PUNCH, OR THE LONDON CHARIVARI.
September 15th, 1920.
Prohibition meetings in Scotland, says an official, have been attended by fifty thousand people. We should not have thought there were so many aliens in Scotland.
* * *
At an Oldbury wedding the other day a brick was thrown at the bridegroom. There is no excuse for this sort of thing with confetti so cheap.
* * *
One of the Pacific Islands, we read, is so small that the House of Commons could not be planted on it. A great pity.
* * *
"Do hotel chefs use cookery-books?" asks a home journal. Our own opinion is that quite a large proportion of them cook by ear.
* * *
Fourteen thousand artificial teeth recently stolen from premises in East London have not been recovered. While not attempting to indicate the guilty party, we cannot refrain from pointing out that several Labour leaders have recently been showing a good many more teeth than they were thought entitled to possess.
* * *
At the Trades Union Congress a protest was made against the Unemployment Insurance Act. This must not be confused with the miners' threat to strike. That is merely a method of ensuring unemployment.
* * *
The arrangement by which a hundred-and-fifty amateur brass bands are to play at the Crystal Palace on September 25th looks like an attempt to distract us from the miners' strike fixed for that day.
* * *
A Ramsgate man charged with shooting a cat denied that he fired at it. The animal is said to have dashed at the bullet and impaled himself upon it.
* * *
It has been agreed, says a news item, that milk shall be tenpence a quart this winter. Not by us.
* * *
The War Office announces that Arabs in Southern Mesopotamia have captured a British armoured train. It should be pointed out to these Arab rebels that it is such behaviour as this that discourages the tourist spirit.
* * *
Upon reading that another lady had failed in her attempt to swim the Channel a Scotsman inquires whether the Cross-Channel steamer rates have been increased, like everything else.
* * *
We are informed that at a football match recently played in the Rhondda Valley the referee won.
* * *
General OBREGON, says an unofficial message, has been elected President of Mexico. The startling report that he has decided to reverse the safe policy of his predecessors and recognise the United States requires corroboration.
* * *
Everybody should economise after a great war, says an American film producer. We always do our best after every great war.
* * *
According to an official report only fifty policemen were bitten by dogs in London last week. The falling off is said to be due to the fact that it has been rather a good year for young and tender postmen.
* * *
Some highly-strung persons, says a medical writer, are even afraid of inanimate objects. This accounts for many nervous people being afraid of venturing too near a plumber.
* * *
"I only want the potatoes in the allotment and not the earth," said a complainant at Deptford. It is evident that, if this man is a trade unionist, he is a raw amateur.
* * *
Doctors at Vicenza have threatened to strike. This means that people in that neighbourhood will have to die without medical assistance.
* * *
"Chief Hailstorm," of the Texas Rangers, has arrived in London. His brother, Chief Rainstorm, has, of course, been with us most of the summer.
* * *
Girls, declares a well-known City caterer, are acquiring bigger appetites. We somehow suspected that the demand for a return of the wasp waist had influential interests behind it.
* * *
The wife of a miner in Warwickshire has recently presented her husband with three baby boys. We understand that Mr. SMILLIE is sorry to have missed three extra strike-votes which he would have obtained had the boys been born a little earlier.
* * *
An extraordinary story reaches us from North London. It appears that during the building of a house a brick slipped unnoticed from a hod and fell into its correct position, with the result that the accountant employed by the bricklayers could not balance his books at the end of the day.
* * *
"As science measures time," declares an eminent geologist, "the Garden of Eden was a thing of yesterday." All we can say is, "Where was Councillor CLARK yesterday?"
* * * * *
* * * * *
"POLES OVER THE LINE."
So that accounts for the weather.
* * * * *
"Whatever other defects may be alleged against the scarlet uniform, it certainly makes for two things—discipline and smartness—and these two are very important factors in discipline."
"Civil and Military Gazette," Lahore.
Especially the former.
* * * * *
"During the night, she [Mrs. Hamilton, the Channel swimmer] said, 'I occasionally took hot drinks and ate cold roast chicken, the small bones of which I kept chewing, as it seemed to assist me....'
A strict vegetarian, Mrs. Hamilton will sometimes swim five miles before dinner, and skips for a few minutes every day."
She should skip the chicken if she wants us to be excited about her strict vegetarianism.
* * * * *
TO THE PRIME MINISTER'S ST. BERNARD PUP.
Ere your native country figured as the home of winter sport, Paradise of spies and agents, and for kings a last resort; Ere the hospitable chamois lent his haunts to Bolsh and Hun Or the queue of rash toboggans took the curve of Cresta Run;
Long before a locomotive climbed the Rigi, cog by cog, Fame had mentioned your forefathers—such a noble breed of dog, How they tracked the lonely traveller with their nimble, sleuthy snouts, Till beneath a billowy snowdrift they remarked his whereabouts.
How they dug him out of cold-store like a Canterbury sheep, Took their tongues and kindly licked him where his nose had gone to sleep, Called attention to the cognac which they wore in little kegs And remobilised the stagnant circulation in his legs.
How they lifted up their voices, baying like an iron bell, Till the monks of good St. Bernard heard the same and ran like hell— Ran and bore him to their hospice, where they put him into bed And applied a holy posset stiff enough to wake the dead.
Heir to this superb tradition, born to such a pride of race, From the doggy flair that tells you what a lineage you can trace You will draw, I trust, a solace for the strange and alien scene Where you undergo purgation in a stuffy quarantine.
Further, if a homesick feeling sets you itching in the scalp With a wave of poignant longing for the odour of an Alp, Let this thought (a thing of splendour) help to keep your pecker up— You have had a high promotion; you are now a Premier's pup!
You shall guard his sacred portals, you shall eat from off his plate, Mix with private secretaries, move behind the veil of State, And at Ministerial councils, as a special form of treat, You shall sniff at WINSTON'S trousers, you shall fondle CURZON'S feet.
You may even serve your master as an expert, one who knows All the rules regarding salvage in the Great St. Bernard snows, Do him good by utilising your hereditary gift To retrieve his Coalition from a constant state of drift.
* * * * *
We—Great-aunts Emily and Louisa—had in our innocence been telling a few old fairy stories at bedtime to those three precocities whom our hosts call their children.
We knew that they talked Latin and Greek in their sleep and were too much for their parents in argument, but we thought that at least, at the story hour——
We were stopped by Drusilla. "I don't think much of the moral of that one," she remarked. "It would seem to illustrate the Evil Consequences of Benevolence!"
"But she came alive again," said Evadne, the youngest, in extenuation.
"And the wolf was killed," we ventured in defence of our old story.
"Still," persisted Drusilla, "you couldn't call it encouraging."
"Then in the other case," went on Claude thoughtfully, "considering that she had been left in sole charge of the house and had no business to go out and leave it to the mercy of burglars, what moral are we to draw from the fact that she married a Prince and lived happily ever afterwards?"
"Most of them have that sort of moral," said Drusilla. "And they are every one of them devoid of humour, except of the most obvious kind—no subtlety."
"When I was your age," said poor Louisa gently, "I used to laugh very heartily over the adventures of Tom Thumb."
Claude seemed touched. "There are some capital situations in certain of them," he conceded, "which might be quite effectively treated."
"How?" we asked weakly.
It was Drusilla, the most alarming of the children, who finally undertook to sketch us out an example.
After a short meditation, "Something like this," she said. "The situation, of course, you have met with before, but as remodelled you might call it—
THE TRIUMPH OF VIRTUE; OR, THE BAD FAIRY FOILED.
A certain King and Queen had one daughter, to whose christening they invited a large company, forgetting as usual a particularly important and bad-tempered Fairy, who signified her annoyance in the usual manner.
The attendants of the little Princess (having read their story-books) were preparing dolefully enough to fall asleep for a hundred years, when the Fairy, with a contemptuous sniff, remarked that the spell would not take effect for some time yet.
They breathed again and had almost forgotten the affair by the time the Princess had grown up. But the Fairy had so arranged it that the spell fell upon the Princess at the time when she was engaged in making her choice of a husband from among the suitors who had arrived at her father's Court.
The Princess was now bewitched in this way—that good men appeared bad, ugly men handsome, and vice versa. The Fairy had hoped that she would thus make a mess of her matrimonial affairs and live unhappily ever after.
But she had reckoned without the disposition of the Princess, a kind good girl with an overpowering sense of duty. When pressed to choose, she replied firmly, "I will have no other than Prince Felix."
To her his ugliness seemed pathetic and his character evidently needed reformation so urgently that she longed to be at the job. No one wondered at her choice, for he was, of course, the most handsome and excellent of men.
Ultimately the Fairy broke her spell in a fit of exasperation, but without any gratifying result. The Princess seemed happier than ever and would sometimes say to a slightly puzzled friend:—
"Hasn't Felix improved wonderfully since I married him?"
* * * * *
"From 1910 to 1916 he was Viceroy in India, governing the Dependency through very critical years and enjoying general esteem, as was made clear in 1912, when an attempt was made to assassinate him at Delhi."—"Daily Mail" on Lord Hardinge.
It sounds like a succes d'estime.
* * * * *
* * * * *
* * * * *
THE COAL CUP.
It seems to me that we all take a great deal of interest in the miners when they strike, but not nearly enough when they hew. And yet this business of hacking large lumps of fuel out of a hole, since civilisation really depends on it, ought to be represented to us from day to day as the beautiful and thrilling thing that it really is. Yet if we put aside for a moment Mr. SMILLIE'S present demands, we find the main topics of discussion in the daily Press as I write are roughly these:—
(1) The prospects of League Football and the Cup Ties.
(3) The prevalence of deafness amongst blue-eyed cats.
(5) The Fall of Man.
(6) The sale of The Daily Mail, whose circulation during the coming winter is for some reason or other supposed to be almost as important to the children of England as their own.
Of all these topics the first is, of course, by far the most absorbing, and almost everyone has remarked how the love of sport, for which Britons are famous, is growing more passionate than ever. It is not only cricket and football, of course; only the other day there was a shilling sweepstake on the St. Leger in our office and, from what I hear of the form of Westmorland in the County Croquet Championship during the past season—but I have no time to discuss these things now.
The point is that, whilst this excitement over games grows greater and greater, the country is suffering, say the economists, from under-production and the inflation of the wage-bill. This means that everyone is trying to do less work and get more money for it, a very natural ambition which nobody can blame the miners from sharing. I suppose that if they all stopped mining and we had to depend for warmth on wrapping ourselves up in moleskins, the molliers, or whatever they are called, would strike for a two-shillings rise as well.
The worst of it is that under-production, say the economists again (there is no keeping anything from these smart lads), sends prices up. Obviously then there is only one thing to do: we must take advantage of the prevailing passion and make mining (and other industries too for that matter) a form of sport. The daily papers should find very little difficulty in doing this.
WHO HEWS HARDEST? CLAIM BY A LANARKSHIRE COLLIER
would do very well for the headings of a preliminary article; and the claim of the Lanarkshire collier would, I am sure, be instantly challenged. After a few letters we might have a suggestion, say from Wales, that no team of eleven miners could hew so hard and so much as a Welsh one. And from that it would be only a short step to the formation of district league competitions and an international championship. Or the old-time system under which cricketers were matched for a stake by sporting patrons might be revived, and we should have headlines in the evening Press after this fashion:—
HUGE HEWING CONTEST. NOTTS FOREST v. NEWCASTLE UNITED. TREMENDOUS WAGER BETWEEN THE DUKES OF PORTLAND AND NORTHUMBERLAND
and all the glades of Sherwood and the banks where the wild Tyne flows would be glad.
It will be objected, of course, that the hewing of coal is not a spectacular affair. You cannot pack sixty thousand spectators into a mine to watch a hewing match, and even if you could the lighting is bad; but that is just where the skill of the reporters would come in. After all, we do not most of us see the races on which we bet, nor the Golf Championship, nor even BECKETT and WELLS. But there would be articles on the correct swing whilst hewing, and the proper stance, and how far the toes should be turned in; the chances of every team would be discussed; the current odds would be quoted, and, whoever won, the consumer would score, whilst the strongest hewers would become popular heroes and be photographed on the back-page standing beside their hews.
I admit that the South of England and London in particular would have very little share in these competitions, and we should depend for local interest mainly upon the promising young colts from the Kentish nurseries. But we could find out from our dealers where our coals came from and follow from afar the fortunes of our adopted teams; and Cabinet Ministers, at any rate, could distribute their patronage and their presence with tact over the various areas involved.
MR. BALFOUR HEWS OFF AT DURHAM
is another headline which seems to suggest itself, and I should strongly urge the PRIME MINISTER, who has returned, I hear, with a St. Bernard from the Alps, to lose no time in selecting a more appropriate playmate.
PREMIER AT TONYPANDY. MR. LLOYD GEORGE PATS PET PIT-PONY
is the kind of thing I mean, and very hard also to say six times quickly without making a mistake.
Obviously the result of all this would be that not only would the miners be justified in asking for more money, but that the country would be able to afford it; and similar competitive leagues, to supersede trade unions, would soon be formed by other trades. One seems to hear faintly the loud plaudits of the onlookers as two crack teams of West-end road-menders step smartly into the arena....
* * * * *
Our Bolshevik Colonies.
"Married Shepherd, used hilly country and all farm and station work, desires Situation; wife would cook one or two men."
"The Press," Christchurch, N.Z.
"Miss ——, a soubrette, whose songs lean towards the voluptuous, sank 'Somebody's Baby.' Her encore number, 'You'd be Surprised,' was even more so."
"The Dominion," Wellington, N.Z.
* * * * *
* * * * *
THE PASSING OF THE CRADLE.
[According to a report which recently appeared in a daily paper, cradles for infants are becoming a thing of the past.]
Snug retreat for mother's treasure, Shall I pine as I repeat Rumour's strange report, which says you're Virtually obsolete? Shall these lips a doleful lyric Proffer at your ghostly bier, Or compose a panegyric Moistened with a minstrel's tear?
Me the theme leaves too unshaken, Though "some" father more or less; Better 'twere if undertaken By my wife (a poetess); And, if I be asked, Why vainly Occupy, then, so much space? My concern, I'll say, is mainly With the woman in the case.
For, when she and you shall sever (Though 'tis early yet to crow), Your departure may for ever Lay her proudest triumph low; Yes, while men (I'm much afraid) 'll Round her fingers still be twirled, If her hand can't rock a cradle It may cease to boss the world.
* * * * *
"Irate Householders, why be swindled in a clumsy manner? Fetch your second-hand clothing to me and be done in the most approved style."—Daily Paper.
* * * * *
"MORE LITERARY HEREDITY.
Fresh literary fame seems to be pending for the Maurice Hewlett family circle.
Mr. Robin Richards, the son-in-law of the famous novelist, is about to appeal to fiction readers with his first novel."—Daily Paper.
No more of the old-fashioned DARWIN and GALTON nonsense about fathers and children.
* * * * *
Here and there in the drab routine of modern existence it is still possible to catch an occasional glimpse of romance and courageous living, and in the volume which lies before us as we write we are given a generous measure of peril and adventure in faery seas forlorn. From Whitebait to Kipper: The Story of Seven Lives, is the vivid record of a family of herrings, set down (posthumously, it would seem) with refreshing simplicity by Walter Herring, the youngest and perhaps the most brilliant of the family. The story begins with the early childhood of Walter, John, Isabel, Margaret, Rupert, Stephanie and little Foch, the last of whom was so named because he was born on the anniversary of the Armistice. (As a matter of fact they were all born on the same day, but for some reason which is not explained only one of them was called Foch.)
You, reader, are one of those ignorant people who do so much discredit to our Public Schools. You fondly think that the whitebait is a special kind of fish, that there are father whitebaits and mother whitebaits and baby whitebaits. You are wrong. There are only baby whitebaits. At least there are baby herrings and baby pilchards, and these are called whitebait because they are eaten by the mackerel and because they look white when they are swimming upside down.
Anyhow Walter and John and Isabel and Margaret and Rupert and Stephanie and little Foch began life as whitebait. They used to charge about the Cornish seas with whole platefuls of other whitebait, millions of them, and wherever they went they were pursued by thousands of mackerel, who wanted to eat them. One day John felt that the moment was very near when he would be eaten by a mackerel, and he was quite right. Isabel felt the same thing, but she was wrong. She jumped out of the water and was eaten by a sea-gull. When the fishermen saw Isabel leaping into the air they came out and caught the mackerel in a net. They also caught Margaret with a lot of other whitebait; and she was eaten by a barrister at "Claridge's."
There were now four of the family who had not been eaten by anyone. It is extraordinary when you come to think of it that any herring ever contrives to reach maturity at all. What with the mackerel and the seagulls and the barristers, everybody seems to be against it. However, Walter, Rupert and Foch succeeded. Stephanie just missed. Walter and Rupert and Foch had jolly soft roes, a fact which is recorded in a cynical little poem by the precocious Foch, believed to be the only literary work of a whitebait now extant. We have only space here to quote the opening couplet:—
The herrings with the nice soft rows Are gentlemen; the rest are does.
The survivors of the family had now to choose a career. From the beginning it seems to have been recognised that Stephanie at least would have to be content with a humbler sphere than her more gifted brothers. She had a hard roe and was rather looked down upon. But she was an independent little thing and her pride revolted at a life of subjection at home; so while still a girl she went off on her own and got mixed up with some pilchards who were just being caught in a net. Stephanie was caught too and became a sardine. She was carefully oiled and put in a tin, and she was eaten at a picnic near Hampton Court. But there is every reason to suppose that she was eaten happy, since in those less exacting circles nobody seemed to mind about her hard roe, which had been a perpetual bugbear to her in the herring world.
Meanwhile the remaining three had decided on a career. They were determined to be fresh herrings. This is of course the highest ambition of all herrings, though sadly few succeed in attaining it. One herring in his time plays many parts (SHAKESPEARE); he can seldom say with confidence what exactly he will be to-morrow; but he can be fairly certain that it won't be a fresh herring. Of our three survivors Rupert alone was to win the coveted distinction. He grew to be a fine boy and was eaten at Hammersmith, where his plump but delicate roe gave the greatest satisfaction. It was not eaten in the ordinary humdrum way, but was thickly spread on a piece of buttered toast, generously peppered, and devoured. And when his "wish" was placed on the kitchen-range, swelled rapidly and burst with a loud report, his cup of happiness was full.
Little Foch, alas, failed to fulfil his youthful promise and became a common bloater. Worse than that, he was bloated too thoroughly and was almost impossible to eat. Even his lovely roe, the pride of his heart, became so salt that the Rector of Chitlings finally rejected it with ignominy, though not before he had consumed so much of it that he had to drink the whole of his sermon-water before he began to preach.
But it was Walter, Walter the chronicler, Walter the clever, the daring, the ambitious, leader in every escapade, adviser in every difficulty, who was to suffer the crowning humiliation. Walter became a kipper. If there is one thing that a herring cannot stand it is to be separated from his roe. Walter's roe was ruthlessly torn from him and served up separate on toast, with nothing to show that it was the glorious roe of Walter. It was eaten at the Criterion by a stockbroker, and it might have been anybody's roe. Meanwhile the mutilated frame, the empty shell of Walter, was squashed flat in a wooden box with a mass of others and sold at an auction by the pound. It broke his heart.
* * * * *
Country gossips, nodding slow When the fire is burning low, Or chatting round about the well On the green at Ashlins Dell, With many a timid backward glance And fingers crossed and eyes askance, Still tell about the Midmas Day When Marget Malherb went away.
"After Midmas Day shall break, Maidens, neither brew nor bake; See your house be sanded clean; Wear no stitch of fairy green; Go barefoot; wear nor hose nor shoon From rise of sun to rise of moon; For the Good People watch and wait Waiting early, watching late, For foolish maids who treat with scorn The mystic rites of Midmas Morn."
Marget Malherb tossed her head, "I fear no fairies' charms," she said— For she'd new slippers she would wear To show her lad the pretty pair, Soft green leather, buckled red— "I fear no fairies' charms," she said. She drew them on and laughed in scorn, And out she danced on Midmas Morn.
Nevermore was Marget seen; But when her lover sought the green A Fairy Ring was all he found— A Fairy Ring on the weeping ground; And by the hedge a flower grew, Long and slender, filled with dew, Green and pointed, ribboned red; And still you'll find them as I've said. And Marget comes, so gossips say, To wear her shoes on Midmas Day.
* * * * *
The Gladiatorial Spirit.
"Crossbie would have done better to have shot himself, but he gave the ball to his partner."—Provincial Paper.
* * * * *
"MILK PRICES UP. HIGHER CHARGE TO MEET THE COST OF PETROL."
We always thought it was water that they used.
* * * * *
* * *
* * *
* * *
* * *
* * *
* * *
THE PERSUASIVE POWER OF BEAUTY IN ART.
* * * * *
* * * * *
A DIFFERENCE OF CLASS.
It is without doubt the most expensive hotel on the front, and the palatial dining-room in which we have just lunched is furnished and decorated in that sumptuously luxurious style to which only wealth, untrammelled by art, is able to attain. Personally I cannot afford to take my meals at such places, and I know that the same holds good of my fellow-guest, Charteris. Charteris was the best scholar of our year at Oriel, and since his demobilisation he and his wife have been living in two rooms, except during the periods when their son joins them for his holidays from Winchester. But our host is still possessed of an obstinate wealth which even the War has done little to diminish, and, as he himself puts it, is really grateful to those of his old friends who will help him in public to support the ignominy.
At the moment, having finished lunch, we have betaken ourselves to wicker-chairs in the porch, and Charteris and our host being deep in a golf discussion I venture once more to turn a covert attention to the exceedingly splendid couple who have just followed us out from the dining-room. I noticed them first on my arrival, when they were just getting out of their Rolls-Royce, and the admiration which I then conceived for them was even further enhanced during lunch by a near view of the lady's diamonds and of the Cinquevalli-like dexterity shown by her husband in balancing a full load of peas on the concave side of a fork. At present the man, somewhat flushed with champagne, is smoking an enormous cigar with a red-and-gold band round it, while the lady, her diamonds flashing in the sunshine, leans back in her chair and regards with supercilious eyes the holiday crowds that throng the pavement below.
Following her glance my attention is suddenly arrested by the strange behaviour of two passers-by, who have stopped in the middle of the pavement and, after exchanging some excited comments, are staring fixedly towards us. From their appearance they would seem to be a typical husband and wife of the working-class on holiday, and it occurs to me that, given the clothes and the diamonds, they might well be occupying the wicker-chairs of the couple opposite. Evidently the sight of somebody or something in the hotel porch has excited them greatly, for they continue to stare up at us with a hostile concentration that renders them quite unconscious of the frantic efforts of the small child who accompanies them to tug them towards the beach. After a moment they exchange a few more quick words, and the man leaves his companion and makes his way towards us. Ascending the hotel steps with an air of great determination he comes to a halt before the couple opposite.
"'Ere, I've bin lookin' for you," he begins accusingly.
The Rolls-Royce owner takes the cigar from his mouth and gazes in astonishment at the accusing apparition before him.
"A hour ago," pursues the newcomer relentlessly, "you was driving along the front here in the whackin' great car. It ain't no good denyin' it, 'cos I took the number."
"What d'ye mean—denying it?" exclaims Rolls-Royce. "Who's denying anythink?"
"It ain't no good tryin' to deny it," retorts the other. "An' it ain't no good denyin' wot you did neether, 'cos I've got my missus 'ere to prove it."
"What I did?" echoes the astonished man. "What did I do?"
"Ran over my child's b'loon," states the accuser, fixing him with a pitiless eye. For the moment the object of this serious charge is too taken aback to be capable of speech.
"'Ran over my child's b'loon,'" repeats the other inexorably. "Leastways your chauffer did. An' when we 'ollered out to yer to stop you just rushed on like a runaway railway-train."
Rolls-Royce, conscious of the curious gaze of the entire company, pulls himself together and regards his accuser unfavourably.
"First I've 'eard of it," he growls. "Where was the balloon anyway? In the road, I s'pose?"
"Yes, it was in the road," retorts the other defiantly, "where it's got every right to be. Road's there for the convenience of b'loon-fliers just as much as for motor-cars. More."
"Look 'ere, that's enough of it," says the car-owner harshly. "If the balloon got run over it's yer own fault for letting it go in the road."
"That's a nice way to talk," suddenly comes in shrill tones from the woman below, who has edged her way to the foot of the steps. "We don't go buyin' balloons for you to run over in yer cars. We're respectable people, we are, an' we work for our livin'."
"Drivin' about in a car like an express train, runnin' over other people's b'loons," corroborates her husband bitterly. "Wot country d'yer think yer in? Prussia?"
By this time a small crowd has gathered on the pavement and is gazing up at the protagonists with ghoulish interest. The lady in the diamonds, a prey to mingled indignation and alarm, has leant towards her spouse and is whispering to him urgently, but he shakes her off with an impatient movement.
"Not on yer life," he snaps. "They won't get a cent out o' me."
"Ho, won't we!" exclaims his accuser hotly. "We'll soon see about that. We're English people, we are—we don't allow people to go about destroyin' our b'loons."
"No wonder they're so rich," cries the woman at the bottom of the steps in satirical tones. "That's the way to get rich, that is—destroyin' other people's prop'ty an' then refusin' to pay for it. Anybody could get rich that way."
Reflections on the feasibility of this novel financial scheme are cut short by the appearance at the top of the steps of the hotel porter, who touches the originator of the disturbance on the shoulder.
"Come on, you're not allowed up 'ere, you know," he observes.
"Ho, ain't I?" retorts the man defiantly. "Is this Buckingham Pallis?"
"You can't come up 'ere unless you've got business in the 'otel," states the porter unmoved.
"So I 'ave got bisness 'ere," declares the other. "Bisness c'nected with my son's b'loon."
"An' we don't leave 'ere till it's settled, neither," cries the lady on the pavement. "'Alf-a-crown that balloon cost, an' we don't budge from 'ere till we get it."
This is altogether too much for the owner of the Rolls-Royce.
"'Alf-a-crown?" he explodes and turns indignantly to the company. "'Alf-a-crown for a child's balloon, and then they go on strike."
Derisive cheers and counter-cheers go up from the crowd below as the incensed balloon-owner bursts forth into an impassioned defence of his inalienable right as a free-born Briton to strike or to buy half-crown balloons as the spirit moves him. Simultaneously the lady in the diamonds rises and, producing a coin from her gold bag, holds it with a superb gesture at arm's length beneath his nose. For a moment or two he pays no attention to her, then takes the coin impatiently with the air of one brushing aside an irritating interruption and continues his harangue.
"Come on," puts in the porter; "you've got yer 'alf-crown. S'pose you move on."
"Got me 'alf-crown, 'ave I'?" he retorts. "Wot about my rights as a man? Does 'alf-a-crown buy them?"
No one venturing to solve this social problem he turns slowly and, glaring over his shoulder at Rolls-Royce, descends the steps.
"I'm an Englishman, I am," he concludes from the pavement. "No one can't close my mouth with 'alf-crowns."
For a brief space he stands scowling up at the porch as though challenging all and sundry to perform this feat, then, taking his wife by the arm, moves off with her and the still insistent child towards the beach. The crowd on the pavement, regretfully convinced that the entertainment is at an end, disperses slowly. Rolls-Royce, seemingly unconscious of the interest of Charteris and our host, who are looking at him covertly as at some zoological specimen, relights his cigar and sits glowering across the road, and silence falls upon the scene—a silence broken at last by the lady in the diamonds, who has resumed her languid pose in the wicker-chair.
"'Orrible people!" she observes, addressing the occupants of the porch generally. "Nice state o' things when you can't even be safe from 'em in yer own 'otel. You don't seem to be able to get away from these low-class people hanywhere—you don't reely!"
* * * * *
* * * * *
CALIGULA the man (quite mad, of course) Conferred the consulship upon his horse.
Caligula the colt (a trifle saner) Makes kings of jockey, purchaser and trainer.
Sanity counts; I raise my cup of massic Not to the earlier but the later "classic."
* * * * *
"I was his [Irving's] guest regularly at all Lyceum first nights for a whole quarter of a century.... He delighted in the company of third-rate people."
C.K.S. in "The Sphere."
* * * * *
* * * * *
FASHION AND PHYSIQUE.
The heightened stature of women was a favourite topic in anthropometric circles long before the War. It seems, however, that they are not going to rest content with their present standard of altitude, but are invoking the resources of Art to render it even more conspicuous. We do not speak rashly or without book. The Evening News announced on September 8th that "Women are to be taller this autumn." Nature may be in the Fall, but women are on the rise. The mode by which this effect of elongation—so dear to Art—is to be attained is described in detail by the Paris correspondent of our contemporary as follows:—
"A fluffy and very high head-dress will be worn this autumn. The effect is obtained by the aid of pads, and adds some inches to a woman's stature.... Another type of coiffure is being adopted by some hairdressers, who leave the hair flat and smooth round the face, and only make a sort of bird's-nest of the ends, which stand well up so as to lengthen the profile in an upward direction."
Nothing, however, is said about the relation of fashion to the physique of the sterner sex. To correct this omission Mr. Punch has interviewed a number of West-End tailors, hatters, hosiers and bootmakers. The results of this inquiry may be briefly summarised.
Heads are to be larger this autumn, and to keep pace with the extraordinary development of brain amongst our insurgent youth, as evidenced by the correspondence in The Morning Post, it has been found necessary to make a radical change in the stock sizes of hats. But, where there has been no cranial distension, provision will be made to remedy the defect by the insertion of a cork sheath, by the aid of which a head of undersized circumference will be able to wear a No. 8 hat. Again, to meet the needs of customers in whom the temperature of the cranial region is habitually high, a hat has been devised with a vacuum lining for the insertion of cold water. The "Beverley" nickel-plated refrigerating helmet, as it is called, has already found a large sale amongst Balliol undergraduates.
As a result of the revival of the "Apes v. Angels" controversy, in which Canon BARNES has taken so prominent a part, and Mr. BOTTOMLEY has declared himself as a whole-hearted supporter of DARWIN (vide his article in The Sunday Pictorial), hands will be supple and boneless this autumn, as in fashionable portraits. This reversion to the prehensile type of hand, so noticeable in the chimpanzee, has its drawbacks, and the rigidity necessary for certain manual functions, such as winding up a motor or opening a champagne bottle, will be furnished by gloves of a stiffer and stronger fabric, ranging from simulation leatherette to chain-mail.
Owing to the continued over-crowding of trains, tubes and motor-buses, elbows will be more prominent and aggressive than ever, and tailors are building a type of coat calculated to relieve the strain on this useful joint by a system of progressive padding, soft inside but resembling a nutmeg-grater at the point of contact with the enemy.
It only remains to be added that in consequence of the publication of the Jewish Protocol and other documents pointing to revolutionary and anarchical Semitic activities, noses will be worn straighter and a la Grecque, and for similar reasons feet will be shorter and with more uplift in the instep.
* * * * *
A Hot Spell.
From a story for boys:—
"The heat was so intense that we were perspiring from every paw."
* * * * *
* * * * *
* * * * *
THE OLD WOMAN'S HOUSE ROCK, SCILLY.
"Old woman, old woman, old woman," said I, "'Tis a mighty queer place to be building a home In the teeth of the gales and the wash of the foam, With nothing in view but the sea and the sky; It cannot be cheerful or healthy or dry. Why don't you go inland and rent a snug house, With fowls in the garden and blossoming boughs, Old woman, old woman, old woman?" said I.
"A garden have I at my hand Beneath the green swell, With pathways of glimmering sand And borders of shell. There twinkle the star-fish and there Red jellies unfold; The weed-banners ripple and flare All purple and gold. And have I no poultry? Oh, come When the Equinox lulls; The air is a-flash and a-hum With the tumult of gulls; They whirl in a shimmering cloud Sun-bright on the breeze; They perch on my chimneys and crowd To nest at my knees, And set their dun chickens to rock on the motherly Lap of the seas."
"Old woman, old woman, old woman," said I, "It sounds very well, but it cannot be right; This must be a desolate spot of a night, With nothing to hear but the guillemot's cry, The sob of the surf and the wind soughing by. Go inland and get you a cat for your knee And gather your gossips for scandal and tea, Old woman, old woman, old woman," said I.
"No amber-eyed tabby may laze And purr at my feet, But here in the blue summer days The seal-people meet. They bask on my ledges and romp In the swirl of the tides, Old bulls in their whiskers and pomp And sleek little brides. Yet others come visiting me Than grey seal or bird; Men come in the night from the sea And utter no word. Wet weed clings to bosom and hair; Their faces are drawn; They crouch by the embers and stare And go with the dawn To sleep in my garden, the swell flowing over them Like a green lawn."
* * * * *
Labour Leaders on the Links.
Under a photograph in a London evening paper runs the following legend:—
"Mr. John Hodge and another official of the Iron and Steel Founders Union enjoy a game of golf after the Trade Union Congress at Portsmouth adjourns for the day. Our picture shows Mr. John Hodge Putting."
Some idea of the forceful and unconventional methods of our Labour leaders may be gathered from the attitude of Mr. JOHN HODGE, whose club is raised well over his shoulder.
* * * * *
* * * * *
THE TAXATION OF VIRTUE.
"I shall wait," said Peter, "till they send me the final notice."
"Being his wife," said Hilda to me, "I am in a position to know that he will not. In another week he will pay, saying that the thought of income-tax has affected his nerves and that he can bear it no longer. He wobbles like this for six weeks twice a year, and meanwhile his family starves."
"Under our system of taxation," Peter retorted, "the innocent must suffer."
"It falls alike on the just and the unjust," I interposed. "How else would you have it?"
"Naturally I would have it fall on the unjust alone," he replied.
"Why not on the just alone?" I asked, suddenly aware of the birth of an idea.
"Of course you want exemption."
"You miss my point. You grant that taxation is necessary?"
"For the sake of argument," said Peter, "I grant that, with reservations."
"Since then there must be taxes, why not have taxes that it would be a pleasure to pay? The current taxes are not a pleasure to pay."
"I grant that," said Peter, "without reservations."
"Now there is only one sort of tax that I can imagine anybody paying gladly, and that would be a tax on his virtues."
"Still hankering after your own exemption," growled Peter.
"Leave me out of account. Take, by preference, yourself. You have virtues and are proud of them."
Hilda intervened, as I had anticipated. "The pride is admitted," said she, "but as for the assessment value of the virtues——"
"Never mind that. You are proud of your virtues"—I turned to Peter again—"yet you are sometimes troubled, like the rest of us, by a fear that you may not really possess them after all. But the assessment of your virtues by the Board of Inland Revenue would prove their existence to yourself and to all the world."
"Except his wife," said Hilda.
"Her evidence would not be accepted. If you had paid taxation for the possession of a virtue, the receipt would be a guarantee that you did possess that particular virtue, and it would consequently be a source of profound moral satisfaction to you. You would pay with pleasure. Besides, it is a poor kind of virtue that will not abide a test. The tax would be a test. Suppose that five pounds was levied upon you for honesty. If you refused to pay how could you ever again claim to be honest? You would be marked as not valuing your honesty at five pounds. No, you would pay and pay readily."
My words were addressed to Peter, but Hilda seemed the more interested. "It sounds well, but how would you raise the money?" she asked.
"That would depend on the virtue," I replied. "The sobriety tax, for example, would be levied on anyone who had not for some years been convicted of drunkenness."
"But how about the virtues that you don't get fined for not having—truthfulness, unselfishness, kindheartedness and all those?"
"I admit that would be difficult. Can you suggest anything?" I asked Peter.
"No," he answered. "I'm not encouraging your rotten idea anyhow."
"Could the revenue officials feel people's bumps?" inquired Hilda reflectively.
"I'm afraid," I said, "people wouldn't stand it. Fancy Peter——"
"I've got it," said Hilda. "The revenue officials would attribute a virtue to the taxpayer, and if he wanted to escape taxation they would require him to prove to them that he lacked the virtue in question."
"They would like doing that," muttered Peter.
"You have found the solution," I said to Hilda. "If you impute to a person a virtue he does not possess he probably denies that he has it, but he is really flattered and his denial is not sincere. He would be willing to pay on it; he would rather pay than not."
At this point Peter grew tired of refraining from comment. "I don't want you to suppose," he said, "that I am taking any interest in your fatuous scheme, but doesn't it occur to you that under your system it would be simply ruinous to have any virtues at all, and that the only people who would flourish would be those who had no virtues and were not ashamed of it?"
"For one thing," I replied confidently, "the taxes would be graduated in the ordinary way in accordance with means. The slightest flicker of a conscience in Park Lane would be more heavily mulcted than the most blameless life in Bermondsey. But the main point is that under my system taxation would become the measure of a man's moral worth, and people who did not pay taxes would be simply out of it. All the plums would go the highly-taxed men. Their tax receipts would be certificates of character, and the more they earned the more the Treasury would be able to get out of them. So far from dodging taxation, people would scramble to pay it."
"But how," asked Hilda, "would you make the tax receipt a trustworthy testimonial? Your rich man with one virtue would have a better receipt than your poor one with ten."
"The virtues taxed would be shown on the receipt," I replied. "Besides, poor and virtuous men would, as I have suggested, get an abatement on their virtue taxes, and the amount of the abatement would be shown on the receipt. So it could easily be seen what proportion a man was paying on his wealth and what on his virtues."
"Look here," said Peter, aroused at last, "do you convey that the tobacco duty would be paid by people who didn't smoke?"
"It would amount to that," I answered, "assuming that abstention from tobacco were counted a virtue."
"There may be something in it after all," said Peter.
* * * * *
* * * * *
NEW RHYMES FOR OLD CHILDREN.
The chameleon changes his colour; He can look like a tree or a wall; He is timid and shy and he hates to be seen, So he simply sits down in the grass and goes green, And pretends he is nothing at all.
I wish I could change my complexion To purple or orange or red; I wish I could look like the arm of a chair So nobody ever would know I was there When they wanted to put me to bed.
I wish I could be a chameleon And look like a lily or rose; I'd lie on the apples and peaches and pears, But not on Aunt Margaret's yellowy chairs— I should have to be careful of those.
The chameleon's life is confusing; He is used to adventure and pain; But if ever he sat on Aunt Maggie's cretonne And found what a curious colour he'd gone, I don't think he'd do it again.
* * * * *
THAT TEA INTERVAL.
Before the last ball of 1920 is bowled and the last wicket in a first-class match falls (as will most probably happen at the Oval this very afternoon, September 15th), I should like to let the Gods of the Game know how I propose to spend the following winter in their interests, so that when the season of 1921 is with us the happiness of the cricket spectator may be even greater than it has been in the one now expiring.
I am going to devote the time to invention. With every grain of intellect and ingenuity that I can scrape together I am going to devise a means of humanising the tea interval.
Once upon a time I was so rash as to ridicule this interruption. I drew attention to the fact that the ancient heroes of the game had been able to dispense with it. ALFRED MYNN needed no Asiatic stimulant between lunch and the close of play. Even such whole-hearted moderns as HORNBY and SHREWSBURY and GRACE managed to do well without the support of Hyson or Bohea. For more than a century cricket and tea were strangers and cricket did not suffer. And so on. But the attacks were futile: the tea interval became an institution; and nothing now, one realises, can ever occur to separate the gallant fellows from their cups and saucers.
That being accepted, the problem is how to make the interval at once less harmful to the match and more tolerable to the lover of cricket; and it is on this problem that I have been working and intend to work through the arid football months. What has to be done is (a) to get the interval abbreviated; and (b) to keep the players on the field. It is the length of it and the empty pitch that are so depressing to the spectator, and it is the return to the pavilion that is so detrimental to the rhythm of the game. Neither of the batsmen ever wants the interruption, and I have often noticed a reluctance in certain members of the fielding side. As for the watchers, they never fail to groan.
Still, as I have said, it is now recognised that the craving for tea is as much a part of the present-day game as the six-ball over, and the time has passed for censuring it. But something can be done to regulate it; and I have based my efforts towards a solution on the argument that, if a cricketer is not called in from the game to read his telegram, but (as we have all seen so often) the telegram is taken out to him, surely the precious fluid that he so passionately desiderates can be taken out to him too. At present, therefore, all my thoughts are turned upon the construction of some kind of wheeled waggon, such as is in use at a well-known restaurant in the Strand, on which fifteen cups (two for the umpires) and an urn and sugar and milk can be conveyed, with the concomitant bread-and-butter, or shrimps or meringues, or whatever is eaten with the tea, on a lower shelf. This could be pushed on to the ground at 4.15 and pushed back again at 4.20 without any serious injury to the match. That is my idea at the moment; but I am a poor mechanic and should be glad if some properly qualified person—someone with a HEATH ROBINSON mind—would take the work over.
* * * * *
IN THE MOVEMENT.
How I came to be able to understand the language of trees is a secret. But I do understand it. It is my peculiar privilege to overhear all kinds of whispered conversation—green speech in green shades—as I take my rest underneath the boughs on a country walk. Some day I shall set down fully the result of these leaves-droppings, but at the moment I want to tell only of what I heard some blackberry bushes saying last week.
"From what I hear," said the first bush, "the cost of everything's going up by leaps and bounds."
"How is that?" asked one of its neighbours.
"It's due, I understand," the first bush replied, "partly to scarcity of labour and partly to profiteering."
"I don't see why we shouldn't participate," said another bush. "Here we are, covered with fruit, and it's all just as free as ever it was. That's absurd, after a big war. The duty of a war is to make things dearer and remove freedom."
"Of course," said the others.
"'Your blackberries will cost you more'—that should be our motto," said the first bush. "We must be up to date."
* * * * *
A few days later, after one of our infrequent post-bellum gleams of sunshine, I met the Lady of the White House and all her nice children returning from a day's blackberrying. They showed me their baskets with a proper pride, and I was suitably enthusiastic and complimentary.
"But do look at our poor hands and arms and our torn frocks!" said the lady. "We've picked blackberries here year after year, but we've never been so badly scratched before. It's extraordinary. I can't account for it."
I could, though.
* * * * *
A man came by at night with moons to sell; "Moons old and new," he cried; I hurried when I heard him call for me; He set his basket on the wall for me That I might see inside And watch the little moons curl up and hide.
Each one he touched rang softly like a bell; He pointed out to me Great harvest moons with russet light in them, Pale moons to gleam where snows grow white in them, Red moons for victory, And steadfast moons for men in ships at sea.
The man who came with many moons to sell Opened his basket wide; Showed me the filmy crescent moons in it, And the piled discs (like silver spoons) in it That push and pull the tide, And small sweet honey-moons to give a bride.
"This moon," he said, "you will remember well; Its price is wealth untold;" Took a camp-moon he vowed he stole for me And softly wrapped to keep it whole for me. I heaped his feet with gold; He changed, and said the moon might not be sold.
Then I was angry that with moons to sell He thought he had the right To keep that one. Those who were lent to us Had written the brief notes they sent to us When it shone out at night. I caught it to my heart and held it tight.
* * * * *
"Twenty Students Require clean, respectable Board-Residence; would not object to Share Bed."—Provincial Paper.
They should have lived in the days of Og, the King of Basan; his bedstead was a bedstead.
* * * * *
During the past few weeks several parties of Afghan merchants and traders have settled up their affairs and come into India. In order to avoid being questioned by British poets in the Khyber, they have entered this country by way of the Sissobi pass."—Indian Paper.
Some of our poets are notoriously curious, and we are hardly surprised to learn that the Afghans could not "abide their question."
* * * * *
* * * * *
THE LANGUAGE DIFFICULTY.
"The jolly part about an island where there are no towns and no railways," said Willoughby, "is that you have thrills of excitement as to where you will sleep next night or eat your next meal. Now when we land at Lochrie Bay to-morrow it will be nearly lunch-time; but shall we get lunch?"
"I can answer that," replied MacFadden, whose grandfather was a Scotsman, and who was once in Edinburgh for a week; "the map shows it is only five miles to Waterfoot, and there's sure to be an hotel there. Those little Scots inns are all right."
"Yes," chimed in Sylvia, "and very likely there'll be nothing to eat when we get there. I am thinking of you three men, of course," she added hastily; "we girls don't want much."
"As for me," said Willoughby, looking at Sylvia, whom he has adored dumbly for years, "very little satisfies me. I'm like the fellow who said, 'a crust of bread, a bottle of wine and you.' You know the chap, MacFadden."
"Isn't it wonderful how he remembers his OMAR?" remarked Mac enthusiastically.
"I don't know much poetry," said Willoughby, whose tastes are sporting rather than literary, "but I always liked that bit."
"But lunch," I interposed, "is the pressing question. There's sure to be an hotel at Waterfoot, as you say. Send a telegram there, asking for lunch for six. If there's no hotel, no reply and no lunch. If there is we get our reply and our lunch. Willoughby can wire, because he learned all about telegraphs in the army."
Within two hours came the reply. I opened it.
"Will supply luncheon for six, 1.15 to-day."
"Can you remember what your wire said, Willoughby?" I asked mildly.
"Rather. 'Can you provide luncheon for six at 1.15.—Willoughby.'"
"Exactly. Can't you see, you silly ass, how you've muffed it? Read this." Willoughby read, while Sylvia and Molly looked over and giggled.
"Hang it all! I suppose I ought to have said to-morrow," he sighed. "Here, Thompson, you and Hilda, as the married couple of the party, ought to deal with these beastly emergencies."
"Not I," I replied. "You've got us in the muddle, now get us out. Wire and say it's for to-morrow."
"And then," said my practical wife, "we shall get to-day's hot lunch cold to-morrow, and a rapacious Scotch-woman will charge us for it twice over."
"I wish you would say 'Scots,' not 'Scotch,'" complained MacFadden.
"Sorry, Kiltie," rejoined Hilda; "and perhaps one of you two will deal with the Scots woman."
"Leave her to me and none of you interfere," answered MacFadden. "Willoughby is no good at a job that needs tact. He's not half as lovable as I am either. Is he, Molly? We'll send the wire at once. Come on."
Next day the steamer dropped us into the ferry-boat off Lochrie Bay, and our bicycles, more frightened than hurt, but much shaken, were hurled in after us. After five miles on a primitive road we arrived at the hotel very late.
MacFadden, assuring us that if we only kept quiet he would see us through in spite of any Scots innkeeper, led the way.
The landlady, a dour woman, appeared.
"Good morning, Madam," began Mac politely.
"Will you be Mr. Willoughby?" she replied.
"No," said Mac truthfully, assuming a puzzled expression.
"Weel, then," resumed the lady, addressing Sylvia, who happened to be close behind, "will you be Mrs. Willoughby?"
Molly sniggered; Sylvia reddened and answered hastily, "No, I won't!" at which Willoughby sighed audibly.
"What I wanted to ask you was whether perhaps you could be so kind as to give us a bit of bread and cheese or something," said Mac ingratiatingly. "Of course one doesn't expect a proper lunch in these places without ordering it beforehand."
"And those that order beforehand dinna come," she replied with some asperity. "A pairty of six ordered for yesterday then they telegraphs to say they mean to-day, and now they're no here and the time lang gone by. I thocht ye were the pairty at first."
"What a shame!" murmured MacFadden sympathetically.
"Ay, if they had turned up they should hae had their lunch, and paid for it too," said the good lady grimly. "Twa days they should hae paid for. But if ye like ye can eat their lunch for them; it's cauld but guid."
So we ate heartily, paid reasonably and went away on good terms with ourselves and the lady.
Walking up the steep hill from the hotel I was just behind Willoughby and Sylvia. He was pushing the two bicycles and explaining something elaborately.
"Awfully sorry about that silly woman, Sylvia," he said, "but it's only their rotten way of talking English. You see, when she says, 'Will you be Mrs. Willoughby?' she really means, 'Are you?' It's not the same as when an Englishman says it. If I said, 'Will you be Mrs. Willoughby?' that would be different; it would mean—"
"Yes," interrupted Sylvia rather breathlessly, "that, Tommy dear, would be plain English, to which I could give a plain answer. I should say—"
We had reached the brow of the hill. I mounted my bicycle and hurried on.
* * * * *
* * * * *
"1,000 EGGS IN ONE WHISKER."
A much worse case than that of LEAR'S old man with a beard, who said it was just as he feared.
* * * * *
"For all we know, Helen of Troy's best friends might have said, 'Helen has style and knows how to make the most of her good points; but, honest, now, do you think she should have got the apple?'"
Certainly not. That's why Paris gave it to Aphrodite.
* * * * *
* * * * *
(By Mr. Punch's Staff of Learned Clerks.)
Really I think that Rhoda Drake (MURRAY) must be the most preposterously startling story that I have read for this age. It makes you feel as if you had had a squib exploded under your chair at a temperance meeting. After beginning placidly about persons who live in South Kensington (and are so dull that the author has to fill up with minute descriptions of their drawing-rooms), somewhere towards three-quarters through its decorous course it plunges you head over ears into such tearing melodrama as is comparable only to Episode 42 of "The Adventures of the Blinking Eye" at a provincial cinema. I am left asking myself in bewilderment whether Mr. C.H. DUDLEY WARD, D.S.O., M.C., can have been serious in the affair. As I say, practically all the early characters are of little or no account, including Rhoda herself. Indeed, nobody looks like mattering at all, and the whole tale has, to be frank, taken on a somewhat soporific aspect, when lo! there enters a lady with a Russian name, no back to her gown and green face-powder. If I said of this paragon that she made the story bounce I should still do less than justice to her amazing personality. Really, she was a herald of revolution, whose remarkable method was to invite anyone important and obstructive to her house and make them discontented. It was the work of half-an-hour. Whether the process was hypnotic, or whether she actually put pepper in the ice-pudding, I could not clearly make out. But the dreadful fact remained that, let your patriotism be ever so firm, you had but to accept one of green-powder's little dinners and next morning you were as like as not to hurl a stone into 10, Downing Street. As for the end—! But no, I will stop short of it.
* * * * *
Frankly, what pleased me most about Affinities (HODDER AND STOUGHTON) was its attractive get-up; pleasant, cherry-pie-coloured boards, swathed in a very daintily-drawn pictorial wrapper, the whole, as cataloguers say, forming an ideal birthday present for a young lady, especially one at all apt to discover, however harmlessly, the affinities that give these five tales their title. As for the stories themselves, really all that need be said is to congratulate Mrs. MARY ROBERTS RINEHART on the ingenuity with which she can tell what seems an obvious intrigue yet keep a surprise in reserve. I suppose it is because they come to us from America that certain of the episodes turn upon incidents in the Suffrage struggle, tale-fodder that our own militant novelists have long happily discarded. Of the others I think I myself would award the palm to one called "The Family Friend," a genially cynical little comedy of encouraged courtship, of which the end seems to be visible from the beginning, but isn't. Altogether, what I might call a Canute; in other words a book for the deck-chair, not too absorbing to endanger your shoes, however close you read it to the advancing wave.
* * * * *
I think I should best describe the characteristic quality of Four Blind Mice (LANE) as geniality. The scene of it is Burmah—astonishing, when you consider the host of novels about the rest of India, that so few should employ this equally picturesque setting—and it is quickly apparent that what Mr. C.C. LOWIS doesn't know at first hand about Rangoon is not likely to be missed. The tale itself is a good-humoured little comedy of European and native intrigue, showing how one section of the populace strove as usual to ease the white man's burden by flirtation and gossip, and the other to get the best for themselves by unlimited roguery and chicane. The whole thing culminates in a trial scene which is at once a delightful entertainment and (I should suppose) a shrewdly observed study of the course of Anglo-Burmese justice. I think I would have chosen that Mr. LOWIS should base his fun on something a little less grim than the murder and mutilation of a European, or at least Eurasian, lady, even though the very slight part in the action played by Mrs. Rodrigues, when alive, could hardly be called sympathetic. Still we were all so good-humoured over her taking-off that for a long time I cherished a rather dream-like faith in her reappearance to prove that this attitude had been justified. Not that Mr. LOWIS has not every right to retort that he is writing comedy rather than farce; certainly he has made his four blind mice to run in highly diverting fashion, very entertaining to those of us who see how they run; and as they at least save their tails triumphantly it would perhaps be ungenerous to complain about one that doesn't.
* * * * *
* * * * *
The Story of the Fourth Army in the Battles of the Hundred Days (HODDER AND STOUGHTON) is printed on pages the size of a copy of Punch, and with its accompanying case of maps it costs eighteen-pence to go through the post. It boasts a hundred full-page photographs, also sketches, charts, maps, panoramas and diagrams ad lib., a foreword by General Lord RAWLINSON and ten appendices; so really it seems that the much-abused word "sumptuous" may for once be fairly applied. The author, Major-General Sir A. MONTGOMERY, who himself helped to "stage" the battles he writes about, has built up a record which is in some sense unique, for I think it is possible from this book to trace precisely where any unit of the Fourth Army was placed, and what doing, at any given hour during the whole of the victory march from Amiens to the Belgian frontier. Apart from anything else it is pleasant to have a book that deals only with the days of victory; but it must be admitted that, to gain a completeness of detail so entirely satisfactory to those most nearly concerned, the writer has had to sacrifice something of human interest, for many of his pages are little more than a bare chronicle of names and places. Undoubtedly his book should be read with great deliberation, constant reference to the maps and a lively recollection of personal experiences on the spot; but the civilian reader may still be content to skim the text and save himself for the photographs. These, mostly taken from the air and of exquisite technical quality, form an amazing series, in themselves worth the heavy price. And who minds heavy prices when the proceeds are pledged to the service of wounded officers?
* * * * *
"Rather an anti-climax," I thought when I opened The Happy Foreigner (HEINEMANN) and found that it purported to tell the experiences of an English chauffeuse in France after the Armistice; but I know now that, in any place where ENID BAGNOLD happened to be, there would not be any anti-climax about. In a style so daring and vivid that it could only have been born, I suppose, of fast driving, the authoress describes a romantic affair with a young French officer; but her real theme is the suffering of France bowed down under the intolerable burden of so many strangers, both enemies and friends. The rich and well-fed Americans who will not trouble to understand, the grotesque Chinamen and Annamites, the starving Russians liberated from the Germans, flash by, with the ruins of villages, the tangle of wire and litter of derelict guns; and even the romance, intensely felt though it is, must be fleeting, like the rest of the nightmare, because the Frenchman's eyes are set on the future and the rebuilding of his fortunes. This book is not "about the War," but all the same it is one of the best books about the War that I have read.
* * * * *
From a Common Room Window (OWEN) will be a slight refreshment to those who are weary of realistic studies of schoolmasters and schoolboys. "ORBILIUS," during what I take to have been a long career as a teacher, has not allowed his sense of humour to wither within him. In a note to his slender volume of sketches he says, "School-life is largely a comedy. When a schoolmaster ceases to recognise this it is time for him to 'bundle and go.'" He has been in the main a keen and sympathetic observer, and though his remarks upon headmasters are a little severe—personally I should hate to be called "a meticulous pedagogue"—I do not think that a little criticism of these potentates will do them the smallest harm. In "The Castigator" "ORBILIUS" gives a laughable sketch. The inventor of a flogging machine is soundly beaten by his own instrument, and he would be a sombre man indeed who could read it without a desire to witness such a chastening performance. By no means the least merit of this book is that it contains no new theories about education.
* * * * *