or principle." Apart from these defects they have no fault to find with it.
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Sir JAGADIZ CHUNDER BOSE, lecturing at Westminster School, said that plants, like human beings, are sensitive to pain. Some of the war-time allotment marrows we heard so much of must have suffered badly from obesity.
* * *
Most actors, in the opinion of an official of the Actors' Association, are better off than they used to be. But what we want to see is an improvement when they are on.
* * *
American shipping circles deny the rumour that they are building a liner measuring thirteen hundred feet in length. We felt at the time that this vessel must have been a Canarder.
* * *
Although a heavy safe was bodily removed from a small house in Wolverhampton during the night, not one of the four persons sleeping in the next room was awakened by the burglars. Such thoughtfulness on the part of the intruders deserves the greatest credit.
* * *
"A single greenfly," declared a speaker at a meeting of the R.S.P.C.A., "may have fifteen thousand descendants in a week." This almost equals the record of the Chicago millionaire who recently died intestate.
* * *
A motor-cyclist who was thrown from his machine as a result of colliding with a car near Birmingham was asked by the occupants of the latter why he did not look where he was going. This in our opinion is a most difficult thing to do, as one's destination is so uncertain until the actual landing takes place.
* * *
On being sentenced to six months' imprisonment at a London Police Court last week a burglar threw his boot at the magistrate and used insulting language towards him. We understand that in future only law-abiding criminals will be allowed inside the court.
* * *
A Hackney boy has dug up a Queen Anne shilling. We understand that, on hearing the price of sugar, the shilling asked to be put back again.
* * *
The old gentleman who, after reading in the daily papers that all hairy caterpillars should be destroyed at sight on account of their destructive powers, tried to crush a Society lady's pet Pekinese in Hyde Park with his foot is now supposed to be short-sighted.
* * * * *
THE VIRTUE THAT BEGINS AWAY FROM HOME
(as illustrated by an American sample of missionary zeal).
In Europe's hour of darkest night That daunts the faith of sage and seer I long to share the morning light Diffused in yonder hemisphere; There all is joy and radiance (just As when on Eden first the sun rose), Thanks to the Power that holds in trust That legacy of Colonel MONROE'S.
But out of those so halcyon skies Chill blasts of disillusion blow When I observe with pained surprise The state of things in Mexico; And "Why," I ask, "in Heaven's name, Can't 'God's own country' (U.S.A.) go And, by the right none else may claim, Put it across the dirty Dago?"
Then I reflect: "'Tis not so strange; Some virtues best begin at home, But others, of superior range, Prefer to start beyond the foam; There are who mend the ills at hand, But those whose aims are even bigger Seek out a far and savage land There to convert the godless nigger.
This chance, no doubt, distracts the Yank From sinners at his very door; No local cure, he feels, can rank With efforts on a distant shore; His heart to Sinn Fein's gospel wed, And by its beauty deeply bitten, He sends his dollars forth to spread The fear of hell in heathen Britain."
* * * * *
THE BEST PICTURE IN THE ACADEMY.
Let me see. I must have been battling my way through the Galleries step by step for an hour and three-quarters, and I haven't yet decided which is the best picture.
But then it's no easy matter to make up one's mind when there are so many, many pictures—and so many, many people....
And some of them, I'm sorry to say, are not quite so considerate as they might be. For instance, I had nearly chosen Mr. CLAUSEN'S Shepherd Boy: Sunrise. I was imagining the hush, the solitude. Suddenly two inexorable hats were thrust between me and the canvas, while two inexorable voices carried on a detailed discussion about what Doris (whoever Doris may be) was wearing at the wedding yesterday.
It wasn't fair to me; and it wasn't fair to the Shepherd Boy. I know he hasn't got a face, poor fellow. But is that a reason for putting ideas into his head?
It seems to me the crush is fiercer than ever in front of the picture over there. Probably I shall find that to be the best of all; No. 274: Mr. J. J. SHANNON'S Sir Oswald Stoll. Ah, I see. These ladies are simply using the unfortunate gentleman as a looking-glass to tidy their hair in.
But oh, Sir OSWALD, do I really look as tired as all that? Yes, you're right; I am tired. I'll go and sit down.
Not a vacant seat anywhere.... Yes, there is—quick! At the far end of the Galleries. Now isn't it just like the Supreme War Council to have left that one chair empty for me at their table?
No, it's a trick! The artist knew I should never have the effrontery to sit there, right under the PRIME MINISTER'S nose. Very well, Mr. OLIVIER, exhausted though I am, I shall not vote for you either.
There's a dull pain all down my spine. My feet are like lead. Give it up? Never! I will not leave until I have found the masterpiece.
But I can stem the tide no longer. I surrender myself to the mob and let it bear me whither it wills....
Where am I? Oh, the Architectural Room. Thronged this afternoon, like all the others. And yet, once upon a time, before I grew old and weary—heavens, how weary!—I remember this room with only one other person in it, and she——
Why, here! Right in front of me; No. 1235: London County Westminster and Parr's Bank, Ltd.: Brondesbury branch. That's it. That's the best picture in the Academy!
Not so much because of its chiaroscuro, not because of its romantic associations, but because, immediately opposite that branch-bank, there's a place where at last, at long, long last—ah!—I can sit down.
* * * * *
Stung to the quick by the accusation of secrecy hurled at him by a portion of the Press in connection with the conference at Lympne, Mr. LLOYD GEORGE has arranged with M. MILLERAND, we understand, to make the next encounter, on French soil, a vastly different affair. As a delicate compliment to the Welsh blood shared by the PRIME MINISTER and the greatest of our Tudor kings, and through the courtesy of Sir PHILIP SASSOON who has kindly promised to defray the whole of the expenses, the mise en scene will be arranged to resemble, almost to the minutest detail, the Field of the Cloth of Gold.
* * * * *
The place of meeting will be between Ardres and Guisnes. Hundreds of skilful workmen, if they do not happen to be on strike, will be employed in erecting the pavilions that are to lodge the two statesmen, who will meet in open field, but not be allowed, either of them, to visit the camp of the other lest they be suspected of secret diplomacy. M. MILLERAND and Mr. LLOYD GEORGE will first meet riding on horseback, and each wearing as much cloth of gold and silver as can possibly be put upon their backs. Mimic jousts and mock combats will be held. Lord DERBY, Lord RIDDELL and Mr. PHILIP KERR will all encounter chosen French champions. Six days will be given to tilting with the lance, two to fights with the broadsword on horseback, two to fighting on foot at the barriers. Mr. LLOYD GEORGE will wrestle with M. MILLERAND.
* * * * *
On the last day there will be a gorgeous masque, at which the PRIME MINISTER will appear accoutred as Hercules, wearing a shirt of silver damask, with a garland of green damask cut into vine and hawthorn leaves on his head, and in his hand a club with fourteen spikes. His Nemean lion skin will be of cloth of gold, and his buskins of the same material. Fountains of French wine will play in the British marquee. M. MILLERAND'S chief pavilion will have a magnificent dome, sustained by one huge mast, covered with cloth of gold and lined with blue velvet, with all the orbs of heaven worked on it in gold, and on the top outside a hollow golden figure of St. Michael. All the Press, but particularly those representing Lord NORTHCLIFFE'S papers, will be not only allowed, but entreated and cajoled, to go everywhere and see everything, to play about with the ropes of the tents and take snippets of cloth of gold for souvenirs.
* * * * *
Oh, how different from Lympne (pronounced "mph")!
* * * * *
* * * * *
* * * * *
The trouble about Hampstead is that it is so very much further from Kensington than Kensington is from it. Every day, I believe, there pass between Kensington and Hampstead telephone conversations something like this:—
Kensington. When are you coming to see us?
Hampstead. Why don't you come here instead?
Ken. It's such a fearfully long way.
Hamp. I like that. Do you know that a bus runs the whole way from here to Kensington?
Ken. I don't blame it. But I'm jolly sure it doesn't go back again.
Then Hampstead rings off in a rage and nothing is done about it.
Mr. RUDYARD KIPLING must surely have known of this regrettable estrangement or he would never have sung—
"North is North and West is West, and never the twain shall meet, Except in the Tube at Leicester Square or the corner of Oxford Street."
Anyhow you will find that people living in Hampstead tend more and more to regard themselves as dwellers in the mountains, and take defiantly to wearing plaid shawls and big hobnail brogues, and carry alpenstocks in the Underground with them. They acquire, moreover, the keen steady gaze of those who live in constant communion with the silent hills, so different from the Oriental fatalism in the eyes of the Kensingtonite, which comes from the eternal contemplation of the posters of Chu Chin Chow.
It is possible, however, to visit Hampstead, if you are sufficiently venturous, by bus, tube, tram or train. If you are very rich the best way is to take a taxi-cab as far as Chalk Farm, where London's milk supply is manufactured. You cannot go further than Chalk Farm by taxi-cab, because the driver will explain that he is afraid of turning giddy, having no head for heights. You have then the choice of two courses, either to purchase the cab outright and drive it yourself, or to finish your journey by the funicular railway.
Let us suppose that you have done the latter and emerged on the final peak which surmounts the Hampstead range. On your way upwards you will have been charmed by the number of picturesque houses which seem to have been thrown at the side of the hill and to have stuck there, and also by the luxuriant groves of cocoanut palms and orange and banana trees which the L.C.C. has thoughtfully planted to provide sustenance for London on its Whitsuntide Bank Holiday. It is indeed a pleasant thought that so many hard-working people are able on this day to snatch a little leisure in the good old English fashion on the swings and roundabouts and forsake the weary routine of watching American films. These great crowds picnic also on the greensward, bringing their food in paper wrappers, so that a student of such matters can easily gauge the proportionate circulation of our principal morning dailies by taking a walk round Hampstead Heath early on Whit-Tuesday morning.
When you have reached the last summit you will find yourself confronted by a frowning Gothic pile known as Jack Straw's Castle, and a large flagstaff on which the flag is only flown when the castellan is in residence. There is also a pond where the inhabitants of Hampstead, both old and young, swim their dogs after sticks and float a great variety of boats. On fine mornings there is such a confusion of boats and sticks and barking dogs that, if you are lucky, you can come up with an Irish terrier and an ash plant and go down rather proudly with a Newfoundland and the latest model of Shamrock XIV.
Looking downwards from the top you will discern on the open slopes and twinkling amongst the vegetation a vast multitude of white poles. On Saturday afternoons, I believe, there are more poles on Hampstead Heath than in the whole of Kieff. Each pole is attached to a boy scout, and it has been calculated that, if all the boy scouts in Hampstead were to set their poles end to end in a perfectly straight line from the flagstaff, pointing in a south-easterly direction, they would be properly told off by their scout-masters for behaving in such an idiotic manner.
Next perhaps in interest to the boy scouts, both because of their quaint mediaeval costume and the long lances which they carry in their hands, are the rangers of Hampstead Heath. Feudal retainers of the L.C.C., they sally ever and anon from their lairs with lances couched to spear up the pieces of paper which the people of London have left behind; and this paper-sticking is really the best sport to be enjoyed now on Hampstead Heath, unless one counts fishing for dace in the ponds, which I take to be the most contemplative recreation, except coal-mining, in the British Isles.
Amongst the very many famous people who either live or have lived at Hampstead may be mentioned Mr. GERALD DU MAURIER, CONSTABLE, Lord BYRON, Lord LEVERHULME, JOHN MASEFIELD, JOE BECKETT, the younger PITT, Miss MARIE LLOYD, KEATS, Madame PAVLOVA, ROMNEY, CLAUDE DUVAL and RICHARD TURPIN, the last of whom, I believe, bequeathed his spurs to the borough in grateful memory of all that it had done for him. There are no highwaymen to be met at Hampstead Heath now, but the solicitor and house-agent of the man from whom I am trying to lease Number——but there, perhaps I had better not go into that just now. I cannot however omit to say a few more words about KEATS, because the nation is trying to buy his house, although it has not yet been decided which of them is to live in it if they get it. In the garden of this house the poet is said to have written his celebrated "Ode to a Nightingale," and the nightingale may still be heard on Hampstead Heath in June. Presumably it is the same bird, and the lines,
"Thou wast not born for death, immortal bird; No hungry generations tread thee down,"
must be taken as a remarkable instance of literary foresight, for crowds of people have for years been trying in vain to trample the brave bird down and have evidently been hungry, or they would never have left so much sandwich-paper about.
Oh, and there is yet one more notable resident of Hampstead, as you have doubtless just gathered, and that is myself, or will be if those accursed——but another time, perhaps.
* * * * *
* * * * *
A PLEA TO THE EXCHEQUER.
Less gifted souls may seek an earthly mate; Lonely for ever I am doomed to be, For all my life to Art is dedicate; Yea, Art for mine or (speaking English) me.
I've put away the commonplace delights Of humbler folk to brood on things sublime; Rapt and aloof I ever tread the heights, Thinking great thoughts and getting words to rhyme.
Maidens have passed before me, but no bride Among them all have I essayed to choose; Sternly I've put the thought of love aside, An austere poet "wedded to the Muse."
But now of one small guerdon I am fain (A poet's solace for the love he lacks)— That this may qualify me to attain The married man's relief from income-tax.
* * * * *
"AMAZING SHOE OFFER.
LAST SEVEN DAYS."
Advt. in Daily Paper.
We know this kind of shoe.
* * * * *
"Parrot, splendid talker, South African grey, in perfect condition; good reason for selling; does not swear."—Provincial Paper.
Tastes differ, of course; but personally we should not call this a "good" reason.
* * * * *
THE TARTAR PRINCESS.
She was staying at a Finnish hydro near Helsingfors. I asked for her on the telephone and her old mother answered.
"Is it you, Monsieur Anatole? Fancy ringing up so early—twelve o'clock! Of course Tatiana is in bed. One can see you have been away from your native country a long time. We left Petersburg three months ago. Come and see us at a reasonable time—say three o'clock—and we'll tell you all about it."
My two years' sojourn in England had accustomed me to English ways. I had certainly committed an indiscretion in ringing up my former clients (I was their legal adviser in Petersburg) at such an unconscionable time.
I found Tatiana, in a smart black glace gown, reclining on a sofa and smoking a cigarette in a dull sitting-room, surrounded by other Russian emigres. She jumped up when she saw me.
"At last, Monsieur Anatole," she said. "You remember when you left Petersburg in 1918 I told you that you would be submarined, but here you are back again safely. I'm so glad." Her eyes shone and she held out her little white hand. "You have brought it with you?"
"What with me?"
"The soap, of course. Surely you remember. I asked you to buy me some Savon Ideal in Paris. It is the only kind that suits my skin."
"But I haven't been to Paris."
"You haven't brought my soap! Why haven't you been to Paris?"
"I have been to London."
She pouted. "Why stay in London instead of Paris? What silliness!"
"And how did you get here?" I asked.
"By sledge. It was terribly exciting and illegal, of course, and dangerous. Petersburg's awful. All the pipes have burst and there are no Russians there."
"No Russians!" I exclaimed.
"Because the best people—I mean, of course, the people who won't work—have all adopted other nationalities. We are—what are we, Mother?"
"I think it's Adgans, my dear," the old lady chimed in.
"Adgans," I repeated.
"Something of that sort," said the Princess. "It doesn't matter about the name, but it's more convenient. You are under the protection of your Government and then your property benefits."
"Do you mean Azerbaijans?" I asked.
"Oh, I daresay."
"But what claim have you to become Azerbaijans?"
"Every claim," she answered with asperity. "Somebody had a property there once—either one of our family or a friend. Why don't your family become Esthonians? You'd find it much more convenient. Your father could leave Petersburg."
"But he's never been to Esthonia."
"That's nonsense," said Tatiana; "he must have travelled through Reval at some time, and besides I remember he went to Riga once to fight a case for the Government."
"But Riga's in Latvia," I protested.
"What does that matter? Anyhow we escaped with two hundred thousand roubles and one small trunk. The first few weeks we had a great time here and spent all our money, but after that we had to 'put our teeth on the shelf.'"
"But how did you manage without money?"
"Well, we sell our things—jewellery and clothes. I think you might at least have come back through Paris; I can't understand how you forgot about the soap. You've no idea what bad manicurists the Finns are; they've torn my fingernails to bits."
"But when you've sold all your clothes and jewellery what do you intend to do?" I asked.
Tatiana laughed. "Then there's the house in Petersburg that will fetch quite a lot of money, and there are a number of people here who want it."
"How can you sell a house to people who can't get to it?" I asked.
Tatiana shrugged her shoulders. "Of course I can sell it all the better because they don't know the state it's in. I think England must have made you rather silly. You wrote and asked me to lunch without my husband and you know it's not done in Petersburg; you've become quite English."
"But last time we met you were just divorcing the Count and I wasn't quite sure of your relations with your new husband."
Tatiana kissed the tips of her fingers. "He's lovely!" she cried enthusiastically. "A real Cossack officer. Why, there he is! Dmitre, this is Monsieur Anatole, our family lawyer. He'll sell the house for us, and he's promised me some Savon Ideal from Paris. You'll go to Paris, won't you?" she said, putting a very seductive face close to mine.
I parried. "It's difficult for Russians——"
"Oh, that's all right; you can become a Czecho-Slovak. I can give you a letter; you need only stay there half-an-hour when you're passing through."
I felt my cherished Russian nationality slipping away and my only safety seemed to lie in an instant departure. I caught her hand and kissed her polished finger-tips. She bent forward and kissed my forehead.
"Good journey," she said.
"A happy time at home," I answered, and, saluting her husband, I hurried to the door.
"I'm glad there's a little bit of Russian left in you," she called after me. "And by the way you might bring two boxes of the soap; it doesn't last long."
* * * * *
ONE SPORTSMAN TO ANOTHER.
You that I fancied my prey (Mine was the blunder)— Three pounds I'd back you to weigh, Not an ounce under— Are you, like prices to-day, Rising, I wonder?
Triton were you among trout, Jaw tough as leather; I put it over your snout Light as a feather— Splash! and the line whizzing out Linked us together;
Till, ere your fate I could seal, Me you eluded; Back came the line to the reel (Cast not included); Oft 'twixt the weed and the creel Fish slip—as you did.
So, since all winter, alack! I have bemoaned you, Give me a chance to get back Some of my own due Interest earn'd on the black Gnat that I loaned you.
Then we'll be for it, we two (Luck to the winner!); Meanwhile be careful what you Take for your dinner; Fancy confections eschew— Blue, dun or spinner.
Scorning (you'll grant me the boon?) Other folk's gay fly, Under the willow till June Sheltered and safe lie; I shall be after you soon, I and my May-fly.
* * * * *
"I should be very glad to have a movement started to put an end to the extravagant, unseemly and disedifying length to which ladies in this country have gone in adopting fashions of dress."—Irish Paper.
Hitherto it had been supposed that the objection to the modern modes was their excessive brevity.
* * * * *
"Coopers Wanted, dry or tight; only Society men need apply."—Advt. in Daily Paper.
Inebriation is no longer popular among Society men.
* * * * *
* * * * *
* * * * *
MUCH THE BETTER HALF.
"Then you mean that neither of you is coming to the concert?" said Margery.
"Speaking for myself," said John, "the answer is in the affirmative—or negative, just as you prefer. Any way, I'm not coming. Your worthy brother must decide for himself."
"Our worthy brother-in-law has spoken for me, Margery," I said; "I also regret my inability to assist at the revels."
"Then all I can say is I think you're a couple of pigs."
"Margery, Margery," said John, "really your language——I shall have to write to the papers about you."
"That's the idea," I joined in. "'The Modern Flapper,' by 'Broad-minded but Shocked.' You'd better look out, Margery, or you'll never marry. The papers are full of letters about people like you. There's a beauty this morning. Half a minute; I'll read it to you."
"Don't trouble yourself, please," said Margery, curling her lip up somewhere over her right eyebrow.
"No trouble at all, it's a pleasure," I said, turning over the pages. "Ah! here we are. This is signed 'Disgusted Ex-Soldier.' Listen:—
"'SIR,—Speaking as one but recently returned to so-called civilisation after the horrors of two years of war ["Conscript!" said John], may I venture to give you my opinion of the Modern Girl ...'"
"That's you he means," said John.
"Pah!" said Margery.
"And bah! to you twice," said John.
"Shush, both of you," I said; "listen to 'Disgusted Ex-Soldier':—
"'What was it kept up our hearts and spirits during the terrible days and nights in the trenches?'"
"The Rum Ration," cried John. "Hear, hear. Loud cries of 'Down with Pussyfoot!'"
"Nothing of the sort," I said. "'It was the thought of the sweet simple girls at home in England that nerved us during those frightful days.'"
"Was it? So it was. Of course," said John feebly, "I forgot."
"'It was for them that we suffered as we did.'"
"Did we? I mean was it? So it was," said John, growing enthusiastic. "Good old 'Ex-Soldier!' What's he say next?"
"'And when we return at last from the toil and stress of war [Grunts of appreciation from John], what do we find?'"
"Pork and beans," said John.
I looked at him severely.
"John," I said, "this is no matter for idle jesting. Listen what the poor fellow goes on to say, "'What do we find?'"
"Boiled be——I don't know, Alan," he finished hurriedly as I looked at him again. "I—I don't think I found anything."
"'We find,'" I continued, treating him with contumely, "'a laughing, giggling, smoking, jazzing, frivolous and slangy crowd of ill-mannered flappers, devoid of all interest in the higher aspects of life and thinking only of the latest fox-trot. What hope have I of finding among such as these the woman who will look after my home and bring up my children?'"
"Hooray!" said John, "that's the stuff to gie 'em."
Margery squeaked with indignation.
"Look after his home, indeed," she choked. "The impertinence of it! The conceited ape! Who does he think he is?"
"Margery," said John in his special deep tone, "you are too young to understand these things."
"Understand them! I should just think I am. I didn't believe such conceit existed in a man nowadays."
"It isn't conceit, my dear Margery; it is the Right Attitude to Adopt," said John, speaking in capitals. "Personally, I admire the man. Begin as you mean to go on, I say."
"I should just like to see you beginning then," she said.
"That is precisely what I am going to do," said John, leaning back in his chair and stretching his legs. "I see now that I have always been too easy-going with Cecilia. From now onwards, however, there will be a difference. I shall be master in my own house. In short—er—nous avons change tout cela! Am I right, Alan?"
"Nothing to speak of," I said; "but the idea's good. Carry on, John."
"Ah, well, the idea's the thing, as SHAKSPEARE said. Anyway, the point is that 'Ex-Soldier' has awakened my sense of manhood. In future I shall, as I say, take my rightful position."
"Indeed," said Margery; "and how are you going to set about it?"
"Well, here's a case to begin with," said John. "I have said that I won't be dragged round to your beastly village revels to-morrow, and I stick to it. What Alan does is his own concern. For my part I shall spend to-morrow evening having a quiet million up on the table."
"I'm with you," I said; "we will bash the globules together."
Margery decided to change her tone.
"Don't be beastly, John," she said; "you know Cecilia expects you to come with us."
John laughed softly.
"Precisely, my dear Margery," he said, "and that's a very good reason why I shouldn't go. Cecilia always does expect me to do everything she wants. And I'm so good-natured I have always given way. But never again, Margery; I shall not come to the concert. I shall say to Cecilia, 'Cecilia, I am not coming to your concert,' and that will end the matter."
"Then I think you're a selfish beast," said Margery.
Just then Cecilia came into the room.
"And who's a selfish beast?" she asked.
"Not me, Cecilia," I said. Cecilia is my elder sister, and I have known her for many years.
"It's John," said Margery. "He's talking the most awful rot, and now he says he won't come to the concert."
"Won't come to the concert?" said Cecilia, lifting her eyebrows. "Of course he's coming. Alan's going to sing and John will probably have to say something."
I sat up straight and swallowed hard.
"No, Cecilia," I gasped, "I really can't sing. I'll turn up if you like and cheer and all that sort of thing, but really I can't sing."
"Of course you can. You must. I've told them to put your name down. Everybody has got to do something. It's for St. Dunstan's, you know, and everyone for miles round is turning up."
I subsided, murmuring feebly.
John was gazing moodily at the fire.
"So that's that," said Cecilia cheerfully, resting her hand softly on his shoulder. "And you'd better be thinking what to say to make the jolly old farmers stump up, my dear."
John cleared his throat.
"I've—er—decided not to come to the concert, dear," he said.
"Don't be ridiculous, John," said Cecilia, cooing like a covey (or whatever it is) of doves. "Of course you're coming. I've arranged it all."
"I think I'd rather stop at home, dear," he said; "I can—er—look after Christopher and—er—there's a bit of work I have to finish."
"Christopher will be in bed, and your old work can wait, just as it always has to."
"Well, you know, darling," said John, looking furtively at Margery and me, "I'm not much use at these social affairs. I always say the wrong thing."
"I know you do, dear," said Cecilia sweetly; "but they've all heard you before, and nobody minds."
She paused a moment while John gulped.
"So that's settled, isn't it?" she said.
John gulped again.
* * * * *
* * * * *
TO A DENTIST.
["Dry champagne is an excellent mouth-wash."—Dr. SIM WALLACE, at a Conference on Prevention of Diseases of the Teeth.]
While in your dismal salle d'attente I wait And with forgotten Punches idly toy, How it will reconcile me to my fate To muse upon the mouth-wash you employ.
Or, squirming in the plush-upholstered chair, How shall I thrill with valour to observe Among the implements of torture there A magnum of the best, to brace my nerve.
Not the hooked probe nor hum of whirring file, The fearful forceps nor the needled lance Will wholly banish my expectant smile That greets "the foaming grape of eastern France."
E'en in that pass whereat the boldest blench, The "aching time" will quickly turn to bliss, When, having borne the devastating wrench, I hear you murmur, "Rinse your mouth with this."
I thank you, Dr. WALLACE, for that word; My teeth, I'm sure, require attention soon; Ah! Widow CLICQUOT, how my heart is stirred! Appointment? Right. To-morrow afternoon.
* * * * *
* * * * *
MEETING THE COUNTESS.
"Could you find time to meet the Countess of Aire?" inquired the Vicar's wife with her gracious smile, after we had chanced together at a corner of our village street. "At five o'clock," she added, "at the cross-roads."
"I shall be charmed," said I. "But what a funny meeting-place."
"It seems to me very natural," said the Vicar's wife.
"Is there going to be speech-making?" I asked.
"How absurd!" she answered. "But of course there will be a discussion."
"Who else will be present?" I asked.
"No one," she said.
I was never so puzzled in my life.
"It really seems rather odd," said I, "that we should meet alone at the cross-roads. And it seems so romantic too. At five o'clock, you said? I always think that is such a sentimental hour."
A bewildered look now crept into the Vicar's wife's face.
"Are you joking or serious?" she said. "Perhaps I have not made myself clear. I am simply asking if you could kindly meet the Countess of Aire in place of the Vicar."
"And I say I shall be charmed," I repeated; "and I think the prospect is most alluring, and I shall endeavour to do the occasion all honour. I shall put on my best mustard-coloured suit and my new green Tyrolean hat—the one with the feather in it."
"I don't see why you should, simply to meet the Countess of Aire."
"But think of the romance of the meeting," I urged. "Just fancy! It is to be at the cross-roads, perhaps above the nameless grave of a suicide. There I shall be waiting at five o'clock, all dressed up in my mustard suit and tremulous with excitement. And at last there will dash up to the trysting-place some splendid equipage, a silver-plated car, or the family coach with prancing and foaming horses. And there, at the cross-roads, we shall have our little discussion; no speech-making, all quite informal. Oh, I wish it could have been moonlight!"
The Vicar's wife began to look quite scared.
"Are you going mad?" she asked.
"I think so," I said. "Do you know," I went on wildly, saying just anything by way of preserving my sanity, "I remember that once, when I was quite little, I half promised I would marry this highly exalted person; we were playing together as boy and girl in a garden."
"But the Countess of Aire," cried the Vicar's wife, "never was a girl."
"And never was a boy either," I cried.
"The Countess of Aire," screamed the Vicar's wife—yes, she was fairly screaming by now—"is a he."
"Now that is absurd," I said.
It was the Vicar, coming round the corner in his usual hurry, as if every day were a Sunday, who saved the situation by bumping into us both.
"The Countess of Aire," shrieked his poor wife, frantically clutching him by the coat-tails, "is a man, isn't he?"
"Certainly," said the Vicar. "It is a terrible age, but thank Heaven for this," he added piously, "we have yet to learn of a female County Surveyor."
* * * * *
"NURSERY GOVERNESS WANTED. Three children, 7, 6, and 2 ears."—Daily Paper.
Plenty of stuff to box.
* * * * *
* * * * *
ESSENCE OF PARLIAMENT.
Monday, May 17th.—In theory the business of a Second Chamber is to revise calmly and dispassionately the legislation which has been scamped by the First. In practice what happens in our Parliament is that the Peers, after killing time with academic debates for two or three months, are suddenly called upon, whenever a Recess is in contemplation, to pass three or four Bills through all their stages in as many days. At the invitation of Lord CRAWFORD (Lord SALISBURY perfunctorily protesting) they entered upon one of these legislative spasms this afternoon, and within less than an hour gave a second reading to two Bills, and a third reading to two others, besides listening politely while Lord NEWTON (with him Lord LAMINGTON) bewailed the sad fate of certain German "Templars" (a species of Teutonic Quaker and quite harmless, we were told) who, having been evicted from Palestine, are now threatened with compulsory deportation to a Fatherland which they have no desire to visit. "Some hustlers, your Peers," remarked a visitor fresh from Washington.
That distinguished seaman, Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY, would never think, I am sure, of speaking disrespectfully of the Equator, but he has no compunction in abusing the Poles. He regards their recent advance into the Ukraine as an unprovoked assault upon the poor innocent Soviet Government, and is shocked to think that it should have even the negative approval of His Majesty's Ministers. Mr. BONAR LAW'S assurance that the military stores despatched to Poland from this country were the Poles' own property, and that the fact that they were embarked upon a vessel called the Jolly George had no ulterior significance, quite failed to convince him.
According to Sir ROBERT HORNE the price of a best quality worsted suit, as made by a high-class tailor in this country, is approximately sixteen to eighteen guineas, and is still rising, though he thinks it should not be more than twenty guineas next winter. His remark that quite good suits could be procured at much lower prices prompted Sir F. HALL to call attention to the wares of a fellow-Member, upon which Mr. WHITLEY who was occupying the Chair, observed, with a touch of Mr. SPEAKER'S humour, that Question-time must not be used for advertisement.
The approach of the holidays gave point to Mr. FORREST'S complaint of the inefficiency of the present arrangements for conveying passengers' baggage by rail. Mr. NEAL expressed a rather faint hope that the system of "luggage in advance" might be reintroduced. There are signs, however, that the Parliamentary train is already overloaded and that a good deal of Ministerial impedimenta will have to be left behind.
Tuesday, May 18th.—Our ancestors, generous fellows, considered British citizenship such a fine thing that they sought to extend its benefits as widely as possible. Under the existing law the child of British parents born in Canton and the child of Chinese parents born in Stepney are equally entitled to boast "Civis Britannicus sum." Lord STANHOPE, regarding this as an objectionable anomaly, brought forward a Bill designed to restrict British nationality to persons of British blood. But, though he did this with the object of enabling the Government to fulfil one of their election pledges, "Britain for the British," he received scant sympathy from the LORD CHANCELLOR, who declared that, far from making for simplicity, the Bill would produce a state of things "partly overlapping and partly contradictory."
Although close upon a hundred Generals have been demobilised since the Armistice, there is no immediate danger of this interesting race disappearing altogether. Twenty-six of the finest specimens are specially maintained at the War Office, at the comparatively trifling cost of sixty-two thousand pounds a year.
Viscount CURZON has many times both on sea and land shown himself the possessor of a fine nerve, but never more so than this afternoon, when he contrasted the activity of the police in apprehending infringers of the Motor-Car Acts with their alleged failure to capture really dangerous criminals. Mr. SHORTT gave the figures of the motor-car prosecutions, and resisted the temptation to point out the extent to which they had been swollen by the noble Lord's own delinquencies.
A listless House resumed the discussion of the Government of Ireland Bill. Mr. FISHER declined to accept a proposal to include nine counties, instead of six, in the Northern Parliament, the view of the Government being that they must cut their legislative Ulster according to their Protestant cloth. Mr. CLYNES announced the intention of the Labour Party to wash their hands of the Bill, which he regarded as a sheer waste of time. Undeterred by the prospect of this calamity the House passed Clause I. by a majority of 152.
Wednesday, May 19th.—Mr. BOTTOMLEY obtained leave to introduce a Bill to create a Public Defender, in spite of an attempt by Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY to strangle the bantling at its birth. He did not succeed in making clear his objection to the measure, and it is thought that he may have confused it with Sir ROBERT HORNE'S Bill to regulate the Supply of Gas.
When the Committee-stage of the Home Rule Bill was resumed the subject of debate was the Irish Council, the pivot on which all hopes of unity are centred. Exactly fifty Members were present to listen to this epoch-marking discussion, carried on entirely by a few English enthusiasts and the Members from Ulster. They differed profoundly on most of the details of the Council's constitution, but were unanimous in expressing the belief that nothing much mattered since it would never work. Lord WINTERTON indeed prophesied that if it is composed, as seems probable, of a solid bloc of Sinn Feiners from the South and another of Unionists from the North there would be a free fight at every meeting. In that case it may become a popular body after all.
* * * * *
* * * * *
"Dry Old Chickens, 50s. to L4 4s. per doz."
* * * * *
Our Musical Athletes.
"Double action Gothic Harp (by Erard), suitable for a lady in perfect condition."
* * * * *
For Domestic Interiors.
"For the Blood, Stomach, and Liver, there is nothing to compare with CORK LINOS. 800 rolls to choose from"
Buttered rolls, we trust.
* * * * *
The Great Eastern have inaugurated a new plan for helping food-producers. They are sending out an instructional train, manned by experts and full of live stock—poultry and rabbits and goats—which is to traverse their system for two months. The contents will be on view and lectures will be given to cottagers, artisans, clerks—to all in fact who are interested in the breeding of the lesser live-stock, apple-growing, etc. The plan is so excellent that we feel sure it is bound to lead to further developments in regard to the industries and pursuits that really matter.
The rural districts, it may be safely assumed, already know something about agriculture. But many areas are still in a state of benighted ignorance about the results of intensive culture applied to the arts. There are parts of the Cornish Riviera, for example, in which you may travel for miles and miles without hearing a syncopated orchestra. Here is the opportunity of the Great Western—to equip and despatch a train band or band train, with a personnel carefully selected from the best negro performers (of whom there are now several thousands in London), with the view of brightening and enlightening the existence of those unfortunate villagers hitherto beyond the range of the beneficent dominion of din. As an antidote to agricultural discontent we can conceive nothing more salutary.
Again, there are portions of the Black Country where the very names of the leading Georgian poets are unknown. A troupe of poets, personally conducted by Mr. EDWARD MARCH or Mr. EDMUND GOSSE, or both, should without delay be organized and sent forth by the North-Western and Midland Railways to give recitations over every portion of both systems. The effect on the output would be instantaneous. London should not be allowed to monopolize this stimulant to activity. Minstrelsy should be mobilized. It is true that a small group are interested in rotary motion, but we want to see all the Georgian poets on "Wheels." If we cannot have a free breakfast-table, at least we ought to be in a position to indulge without any control the appetite of our people for free verse.
Lastly, the plan of the instructional train might be applied with the most beneficial results to spreading the taste for the Russian Ballet. We do not hope to detach such bright particular stars as PAVLOVA or KARSAVINA from the London stage, but at the present moment, according to the latest statistical returns, there are several hundred Russian premieres danseuses and thousands of coryphees of all grades congregated in the Metropolis, many of them without engagements, and reduced to giving dancing lessons to the daughters of profiteers, Crypto-Semites and other unpropitious persons. The organisation of a Russian Ballet train would therefore serve the double purpose of freeing these gifted performers from an ignoble use of their talents and at the same time initiating the provinces in the poetry of motion.
* * * * *
* * * * *
"OXFORD UNIVERSITY.—First Innings. R. H. Bettington, dun out ... 12."
The batsman himself, we understand, expressed the opinion that he had been "done in."
* * * * *
[Lines written at Geneva, with the rate of exchange standing at about twenty francs to the pound in Switzerland and about fifty francs to the pound in France. French and Swiss franc-pieces are good currency in both countries.]
Now here's a thing which makes me laugh And in a bitter way: The egg, that once was twopence-half, Is fivepence net to-day.
It needed but this final woe To fill the wretched cup, That Hecuba, the hen, should go And put her prices up.
This Hecuba, her pride is such She'll only do her job For pay in francs; she will not touch The honest British bob.
Thus I, who have not got the dash To borrow, steal or beg, Have first of all to buy the cash Wherewith to buy the egg.
And when I go to buy some francs To see the matter through I find that hereabouts the banks Have raised their prices too....
The farm is Swiss; but then, suppose You place yourself by chance Upon the southern edge, your nose Is trespassing in France.
'Tis here that Hecuba, the hen, In solitude sublime Does business every now and then At half-a-franc a time.
Then ought she not (of course she ought) To pause and shift her ground, And lay my egg where francs are bought At fifty to the pound?
* * * * *
From a music-hall advertisement:—
"IMPORTANT NOTICE! OWING TO THE ENORMITY OF THIS PRODUCTION, FIRST HOUSE COMMENCES ... 6.15."
The licensing authority seems to have been caught napping.
* * * * *
"The interesting announcement is made that Finchale Priory has been handed over to the care of the Society for the Prevention of Ancient Monuments."—Provincial Paper.
It is suggested that some of the London statues might profitably be handed over to the same body.
* * * * *
THE PERFECT SCULLERY.
I was more than interested in the article "About Bathrooms" which appeared in the columns of Punch of March 31st last, because I too always smoke a pipe in a hot bath, to which I add the habit of reading, not books—they are too sacred to risk—but newspapers. I also frequently indulge in a further luxury at this time, a cup of coffee, which rests on the sponge and soap bridge between sips. Of course the soap sometimes falls into the coffee, and if this is undetected in time a slight frothing at the mouth occurs, but no really serious harm ensues.
I tried the effect of pictures round the bath—pictures with a shiver in them that made me pull the water up closer round my neck. But I found that they were being ruined by the steam, so I removed them and am now looking for some undraped but respectable statuettes that will give the same result.
I have not tried the rich rug stunt. The only rug we possess which might be so described is a Persian one, and is on our cat at present. When she has done with it I intend to spread it over the only part of the bathroom floor which is permanently dry. And, suffering as our bathroom does from that lack of space which the writer on bathrooms so justly laments, the "profound chair" is out of the question.
While his views on bathrooms are sound it seems evident to me that the writer of the Punch article lives in pre-war style—with servants. We don't. Our last maid left us to be a Waac and has not been seen since in the precincts of domestic servitude. I did hear something about her approaching marriage to a Colonel of Hussars, but don't know whether it came off or not.
It seems to me that what is chiefly wrong with houses, at any rate with our house, is the scullery. It is smaller than most bathrooms, and, though it is anything but bare, the furnishings of it are not intriguing to one who, like myself, spends therein such an undue proportion of the twenty-four hours.
Our present char comes three days a week, about eleven o'clock, has a look round with a duster in one hand till thirteen o'clock, then lunches and (probably) has a cigarette. She leaves at fifteen o'clock. This means that I help with the washing-up of the breakfast, tea and dinner things on char days, and of luncheon things as well on non-char days. My share of the task is generally the wiping. This is not such an engrossing occupation as to prevent one from thinking great thoughts at the same time, thoughts worthy to be committed to paper afterwards. Now, as a song-writer, I ask how can one get inspiration while gazing at a row of saucepans, a cullender, a bottle of metal paste, one ditto knife polish and a plate-rack?
If any room in the house should be luxuriously furnished it is the scullery. But what is even more important, I think, is that the whole game of scullerying should be revolutionised. The implements still in use are worthy of the Stone Age. The rules should be so framed that there should be little or no washing-up, in the ordinary acceptation of the term.
Let me put before you a pen-picture of the scullery of my dreams. A cosy pleasant room, the whole length of the house in fact, with a south aspect, full advantage of which is secured by a long window filled with leaded lights of opalescent glass (in order that the Hilary-Tompkins next door, who have two servants, may not grow too ribald). On the western wall is a rich mosaic depicting Hercules cleansing the Augean stable, and below this a fountain of clear limpid water, warmed to at least twenty over grease-proof, gushes forth and flows in a pellucid stream, between banks of marble, to the eastern end of the chamber. At the fountain head reclines Euphemia, my wife, arrayed and fructed proper, who leisurely drops the crockery into the stream. At the other end of the room, seated in a "profound chair" by the estuary, where the waters of the River Plate fall into the Sink Basin, behold me lazily watching the cups and platters as they glide gently down the rippling flood towards me, dexterously fishing out each fresh arrival and depositing it in a hot-air receptacle conveniently placed for its accommodation.
Such, I say, is the scullery of my dreams, in which the washing up of a nine-hole-course dinner would be as pleasant as a round of golf. No unsightly pots, pans, brooms, tins or other junk pollute the apartment; they are in the dream ante-chamber, to be hereinafter described or not, if the Editor sees fit. [ED.—He does not see fit.]
* * * * *
Shakspeare and Mr. Charles Chaplin.
Mr. CHARLES CHAPLIN writes from Los Angeles protesting against the allegation, made in our issue of March 31st, that "he does not like SHAKSPEARE." Mr. Punch cannot accept responsibility for a statement quoted from the report of an interview, but he has no hesitation in expressing his profound regret for any wrong that he has inadvertently done both to Mr. CHAPLIN and SHAKSPEARE.
* * * * *
THE GREAT DIVORCE QUESTION.
When I week-end with people I like them to be tactful. I thought Mrs. Benham lacked the tact essential to a hostess when she said, "We breakfast at half-past nine on Sundays. That will give us all ample time to get to church." She never seemed to contemplate the possibility of my having a Sunday morning indisposition.
Now there is no virtue in compulsory church-going, but as I was for it I accepted my fate cheerfully. I walked with Benham across the park to the church. He is the adopted Candidate for the division, and he took the opportunity of rehearsing to me a speech he was preparing which showed up Bolshevism in its true colours. Though no Sabbatarian I have the deepest objection to political speeches on a Sunday, and it was really a relief when I reached the gracious refuge of the church.
The family pew was a little too near the pulpit, but it was most comfortable. When the sermon came on I settled myself in a restful corner to listen to the Archdeacon. After a moment or two I felt he was on sound orthodox lines and needed no supervision of mine. I leant back and gradually dozed off.
Then in my sleep I became aware of a stern voice disapproving of something. It seemed to me that Benham was at a public meeting denouncing Bolshevism to a very lethargic audience. It was my bounden duty to support my host. "Hear, hear! Hear, hear!" I said most emphatically.
I woke up just as the last "Hear" left my lips. The choir-boys were sniggering—you can always trust them to do that. A large curate was eyeing me as if I were something between a leper and a dissenter. Mrs. Benham was looking indignantly down the pew at me; Benham was tactfully but ineffectively pretending not to have heard anything.
I went hot all over. What could I do? Should I be prosecuted for brawling in church? Could I possibly explain to the Archdeacon that I spoke in my sleep, and therefore was not responsible? There are some explanations that aggravate an offence.
There came a terrible moment when the service was over. The Archdeacon stepped deliberately towards our pew. I was tempted to bolt through a stained-glass window. And then, as he came near, he beamed on me.
"Don't apologise, my dear Sir, don't apologise. If you were so moved by the picture I drew of the inroads the new Divorce Law would make on the sanctity of our homes why should you not express your indignation? Enthusiasm is far better than lethargy."
"Mr. Johnson feels very strongly on the subject," said Mrs. Benham. I had never said a word about it before her in my life.
That night she surveyed me carefully. "I can see you've a headache, Mr. Johnson," she said. "You had better not go to church; there is nothing worse than a hot church for headache."
After all, Mrs. Benham is not without tact.
* * * * *
* * * * *
Another Impending Apology?
"The Bank now gives employment to 6,000 persons, 2,000 of whom are women. In order to accommodate them outside premises have been acquired from time to time. The chief of these new establishments is St. Luke's Hospital for Lunatics."—Sunday Paper.
* * * * *
* * * * *
A writer in The Evening Standard calls attention to the latest ornamentation of the fine old Elizabethan Hall of Gray's Inn, in the shape of the arms of Lord BIRKENHEAD, who as a past Treasurer of the Inn is entitled to this armorial distinction in his lifetime. But, he goes on, "it was not so much the arms as their motto which attracted me—the motto of a man who began his brilliant career as plain Mr. F. E. SMITH. Now the Latin for 'smith,' as an artisan, is faber (artificer or fabricator in the primal sense); so, with a fine democratic courage, Lord BIRKENHEAD has chosen as his family motto: 'Faber meae Fortunae' (Architect of my own Fortune)."
We agree; but it must not be supposed that Lord BIRKENHEAD has an entire monopoly of this frank spirit. Other eminent men who have recently been ennobled or decorated have shown a similar frankness. Thus it may not be known that Lord RIDDELL has adopted a motto which reveals the comparatively modest beginnings of his greatness. Lord RIDDELL was, and we believe still is, the proprietor of The News of the World. Now the Latin for news or newness is novitas (novelty or unfamiliarity in the primal sense); so with a noble democratic courage he has chosen as his family motto: "Saeculorum vetustati praestat novitas mundi" (The news of the world surpasses the antiquity of the ages). It is rather a long motto, but it is eminently Ciceronian in its cadence.
Then there is the case of Lord NORTHCLIFFE, who began his brilliant career as simple Mr. HARMSWORTH. Now the Latin for "harm" is damnum (loss or sacrifice in the primal sense), and for "worth" dignus. So, with a fine loyalty to his antecedents, Lord NORTHCLIFFE has adopted the heroic and pleasantly alliterative motto: "Per damna ad dignitatem" (Through sacrifices to worthiness).
Even more ingenious is the motto chosen by Lord BEAVERBROOK, who began his coruscating career as a native of New Brunswick. Now the Latin for "beaver" is castor (not to be confounded with the small wheels attached to the legs of arm-chairs), and in Greek mythology Castor was the brother of Pollux, who was famed as a boxer. "Boxer" is a synonym for "prize-fighter"; "prize-fighter" recalls "WELLS"; "wells" contain "water," and "water" suggests "brook." So Lord BEAVERBROOK, with a true allegiance to Canada, coupled with a scholarly mastery of the niceties of Classical etymology, has chosen for his family motto: "E Castore Pollux" (Brook from the Beaver).
* * * * *
THE DEVIL IN DEVON.
The Devil walked about the land And softly laughed behind his hand To see how well men worked his will And helped his darling projects still, The while contentedly they said: "There is no Devil; he is dead."
But when by chance one day in Spring Through Devon he went wandering And for an idle moment stood Upon the edge of Daccombe wood, Where bluebells almost hid the green, With the last primroses between, He bit his lip and turned away And could do no more work that day.
* * * * *
(By Mr. Punch's Staff of Learned Clerks.)
There has recently been a notable output of books of "personalities" and critical appreciations, contemporary, historical and (for the most part) iconoclastic. One may therefore say that Mr. HORACE G. HUTCHINSON is distinctly of the movement in compiling his Portraits of the 'Eighties (UNWIN). This is certainly a volume that anyone can dip into with instruction and entertainment, even if (to be quite honest) the former is likely to predominate. The fact is that one has become so used to the satirical method in portraiture, in which the attack is all and the subject emerges only as a beriddled target, that an ordinary pen-picture, however faithful, is apt to seem heavy by contrast. Mr. HUTCHINSON certainly is not of the slingers; he will just "tell you about" the notable persons of his period, setting down nothing in malice, omitting little however banal, and rejecting no aphorism or anecdote as outworn. Perhaps his nearest approach to the popular method is a very occasional touch of gentle irony, as when he permits himself to say of G. W. E. RUSSELL (to whose Portraits of the Seventies the present volume is intended as a sequel) that he "used to drive about London in a carriage picked out in colours that did not suggest that he sought seclusion." I have no space for the barest list of the sitters in Mr. HUTCHINSON'S crowded picture of a time rich in character, his treatment of which aims rather at covering a wide ground than at intimacy of detail. To mention but one, it is interesting to compare his General GORDON with the recent presentment of him by another hand. If the result is more creditable to Mr. HUTCHINSON'S kindliness than to his wit, it may serve as an apt comment on the whole book.
* * * * *
Beauty and Bands (CONSTABLE) is not, as you might excusably suppose, a treatise on syncopation or the decline of Jazz, but takes its title from a verse in the Book of Proverbs. Really what the story most illustrates is the extent to which a clever and experienced writer can clothe a wildly impossible plot with some aspect of reality. Miss ELLEN THORNEYCROFT FOWLER assuredly does not lack courage; having thought out a "good situation" (which it certainly is) she was not going to be put off by any considerations of probability. I can't resist some sketch of it, even at the risk of spoiling your pleasure. Suppose a lovely but selfish wife, bored to the point of flight from a well-intentioned husband, then involved in a railway smash which disfigures her beauty, destroys her memory and incidentally reforms her character; let her by plausible circumstance be mistaken for another traveller in the wrecked train and under a new name and personality meet her husband, fall in love with him, but be compelled to reject his suit by the presumption that his vanished wife may still be living—as I hinted, the result in situations is enough to satisfy the most exacting, the only real drawback being that not all Miss FOWLER'S pleasantly persuasive efforts can make me believe a word of it. If she had dared a little more, and inflicted the husband with blindness, impaired hearing and slight mental decay, I would have stretched a point and supposed that, during a protracted courtship, he might never have recognised his own wife. Lacking these concessions I can only report an entertaining but preposterous absurdity.
* * * * *
Those of us who read With the Persian Expedition know something about the Hush-Hush Army; enough, at any rate, to whet our appetites for more. Let me then recommend The Adventures of Dunsterforce (ARNOLD) to your notice, and assure you that it is a most lively account of as strange an enterprise as any that the War brought forth. Briefly, the object of General DUNSTERVILLE'S mission was to prevent German and Turkish penetration in the area of the Caucasus, Baku and the Caspian Sea. In January, 1918, he set out from Baghdad with what he calls "the leading party." Continually hampered by lack of men, the mission failed to achieve its original object; but what it accomplished in most difficult circumstances was of great value to the Allies. The conditions at the time when the author sailed from Enzeli with his "Dunsterforce" to raise the siege of Baku were delightfully cosmopolitan. He describes himself as "a British General on the Caspian, the only sea unploughed before by British keels, on board a ship named after a South African Dutch President and whilom enemy, sailing from a Persian port under the Serbian flag to relieve from the Turks a body of Armenians in a revolutionary Russian town." "Let the reader," he adds, "pick his way through that delirious tangle, and envy us our task who may." After pursuing the tricky course of this astounding adventure I confess myself lost, not in its mazes, thanks to an excellent map, but in profound admiration for "Dunsterforce" and its leader.
* * * * *
In A Merchant Fleet at War (CASSELL) it takes nearly a hundred pictures to illustrate the fighting effort and experiences of the Cunard Steamship Company. Quite a lot of them are from snap-shot photographs actually taken while in action with submarines, and where through an unfortunate oversight these have not been available someone with vivid brush and imagination has done wonders to fill the gap. Certainly such a subject as the passing of the Lusitania, her decks still packed though her great bulk is three-quarters gone, the sea crowded with boats and, presumably, drowning Englishmen, is perhaps a little poignant to be handled in this fashion; but no one can object to seeing a U-boat nose-diving at the instance of S.S. Phrygia, or another being messed up by a shell from the Valeria; while the historic fight between Carmania, in Prussian blue, and Cap Trafalgar, mostly crimson, competes for lurid splendour with the Mauretania in "dazzle" costume, staged with a sky to match. Incidentally Mr. ARCHIBALD HURD has acted as showman for the collection. One might have found his exposition rather more substantial but for Sir JULIAN CORBETT'S first volume of Naval Operations, which has set an uncomfortably high standard in sea history. Frankly, the deeds of the men of our merchant fleets, of the Cunarders no less than others, were so magnificent that a book to be worthy of them must be in itself as modest and unpretentious as they were. This book is not.
* * * * *
The Tall Villa (COLLINS), by "LUCAS MALET," has a strange theme—no less than the deliberate wooing, by a sensitive unhappy woman, of a more unhappy ghost. Lord Oxley had lived in this odd villa on Primrose Hill a hundred years ago with a noted stage beauty who had finally jilted him. One of his descendants, Frances Copley, banished from Grosvenor Square by her husband's financial failure and conscious of the growing rift between them, detaches herself more and more from the world of sense till she is—well, till she is in just the right mood for seeing ghosts. First it is a mere shadow that stands by her piano; next a faceless figure, exquisitely dressed, sits brooding in her chair; then she hears a pistol shot; later—but this will spoil your entertainment. I cannot say I was quite convinced, but I certainly was held to the end by a tale very skilfully, almost too carefully, told, and by the cleverness of the four portraits— Frances herself, the adorable Lady Lucia her cousin, Charlie Montagu the passionate bounder, and, a little less definite, Morris Copley the stockbroking husband.
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Messrs. HODDER AND STOUGHTON have beaten up various American magazines and shepherded a few Waifs and Strays of short stories by the late "O. HENRY" (WILLIAM SYDNEY PORTER) into a final volume of their excellent edition of his works. They have also included appreciations by various American and British critics of the author's achievement, together with some sparse biographical details. The stories are of varying value, exercises on a sentimental motive cloaked by humorous or bizarre exaggeration of language, with those unexpected but ingeniously plausible endings which are of the essence of "O. HENRY'S" method. Of the criticisms, English readers will be most affected by Mr. STEPHEN LEACOCK'S "The Amazing Genius of O. HENRY," an analytical appreciation in the most handsome terms, deploring English neglect of this master of one of the most difficult of art-forms—a neglect which we have done something of late to remedy.